Hope: Baby Name of the Day


It’s a forward-looking virtue name just right for the new year!

With wishes for a happy 2015, our Baby Name of the Day is Hope.

Hope: Full of Promise

As a word, it isn’t entirely clear where we first found hope.  Old English had hopian – wish.  Middle Dutch had hopen, and German of the same era, hoffen.

The concept is far older, of course.

In the New Testament, Paul tells us:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love remains rare as a given name, but Hope has endured.

There’s a story – almost certainly pure legend – about a mother named Sophia and her three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Charity – all martyred during the reign of Hadrian.

So this is pure virtue name, a forward-looking, optimistic word.  Sure, you can declare that “all hope is lost.”  But more often, hope carries with it a sense that everything will turn out for the best.

While there can be a Christian vibe to this name, by no means is Hope exclusive to those of a particular faith.  In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman.  As a wedding gift, Zeus gave her a box and instructed her to never open it.  Curious Pandora did lift the lid, and all the evils of the world escaped.

But so did Elpis – the spirit of hope.

There’s something literary about this word, too.  Alexander Pope tells us that “Hope springs eternal,” and Emily Dickinson wrote that “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

Hope: Puritans and Yuppies

The Puritans usually get credit for being the first to embrace this as a given name, along with more extreme choices like Farewell and Kill-sin.

Hope peaked right around the start of the new millennium.  In 1990, the name ranked #266.  By 1999, it was #143, and #146 in 2000.

But the name has never been rare in the US.  Hope has charted in the US Top 1000 nearly every year, and usually makes the Top 300, at least since the 1960s.

Screenshot of Hope Lange from the trailer for ...

Actress Hope Lange’s career took off in the late 1950s and 60s, and lasted for decades on television, stage, and in movies.  The Academy Award-nominee probably helped push her given name into wider use.

Credit the small screen for boosting the name, too:

  • In 1987, thirtysomething gave us Philadelphia yuppie couple Michael and Hope Steadman.
  • Days of Our Lives included a Horton family member by the name all the way back in 1974.  But the character became an adult – and a key member of the series’ cast – with the casting of Kristian Alfonso in 1983.  Hope and Bo Brady became one of the soap opera’s supercouples.
  • Then there’s the most recent entry, Fox’s Raising Hope, about Jimmy Chance, a naive 20-something who ends up a single dad.  His daughter was originally named Princess Beyonce by her mother, but Jimmy changes the baby’s name to Hope.

Olympic gold medalist in women’s soccer Hope Solo and actress Hope Davis are two more well-known bearers of the name.

Hope: Enduring Virtue

Some virtue names feel like antiques – think of Mercy or Temperance.  Others are clearly recent innovations, like Truly.

This choice strikes the perfect balance.  It’s a name with a long history of use and a meaning neither too gentle nor too brash.  With a frills-free, slim and trim style, Hope feels current.  And yet, at #233 in 2013, it is unlikely that a girl named Hope would be one in the crowd.

It’s a lovely and enduring possibility for a daughter, a name that fits in with 2015 trends without feeling the least bit fleeting.

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We chose Hope for our baby girl back in 2009, shortly after finding out her gender. I love Emily Dickinson, and the poem you mentioned is my absolute favorite. We shared the name with our families, and the reactions were startling. The vast majority hated it. The main objection was that she would undoubtedly be called Hopie. It was all rather ridiculous. In the end, though, we settled on Annabel Hope for her.

Hope is my youngest neice’s middle name, a beautiful choice. (If she’d been born one day later, I would’ve insisted she be named Sara, as she would’ve shared my birthday. 🙂 )