Thanks to Sebastiane for suggesting Shayna as our Baby Name of the Day.
Review the Top 100 in 1980: there’s Shannon for girls; Sean, Shane, Shaun, and Shawn for boys, without counting names like Ashley or Joshua. The shh sound was no secret.
Only Joshua and Ashley are still holding on in 2012, and both are falling. Just like the long -a of Mason and Ava will someday feel dated, the once ahead-of-the-curve sh now bears the stamp of another era, though names like Shiloh can still sound fresh.
And yet Shayna has some advantages over, say, Sheila or even Shaylee.
First, unlike the former Top 100 Sheila, Shayna was never wildly popular. She charted from the 1970s through 2008, but never reached higher than the 300s. She could be a feminine form of Shane, a name that first caught on after the 1953 Western flick. Or she could be a cousin for Hailey and Kayla. Invented name Shayla still ranks in the US Top 1000.
But perhaps her greatest strength is her meaning. Shayna comes from the Yiddish word for beautiful, just like Jolie or Bella derive from the French and Italian equivalents.
You’ll find Shayna listed as Hebrew, but that’s not so. She’s Yiddish, and Yiddish is a younger language – it is first recorded in the tenth century – and Germanic in origin. The German word schön – beautiful – gives some hint to Shayna’s roots. The vowel sound in schön isn’t quite the long -ay of Shayna, but comes close.
Yiddish faded in Western Europe while it continued to thrive in the East. Perhaps that’s why we can find Shayna equivalents in Polish and Russian, but she’s seldom heard in, say, France.
I found a lovely name story on a blog called Rabbi in the Middle of America. (Nebraska, to be exact.) His Zoey Shayna is named after a Polish-born grandmother called Chaya Shayndle, confirming that the name was in use in the early twentieth century.
There’s also A Shayna Maidel – a pretty girl – the work of playwright Barbara Lebow, a drama about Holocaust survivors, originally performed in the 1980s, then adapted for television in 1992. The title was changed to Miss Rose White for the television version, or perhaps Shayna would have gotten an even bigger boost. Herman Wouk gave the name to one of his characters in The Hope, too.
Unlike Hadassah or Tzeitel, Shayna has a history of use outside of Jewish families. In fact, her sound makes her an easy export, a great option for parents seeking a name that can honor their heritage without sounding out of step with modern appellations. Variant spelling Shana would cause pronunciation challenges, but Shaina is another possibility.
There are plenty of 20-something and older Shaynas these days, some Jewish, but many not. Reviewing a list of Shaynas suggests that’s she quite portable. Her sound is slightly dated, but her meaning endures. It makes Shayna a viable option for parents seeking that elusive similar-but-different name.