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.