Tiffany: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on November 20, 2012

Audrey Hepburn at Breakfast at Tiffany's. Espa... Audrey Hepburn at Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s one-part Audrey Hepburn glamor and one-part 1980s excess.  But underneath it all, she’s rich with history and meaning.

Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Tiffany as our Baby Name of the Day.

Let’s begin in the middle: Charles Lewis Tiffany established a New York City emporium back in 1837.  After a few years of selling miscellaneous high end items, Charles switched the emphasis to jewelry, and adopted the particular shade of blue we still associate with Tiffany’s today.

Charles’ firstborn, Louis Comfort Tiffany, a mix of artist and entrepreneur, made his name in stained glass.

But it is the jewelry store that put the name on the mapTruman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s was adapted for the big screen in 1961, with Audrey Hepburn in the role of Holly Golightly.  No character in the film answered to the name Tiffany – it was a direct reference to the store, a place Holly said, ” … calms me down right away.  The quietness and the proud look of it.  Nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

In 1962, Tiffany entered the US Top 1000 for girls, and she climbed rapidly, reaching #99 in 1970, and #14 in 1980.

It wasn’t just about the movie, though Breakfast was both a box office smash and a critical success.  Tiffany arrived just as we were discovering names like Stephanie and Kimberly, Courtney and Brittany, Lindsey and Lindsay.

Each of those names has history, more than you might guess – and Tiffany is no exception.

Saint Theophanes lived in the 700s, and the name remained in use for centuries.  Theophania was the most common feminine form.  Theophany is another name for the feast of Epiphany – January 6.  In simplest terms, it closes the Christmas season as the traditional day the Three Wise Men arrive at the manger to greet the newborn Jesus.

Girls born on the Feast of Epiphany were named Tiffania or Tiffany.  The three-syllable, ends-in-y construction was popular in the Middle Ages, the era of Margery and Cecily Tiffany also became a surname, from the same sources – hence, Charles Lewis all those years later.  Actor Richard Tiffany Gere has his mom’s maiden name in the middle spot.

Suddenly, Tiffany is less of an aspirational brand name like Chanel and more of a rich historical possibility.

Except that all of those Tiffanys born in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s left their mark:

  • 1971′s Diamonds are Forever introduced Bond girl Tiffany Case. Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel used the name, too, putting him a few years ahead of Capote.
  • Tiffany Darwish dropped her surname and hit it big touring shopping malls and belting out catchy pop hits in the late 80s.
  • Actresses include Tiffany Dupont, who played Frannie on Greek.
  • It’s a starbaby name, too, thanks to Donald Trump and Marla Maples, who welcomed Tiffany in 1993.

Overall, Tiffany is suffering the same fate as many a once-popular name.  Despite her roots, she’s tied to a recent decade.  And yet, if this is a family name, I find her appealing in the middle spot.  And she could be re-discovered in another few generations by parents seeking to honor all of those great-grandma Tiffanys.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Panya December 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Growing up a Stephanie who hated her name, I’ve never liked Tiffany — I suppose it’s the similarity — though I absolutely adore Bethany… :-/

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waltzingmorethanmatilda November 23, 2012 at 10:48 PM

Tiffany is one of those names that I think we’d all find really intriguing if it hadn’t peaked in the 1980s.

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Mamie27 November 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM

I know a one year old Tiffany. I was surprised to hear it. Her parents recently immigrated from South Africa though so I assume it doesn’t sound as dated there.

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Jonquil November 20, 2012 at 8:50 PM

In “The Nonesuch,” by Georgette Heyer, there’s a Regency-era character named Theophania who’s nicknamed Tiffany. That’s where I first learned the connection between the two. The character isn’t pleasant (not evil or anything, just a spoiled teenager)…however, the book’s heroine also has a pretty awesome name – Ancilla!

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Lola November 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Tiffany as a medieval name really enchants me. And then I remember the `80′s! Shesits on my list of collected medieval names and there she’ll sit for a generation or three. I’d love to have a grandbaby with the name, even if it’s not a family name! (Too bad I have a guy friend who goes by Tiph [Tiff], short for Tiphareth). :(

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Tiff November 20, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Surprised you did not discuss all of the different spellings of Tiffany. Mine, for instance, is spelled, “Tiffanie” and I’ve seen “Tiphanie” “Tiffani” and so many others…

I personally don’t love my name. Like you say, it connotes the 80s. =(

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Shannon November 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

My younger sister is Tiffany, together we’re the quintessential 80′s pair :) I would definitely consider it for a middle, as I do very much like the sound. It’s the decade and the big hair mall pop singer that I can’t get past :)

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C in DC November 20, 2012 at 11:17 AM

Theophania is gorgeous. My grad school roommate has the middle name Fania; I wonder if it’s from the same source. And Tiffany as a Christmas name is pretty cool!

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Sarah in Indiana November 20, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Whoa. Tiffany is has Theophany as an etymological root? Mind blown. That does put a whole new spin on the name, but the recent history still colors it too much for me to use it myself. Knowing this would make me feel much better about a grandchild named Tiffany someday, though. Thanks for this fascinating history lesson.

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