Starling: Baby Name of the Day

English: Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes...

It’s a bird … and maybe a baby name, too.

Thanks to Katie for suggesting Starling as our Baby Name of the Day.

Starling: An On-Trend Possibility

Starling wraps up three trends in one:

  • Look no further than Stella to know that American parents are interested in star names.  Starling has nothing to do with the night sky, but the sound is there.
  • Bird names are big, from Wren to Hawk.
  • Lastly, Starling is a surname, probably related to the bird.  (More on that in a minute.)

So Starling is a serious nature name.  Like many a noun name, it is easy to pronounce and spell, but will seldom be shared.

And I do mean seldom.  As of 2013, the name was given to six girls and fewer than five boys.

And yet, as far back as 1880, there were five boys called Starling – probably because of his surname status.

The name peaked in 1920, with 26 boys given the name.  There was a 1919 novel called The Starling, but it looks like the main character – the starling in a cage – was a sheltered professor’s daughter named Sarah.

Starling: About the Bird & the Surname

Starlings are friendly, outgoing birds.  They’re chatty, too, and can mimic other sounds – including car alarms!  Someone with the surname Starling might be descended from a particularly outgoing ancestor.

In Old English, the birds were called stærlinc, meaning that this is a pretty stable creature name.

It’s a surname from early days, and I’ve heard that it appears as a given name as early as the eleventh century, as both Starlinc and Starlingus – but I haven’t been able to find the original entry.

But the news isn’t all good.  Starlings like to travel in flocks, and they love to party.  If you’re a farmer, having a big ol’ gaggle of starlings descend on your peach trees is not ideal.  They can wreak havoc in cities, too – a particularly large group of the birds descended on London’s Big Ben in 1949, and slowed the famous clock.

And that’s the biggest problem with Starling – while we’re neutral on wrens and larks, this bird can be a nuisance.

Starling: Famous Folks with the Avian Appellation

Then again, Starling is the surname of Clarice, the intrepid FBI agent in Silence of the Lambs.  And there are others with the first name:

  • Starling Tucker represented South Carolina in Congress back in the 1810s and 20s.
  • Starling Burgess was an early twentieth century design legend, winning awards for aviation, but also designing racing yachts and naval ships.  His daughter, illustrator Tasha Tudor, was also originally named Starling.
  • Dominican Republic-born MLB outfield Starling Marte plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Starling might lean ever so slightly masculine – after all, Sterling is more commonly a boy’s name.

But with names like Star, Starr, Starla, Starlyn, Starlee, and even Starlett lurking outside the US Top 1000, Star seems to lean girl.

Overall, Starling  makes for an unusual nature name with a distinctive sound.  If you’re a daring namer looking for something rare for a daughter, this is one to consider.

Do you think Starling is better suited for a girl or a boy?  Or is it even wearable?

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4 Comments

Regarding early usage of the name, Reaney & Wilson’s Dictionary of English Surnames s.n. Starling have Starlingus and Starlinc from the Domesday Book, and Willelmus filius Sterling from 1133-60.

Love this! It just sounds so lovely and sweet, with a touch of sparkle. It’d be a reall great and different middle name. The only think I would hesitate about using it in the first spot, for me at least, is that I’d worry that people would think it sounded too much like Stalin :/

This is a great name! It would be especially cool in the middle name spot; even the most classic of names would gain a little sparkle from it… Sarah Starling Smith, Margaret Starling Jones, Abigail Starling Brown, Anne Starling Wilson… love it!

I adore the name Starling! There are several bird names in my family (Dovie, Lark Sr., Lark Jr.) so I’ve played around with continuing the trend in my own family. I would love to use Starling in the middle name spot for a boy, if only I could get my SO on board!