Could Navy be the newest color name to capture parents’ imagination?
Our Baby Name of the Day was inspired by Jason Aldean’s new daughter.
Back in the day, this word referred to a fleet of ships, from the Latin navis, ship. Navis gives us navigate and navigator, too. Eventually, the term was applied to a nation’s ships and personnel and sea power, in the broadest sense.
So that makes this name thoroughly nautical.
British sailors wore it first. I’ve read that they adopted blue because the color was associated with trust. Or maybe it was simply the color of the sea. In any case, they started wearing it in the 1700s. By the 1800s, they’d lent the color its name: navy blue.
The blue worn by sailors has darkened over the years, to the color we think of today, an inky, near-black.
Some color names filtered into use as surnames. That’s true for Green and Pink and White and Brown, but even some you might not expect, like Scarlett. Add in foreign color names, and the number skyrockets. Many of those surnames made their way into general use as given names, at least some of the time.
But you won’t find Navy among them.
It first surfaces in the US name data in 1985, which makes this among the newest of names.
A handful do appear in US Census data beforehand. It might be short for a longer Nav- name (Navarro? Naveed?) or a typo. While it’s difficult to say, at least some men and women probably did have the name.
But for the most part, you could find a Blue in 1969, or a Pinkie way back in the 1910s. But Navy? Not so much.
What explains the transition from word to name?
In some cases, it’s clearly short for a longer name. Actor Navi Rawat was born Navlata. But despite her 1977 birth, Rawat’s first big role was in The O.C. in 2003.
Instead, I think it’s down to our cautious embrace of new color names. Blue and Indigo both debuted in the US data during the 1970s. Sky and Skye, nature names with a colorful vibe, rose dramatically in use during the same period. Amber found new heights in the 1980s, as did Jade and Sage. Perhaps this was simply the moment parents first cautiously considered color names.
Navy: In the Spotlight
Of course, pop culture might deserve some credit, too. Blockbuster Top Gun starred Tom Cruise as a naval aviator in 1986. Gap spin-off Old Navy opened its first stores in 1994. In 1995, the long-running legal drama J.A.G. premiered, set in the offices of the US Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s office. (Harmon, the name of J.A.G.’s main character, spiked in use during the shows’ run.)
It’s not as if we discovered the branch of the armed services anew. But perhaps it showed in a particularly appealing light during the era. (Or not. The Tailhook sexual harassment scandal hit in 1991.)
Navy: On the Rise
What’s certain is that Navy name slowly caught on. In 2000, nine girls were given the name. By 2010, that number had reached 21. And in 2017, an astonishing 170 girls (and 35 boys) were named Navy.
Jason Aldean’s daughter is the most recent celebrity birth announcement, but by no means the first.
Rapper and singer-songwriter The Dream and singer Nivea welcomed daughter Navy Talia back in 2005. In this case, it might have been inspired by mom’s similar name.
Navi and Navie have gained in use, too.
Navy: Ava, Ivy
More than anything, this name almost certainly owes its success to the chart-topping Ava. Other names, like Olivia, Evelyn, Ivy, and Avery, are powered by that middle-V, too.
It’s worth noting that Saylor is also trending for girls, entering the US Top 1000 in 2013.
And so it’s a little bit of everything that pushed this name from the fringes ever closer to the mainstream: an appealing sound, our embrace of color names, a handful of high profile birth announcements, and some pop culture nudges all made Navy an unlikely name on the rise.
Do you like Navy better for a boy or a girl? Would you consider it for a child?