Looking for a Scottish heritage choice, with a poetic, nature-name feel?
Thanks to Annelise for suggesting one that fits: our Baby Name of the Day is Afton.
Afton: Literary, But Not Novel
Borrowing river names for our children might seem like a recent phenomenon, but it isn’t so. Jordan has been used as a given name since the Crusaders first went to the Holy Land.
Afton, too, has a long history of use. Back in 1907, the name ranked #945 for girls in the US. Afton hugged the edges of the US Top 1000 for another fifteen years or so, before fading and rising, fading and rising.
The original River Afton is in Ayreshire, Scotland. The exact origins of the name are elusive.
Afton: Robert Burns
It might not be the Nile or the mighty Mississippi, but an immortal poem by Scotland’s favorite son, Robert Burns makes Afton a river name that everyone knows.
The eighteenth century poet is a native of Ayrshire. Sweet Afton was written in 1791.
It’s worth noting that the only given name in Sweet Afton is Mary:
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.
It’s inspired many a place name – including over two dozen cities and towns in the US.
Afton: Sweet Music & the Small Screen
Burns’ poem is often set to music, and frequently sung to the tune of Away in a Manger.
Other musical ties include:
- Afton Down, located on the Isle of Wight, was the site of the second Isle of Wight music festival, in 1970. The line-up included The Who, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. There were more attendees than at Woodstock.
- Acoustic trio Nickel Creek have covered the song in 2000. Lori at The Real Cruze family mentions that the Nickel Creek cover inspired them to chose the name for their youngest.
But when the name surged in use in the early 1980s there was no song or festival to credit. Instead, prime time soap sensation Dallas introduced a character by the name in 1981. Afton returned to the US Top 1000 from 1982 through 1983. The character has continued scheming and disrupting life for the Ewings right up through the new version of the series in recent years.
Afton: Modern Use
Another obscure use: Irish cigarette manufacturer PJ Carroll & Co. has sold Sweet Afton cigarettes since 1919. They were said to be the favorites of Jean-Paul Sartre, and they’re the brand favored by Margot Tenenbaum in 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums.
There’s also Afton Smith, born in 1969. The actress appeared in 1990s staples like Fried Green Tomatoes and Reality Bites, before marrying Brendan Fraser, and becoming mom to Griffin, Holden, and Leland.
As of 2013, 112 girls were given the name. That’s neither a high nor a low for the name. Instead, Afton is holding steady – a name that fits right in with Addison and Piper, Willow and Skye, and yet is seldom heard.
Afton seems quietly and consistently under the radar – exactly what plenty of parents are looking for in a child’s name.
What do you think of Afton? Is it better for a boy or a girl? Are there any other river names you would consider?