Corliss could be a cousin to Cora, a mix between that vintage name and more modern choices like Collins.
Thanks to Renee for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Cora comes from the Greek kore – maiden. That makes it part of a fashionable group of names for girls, including Cordelia and Coraline.
But Corliss has entirely different roots. It’s from the Old English carleas – care plus without, so the name means carefree, or maybe even cheerful. (It just about fits on this list!)
The meaning is almost certainly the reason it was given to a famous fictional character.
In January 1943, radio audiences first tuned into Meet Corliss Archer. Miss Archer was an outgoing and upbeat fifteen year old. It ran for thirteen years on radio, and was eventually adapted for movies and television, too.
The series also included Corliss’ sweetheart, Dexter; her parents, Harry and Janet; baby brother Raymond; BFF Mildred; and her rival, Betty. Great names, right?
Shirley Temple took on the role in two movies, the first in 1945, and a second in 1949. It became a television series in 1951, and ran through the 1950s. It also debuted as a comic book in 1948, but it didn’t last long.
Corliss: By the Numbers
Between 1944 and 1956, the name appeared on the fringes of the US Top 1000, all thanks to the various iterations of Miss Archer.
It was a dramatic rise, too. In 1941, six girls were given the name. In 1942, it was fewer than five. But 1943 – the year the radio series was first broadcast – led to 44 newborn babies called Corliss. By 1952, the name had peaked, with 145 newborn girls.
The name fell quickly as the series left television. By 1960, there were just 75 girls with the name. And by 1980, there were a mere fifteen newborn girls called Corliss.
That means that modern parents might know this name best as a surname, thanks to:
- BASE jumper Jeb, who has leapt from sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro.
- Inventor George, creator of the Corliss steam engine, one the greatest technical innovations of the nineteenth century.
- The fictional villain at the heart of A Kiss Before Dying. Ira Levin’s 1953 novel gave us a scheming, murderous Burton “Bud” Corliss. It became a movie in 1956, and again in 1991. The 1991 version kept the character’s surname, but changed his given name to Jonathan.
It’s also been used as a masculine given name. My favorite is C.C. Moseley – Corliss Champion Moseley, an early aviator, World War I fighter pilot, and organizer of both the United States Army Air Service schools and Western Air Express, the forerunner of Western Airlines.
In the mid-1990s there was a tiny uptick in the name’s use for boys. This might be thanks to basketball player Corliss Williamson, who led the Arizona Razorbacks to their only NCAA National Championship in 1994.
Corliss: Ready for Rediscovery?
This name is nearly extinct in 2016. It was last given to five or more boys back in 1996, and five or more girls in 2003.
But it would fit well with current trends in girls’ names. It combines the stylish Cor- sound with a tailored ending. If we’re naming our daughter Collins, why not Corliss?
Of course, the same is true for boys. With names like Brooks and Miles trending, it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine this name catching on for boys – even though recent usage and pop culture tend to give this one to the girls.
What do you think of Corliss? Do you like it better for a son or a daughter?