The Baby Name Buff: Memorial Day 2019 Edition

In honor of Memorial Day, and because my Grampy and Dad both served in the Navy in particular, this week’s post features baby names inspired by U.S. Navy ships that were sunk or damaged during World War II. As you read through this list, I hope you’ll also take a moment to mourn and meditate on the lives of any soldiers who may have gone down with these sunken vessels. The annotations for each ship are taken verbatim from this Wikipedia article.

USS Aludra (AK-72) sunk after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine RO-103 off San Cristobal Island, Solomon Islands, 23 June 1943.

USS Astoria (CA-34) sunk by gunfire of Japanese warships off Savo, Solomon Islands, 9 August 1942.

USS Benham (DD-397) Sunk after being damaged by a torpedo from a Japanese warship off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 15 November 1942.

USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) sunk by kamikaze aircraft off Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 21 February 1945.

USS Colhoun (DD-801) sunk after being hit by four kamikaze aircraft off Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 6 April 1945.

USS Corvina (SS-226) sunk after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-176 south-west of Truk, Caroline Islands, 16 November 1943.

USS Cythera (PY-26) sunk after being torpedoed by German submarine off North Carolina, 2 May 1942.

USS Deimos (AK-78) sunk after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine RO-103 off San Cristobal Island, Solomon Islands, 23 June 1943.

USS Dorado (SS-248) probably sunk in error by US aircraft in the Caribbean Sea, 12 October 1943.


USS Drexler (DD-741) sunk after being hit by two kamikaze aircraft off Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, 28 May 1945.

USS Edsall (DD-219) sunk by Japanese warships south of Java, Netherlands East Indies, 1 March 1942.

USS Eversole (DE-404) sunk after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-45 east of Leyte, Philippine Islands, 28 October 1944.

USS Fiske (DE-143) sunk after being torpedoed by German submarine U-804 north of Azores, 2 August 1944.

USS Grenadier (SS-210) sunk by Japanese aircraft off Penang, 22 April 1943.

USS Langley (AV-3) irreparably damaged by Japanese aircraft bombs south of Java, Netherlands East Indies, 27 February 1942, scuttled by destroyer Whipple (DD-217).

USS Lansdale (DD-426) sunk after being torpedoed by German aircraft off Cape Bengut, Algeria, 20 April 1944.

USS Lexington (CV-2) sunk after being torpedoed by Japanese aircraft
during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942.

USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) sunk after being torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-175 off Gilbert Islands, 24 November 1943.

USS Niagara (AGP-1) sunk by Japanese aircraft bombing near San Cristobal Island, Solomon Islands, 23 May 1943.

Ex-USS Rochester (CA-2) scuttled as a block ship in Subic Channel, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 24 December 1941.

USS Sonoma (ATO-12) sunk by Japanese aircraft off Leyte, Philippine Islands, 24 October 1944.

USS Triton (SS-201) sunk by Japanese destroyers north of Admiralty Islands, 15 March 1943.

USS Valor (AMc-108) sunk in collision with USS Richard W. Suesens (DE-342) off Cuttyhunk Island, Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts, 29 June 1944.

Photo credit: Steve Lynes

The Baby Name Buff: Colleges and Universities Edition

For most colleges and universities, May is graduation month. In honor of this celebratory season, this week’s blog features baby names taken from the names of U.S. colleges and universities.

Adelphi University, Long Island, NY

In ancient Greek, Adelphi (Uh-dell-fie) means “brother(s),” so this name would be especially appropriate for a little boy who already has one or more older sibling(s). I also really like the feminine version of this name, Adelpha. I like Dell as a nickname for Adelphi and Adele or Della as nicknames for Adelpha.   

Arcadia University, Glenside, PA

In both Latin and Spanish, Arcadia  (Arr-kay-dee-uh) means “adventurous,” which makes this an excellent name for those parents who hope their little girl will be a spunky wanderer. But I also really love this name’s Greek meaning: “pastoral simplicity and happiness.” And, of course, this name’s relationship to the word arcade makes Arcadia a nice option for parents who are gamers (though I realize that the current generation of people having children may not even know what an arcade is—gasp!). My favorite nickname for Arcadia is Cade, though I also really like Adia. Other possible nicknames include Arc, Kate, Katie, Cadie, Addy, or Dia / Dea. 
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

As a former English major, I love the name Bard because it is a literary term for someone who composes and/or recites poetry. Then there is, of course, the Bard, Mr. William Shakespeare. Bard would therefore be a great name for poetry-loving parents.

Cabrini University, Radnor, PA

Cabrini is a Sicilian surname that has been worn by nobles, landowners, and even a painter. But perhaps the most famous person associated with the name Cabrini (Cuh-bree-nee) is the Catholic nun “Mother Cabrini” (aka St. Frances Xavier). With all these associations in mind, Cabrini could be a great name choice for many people, including Sicilian parents, Catholics, or anyone who wants a unique but noble-sounding name for their little one. And though the Mother Cabrini association might suggest that Cabrini is a girls’ name only, I think it would be nice for girls or boys. Cab or Bryn would be my top nickname choices, though Cabbie, Cabri / Cabry, Bre / Bree, Ryn, Ryni, or Nini would also be possibilities.

Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA

Carlow (Car-low) is an Irish name that means “four-part lake.” But when I hear the name Carlow, I am also put in mind of Monaco’s gorgeous tourist destination, Monte-Carlo. Carlow is also a promising name because it joins an existing tradition of names ending in –low, such as Harlow, Marlow, and Barlow. I think Carlow works well as a girls’ or boys’ name. For girls, I like the nicknames Cara / Kara, Carly, or Arly. For boys, I like the nicknames Car / Carr, Carl, or Arlow.

Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

According to, Drexel (Drecks-uhl) is an “occupational surname” that means “to turn,” which could reference a variety of jobs. But this vague and uncertain meaning could work to the advantage of creative parents; for instance, you could name your little boy Drexel if you hope he will “turn” the world into a better place. And, meaning aside, Drexel just sounds really cool, joining other similar-sounding, badass names like Axel or Dexter. Possible nicknames: Dre, Rex, Axel, or Zell.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL

The name Embry (Em-bree) means “flat-topped hill,” which at first doesn’t seem like a particularly cool meaning. However, if you were climbing a steep hill, a flat top would be a welcome respite from an arduous climb, so parents hoping for an empathetic little girl who cares about rejuvenating others might like this name choice. The name Embry itself is also a refreshing alternative to similar but more well-known names like Emma, Emily, and Ember. My top nickname choices for Embry are Bree and Emmy.  And, while I’ve marked this name as feminine, I could see arguments for Embry as a gender-neutral name.

Keene State College, Keen, NH 

The boys’ name Keene (Keen) comes from the Irish name Cian (Kee-en), meaning “ancient.” And while ancient and newborn would likely be seen as antonyms to most Westerners, this name could work well for people who believe in reincarnation, people who hope their son will be an “old soul,” or people who have a silly sense of humor. I myself highly prefer the alternate spelling Keane (as in the band of the same name), but no matter what spelling you choose, I think Key would be a great nickname.

Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, NC

Another occupational surname, Pfeiffer (Fie-fur) is a Germanic name that means “whistler,” or “piper,” or “fife player.” As such, Pfeiffer is a fun new option for parents who seek a musical name. And, of course, this name could be a nice homage for any parents who are Michelle Pfeiffer superfans. While multiple online sources list Pfeiffer as a boys’ name, the fact that this name is equivalent to the English name Piper makes me think of this name as either a girls’ or a gender-neutral name. I like Pip or Pippi as nickname options for Pfeiffer.
Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX

The girls’ name Prairie (Prayer-ee) brings to mind the open, grassy plains of the Midwest, so this name will appeal to nature lovers and those with emotional ties to middle America. Additionally, as an East Coast girl who has lived in the Midwest for the last few years, the limitless skies and sprawling prairies I see just outside of town always put me in mind of the song “America the Beautiful,” so Prairie would also be a good choice for particularly patriotic parents. And, like the generous yield from our nation’s “amber waves of grain,” the name Prairie bears ample nickname potential, including Prayer, Pria, Airia, Aria, Irie, Irene, Rhee, or Ria.

Tulane University, New Orleans

The possibility of Tulane (Too-lane) as a baby name is what inspired me to do this particular blog edition in the first place. While I couldn’t find much information on this surname’s meaning, the sound of Tulane alone is enough to convince me it would be a cool and unique name for a little boy or girl. I also love Tula or Lane as nickname options, though Tull, Tully, Tuli, Ulla, or Laney could also work.

Unity College, Unity, ME

Because unity is a lovely concept, the girls’ name Unity (Yoon-ih-tee) is attractive right off the bat. But for those who love peace and togetherness but also love the hilarious depravity of the show Rick and Morty, this name is doubly perfect. Possible nicknames: Yoon, Uni / Yooni, Nita, or Tia.

So, which of these do you think is the valedictorian of baby names?

Photo credit: Ed Bierman

The Baby Name Buff: Sitcom Moms Edition

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, so this week’s blog treats some of TV’s most beloved sitcom moms to a unique-name makeover, courtesy of beautiful name variations from around the world.

Amada—for Amy Matthews, Boy Meets World
Amada (Uh-ma-duh) is the Spanish version of Amy, meaning “beloved.”  

Bibiana—for Vivian Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Bibiana (Bee-bya-nuh) is the Italian and the Spanish version of Vivian, which means “life.”

Carola—for Carol Brady, The Brady Bunch and Charlene, Dinosaurs
Carola (Ka-roll-uh) is an Italian and Germanic form of Carol, meaning “free man.”

Catriona—for Kitty Forman, That 70’s Show
Catriona (Cah-tree-oh-nuh), the Gaelic form of Katherine, means “pure.”

Chiara—for Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show and Claire Dunphy, Modern Family
Chiara (Kya-ruh), the Italian version of Clair / Claire, means “light” or “clear.”

Cissy—for Fran Fine, The Nanny
Cissy (Sis-ee) is an English variant of Fran, which means “from France” or “free man.”  

Elina—for Lena Foster, The Fosters
Elina (Eh-lee-nuh or Eh-lee-nuh) is a form of Lena, meaning “bright” or “shining light.”

Update: 5/15/19 – Elina is now a newcomer to the 2018 girls’ top 1,000, sneaking in at #998.

Etienne—for Stef Foster, The Fosters
Etienne (Ay-tee-en) is a rarely used feminine form of Stephen, meaning “garland” or “crown.”

Gloriana—for Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, Modern Family
Gloriana (Glor-ee-on-uh) means “glory” in Latin.

Iekika—for Jessica Huang, Fresh Off the Boat
Iekika (Eye-uh-kee-kuh) is a Hawaiian variant of Jessica, meaning unknown.

Jindra—for Harriette Winslow, Family Matters
Jindra (Gin-druh) is a diminuitive of Jindriska, the Czech form of Henriette, which means “estate ruler.”

Juni—for June Cleaver, Leave it to Beaver
Juni (Yoon-ee) means “June” in Swedish and Norwegian.

Loida—for Lois Griffin, Family Guy
Loida (Loee-duh) is a Spanish version of Lois; the meaning of the name Loida is unknown.  

Margaux—for Marge Simpson, The Simpsons and Maggie Seaver, Growing Pains
Margaux, a French version of Margaret, means “pearl.”

Zanna—for Jane Villaneuva, Jane the Virgin

Zanna (Zah-nuh) is a Polish form of Jane, meaning “God is gracious.”

Photo credit: Virginia L.

The Baby Name Buff: X-Men Edition

Main contributor: Anthony Punt
Intro and Notes: Vickie Garton-Gundling (aka The Baby Name Buff)

May 4th is perhaps best known for being Star Wars Day. But this year, May 4th is also Free Comic Book Day, an annual event that takes place on the first Saturday of May. To celebrate, I commissioned my dear friend, extremely talented blogger, and comic guru Anthony Punt to provide his expert insights on some of my favorite names associated with the X-Men comics. So, prepare to get hit by some serious comic-book knowledge, along with my own brief observations about each name’s potential use as a baby name.

Also, do yourself a favor and check out some of Anthony’s other great publications here.


Much in the same way that Marvel Comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby “borrowed” from Norse mythology to create their versions of Thor, Loki, and the other residents of Asgard, these famous comic writers also presented their own Avalon that was loosely based on Celtic mythology. Also known as Battleword, Avalon is pretty much your standard-issue, Middle Ages-inspired sci-fi universe full of wizards, elves, dragons, and the like. This locale also played a central role in the origin stories of Captain Britain and Meggan, who are two (X-Men affiliated) characters I’ll be addressing later.  

TBNB’s takeaway: Avalon (Av-uh-lon) is a fresh, gender-neutral option for fantasy-loving parents, with great nickname choices like Ava, Valla, Valor, and Lonnie. 


Many may be familiar with Callisto from Greek mythology, but in the realm of the X-Men universe, she is the leader of a splinter group of mutant outcasts known as the Morlocks (which is a name that itself has an interesting etymology, given that they’re named after, and thematically resemble, the Morlocks from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine). Created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, Callisto and the Morlocks first encountered the X-Men when they kidnapped Angel so that he would become Callisto’s mate. The encounter ends with a climactic fight between Callisto and Storm in which the latter wins and becomes the new leader of the Morlocks (in addition to her duties as then-leader of the X-Men).

TBNB’s takeaway: If you hope your daughter or son will be a strong leader or someone willing to fight for what she or he believes is right, you may want to add Callisto (Cuh-list-oh) to your baby name shortlist. Possible nicknames include: Cal, Calla, Callie, Alli, Lisa, Liza, or Stowe. 


So you were probably reading this blog and came across the word “Cypher” and thought me a dullard for misspelling the word “cipher” (which, as we all know—if we read Wiki—is “an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption”). Well, let me assure you, dear readers, that I’m not an idiot. Cypher is actually the superhero code name for a character created by Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema. Cypher (a.k.a. Doug Ramsey) is a member of the New Mutants—basically the JV team to the X-Men as the varsity—with the quite interesting mutant power to understand any language, whether spoken or written. Unfortunately, Cypher’s mutant ability didn’t make him a particularly useful asset in combat situations, a fact that ultimately led to his demise. (But, like a majority of comic characters, he was later resurrected.)

TBNB’s takeaway: If you hope your son will be multilingual or interested in many cultures, the name Cypher (Sy-fur) would be an appropriate choice. Also, given the comic character Cypher’s reliance on brains instead of brawn to navigate tough situations, this name would also work for parents who hope to raise a son whose strength is his smarts.


Although it originated from Arthurian legend, Excalibur has entered the general cultural lexicon as the magical sword Arthur pulls from the stone in order to claim his rightful role as King of England. The origin of Marvel’s Excalibur—a group of heroes—is more prosaic than that, but interesting in its own right. The original lineup of the team co-created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis consisted of UK-based heroes Captain Britain and Meggan (toldya those names would come up again), along with three former members of the X-Men, namely Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Phoenix (a.k.a. Rachel Summers, not to be confused with her mother, Jean Grey, who also bore the code name Phoenix and was Rachel’s mother in an alternate timeline. Ah, comics!).

TBNB’s takeaway: Excalibur (Ex-cal-uh-burr) is a great boys’ name option for parents who love both the X-Men and Arthurian legend. And, like the name Cypher just above, naming your son Excalibur could set him up for a life of leadership. But whereas Cypher’s strength lies in his wit, Arthur’s ability to pull the sword from the stone suggests an emphasis on physical prowess, so Excalibur works well if you hope for a physically strong lad.


The Fenris-wolf (or Fenrir) is a figure from Norse mythology, so you’d naturally think that Marvel would have a version of their own. And indeed they do. However, when you think “Fenris” in the context of the X-Men universe, you’re likely thinking of the Fenris twins, Andrea von Strucker and Andreas von Strucker. Created by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr., the Fenris twins are the children of Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. foe Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Unlike the majority of the X-Men’s foes, however, they gained their ability to generate energy blasts while holding hands from in utero genetic modification, rather than manifesting their powers during puberty. The twins used this power to try to kill Magneto, who had previously killed their father. And while you might think their dad’s demise would make them pitiable characters, the Fenris twins are actually vile villains in their own right, given that they are blatant white supremacists; ironically, Magneto is the more sympathetic figure, given his status as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.

TBNB’s takeaway: If you like names with a mythological feel, Fenris (Fenn-riss) could fit the bill for your son or daughter. (You’ll just have to hope that most people don’t know the Fenris twins from the comics, since you don’t want your kid to be associated with white supremacists!) Possible nicknames include Fae, Fenn, Fenna, Enri, or Enra.


A “jubilee” is defined as a celebration of a special anniversary or event, which is also an accurate description of Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee. An iconic Asian-American mutant featured in the popular 1990s X-Men animated series, Jubilee was created by Chris Claremont and artist Marc Silvestri. When she first appeared in the comics, she was depicted as a carefree mall rat who saved Wolverine from a gang of criminal cyborgs known as the Reavers. After serving an apprenticeship as Wolverine’s quasi-sidekick, Jubilee went on to become a key member of both the X-Men and Generation X, among other groups, and is still at least a tertiary presence in the X-Men universe to this day.

TBNB’s takeaway: If you want your daughter to be a total badass, capable of taking care of herself and protecting others, Jubilee (Jew-buh-lee) is a terrific option. And, since the birth of a child is (almost) always a jubilant occasion, this name would be meaningful for just about any parent. Possible nicknames include Jubi, Bali, and Lee / Leigh. 


Lilandra (full name: Lilandra Neramani) is the Empress of the Shi’ar Empire, an alien race that has played a prominent role in X-Men stories over the years (particularly “The Dark Phoenix Saga”). Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Lilandra has played a vital secondary role within the X-Men universe over the years, most notably as love interest to Professor X.

TBNB’s takeaway: Because Lilandra (Luh-lon-druh OR Lil-on-druh) is an Empress, this is yet another name that could set your daughter up to have strong leadership skills. But I especially like this name option because Lilandra’s relationship with Professor X shows that she could rule without forsaking romance, so this namesake could be a reminder to your daughter that she need not choose between her career and love / family. Nicknames include: Lil, Lilli, Lela, Lilah, Andi, and Landra.  (I also think Neramani would be a really cool name!)


I can imagine some people reading this and saying to themselves, “wait, French impressionist painter Claude Monet is a Marvel superhero?!” While that would be awesome, that is unfortunately not the case. With that said, Monet (a.k.a. Monet Yvette Clarisse Maria Therese St. Croix) has an interesting, if convoluted, backstory. Created by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, Monet (or M) is a character of Algerian, Bosnian, and Monegasque heritage with a seemingly endless list of powers that includes superhuman strength, speed, agility and endurance, flight, telekinesis, telepathy, and more. M has served as a key member of several mutant teams, including the X-Men, Generation X, X-Factor, and the Hellfire Club.

TBNB’s takeaway: For parents who love the arts but also hope their child will be well-rounded, the name Monet (Mo-nay) will paint the perfect picture for your daughter (or son, though this baby name seems to be most associated with girls). But be aware: while this name is not currently in the U.S. top 1,000 as of 2017, I suspect it will break onto the scene sometime within the next few years, perhaps even in the 2018 list (set to come out within the next few weeks—hooray!). I like Mo, Mona, Nini, or NayNay as nickname choices for Monet.


Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Mystique is arguably the most popular character in this list due to her prominent role in not one, but two, X-Men movie franchises over the past twenty-odd years. Of course, the Mystiques portrayed by Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence in those aforementioned movies don’t resemble the Mystique that appears in the comics. (I mean, they’re all evil shape-shifting blue ladies, but I’m speaking metaphorically.) In addition to being a cool and significant part of the X-Men universe, Mystique is also a personally significant character. My wife and I have a dog named Raven Rogue who is named after two X-Men characters: Raven after Mystique’s alias, Raven Darkholme, and Rogue after Mystique’s adopted daughter of the same name.

TBNB takeaway: Before I discuss why Mystique (Miss-teek) would make an awesome girls’ name, let’s take a moment to appreciate Raven Rouge as a truly amazing name, for a dog or a human. But, back to the matter at hand, Mystique’s shape-shifting abilities make this name a cool pick if you want your daughter to have the powers of versatility and adaptability. My top nickname pick for Mystique is Misty, though Missy or Tique would also be good options.


If you’re familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and given the immense popularity of that franchise, it’s likely that you are—then you already know Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord). Created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, Star-Lord was actually a fairly obscure character for much of his publishing history. That is, until he first played a prominent role in Marvel’s 2006 “Annihilation” crossover storyline and was then portrayed by Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films. Believe it or not, Quill also has a connection to the X-Men universe as a one-time fiance to longtime X-Men member Kitty Pryde.  

TBNB’s takeaway: Given Peter Quill’s devil-may-care attitude, Quill (Kwill) is a nice name if you’re hoping for a laid-back son. But a quill is also an old-timey writing tool. For this reason, before I had even seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Quill Loxley was actually my #1 choice for what I wanted to name my son, but apparently this name was too “out there” for my husband and my other family members. And, though my bias is now already clear, I submit that Quill can have no nickname; it is the perfect name as is.

Valkyrie Unlike the other characters/teams/locations on this list, Valkyrie doesn’t have an explicit connection to the X-Men universe. But she’s a cool enough character that we’ll make an exception in this case. Much like Mystique, the people who know the character mainly from the movies—in this case, Tessa Thompson’s excellent performance in Thor: Ragnarok—will be both surprised and confused by the version that appears in the comics. The first, and arguably most enduring, version of the character was created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema and based on the Norse mythological figure Brynhildr. With that said, a new Valkyrie based on Thompson’s version of the character is also currently appearing in the Marvel series Exiles, so time will tell which Valkyrie will ultimately triumph.

TBNB’s takeaway: Yet another great name for parents who want to raise a (physically and/or emotionally) tough cookie, Valkyrie (Vall-kuh-ree or Val-kuh-ree) would wear well on a boy or a girl. Possible nicknames include Val, Vall, Kara, or Rhee.

Photo credit: Rob Young