Leatrice Joy
Leatrice Joy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s short and sweet, but would this virtue name threaten a daughter’s happiness?

Thanks to Joy for suggesting her own given name as Name of the Day!

What happens when Patience can’t wait, when Hope despairs, when Honor cheats on her spelling quiz? Joy almost needs to come equipped with a personality that’s pure sunshine.

A handful of women were named Joy, Joie, Joya, and even Joyeuse in Medieval England. While the word dates to the 1200s and probably influenced the name, it also owes something to the unrelated – and originally masculine – Joyce, worn by a seventh-century saint.

Unlike many virtue names, Joy wasn’t in use among the often-dour Puritans. But modern Christians could adopt Joy as a spiritual name, thanks to its inclusion as one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in the New Testament.

Joy comes from the Latin gaudia via the Greek gaio. It’s a synonym for happiness. High minded philosophers and pop culture gurus alike have posited how to best pursue it; Gretchen Rubin recently scored a #1 New York Times bestseller with The Happiness Project.

Joy is also a surname of debated origins, worn by:

  • Silent film actress Leatrice Joy;
  • World War II Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, later head of the US Naval Academy and honored with the unlikely-named destroyer the USS Joy;
  • Mary Joy penned housekeeping guides in the nineteenth century;
  • Henry Bourne Joy was president of Packard Motor Company and an early advocate for highway construction;
  • Brothers George and Albert Joy were both late nineteenth century artists.

A varied and international bunch have worn the first name, including:

  • Indonesian Idol’s 2004 winner, Joy Tobing;
  • The View’s Joy Behar, actually born Josephina;
  • Joy Greshman is best known as the wife of CS Lewis, though she was a writer, too;
  • Joy Morton founded the Morton Salt Company. The corporation is known for an iconic image of a little girl holding an umbrella, but this nineteenth century Joy was a he, wearing his mother’s maiden name in the first spot;
  • Born Friederike, Born Free’s naturalist Joy Adamson is better known by her nickname;
  • Among the Duggars’ 19 J-named kids, there’s no Joy, but there is a Joy-Anna;
  • Joy Ogwu was a high-ranking Nigerian official, serving as foreign minister;
  • Canadian writer Joy Fielding pens thrillers.

But it’s the small screen that hands us the fabulously trashy, endlessly manipulative and still somehow very funny Joy Hickey Turner, Earl’s cheatin’ ex on My Name is Earl. Actress Jaime Pressly has been much celebrated for the role, but it is hard to imagine parents naming a daughter after that particular Joy.

After ranking in the Top 200 from the 1920s into the early 1980s, today she’s fallen to #548. And yet, Joy never reached the Top Ten, or even the Top 100 – meaning that she’ll still strike many as a fresh and unexpected choice.

If you’re looking for a single-syllable name and Grace, Jane and Brooke seem too popular, Joy could make for a surprising choice for a short, simple and meaningful name.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My name is Joy and I love it! Its not a name you come across every day.
    When I was little I was called Joy-Joy and now, 40-something
    years later, once in a while someone will call me Joy-Joy and I love it. When I was
    chatty in class my teacher would call me “Joyful Noise.”

  2. The name Carol and Linda were quite popular in the late 30’s. As my mother was looking for a name for me she read that the name Carol meant “Song of Joy.” Mother liked the sound of the two names together and named me Carol Joy. I always like my middle name and named our daughter Joy Lynn. Recently I was in a book store and saw a rack of bookmarkers with names and their meaning on them. I bought one that was for Carol which included the definition as the same that my mother had always told me was the meaning of my name. Being from the south the double names are quite popular so I have continued to use both names anywhere that I might know friends from school or family. Many Carol’s are around but very few Carol Joy’s. All of the people I have know through the years named Joy have been happy individuals. Likkewise I consider myself a very positive person.

    1. I just decided to do a search to see if there were any other Carol-Joy’s
      What fun.
      My parents chose the name because I was born on Christmas day

  3. With the record-breaking snow in Dallas, I’ve been without Internet access since Thursday night, so I’m entering this discussion late. Thanks again to Abby for making Joy a NotD!

    Just want to go on the record that I LOVE my name Joy. I was named for my mother, who was Carol Joy until she married, and thereafter went by only Carol.

    My name makes people smile when they meet me, I rarely meet anyone else with my name and I love its alliteration with my surname, Jennings. In school, my report cards often had a note from the teacher that I was living up to my name or that I’d been named accurately.

    Joy is nickname-proof, and it has worn well into adulthood. (I’m 40.) Only a few times in my life has someone admonished me for frowning and told me to cheer up because my name is Joy.

    I’ve never liked Joyce, mostly because it feels like an older woman’s name, but maybe it will have a resurgence in popularity. I’ve never felt that Joy dated me to any particular decade.

    I also love that it’s a word name: music has two versions of Joy To The World (both the Christmas carol and the one by Three Dog Night), and libraries carry both The Joy of Cooking and The Joy of Sex. So interesting to see everyone’s opinions about the name!

    1. I had a 3d grade teacher named Joy. I remember finding a holiday pin that read “Joy.” The word was written in candy-cane stripes and accompanied by little plastic mice wearing Santa hats.

      I begged my mother to buy it, and was so proud when my teacher wore the pin the next day. There is something powerful about a word name!

      1. That’s the other wonderful thing about the name Joy: I have TONS of Christmas stuff with my name, from ornaments to tea towels. I feel a kinship with anyone else with a word name (including my nephew Grant and my niece Brooke), but especially Hope and Faith. Also I’ve read that Jennifer Love Hewitt actually goes by Love.

  4. I had a friend in school named Joy Lynn — she was nice and funny. Another schoolmate was named Joyee; I could never decide if that was a play on Joy, or Joey [it was pronounced squarely between the two].

    My cousin’s ex is named Brittany Joy, and they named their first daughter Precious Joy.

  5. My Mum is called Joyce. Her Grandma named her Joyce, because she brought joy into their lives, but my Mum has always said “I wish they’d have called me ‘Joy’, instead of ‘Joyce’.” I did think about Joy as a middle name, but “Rose Joy” didn’t really work.

  6. I love Joy!
    I only recently discovered Joya though, and I think I actually prefer her 🙂
    I think Joy sounds more light-hearted and happy than Blythe who has some clunkyness to her. I think the Blithe spelling makes her lighter and it’s the spelling I prefer… Same with Twyla vs. Twila. Twila is lovely, Twyla is too much… Very strange…

    Joy is awesome, but I think I’d rather use Joya or Blithe 🙂 Just Joy is a bit dull sounding, I like names with at least four different letters/sounds or something else to give them character.

  7. When we were naming our kids, we searched for names that meant “happiness,” mostly for the middle spot. But none of the names we found were quite right for us. Joy is an alright name, but I’m not big on the sound. Perhaps I was influenced by the step mother of my closest friend growing up – she was a Joyce – and didn’t seem to have too much joy in her life – she always seemed to be a fairly cranky lady. And while I absolutely love the character Joy on “Earl,” she is definitely not the kind of inspiration one looks to when naming their child! In general, I think I prefer Bliss or Blithe.

  8. Funny store about Joy. I remember being about 5 give or take a year , standing in front of the tv & turning towards my mother declaring that when I grew up I was going to have a boy named Christian & two girls name Hope & Faith- but, no Joy! Lol
    As you can see, I