Little Ol' Cowgirl
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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.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Abilene is cute, but I think I prefer Apolline. Though she would obviously get confused with Abilene!

  6. i know an adorable little girl named Aberdeen (nn Abby), but Abilene is cute too… at least to this Michigander. 🙂

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.