Back in 1984, no one was named Madison. Allison, Isabella, Jayden – they were all once obscure.
Could this name join those appellations at the height of popularity someday? Thanks to Jess for suggesting Romilly as our Baby Name of the Day.
Romilly sounds like a contraction of a compound name formed by Rose and Millicent, but that’s not the case. Instead, it is originally a surname and place name. You can visit Romilly-sur-Seine, Romilly-sur-Aigre, or even Romilly in Vale of Glamorgan, Wales. All the Romillys on record appear to be modest places, perhaps less likely to inspire a child’s name in the way that a better known place like Savannah or Odessa might.
Some link Romilly to Rome, or to Romulus, the City’s co-founder. There’s also the Old English romen, which we now know as the verb to roam, which might also refer idea of pilgrimages to the holy city. But that doesn’t quite track back to France in the right era. The most likely theory is that a property owner called Romilius inspired the place names.
Romilly traveled to England with the Normans in 1066, and there is an Alice de Romilly in the twelfth century historical record. She’s the daughter of Robert De Rumilly, born at Gernon Castle in Normandy. Along with sisters Cecily and Lucy, Alice was a wealthy heiress. When her son drowned, Alice made a sizable donation to establish Bolton Priory. (Her name is also recorded as de Romille.) William Wordsworth’s poem “The Force of Prayer,” written several centuries later, is about the tragic incident, and refers to “young Romilly.”
Another source of the surname is England is suggested here: an Etienne Romilly fled religious persecution in France in the early 1700s, and settled in England.
Etienne’s grandson, Samuel Romilly, put their surname on the map. A legal reformer known for limiting capital punishment, he was also the father of seven children. His second-born son also entered politics and became the first Baron Romilly in 1866.
Esmond Romilly married one of the famous Mitford socialite sisters; his brother Giles was a journalist imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II. They were cousins by marriage to Winston Churchill – their aunt Clementine was his wife.
Romilly has been in sparing use as a given name over the years. Many aristocratic surnames came into use, and Wordsworth’s poem may have helped, too. Twentieth century artist Augustus John gave the name to a son, who later had a successful career in the Royal Air Force. But John’s kids had quite the collection of names: Amaryllis, Tristan, Poppet, and Gwyneth and he was a bohemian artist, unconventional in all ways.
In 1999, Emma Thompson named her daughter Gaia Romilly, and the name started to attract more attention. But it has always been in very quiet and sparing use. British newscaster Romilly Weeks is another notable bearer.
Girls named Romilly are slightly more common in the UK, but she’s still amazingly rare in the US. Not only is she not in the Top 1000, fewer than five girls were given the name in 2010. Despite her popularity in the baby name ‘verse, there just aren’t many children wearing the name.
But it strikes me that Romilly has all the makings of a stylish choice – the long o, the double l, the three-syllable, ends-in-y form of many a popular pick, from Dorothy to Kimberly to Mackenzie. As Isadora wrote “all it will take is a new Glee character named Romilly …” and bam! This name could take off.
Tracey hogan says
Our little one year old girl is a Romilly, we absolutly adored the name and she appears on the “Romilly” website. I really don’t want her name to become too popular, we wanted a name that was individual without being wacky. I hated being a “Tracey” in the “Sharon and Tracey” era of the 80’s and I was determined that she wouldn’t have a “faddy” name. We have only ever had positive reactions to her name.
I so love the name Romilly. I have two boys but if I ever have a girl, it is on the top of my list.
I can never understand this popular names rubbish!! why people only seem to want to choose a popular nam is beyond me, why would everyone want their kids to have the same names as everyone else’s kids??? so you end up with a class full of kids with the same names!! I first heard this name from a book i read when i was twelve in the 70’s which was set in the Victorian era, the heronine was called Romilly, i had never heard of the name before. To me Romilly sounds, stong, individual, pretty and yes unusual and not really trying to be anything, I think it sounds quite old fashioned but pretty none the less, unlike names like madison (the whole using surnames as a first name thing) I really hope this name does not become common, so im kinda of glad that a lot of people dont like it!! All it would take is for someone really famous (model) maybe to have this name and then suddenly we will all like it…..how fickle we are.
I am wondering if Romalie is a spelling variant of Romilly, if it is pronounced the same, and if it has the same (or a different) meaning. I really like the name Romilly, but like the spelling Romalie better. Thanks!
My little Romilly Autumn is 10mths. We loved the name from the first time we hard it yrs ago when we were naming our first daughter (Waverly, 6) . We do not know any others and are complimented on it often. She goes by Romilly Autumn or Rommy, or Rom.
Lovely name, and I love Waverly and Romilly together!
This was my Grandfather’s christian name who was born in 1877 and was passed down to my late father, myself and my sister as additional christian names
“Back in 1984, no one was named ……… Allison, Isabella”
Really? What planet was that on?
Actually, Gemma, if you look at the punctuation it reads: “Back in 1984, no one was named Madison. Allison, Isabella, Jayden – they were all once obscure.”
Allison was in the Top 100 in the 1980s, but had been virtually unheard of forty years earlier. Isabella was out of vogue from the 50s through the 80s and wouldn’t begin climbing until the 90s. Jayden’s rise came much later.
We’re often dismissive of names when we first hear them, and it is very difficult to imagine which names will catch on, much less which ones will make it into the Top 100 or even Top Ten.
Ah Romilly, I love her almost as much as when I first posted back in 2008, thanks for re-running this post and making me think of her all over again!
Sarah A says
I love Romilly, but I also love Romulus. I would use Millicent for Millie and Rosemary or Rosemarie for Ro before Romilly, but I’d love to meet a little one!
Millie is mostly used as a pet form of Amelia or Emily these days, rather than Millicent.
I love this name. I have a thing for 3-syllable first names ending in “ee” (can you tell?!) and Jessica Mitford has been one of my heroines since I was fifteen and read “Hons and Rebels” (inspired by JK Rowling, who has cited it as one of her most-inspirational books.) So I feel like, if I have children, this would be absolutely perfect for a daughter — it’s got the rhythm I like, and there’s the literary connection… sheer perfection.
Rosemary and Milly are old favorites and honestly I’d pick them long before Romilly. But it would be charming to meet a little Romilly.
On our shortlist for a little girl – love it! Such a pretty, fun, fresh sounding name with history and a great meaning.
To me Romilly is too close to Emily for use as a first name. It would be an interesting middle name choice.
ours is called Bell Fir***** as two surnames that died/will die recently due to no male babies X x
I love Romilly and I love reading about everyone’s little Romillys too!
My second daughter of 19 months is called Romilly and it really suits her (yes she’s got a mention on the web page too). I hope it never becomes a “trendy” name like Madison. We mostly use her full name but occasionally call her “Roo” or “Roo-roo”.
I like that it has a relatively distinguished but varied history as a surname/boy’s name/place name/historic name (Heugenot etc). I had no idea there were any celebrity babies called Romilly – that worries me because it might catch on. However, it did initially come to my attention because of Romilly Weeks so I can’t really say that can I?!
We have a beautiful and caring 4 year old Romilly 😀 We chose her name as for a few reasons. We wanted a name to remind us of one of our grandmothers. Her name was Jean, and a Libra star sign, just like our newborn little girl. Libran’s are usually well travelled people and our Grandmother has been round the world 5 times! We searched for the words “traveller, wanderer” and Romilly came up. It stated it was Latin for “Little lady wanderer.. One who likes to roam…” It seemed perfect. We later found out about Jean Romilly from France which made it a very special name for us and an absolute must! It is not only a pretty feminine name but shortened to Rom or Romy (ROM-e) it seems more tomboyish. Everyone loves her name and admires why we chose a name with such lovely personal meanings for our family.
I have a 4yo Romilly and my husb heard the name from Romilly Weeks when we lived in the UK. We know of the website and there is a pic of our newborn Romilly on there. We haven’t met any other Romillys and have only ever had positive feedback on the name. She prefers to be called by her full name, but her little sister calls her Ra Ra, and we sometime call her Ro, Romy or Milly. Its a beautiful name and suits our eldest daughter perfectly!!
Hello! I have a little 18 month Romilly :O) AKA Moo, Moo moo, Moop, Momp, Rom pom, Rom-a-lom. Really did think Milly would happen but never has.
Little bit influenced or reminded by the Romilly Weeks, of UK fame (years ago?), as I come from there and listened to her on LBC driving back from night duty, invariably stuck on the M25!
It is a great name. . strong, beautiful but very individual and independent! As I am learning!!
Kind Regards Emma :O)
Mike Barrett says
I have a 3yr old called Romilly, she is absolutely gorgeous and we knew from the moment we came across the name she would be Romilly. Many family members call her Rom or Romy, which is slightly annoying as she is Romilly Sophia on her birth certificate. We gave her this name as a friend runs a nursery and she had never heard of it ‘she says that is very rare, she thought she had heard all of the names’.
A slight history of the name. Romilly is indeed a French name pace and was a surname of people of aristocracy from those villages. Later Jean Romilly (born in 1715 Paris) made watches for the French aristocracy. Later English artist Agustus John (Circa 1850) named his daughter Romilly, this is the first known use of it as a Christian (first) name.
Romilly Weeks is an English TV anchor lady. I liked Milly and Amilee but my parter hated both, I was watching the evening news and said ok Romilly, she came in and said yes I love it, it’s perfect and really rare. I hope it never hits any top 1000 list, she is rather unique, like her name and I hope it stays that way.
If you want a beautiful name, look at small European villages, there are thousands with beautiful names, just please do not make Romilly popular, it’s rarity is one of it’s lovely attributes.
Appellation Mountain, Rosemarie is a family name of mine, but I’ve never considered Romilly too similar (although now you mention it, I see your point), I think I would try to pass it off as a nod to the Rosemarie and the nickname Romy would reinforce that. The only reason I say this is because I’m wary that I may have to build a case in Romilly’s favour… because alas, Lola you are right – the name Romilly certainly does polarise opinion and unfortunately my other half thinks Romilly is a bizarre choice! I’m going to keep plugging though and if all else fails maybe I’ll be allowed to use it as a middle name! 🙂
I honestly can’t say if it is poised to rse dramatically or not. I find responses to Romilly rather polar… it’s one that’s either loved or hated. DirtyHippy is the only one I’ve ever seen who didn’t just love it or hate it. Indifference makes a difference to me! 🙂 I thoroughly like Romilly and am probab ly going to stick it in the middle somewhere because I don’t think she sisters well for Josephine. But I hope It at least charts sometime in the next 5 years, even if it’s just a blip. Romilly’s at least pretty, and beats Nevaeh (which I still have to think about how to spell it, to spell it)!
Yay, a NotD that is almost solidly a hit! For me personally, Rosemary is a family name, so I would consider Romilly too similar for use. (Or is it maybe just close enough that we could substitute it instead? Hmmm …)
Jodi, welcome! What a fabulous name you’ve chosen for your daughter. I hadn’t pulled up the Romillys’ website you referenced – in fact, I hesitated to date the surname because it didn’t pop up in the databases I searched prior to the 18th century. So I think you’re right – all that history does give the name some additional heft.
As for the is-this-the-next-Madison question? It’s not impossible. And names “pop” much more quickly than a generation or so earlier. Actress Mackenzie Phillips first appeared on “One Day at a Time” in 1975, and her name charted at #838 a year later. It took nearly a decade for the name to crack the Top 500, and twenty years for it to enter the Top 100. Spelling variants didn’t make the charts until the mid-80s.
After Madison’s 1985 premiere on the charts, it took a mere eight years to hit the Top 100 and only about a decade for variants to appear.
When POD frontman Sonny Sandoval named his daughter Nevaeh in 2000, it was a novel choice. But after he introduced his baby girl on MTV’s Cribs a year later, the name charted at #266, cracked the Top 100 just four years later and today stands at #31. That’s much zippier than Mackenzie or Madison.
Miley Stewart first appeared on the small screen as Hannah Montana in 2006. Miley entered the US charts at #278 in 2007 – along with variants Mylie (#861) and Mylee (#556). That’s lightning fast.
So if a name is going to supernova, it’s probably going to happen fast these days. But it does feel like that kind of dramatic rises requires a pop culture precedent – either a real person or a character with the given name.
Still, all it takes is for one of the Jolie-Pitt twins to be called Romilly, or for a new character on Gray’s Anatomy to be given the name … or something along those lines, and yes, I do think it could happen. But it could happen with any underused name – Esme, Clementine, Cordelia.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it. Names like Isabella, Linda, Emma that become hot without a clear pop culture link usually take longer to climb the charts and you can see them “incubating,” if you will, gaining steadily year after year until they leapfrog into the Top 100 and then Top 10.
I think … any other thoughts on this one? Is Romilly poised to suffer from success?
Oh my goodness I can’t believe I missed the ‘Romilly’ post which I suggested (but had already been suggested!) I absolutely adore Romilly, it has been my joint favourite name for a daughter for years and I don’t mind admitting that it was the English news presenter Romilly Weeks that put the idea into my head. Issues with surname aside, my hypothetic first daughter would be called Romilly Beatrice…
But, and this is a big but, I do worry about the aforementioned ‘Madison’ factor. Do you guys think Romilly could take off in a big big way? Only, this might sound snobby and I apologise in advance if I offend anyone, but I would be mortified if I gave my child a fad name, thus comparisons to Madison and Neveah make me shudder…
NEVER and I have a Romilly :O)
I’ve just been sent over here by Elisabeth, whom I ‘met’ recently on another name discussion forum. I have a two-year-old Romilly, so I couldn’t resist commenting and offering my two cents. I am American, my husband is British and we were living in Scotland when our little Ro was born. We, too, had questions about the legitimacy of the name, but this site did a lot to answer them – perhaps you’ve already seen it. http://www.romilly.plus.com/romillys.htm It’s true that there is no definite meaning of the original placename, but I was happy knowing that it was a placename, and a surname, and had a good half-century of use as a first name before it came to us, albeit unisex use. It wasn’t ideal on the derivation front, but we were smitten. Plus, there was a thirty-something TV reporter called Romilly in the UK and my mother-in-law had another at the school she taught at. Both predated Emma Thompson’s Gaia Romilly, so I breathed another sigh of relief. We pronounce it with a short o, like CD-ROM, but with my husband’s accent, it’s somewhere in between, like raw-milly, which seems the truest to the French place name. Ours is Romy occasionally, but more often Ro or Ro-o, thanks to her big sister.
I will definitely poke around your blog some more. It looks great!
S’ok Catherine. I know it’s food-like, I just admire it from afar. I feel sorry for Titty and think Lettie is a cute nickname option. I was just looking for someone else who might admire it from afar. 🙂
Sorry Lola, don’t check back too often! Lettice I think is too overtly food-like. I’m not too fond of Letitia either. Once my boyfriend got an e-mail from a professor to all of his students; one of them was a “Titty,” which was an old nickname for Letitia if I’m not mistaken. I can only imagine the poor girl was really a foreign Letitia who had no clue what her nickname meant. But yeah, that’s enough to throw me off of it.
I agree that Romilly is super-pretty but, for me, that’s all it has going for it. I just can’t get excited about a name without much history or meaning. When it comes down to it, for me at least, Romilly is just a slightly more sophisticated Nevaeh.
It’s meaning is “walker” and it’s full of history. How can you compare it to an excuse for a name that is simply another word backwards?
Well … Romilly has some history. But it doesn’t have any significant history of use as a personal name. That’s a deal-breaker for lots of parents.
I LOVE Romilly! It’s such a feminine name that isn’t super girly or frilly. I think Romilly’s definitely a perfect name to grow up with.
I say ROM-il-lee but rom -IL-lee works too. Smush Romy (ROM-ee) & Millie and you’l have it.
How is it pronounced? RAH-mill-ee? RO-mill-ee? ro-MIL-ee? rah-MILL-ee?
Ro (as in Ron, not Rose) – mi (as in Mini) – lee. The accentuation is even on all syllables as in family.
Catherine, What do you think of Lettice, as a corrolary to Romaine? Lettice is the medieval form of Letitia and feels so much softer and feminne to me. I know it’s far too close to Lettuce, the vegetable, but am I the only one admiring this medieval beauty?
I was just thinking about Romilly the other day! It led me to Romaine, which I quite like, even though it’s a lettice. It’s the French feminine of Roman, according to BtN… Oh well, right, Romilly. I quite like it, but to get Romy I would use Rosemary and to get Millie, Millicent. So it’s in the “really cool but wouldn’t use” category for me. It’s a neat-o name, however.
Indeed! I have a Great Uncle/Aunt in Romilly-sur-Aigre , brother to my Grandfather. His only brother. So I have French cousins I’ve only met once or twice, ever! I’ve wondered before if it’s related to the gothic/German Romuald (to reign with glory) as well. I have an ancient relative in the family tree with that name.
I keep toying with usng it myself as I do have a connection to the place and seems to fit the theme I have going with my kids (they all have family surnames in the middle somewhere). Even though it’s not surname, it can be one, and that works for me. I’ve been loving Milly/Millie lately.
I think Romilly’s pretty, easy to figure out (not like Ghislaine, for example) and will age well on a girl. Romilly gets a :thumbsup: from me! What a great NOTD!