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

Author: thebabynamebuff

Hi, I'm Vickie. I'm a baby name enthusiast, and I'm excited to share and discuss with others the unique baby names I find. Besides talking and writing about baby names all day long, I also enjoy spending time with family, hiking, astronomy, reading (mostly science fiction and dystopias), and all things Star Trek. (Are you noticing a theme?) I currently live in Champaign, IL with my husband, Kyle, and my son, Felix.

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