Darcy: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on November 21, 2012

d20 d20 by TooFarNorth via Flickr

It’s a surname with masculine literary ties – and a recent history of use a feminine name.

Thanks to Mierca for suggesting Darcy as our Baby Name of the Day.

d’Arcy is a place name that traveled from France with the Norman invasion.

The original d’Arcy was in Manche, in the north.  But there are others – Bois d’Arcy is the name of two tiny villages.

One theory is that it comes from an old given name, possibly related to bear.  That’s the kind of factoid that’s tough to pin down.  But it does appear that the Gaulish word for bear was artos, and there was either a bear goddess Artio, a bear god Artaius, or possibly both.

From France and England, d’Arcy also traveled to Ireland where he met up with a similar surname derived from dorcha – dark.  You’ll sometimes find that meaning given for Darcy, too.

The Darcys were one of the prominent merchant families of Galway from 1400s into 1700s, and many a notable Irishman has answered to Darcy.

But before we think of the French map or Irish surnames, most people think of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the romantic hero of Pride and Prejudice.  His hot and cold relationship with Elizabeth Bennett and their eventual romance is a favorite of many.  Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth are among the best known of the leading men to take on the role.  Firth also played a modern version of the character, called Mark Darcy, in the Bridget Jones films.

All of this makes Darcy a dashing choice for a boy, and indeed, from 1954 through 1970, he appeared in the US Top 1000 for boys nearly every year.

But it was the era of surnames like Kimberly, Courtney, and Ashley, all of which went on to become very stylish appellations for girls.  Most notable uses in recent years are for women:

  • John Denver recorded a song called “Darcy Farrow,” about a girl who dies young.  It’s a sweet song, included on more than one Denver album from 1972’s Rocky Mountain High onward.
  • On another musical note, D’arcy Wretzky played bass for Smashing Pumpkins.
  • Both Darcey Bustle and Darci Kistler made their names as famous ballerinas.
  • Long-running Canadian teen drama franchise Degrassi included a character called Darcy.

Darcy ranked as a Top 1000 girls name from 1949 through 1994.  Her most popular days were from the mid-1960s into the 70s.  She peaked at #349 in 1968.  Darci and Darcie also ranked.

Today, Darcy feels like a boyish name for a girl, an older sister for Mackenzie.  Except that Darcy is fading from use as a girls’ name – all spellings combined in 2011 still fall short of 200 girls.

While I’d bet that a teenaged Darcy is a girl, this one might be in the same grey area inhabited by Kelly - just about ready for revival for boys.  There’s Jane Austen’s handsome hero.  Plus, the popularity of Arthur, Archer, Arlo, and Charles makes me think that Darcy’s ar sound feels sufficiently masculine for a son in 2012.

Overall, Darcy is a familiar literary name that isn’t often used – a winning combination.

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