Gloria: Baby Name of the Day

Gloria: Baby Name of the Day

Gloria peaked in the 1940s. Could it be ready for revival right about now?

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

IN EXCELSIS DEO

The -ia ending suggests this name belongs with ancients like Julia and Cecilia.

Not so.

The Latin phrase “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” translates to “Glory to God in the highest.” It’s been around since at least the 300s, when the Bible was first translated into Latin. According to Luke, the angels sang these words when announcing the birth of Jesus. Even if you’ve only ever these words in A Charlie Brown Christmas, I’m guessing they’re vaguely familiar.

Plenty of famous composers have set it to music, including Handel and Vivaldi. It’s also known as the Greater Doxology, or simply, “the Gloria.”

GLORY

The Latin word translates simply to glory. As a verb, it means to rejoice; as a noun, it signifies victory, praise, honor, splendor. In English, it dates to the thirteenth century, though the exact meaning and use have shifted slightly over the centuries.

Glory fits with both modern, bold word-inspired names, like Maverick, and more traditional virtue choices, like Mercy or Temperance.

LITERARY INVENTION

Edmund Spenser used Gloriana to represent Queen Elizabeth in his 1590 epic poem The Faerie Queen. But, like so many of Spenser’s elaborations, it does not appear to have inspired parents in big numbers.

Instead, we have to wait until 1891.

Emily Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth – known professionally as E.D.E.N. Southworth – turned to writing in the 1840s, after her husband abandoned her and their two children. She penned over 60 novels over the next several decades, becoming one of the best-selling authors of her day.

In 1891, she wrote Gloria: A Novel, a followed it with a sequel later that year. There’s a small uptick in the name’s use.

And then came 1897, when George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell debuted. It’s an early play, well before Pygmalion and other enduring works. But it proved popular, as did the name of the eldest daughter – Gloria.

By 1900, it ranked #561.

GLORIA SWANSON

And then came Hollywood.

Born in 1899, Gloria Swanson landed her first movie roles while still a teenager. She co-starred in a series of successful comedies in the 1910s, then signed to Paramount Pictures in 1919. Swanson became the original Hollywood A-lister. Her movies topped the box office, and fans loved her elaborate wardrobe as much as the films themselves.

She earned two Oscar nominations during the silent film era, but she’s best remembered for her role in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard. Swanson played an aging silent film star. She goes mad, and the movie ends on the legendary line, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” It led to her third Oscar nomination.

The name soared to the top of the popularity charts during the heights of Swanson’s stardom. In 1922, Gloria entered the US Top 100 at #61. By 1925, it reached #20. The name remained in the US Top 100 through 1963.

LATER 20TH CENTURY

A handful of pop culture uses might have boosted the name later in the twentieth century.

  • Feminist journalist and thought leader Steinem rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s.
  • From 1971 to 1979, Sally Struthers answered to the name as Archie and Edith Bunker’s progressive-minded daughter on legendary sitcom All in the Family.
  • Gloria Gaynor scored hits during the disco era, including 1979’s enduring “I Will Survive.”
  • U2 scored an early hit with their 1981 single “Gloria.” Given U2’s iconic status, the song remains in rotation. It also hearkens back to the name’s religious roots, with Bono singing “in te domine” – “in you lord.”
  • And then there’s Gloria Estefan, lead singer for Miami Sound Machine, popular from the 1980s onward.
  • One more musical hit from the 1980s: Laura Branigan’s chart-topping 1982 single by the name.

BY THE NUMBERS

All of these 70s and 80s references keep the name stuck in an earlier era. And, like many names popular over several decades, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly when it will feel fresh and new.

Think of it this way: we tend to love names from our great-grandparents’ generations, while feeling lukewarm about our grandparents’ names. Except, at least for now, plenty of us have grandma Glorias.

For now, the name is still falling, reaching a 100-year low of #581 in 2018.

And yet, numbers alone don’t seal a name’s fate.

Modern Family used the name for a main character in recent years. Actor Maggie Gyllenhaal named her daughter Gloria Ray in 2012. The Lumineers and Green Day have recorded songs by the name. Oh, and that Laura Branigan song from 1982? It’s now wildly popular with St. Louis Blues fans, the anthem of their 2019 Stanley Cup-winning season.

With a great meaning, and a sound that incorporates the Nora/Cora ‘or’ with the -ia ending of Olivia, Amelia, and more rising favorites, Gloria could fit right in.

Do you think this name is ready for revival?

First published on July 28, 2008, it was revised substantially and re-published on March 26, 2020.

Gloria: Baby Name of the Day

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13 Comments

E.D.E.N. Southworth!! I read as many of her novels as I could get via ILL in college. They’re GREAT.

I have a 4yo niece named Gloria, but until you mentioned the connection, I’d completely forgotten about the Southworth novel of that name. I should see if I can find the notes I took on that one.

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!