Editor’s note: Today’s post originally appeared on December 25, 2008. It has been substantially revised and reposted as of December 24, 2012.
Today’s pick is perfect for a December-born daughter, but just as charming if your baby girl arrives in June.
Our Baby Name of the Day is Ivy.
You know the words to “Silent Night,” but you’d probably have to think a while to recall the lyrics to “The Holly and the Ivy.”
But holly and ivy have been used to decorate churches for centuries. Just like many a Christmas tradition, their use in winter celebrations predates Christianity.
Ivy is an evergreen, also known as hedera, found throughout Europe as well as Africa, Asia and Japan. They creep and climb, covering the walls of old buildings. Besides the winter theme, Ivy conjures up two other images: a certain air of privilege and accomplishment; and, of course, poison.
Privilege first. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale are referred to as the Ivy League – an octet of highly selective American universities. Some claim the ivy is a reference to the vines climbing up their august academic buildings, but officially, it’s a sports league. In fact, the first reference comes from sportswriter Stanley Woodward in 1933.
As for poison ivy, it’s actually an unrelated plant – toxicodendron radicans. She’s must used in pop culture:
- Poison Ivy is Batman’s eco-terrorist enemy. She’s been around since 1966 and has appeared on the television series as well as the big screen, where Uma Thurman played the role;
- Punk rock innovators The Cramps is fronted by husband and wife duo Lux Interior and Kristy Wallace – better known as Poison Ivy Rorschach;
- Drew Barrymore played infamous bad girl Ivy in 1992’s Poison Ivy. Ivy destroys the life of her so-called BFF Sylvie. It’s a cult classic boasting plenty of sequels, each with a flower-powered bad girl – Lily, Violet and Daisy.
There’s also the Operation Ivy nuclear tests from the 1950s, and the punk band who took the name. On a different note, The Ivy is a landmark restaurant in both London and Los Angeles.
With all this backstory, it’s easy to forget that Ivy has also been in steady use as a personal name since the Victorian era, when botanical names were all the rage.
It’s sometimes a surname, and occasionally a masculine name, too. Ivy Ledbetter Lee was John D. Rockefeller’s publicist. He’s known for his encouraging the magnate to lend his family name to Rockefeller Center. I’ve also heard of a Frederick IV. With Fredericks Senior, Junior and III having used up the obvious nicknames, the boy was dubbed IV – Ivy.
Back in 1881, Ivy peaked at #264 in the US. She’s on the rise again, and might present an alternative to parents in love with white hot Ava. Ivy came in at #266 in 2011, and it feels like she’s overcome her itchy plant associations to reclaim her place as a valid botanical possibility.
And there’s Miss Blue Ivy Carter, daughter of music moguls Beyonce and Jay-Z. Could the high profile birth boost Ivy in future years?
While Rose and Lily are vintage and sweet, Ivy has an edge. If you can overlook the bad girl vibe, Ivy could be a great choice – old-fashioned and fashion-forward at once – for a Christmas-born daughter, or at any time of the year.