Bridge between Waverley Abbey house and the Abbey
Bridge between Waverley Abbey house and the Abbey; Image by stephen_dedalus via Flickr

Today’s literary choice is perfectly in step with current trends, but has yet to catch on.

Thanks to Amanda for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Waverly.

Waverly sounds like a surname, but first appears in the historical record as the name of an abbey, constructed in 1128.  It lasted into the 1500s, when the combined forces of flooding from the nearby River Wey and Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries forced it into ruin.  Waverley Abbey’s name is tricky to trace, too.  I’d thought it might relate to the nearby River Wey, but that’s not clear.

A few references link Waverly to aspens, and that tracks with the -ley ending, which usually signified a clearing, meadow, or field.  Nearly every reference talks about “quaking aspens,” and our word waver traces back to the Old English wæfre – restless.  So Waverly picks up yet another appealing aspect – a nature name vibe.

In 1814, Sir Walter Scott scored a smash hit with his novel Waverley.  His hero is called Edward Waverley, a well-born soldier sent to Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.  (This makes Waverly one of the first historical novels.)  Edward falls in love with Flora, the sister of a Scottish chieftain.  This brings us back to the trees: he describes her harp playing as “the soft sigh of the evening breeze in the rustling leaves of an aspen.”

There’s much intrigue, but no happy ending.  Despite Flora’s chieftain brother Fergus springing Edward from jail, Edward marries the sensible Rose.

Some link the novel’s name to Waverly Abbey, but that might just be coincidence.  Likewise, the 64 baby girls given the name in 2009 according to Nancy are probably not linked to the novel.

What could inspire parents to choose Waverly?

  • She’s a popular place name throughout the English-speaking world.  She appeared on the New York City street names blog post at Nameberry, but you can find this name on the map from Alabama to Wisconsin;
  • Amy Tan’s 1989 Joy Luck Club included a character named Waverly, named for the street where her family lived in San Francisco;
  • The Princess Bride was a 1973 novel, a 1987 film, and an undeniable cult classic.  Later editions of the novel contain a brief epilogue and hint at a sequel, all about the daughter of Westley and Princess Buttercup.  Her name?  Waverly;
  • If you’ve seen The Disney Channel in recent years, you might’ve caught The Wizards of Waverly Place, a successful comedy about a trio of wizards-in-training who have to keep their powers secret.  The show is set in New York City’s Greenwich Village, where there really is a Waverly Place, which was named after the novel – which takes us back to the beginning.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Waverly occasionally surfaced as a boy’s name.  But today, she sounds like a likely successor to Delaney – and undeniably feminine.  And while her name links to trees, her first syllable might remind parents of the beach.  If girls can be called Ocean and Sea, why not Waverly?

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. I should also say I love original names,I have another daughter named Maddely and a son named Risto. I didn’t realize there were actual brands named Waverly.

  2. My daughter is names Waverley after the set of novels. We love it its unique and well I am a bit of a book lover.

  3. My name is Waverly…and I have yet to find someone with the same name!! My mom got my name from the Joy Luck Club and happy she did!!
    Full Name: Waverly Symone Jennings

  4. My husband grew up on Waverly Drive and his mother still lives there! I wonder if that would make his love or detest the name for a girl? I’ll have to ask him because I like it!

  5. Our 20 month old daughter’s name is Waverly Rose and there is no other name that could ever suit her better. Everyone that we have encountered absolutely loves her name. We call her “Wavy” and “Wave” most often, ironically she has blonde wavy hair. I have no regrets and would name her Waverly 1000 times over!!!