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.