She’s a botanical choice with a literary edge.
Thanks to Laura for suggesting Bryony as Name of the Day.
Bryony and equally valid variant Briony have never cracked the Top 1000 in the US. It’s something of a surprise. Besides the current craze for floral names from Lily to Violet, Bryony’s bri- fits in with many of the more popular choices for girls:
- There’s literary Briana at #145 in 2008. She’s topped by alt spelling Brianna at #23. Breanna is also common, at #168. All three probably owe less to Edmund Spenser and more to the many boys christened Brian in the 1970s;
- Brielle ranked #338, while Gabriella, Gabrielle and company are among the most popular choices for girls;
- Other names sharing something of Bryony’s sound include Sabrina, Briley and Aubrey.
Maybe it is because there’s no Bryony in your local flowershop or backyard garden. The flowering vine is native to Europe, though it is now found elsewhere, too. The Royal Navy has named two ships after the plant. The name comes from the Greek bryo – to grow – via the Latin bryonia. (Bryonia is the official name of the plant genus, too.)
Should you meet a Bryony, odds are strong that’s she British. Some sources insist that she’s been in use since the 1700s. I expected to find her amongst lesser-used nineteenth century names. And maybe she was. But you were far more likely to meet a Myrtle, and bryony is rarely mentioned, even in lists of flowers compiled by those botanically-minded Victorians.
Perhaps that’s because bryony is poisonous, and has also been referred to as mandrake or the devil’s turnip. The best-known Briony is probably Ian McEwan’s character from Atonement. It is a fitting choice – her actions poison the lives of many.
Atonment was published in 2001 and adapted for the silver screen in 2006, but set in 1935 England. Without giving away too much of the plot, Briony Tallis is thirteen when she misinterprets something that she sees, and sends the wrong man to prison. A disastrous chain of events follows.
It was a reasonable choice for a twentieth century character. Both spellings of the name have been in sparing use, and you can find athletes, actresses and politicians answering to the name. But the fictional character remains the most noteworthy, joined by figures like the bronze medalist in windsurfing at the Beijing games and a minor EastEnders character.
Overall, she’s an attractive option. Bryony isn’t as out there as Azalaea or Chrysanthemum. Like the Welsh Briallen, she makes for a fresher bri- name than any of the Brianna/Brielle/Briley options.
Bryony is that rare choice that splits the difference between nouveau names like Makaylyn and vintage choices like Hazel. She makes for a great compromise name, and is a subtle way to honor a father or friend named Brian, too.
I was given the name Bryony and I’m a guy 🙂 I know some places say the name is uni-sex but I seem to be only Bryony that’s male that I’ve ever met or seen online. I love my name but hate when people pronounce wrong…. Far too many horrible ways that they have butchered to list here lol. I prefer BRY-uh-nee that’s what every person I’ve met with the name prefers. All the others I’ve met with my name are really nice and creative people which is cool :).
It’s a name that works best for girls in my opinion… when people try to make it sound masculine it’s not very nice at all. Most of the time I go by Bry… most people assume it’s short for Bryan which is fine with me 🙂
Briony M says
I’m a Briony, pronounced like ‘cry’, in the uk, and while it’s not necessarily the first name i would have picked, i despise it when people call me “bree-on-eee”; rhyme within a name sounds so frilly, who would take that name seriously? It’s been a wierdly common name in my life though, i’ve been to school with two different Brionys, both pronounced it the same way but spelled one of each way, and i’ve met a few others, all of whom also pronounce it like me. The only people i’ve heard say bree-o-nee are people who’ve never heard the name before. Of course, the spelling with an “I” instead of two “Y”s makes the pronounciation a little bit less obvious, but it’s a native english plant and the word has been in use since before standardised spelling, in old and middle english, so we’ve been left with multiple spellings for the same word. Of course, since it’s a plant name the easiest way to decide it is just to go by the way you pronounce the plant, which IS standardised, /ˈbraɪ.ə ni/ = brai-uh-nee.
The thing that really bugs me about it is when people try and tell me “that’s a gallic name”, and when i say “old english actually” they try to tell me i’m wrong. It’s close to bronwyn so people assume it’s a derivative and are upset when it’s not.
Briony M says
*gaelic not gallic.
A *very* good point about the plant name, Briony!
I’m an English Bryony and I have always been BRY-o-nee, so have all the other Bryonys I have met (about four or five). I used to hate my name because noone could ever say it properly and it’s been spelt every way under the sun; teachers in particular called me Byrony which drove me mad, surely its not that hard to pronounce from reading it! Anyway I love it now and enjoy having an unusual name. I have also found myself and every other bryony I have met have been creative and a little bit away with the fairies 🙂 coincidence?
I’m an Australian Briony. Pronounced Bree-oh-nee. I’ve been called even B name under the sun, kinda annoying. Especially when I get called Brandi and Brittany . Lol. Not sure where the D or the T sounds come into play for people.
My name is Bryony, and I much prefer the spelling of it like that than briony as I feel it dosent look right. My middle name is Jane and it goes perfectly with Bryony. Bryony Jane. I’m British and the correct pronunciation of it is bry as in cry then own then nee so its bry–own- nee. I think its a perfect name and would not change it
as you can probably see my name is Bryony it is pronounced bry-o-nee people always call me bry-nee and that is very ugly so don’t do it we don’t like it
I’m British and pronounce my name BRY-on-ay. It’s common for Brits to drop the O and so instead pronounce it Bry-nay. Which is quite ugly really. Its also common for people to mis-pronounce my name or not understand what I’ve said when I tell them my name.
My name is Bryony. I am a Canadian-Brit. My name is pronounced Bree-ah-nee. I tell people to think of the flower peony, when trying to pronounce it. I have met one other in my life (31 years). She pronounced her name the same way I do, however she spelled it Briony. The name can be pronounced with the ee or the i sound. We know from our kindergarten english lessons that a ‘y’ can make either sound. The spelling and pronunciation are entirely up to the parents. Most people call me Bree for short. I love my name and I am frequently complimented on it.
Though they’re the same name, and BRY-oh-nee is most likely the “correct” pronunciation, I think always want to pronounce Bryony “BRY-oh-nee” but Briony “BREE-on-nee.” I do love the name, but since I personally can’t even decide how pronounce it, I hesitate to use it.
Lady Gwyn says
I really love Bryony! It’s in my Top Five. It’s uncommon (especially here in the midwest) and its pretty. I always thought of it as Bri-ON-ee, but Bree-AN-ee is okay, but not as pretty IMO. I am glad a lot of my favorite names are appearing on here. It makes me feel like I am not alone in the universe.
As the mother to a newly christened Bryony (she’s 4 months old!) I’ll have to chime in that I liked the simplicity of this name when she was born. Now, however, I would ALMOST reconsider. We pronounce it Bree-oh-nee, it flows much better in american english! I’ve had people get downright pissy with me over their daughters or friends being pronounce Bri-oh-nee and I simply explain that two y make FAR more sense being pronounced the same. That and most of the ex-pat Brits I know (grandmother included) agree that bree-oh-nee is correct. I’m fully convinced its all in the dialect.
Charlotte Vera says
When I was madly hunting for a girl’s name that both my husband and I could agree on, my best friend, who lives in the UK, suggested Bryony. I’d read Atonement not so long before her suggestion, so I said that I just couldn’t do it, even though the name itself is quite a attractive. However, my favourite “br” for a girl has long been Bronwen/Bronwyn, so I doubt I’d ever use it, even to “match” with my botanically-inclined first choice of Roseanna.
I really like Bryony, but my ex-husband is Brian, so it’s a big NO.
For me, this one belongs with Cecily, Imogen, and Amelie – filed underr P fo pretentious.
I love Cecily, Amelie and Imogen! Oh dear …
Did you use any of them? 😉
I adore Bryony, I always have. I tend to pronounce it (bry-OWE-nee) even though I know it should be (BRY-uh-NEE). I like both pronunciations.
We considered it, but the whole “How do you say it?” issue got to be a bit much. Bry (as in Brian and the like) makes it sound like Briny, as in the Big Blue Briny Sea (like Caroline said, except I’m not Southern). And Bree is ultimately unappealing to me.
So I can see the appeal for some, but ultimately, it’s neither here nor there.
British American says
I’d not heard this name until my brother started dating a Bryanny – pronounced BRI-uh-nee. She is indeed British and 22 years old. As sib-sets go, she has a brother named Alastair. 🙂
I do think it is a name that could catch on. I didn’t realize it had a flower connection until I looked it up myself. It’s not a plant I was familiar with, growing up in the UK.
Bryanny is an interesting spelling – I wonder if her parents chose it to make the spelling closer to Brian and thus, easier to pronounce?
I’m not fond of any name that has the “br” sound in it, besides Sabrina and the nickname Bree. They sound kind of harsh to my ears. I keep on wanting to say bry-YO-nee when I see it.
It’s a cool name though, and I would definitely rather meet a little Bryony than a Briley.
The Baby Name Wizard lists the pronunciation as Bree-uh-nee. I don’t care for the sound either way. But especially as Bri-uh-nee, which sounds like “briny” when said when a southern accent like mine!
It may be a difference between British English and American English pronunciations, but I’ve never heard an actual Briony/Bryony pronounce it any other way than BRY. But then, I’ve never met an American Bryony/Briony.
Ah, a Southern accent – it would not do kind things to this one!
In NZ I’ve come across it numerous times on various aged females and it’s BRY oh nee here although it tends to come out out more like Brian with an EE at the end.
With fusty Hazel in regular use here and our penchant for Br- names, I’m surprised I’m not seeing a few in the BAs. It should appeal to many.
It’s something I like seeing on another person’s kid.
Emmy Jo says
Since my husband’s name is Brian, I wish I loved Bryony. It doesn’t really do anything for me, though. It’s a neat name, but I’d actually be more likely to go for Azalea!
To me, I would pronounce it BRI-uh-nee, but this name will get mispronounced a lot. Others are BREE-uh-nee, bree-AH-nee, bri-OH-nee, bri-AH-nee.
You’re exactly right, Joy. Emphasis is on the first syllable, BRY as in Brian and Ryan – BRY uh nee. Except I’ve heard the other pronunciations you’ve mentioned and more … as with any uncommon name, that’s the challenge.
I say BRY-uh-nee, but your post, Abby, made me think it was BREE-oh-nee.
I take your point – the list of Brianna, Brielle, bree- names does put that sound top of mind, doesn’t it?
Yep, that’s what did it.
But how do you SAY it? I always want to say “Bree”-, but think I’m wrong.