Fetching Names: So Lovely as a Tree


[Tree in a rural area] (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

The week before Christmas is an evergreen moment, all holly boughs and Douglas firs. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about trees and tree names this week.

Or maybe it is something less seasonal. Not every tree here seems like a wintry pick. And the positive virtues that we associate with trees – endurance, the beauty of the natural world – are timeless. Thanks to the list at North Carolina State University’s website on trees for inspiration.

Hands down, my favorite name on this list is Linden. I’ve imagined it as an update to Linda, but I like it for a boy equally well.

AlderAdler is an eagle, but Alder goes in a slightly softer direction – a family of flowering shrubs and trees related to the birch.

AshAshley is a fading favorite for girls, while Ashton rose to the Top 100 thanks to actor Ashton Kutcher. The Hebrew Asher is an up-and-comer now. But how about just Ash? A gender neutral option, Ash nods to both fire and the flowering plant.

Beech – The beach is a holiday destination, while the beech tree is known for its wood. Dash, Cash, Flynn, Beech … in the company of other modern choices, I think it works.

Birch – Like Beech, I think this one sounds better for a boy. The -ir sound brings to mind Curt and Kirk. The sound is abrupt, but the meaning is surprisingly pretty. Birch comes from a Germanic word meaning to gleam or to shine.

Burl – Not actually a tree, but a growth on a tree, burls are known for producing especially unusual and prized wood. Forever associated with singer – and the narrator of Christmas specials – Burl Ives.

Camellia – We think of the Camellia as a flower, but it actually grows on a small tree. The bloom is terribly pretty, right at home with Lily and Rose. Camille and Camilla have ancient roots. Camellia shares their sounds, but takes the name in a different direction. Another bonus? The nickname Milly.

Cedar – This name was the subject of a debate on the AppMtn Facebook page, with readers split on whether Cedar was better for a boy or a girl. The Lebanon Cedar is that country’s national symbol, and the tree had a long history of use in the ancient world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero travels to the Cedar Forest, the home of the gods in Mesopotamian mythology.

Cypress – A long-living tree, the roots of the name are not known. But Cypress has inspired place names from Canada to California, and Texas to Brooklyn.

Elm – Maybe not the most robust sound for a child’s name, but if you have an Elmer on your family tree, this just might be a way to reboot that name. Of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street – the franchise that has scared teenagers for three decades and counting – might give parents pause.

Elowen – A lovely Cornish import, Elowen translates to elm tree. Along the way, the name also becomes distinctly feminine and vaguely other-worldly.

Forrest – Can’t decide on just one tree? Choose ’em all …

Hickory – I wouldn’t have considered Hickory as a given name, but Isadora made a compelling case for his use.

English: Sign for the Holly Tree The sign on t...

Holly – She ranked in the US Top 100 from the 1970s into the 1990s. Today there’s a hint of mom name about her, but she’s still a seasonal appellation with a certain amount of style. Credit Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s for some of that residual chic – though the character was born Lula Mae and re-named herself Holiday Golightly.

Juniper – A big favorite in name circles, she’s a successor to Jennifer and Heather, too, and it just so happens, the first-ever Baby Name of the Day profiled at AppMtn. Juniper is fresh, kicky, and yet has roots that go far deeper than some modern nature names.

Lilac – Colorful, botanical, and spelled with two Ls, what’s not to love about Lilac?

Linden – A favorite of mine, boosted by one possible meaning of the name – flexible, related to the Latin lentus, though the more common meaning is lime tree. (Lindens don’t grow limes … ah, the vagaries of language.) Linden has a long history of use as a surname and place name, too.

Magnolia – She’s a tremendously pretty choice, a botanical name with more heft than Lily, but lighter than Margaret.

Maple – If Mabel is a girl’s name, and others on this list are perfectly wearable, maybe Maple has possibilities, too. She’s also a nod towards Canada. I’ve already heard of this one used in the middle spot, where it really does make for a charming surprise.

Mimosa – If not for the whole champagne/orange juice angle, Mimosa might be seriously considered more often.

Oak – A mighty tree, associated with the Norse god Thor, and serving as the national tree of more than a dozen nations, including the United States. Surname Oakley has been heard, too – possibly inspired by Annie Oakley, one of the many places called Oakley, or hey, maybe even the sunglasses manufacturer …

Peach – We’ve explored this idea before, and there’s definitely some hesitation to name a daughter Peach. But calling her Georgia with the nickname Peach? That’s just genius.

Rowan – Ranked #327 for boys in 2010, and #493 for girls, Rowan is the new Peyton – tailored, truly unisex, and terribly stylish.

Sequoia – A tree name, yes, but also an admirable Native American hero name, one that remains wearable for a son despite his -ia ending. He leans westward, and stands tall.

Willow – Already well established thanks to a television witch and a second-generation Hollywood star, Willow combines a vibrant sound with a softer image.

Are there trees that I’ve missed? Would you use a nature name for a child in the first spot? How ’bout in the middle?

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25 Comments

None of my favourites for boys are here: Jarrah, Huon, Hawthorn, and Oren. The first two are Australian trees, the last is a Hebrew name meaning pine.

But you hit most of my girls. I like Hazel, Maple, Magnolia, and Holly especially. I would add Acacia, Tamarix, Tamar, and Ilana. I would use Tamar (pr. ta-MAR) in a heartbeat if I could. Ilana is taken in my family by a cousin who beat me to it, but I like it a lot.

Tamarix is a beautiful tree w/ pink flowers that incidentally sounds pretty much like a smush of Tamar and Beatrix, but I cannot prove anyone has ever actually used it as a name. They ought to though! I’ll let you know if my husband suddenly is replaced by a Terminator who thinks its a great idea.

My favorite here is Forrest for a boy. I always think how amusing it would be if I had a child named Forrest with my current boyfriend.. because his last name means “forest” in his language. Ha!

I love Maple but I would hate hearing “Mabel?” every time I introduced her. I’m surprised Laurel didn’t make the list. I’ve always thought it was pretty but now that we have a Bay, it’s no longer an option (bay leaves grow on Laurel trees). Magnolia is so pretty as well, I wish my husband liked it.

I like Linden for a boy, but I think I prefer the Lyndon spelling because of the former President.

I really love Elowen. I wish it didn’t make DH think of ellemenopee 🙁 I think Elowen sounds like a LOTR name, which is all good to me!

I’m also loving Juniper and Lilac, great list Abby!

Linden’s my favorite on this list, and Elowen may be a new love. I tend to lean towards herb names – Rosemary, Lavender, Sage – more than tree names.

When some friends of ours were having a baby and I prepared them a list of potential names for their little girl, I thought Elowen was the biggest gift, because the dad is an ARBORIST! Did they use it? Nope. They didn’t dig Juniper either. And I think this was back in the days before I fell head over heels in love with Magnolia. Doesn’t matter. They went with Nora. A fine name, but such a missed opportunity!!

Due to something I can’t talk about yet, 🙂 I’ve been spending a lot of time considering “h” names… so I want to mention that along the line of Forest — Holt is Old English for a small woodland.

I know a man who renamed himself Burr, after Odin’s father. But since it’s also a type of oak tree, I can see it’s appeal.

Birk, which is a popular name in Sweden due to an Astrid Lindgren character, is birch tree in Danish (and Scots.)

Ivor/Ivo, both names that I love, refer to yew trees.

I guess I like Tree names, but I prefer the subtle ones.

Interesting post, but I must be the only one in the world who thinks nature names are done to death these days. It’s a very popular trend amongst the “untrendy” especially.

I’m really liking Juniper & Linden (boy only). I think Elowen is beautiful but, like you said, a bit other-worldly. I know of one Camellia. I also have a cousin named Timber (female).

As for tree’s you’ve missed: Laurel, Cork(wood), & Hawthorn are a few. A few less usable options would be Yew, Sycamore or Sumac.

Funny I’ve known about 2 boys with two of these names, but spelt differently: Lyndon and Sequoya. The first I can’t really tell if they were trying to go for Linden, Landon or London, its a bit of a mystery.

Really not a fan of Beech or Birch – Beech because it sounds too close to THAT word… and Birch because I just find the “ur” sound really unattractive, same goes with Bert, Kurt, Kirk, Lurch..

Really love Camellia, Juniper and Magnolia for girls.
For boys, i’m kinda digging Cypress. I’ve always liked Forrest, Sequoia, Oakley and Rowan too. .

I do know someone with the middle name Pine, but I’m not sure if it’s a family name or just a nature name. He uses both his first and middle name, thinks it gives him an edge 🙂
Me, I LOVE tree names and nature names, but cannot for the life of me find one that goes well with my husband’s polish-ellis-island-altered last name.

Congrats Lauren!!!

I am actually really drawn to tree names. While there are none on our short list, a few have made it onto the long list. I love Willow, Holly, Juniper and Magnolia… Sequoia has intrigued me recently. Elowen is lovely, might be a new addition to the very long excell sheet

I absolutely love botanical names and a bunch of these tree names are lovely. Like you, Linden is still a favorite. Juniper and Birch have been growing on me (Juniper because of the sound, but I actually don’t really like the plant and Birch because it is one of my favorite trees). The idea of Magnolia is lovely (being here in the south). If Peach makes it, how about Plum? My neighborhood has a bunch of the Thundercloud Purple leaf Plum trees and I love them! (But then that opens up Olive and Apple and so on, I suppose). One of my other favorites is the Crepe Myrtle, but Myrtle doesn’t cut it, does it? What about plain old Arbor? Fraser (fir)? Could Balsam or Spruce work?

I cut Plum for exactly that reason – I feared it was turning into too much of a fruit basket. I also cut Pine because I really can’t imagine Pine – but maybe in the middle spot. Arbor is lovely – I went to a wedding with a flower girl called Arbor, very appropriate! And Fraser fir is a good addition. I’m not so sure about Balsam, but maybe Spruce.

Way to represent, NCSU!

I used to be firmly anti-nature name, but time has shown me they’re not all that bad. Magnolia is one that before I would have dismissed but now I like a lot. Camille is nice too. I also have an acquaintance named Lindi, a derivitive of Linden.

My favorite nature names are Rosemary and Ivy. I also like Iris and Marigold… I guess flowers more than trees. The fianc

Congratulations, Lauren!!
What an exciting time for you!
My first daughter is named Rosemary, and her favorite name is Ivy. :). She’s 12, so if either of you use her name, she probably won’t run into them on the playground… I highly recommend the name! So why is only Rosemarie profiled on AM?