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 Name of the Day: Faye.
There are three possible origins for Fay. The stronger claim is probably the Middle English term for fairy – 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 moniker a fanciful, mystical vibe.
The alternate meaning is solidly spiritual. 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. Some contend that Fay/e is simply another variant of Faith. The third century Saint Faith of Gaul is also called Fides, Foy and yup, Fay.
Lastly, Fay and Faye are both in use as surnames. The Irish O’Fataigh sometimes became Fay/e. In France, surnames like Du Fay and De Fay were Anglicized to Fay.
Our money is on the first and third explanations. Faye was not a common given name until the 19th century, a creative moment in baby naming when other names from myth and legend were newly fashionable. We suspect the surname argument carries some weight, too, because while most Fay/es are female, US census records show that it was also a masculine moniker in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, Faye conjures up the silver screen. First there’s Fay Wray, the actress best known for portraying Ann Darrow, the damsel 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 name is not quite a silver screen staple, but she’s appeared in credits throughout the 20th century and beyond.
While Fay and Faye are familiar, either spelling would make an distinctive choice for a daughter born in 2008. Fay regularly ranked in the 200s between 1888 and 1940, but last appeared in 1968. Faye fared better, charting in the Top 200 from 1926 to 1948 and remaining ranked until 1979. While we’re usually against extra letters, we do think Faye is the stronger spelling.
With Faith in the Top 100 and Rae and Mae popular choices for middle names, Faye’s sound is quite current. The one possible drawback – the use of the term fay to mean effeminate – seems almost forgotten.
If your tastes tend towards the unusual, but you can’t imagine calling your daughter Evadne or Eulalie, Faye might be the ideal choice. She has an undercurrent of the fantastic, but the name is simple and straight-forward. In either the first or the middle spot, she’s a nice blend of the underused and the classic.