Jasmin’s week concludes with our Baby Name of the Day: Abelia.
Abelia’s origins are obvious, if you think about it for a minute.
Lop off the -ia ending, and you’ll have Abel, a boys’ name dating to the Old Testament Book of Genesis, baby brother to Cain, second born to Adam and Eve. His name comes from the Hebrew word hevel – breath. Fitting for the fourth human being in all of existence.
Or maybe not. There are other theories for Abel’s origins, including:
- Herdsman – Abel was a shepherd.
But mostly we remember Abel as the human race’s first murder victim. He dies at the hand of his brother, making Cain and Abel a phrase that brings to mind fratricide.
Despite the unpleasant association, Abel is at an all-time popularity high, ranking #192 in 2012. He’s boosted by Biblical boys like Noah, and our affection for ends with -el names for boys, like Michael and Gabriel.
Abelia is a logical feminine form for Abel, but she’s terribly rare. In no year have more than five girls received the name. The 1940 US Census lists a handful of women by the name, born between the 1860s and the 1930s. But there’s no obvious common thread between the Abelias.
There’s some use in France, though she’s far from common there, too.
Other possible feminine forms of Abel include Abella – a good fit with Isabella and other -bella, -ella names, plus Abelie, a more unusual name but just as wearable as Amelie and many a three syllable, ends in -y or -ie choice.
And yet the real appeal of Abelia might be her status as an overlooked nature name.
The abelia shrub is a member of the honeysuckle family. They’re common in the US, a shrub used in landscaping. The small white flower pictured above comes from abelia floribunda.
And yes, the bloom leads us right back to Abel again.
Clarke Abel was a British naturalist. In 1816, he set sail with the British mission to China. The mission failed to establish diplomatic and financial ties between the two countries, but Clarke and his party did get to tour to the botanic gardens and take back samples. He was shipwrecked on his trip home, but he’d left samples with a colleague. The colleague restored the abelia seeds to Clarke, and hence, the abelia chinensis bears his name, as do all of their cousins.
But is anyone actually choosing Abelia in recent years?
- A military strategist from the anime Now and Then, Here and Now. It’s a story about boy out to save a girl in a dystopian future.
- A 1968 episode of Gunsmoke featured a lovely widow named Abelia, and the episode shared the name as its title.
- Ships and racehorses have worn the name.
- A fleeting reference indicates that Abelia was in use in the Netherlands in the eighteenth century, and possibly in other European languages in the surrounding centuries.
And yet, Abelia’s ties to the Bible give her significant history – perhaps more than I was able to readily unearth, as there are hints that she has a longer history of use than meets the eye. You might find her in fiction; you’ll definitely find her in botanical discussions.
If you’re after a rarity that fits right in, Abelia is one to consider.