Baby Name of the Day: Felicity

by appellationmountain on July 2, 2008

Felicity (TV series)

Felicity (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 2, 2008, and substantially revised and re-posted on June 4, 2012.  Thanks to Saranel for the suggestion!

She’s a happy name with a gentle, antique feel.  Thanks to Katharine for suggesting this virtuous moniker.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Felicity.

In 1998 fictional Felicity Porter ditched Stanford to move clear across the county to New York.  Virtue names Grace, Faith, and Hope were popular, as were novel noun names chock full of meaning, like Destiny.  Felicity split the difference – a homespun colonial with an elaborate, distinctive sound.  It helped that Felicity star Keri Russell was thoroughly appealing, and the character she played was admirable.

While Felicity had always enjoyed some use – for women and a few men – the television series put this name front and center.  After never before ranking, Felicity debuted in 1998 at #818 and leapt to #390 the following year.

Pop-culture fueled overnight name success happens, but Felicity is no Miley.  She appears to have true staying power.  Since 1999, she’s dipped and risen again, ranking in 600s and 700s over the past few years.  While the short-lived television series put Felicity back in the spotlight, there’s much to love about her.

Like Felix, she comes from the Latin felicitas, which means – as any Harry Potter fan knows – lucky or happy.  A minor Roman goddess was known as Felicitas, a symbol of Imperial Rome’s success.

Then there are the saints:

  • Legend tells us of saint Felicitas or Felicity, a wealthy Christian widow and mother to seven sons.  It is said that they were all martyred in the second century.
  • An even more enduring story is of the noblewoman Perpetua and her slave, Felicity.  Both were martyred in Carthage, in the arena with wild beasts, leaving behind young children.  It is believed that some of the writings about their experience were taken from an autobiographical account written by Perpetua.  Their story was terribly popular in the early church.

The saints’ tales lend the name a certain weight.  Felicity’s meaning is cheery, but she’s still a name with substance.

In the Middle Ages, Felice or Felicia would have been the preferred form.  She might have come from the Latin phrase felicia tempora - happy times.  An early nineteenth century poet answered to Felicia Hemans.  Throw in a Louis Prima song, a sunflower, and a handful of soap opera and comic book characters, and Felicia is a name with a steady history of use.  But she’s not in favor nowadays – Felicia recently exited the US Top 1000.

Famous Felicitys include actress Felicity Huffman and American Girl character Felicity Merriman.  Need an easy short form?  A character on Australian soap opera Neighbors answered to Flick.  There’s also Heather Graham’s character in the Austin Powers series, but that might be one argument against using this name.

Overall, Felicity is that most elusive of names – one that feels instantly familiar, but is not burdened by her history. She’s also widely recognized, has overwhelmingly positive associations and is nicely feminine. She’s virtuous without sounding Puritanical and upbeat without feeling too out-there.  Felicity combines so many qualities parents seek in a girl’s name, the only wonder is that she’s not climbing the charts.

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