It sounds like a hippie-chic mash-up concocted by a pair of flower children on a commune, the logical choice for Moonglow and Whiteriver’s new sibling. But in fact, it’s a valid surname and given name with a history that stretches nearly a thousand years.
Thanks to Katharine for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: the intriguing Loveday.
While Loveday has never charted in the US Top 1000, early census records confirm that at least a handful of women bore the name in the 19th century. We also find mentions of Lovedays in the UK, Canada and Australia during the same era.
Today, the name is far more common as a surname. It’s even possible that some of those Lovedays from the late 1800s and early 1900s are wearing a family name in the first spot.
Either way, Loveday’s origins are probably the old English leofdaeg or lieftag, which translates more closely to “dear day.” Other theories suggest that it is a translation of the Latin dies amoris. The first seems slightly more credible – and widespread – an explanation. A loveday was an established medieval tradition calling for certain days to be observed as times to amicably resolve disputes. Just as some children born on Easter have worn their birthday as a given name, the same appears to be true of Loveday, for both boys and girls.
It’s difficult to pinpoint when the name entered use. The practice of holding lovedays is referenced in 13th century historical documents, but the name appears to predate the event. Some sources claim it is used as early as the 7th century, but we’re unable to confirm an earlier date. By the early 1200s, other terms based on the word leof were in use, including the archaic leman, or sweetheart, so we’re comfortable assuming that Loveday has been with us for nine centuries. We’re hesitant to believe any reports of how common the name might’ve been, but we’re certain that it was heard periodically well into the 1800s.
In 1893, Catherine Pirkis wrote a detective serial for London’s Ludgate Monthly entitled The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective. Pirkis described her heroine’s unlikely career path as follows:
Some five or six years previously, by a jerk of Fortune’s wheel, Loveday had been thrown upon the world penniless and all but friendless. Marketable accomplishments she had found she had none, so she had forthwith defied convention, and had chosen for herself a career that had cut her off sharply from her former associates and her position in society.
It’s easy to love the idea of Loveday, and even some of the daffier elaborations and respellings that are either modern adaptations or unusual variants preserved from earlier times: Lovedaya, Lovedaia and Lovedie all pop up on searches. As with our lady detective, we’d expect a girl called Loveday to be a bit of an independent thinker and unusual character.
But since personality is difficult to predict when you hold your newborn daughter, we think this is one best reserved for the middle spot. Few will recognize the name as an authentic medieval moniker, and instead your child will probably be known as Lovey – a nickname that feels insubstantial and flighty, not unlike the Gilligan’s Island character Mrs. Eunice “Lovey” Howell.
What’s more, in recent years the jeweler Cartier has launched an annual Loveday celebration. The celeb-studded events include the unveiling of signature pieces of jewelry with sales to benefit charity. While we admire the public relations team who landed on the concept, all that bling has a way of tarnishing the medieval allure of the name. It’s sort of like Mercedes – no one believes you’ve chosen an elegant Spanish appellation that refers to Saint Mary; everyone is positive your daughter is named after your car fetish. So while Loveday isn’t as widely recognized as Armani or Chanel, there’s danger that your child’s name could be mistaken for a luxury brand.
In all, we find Loveday as intriguing and mysterious and, yes, strong, as on our first impression. But it’s a tough name to pull off, and we think we’d rather meet a Cordelia Loveday or a Tallulah Loveday than a Loveday Jane.