She’s a botanical choice from a few decades back, once so popular that Winona Ryder went to high school with three of them.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Heather as our Baby Name of the Day.
1989’s dark comedy Heathers was an earlier generation’s Mean Girls. Winona played Veronica Sawyer, the lone member of her uber-popular quartet who didn’t answer to Heather. Veronica and boyfriend J.D. – Christian Slater – semi-accidentally offed one of the Heathers, followed by a pair of football stars, before V. realized that her new guy was a homicidal maniac.
Heather was a logical choice for the cinematic trio. The name peaked at #3 in 1975, and remained in the US Top Ten into the 1980s. Today she’s fading, even dated, a mom name ranking a mere #683 for newborn girls last year. In the garden of girls, Heather has given way to Lily and Violet.
But Heather is a botanical choice, at least throughout the twentieth century. The exact origins of her name are debated – some suggest a logical connection to heath; others theorize that she’s Celtic. In any case, calluna vulgaris is a shrub found throughout Europe and into Asia, but it is Scotland and Northern England known for their fields of wild heather. Considered something of a weed until fairly recently, heather became stylish in the gardening world a few decades before she emerged as a popular pick for our daughters.
The change in heather’s value is attributable to Queen Victoria. Following a trip to Scotland early in their marriage, Prince Albert bought land and the couple commissioned a new castle, suitable for their growing family, at Balmoral. Humble heather, common in the couple’s new getaway, became a royal favorite.
If you wanted your daughter’s name to scream Scottish heritage in the 1970s, you’d probably consider Heather, just the way parents a generation earlier had propelled Bonnie into the Top 100.
By the time parents discovered the name in droves, her career was all-but-over, but English actress Heather Angel probably deserves credit for introducing the name to the US. Born in 1909 in Oxford – yes, that’s her real name – she graduated from stage to screen in the 1930s. You can also hear her voice in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. She made recurring appearances on Peyton Place and Family Affair in the 1960s.
There was also Heather Menzies, the young actress who played von Trapp sister Louisa in 1965’s The Sound of Music, as the name gained in popularity. The Young and the Restless cast grew by one in 1979 when April gave birth to a daughter named Heather; Highlander used the name for Connor’s first love in 1986. Most of the notable pop culture uses are actually slightly after the name’s peak.
Heather likely owes some of her success to fellow ends-in-er-name Jennifer’s rise, too.
The list of prominent Heathers is long, but she’s firmly in mom-name territory these days. (Even perennial TV vixen Heather Locklear appeared on Hannah Montana as the mother of Miley’s BFF, Lilly.)
Still, her sound remains distinctive and she’s a valid nature name choice with ties to Scotland. Chances are that we’ll all have a bunch of great-granddaughters called Heather.
I am another Heather, and like the previous Heather who commented, the two issues I’ve had with my name are that (1) there is no nickname (though I tried desperately as a kid to find something!) and (2) it tends to have a bimbo-ish stereotype.
Also, I was born in the late 60’s. My mom says the name was not very popular when I was born but a year or so later it became very popular. This makes sense to me, as I always had a few Heathers in my grade but there were many Heathers just a few years younger.
I don’t really have an opinion on whether Heather sounds feminine or pretty or whatever – it just is what it is; I’m too close to it to feel strongly one way or the other! But it is dated; very 1970’s to me.
A late ’50s Heather – the name was deemed so “unusual” at the time that I was frequently asked “how do you spell that?” Never had a peer with my name, and really did not like the rhymes that came with it on the playground. Out of nowhere the name became oh, so horribly over-popular that I grew to positively hate the sound. As the popularity fades I am beginning to accept the name again, but I still prefer to go by my initials to avoid “bimbo” connotations.
Lou @ Mer de noms says
My younger sister is called Heather – but I can’t remember the last time I referred to her as that. Generally speaking, she’s known as Hebbie/Ebba/Hebeline, or even Hedwig.
She is the odd one out in our England-based sibset, since the other three of us have names that are firm top 10 favourites, well maybe not me so much nowadays, but certainly with Jack and Sophie that’s the case. My Hebbie was born in the mid-1990s and was supposed to be called Isabel, until my Nana put her foot down and insisted on Poppy. There’s always a handful in her year group at school, plus the only other Heather’s I can think of are all my age, late-teens/early-20s.
Heather Elaine says
I’m a Heather, so I guess I’d like to share on this post. I’m not Scottish at all, I’m 20 years old (born 1991), American, full name is Heather Elaine, and I have a little brother named Lucas Aaron. Honestly, I’ve never cared much for my name, though I suspect many people have regrets since it is out of our hands during our younger years. One of the biggest drawbacks of Heather, is there are no built-in nicknames. I’ve grown up around Jessicas, Ashleys, Rebeccas, etc., and I’ve always wished I could say, “I’d rather be called such-and-such.” Yeah, I could still do that with some other random name, but it would be too arbitrary for me. I guess I just prefer names with options, like Veronica, Penelope, or Susannah. Sorry for the complaining, my name isn’t bad and I’ve never met any other Heathers or been asked how to spell it – so no legitimate complaints on my part. My parents did well, and I’d rather be Heather than their second choice (Crystal). The only other think I have to say about my name is that most of the characters I’ve seen or read about tend to be blonde cheerleader types, which is definitely not me. I don’t know if anyone else has seen that. Maybe I’m just biased. So, basically, there isn’t anything really bad about Heather. I’m not particularly ecstatic about the name.
Lady Gwyn says
I am in my mid-20’s and I know several Heathers…its a pretty name, but seems a bit dated to me. I wouldn’t mind having a granddaughter named Heather!
Sarah A says
I only know 2 Heathers, they are both in their mid-30s and they both have sisters named Jennifer!
I actually really like Heather, but only as a botanical name. I think she would fit in with sisters named Iris and Rosemary.
It’s interesting that you mention it was a Scottish heritage choice, because when I mentioned this to my mother (we’re all on a family vacation) she said, “Heather, that’s a nice Scottish name” 🙂
It’s weird I was thinking I was older than most Heathers, but I was born right in the middle of the “boom.” I guess that’s a result of going to parochial school, because while I knew multiple girls named Joanna and Bethany, I can only remember two Heathers.
I have a “thing” for H names, so while Heather can feel dated… it’s also feminine, without being silly and inconsequential. However it’s probably stuck in middle-name only purgatory for a while and in the meantime, Hadley will take over for the heather names.
May I suggest the name Winslow for the next name of the day?
Charlotte Vera says
It’s already been done! https://appellationmountain.net/2010/07/14/baby-name-of-the-day-winslow/
I don’t find Heather particularly pretty or feminine. It’s like the ’70s-’80s version of Harper.
My best friend growing up was named Heather. It is a lovely name for my grandchildren. 🙂
Charlotte Vera says
When I was living in university dorms the girls in the closest room across the hallway from my own room were both named, you guessed it, Heather. I was also friends with a few other Heathers in university, and when I was younger I used to babysit a lot for a family with a mother named Heather. She sounds delightfully feminine — the breathy h, the delicate short-vowel e, the lispy th, and then finally the soft r as a fitting conclusion — but she is most certainly dated. Of course, my own name is only becoming popular in North America now, so does that make it juvenile?
Sounds dated to me. I grew up in church with siblings named Heather and Holly, very botanical choices!
I also grew up with several Heather’s. I have to say, I don’t care for the sound of the name. It’s almost… clunky sounding. The sound reminds me of Hester or Hertha. I’ve just never seen the appeal.
I like Heather a lot. Born in ’91, I’ve only met a handful so it doesn’t seem so tired to me. I always liked it when I was a kid. It’s a solid choice that’s rare for kids these days!
Nook of Names says
Heather doesn’t just grow in Scotland and the North of England, you know! It’s a plant of all moorland — there’s plenty of that in Wales and the South West of England too — as well as stretches of heathland across the UK. I’ve never heard of it as a weed – it’s too slow-growing and also its natural habitat is largely away from the sort of gardens where people fret about weeds! I think it’s only a problem in parts of the world where it has been introduced to the sort of habitats it loves, and may have elbowed out native plants in its colonization. I suspect the fact that heather — particularly white heather — is considered lucky also influenced its adoption as a given name.
I know — and know of — quite a few Heathers, spanning all generations, from baby to pensioner. It never ranked as high in the UK as it did in the US though, and its level of popularity remained more of less the same for over forty years, so it’s not become associated quite so strongly with one particular age group on this side of the Pond!
I have known SO many Heathers. Love the movie, amm bored by the name.
I think Heather will make a comeback just as Rose and Violet have, but it’s too soon yet. It could make a surprising and possibly refreshing choice for a middle name, paired with something a little trendier or a classic like Elizabeth or Anne.
Must be retro week! 😀 My kid brother’s best friend has a sister named Heather and he went to school with three other Heathers ( and we went to a small, Catholic, private school). I don’t know any Heathers my age although they probably exist. I do know a Bonnie who’s 55 this year, wife of a friend. Lovely lady, hates her name. I used to know one little Heather, she’d be about 9 now. Troubled little girl.
Heather’s one I’ve never considered, even with the Scotch heritage behind me. Pretty, dated Heather. I hope my kids stick to Family names!