Thanks to Angela for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
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.
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.
RECENT DECADES: JAMIE, JAIME & JAMES
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.
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.
HIGH PROFILE BA
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds welcomed their first 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.
In 2017, 77 girls were given the name. But by 2018, that was back down to 44. Still, it feels like we’re hearing James for a girl in the middle spot more and more often. So maybe that’s really the change.
What do you think of James for a girl? Do you feel differently if it’s a middle name?