Thanks to Megan for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
NAMES THAT MEAN LOVE
David. Amy. Amanda. Cara. Esme. Cher.
Plenty of past favorites and familiar chart-toppers either mean love directly, or could be considered part of that group. Valentina for Valentine’s Day; Desiree for desire; Rhys for ardent; Lennon because it might mean sweetheart. Many Slavic names, like Milena, contain the element milu, meaning dear.
More obscure choices abound, too – Amias, Kalila, Priya, Kerensa, Erasmus. Some come in his/hers pairs: Amatus and Amata, Aziz and Aziza.
Mythology gives us:
- Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love
- Venus, the Roman goddess of love
- Freya, the Norse goddess of love
It’s an obvious meaning for a beloved child, across centuries and cultures.
But how did we go from names that mean love to the baby name Love?
LOVE the WORD
Let’s start with the word.
In Old English, lufu referred to the feeling, whether it was between lovers or just friendliness, or something spiritual. Plenty of languages contain similar words: Liebe in German, for example.
By the 1200s, you might refer to your beloved as your love.
Fast-forward to the eighteenth century, and the game of tennis adopted the term “love” to refer to a zero score. Some say it’s because l’oeuf is the French word for an egg, which looks like a zero. A more credible theory: “to play for love” means to play for the love of the game, not to win. Amateur comes from the Latin word for love. And using “love” to refer to a zero score surfaces in card games, too.
All that’s forgotten now, but it’s worth knowing the answer if you plan to use the baby nmae Love.
But most of the time, Love is a positive term. It suggests warmth and affection, at the very least.
Back to the question of Love as a given name.
Loveday is (typically) a girl’s name of English origin. It’s a holiday name, just like a child born on Easter might be named after the feast. In this case, Loveday comes from the Latin phrase dies amoris – a day for those involved in disputes to meet and try to resolve their differences.
While the baby name Loveday has long been obscure, it’s a favorite in fiction.
Rosamunde Pilcher gave the name to a character in 1995’s Coming Home, set in Cornwall. She wasn’t the first. Fans of Poldark might remember that the show’s very last episode included the birth of Morwenna and Drake’s daughter, Loveday.
The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources also lists Lovewell. They note that it might be linked to the word love or possibly a form of the surname Lovel, meaning wolf.
Speaking of surnames, Lovell and Lovett might also have inspired some to name – or nickname – their children Love.
BY the NUMBERS
So how popular is the name Love?
It’s appeared on the fringes of the US data since it was first compiled for 1880.
- As a baby girl name, Love debuted in1880, with five girls receiving the name.
- It first appeared as a boy’s name in the year 1882, again with five births.
The baby name Love remains used in tiny numbers straight through the twentieth century. The name rose briefly during the 1970s, but only a little. Then again, it was the heyday of Amy and Aimee, as well as David.
Today, though, it’s more mainstream than ever.
After all, we’re wild about gender-neutral names like River and Sage.
Love fits right in.
JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT
During the 1990s, Jennifer Love Hewitt became a household name, first on Party of Five and then in I Know What You Did Last Summer. She’s never really left the public eye, currently a member of the cast of 9-1-1.
How did Hewitt get her distinctive middle? According to her biography, it honors her mother’s best friend from college. Early days, the actress was credited as “Love Hewitt,” hold the Jennifer.
- While there are no official statistics tracked or published on middle names in the US, it feels like Love is on more parents’ short lists.Maybe that’s because of the name’s significant appeal. It’s a logical leap from Grace and Hope or Wren and Blue to the middle name Love.Terrence Howard and Maya Pak named their son Qirin Love. Singer Robin Thicke’s daughter is Mia Love; though that middle name seems to come from his wife, model April Love Geary.Long before April Love Geary, Elvis Presley’s mom was born Gladys Love Smith.
LOVENIA, LOVISA, LOVELLA
A handful of longer Love names surface over the years.
Gladys Love Smith? Her mother was named Octavia Luvenia or Octavia Lavenia … and that slippery middle name could sometimes be spelled Lovenia, too.
Lovisa is a Swedish form of Louisa; Love is a masculine equivalent of Louie.
And other Lov- names, including Lovella and Lovie appear in the US data, too. In fact, Lovie ranked in the US Top 1000 from 1880 into the 1940s.
So is Love a real name? It’s been one for ages.
AND THEN CAME YOU
But there’s one reason the baby name Love spiked in use for girls recently.
Netflix’s dark thriller You introduced twin siblings Love and Forty in the second season. Joe Goldberg – played by Penn Badgley – moves to California for a fresh start. Joe and Love become lovers … and find out they have quite a bit in common.
The third season also revolves around Love and Joe. It debuted in October 2021 – perfect timing to influence parents expecting in 2022.
Presumably, Love and Forty are tennis references, since Love signals a zero score, and Forty is three points – next point wins. For what it’s worth, Forty has yet to appear in the US data.
INTO THE TOP 1000
As a girl’s name, Love debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2022, ranking #754.
It’s fresher than Darla or Cheri or Imogen, all names from a different era with related meanings.
And in terms of meaning, Love might speak to friendships or the gift of love. It might suggest that the child is worthy of love. It’s an all-purpose kind of virtue name.
BY the NUMBERS
As of 2021, 250 girls were given the baby name Love. In 2022, that number increased to 381 births – enough to put Love in the US Top 1000.
But is Love a boy’s name? As of 2022, 32 boys were named Love – an all-time high.
While it remains more popular for our daughters, there’s every reason to think of Love as a gender-neutral option.
STYLISH MIDDLE; BOLD FIRST
The baby name Love feels like a very on-trend middle. It’s a little bolder than so many single-syllable options. But it signals all the right things, too.
As a first? Love goes from stylish to truly bold. It’s a word name, but unlike Cadence or Blaze, it’s one we use in everyday conversation – constantly. But it’s a versatile word, one that’s equal parts joyful and serious, brief and all-encompassing.
If you’re focused on finding something that’s distinctive, but still feel easy to wear, the baby name Love might be the answer.
What do you think of the baby name Love?