teThe baby name Faye blends a spare, straightforward sound with an enchanting image. And now, this mini name is making its way back up the US popularity charts.
Thanks to Another and Aela for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
But is it Faye, Fae, or Fay?
Fae has always been rare. It peaked between the 1890s and 1920s. As of 2018, 26 girls received the name.
The spelling Fay reached its most popular point in the 1910s. It was given to 39 girls in 2018.
A 1930s and 40s favorite, Faye also gets parents’ votes today. In the year 2000, just 83 girls received the name. By 2014, that number reached 297 – enough to return Faye to the US Top 1000 for the first time in over three decades. By 2018, Faye stood at #706. That’s not Emma or Olivia, but it’s a solid showing.
FAIRY OR SORCERESS?
Possible origins for the baby name Faye abound.
First up, fairies.
Middle English speakers used the term faie to mean fairy. In Old French, it was fae. They both claim Latin roots. In Latin, fata – as in fate – referred to a trio of goddesses responsible for determining each man’s destiny.
Still, European folklore gives us a slightly different image of a fairy.
Faeries appear throughout European folklore. The word faerie initially meant enchanted, not an actual creature.
And the creatures vary greatly. Sometimes they’re tiny; other fairies grow to human heights. The Victorians added wings. Fantasy writers have been inventing and re-inventing them for ages. The explanations for their origins are rich and varied.
Speaking of legends, King Arthur’s trouble-making sorceress half-sister was called Morgan Le Fay. “Le Fay” refers to her status as an enchantress.
Arthurian legend influenced naming over the years, so perhaps those stories – or others – pushed the baby name Faye into use.
OR … SAINT?
In Anglo-Norman French, fei meant faith, from the Latin fides. It became fai or fay in English. Even Shakespeare used fay to mean faith. That makes Faye a cousin to Faith.
Speaking of Faith, the third century Saint Faith of Gaul also answered to Fides, Foy, and yup, Fay. In Spanish, she’s Santa Fe. It’s said she was martyred, perhaps under Diocletian. Conques, France was the center of her veneration – and Conques is located on an important pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James. As pilgrims stopped at the church, the saint’s fame spread.
It’s sometimes heard as a surname, with varied spellings and multiple possible origins, including Irish and French. This likely explains why the name is sometimes used for boys.
Fay Wray – born Vina Fay Wray – made her first movie in 1923, at the age of sixteen. But she became a star in 1933, in King Kong. Wray played Ann Darrow, and – well, there’s a jungle and an ill-advised decision to bring the massive ape back to New York, and then the bit with the Empire State Building.
It’s the stuff of Hollywood screen legend.
In 1996, Liv Tyler played a fictional Faye in That Thing You Do!, a Beatles-esque tale of music stardom and true love.
There have also been characters on television, including Cowboy Bebop and The Secret Circle.
RISING VINTAGE NAME
The name’s 2014 re-entry into the US Top 1000 is noteworthy. It could be a successor to other straightforward names for girls, like Grace and Claire. Rhyming names like Rae and Mae are popular in the middle spot, and Faye’s vintage vibe could appeal to parents considering names like Ada and Ivy.
If you’re looking for a minimalist name for a daughter, but one with plenty of backstory, the baby name Faye might satisfy.
Which spelling do you prefer? Can you see the baby name Faye making a comeback?
First published on October 15, 2008, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on March 10, 2014; March 21, 2016; and on July 28, 2020.
We named our baby girl Faye Paradise. Yup that’s our actual last name. Faye is so unexpected. Long history, stands on its own without a Nick name. Gentle and whimsical yet strong at the same time. Absolutely love it on our baby girl.
What a lovely name, Tara!
Fay is also a synonym of Fahey.
Fae Campbell says
I love that my parents called me Fae when I was born in 1972. Middle name is Louise. I am strong willed, bubbly in personality and love everything whimsical and faerie like. As far as I am concerned my name suits my 100%. Thanks mum and dad, great choice.
My daughter’s name is Faye Louise. 🙂 Cheers to your parents on excellent taste!
My great aunt was an Ofelia (Spanish pronunciation) who went by Fay. If I were ever to name a third girl, her name would be Sabrina Fay. (I like the e on the end a bit better, but it’s (a pretend, never going to be used) mn, so whatever.
Although now, I’m kind of jealous of jennifer’s Seraphina Faye, and I’m wondering if she would mind me stealing it for my (pretend, no way it is *ever *going to happen, only in my head) third girl name. 😉
C in DC says
I know a little Fay, but her name is spelled Fahey, a family surname.
I love the Fae spelling; it seems the majority of fantasy literature likes to use this spelling to convey fairy-like status, and my husband and I are both big consumers of genre literature.
However, we are in all likelihood having a little Arthur in April (the name isn’t set in stone, haha, but it’s the top contender), and the mischievous namer in me loves the idea of a future sister named Fay 🙂
Love Arthur and Fay/Fae as siblings. Very sweet.
C in DC says
My grandfather was Arthur Leroy. I love the idea of Faye as a sister to Arthur!
Wij gaan voor de naam Fay, mooi kort en krachtig en lief. Over de uitspraak kunnen geen misverstanden bestaan en het is in Nederland de meest voor de hand liggende schrijfwijze.
NOTE: very rough translation = We go for the name Fay, nice and short and strong and sweet. There can be no misunderstandings about the pronunciation and it is the most obvious spelling in the Netherlands.
Rachel Emma says
Fay is my mum’s middle name. It is on my list if we have a girl, for first or middle. My favourite spelling is Fae 🙂
I’m pregnant with a little girl and you’ve put Fae/Faye on my list! I love its dual associations of faith and fairies, as well as its short, sweet and completeness.
Augh, no! I am both happy and unhappy to see this post 😛 I someday hope to name my daughter Fay and I don’t want the name getting too popular. I like it because it’s simple, yet beautiful.
I love the name Fae for all of the reasons you mentioned- she’s whimsical yet also serious and has a long history of use. I’m not sure which spelling is my favorite, however. I think I’m partial to Fae and Faye.
I also like Fae as a nickname for Ofelia.
Wow. I’m expecting in two weeks.. Baby girls name is Seraphina Faye.. She is our rainbow baby.. We’ve had a tragic year. So we need a little help from the angels and to hold onto some faith.. Thus the perfect name for our girl.
Faye is beautiful, unique, and deserves a standing on anybody’s top 10.
Oh, Jennifer – sending you + your family every good wish. What a gorgeous name for your daughter, and what a lovely meaning!
Fae is an unexpected front-runner for me these days. I am now in my 3rd trimester expecting a little girl and at first liked the romantic, very Spanish style names, and the whimsical or even Germanic sounding names. On my front runners list i currently have the names: Maya, Petra, Shylo, and am pairing it with either Catalina or Faye…but now the name Fae, (my moms middle name) meaning faith paired with my grandmothers name “Catalina” meaning pure, has a great meaning when put together: “Pure Faith”. This is also an uncommon, only 3 letter name that is classic and feminine. I also like that the name may also mean Fairy giving her an other-worldy, fantastical, imaginative feel. I am just at a loss as to which one will take the top spot as first name and middle name with the last name of Apostol. This will also be a multi-cultural girl whose family hails from both the Phillippines and Honduras, and even some parts of Europe. Hopefully I can find a combination that has the mass appeal.
Fae is different than the other names you’re considering, but I love the idea of Fae Catalina. Fae is tough to pin down, and I always think that’s a good quality for multi-cultural naming challenges.
I’m in love with a girl called Fay…
I LOVE Fae/Faye! She’s sweet & feminine while being a viable choice for an adult. Amber Fae is on my list
Ah you see I’m not so fond of Faye, she sounds too light and unsubstantial to my ears, I prefer Faith but inspite of my fondness for virtue names even she doesn’t grab me.
Maybe as a middle name. It’ is kind of a light and airy sounding name. I have a cousin who was named Fean – with an accent over the e. Her mother thought thiis was a French name for Fay Anne (I kind of doubt it’s a name they use in France). Mother wanted it pronounced fay-ON. But most people just called her Fayanne. Her brother teased her and called her Feen. Anyway she changed her name to Raine (pronounced like Rainy) because she never liked her name.
I really like this name and often toy w/ using it as a mn. Faye seems more complete to me.
Emmy Jo says
I love Faye! (And I am one of the Rae-haters.) Because I’m a Christian who is into the mythological and romantic, I love the possible dual meaning of this name, though I’ll admit that the fairy bit appeals to me most. It’s lovely. I’d be most likely to stick it in the middle slot, though, as I tend to prefer longer first names. One of my students last year had this as her middle name.
Something about Fae really intrigues me. I do love the ‘ae’ but could never see using Rae at all. Fay seems incomplete, Faye’s the way to go. I’d love to meet a little Faye, and may get to one day, she’s my friend Marissa’s top choice, with the ‘e’ at the end too!
I do like Faith, but met a Faythe once and can’t get over it. Funnily enough, Lola, Marissa’s old choice used to be Fern, but then Faye became her #1.
I like Faye. She ‘s light, airy & above all, mystical. She appeals to the huge Rengeek living in me. 🙂 I like her much more than Faith but less than Eulalie (which remains firmly in my top 6). That mystical thing is what keeps her on my lists. Fresh & sprightly, she’d make a wonderful sister for Fern, Jane or Alice. I’d love to meet a horde of them!