Avril brings to mind all things springtime and hopeful.
Our Baby Name of the Day celebrates the first day of April and the season that lies ahead.
This name comes straight from the pages of the calendar.
In Ancient Rome, the month of Aprilis was dedicated to Venus. It’s theorized that the word comes from Aphrodite, the goddess’ Greek equivalent. Or maybe it’s taken from the verb aperire – to open or bloom – though that seems less likely.
In Spanish, the month is called abril. It’s aprile in Italian. We’ll get to French in a minute.
But as a given name, April has been used in small numbers for years. It started to rise in the 1930s, reached the Top 1000 in 1939, and cracked the Top 100 in 1967.
It stayed in the Top 1000 through 1991.
What pushed the month name into the Top 100? Maybe Simon & Garfunkel’s hit “April Come She Will,” released in 1966 and featured on The Graduate soundtrack in 1967.
Another musical reference puts Avril on the map.
French-Canadian singer Avril Lavigne’s career took off following the 2002 release of Let Go. Even if you’re not a fan, odds are that you’ve heard her smash hit “Complicated” or the punk-pop Sk8r Boi.” More hits followed.
It’s her real name – simply the French word for the month.
BY THE NUMBERS
No question parents noticed.
In 2001, just 11 girls received the name. By 2002, there were 26 baby Avrils. And in 2003? That number spiked to 129. It would peak a few years later, with 155 births in 2008.
That’s still well outside of the US Top 1000.
There’s one more reference parents might think of, besides Lavigne: a dancer immortalized in the paintings of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
Born Jeanne Louise Beaudon in 1868 Paris, she would become a famous can-can dancer, known for her frenzied style of dance. By 1889, she danced at the Moulin Rouge, and went on to headline at the famous Jardin de Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec pained her on a poster to advertise her debut, and she went on to become internationally famous. Nicole Kidman’s character in 2001’s Moulin Rogue! is based, in part, on the dancer.
It wasn’t unknown as a surname, in France or elsewhere. Some suggest the surname’s use indicated an April birthday. Or maybe it referred to qualities associated with the month: either the changeable weather, or the sense of youth and new beginnings.
One more famous figure: English composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor named his daughter Gwendolen Avril, but she was known by her middle name. She followed in her father’s footsteps in the 1930s and 40s, as a pianist, conductor, and composer. Avril Coleridge-Taylor became a ground-breaking female conductor.
All of this lends the name quite a bit of drama.
While it’s never appeared in the US Top 1000, it sounds like a spin on Top Ten favorite Ava, with a dash of Avery and Ariel thrown in.
Maybe we hesitate to pronounce this name. I’ve heard ah VRIL, ah VREEL and AV ril. Chances are there are more – and you’d hear every one of them if you chose this name for your daughter.
As of 2018, just 115 girls received the name. That’s fairly obscure, but far from unknown.
If you’re looking for a nature name with an edge, Avril could be exactly right for a daughter.
Do you think Avril works today? How would you pronounce it?
First published on March 31, 2009, this post was revised substantially and re-published on April 1, 2020.
I adore Avril over April. One little letter makes it sound so much, um, sleeker? modern? something. I hate the sound of April, but the V makes the name sound so much more appealing to me.
I also think that the celebrity name totally depends on how well Emmy’s rule works for me. Totally out there or made up names, like Harlow or Miley? Seems too obvious a namesake. Names that are unusual but occasionally used, like Avril or Clementine? Totally okay to me. I know Harlow is a real name, but it’s just too distinctive, if that makes sense.
Thanks, Ysa! And I’ve added you to the blogroll.
Emmy Jo, that’s an interesting rule. Rarely have I met someone who admits to naming their child after a celeb or starbaby. But when you look at the statistics, it seems like parents MUST be doing just that. And you’ll often hear “I’ve always liked the name Miley, even before the singer.” Except that Miley probably didn’t appear in many baby name books before the singer, so how would you even stumble on the idea?
Lola, Byron and Avril do make a nice pair! But I think I like May as she is. Reminds me of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
Averil does give the name a bit of distance from the singer, but puts it a smidge closer to Avery, too.
I think most people hear the celebrity when they think of Avril, but I think she’s definitely worth consideration! She’s considerably more sleek than April, which reminds me of the pastel colors of Easter and sounds like APE-ril. (Ook! Ook!) Avril : April :: Gavriel : Gabriel, is how I see it. I pronounce it AHV-ril, but A-VREEL is much prettier.
By the way, I’m Ysabeau. You have a wonderfully informative and fun to read blog, I’ve been following it for a bit. I’d appreciate it very much if you’d add me to your blogroll! http://www.ysanames.wordpress.com
Emmy Jo says
I like Avril. I’ve imposed a bit of a rule on myself that I won’t use a name I heard for the first time on a celebrity, however, so I don’t think Avril’s one I’d pick.
Hmmm… but there is a Middle English poem that begins “Bitwene Mersh and Averil”… perhaps that makes it usable for me again.
I think I prefer Averil with the extra E. It distances it from the celebrity a bit.
I like it. I like it the way Lavigne pronounces it. I definitely love the relationship to Aphrodite. But I would never, ever use it. In the end, it’s still April, which to me evokes a picture of a very plain, sad woman.
Also, it’s close to Avery, one of those stupid trend names I detest.
I love Avril, but only pronounced AY-vril, a long A, like April but with a V. It just irks me to no end to have pronounced like Avril Lavigne pronounced it, like a short A. This name is gorgeous and unusual, it sounds pretty and looks cool. I love this name and have toyed with using it, but in the end I think I’d get annoyed with people pronouncing it wrong. So, great name, but probably not for me, at least not while memory of Avril-pronounced-wrong Lavigne is still around!
May & June are my family variants but if April was, you could be sure I’d be updating it with Avril! (I like Averil too, but find the pronunciation a bit boggy, Avril’s sleeker and easier to spit out).
I think you nailed it as to why her fans aren’t picking up on it just yet, but I say “why not now” ? for others? It’s happy, springy (pardon the pun) and sweet. I think I’m going to add this one to the list for Byron’s Mama, I think it’d make a great name for his potential sister! (Now, if I could only come up with some spicy little thing to use to replace May, I’m sure the Great Aunt would have appreciated it, she was real wild thing in an era when it wasn’t exactly proper to be so!) Maybe a Marguerite, nn Maisie? Hmmm, must go looking.
Avril gets a huge :thumbsup: for me!