Baby Name of the Day: Felicity

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.

Comments

  1. Carolyn says

    Doing some digging on this name as it’s on the top of my girls list this time around. My hesitation here is the nickname issue–while there are a LOT of possibilities, I’m not sure I LOVE any of them. Granted, Felicity on its own is definitely doable and rolls off the tongue quickly for being three syllables, so doesn’t necessarily need a nn. Still, what about these:
    Ellie
    Tilly
    Sid (a stretch? the name comes out “feh-liss-ih-dee” sometimes to my ear, so…?)
    Dee/Lee/Cee

    I think my favorite is Ellie, although it feels a tad trendy. FYI, our sibset is Meredith (Mere) and Nolan.

  2. Savannah says

    My husband and I chose Felicity for our second daughter, born on Christmas Day. She is an extremely happy and content baby! Her sister calls her ‘Wicity, and we often call her Baby Fe. I have always loved Felix, but had not considered it a shortened option for Felicity! Hooray!

    Also, I just discovered Appellation Mountain! I am loving it.

  3. Felicity says

    Coming a bit late to this thread but loved it! I am a Felicity who’s very very happy with her name – always liked it, and so good to hear about some new little Felicities coming along, congrats to Saranel, and to Erin. I have Felix as my nickname, especially when I was a teenager and not so keen on the femininity of my name, but now only old friends use that and I revel in my joyful name. Plus, I have a sister called Penelope… so they do go together well. Now what to call our baby, due in April? A bit arrogant, not to mention confusing, to go for another Felicity if it’s a girl. But seriously tempted by Helena or Elizabeth. I wouldn’t say Gemma is lower class in the UK, but it’s a little bit unfashionable at the moment. More popular in the 1980s/90s, is my feeling…

  4. Averella says

    I see you have Elizabeth as the middle name for both Helen and Hattie, what about useing it as the first name? I think Felicity and Elizabeth sound great as sister names, and there are so many good nicknames for Elizabeth!

  5. Saranel says

    Too funny. :) I’m the one with Felicity who was born this last forth of July. For a LONG time I tried to talk DH into naming her Felicity Helen Elizabeth. So clearly I love those names paired together. I also love Gemma with Felicity but I would hesitate to use it because they are both names of main characters in the Gemma Doyle series. I totally get your issue about Felicity and Helen as sisters though and I do think that turning Helen into Helena helps a little. I also really like your idea of using Hattie which I kind of see as similarly upbeat. If you decide you don’t like any of your choices, I recommend Phoebe, Penelope, Evangeline, Genevieve, or Cordelia.

  6. Erin says

    Abby,
    I commented last year on this name as we named our daughter Felicity. We are now expecting our second daughter in 2 months and still stuck. It was so easy with Felicity, for all the reasons you mentioned. She was classic while still upbeat; not overused, but still easily recognized. We love the nickname Fliss.

    Well, anyways…we’d love any input anyone can offer on this second baby’s name. The names that we can agree on are:
    Helen Elizabeth H—s
    Harriet “Hattie” Elizabeth H—s

    And I like Gemma Caroline H—s, but unfortunately my husband hasn’t gotten on board yet. But I’m thinking I could maybe sway him. (Though I did read somewhere that this name is seen as lower-class in the UK, which, for some reason, gives me pause.)

    My fear with the above names is that baby #2 will be shafted and like she got the “old grandma” name (though I, of course, don’t see it that way), while Felicity got the bright, happy name. Is that silly or valid?

    Any thoughts are much appreciated!!

    • appellationmountain says

      Congratulations, Erin!

      I’m torn – I know an adorable baby Helen, and it wears really, really well. It’s not that different than Lauren or Maren, if you really think about it.

      But I feel like Felicity and Harriet – Felicity and Hattie – are the sisters here. Or Felicity and Gemma. Actually, Felicity and Gemma feel very well paired to me.

      Another possibility might be Helena. Helena and Felicity, Felicity and Helena … Helena is definitely a little bit lighter than Helen.

      I’m not certain about Gemma’s vibe in the UK … let me ask.

      • Erin says

        Wow, I thought had subscribed to this thread but somehow I didn’t know that anyone had responded, so I apologize for the delayed response!
        But thank you all for the input! The few people we’ve shared our options have responded positively, which has been encouraging. But most have liked Harriet/Hattie the best. My new concern is that our last name is Hick$ and I’m wondering if Harriet Hick$ sounds ok. Or if anyone would ever be so crass as to call her Hairy Dick$. What do you think?
        And others have suggested Helena, but I just can’t get excited about it. And DH refuses to budge on Gemma so that is out. I do think Penelope is such a great name but the Kardashian craze gives me pause. All this to say, I think it’s between Helen and Harriet.

    • Catherine says

      Hi. My 14 month old daughter is Felicity and her big sister is Harriet Elizabeth, known as Hattie! I’m really happy with my choice of names – they go well together and suit them so well! (I also have an older boy named Adam.)

  7. Saranel says

    Just wanted to let you know. My little lady was born on the forth of July. We named her Felicity Elizabeth Louise. Thank you again for updating this wonderful post.

  8. AirLand says

    I’m pregnant right now and if it’s a girl, her name will be Felicity. I have thought about nicknames for a long time and think Effie would be really cute.

  9. Katharine says

    Three years on and I’m still a fan of Felicity; I like the idea of Fliss as a nickname too. The nagging doubt is that she might be a rather serious sort but when do you meet someone and think that their name doesn’t suit them? Almost never. So all things considered, I think choosing Felicity would be worth that minor gamble and little Felicity would just have to be a happy soul!

  10. Charlotte Vera says

    I suggested Felicity during one of my pregnancies — I honestly can’t remember which now — but Mark said he thought it was too tied to the TV character (please note that I’ve never seen the show). It’s still on my list of possibilities. I love it. It makes me think of the Road to Avonlea shows and it’s less common now than Felix, which I also love.

  11. says

    I just love the sound of Felicity. It’s so beautiful. I’m also very connected with the show– it’s one that I always wanted to watch as a ‘tween, but our television was unreliable. So last year, I decided to connected with my inner 13 year old and watch the whole show on Netflix. Due to the timing, the name Felicity and the theme songs will forever take me back to when I’m preparing my first Thanksgiving with my husband. Sounds like a good backstory to a future daughter’s name, perhaps :)

  12. Sarah A says

    Felicity is one of the few ends-in-y names I truly love. I do have an incredible soft spot for virtue names. I also like the American Girl doll connection. I really love names that one can easily imagine on girls and women throughout history yet still sound modern. Felicity definitely fits the bill.

    As for nicknames, I’m drawn to Lissa. Perhaps a more staid middle name like Maud would be good in case the child is not a happy one?

    Oh, and congrats Saranel on your upcoming Felicity!

  13. Kristin says

    Felicity is the name I would choose, without hesitation, for another daughter, if only my husband would agree to it. It fits so perfectly for us! Caleb, Annabel, and Felicity. *sigh* I’m still working on him to see the light of Felicity’s loveliness. If I used a nickname for Felicity, I think it would be Lissie, but only occasionally. I love it for exactly what you said, “Felicity is that most elusive of names – one that feels instantly familiar, but is not burdened by her history.” It is a sentiment I feel fits my daughter’s name as well, Annabel.

  14. Kayt says

    I don’t think I would personally use Felicity, but I adore the sound and meaning. It’s sweet and spunky, and I would love to meet a little Felicity.

    Congrats, Saranel, for your future Felicity!

  15. Lauren says

    I love Felicity! I used to have a no-virtue name policy but Felicity is too darn cute. If you were hurting for a nickname, you could call her Felix, which I think is unexpectedly fun on a girl, or just let the lovely name stand by itself.

  16. Saranel says

    How do you request a name to be re-run? We have a little Felicity due in July and I would love to see this post updated. :)

  17. Erin says

    I know I’m 3 years behind on this post but I just found your blog and I, of course, had to look at the name we chose for our daughter. She is 9 months old and we call her Fliss or Flissy for short which everyone loves, and it fits her happy personality so well.
    I also had to do a double take when I saw so many people mention Penelope as a good name for a sister because that is one of the ONLY names I’ve been able to come up with for a sister as well! They are both equally distinct and familiar without being overused, and they born of a cheery feel to them. Fliss and Poppy would just be too perfect together!

  18. appellationmountain says

    My apologies, Katharine – as I read your comment, I realized that I didn’t acknowledge your suggestion. I’m editing now to remedy my oversight.

    Nicknames *are* an issue for Felicity. There’s Liss, Lissa, Licia, even Fliss … but those are in the same style as Flossie and Flick, aren’t they? Fee, like we hear for Fiona or really any starts-with-F name, is an option, but awfully brief. The one I rather like is Flicka. But since Flicka was the HORSE, that doesn’t really work, either.

    While I’m sure a nickname would emerge, I do always like to think that out in advance – so it is a strike against Felicity, if a small one.

    • Hillary says

      I love the idea of contraction Fey as a nickname for Felicity because it is a bit stronger and thus could suit a different kind of girl.

  19. Katharine says

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head perfectly when you describe Felicity as ‘that most elusive of names – one that feels instantly familiar, but is not burdened by her history’. Although, I couldn’t put my finger on it, that is exactly what I love about the name and why I suggested it. The only issue I have with Felicity has also been mentioned above and is her overtly happy-feminine, even flighty sound. My other minor quibble is a lack of nickname (Flossie and Flick sound too much like pets names for my liking). Any idea on that front? These issues aside, Felicty remains one of my favourite girls names…

  20. appellationmountain says

    Reaching for the calendar …

    July 30 will be Lorelei; we’ll unpack Nina on August 1; and Whitney is August 3.

    Many thanks for the inspiration – I’m particularly intrigued by Nina, as I always think of it as a diminutive. Hmmm …

  21. Another says

    If we’re doing NotD requests, let me add Whitney to the list, please. I don’t know if it’s your speed, but I’m recently interested in this one. For my own “potential, yet-to-be-conceived daughter”. It’s a little 1980s spoiled rich girl, but that might be why I like it. ;)

  22. !!!DirtyHippy!!! says

    Oh, and AM, I have two name of the day request. I’ve been considering Lorelei or Nina for a potential, yet-to-be-conceived daughter. I’d love to hear you weigh in on them.

  23. !!!DirtyHippy!!! says

    I think the only drawback to Felicity is that it’s not very versatile. As mentioned above, if you are a more serious, dour sort of girl, there’s not ready nickname you could use.

    The American Girl connection has also kind of juvenilized (is that a word? Guess it is now!) the name for me. It seems like it would work a lot better on a kid or a teenager than an adult. Judge Felicity Smith seems a bit far-fetched to me.

    But, it’s pretty and has a solid history behind it, so I don’t hate it or anything. Just not for me, I guess.

  24. Unknown says

    I agree with everyone here! Felicity is such a happy and bubbly name. It sounds fun and sunshiney. And Penelope and Felicity would definitely make great sisters :)

  25. appellationmountain says

    Oooh … Lola, I love Penelope and Felicity together. It almost makes me wish I were having twin daughters. ;) Though, Catherine, I always think of your point about same-syllableness whenever I hear sibsets like that in the real world.

    I guess the possibility that Felicity would be a grouch is one real hesitation – I have a younger sister who is simply not a ray of sunshine, and I suppose she’d have hated to be Felicity. (Then again, given how much she hates her too-short-ends-in-i given name, it might still be a step up. I’ll have to ask.)

  26. Catherine says

    Felicity -love it. It’s just a nice name, you know? I can’t imagine someone named Felicity being unpleasant. Of course if they were, it’d be really ironic (well, if they were sad it would be). Anyway, I like it for the same reasons you and Lola have outlined.

    Felicity and Penelope would make pretty excellent sisters. They both have a lighthearted happy-go-luckiness about them but still work on grown women. The only problem I have is the same syllableness (remember Josephine and Beatrix?) but it’s a small quibble.

  27. Lola says

    Felicity’s a pretty choice. A bit too fussy for me, I’m more a Felix fan, he feels a bit more rough & tumble to me, but I can easily see Felicity’s charms. Warm & friendly, less blunt that Grace or Hope, less stern than Constance and not as lightweight as Sunny or Harmony. Felicity’s pretty, light, airy and will still grow up well. I can easily see Felicity on a baby, toddler, teen, young Adult, middle aged woman and old lady. Would make a lovely and slightly unexpected choice. And why does my brain keep saying Felicity & Penelope would make fabulous sisters? :)

    • Jemima says

      Ahh! Felicity and Penelope are my all-time top two girls names! I love that you like them together – I’m always worried they’re too rhymey :D

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