Today’s choice is a mythological maiden whose name was discovered by parents in the 20th century.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting our Name of the Day: Deirdre.
We’re not quite certain about Deirdre’s meaning, but her story is well known. In Irish legend, poor Deirdre was madly in love with one fellow, but forced to marry another. Apparently, her looks attracted the attentions of the King of Ulster, and once that happens, well … marrying for true love is not an option. The exact details vary, but in every version of her tale, she takes her own life.
Given her tragic ending, perhaps it’s no surprise that this name failed to catch on sooner. Instead, a trio of early 20th century playwrights stumbled on the story. Inspired, they penned:
- Deirdre, written by George William Russell in 1902;
- Deirdre, written by William Butler Yeats in 1907;
- Deirdre of the Sorrows, started by John Millington Synge and completed after his death by Yeats. It was first performed in 1910.
She’s continued to appear in works of art, novels, songs and at least one more play since. The Irish navy even called one of their ships Deirdre.
We suspect that the name was coming into use prior to the 1910s. A handful of census records suggest that, especially in the UK, Deirdre was discovered by Victorian parents hunting for a romantic appellation drawn from legend. But most Deirdres can be dated to the period after she became a staple of the stage, and in the US, she first charts in the Top 1000 in 1944.
Stateside, Deirdre peaked at #333 in 1961, and spent much of the decade in the 300s before slowly declining and dropping out of the rankings entirely after 1990.
There are no shortage of Deirdres in the US or the UK, but most are older. On Coronation Street, we find Deirdre Anne Hunt Langton Rachid Barlow. (Don’t you just love soap opera marriages and remarriages?) And The Beach Boys recorded a single called “Deirdre” in 1970.
The original version of the name was probably closer to Derdriu, and at least a few American parents have attempted to simplify Deirdre’s spelling. DJ Spinderella of Salt-N-Pepa fame was born Deirdra. Such variants were never common enough to chart, but flip open a baby name book and odds are you’ll find a few alternate spellings.
The nickname commonly associated with Deirdre is Dee or Dee Dee. We must say, these short forms feel rather dated. But there is the possibility of the fresher Dree, or simply using the full two-syllable name.
Overall, Deirdre starts to look like an interesting option. It might not be the most current Celtic choice – we think Maeve or Ailis probably feel like more authentic imports. But Deirdre would fit many parents’ criteria for an unusual name. Odds are strong that she’ll be the only one in her class, but most will recognize her name. And drawing a moniker from myth is a great way to ensure that you’ve picked an enduring name for your daughter.