Hello, Dolly. Need more proof that this is a given name?
Thanks to Nell for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
The 1964 Broadway musical swept the Tony awards, scooping up an impressive ten top honors. But Hello, Dolly! was a throwback – set at the turn of the twentieth century, with the roots in the early nineteenth century.
Dolly Gallagher Levi is the musical’s heroine, a larger-than-life widow and matchmaker. The names are pitch perfect for the era, and deliciously clunky – Horace, Cornelius, Barnaby, Ambrose, Ernestina, Irene.
Dolly feels lighter than most of the other characters, but her name is right for the age, too.
As an independent given name, Dolly saw some use from the 1880s into the 1960s.
But she owes her success to Dorothy, a Top Ten staple from 1904 through 1939, and a Top 100 choice for far longer.
How do you get Dolly from Dorothy? The same way Sarah gives us Sallie and Harold gives us Hal.
But why would parents name their child after a plaything?
It’s the other way around.
Dolly started out as a nickname for Dorothy. By the sixteenth century, she was a term of endearment, think “sweetheart.” It would take another century or so before we called a child’s toy a doll.
The toys have been around since ancient days BC, and many cultures have assigned ritual or spiritual meanings to them. Even though we’ve only used the word for a few hundred years, it is tough to separate the word – and the name – from all of those associations. You can also “be a doll” and “get dolled up.”
Illustrator Grace Drayton, creator of the Campbell Soup Kids, used the name for the paper dolls she drew for women’s magazine, as well as a comic strip character. The doll in this post is a Drayton creation – all vintage innocence.
Circa 2014, the most famous bearer of the name is Dolly Rebecca Parton. Parton’s career took off in the 1970s. She’s among country music’s most celebrated performers, as well as an actress, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
- South London’s Dolly Peel was a smuggler, known for sneaking aboard the Royal Navy ship her husband and son had been forced to serve on, and eventually becoming a celebrated nurse.
- Daredevil Dolly Shepherd – born Elizabeth – wowed crowds in Edwardian England by parachuting from a hot air balloon.
- Born into circus royalty, aerialist Dolly Jacobs made her name in the 1970s, and later co-founded Sarasota’s Circus Arts Conservatory.
With names like Sadie having their day, and our era favoring the idea of skipping the formal name, Dolly isn’t an outlandish possibility. Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell have twin daughters called Dolly and Charlie.
Dolly is still a little lighter than Molly or other nickname-names. Wearable on her own, yes – and some amazing women have answered to the name. But this feels like one where I’d want a formal name option, or a rock solid classic of a middle to anchor the daring, darling Dolly.