In honor of our red, white, and blue holiday, how ’bout Ruby as our Baby Name of the Day?
Ruby means red, from the Latin rubeus. It was whispered down the alley to rubi in French and eventually Ruby in English.
The name has been applied to the gemstone since at least the fourteenth century, but the stones have been valued for far longer. Technically, rubies can be any shade of red, from a pale pink to a rich hue called pigeon’s blood. They were traded on the silk road from China as early as 200 BC. Once upon a time, the go-to place for the stones was Myanamar in southeast Asia. It’s now known as Burma, and their mining industry has been plagued with complaints about human rights practices. Nonetheless, rubies remain a heavy-hitter in the world of jewels, and Ruby is actually the birthstone for the month of July.
Ruby first surfaces as a personal name in the nineteenth century, along with so many other borrowings from the natural world. There was a brief tussle for Ruby’s identity, with the name ranking in the US Top 1000 for boys most years from the 1890s into 1940. A Depression-era Kentucky governor was among the men to wear the name.
But Ruby quickly caught fire for girls, and today she’s solidly established as a feminine appellation. She’s never left the US rankings, and reached #22 and #23 in the 1910s. Her run in the Top 100 began back in 1888 and lasted through 1945.
Popular music has boosted her over the years, with song titles like:
- The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday“
- Kenny Rogers’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”
- “Ruby Soho” by Rancid
- The Kaiser Chiefs’ “Ruby”
Fictional characters are equally as diverse. There’s Cold Mountain’s Ruby Thewes, a role for which Renee Zellwegger won a Best Actress Oscar in 2004. Animated rabbit siblings Max and Ruby can be seen on Nickelodeon regularly. Then there’s EastEnders’ Ruby Allen. The character’s storyline lasted from 2005 through 2006, corresponding neatly with Ruby’s ascent into the most popular names in the UK.
Add up all of the popular uses from song and story, and that’s enough to encourage parents to embrace Ruby. But there have been plenty of real life women of accomplishment who answered to Ruby over the years:
- Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to attend an all-white school in New Orleans. Bridges’ daunting walk to school was painted by Norman Rockwell.
- Ruby Murray racked up tons of UK hit singles in the 1950s.
- Actresses include Ruby Dee, Ruby Dandridge, and Ruby Keeler, as well as Sulochana – a Eurasian actress who dominated Indian cinema in the 192os and 30s, and was born Ruby Myers.
No wonder, then, that rafts of parents have chosen the name for their daughters, including Suzanne Vega, Charlotte Church, and Marley Shelton. Tobey Maguire and Jennifer Meyer are probably the most famous Hollywood duo. The pair chose Ruby Sweetheart in 2006. But it is Rod Stewart who set the trend, welcoming a daughter called Ruby with Kelly Emberg back in 1987.
Plenty of less-than-famous parents have joined them. As of 2011, Ruby ranked #109. She remains a great name – a true gem – but she can’t be called undiscovered. If that doesn’t trouble you, she’s a vivacious name for a daughter.