Take Biblical good girl Abigail, add a healthy dose of Western spirit, and what do you get?
Thanks to Lem for suggesting Abilene as our Baby Name of the Day.
She’s never appeared in the US Top 1000, but with more place names in use, it is easy to imagine Abilene one chair over from Savannah in the kindergarten classroom.
Abilene is best known to most as a Texas town, founded to ship cattle. Wealthy – and appropriately named – entrepreneur Clabe Merchant gets credit for choosing the town’s name. Merchant was inspired by Abilene, Kansas, a stagecoach stop that grew into the West’s first major cow town – a location cowboys would drive their cattle towards for sale and shipping.
But Abilene has far more ancient roots than two nineteenth century American settlements. The Kansas location was named after the Biblical region known as Abilene. Abilene’s exact boundaries are lost to time, but it appears in a number of histories, and may even have been an independent kingdom at one point.
The name’s meaning is also forgotten. Some link it to the Hebrew word for grass; others, to hazelnut. There are also several names used in Medieval England that are similar in sound to Abilene – Adeline, Adelina, Aceline, Acelina, Aveline, and Avelina all appear in the historical record, though most are elaborations of a more familiar name.
Abilene does surface in the US Census records from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but modern parents are more likely to discover her in a twenty-first century award-winning work of children’s literature.
Kate DeCamillo penned The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. When the book opens, Edward Tulane is a china rabbit given to a little girl called Abilene. Tulane thinks himself quite superior until he falls overboard and spends nearly a year at sea. By a series of twists, he ends up back in the arms of Abilene – or, more precisely, her daughter, Maggie, some decades after they were parted. A movie adaptation has long been rumored, but I can’t confirm an actual release date.
Should the tale of the china rabbit make it to the big screen, I can imagine many parents discovering Abilene. Until then, she’s an appealing rarity. With nicknames from Abby to Billie to Lena, she’s quite versatile. And while -een endings aren’t fashion-forward today, Abilene’s sound stays on the right side of stylish.
The only possible drawback is that I’ve never visited Abilene – Kansas or Texas or the ancient plain – so I can’t say if the places are as inspiring as, say, Austin or London. But if you’re looking for a name for Wyatt’s little sister, Abilene feels like one to consider.
Love it! I first heard this name in the Damien Jurado song ‘Abilene’
I fell in love with a girl of nineteen / a black haired girl I called Abilene / young girl, where’s your husband? / sadly she replied I do not have one / then it’s you I’ll marry with your parents’ permission / No fine sir, they will not let me marry for I am a young girl and you are a man without money …
it’s a great song.
Vicki Roberts says
Our daughter was born in the UK in September 2017 and we named her Abilene! No one we speak to has ever heard of it before, but we had and we love it!
My husband and I named our daughter Abilene when she was born in 1966. Her dad and I loved the song, Abilene, sung by George Hamilton IV. We are Texans born and bred! However, this song was actually in reference to Abilene, Kansas.
Song begins: Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town I’ve ever seen. Of course, when we sang it to her it was changed to Abilene, Abilene, prettiest girls I’ve ever seen.
She has always loved her name and always insisted on being called Abilene and not Abby when she started to school. Her co-workers now call her Abby and she allows it these days. She will always be Abilene, my Abilene to me.
We also have an Austin, a Cody, a Hondo, a Tyler, a Huston (for Houston) and a Knox in the extended family.
I can only think of Abeline cold cream that my great grandmother used religiously on her face. Aveline might be more do able……still not my style.
Grace Heisman says
I have an Aberdeen! I thought she was the only one!
Abilene is cute, but I think I prefer Apolline. Though she would obviously get confused with Abilene!
i know an adorable little girl named Aberdeen (nn Abby), but Abilene is cute too… at least to this Michigander. 🙂
Aberdeen … interesting. I’ve never heard that one before! We drive past Aberdeen Proving Ground (in Maryland) to get to my mom’s house, so I think of that first, but I imagine most people think of Scotland.
Charlotte Vera says
I tend to be a fan of the less-used “ene” names — you know, the ones that weren’t done to death in the 40s and 50s. Abilene strikes me as decidedly pretty and wearable. I’m not remotely familiar with either American town by the name, so I’m obviously not making the same associations that those from the US south might make. The name would need some sort of emotional tie in order for me to put it on my list, but I’d certainly love to meet a little girl called Abilene.
Lady Gwyn says
I’ve been to Abilene, Kansas many times. My cousins and my aunt and uncle used to live near there, and we drove through the town many times. All I remember about it was sprawl, sprawl and sprawl and the Russell Stover chocolate factory! Which smells good, but doesn’t inspire me to want to name my kid after the place. I would rather use Adeline, Adelaide or Abigail.
Sarah A says
I prefer Adaline, pronounced Adaleen. I know the character on Big Love is kind of crazy, but hearing it all the time on that show has made me really like that name. Abilene doesn’t do anything for me; I don’t know, I think I’m just not big on many names with the letter b.
Sara A. says
I love Abilene. I feel like just how no self-respecting New Yorker would ever name their kid Brooklyn, Hudson, or Tribeca no self-respecting Texan would name their kid Abilene. That being said, to my East Coast ears Abilene sounds twangy and feminine and western in the way that Cheyenne used to, but with the whimsical girlyness of Dolly Parton.
I was going to comment about the new Newbery award-winning book featuring an Abilene. I’ve read it, and the name does fit the story, though I’m not really a fan of the name itself– it has a pretty sound, but places as names are definitely not for me.
I’m fairly certain that the new Newbery award winner, “Moon Over Manifest”, features an Abilene. I haven’t read it, but I thought the name quite interesting when I heard it.
You’re right! http://www.amazon.com/Moon-Over-Manifest-Clare-Vanderpool/dp/0385738838
As a resident Texan, I’m not sure I would gravitate toward Abilene as a name. Unless you’re in the cattle or oil industries or have ties to Abilene Christian University, it seems to be more of a town to travel through rather than a destination for most people.
Also, I don’t really hear this name in the rotation for “Texas” names. There is definitely somewhat of a culture among those with Texas pride to choose names like Travis, Austin, Dallas, Sam and Doyle. I haven’t heard any common girl names particularly.
That said, I’m not a bred and born Texan, and I have lived in Austin for the past several years, which has a totally different vibe than the rest of Texas, so maybe others who are more from the iconic Texas western background would feel differently.
When I say “common girl names”, I mean “common girl names with Texas ties”. Obviously I hear Ava, Kayla, and Isabella like the rest of the nation. 🙂
I am a born-and-bred Texan, a I agree that Abilene is not a very likely contender. I know Austins, Houstons, and Dallases, but that’s about as far as it goes. I also agree that their aren’t many feminine ‘Texas pride’ names, so I guess maybe a transplanted Texan could adopt this for a daughter’s name.
Yup, I’m a native Texan, but I have no love for Abilene. The city is not known as a romantic Western ideal, plus the name sounds like Darlene, Marlene, etc.
To Houston, Austin and Dallas, I’ll add the town-names Bryan, Tyler, Sherman, Paris, Odessa, Anna, Allen, Melissa, (San) Antonio, (Corpus) Christi, Victoria, Temple, Andrew(s), Kermit, Lindsay, Kenedy, Elsa, Katy, Brady, Melvin, Mason, Charlotte, Graham, Archer (City), Vernon, Electra, Duncan(ville), Maud, Madison(ville), Maurice(ville), (Port) Arthur, Alice, Inez, Edna, Alvin, Robert Lee, (Lake) Jackson, Miles, Eden, Cameron, George(town), Lorena, Whitney, Hamilton, Stephen(ville), Clyde, Franklin, Jasper, Kirby(ville) and Frederick(sburg).
Other possibilities are McKinney, Ambrose, Crockett, Mesquite, Happy, Tulia, Idalou, Barstow, (Fort) Davis, Alpine, Bronte, Sweeny, Franklin, Ranger, Cisco, Linden, Jefferson, Terrell, Van, Willis, Conroe, Liberty, Garland and Spring.
Odessa – one of my favorites!
Christina Fonseca says
A young lady I know considered Abilene Sky for two pregnancies. Everybody she mentioned it to shot it down. Had it been “just” Abilene I probably would have said “it’s okay”, but goodness gracious – mixing and matching nouns is just too much. In this case it would have been worse because the last name is a noun also.
Abilene has the A,N,E,L sounds I like; I can appreciate it for somebody else. Hadn’t thought about all the lovely nickname options.
I agree – you get Sky or Abilene, but not both. I’d say the same of Brooklyn River, Hudson Bay, and Joshua Tree. Except there isn’t a Brooklyn River, is there?
Grace Heisman says
I have twin girls, Aberdeen Rain and Abilene Sky. I constantly receive compliments on the beauty and creativity of their names.
In addition to Edward Tulane’s Abilene, there’s an Aibileen in Kathryn Stockett’s novel “The Help”. I’m not sure middle-aged maids typically inspire namesakes, nevertheless Viola Davis will play her in the film.
I like the sound of Abilene and it’s an interesting way to arrive at Abby, but it’s not really my style.
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. It’s just that I realize I haven’t LOVED!!! many names lately and I don’t have enough time to compose my thoughts clearly.
I think it sounds very elegant, yet still “comfy cozy Southern,” if you will. I like the unique -een ending and the familiar Ab- start. I think the name has a world of possibility!
(Thanks for using my suggestion, Abby!)
Abilene’s not for me. In my head it’s got a wicked twang. 🙂 Funny too, Josie’s got a Wyatt in her class this year. His little sister is Caroline, in Kindergarten. (which almost sounds like a child’s book title to me!)
I’ve been through Abilene, TX but not KS, and it’s lovely in that brown, dry way most of Texas is to me but I’d use Adele before Abilene. I really don’t like that twang. But as far as place names go, it beats Paisley!
C in DC says
Abilene, KS, was the home of the Eisenhowers, too.
I think this name would appeal to folks who like Adelaide, but don’t have the Aussie connection.
Ah – now that’s a very nice connection.