Fae: Baby Name of the Day

Publicity photo of Fay Wray from Stars of the ...This post was originally published on October 15, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on March 10, 2014, as part of mini-name week.  Thanks to Aela for suggesting the update!

She’s a fairy, she’s an enchantress, and she’s been the love interest of the world’s biggest ape. Could this choice also be an ideal appellation for a daughter?

Thanks to Another for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Fae.

Which is the most common spelling: Fae, Fay, or Faye?

  • Fae has always been rare.  It was given to 20 girls in 2012, and was most popular between the 1890s and 1920s.
  • Fay peaked in the 1910s, and was given to 30 girls in 2012.
  • Faye was most common in the 1930s, and is the clear winner today.  While Faye has not ranked in the US Top 1000 since 1979, she’s poised to return.  230 girls received the name in 2012, up from 83 in 2000.

There are three possible origins for the name:

  • The Middle English term for fairy was faie. In Old French, it was fae; in Latin, fata, as in the Fates – a trio of goddesses responsible for controlling each man’s destiny. In Arthurian legend, Morgan Le Fay was King Arthur’s trouble-making sorceress half-sister. “Le Fay” refers to her otherworldly heritage. Combined, they lend this name a fanciful, mystical vibe.
  • The Anglo-Norman fei meant faith, from the Latin fides. The Middle English term was fai or fay. Even Shakespeare used fay to mean faith – which makes her a cousin to word name Faith. The third century Saint Faith of Gaul is also called Fides, Foy, and yup, Fay.
  • Finally, it is sometimes a surname, derived from many possible roots – which probably explains the more-than-occasional use of Fay and company as masculine names.

Today, this mini name shimmers with silver screen glamor.  My first thoughtis Fay Wray, the ingenue best known for being toted up the Empire State building in 1933’s King Kong. Then there’s the Oscar-winning actress Faye Dunaway. Liv Tyler played a fictional Faye in 1996’s That Thing You Do!

The saint adds another layer of intrigue to this name.  She’s said to be a third century martyr, born in Aquitaine and venerated in Conques, once a stop on an important pilgrimage route.  It’s said that a monk stole the relics and carried them to Conques, where an elaborate gold reliquary remains on display.

Then there’s Tina Fey – a different spelling, but possibly yet another fairy-related version of the name.  Her sharp wit is a boost for this old-fashioned choice.

So how would this name wear in 2014?

Faith ranks in the Top 100, and plenty of mythological names are on the rise, suggesting that both of Fae’s meanings have potential appeal.  Rhyming names Rae and Mae are popular in the middle spot, and Mae is very much on the rise as a given name, too.  Plus she has an appealing vintage vibe that makes her a sister for Emma or Ivy.

It makes this name a strong contender for parents seeking the unusual, but also something simple and rooted in history.  You might meet an 80-something Fay, or an 8 month old Fae … or not.  If you can choose your favorite spelling – and don’t mind repeating the spelling – this name can be considered an underused gem, indeed.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Wendy says

    Wij gaan voor de naam Fay, mooi kort en krachtig en lief. Over de uitspraak kunnen geen misverstanden bestaan en het is in Nederland de meest voor de hand liggende schrijfwijze.

  2. Rachel Emma says

    Fay is my mum’s middle name. It is on my list if we have a girl, for first or middle. My favourite spelling is Fae :)

  3. Katybug says

    I’m pregnant with a little girl and you’ve put Fae/Faye on my list! I love its dual associations of faith and fairies, as well as its short, sweet and completeness.

  4. Nikki says

    Augh, no! I am both happy and unhappy to see this post 😛 I someday hope to name my daughter Fay and I don’t want the name getting too popular. I like it because it’s simple, yet beautiful.

  5. says

    I love the name Fae for all of the reasons you mentioned- she’s whimsical yet also serious and has a long history of use. I’m not sure which spelling is my favorite, however. I think I’m partial to Fae and Faye.

    I also like Fae as a nickname for Ofelia.

  6. jennifer says

    Wow. I’m expecting in two weeks.. Baby girls name is Seraphina Faye.. She is our rainbow baby.. We’ve had a tragic year. So we need a little help from the angels and to hold onto some faith.. Thus the perfect name for our girl.

    Faye is beautiful, unique, and deserves a standing on anybody’s top 10.

    • appellationmountain says

      Oh, Jennifer – sending you + your family every good wish. What a gorgeous name for your daughter, and what a lovely meaning!

  7. Shannon says

    Fae is an unexpected front-runner for me these days. I am now in my 3rd trimester expecting a little girl and at first liked the romantic, very Spanish style names, and the whimsical or even Germanic sounding names. On my front runners list i currently have the names: Maya, Petra, Shylo, and am pairing it with either Catalina or Faye…but now the name Fae, (my moms middle name) meaning faith paired with my grandmothers name “Catalina” meaning pure, has a great meaning when put together: “Pure Faith”. This is also an uncommon, only 3 letter name that is classic and feminine. I also like that the name may also mean Fairy giving her an other-worldy, fantastical, imaginative feel. I am just at a loss as to which one will take the top spot as first name and middle name with the last name of Apostol. This will also be a multi-cultural girl whose family hails from both the Phillippines and Honduras, and even some parts of Europe. Hopefully I can find a combination that has the mass appeal.

    • says

      Fae is different than the other names you’re considering, but I love the idea of Fae Catalina. Fae is tough to pin down, and I always think that’s a good quality for multi-cultural naming challenges.

  8. Katharine says

    Ah you see I’m not so fond of Faye, she sounds too light and unsubstantial to my ears, I prefer Faith but inspite of my fondness for virtue names even she doesn’t grab me.

  9. Shannon says

    Maybe as a middle name. It’ is kind of a light and airy sounding name. I have a cousin who was named Fean – with an accent over the e. Her mother thought thiis was a French name for Fay Anne (I kind of doubt it’s a name they use in France). Mother wanted it pronounced fay-ON. But most people just called her Fayanne. Her brother teased her and called her Feen. Anyway she changed her name to Raine (pronounced like Rainy) because she never liked her name.

  10. Emmy Jo says

    I love Faye! (And I am one of the Rae-haters.) Because I’m a Christian who is into the mythological and romantic, I love the possible dual meaning of this name, though I’ll admit that the fairy bit appeals to me most. It’s lovely. I’d be most likely to stick it in the middle slot, though, as I tend to prefer longer first names. One of my students last year had this as her middle name.

  11. Corinne says

    Something about Fae really intrigues me. I do love the ‘ae’ but could never see using Rae at all. Fay seems incomplete, Faye’s the way to go. I’d love to meet a little Faye, and may get to one day, she’s my friend Marissa’s top choice, with the ‘e’ at the end too!

    I do like Faith, but met a Faythe once and can’t get over it. Funnily enough, Lola, Marissa’s old choice used to be Fern, but then Faye became her #1.

  12. Lola says

    I like Faye. She ‘s light, airy & above all, mystical. She appeals to the huge Rengeek living in me. :) I like her much more than Faith but less than Eulalie (which remains firmly in my top 6). That mystical thing is what keeps her on my lists. Fresh & sprightly, she’d make a wonderful sister for Fern, Jane or Alice. I’d love to meet a horde of them!


Leave a Reply