“Made-Up” Names

People who study contemporary baby names often like to talk about “made-up” names, whether unusual names found in late 20th and early 21st C America or more “traditional” made up names coming from late 19th and early 20th C literature. Now, if you think about it, all names are, at the root, “made-up”. But if you want to make a distinction between names which are drawn from identifiable word or concept — for example, Bona (Latin ‘good’) or Heather (a plant word) — and names which are constructed without regard for their meaning, such as Germanic Everbern deriving from themes meaning ‘boar’ and ‘bear’, or dithematic names which are constructed on the basis of the themes of the parents’ names, for example when Aclehardus and Teudhildis have a son named Teuthardus and a daughter named Aclehildis, then you could argue that the latter are ones that are truly “made-up” in the relevant sense.

But just as there are many names which people think are medieval but in fact are modern, many names which people think are modern coinages actually have a much older history. When I came across this article, on 17 Baby Names You Didn’t Know Were “Totally Made Up”, a few days ago, I was surprised at how many of these so-called modern “made-up” names are actually not.

Wendy: The received wisdom is that J.M. Barrie coined this name for Peter Pan. In fact, a Wendy Oxford was christened in 1615 in Harston, Cambridge, England. So, not quite medieval, but far older than the 20th C.

Cedric: Like Wendy, this is commonly cited as a coinage of Sir Walter Scott for Ivanhoe. It, too, goes back to (at least) the early 17th C. Cedric Holle was christened in 1613 in Plymouth, Devon, England, and Cedric Jorye was christened in 1626 in the same city.

Miranda: This name occurs in Périgueux, France, in 1366-1367.

Amanda: This name can be found in England in 1221.

Dorian: This name can be found in Paris, France, in 1421 — where it occurs as a feminine name, rather than a masculine one.

Cora: Cora and the diminutive Corina are both found in Imola, Italy, in 1312. The name Corella, found in Valencia in 1510, may also be a diminutive of Cora.

In the comments on the article, someone offers Stella as another modern coinage; but Stella can be found in Rome in 1527.

So there’s a brief round up of names which many people think are modern, but which are actually medieval (or at least early 17th C).


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12 responses to ““Made-Up” Names

  1. Marilyn Livingstone

    I would add Tiffany to that list (found in 14th century English docs)

    • Oh, yes, Tiffany and variants have a long and venerable history, in England, France, and Germany! One of my favorite spellings is Thyeuffaine, found in 15th C France.

      • Marilyn Livingstone

        Ran across it first in an IPM for Tiffany FitzRanulph of Spennithorne – a great name. (Spelled Typhane if I remember correctly)

    • Richie

      For years I thought the name Nathaniel was a 20th century portmanteau of sorts of Nathan and Daniel. Who knew it was biblical.

  2. wow, ok, i lost that goog+1, but let me repeat it as i feel it is important enough to say i can’t believe i thought that i was an etymologist, you are obviously the Emperer or Emperesse. and may i just say CONGRATULATIONS on being chosen to join the Dictionary Society of North America! I am duly impressed with your credentials & will never again claim to “know” a lot of meaning to a lot of baby names, or rather, just names. i just finalized my name that i am changing legally, never liked mine, just didn’t feel “right”……… Now i think i was looking at the “wrong” website to find them. i am obsessed with this gurl’s site, i copy it all & then i’ll have to go back to beginning & start to copy it all. I am sooo glad i decided to create a new email tonight, in this hospital, with Pneumonia, but wow, that’s what got me to Twitter, which i am a member but don’t really spend time there, not really communication, then! i see tweet from here & i had to look & when i got here i knew i was in the presence of true greatness 🙂 I’m so excited to get right to reading what you have & since i am still “up in the air” about middle names (16characters allowed, per 1st, middle, & surname, still not fair here in Mass, Cali is a cinch AND you can have 13 mn’s (middle names) if you want!!! i have to go before a judge! yikes, alas, it is worth it.
    thank god i found you. Wow, so i could totally go out & BUY the hardcover of all your names???? Sign me UP!! i will look into it to see if possible. Sorry for novel, lung steroids make you incredibly spastic, manic, wretched!
    Thank you,
    -Angel Dove

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  8. Pingback: “…one production to which all child actors aspired, J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”.”* – Julia Upton

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