This post was originally published on January 26, 2012. It was substantially revised and re-posted on January 5, 2015.
Gemstone names for girls are huge, and we’re all about colorful and ends in -et names, too. If Scarlett and Ruby can chart in the US Top 100, how about this one?
Thanks to Marianne and Larkin for suggesting Garnet as our Baby Name of the Day.
Garnet: Vintage Revival
It’s easy to dismiss unfamiliar noun names as modern innovations, cousin to Apple and Blue.
Except Garnet appeared in the US Top 1000 most years from 1884 through 1944, and elaborations like Garnetta were also in use. Garnet peaked in the 1900s and 1910s, reaching as high as #376 in 1911.
If the 100-year rule applies, Garnet is ready for revival right about now.
If Garnet has history aplenty as a given name, it’s even more storied as a gemstone. Jewelry featuring garnets traces back to 3000 BC.
They aren’t always red, but that’s the most common color. In fact, the name comes from the French word grenat, meaning dark red, via the Latin granatum. It’s possible that granatum comes from the pomegranate fruit, famous in the myth of Persephone. Whether true or not, the color of a pomegranate is about the same as the gemstone.
Unlike diamonds, these gems aren’t top of mind when we think of bling. And the sound of Garnet is restrained. It’s a nice compromise – a name at home in the jeweler’s case, but still with a tailored, refined style.
And if your child arrives in January? This is the birthstone for the first month of the year, making Garnet a seasonal choice more subtle than Winter or Snow.
Garnet: Surname Name
While the numbers give Garnet to the girls, there’s a long history of Garnet as a masculine name and a surname, too.
There are a few possible origins for the surname, also spelled Garnett and Garnette:
- The most obvious possibility is that the surname was given to a jeweler.
- Interestingly, hinge-makers might have also become known as Garnet. The cross-garnet hinge – it looks a little bit like the letter T – was around well into the American colonial period.
- There’s also an Old French name Guarin, derived from the Germanic warin – guard. There might be a connection there, too.
Notable bearers of the name include:
- British Army Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley, best known for his service in Africa in the 1870s and 80s. Known for his efficiency, the phrase “everything’s all Sir Garnet” entered into general use. Gilbert and Sullivan based their “very model of a modern Major-General” on Wolseley.
- World War I flying ace Garnet Malley later became an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek.
Garnet: Unisex Possibility
A handful of names feel truly unisex – typically nature names with a tailored sound. Rowan is the best example, but Garnet fits on the list, too.
After all, names like Everett, Emmett, and Beckett are fashion-forward for our sons, but Violet, Scarlett, and Juliet make the -et ending just as wearable for our daughters.
Above all, Garnet is rare. In 2013, it was given to just seven girls, and fewer than five boys.
If you’re after something colorful with ties to the natural world, Garnet is an appealing possibility – for a son or a daughter.