Name of the Day: Gloria

When Lola suggested we consider Gloriana, we were intrigued. And we agreed to research, but with the caveat that we’d likely end up making Gloria our Name of the Day.

She sounds like she could be as ancient as Julia, but in fact, Gloria is a fairly recent innovation. And, believe it or not, the elaboration predates the simpler form by centuries. Read on for this name’s interesting tale.

Once we found Gloria extravagantly Catholic. After all Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the Latin for Glory to God in the Highest, is heard at every mass. Vivaldi is among several composers who have set the Gloria to music. Back in 1981, U2 recorded their single Gloria, and Bono sang the Latin phrase Gloria in te Domine – Glory in you, Lord. It’s easy to mistake it for an intensely religious appellation.

But Gloria’s popularity is a purely secular phenomenon. The Latin gloria translates to glory: great praise, honor, magnificence, splendor. The word is in use in English as early as 1300, though it may have sometimes carried an undercurrent of braggadocio. But despite the term’s widespread use, it was not adopted as a feminine given name.

Instead, we find the first use of Gloriana in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, his 1590 epic poem. Gloriana represents Queen Elizabeth, and it is said that following England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada, troops greeted their monarch chanting “Gloriana, Gloriana, Gloriana.” Plenty of biographies and documentaries use the name, too. One assumes that a mere mortal would’ve found Gloriana a presumptuous name to bestow on a daughter, and it does not appear to have been used as a given name in the Elizabethan era, or the years following.

It’s a bit of a mystery when Gloria was first used as a given name. In the US, she briefly charted in the Top 1000 in 1881. Census records confirm that Gloria and Gloriana were both used sparingly in this era. But it wasn’t until 1891, when E.D.E.N. Southworth chose the name for the title character of her novel that it began to attract serious attention. (Southworth may be obscure today, but she was among the most widely read authors of the era.) In 1897, George Bernard Shaw chose Gloria for the headstrong and modern oldest daughter in his play You Never Can Tell.

Gloria was the Madison of her day. From obscurity, she entered the rankings at #526 in 1900 and quickly became one of the most common given names for girls – a Top 100 choice from 1922 to 1963, peaking at #20 in 1925 and 1926.

Silent film star Gloria Swanson lends a bit of Hollywood glam. The Oscar-nominated actress is best remembered for her role in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, where she played, appropriately, an aging silent film star. She goes mad, and the movie ends on the memorable line, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

There’s also feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem and singers Gloria Estefan and Gloria “I Will Survive” Gaynor. And, of course, Gloria was Archie Bunker’s daughter on All In the Family. Perhaps that’s why we think of this as a Baby Boomer name, and consign her to obscurity along with Linda and Barbara, Karen and Carol. Today, the name languishes at #449.

But Gloria’s glory days actually predate the Boomer era by several decades. If Hazel and Esther, Ruby and Alice, Beatrice and Josephine are among the most fashionable names of 2008, why not their companion Gloria?

Gloriana remains solidly outside of the Top 1000, though she’s used more frequently in the 20th century. It’s a hyper-feminine name, but more along the lines of Juliana or Isabella than Arabella or Caliana – a name with strength, despite her frills.

We think both could make a quiet comeback, fitting in with both Martha and Alice, as well as Olivia and Ava.

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12 Comments

My MIL is named Gloria Esther, a beautiful name for a beautiful lady.
I’d name a daughter the same if hubsy was ok with it.
I think the little one would be as proud of her name as Grandma would be of having a namesake.

Gloria Ester is my aunt’s name. There are several of ‘us’ who carry the name Gloria. Cousins three to four times removed. Our ages are within a ten year span. Irritating at times. But ive had more fun with some people than I probably should have.
One cousin surname is Sallee, mine is McGee. Oklahoma & Texas is overflowing with people who are lazy speakers. Pronuncation is not a strong point with these people.

My daughter is Gloria (named for her great grandmother). She loves her name. She goes by Glow. She likes that its fairly uncommon among her school friends, but also easy to pronounce!

Good question, Lola – that confused me, too. But it’s actually because of the pingbacks. When I reference this post in future posts, it creates a response – as I did in Isla and Frances. They appear in pink at the bottom of the comments – and up the total.

Hey! It says 6 responses but I only see 4 (5 with this one!) What’s up with that? And I’m still sweet on Gloriana. How regal! 😀

I actually know an Oriana, which I like much better. She goes by Ana (ah-na) (not Anna), but I think Oriana sounds beautiful. I think it might be Swedish. Gloria I would pass on as I’m too tempted to break into the holiday song with the refrain that goes “Glo-oor-oor-oor-ria – in excelsis Deo!” THat would probably annoy the heck out of my kid pretty quickly!

Eh. It’s okay, kind of old fashioned. I think of All in the Family and Steinem when I hear it. I think I’d prefer Glory – but then I get reminded of that evil character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so that doesn’t help.

Thank you! I forgot about Gloria/Gloriana! I still prefer Gloriana, mainly for the Spenser link but also for my favorite series as a kid. (Ruth Alberta Brown’s Tabitha’s Hall). But Gloria has appealed in the past as well.

I love her melodious sound and her velvety feel. I think Glory is a pretty cool virtue nickname, to boot. Gloria would get a kick out of her name at Xmas, I would think and having your name ina U2 song? Awesome! I have a girlfriend witha Grandma Gloria and she’s already said, when she has a girl, Gloria she will be. So it is starting (the GF in question is only 20) to make a quiet comeback, I think. And it’s a welcome one too! Warm, friendly, lush and somewhat sexy Gloria has got it all!