The History of Virtue Names
Thoroughly Modern Melody
As a naming fashion, virtue names kept on burbling along for many years as a fairly minor tributary to the naming pool. The fashion ebbed and flowed a bit, but it stayed in place fairly well until the beginning of the twentieth century. At that time, most of these names were seen as outdated remnants of eras gone by, and they were discarded for names that were more fashionable and mainstream.
It took the social unrest and turmoil of the 1960s to bring virtue names back into at least some semblance of fashion, and it was the hippies who did it. They may not have trusted anyone over 30, but they did unknowingly embrace a naming fashion that even their parents thought was out of date. The rallying cry at the love-ins and peace marches was "make love, not war," and many participants practiced what they preached. Lots of babies were conceived at this time, and some of them received classic virtue names, including Harmony, Freedom, Bliss, and Peace.
The use of abstract virtues as names has once again fallen from the spotlight in the world of popular name fashions, but it's by no means dead and buried. In 1997, such virtuous names as Destiny, Faith, Serena, Precious, Chastity, and Divine were given often enough to make it onto the 1,000 most popular names list for girls. Boys' names on the list included Justice, Blessing, and Peerless. What has fallen from favor, however, is the use of some of the most classic abstract virtues as names. Perhaps, unlike the Puritans and the hippies, we find that these names make too strong a statement in an age when being politically correct is of such great concern. However, many parents are still giving their children virtue names. They just don't realize it.
The first things most parents look for when they choose a name are the sound and the feel of that name, not what it means. That consideration comes later-if at all-and it's for this reason that almost every baby book (including this one) is formatted by name, not meaning. This doesn't enable an easy search for a virtuous name should you want to find one, but don't let this stop you. They can be relatively easy to find if you know how to look for them. Read Virtue Names and Their Meanings to get you started.
More on: Choosing a Name
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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