Boys, Girls

Dictionary Baby Names: Alpha to Webster

Dictionary Baby Names: Alpha to Webster


We’ll soon be celebrating  US Dictionary . This unofficial holiday falls on the 16th birthday of the Founding Father of American English, – this year he’d be celebrating his 260th.

In honor of the occasion, here are ten baby names inspired by dictionaries and the people who shaped them – arranged alphabetically, of course.

Where would any dictionary be without the alphabet? (At least, for languages that use an alphabet.) The word derives from the first two Greek letters, alpha and beta. is used as a name far more than . A hundred years ago it was mainly used for girls, but today most kids called are boys.

Other names for alphabet-lovers include letter-names, like and , and Abcde (pronounced “Absidy”), given to 6 girls last year.

When he standardized (not standardised) American English spelling, was indirectly responsible for spelling bee competitions, where schoolchildren go head-to-head to spell ever more elaborate words. Past spelling bee winners have had some pretty great names.

Surprisingly, this tiny insect name hasn’t charted for girls or boys since 2000 – but there may be more people called out there than the statistics show. It can be a nickname for , , or more or less any name beginning with B – or even , if you’re thinking of the name’s meaning.

Yonge is the grand matriarch of baby name writing. Her of Names was one of the earliest name books, and every baby name book on your shelf (or shelves, for many of us) is a small part of its legacy. As well as being a proto-name-nerd, she was a sub-editor on the English Dictionary, and is one of the most-quoted female novelists in it.

is as popular today as it was in Victorian times, ranking #7 in the US and Top 20 in the UK. If you’re looking for a name that’s loved by many parents and has special meaning to name lovers, this is it.

ETHELWYN Ethelwyn Steane was a long-term editorial assistant on the English Dictionary. She worked there for 30 years, and even met her husband there – co-workers gave them a copy of the Dictionary as a wedding present.

in the 1870s, her name is a prime example of the 19th-century revival of Anglo- and other ancient names. It comes from the Old English words æthel (“noble”) and wynn (“joy”) – and of course and can be used as names in their own right, too.

GREENLEAF married Greenleaf in 1789, and they used her maiden name as a middle name for two of their children.

Although it’s never been in the charts, it has occasionally been used as a first name – an example is Greenleaf Whittier Pickard, the radio pioneer. It has a strong nature vibe, and an air of fantasy: Tolkien fans may know that it’s a translation of the name Legolas. (Tolkien himself worked on the English Dictionary. Among his contributions was the entry for the walrus.)

Lexicography is the act of compiling dictionaries – its root is the Greek lexis, meaning “word”. So how about a soundalike -name? is the most popular today, and others include , , , and straightforward .

And if has a sister? She could be or from etymology, the study of word origins.

MERRIAM Brothers and Merriam ran a printing and bookselling company and inherited the rights to ’s Dictionary after his death. Today, Merriam- is the archetypal American dictionary publisher.

The origins of this surname are uncertain – it may be from a place name, or the word . It’s only ever charted for girls in the US, maybe because of the similarity to , but it could work for boys too.

was the first editor of the English Dictionary, the monumental authority on the history of word usage in the English language. was an impressive figure (with an equally impressive beard), contributing vast amounts of material to the Dictionary in the 30+ years of his life he devoted to it.

was also an impressive namer: his children – who all got drafted into working on the Dictionary – were , , , Oswyn, , Ethelwyn (yes, another Ethelwyn!), Aelfric, , Rosfrith, Jowett, and .

This surname name is in the Top 100 in its native , but has been long neglected in the States…until now? had its heyday in the 1920s and is just starting to show signs of revival. With 52 boys given the name in 2017, it’s the most popular it’s been for almost 40 years.

This classic biblical name is many things to many people. Here it honors , the heavyweight scholar whose Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1755, was hugely influential.

has never been out of the Top 100, and today sits at #21. If you want to change it up, you could use a derived surname name like or Samwell (hi, Game of Thrones), or one of these names similar to Samuel.

, the birthday boy, is the American dictionary writer, and his name lives on in dictionaries published today. He came of age during the Revolution, and his ideals led him to create a standard American English spelling to unite the new nation. His works helped to cement spellings like color and center (as opposed to colour and centre), and added the names of many World plants and animals to the English vocabulary. His first name, , is much beloved by American parents again today.

belongs to that special group of female occupational names that also includes , and Hollister. Today it’s mainly used for boys. It’s familiar, easy to spell and pronounce, but unlike many other occupational names, is still relatively unused – so grab it now while it’s in the sweet spot!

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Baby Name News

Baby Names

Meanings of Baby Names

Nature, Place and Word Names

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