Baby Name of the Day: Yvonne


Cropped screenshot of Yvonne De Carlo from the...

Yvonne DeCarlo; Image via Wikipedia

Over 15,000 little girls were christened Ava, with another 6,600 plus called Avery, and nearly as many answering to Evelyn in 2010 alone. What ever happened to this vowels-plus-v choice?

Thanks to Ashley for suggesting Yvonne as our Baby Name of the Day.

The trouble with Yvonne is that she peaked in the 1930s. If the one hundred year rule applies, that’s still a decade or so shy of sounding prime for revival. No one is naming their girls Barbara or Shirley, either.

On the other hand, a number of 1930s staples have already started to catch the attention of parents looking for something fresh. Don’t Dorothy, Ruth, Helen, Joan, and June all sound like names you’d find short-listed on a Nameberry forum?

Like Natalie and Audrey, there’s a Hollywood tie to this name. Yvonne DeCarlo had a long career, attaining true leading lady status after her turn as Sephora in the Biblical epic The Ten Commandments. The only trouble? Today’s parents remember the lovely Ms. DeCarlo for another role – Mrs. Lily Munster in television sitcom The Munsters.

Or maybe the name conjures up the flirtatious Miss Yvonne on Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Either way, Yvonne takes on a sort of campy, cult status that lingers.

It shouldn’t be that way, though. She’s a medieval appellation brought to England by the Normans. Yvonne has long been the most common feminine form of the saintly, high-fashion français Yves, a name ultimately derived from the yew tree.

Yew is not one you’re likely to hear, even as tailored tree names like Linden and Rowan find favor. Yew wood was traditionally used for making bows, and has ties to Norse mythology and well as a reputation as a tree of sadness and mourning, customarily planted in churchyards, even in pre-Christian England. Yvonne is a few steps removed from that backstory, though.

Variants abound. There’s Ivo and and Yvon for men; Yvette and Ivetta for women. If you remember 1980s Australian tennis sensation Evonne Goolagong, that’s one that might come to mind.

Madame Charles DeGaulle also wore the name, as did a number of singers and dancers and athletes and actors. The most prominent Yvonne of our day is probably Polish-Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski, mostly recently seen on Chuck.

But back to the question of how Yvonne would fare today. It may be that the 1930s were prime time for the letter V. Alvin and Vivian, Vincent and Eva, Harvey and Vera were all popular. If the vibrant v is having another moment – and she’s definitely back for girls, from Olivia to Nevaeh – then why not Yvonne?

She’s elegant, restrained, and shortens to the kid-friendly Evie. Naming a daughter Yvonne in 2011 or 2012 could be one of those ahead-of-the-curve comebacks. It’s the kind of name you announce and everyone says, “Huh. You don’t hear that one much these days.” They’d be right, too – Yvonne last charted in the US Top 1000 in 2002.

If you’re looking for the new old lady names, Yvonne could be the next Evelyn – though maybe in a dozen more years.

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17 Comments

I never heard Yvonne came from Yews. I have heard that it was a feminine variation of Ivan which is a form of John, meaning “God is gracious” or a “gift of God.”

My sister was the only Yvonne I knew until recently. Her teachers would would try to pronounce it with a long “e” sound on the end, much to her dismay. 🙂 We were always told it originated from the French so it is interesting to see the historical reference. Thank you, Ashley, for bringing a lovely name to our blogger’s attention.

Thank you! This was my aunt’s name, and either a first or middle (full name or variant) for any future daughter. I agree that it’s old-fashioned for most people, but its a family name, so it’s timeless to me. And I love the nickname possibilities!

I adore Yvonne. It’s my SIL’s name and she’s such a sunny, bouncy person. It’s funny that Yvonne is getting called an old lady name, because In Germany it was in the top 10 name through the the 70’s and 80’s. We wouldn’t use Yvonne in our family (too confusing), but it could work as a really smashing middle name: Harriet Yvonne, Beatrice Yvonne, Lydia Yvonne…

Also one of Germany’s favorite stories of 2011, Yvonne the runaway cow. http://tinyurl.com/3qac2ge

I have seen this name creeping back into usage in Australia – but always as a variant, such as Evonne or Evanne, which can be shortened to popular Evie. I have also seen quite a few names starting with Yv, such as Yvie, and these may be partly inspired by Yvonne, although Yvaine isn’t impossible either (from a book and movie).

Just popping in to suggest Ismeria as a NOTD. By the way, is there another way to suggest names? I can’t find a suggestion box anywhere.
Thanks!

Am I the only one who associates Ivana Trump with this name? That would be a detractor for me… But there was a teen Yvonne who used to play piano at the church where I grew up, too. She was an “only” in her family, and I’ve always been fascinated by name choices on onlies. They make me wonder where the parents would have gone from there. You only got one shot – and you picked THAT? 😉

When I was very, very little, I had two paper dolls with red hair, and I decided that one would be the good twin and one would be the bad twin. I used my parents’ old baby name books for dolls (almost definitely where I got the name obsession!) and the bad twin was Giselle, and the good twin was Ysanne. Which isn’t quite Yvonne, but it’s definitely from the same family… I like Yvonne, maybe because of that; it has good connotations in my head. I feel like a baby called Yvonne now would be ahead of the curve; I can really see it coming back in a few years.

Speaking of 30s V names, a young Spanish-speaking lady came into the store the other day named Veronica called Vero. I thought that was such a great name/nn combo! I’ve also run in to a whole bunch of odd names like Thomasin and Winter Rain. There are definitely a few hundred Ashleys and Jennifers for every truly interesting name.

I knew an Yvonne– a beautiful, kind, sophisticated lady from the Middle East. For me, the name is familiar with undertones of an exotic appeal. I really like Yvette, too, though I’ve yet to meet one.

I had a (very sharp) colleague my age named Yvonne, so I think that makes me think of it positively.

And @Yvonne – “old lady” is something of a compliment around here!

I know a tweenaged Yves – it is a GREAT name. Completely unexpected.

There was an Yvonne a few years behind me in school. I never thought much about the man until now, but I really like it, especially with nickname Evie.

I’m an Yvonne. Love the name. Love not having a room full of other Yvonnes. On the rare occasion when I meet another Yvonne we love it because there are so few of us.
“Old lady” is in the mind of the “beholder’

The only Yvonne I personally know/knew was this elderly lady who played piano in church when I was a kid. It’s funny because I LOVE Yves but Yvonne leaves me cold (Yvette on the other end doesn’t have Old Lady connotations to me). I do love Vincent and Ava tho (I fell in love with Ava after reading Miss Gardner’s autobiography as a young teen).

My senior high school was named Leslie Vivian Rogers after a World War 1 war hero (and local boy) who was later a school principal (and yes that was his legal name).