Justin is a modern staple, slowly transitioning from boy-band cutie to grown-up regular Joe. Now how about the feminine form?
Thanks to Virginia for suggesting her daughter’s middle name. Justine is our Baby Name of the Day.
Back in 1982, Justine Bateman first caught our attention as Alex P. Keaton’s sister Mallory, a role she’d play through 1989. Mallory wasn’t the brightest or the most motivated, but she was terribly stylish. (Even today, there’s an entire Tumblr devoted to her wardrobe.) And their show, Family Ties was a smash hit, a cultural phenomenon that remains a perennial re-run favorite.
The show’s heyday would prove to be Justine’s heyday, too. While Justine had ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since the 1890s, she stood at a chilly #582 in 1982, but had climbed to #175 in 1987. After 1987, and as the show left the air and Bateman’s career floundered, Justine fell hard, leaving the US Top 1000 entirely after 2008.
Justin – as in Timberlake and Bieber – followed a similar trajectory, but made it all the way into the US Top Ten by 1987. He’d stay there through 1990, and still ranked #50 in 2010.
The names come from Latin word iustus – just. Saints, emperors, and other figures have worn various forms of the name over the centuries, including Justus, Justinian, and Justina.
There’s a fourth century martyr and saint named Justine, but the first Justine that comes to mind for many is the Marquis de Sade’s ill-fated character in Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue. Justine retells her life story as her death sentence approaches. Despite striving to be above reproach, young Justine constantly falls victim. Unlike many a classic tale of the good girl who suffers, but ends well, no such happy ending awaits Justine.
Instead it is Justine’s sister, the amoral – or even villainous – Juliette who prospers, mostly in the sequel Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded.
Other famous Justines include:
- Glamorous Justine Johnstone graduated from the Ziegfield Follies girl to Broadway to a brief silent film career. Johnstone left it all behind to study science at Columbia University. If you’ve ever had an I.V., you owe something to Ms. Johnstone’s work.
- Another literary Justine is part of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria quartet. First published in 1957, the novels are set in 1930s and 40s Egypt.
- In 1969, The Archies – comprised entirely of cartoon characters borrowed from the Archie comics and Saturday morning cartoon – recorded a song called “Justine.” Linda Rondstadt recorded a single titled “Justine” in 1980. Neither song was a hit, but doubtless both inspired some parents.
- In 1977 bestseller The Thorn Birds, Meggie’s daughter is named Justine.
In France, Justine peaked in the early 1990s, and is now on the wane.
The question, of course, is whether Justine feels dated in the US. Other late 80s favorites like Christine, Danielle, Jacqueline, and Michelle fall squarely in mom name territory. But Justine never reached such great heights.
So if Genevieve, Giselle, and Evangeline are your style, but you’re eager to find something your child will never share with a classmate, Justine is a safe bet. She fits with smart, stylish names circa 2012, but still manages to be just off the radar off most parents – not a bad combination if you’re looking for that elusive normal-but-seldom-heard name.
Justine is a lot more common in Canada than it is in the U.S. It’s in the top 100 here and I’ve met/heard of several little girls named Justine in the past few years.
Ich und die Namen says
I really like Justine, but I would pronounced the German way, YU-STIHNE. The mother of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, a famous German writer of the 18th century, was named Justina Salome. I love this combination.
This name is only acceptable to me pronounced the French way, zhoos-TEEN [?us’tin].
eponymia (@eponymia) says
I love Justine — I mentioned it in a recent post (along with Clea) and actually know one (British, early 40s) who was named for the Durell book. Such a lovely choice.
One of my best friends is Justine, she is 27. She was named after a character in a book The Thorn Birds. She likes her name, I have always thought it was a stand out yet recognizable name, but with a nice literary connection. Speaking of literary connection her sis is Moira named after Wendy Moira Angela Darling.
I really do like Justine, too. The only problem I could see with using the name circa 2012 is that it could get constantly confused with the oh-so-popular Justin.
Sarah A says
I really like Justine. I think it’s one of those names that sounds a bit off-trend but because it was never uber-popular, it doesn’t feel dated. I love her virtuous meaning and the strong no-nonsense vibe of Justine.
Whenever I hear the name Justine, I think of Theo singing the blues over his ex-girlfriend Justine.
I love it!! Another under-used French classic is Delphine.
too funny. in HS i knew a girl + her brother named, justina & justin. and just recently the company i work for hired a jestine!