Lorna Doon - illustration 1She’s a literary pick and a shortbread cookie, too.

Thanks to Jane for suggesting Lorna as our Baby Name of the Day.

Lorna brings to mind Laura and Lara, names with long histories of use.  But she’s a relative newcomer to the name scene, coined by Richard Blackmore for his 1869 novel, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor.

Blackmore set his novel in the late 1600s.  While it is a work of fiction, the author drew on historical figures, folk tales, and real events for his story.

The Doone clan are outlaws – murdering, thieving bad guys. Among their victims was John Ridd’s dad, a farmer.  John has now grown up and taken over the farm himself.  He’s also fallen in love with a girl named Lorna.

Can you guess the Romeo and Juliet-twist that’s coming next?

Lorna is a member of the Doone family, pledged in marriage to Carver Doone, a cruel and ruthless leader of the clan.  John rescues her, and brings her home to his farm, but more trouble awaits the couple.  They learn that Lorna was never a Doone at all, but the daughter of a wealthy heiress, a victim of the Doones’ schemes.  Lorna must go to London to claim her family’s fortune.

This is where Blackmore borrows historical events to give Lorna and John some help, and make their unlikely romance possible.  More trials await, but the story ultimately has a happy ending.

Lorna Doone was a favorite story in its day, and with at least five movie adaptations of the story over the years, from the 192os to 2001, it is familiar to most.

Let’s say you haven’t heard of the romance.  You have almost certainly heard of the cookie.

The cookie was introduced by Nabisco in 1912.  There’s no official reason for the name choice.

Chances are it goes like this: shortbread is associated with Scotland.  Blackmore appears to have borrowed Lorna from Lorne, a Scottish place name associated with the title Marquess of Lorne.  When Lorna’s true parentage is discovered, she becomes Lady Dugal – a Scottish name, and when learn that she is related to the Earl of Lorne.  So the Scottish cookie is wearing the name of a popular Scottish heroine.

The Three Stooges borrowed Lorna Doone for a character in their Scotched in Scotland and The Hot Scots shorts.

Another association is Lorna Luft, daughter of Judy Garland and Sid Luft, and half-sister to Liza Minnelli.  Luft has had a long career, mostly on stage and television.  (Don’t Lorna and Liza sound like the Honor and Haven of their day?)

Luft was born in 1952, just a year after one of the movie versions was released, this one starring Barbara Hale in the title role.

The name had a good run, ranking in the 300s from the 1920s into the 1960s, buoyed by frequent film adaptations.  But in recent years, Lorna has been on a sharp decline.  She left the US Top 1000 after 1975.  Just 47 girls were named Lorna in 2012.

All of this makes Lorna a name that could work well.  She’s literary, familiar but seldom heard, and easy to say and spell.  The only  hassle would be repeating, “It’s Lorna.  With a n.”  But to have a romantic, unusual name, it just might be worth the explanation.

Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams via Flickr

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I love Lorna and it was long on my (now defunct having had final baby!) list but I was always put off by the lack of a real meaning beyond the novel.

  2. The subject of Celebrity baby names of the past came up a few days ago… and I remember mentioning how much I like the Liza and Lorna combination. 🙂

    I think Lorna is very pretty. It’s different, but with the popularity of other L___a names it feels right at home in a classroom of Lilahs and Lydias.

  3. I have always loved this name, and the book! I’ve mulled over the idea of giving kids literary middles and Lorna is such a lovely, underused option. My only trepidation is that it sounds a bit too…forlorn. I guess that is the only thing keeping me from using it as a first name.