She’s rare, and yet she’s the real thing.
Thanks to Emma for suggesting Dilys as Name of the Day.
Dilys has never ranked in the US Top 1000. Name a daughter Dilys in 2009, and odds are you’ll be repeating, spelling and explaining her name forevermore.
That’s not such a bad thing, though. Dilys has much to recommend her. First off, she has a lovely meaning – genuine.
Dilys Cadwaladr wore the name in the early 20th century. A celebrated Welsh poet, she was the first woman to snag the Crown of the Bard at the National Eisteddfod – a festival focused on literature and the arts. It gives the name the ring of a true heritage choice.
I can’t pin down the first use of Dilys, but odds are it was no earlier than 1850. Other notable bearers include:
- After being dispatched to India as a missionary teacher in the nineteenth century, Dilys Edmunds ended up educating not only her charges, but the wider world. She wrote about Indian life for Welsh periodicals and also raised money to build schools;
- Dilys Laye was an English actress known for her roles in the low-budget 1960s film series Carry On. Depending on your perspective, they’re either classic British comedies or a series of lamentable farces;
- I don’t know how Dilys Powell felt about Dilys Laye’s work, but she was an English journalist and film critic at about the same time.
On the subject of pronunciation, there’s a divide. Some rhyme it with Phyllis; others put it closer to Denise – de LEES.
Dilys has an appealing literary side. Since 1992, the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association has given out their annual Dilys Awards. It’s a charming honor – rather than rewarding sales or other measures, a Dilys Award means that bookshop owners have just plain enjoyed having your book in stock. The name comes from Dilys Winn, the first speciality mystery bookshop owner in the US.
While we’re on the subject of fiction, there’s also:
- Dilys Derwant, a former headmistress of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. While she’s gone to her reward many years before Harry’s adventures, her portrait plays a role in one of the installments;
- In Hester Brown’s Little Lady series, heroine Melissa is sometimes assisted by her glamorous, former lounge singer grandmother, Dilys.
Despite her occasional use, Dilys does seem a bit unthinkable. It conjures up dilly-dallying, frozen treats at Dairy Queen and at least one unfortunate nickname.
Except that the two-syllable, ends-in-s construction has been in hibernation for decades. With Alice and Frances attracting more attention, it seems possible that parents might go searching for similar names.
The 1920s were kind to Phyllis, Doris, Lois, Gladys and Agnes. Eunice peaked a few years earlier; Florence, a bit later. Some seem like they might make a comeback, but even powerhouse Phyllis (she peaked at #24 in 1929 and ranked in the Top 50 from 1923 to 1949) feels a bit tired today.
Circa 2009, there are scarcely any ends-in-s choices. Alexis is the stand out, with Genesis (#189) and Paris (#289) among the few other options in the rankings.
The bottom line? For parents searching for a truly unusual sound, ends-in-s is a good bet and Dilys is an interesting option.
And as Emma pointed out, you’d have the chance to croon the Lavender’s Blue lullaby: I shall be Queen, dilly dilly.
My neice is named Dyleece pronounced die-lees. You could always spell it phonetically.
I’m with Christina and Sarah on this one – adult objects and Phyllis Dillard all smashed up into one. Dilys is not a name I’m a fan of, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t grow on me… even meeting one probably wouldn’t help. Hate to be a downer :/
Christina, you’re not wrong!
And Paige, I think Carys is more likely to catch on – and yet, all those Car- names (Cara, Carrie, Caroline) make Carys a bit less distinctive.
I’m not sure about the spelling, Sarah. I found Dylis listed as an alternate a few places, but couldn’t find enough real-life Dylises to make me think it was worth a mention. Plus, to my eye Dylis rhymes with Elise. Maybe. And then again, if that’s the pronunciation you favor, it would make sense.
Lola, I can’t wait to hear what Byron’s mom chooses, LOL! I like your description – “unusual and legit.”
Sarah M says
I finally said this one out loud a few times, and it dawned on me: it makes me think of Phyllis Diller – kind of like her name smashed together. I think that’s why I like the del-eec pronunciation better (maybe I have a strong preference for fleece? LOL)
mean, not man!
I do know what you man, glad you took it the way it was intended. 🙂 I have seen Dilys before, as an awqard, for Booksellers. My very first job was in a bookstore, and yeah, the Dilys awards are a big deal for them!
This morning, I tossed Dilys out to little Byron’s mom, she was intrigued. 🙂 She doesn’t know what she’s having in three months but I’m already dying to see what she names it!
Christina Fonseca says
Lola, you are too funny! Perhaps the reason that word comes to mind is simply that I had never seen nor heard this name before, as opposed to Dylan which is always Dylan, KWIM?
I must admit, it is a great name to throw out for the ones looking for unique – I definitely like the cast of characters with the name.
Too funny Christina! Never even crossed my mind. So, I guess you have the same sort of problem with Dylan, then? 😀
I say Dilys to rhyme with Phyllis and while D is not a favorite letter of mine, I find I like the sound of Dilys. Her looks remind me of Lily and Lilias. Dil-ees, OTOH, reminds me of the word fleece, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on context. 🙂
While I’ve been typing this, I’ve been saying Dilys aloud and I must say, I really do like it! Simple, feminine sounding, unusual and a great history to back it up, Dilys is a fantastic little oddball. I really like her and am putting her on my list to suggest to folks looking for something “unusual and legit”. yeah, Dilys is neat!
I really like Dilys; it has the same appeal that other Welsh names like Carys do for me.
I definitely think dill-is, like Phyllis, when I read the name – but I much prefer the sound of dil-ees. Intriguing name for the day – I’ve never heard of it before! I wonder if you could tweak the spelling to make it less confusing or more appealing (dilyce, dileece, dyleece?)
Christina Fonseca says
No can do Dilys!!! An, ahem, “marital aid” comes glaringly to mind.