14 September 2011


prinsenavsorg“With a feeling of deep yet most singular affection I regarded my friend Morella.” –opening words of “Morella” (1835)

The subject of today’s post comes to you from the dark imagination of Edgar Allan Poe, one of my favorite sources for dreamy girls’ names with macabre undertones. The short story “Morella” is one of his least-known works: a widower’s surreal and disturbing account of his wife’s death and perceived reincarnation. Normally I would discard her as made-up, flimsy or what-have-you, but the closer I look, the more compelling she is. The name of an ancient walled city, as well as an alternative name for the poisonous weed “black nightshade,” deliciously smooth Morella is all mystery and feminine allure – but is she too sensual, or her fictional namesake too grotesque and arabesque, to transfer over from a Poe anthology to a birth certificate? In an age dominated by pseudo-Italian, feminissa choices like Isabella and Arianna, this muted Gothic name is a natural.

12 September 2011


Vár, goddess of marital vows: Vorin’s mythical predecessor
This spunky Norwegian appellation is associated with spring and rooted in Norse mythology.

More commonly spelled Vårin (a name shared by 195 Norwegian women, while only four spell it Vorin), she is an elaboration of Vår (bearers: 109) – the modern form of the Old Norse name Vár, which meant “pledge, faith,” personified as a goddess of wedding vows and other oaths, and also happens to coincide with the Norwegian word for “spring.” Pronounced VOH-reen in Norwegian, or as the more English VOHR-in, this would make a strong, meaningful alternative to popular unisex-style choices like Corinne, Rowan, Morgan or Devin.

10 September 2011


Edward Burne-Jones Sidonia von Bork
Burne-Jones, Sidonia von B.
Gender: Feminine
Usage: Late Latin, German, Romanian
Meaning: “woman from Sidon”

This austere beauty has won me over, first piquing my interest with the tragic story of Sidonia “the Sorceress” von Borcke, Pre-Raphaelite antiheroine, and then further hooking my imagination as the birth name of Colette (in its French form Sidonie, that is – see doh NEE).

Sidonia is only marginally less obscure in Germany and eastern Europe than in the English-speaking world, but wherever a Sidonia went, she’d be a rarity. For a class act with a rock-solid pedigree (i.e., gravitas) and the slightest touch of gloom, read on.

08 September 2011


Jetta GoudalA simple, multicultural name given to 29 baby girls in the U.S. last year (2010), Sidra is as charming as she is unexpected.

As an English name, Nameberry-approved Sidra is quirky yet on-trend, being a short, exotic import in the style of Layla, Aliyah and Maia; and her appeal lies in her ability to pass for an edgy, offbeat classic – think Phaedra, India, Portia, Aida, Cyrilla. Doesn’t she seem familiar, “not quite English, or American, but not quite not English either”?

For an unapologetically girly name less ordinary than Sandra, Lydia or even Isadora (given to 122 girls in 2010), consider this saucy, pan-Mediterranean beauty.

05 September 2011

Morveren, Morvoren

John Reinhard Weguelin (1849-1927), "The Mermaid of Zennor"
J.R. Weguelin (1849-1927), The Mermaid Discovered
'I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.'T.S. Eliot

On various lists here and there, this fanciful fairytale name is explained as '"mermaid" in Cornish.' It appears to lack history of use as a given name – I've yet to find a single Morvoren or Morveren, from Cornwall or anywhere else* – but lest ye forget, until recently, 'modern classic' Lorelei was simply the German name for a rock in the Rhine and the legendary Rhine Maidens associated with it. Like Germany's Lorelei and the similar Sirens of classical mythology, a morvoren was a thing to be feared; but even if the Cornish regarded their mermaids as omens of bad luck, '[believing] they could take such shapes as suited their purpose, and that they had often allured men to live with them,' this makes for an intriguing, whimsical moniker, similar in feel to established names like Morvern and Morven, and boasts a sufficiently colorful back-story.