Florida exhibit: World's Fair 1964
Florida exhibit from the World's Fair 1964; Image by karen horton via Flickr

She’s a place name associated with beaches, oranges, cartoon mice, and Spring Break.

Thanks to Kathleen for suggesting Florida as our Baby Name of the Day.

Despite the images she conjures, Florida properly belongs in the company of pan-botanicals like Flora, Florence, and Fleur.

Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the state’s shores in 1513 and immediately dubbed his discovery Florida – flowery land. De Leon landed during Easter, and there’s a tie to the holiday, too – pascua florida is a Spanish phrase to refer to the Easter season.

If you’re not from the US, you might point out – and rightly so – that there’s more than one Florida, especially in the Spanish-speaking world.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a gentle literary link, too – grupo Florida was a gathering of South American literary leaders. They met in Buenos Aires, at a cafe on Florida Street, in the 1920s. This lends a romantic air to the name, as Argentine politics would soon turn repressive.

Back to the US. Florida charted just about every year from 1880 into the 1930s, suggesting that the name carried the kind of exotic place name status that we might attach to Avalon or Catalina today.

From 1880 into 1930s, Florida was among the Top 1000 given names for girls in the US. That tracks with the most famous bearer of the name – a fictional television character.

When Florida first appeared on television, she was a housekeeper on the sitcom Maude. Actress Esther Rolle was soon promoted to the lead character in Good Times. While her name was still Florida, many of the other details of her life were changed. Florida and family – husband James, sons J.J. and Michael, and daughter Thelma, lived in the Chicago projects. (The footage implied that it was the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project, but it was never explicitly stated.) The show was famous for many things, including son J.J.’s tagline: Dy-no-mite! Rolle’s character was admirable, but she was definitely a matriarch – not the kind of character likely to inspire parents.

Still, that’s not why Florida fell. Could it be that the real estate bust tarnished the name? Florida boomed in the 1920s. A real estate speculator even put a huge billboard in Times Square announcing “It’s June in Miami.” By 1925, the party was over and it would be decades before some parts of the state recovered.

Today Florida does conjure up some amazing places – think of Key West or Miami. Florida appears in the name of several types of trees – there’s a Florida Yew, a Florida Maple, a Florida Royal Palm, a boxwood, and a buttonwood, and many more. If you’ve ever been off the beaten path, the state’s natural beauty is undeniable.

Today, Good Times is unfamiliar to the next generation of parents, and place names like Georgia and Carolina are mainstream. Even Orlando, the town dominated by Disney World, has reclaimed some of his swashbuckling style.

Florida can share the nicknames used by other Flor- options: Florrie, Flossie, even Flo. She’d be an undeniably unusual choice, but somehow, the more I think about her, she’s not so different than Savannah or Brooklyn. If you’re looking for a daring but familiar choice for a daughter, Florida might be 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. Thank you for posting this! I’m expecting baby #5 soon and we have decided to name her Florida. It was my great aunt’s name, as well as I was born and raised in Florida so the name itself has a lot of meaning to me. To me there is no difference in a person being named after a place than there is a place being named after a person. All names originated somewhere, just some are more common than others and people forget to look at the history of the name they have chosen.

    1. This sums up my sentiments for the name Florida pretty well, haha. Actually I think that a few of the recent Names of the Day weren’t quite “names” at all, to be honest.

      Please tell me you haven’t run out of good ideas yet.

      1. Run out of good ideas? On the contrary, there are more names submitted than I can even begin to cover! Starting next month, I’m going to be posting polls of submitted names to narrow down the ones I actually profile. I suspect this will push the names back towards the middle – but maybe not. If nothing else, it should increase the number of boys’ names I cover. Girls’ requests always outpace boys’ requests – I’ve never been sure what to do about it, but this might help even things out …

  2. Not my cup of tea, but I like how these posts sometimes challenge my perception of what constitutes a “legitimate” name. If girls are named Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, and even Alabama, then why not Florida? It’s like that post on Apple awhile ago. Rose and Clementine get passes, but not Apple or Plum? Yes, Florida has some pretty negative associations, but if the state means something to you, go for it! And that rapper will not be around or popular for forever.

    1. I agree, Sarah! Some people out there might kill me for saying this-but if I were to name a child for place association, I’d pick Florida over Alabama. Frankly, Florida the state is so much more interesting and beautiful than Alabama. Yes, there’s nothing negative to associate with Alabama, but…with the good must come the bad 🙂

  3. As soon as I saw today’s NOTD I got the Good Times theme song stuck in my head.
    Temporary lay offs
    Good Times
    Easy credit rip offs
    Good Times…

    …Ain’t we lucky we got ’em
    Good Times.

    Just thought I’d share.

    1. Heh. That was stuck in my head while I was writing this, too. And it was finally gone. Was. Now I’ve got the song and dyn-o-mite! lodged in my brain again. 🙂

  4. My great aunt has Florida for a first name, which is why I suggested it. Mainly out of curiosity. She hates her first name and goes by her middle name instead. It probably doesn’t help that she was born in Florida and has lived there her entire life 🙂 I currently live in Utah and miss my beautiful home state terribly, so homesickness would be the only reason why I’d name a daughter Florida…that and my aunt! Otherwise, not really my cup of tea.

    1. I do think Florida is getting a bad rap in all of this – while I can’t imagine living in, say, Orlando, there are some truly gorgeous parts of the state. Just like New Jersey. So I can see someone saying that their love of their home state persuaded them to consider the name. Still, it would be rough to be Florida Smith from Smithville, Florida …

  5. The first thing I thought of when I saw today’s post was the movie Spanglish, and the character Flor, played by Paz Vega. Then of course, the scene where no one can pronounce her name correctly.

    I don’t like Florida as a name – despite the first thing that came to mind, when I really sit down and think about Florida, the name feels somewhat masculine. I can’t explain that one…

  6. This just makes me think of Flo Rida. So, every time I saw someone named Florida, I’d think of that, and likely start laughing – that’s inappropriate, right? Also, attaching a “-rida” to Flo doesn’t increase the good nickname options. Not a fan.

  7. The idea of Florida is nice, but I see a few issues, too. If I were from a Spanish-speaking community, some of my hesitation might subside. Mostly it’s pronunciation-related… in Spanish it sounds so different from the FLARduh I hear when I go home (something Abby has mentioned before). Sometimes I hear FLOR ih duh and it is a step in the right direction, but I think I’d prefer Flora or Florence or another Flor- name from a pronunciation point of view… but not everyone, everywhere would have the same issue.

    Interestingly, at least to me, while I first think of the state when I hear Florida and place names are not my favorite thing (I’m not anti-place names, just not swept up in the movement), people I know who live in Florida often use place names for their kids. Granted my sample size is low, but it does seem like a popular thing (at least in some circles) to use place names right now in Flordia, of course, it’s not Floridian, but rather, European place names that are de rigeur. I wonder if it’s just the few people I know or if it’s more wide-spread? (Literally all the people I know who were living in FL – in the past 5 years – when they had their child(ren) named them a place names.)

    1. That’s a very good point, Dreadedjaws – this one would be butchered by my family! I’m in love with the nickname Flossie lately, but I think I’d use Florence, too.

  8. I keep meeting women named Carolina or Charlotte (or even a guy named Raleigh) in my home state (guess which one?) and it just makes life awkward for them. I’d steer clear of large place names: London, Brooklyn, any state – just in case they end up living there. Just me, though.