Thanks to Alena for suggesting Dimity as our Baby Name of the Day.
Alena suggested Dimity after we discussed Gone with the Wind on the AppMtn Facebook page. I had a sense that she was right about the name appearing in the novel – I’ve read GwtW dozens of times – but I couldn’t place the character.
Turns out she’s a really minor figure, one that we never meet in the movie, and is scarcely mentioned in the book, though she appears in an early scene at the Wilkes’ plantation, Twelve Oaks:
Alex and Tony Fontaine were whispering in the ears of Dimity Munroe and sending her into gales of giggles.
“… Don’t worry,” said Alex, eyeing Cade’s boots. “We’ll take them off of him on the train going home. I don’t mind facing Mother, but I’m da– I mean, I don’t intend for Dimity Munroe to see my toes sticking out.”
Scarlett O’Hara’s South is populated by lots of planter families, most of whom suffer heartbreak over the course of the novel. Alex and Dimity are still in love after the war ends, but they’re kept apart by a cruel twist of fate.
Since Margaret Mitchell tried to ensure her work was historically accurate, it is tempting to assume that she borrowed names from birth records of the time. It doesn’t appear to be the case. There are Dimitys in US Census records prior to the novel’s 1936 publication, but they’re almost all men born in Russia – so we can assume that there name was actually Dmitriy and the name was mis-recorded.
I did find one Dimity in South Carolina in the right time period. Plus, Southern families have a reputation for a certain quirky streak, making Dimity seem plausible.
Dimity takes center stage in Nancy Atherton’s books. Since the 1990s, Lori Shepherd has been solving mysteries with the help of her late Aunt Dimity. Dimity and Lori communicate via a journal, and untangle all sorts of mysteries together in a little English village. There are also recipes.
Despite this literary pedigree, Dimity didn’t start out as a given name. It’s a lightweight cotton fabric, almost always white. The name comes from the Greek dimitos – double thread – because the fabric is woven using two (or more) warp threads. Di- is the old Greek standby for two of anything, and mitos refers to thread. It’s used in home decorating – curtains and such. The illustration above shows a bustle made from dimity – double old-fashioned. The word traveled from Greek to Latin, and entered English via the Italian dimiti more than five centuries ago.
The name has never been given to five girls in any year since 1880. She’s rarer than rare
Overall, Dimity feels lady-like – a little sweeter and harder to wear than good girl names like Caroline and Pearl. And yet her sound is in step with many a favorite, from Dorothy to Kimberly to Delaney to Felicity.
The temptation to nickname her Dim might put some parents off, but there’s also Dee or Didi, or even Mimi.
If you’re after a truly unusual three syllable, ends in -y name for a daughter, Dimity might appeal.