Our word ember comes from Old English. Trace it back far enough and it might share roots with the Latin urere – to burn. We think of an ember as a live coal, a small, but hot piece of wood still glowing even as a fire burns down.
That means, of course, than an ember can spark a bigger flame.
It’s a name that brings to mind the coziness of a campfire, or the crackle of a hearth.
But what makes Ember a potential girl’s name?
Almost certainly, the baby name Ember owes its start to Amber.
Amber is both a gemstone, made from fossil resin, and the resulting shade of orange-yellow. Just like Opal and Pearl, there’s a long history of borrowing Amber as a given name.
But Amber wasn’t particularly popular. Not until 1944, when Kathleen Winsor’s historical romance Forever Amber put the name on parents’ lists.
By the 1980s, Amber became a hit name. And the baby name Ember quietly rose in use, too – though it never reached the heights of Amber.
Another reason the baby name Ember might appeal to some parents: a subtle, but significant, religious meaning.
In the traditional Christian calendar, days were set aside for prayer and fasting four times a year. If this brings to mind Ash Wednesday, Lent, and ashes … well, that’s part of the story.
The term “ember day” actually comes from the Latin phrase quatuor tempora – four times or four seasons.
We could’ve contracted the Latin phrase and reduced it to “ember.” But in Old English ymbren means “recurring,” so it’s probably a little of both.
That makes the baby name Ember both spiritual and seasonal. And maybe it’s even worth thinking of it as a number name, referring to four, just like Ivy and Ford.
CITY of EMBER
In more recent years, chances are some parents first discovered Ember through fantasy and sci fi.
From 2003 to 2007, Nickelodeon’s Danny Phantom introduced us to a part-human, part-ghost teenage boy who saved the world. One of the characters was a ghost named Ember McLain.
A 2008 sci fi film based on a 2003 novel titled The City of Ember is another place parents might’ve heard the name. Though in Jeanne DuPrau’s story, no one is actually named Ember.
MY LITTLE PONY
The extended My Little Pony universe includes a character named Princess Ember. She’s a dragon.
It’s not the only time the name was used in the long-running media franchise.
And while My Little Pony might feel like poor inspiration for a real-life child’s name, the characters include some trending favorites. For every Pinkie Pie or Fluttershy, there’s a (Princess) Luna.
Oh, and speaking of dragons, long-running video game franchise Spyro also used Ember for a character name.
BY the NUMBERS
So the baby name Ember is fanciful and meaning-rich, modern and rooted in tradition.
It’s also at the intersection of two trends:
- First, we love a good Em name. Just ask Emily, Emma, Emilia, and Emery – all Top 100 favorites – or Emerson, Emerald, and Emmalyn.
- Word names have never been hotter, with choices like Willow and River catching on.
The name entered the US Top 1000 in 2009 and reached a rank of #430 in 2014. As of 2021, it reached an all-time popularity peak of #163.
Compound names Emberly and Emberlynn also rank in the current US Top 1000.
Daughter of reality TV’s Audrey Rolloff Ember Jean is one of several high-profile birth announcements.
The first name Ember could easily be a baby boy name.
It’s only because of sound-alike Amber, that we automatically think girl when we hear it.
As of 2021, 57 boys received the name. It’s far fewer than the 1,758 girls. But the potential is undeniable.
The baby name Ember is set to get a boost. In June of 2023, the world will meet Ember Lumen, the main character in Pixar’s twenty-seventh feature film, Elemental.
While that’s no guarantee that a name will soar, consider other Pixar character names: Dash, from The Incredibles; Remy from Ratatouille; Sullivan from Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University; and Luca, from the film by the same name.
No question that a successful animated feature can boost an on-trend name.
READY to CATCH FIRE
So many trends meet in this one name. There’s a nod to spirituality and a hint of the natural world. The sound is very Emma-meets-Harper.
With a movie character ready to put the name on parents’ radar, the baby name Ember is ready to catch fire.