Latin Word Names

I’ve done quite a few posts about word names (like this, and this, and this flowery one, and this one on my favorite type of word name) and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the topic. Today, I’m looking  at names borrowed from Latin.

Nova/Neo, “New”- Nova, along with variants Novalee and Novalie, is catching on quickly. It’s been aided in part by Teen Mom, which features both a Nova and a Novalee. Neo, on the other hand, was made famous by Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix. Both names fit into the micro-name trend along with names like Noah, Leo, Nia, and Mila.

Caelum- Though technically pronounced with a soft C (a la Caesar) I could see Caelum catching on pronounced like a K, like Callum or Caylin. Cael is a sweet nickname that fits in with trendier names like Cam and Niall.

Faber- This surname means “smith” or “craftsman,” making it a perfect fit with names like Parker, Mason, or Harper. Faber is a character in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, but isn’t used often in the real world.

Pax, “Peace”- This name was brought to the mainstream by Angelina Jolie, who chose it for her now 13 year old son. Pax itself doesn’t rank, but the similar Paxton is rising quickly- it currently stands at #203 and has risen more than 700 places since 2003. The name’s similarity to the classic Max makes it a perfectly reasonable and unsurprising choice.

Gemma, “Gem”- Gemma was a hit name in the UK a generation ago, but is currently hot in the US. I don’t hear it talked about often on name boards, but it’s undeniably trendy- it’s risen nearly 800 spots since 2007. It’s also fairly popular in Italy, where it ranks 114th.

Justus- This name (more accurately in Latin, Iustus) and its counterpart Justice rode on the popularity charts in Justin’s wake and have been moderately popular since the 90’s. Justus and Justice do seem fresher than Justin, but the whole family may need a well-deserved break after decades of overuse.

Oliva, “Olive”- Olivia is epidemically popular, but the root word Oliva doesn’t even crack the top 1000. Oliva shares the same trendy L and V sounds but with a different rhythm. It could be a great fit in/stand out choice, if you can tolerate an endlessly explaining that no, it’s not Olivia.

Perla “Pearl”- Perla is the Latin, Spanish, Italian, Basque, Catalan, Polish, and Romanian word for pearl. I’ve been partial to names that mean pearl since a friend pointed out the poetry in how pearls are made. Unlike gemstones, which are formed in chemical and physical reactions, pearls are a quirk of biology. When an irritant like a pebble or a grain of sand gets stuck inside the shell of an oyster, the creature smooths and calcifies it over time. It’s a great allegory on overcoming obstacles- the oyster takes something painful and unwanted and turns it into a beautiful treasure- and could be a meaningful choice for a child born after her parents endure something difficult.

Rex/Regina, “King” and “Queen”- Although Rex and Regina share similar meanings, they’ve had very different trajectories in popularity. After years of being relegated to the status of “dog name,” Rex is just now catching on again for babies. Regina, on the other hand, hangs in popularity limbo. It’s consistently ranked in the top 1000 for as long as records have been kept, experienced a surge in popularity in the 60’s, then looked like it would fall out of the top 1000 for good. But Regina shows signs of a resurgence- it’s risen nearly every year since 2009. Royal names seem to be a bit of a trend- Rayna (in various spellings), King, Kingsley, and Kingston are hot. Title names are also catching on with celebrities including Donald Trump (Baron), Beyonce (Sir), Giuliana Rancic (Duke), and Michael Jackson (Prince).

Silva- Silva is the Latin word for forest, making this an unexpected nature name. It’s the root of the classic name Sylvia, and it could work for parents seeking a streamlined alternative to that more traditional choice. Silva is used in Bulgaria and Slovenia.

Leo, “Lion”- Leo is among the most recognizable of the Latin words here, thanks in part to the zodiac sign. It’s an undeniable classic- its history stretches back centuries and the name has been worn by saints, popes, emperors, and kings. Leo is more popular now than it has been since the 30’s. The unrelated soundalike Leah is also at a popularity peak.

Lux, “Light”- Lux is something of a middle name micro-trend; I see it pop up with first names of all sorts, and it’s not difficult to see why. Lux has the ultra-cool letter X, a short, simple structure that sounds great with nearly any first name, and a perky sound. The related Lucy (along with variants) is also catching on. Light is a bright and happy meaning for a child’s name, which has probably contributed to the success of this name family.


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