North: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on June 21, 2013

English: Peary Sledge Party and Flags at the P... Photo credit: Wikipedia

It’s a directional name with a poetic feel.

In honor of the Kimye birth announcement, our Baby Name of the Day is North.

I’ve been fascinated by North for a while.  I’d imagined North as a boy’s name, with something of a modern virtue vibe, as well as a nature name, and a place name, too.

The word comes from the same Germanic soup as many of our words.  It was norð in Old English, nort in Middle Dutch, north in Old French.

North has long been a surname, typically for a family living in the northern end of a village, or maybe for someone who migrated from the north.

There’s also Norbert, an old Germanic name that has remained in sparing use.  There was an eleventh century Saint Norbert, plus Hagrid’s pet dragon in the Harry Potter series.  The nor- in the name comes directly from the direction.

But none of these are the reasons that North intrigues as a given.  Instead:

  • The North Pole makes it a place name, one that connotes adventure and daring, perseverance and grit.  Admiral Robert Peary usually gets credit for being the first to reach the geographic North Pole.  That’s his party in the picture.
  • True North is a poetic name for Canada.
  • North is one of the four cardinal directions, at the top of most maps and the direction we usually find first.
  • There’s a difference between magnetic north on a compass and true north.  It’s tricky to find, so when you determine true north, it means that you’re navigating capably – on the map or in life.
  • Frederick North was Earl of Guilford and British Prime Minister during the American Revolution.  He was known as Lord North.  The title Baron North was created in 1554, though it is currently in abeyance.
  • North has a seasonal vibe, like Winter or Frost or Snow.  While season names like Summer and Autumn have dominated in recent decades, Winter is definitely on the upswing, making a whole list of chilly seasonal choices fashionable.
  • Easton is a Top 100 choice for boys.  Weston ranked #171 for boys in 2012, followed by Westin at #756.
  • Celebs with directionally-named kids include Elisabeth Rohm’s daughter Easton and Jenna Elfman’s son Easton.  Nicolas Cage chose Weston for a son back in 1990, and Jenna Fischer used the name for a boy in 2011.  Marley Shelton and Randy Houser both have boys called West.

It all makes for an interesting possibility – a name with nature, place, and poetic ties that fits with modern trends but takes them one step further.

No surprise then that North has been in quiet, steady use as a boys’ name since the late 1990s.  13 boys received the name in 2012, and 20 the year before.

But for a girl?

North doesn’t feel feminine, but Nor- names are stylish for girls.  There’s Nora at #107 in 2012, followed by Eleanor (#135), and Norah (#210), plus the -or sound is found in rapidly rising choices like Cora.  Word is that the couple plans to use nickname Nori, an appealing sound – if you can overlook the edible seaweed.

North makes for an almost outlandish choice when paired when the surname West.  While the Pacific Northwest has an edgy vibe, thanks to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, I’m not sure a Kardashian-West kiddo is likely to pick up on that lifestyle.  There’s also Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest.

Overall, North could make for an appealing modern choice for parents after something meaningful but different.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Dellitt July 10, 2013 at 11:30 PM

If your last name does not make the name ridiculous, I like North for a boy. But you should be reasonable, right? I don’t name my child Millie Miller. Or Azure Black. Right??????

North Sullivan is nice.

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Kimberley July 1, 2013 at 1:56 AM

I can get behind North as a name, but it’s the fact that her last name is West that kills me. Ever since I heard the announcement I’ve been thinking she’ll introduce herself as West, North West (think James Bond) and it makes me giggle.

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Jerilyn June 26, 2013 at 6:16 PM

I feel the same about north west as I do blue ivy. Ivy blue would be cool. North is cute (for a boy), but it sounds like you are giving me directions or describing a backyard plant to me; not telling me your child’s name.

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Diana June 21, 2013 at 7:59 PM

I like North and I wouldn’t have blinked at this name, but…. “North West?” No.

That being said, I think Nori is an adorable nickname. I know two Noris — one for Noriko, and one for Lenore.

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Dellitt July 10, 2013 at 11:35 PM

so you would suggest someone name their child Nora West or Nori West? I wouldn’t. Because of sounding like North West. Some hippyish names are fine and sound cool. This just sounds like a joke.

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Julie June 21, 2013 at 6:41 PM

Norbert was incredibly popular in my community 80-90 years ago, it seems like every large Catholic family had a Norbert, Urban and Roman. I think using North to honor a Grandpa Norb would be brilliant.

I’m all for noun names, but naming a child North West is ridiculous. It always seems like the most d-list of celebrities pick the “Krazyest” baby names… It just feels like a mad grab for another 15 minutes of fame, meanwhile their child has to live with an awful name. Why couldn’t they just name her Norah and *call* her North?

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British American June 21, 2013 at 2:10 PM

I’m actually surprised that it’s so uncommon for boys – especially since I met a little toddler North at the local library a few months ago. (I wonder how horrified his parents are about the celebrity connection now?!) I think North has a handsome rugged vibe and would be especially great if you have family ties to Canada. I like it much better than Easton or Weston.

Good point about the slight similarity to Nora – I hadn’t thought about it like that. I think of Norman first, which maybe helps slant it male to me.

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Corinne June 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM

As a child of the 90s, when someone talks about naming their child North, all I can think is the 1994 debacle of a film starring Elijah Wood. Granted, the movie started my still-going-strong crush on Elijah (the actor AND the name), but the idea of a child bearing the same name as the titular character is just … strange. ESPECIALLY a girl. Are Kimye unaware that this movie exists? Are they unaware that Ebert said: “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it.” I’m all for frosty, wintery names. I’m all for place names and surnames and unusual appellations. But for many people my age, this is our only exposure to North as a name, and it’s not a favorable one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_(1994_film)
(Side note: The part where they make the parents say “We don’t want Hugh” and North is supposed to hear “We don’t want you” is easily the silliest case of name pronunciation on the planet.)

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Jen June 21, 2013 at 9:12 PM

I had a student named North who was probably born a year or so after that film came out. I haven’t seen it but I have to wonder if his parents knew about it.

He also has a noun name for a last name (a body part no less) and he hates the combination.

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Dellitt July 10, 2013 at 11:32 PM

I have no idea about this name at all.

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Dellitt July 10, 2013 at 11:32 PM

i meant movie

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