Fae: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on March 10, 2014

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

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: