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It’s Liz’s week at Appellation Mountain!

Her first choice is a sturdy German name mixed with a generous helping of Hollywood glam.

Our Baby Name of the Day is the glamorous nickname Hedy.

Once upon a time, Hedwig was worn by saints and royals.  These days, she’s been ceded to Harry Potter’s snowy owl and a cult classic musical about a transgendered rock star.

Along with Hedda, the names relate to a Germanic element – hadu, combat.  Hedwig ranked in the US Top 1000 from 1880 through 1926, but it seems unlikely that she’ll make a comeback anytime soon.

But Hedy is in a whole other category, thanks to Hollywood’s Golden Age star Hedy Lamarr.  Born in Austria as Hedwig, she started out in Berlin, before heading to Paris, London, and eventually the US.  She borrowed her last name from fellow actress Barbara La Marr, a silent film star who lived fast and died young in the 1920s.

Lamarr scored plenty of famous roles from the 1940s into 1950s.  She played Delilah in a hit and Joan of Arc in a flop.  She starred as the exotic Tondelayo in 1942’s White Cargo.  This would be enough to put Hedy in the same category as Ava, Natalie, and Audrey.

But there’s a twist.  Lamarr once quipped: “Any girl can be glamorous.  All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”  Once her star faded in Hollywood, Lamarr had a second career in science.  She and George Antheil – who got his start in music – secured a patent for frequency hopping, a technique that allows secure radio communications.  Lamarr and Antheil proposed it to the the US military.  It didn’t catch on in the World War II era, but by the early 1960s, the technology was in use on US Navy vessels.

Hedy charted in the US Top 1000 a few times during her heyday, between 1939 and 1947.  Other famous Hedys include:

  • Folksinger Hedy Westyou might recognize her song “500 Miles.” West was born Hedwig in Georgia, in 1938;
  • Actress Hedy Burress was born Heather in 1973.  Name nerd trivia: Burress played a recurring character called Money Raspberry Dupree in short-lived 2001 medical drama Gideon’s Crossing.  She most recently appeared on Southland.

Add in politicians, athletes, and other notables, and it is clear that unlike Cher or Madonna, Hedy is not too closely tied to any one figure.

If you’re looking for a nature tie, there’s also hedychium – better known as ginger lily – a plant native to tropical Asia.  Maybe that’s a stretch.

Hedy seems fresh, a simple name that stands on her own, and a viable option to honor a Hedwig (or a Jadwiga, or any of the many Slavic variations) on your family tree.  She’ll be mistaken for Heidi, but that’s a challenge with any uncommon name.  Despite her homespun sound, Hedy sounds like heady – thrilling, as in “it goes to your head.”  Putting Hedwig on the birth certificate feels a little extreme, though, so you might ask yourself if you’re content to let Hedy stand alone.

If nickname-proof style appeals, then Hedy offers a surprising mix of Hollywood glam, smarts, and modern style with serious roots.

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. My first name is Heather and my mother gave me the nickname Heady. Truth be told, I always really liked the nickname because it wasn’t so common as Heather. You know there were a few jokes in high school, but they were not mean spirited and NEVER bothered me. To this day I still use the name and have grown very fond of it. Don’t let the silly people who would make a joke deter you from the name. It rarely happened and if your kid is a victim of taunting, it will be for another reason if not a name.

  2. My mother suggested Hedwig for my daughter not once, but twice in the same email. It became a joke between my sister and I and that’s what we called my daughter for the last 3.5 months of my pregnancy. I could NEVER use it. Ever.

  3. I am so excited for my week! I love Hedy, I had not thought of the high school trouble. My daughter Ivy is often mistaken for Heidi as well. I thought of Hedy because a new baby sister at her school was given that name. There were two baby girls at the school last year, each coming along third after two big bros: Hedy & Aoife.
    I am away the next few days but will catch up on my return! Cheers all.

  4. This is a case where reading this post really changed my opinion on the name. At first I thought, “no way!”, but you managed to make it seem really appealing. Hattie is in my top 5 (undecided on a formal version), so I think that’s part of why I like it. It seems like there’s some real teasing potential though in high school/college, if you know what I mean.

    1. I think I’d put Helena on the birth certificate, and use Hedy as a nickname. But that’s just me linking two names on my husband’s family tree that happen to start with the same letter. And I do love Hattie – absolutely, flat-out adore it. I’m just not 100% sold on Harriet.

      1. If I understand correctly, in German Hedy is pronounced more like Hay-dee, than Head-ee. Since I like that pronunciation better and I’m not a fan of Hedwig, I’d just name a child Haidee instead.

        You can add me to the list of people who love Hattie/Hetty, but who are iffy on Harriet.

  5. I am not really fond of the sound or look of the name, and I know my husband would think of about 250 dirty jokes on the spot, so I’m going to give Hedy a pass. =) I do prefer Hetty or Hettie as a pp mentioned.

    1. I am spending too much time with children under the age of 5. That honestly didn’t occur to me until … well … now. And now it does seem like a potentially painful nickname to wear in high school.

  6. There’s a Hetty on NCIS:LA, though I don’t know if it’s in any way related to Hedy (the character is played by Linda Hunt, a.k.a Edna Mode, so I don’t know if she would be an inspiration for baby naming, though).

    1. Interesting – I love the CSI series, but I don’t think I have seen any of the NCIS: LA episodes. IMDb says Hetty is short for Henrietta. Great nickname!

    1. My husband’s beloved grandmother was Jadwiga, so all of the Hedwig variants have always been on the edge of our lists, but none seemed really wearable until Hedy came along.