There’s the tree, the place name, and the US president, too.
Thanks to Merrisa for suggesting Linden as our Baby Name of the Day.
First things first: Merrisa suggested Linden as a boy’s name. It could be, an alternative to Landon and Logan and Liam. Spelling variant Lyndon has been worn by a former US President, after all, and there’s no shortage of masculine role models, including athletes from the NFL and NHL.
But Linden has possibilities as a girls’ name, too. Many tree names feel inherently gender neutral – think of Rowan or Cedar. Plus Linden reminds me of long-time girls’ favorite Linda. Possible short form Lindy brings to mind aviator Charles Lindbergh, but also feels perfectly appealing for a daughter. British actress Linden Travers appeared in several Alfred Hitchcock pictures; she was born Florence Lindon-Travers.
As of 2010, Linden was a rarity, and one holding steady as a gender neutral choice. 57 boys received the name, while 59 girls were called Linden. Spelling variants cloud the picture slightly: a few boys were called Lindon, a few girls were named Lynden. But overall, this is one that neither gender can claim.
But let’s head back to the forest. Linden trees are sometimes called lime trees, but that’s a quirk of etymology. They’re actually deciduous trees, most from the genus tilia, found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Some are said to live for centuries, even a thousand years or more.
References to the tree appear in ancient writings by Homer and Ovid. Other meanings have attached over the years, including:
- Linden trees were gathering places in pre-Christian Germany, a common location for communities to hold trials and celebrations alike.
- They were meaningful in Slavic cultures, too, and the tree remains a national symbol of Slovenia; a common place name, especially in Poland; and the inspiration behind the Croatian name for the month of June.
- Literary references trace back from the Middle Ages to modern times, including Coleridge, Goethe, and Herman Hesse. Joan Baez mentions the linden tree in a song lyric.
Chances are Linden is also a place name for many readers. There’s Berlin’s Unter den Linden, a historic thoroughfare lined with the trees, as well as landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate. (And the source of this charming story about two women named Linden, courtesy of Nancy.) In the US, Linden, New Jersey is a stone’s throw from Manhattan. In London, the London Corinthian Sailing Club operates out of Linden House. Add in dozens of other communities throughout the English-speaking world and Linden is a common feature on many maps.
There’s much to love about Linden, a name that feels genuinely gender neutral. Like many nature names, Linden is crisp and modern without feeling invented or forced. It could be a great way to honor a grandmother called Linda, or maybe an alternative to Dylan. If you’re after a rarity that will feel perfectly comfortable on a 21st century child, Linden could fit the bill.