Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 4, 2008. Substantial revisions and a repost were completed on May 28, 2012.
Let’s say that you welcome a daughter on Memorial Day. Or maybe you’re due on the Fourth of July. What with all the bunting about, why not consider a red, white and blue Baby Name of the Day: Liberty.
It’s easy to see the appeal of a name that literally means freedom. Liberty comes from the Latin libertas via the Old French liberté,promising a great deal to a child. While it’s a weighty concept, with names like Serenity and Trinity in the US Top 100, surely that’s not a drawback.
A minor Roman goddess known as Libertas had her share of statues in antiquity. Another nation favoring red, white and blue also embraced a feminine figure initially called Lady Liberty. During the French Revolution, a symbolic female figure was often used, even replacing statues of the Virgin Mary – though over time, she’s become known as Marianne.
In the US, there’s the Statue of, the Bell, at least a dozen towns bearing the name, a WNBA franchise, a popular model of Jeep and a former First Dog, Gerald Ford’s golden retriever.
It manages to sound deeply patriotic and a bit quirky at the same time. In the 2007 indie hit Juno , Liberty Bell was the younger sister. Actor Joey Lawrence welcomed a daughter named Liberty Grace in 2010.
Visit London and you can shop at Liberty. It’s been a fashion-forward department store since 1875, and today stocks the priciest of the must-haves, including Prada footwear and designer denim. Liberty fabrics are still among the most interesting patterns around.
Liberty also has a certain cowgirl cool about her. Back in 1916, shortly before the US entered World War I, the actress Marie Walcamp played Liberty Horton in a 20-chapter Western film serial. (She’d previously played Tempest Cody in the Spur and Saddle series. One imagines she knew her way around a horse.) There’s also The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, an enduring 1962 John Ford Western, but his Liberty was a dastardly villain – and a man.
In 1918 the name first cracked the US Top 1000. Blame it on Marie Walcamp’s Western serial, or on an upsurge in national fervor during the war. The trend didn’t last, and by 1919, Liberty was out of the Top 1000 again. She reappeared in 1976, when more than 300 pairs of parents must’ve embraced the idea of celebrating the bicentennial with a star-spangled appellation for their little girls.
But since 2001, Liberty has appeared in the rankings annually. Today she stands at #568. She’s unusual, but no longer outlandish. And the nickname Libby – traditionally used for Elizabeth – offers an option if she’d prefer something less dramatic.
So if you’re dreaming of a name for your daughter as you watch the fireworks tonight, you might consider Liberty.