Tamsin: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on April 22, 2013

English: Headshot of Tamzin Merchant Tamzin Merchant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 7, 2011.  It was revised and re-posted on April 22, 2013.

Tammy is stuck in the 60s, but this unrelated import could wear well today.

Thanks to Fran for suggesting Tamsin as our Baby Name of the Day.

Tammy typically comes from Tamar and Tamara, names with Hebrew and Sanskrit roots. Tammy and Tamara had their moment in the sun in the 1960s, propelled by a series of films starting with 1957’s Tammy and the Bachelor. The cinematic Tammy was actually short for Tambrey. There was also a short-lived television adaptation, and actresses like Debbie Reynolds and Sandra Dee made their names as the Southern-fried good girl looking for true love.

Even if Tammy hadn’t been a Top Ten pick from 1966 through 1971, the pop culture reference is enough to make her feel dated.

Tamsin shares a first syllable, but has a totally different story. She’s a contracted form of the equally rare Thomasina.

Given all the men named Thomas over the years, it isn’t surprising that there’s a feminine form. Thomas comes from the Aramaic word for twin. Saints and other notables have made him a classic. Girls have answered to names like Tomasa and Tommie; the latter is almost certainly the most popular feminine form in the twentieth century.

In Thomas Hardy’s 1878 Return of the Native, one of the main characters is Thomasin, often called Tamsin. The name picks up a literary vibe thanks to the novel.

When you go looking for women named Tamsin or Thomasina, they’re almost always found in the UK. Or, possibly, they are cats. In 1964, Disney’s The Three Lives of Thomasina adapted a 1957 novel about a rather special cat and her family.

But if we focus just on women, there’s:
  • Tamsin Agnes Margaret Olivier, Laurence Olivier’s third child and older daughter, also an actress, born in 1963.
  • Tamzin Merchant, most recently seen on The Tudors as Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard.
  • Tamzin Outhwaite played Melanie on EastEnders for more than a decade.
  • Tamsin Greig has had a long career in radio, stage, and film, including a small part in 2004’s Shaun of the Dead.
  • The recent debut of the latest adaptation of Camelot features Tamsin Egerton as Guinevere. I suspect she might be the best bet to boost Tamsin.
She’s often listed as a Cornish innovation.  Peter S. Beagle’s 1999 novel Tamsin gives the name to a ghost from seventeenth century Dorset.
Thomasina fits with elaborate feminizations like Alexandra or Laurencia. But Tamsin has a much more modern vibe. She can keep company with tailored nature names like Rowan and Linden. She’s a logical successor to Madison and Kaitlyn.

As for whether the potential nickname Tammy is a fatal flaw? That’s hard to say. Tamsin doesn’t require a short form. And in this age of it’s-Isabella-not-Belle, there’s no reason to think that others wouldn’t honor your wishes.

In fact, if you’re trying to honor one of those many, many Tammys born in the 1960s, Tamsin could be quite the find.

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