Amber

418px-Gouttes-drops-resine-2Gender: Feminine
Origin: English

September is almost over and the season of Fall is really starting to hit home. The trees are finally shedding their leaves and some are even exposing their yellow brown colors before falling off the branches. The name Amber has always brought to mind the autumnal season for me. Possibly due to her brownish yellow hues that she is known for, though Amber also comes in spring greens and bright yellows. The appellation itself gets somewhat of a bad rap. I have heard her being classified as “trashy” and even as an “exotic dancer” name. She didn’t seem to hit big really till the late 1970s to early-mid 1980s. Ever curious as to the origins and beginnings of all given names, I decided to track her down. How and when did Amber begin to be used as a first name? I know that in other cultures, the equivalent forms such as Dzintra in Latvian, Gintare in Lithuanian have been used as given names for centuries. Evidently, Amber is derived from an Arabic word ‘anbar. Amber of course is the word for the fossilized resin used in jewellery as well as the name of a colour. Its usage seems to have begun around the 19th-century. It was brought to the spot-light thanks to Katherine Winsor’s explicit 1944 novel Forever Amber. It was later turned into a movie, and the book sparked quite a bit of controversy at the time of its publication. Forever Amber tells the story of  a woman by the name of Amber St. Clair, living in 17th-century England, who manages to sleep her way to the top by hanging around with British aristocrats. I found this very interesting since Amber does seem to have those associations for many people, and I truly wonder if Katherine Winsor is the culprit for Amber’s sullied reputation. I suppose we will never know.

As for her popularity, the highest that Amber ever reached in the United States was #13 way back in 1986. I found this rather surprising as I don’t know many girls born in that same year named Amber. Compare that to this past year, Amber remains in the top 1000, but has slid down to # 224 (2010). Surprisingly, Amber is quite popular in both the Netherlands and Belgium. In Belgium alone, she came in at #24 for the most popular female names in Belgium, (2008). Meanwhile, over in the Netherlands, she stands at # 36 as of 2010. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 45 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 52 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 65 (Northern Ireland 2010)
  • # 71 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 80 (Australia, NSW, 2010)

The French form of Ambre has recently become a trend in France, in 2009, she was the 29th most popular female name in France. There is the more elaborate French form of Ambrine. In Italian there is the form of Ambra. Another interesting fact is that the Greek female given name of Electra is related to the word for amber in Greek, which is electron. In Hebrew, the name is Inbar, and in recent years, has been used as a given name. Ámbar is the Spanish form, also occasionally used as a given name in Spanish-speaking countries.

The name has been given to the United State’s Child Abduction Emergency code the Amber Alert. Originally named for Amber Hangermann the term is now used as a backronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

Abigail

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Biblical/Hebrew
Meaning: “her father’s joy” or “fountain of joy.”
(AB-ih-GALE)

In the Old Testament, the name is borne by the wife of King David and the mother of Amasa. The name sometimes appears in the Bible as Abagal and in, modern Hebrew, the name is rendered as Avigáyil (אֲבִיגַיִל)

Abigail did not become popular in the English speaking world til after the Reformation. It was a very popular choice among Puritans and early Americans. It was borne by the second First Lady of the United States, Abigail Adams (1744-1818), wife of President John Adams. It was also borne by their daughter who was known as Nabby Adams Smith (1765-1813).

In the 16th century, Abigail became a generic term for a servant woman or maid, thanks, in part, to Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Scornful Maid (1616). The name was ironically borne by the lady in waiting to Queen Anne, who was born quite a few years after the name was used to describe a servant woman (b. 1670).

In modern American culture, the name has become extremely popular for newborns. It started rising up the charts in the late 90s making it all the way up to # 4 by 2005. In 2008, it dropped back down to # 8.

Popular English nicknames include Abby, Nabby, & Gail.

Other forms of the name include:

  • Abigaïl (Dutch)
  • Abigaël/Abigaïl (French)
  • Abigaia Αβιγαια (Greek: Biblical)
  • Apikalia (Hawaiian)
  • Abigél (Hungarian)
  • Abigaille (Italian: very rare, pronounced, ah-bee-GUILE-ley)
  • Abigaili (Kiswahili)
  • Abigaíl (Spanish)