Thanks to Katharine for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day, and to Saranel for suggesting an update.
At heart, the baby name Felicity belongs with the virtue names. It’s not quite as familiar as Grace, Hope, and Faith.
But neither is Felicity a newcomer, a new age virtue like Destiny or Journey.
Instead, like Felix, this name comes from the Latin felicitas, which means – as any Harry Potter fan knows – lucky or happy.
A minor Roman goddess known as Felicitas served as a symbol of Imperial Rome’s success.
Then there are the saints:
- Legend tells us of saint Felicitas or Felicity, a wealthy Christian widow and mother to seven sons. It is said that they were all martyred in the second century.
- Another enduring story is of the noblewoman Perpetua and her slave, Felicity. Both were martyred in Carthage, in the arena with wild beasts, leaving behind young children. It is believed that some of the writings about their experience were taken from an autobiographical account authored by Perpetua herself.
All of this lends cheerful Felicity quite a bit of substance.
FELICE AND FELICIA
The saints’ renown ensured that the names endured.
In the Middle Ages, the name became Felice in English. The Latin Felicia was also heard.
The lacy, elaborate Felicity developed a little later. We can thank the Puritans for this one. As they searched out names to set them apart from the rest of society, virtues appealed to them.
Data on given names pre-1880 is elusive. But we tend to think of Felicity as a historical favorite. That’s probably thanks to Felicity Merriman, the American Girl character introduced in a series of books in 1991.
And, of course, the American Girl doll was released the same year. The character grows up during the American Revolution. She’s a fiercely independent, horse-riding ten-year-old.
UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
Just a few years later – right as those American Girl fans grew up and headed for high school – another fictional Felicity captured our imaginations.
In 1998, fictional Felicity Porter ditched Stanford to move clear across the county to New York. For four seasons, we followed her adventures at the University of New York on Felicity, a break-out hit for The WB and for actor Keri Russell.
It pushed the name into the US Top 1000 for the very first time.
The baby name Felicity debuted in 1998 at #818. A year later, it reached #390.
1999 also gave us Heather Graham as a Bond girl-esque character named Felicity in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
FALL AND RISE
After all of those late-90s pop culture references, the name peaked in 1999, only to slowly decline.
But then it made a comeback, rising again. Today it ranks in the 300s – meaning the baby name Felicity is at its most popular.
Actors including Felicity Jones, of Star Wars: Rogue One fame, have raised the name’s profile. There’s also Oscar-nominated, Desperate Housewives alum Felicity Huffman … though she’s better known for a college admissions scandal these days.
Overall, Felicity combines so many appealing traits. Take a great meaning, add in a stylish sound, and make it all nicely familiar, but still relatively uncommon. What’s not to love?
Would you consider the baby name Felicity? Do you think it will be more popular in the future?
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 2, 2008, and substantially revised and re-posted on June 4, 2012. Thanks to Saranel for the suggestion! Additional revisions took place on June 4, 2020.