Monday, January 30

let's talk about: Edith

Two girls and their props: Edith Piaf and Edith Head

"In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."
~ from The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Like the rest of the bourgie-TV-watching world, I've been enjoying Downton Abbey lately. I'm afraid I can't even say I liked it before it started getting brought up at every dinner party ever, but I was really just too busy being cool to notice. For reals. So busy.

Anyway there are three sisters in the show and they all have nice names. Mary's, well, Mary, so it's not that interesting, Sybil is really great and stylish and I only like it spelled Sibyl, and then there's Edith. A grand old name with a sweet hipster-ready nickname (Sedgwick fans probably dig Downton, right?) that happens to be totally accessible and usable today.

It brings to mind a great troupe of wonderfully talented and interesting women. There's French singer Édith Piaf (born Édith Giovanna Gassion), Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head (she's Edith Claire) and writer Edith Wharton. Edie Sedgwick did a lot to give the name a chic, sophisticated, dramatic girl vibe, and the nickname "Edie" is certainly charming enough.

Edith is derived from an Old English name containing elements meaning "riches/blessed" and "war." It is used regularly in some Scandinavian countries including Sweden, where it's in the top 100. In 2010, Edith was at #820 in the States, 22 spaces up from its 2009 position. I'll be interested to see where it lands for 2011, since pre-09 it had been in a straight-up downward spiral since the 1880s (it was once in the top 30). It seems to have had a few years of regaining a teensy bit of lost popularity, so it's hard to predict where Edith will wind up, though if it manages to stay in the top 1,000 for a bit longer, I think it'll stay there for quite some time, and probably enjoy a real resurgence.

I usually stick to the oldest spelling when it comes to names, but I have to admit I'm won over by alternate spelling Edythe. Some other nice forms are Edita, Danish Ditte, Italian Editta, Finnish Eedit, Hebrew Idit and Tongan Iteti.


  1. Edith is one of my absolute favorites, and I'm honestly surprised she hasn't been picked up by more parents yet. She's old enough to sound fresh again and has the strong, feminine feel parents tend to like. The nickname Edie makes it spunky and easy for a child to wear. I can imagine Edith on any type of woman - a lawyer, an artist, a musician, a doctor, a stay-at-home mom, an athlete, a human rights activist. Another reason I love it so much.

  2. I do love the Eadgyth spelling, but I would never use it. Edith and Edita are much simpler and lovelier. I'm also surprised it hasn't got more attention. Parents seem to be reaching back into their family trees/ history for names, so I don't really understand why Edith isn't being used a lot more. It's a fantastic name.

  3. I like Edith Clare and Edie is pretty charming :)

  4. You commented on a baby Edith on my site ... Edith is a name that is beginning to come to come into vogue again here; in 2010 it jumped from nothing to being in the 500s. Although that only represents a few babies, that's a significant leap in popularity.

    We have a number of famous women named Edith, including the first woman elected to parliament, Edith Cowan. A good reminder that women don't need a masculine name to be successful!

    Also the nn Edie is so much like popular Evie.


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