Thanks to Angela for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: James. For a girl.
James: Impeccably Masculine Origins
James is a masculine staple. It’s Biblical, worn by saints and kings and men of distinction throughout the years.
Many borrowed-from-the-boys names are newer possibilities, surname names or word names that can’t claim the pedigree of James. A girl named Ryan or River? Why not?
But a girl named James is a surprise.
James: The Feminine Form is …
The feminine form could be:
- Giacomina and Jacomina, from Iacomus, a Latin form of the Greek Iacobus.
- Jacobina and Jacobella, from alternate root Iacobus.
- Jacqueline, via Jacques, the French equivalent of James/Jacob.
Etta James was born Jamesetta. Jamesina is sometimes seen, too.
The go-to girl version appears to be Jamie, along the lines of Billie and Bobbie. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a child named Jamie was probably a girl.
Or maybe the feminine form was … James.
Because here’s an interesting thing: the Social Security Administration indicates that women were named James in steady numbers from 1880 through the 1980s. Some of those could be errors, of course – hard-to-read handwriting, checking the wrong box.
Except James ranked in the girls’ US Top 1000 every year from 1880 through 1989. 245 in 1955; 354 in 1970; 316 in 1982.
That’s more than a few random errors.
James: Recent Decades
Jamie really caught on in the 1970s, boosted by The Bionic Woman and the popularity of the similar Amy. The unisex spelling used for The Bionic Woman – Jaime – skyrocketed to #29 for girls in the US in 1976, the year the television show debuted.
Then came Mad About You, in 1992. Jamie Buckman’s nickname? James.
Early in her career, model-actress Jaime King was known as James – but she’s since given her nickname to her son, James Knight, and gone back to Jaime.
James: Middle Name
Since James is a sometimes-surname, so isn’t unusual to meet a woman with the middle name, either a maiden name moved to the middle or a family name.
In recent years, it has become a stylish choice for girls:
- James Marsden handed down his first name as a middle for daughter Mary in 2005.
- Sean Combs used it for his daughter born in 2006, Jessie, making for a lawless combo.
- Jessica Capshaw gave it to her daughter Poppy in 2012.
- That same year, Backstreet Boy AJ – Alexander James – McLean changed the spelling slightly when he welcomed daughter Ava Jaymes.
- Jennifer Love Hewitt used it for her daughter, Autumn’s, middle in 2013.
James: A High Profile BA
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds welcomed their daughter in late 2014, but kept her name under wraps for months. When they finally revealed the name – James! – many reacted negatively.
The site poll saw 41% of readers giving James for a girl a definite no.
But tally up the other two responses. One-third said it’s fine in the middle. And 26% liked the idea of James as a girls’ name.
This tracks with the usage numbers: 42 newborn girls called James in 2014, up from 28 in 2013.
It makes me think that the Lively-Reynolds baby may inspire more parents to consider James a possibility for a daughter.
Blake has since commented that it’s a family name, and since her name is traditionally masculine, it felt right to stick with the pattern for her own daughter.
Here’s guessing that more and more families – maybe those who want to honor a loved one with the name – will see this as a more wearable possibility for a daughter. Especially given the nickname option Jamie, James for a girl seems likely to catch on.