Baby Name of the Day: Grace

by appellationmountain on May 14, 2010

She’s the ultimate virtue name, a choice that is both simple and versatile.

Thanks to Melissa for suggesting Grace as Baby Name of the Day.

What’s not to love about Grace?

She was a nineteenth century staple, ranking in the US Top 20 from 1880 until 1908. This puts her in the company of other vintage picks like Emma and Ella, Clara and Alice. But she shares her -ay sound with nouveau choices like Jayden and Kaylee.

That’s enough to make Grace a winning compromise choice, but then there’s her meaning.

Let’s start with Greek mythology. A trio of goddesses responsible for beauty, joy and creativity were referred to the Charites. They answered to Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia. Homer cast them as Aphrodite’s BFFs. Other traditions gave them significant roles in the underworld. The Romans called them the Gratiae, from the Latin gratia – grace. Botticelli and Raphael were among the many to paint the three.

Grace has encompassed many a virtue since ancient days, and multiple meanings have evolved since:

  • The conventional Christian view ranges from the straightforward grace as a synonym for a simple prayer, usually offered at the dinner table, to a weighty theological matter;
  • Perhaps the best known hymn of all time, “Amazing Grace” was written in the eighteenth century;
  • We’ve been describing ballerinas – and types of geckos and rats – as graceful in movement since the 1400s;
  • You can grace someone with your presence;
  • The musical term grace note means an embellishment;
  • And, of course, any number of phrases with appealing meanings are attached – from scapegrace to grace under fire,

She can appeal to a devout audience or a secular one. Her sister is just as likely to be Eleanor or Nevaeh.

Parents who prefer single-syllable names might also like Grace’s flexibility. She’s as spare as Jane, Brooke, Bryn or June. But adding an -ie results in the girlie Gracie, a pleasing short form.

And we can’t forget Grace Kelly, a silver screen queen who became real-life royalty in 1956 when she married Monaco’s Prince Rainier III. Kelly was no mere starlet when she retired from acting to reign in the tiny European nation. She’d won a Best Actress Oscar in 1954’s The Country Girl. Other notables include:

  • Singer Grace Slick, of 1960s legendary rock group Jefferson Airplane;
  • Model/actress/singer/Bond villain Grace Jones;
  • Comedienne Gracie Allen, wife and performing partner of George Burns.

Comb through the history books and you’ll find many more. I’m particularly fond of Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who helped her dad rescued thirteen people from a shipwreck in 1838 at considerable risk to her own life.

The 17th century Puritans get credit for first using Grace as a given name. She’d fallen out of favor by the 1970s, but re-entered the US Top 100 in 1995 and stood at #17 in 2009 – a few places down from earlier in the decade.

Today parents might also put Gracie (#115 in 2009) on the birth certificate or even the compound Gracelyn (#572 in 2009). The latter hews slightly close to Elvis’ Memphis estate, but also looks like a cousin for popular respellings à la Madalyn.

With all this going for Grace, why does she make the list of Most Regretted Baby Names? It’s just a hunch, but I’d bet plenty of parents are disappointed to discover that many other parents have chosen the lovely, classic Grace, too.

If you don’t mind sharing, it’s hard to go wrong with Grace.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin June 17, 2014 at 11:39 AM

We are due with our third child, and second girl, in a short couple of weeks. Her name will be Grace Ramona. The middle is in honor of my beloved grandmother who passed in 2012. I had sadly dismissed Grace for years because of popularity, but it is simply the name I know she should have. After finally deciding that I don’t care about its popularity, it seems that it isn’t much used in our area. There is only one Grace in my son’s entire elementary school, and none of any age at our church. It was a pleasent surprise. I’m rather obsessed with the idea of personal emblems, and Grace’s has already become the swan. I think it is a name that will serve her well, and if she does crave something more unusual, there is always Ramona waiting in the wings. Caleb and Annabel can hardly wait to meet their baby sister, or, as Annabel calls her, little Gracie.

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appellationmountain June 17, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Oh, Kristin – what a lovely name! And I’m so glad you’ve found the perfect fit for your daughter.

And swans – SWANS! I do love swans. Amazing emblem.

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Kristin June 19, 2014 at 12:12 AM

Thank you! My mother-in-law got us the sweetest little swan print to put above her crib, and it just got the ball rolling. :)

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Maria April 27, 2014 at 10:30 PM

Grace is definitely what I’m going to name my first little Girl!
I love that it means Undeserved gift!

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Sebastiane May 16, 2010 at 9:09 PM

Grace is a beautiful classic.

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Grace May 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM

I am a Grace born in 1979. Back then, I shared my name only with the strange old cafeteria lady who painted her fingernails green. I always liked having a name that was recognizeable but not common, and that wasn’t girly. Now, though, “Grace” is everywhere. It’s hard to get used to sharing my name!

Panya – I definitely don’t let people call me Gracie, but they have been known to call me Graceless. It fits. :-)

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Panya May 15, 2010 at 1:54 AM

Honestly, I’ve never liked the name Grace. Maybe because I’m the least graceful person on the planet? I don’t know. Gracie is grating to my ears.

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Joy May 15, 2010 at 12:29 AM

You know that I love most of the virtue names, and Grace is no exception. It’s a shame that it’s SO popular, but maybe that means more parents will turn to Hope, Faith and Joy.

More Grace alternatives I like:
Peace…sounds like Reese
Truth…sounds like Ruth
Love…remember Lovey Howell on Gilligan’s Island?
Harmony…similar to Melody, Tiffany and Harley

But leave Prudence and Temperance to the Plymouth Rock Puritans!

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British American May 15, 2010 at 9:38 AM

A friend of a friend has a daughter called Harmony, who is maybe 3 years old. I do confuse the name in my mind with Melody.

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Cecily May 16, 2010 at 1:52 AM

Funny, I know sisters named Harmony and Melody!

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Charlotte Vera May 14, 2010 at 9:28 PM

Grace is a gorgeous name with a gorgeous meaning — and I know around twenty of them! That’s not including the many who have chosen Grace a middle name for their daughters. As pretty as it is, I could never use it.

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Julie May 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM

In 1995, a friend named her daughter Grace. At the time I thought it was fresh-sounding and really sweet, now Grace feels over used. Now, I would prefer Charis.

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Charlotte Vera May 14, 2010 at 9:29 PM

Charis is lovely too, although, in my second year of university and second year in my all-girls dormitory, we had a Charis, a Karis, and a Chara (the Hebrew version of Grace), as well as two Graces!

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British American May 14, 2010 at 2:08 PM

My husband barely likes any names, but Grace is one that he does like. He liked it in 2005 when we needed a name for our daughter, but his friend from college already had a daughter with that name, so he felt like it was ‘taken’. He likes the nickname Gracie too.

It’s a nice enough name – though I do like something a little less popular for a girl’s name.

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JNE May 14, 2010 at 1:46 PM

I really love the name Grace, but it is now too popular. Back when we first tried to have kids in the late 90s, Grace was one of our names under consideration… with the exception of our daughter’s name, I think all of them, or a related variant) got super popular since then… I still love the meaning and sound, but wouldn’t use it up front because it’s so popular.

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UrbanAngel May 14, 2010 at 1:18 PM

I went through a Grace stage a few years ago. I very quickly got it out of my system & it’s a bit boring now. Grace & Rose are two names that I can understand the appeal of, but I do find them a bit overrated — as first names or middle names.

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