Thursday, December 1

Names from Folk Songs

Cicely Sweet, you do me wrong/ my legs be straight, my arms be strong
Sødskærm (Myrrhis odorata)
by Line Sabroe

In researching another post, I came across a great resource. is a folk song database, and it's full of great names. Here are some I came across — 

Arbutus — the title of "My Love's an Arbutus" gave me a little chuckle, though I do think Arbutus could be a pretty righteous boy name. It's got a bit of a backwoods, country vibe going on, and refers to a genus of small, flowering plants that produce red berries

Cicely Sweet — this is the name of the song, and I like the combination, though you might be tempting fate giving a girl the middle name Sweet. Cecily seems to get more attention than Cicely, but I prefer its softer, more unusual sound. Both names are variants of Cecilia that date back to the Middle Ages. Sweet Cicely is also a plant, whose leaves are sometimes used as an herb, and are similar in flavor to anise

Flora — from "Flora, the Lily of the West" Flora was the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, and the wife of Zephyr, the west wind. I really like its variants, like Floretta, Dutch Floor, French Fleur and Welsh Fflur. Flora ranks highly in Hungary (where Flóra is #30) and France (#140)

Idumea — though it's quite a depressing little ballad, I was drawn to Idumea as a name. It's the Latin cognate of the Hebrew name Edom, which means "red," and refers to a region south of Judea and the Dead Sea 

Kalinka — it's a sweet Russian folk song but I had no idea where Kalinka came from. Imagine my surprise when I did some digging around and discovered it's a pet form of the name Kalina, which means "rowan tree." Kalina itself doesn't really appeal to me, but I love the "-linka" ending of the nickname

Lulajze — this is simply the Polish word for "lullaby," but I like its look. The "ajze" is refreshing, and you could call her Lula for short. From the Polish folk song, "Lulajze Jezuniu"

Maranoa — from "Maranoa Lullaby," which notes was found in a pamphlet listed as "Australian Aboriginal Tune." Maranoa is a region in southwestern Queensland, Australia, and is also the name of a river there. While I don't know much about its meaning, Mara means "bitter" in Hebrew, and Noa means "motion" in Hebrew, or "love," or "affection" in Japanese. I think "bitter love" is a pretty intense meaning, even if I did just totally make it up

Saro  — the "Pretty Saro" of the song was probably really named Sarah, but I think Saro stands on its own, and is much more interesting. I like taking a classic girl name (Caroline, for example) and pairing it with an unusual, more modern-sounding nickname (Caro). On an entirely different note, Saro is also a village in Mali

Tyne — the song refers to the River Tyne in northeast England. Though its origin is unclear, it's probably an ancient Celtic name, most likely connected to the word "river." It's used as a surname, mostly (actress Tyne Daly's first name is actually Ellen). I like it as a first name. It sounds like "time," and is an ancient nature name. Pretty solid points, there


  1. Cicely and Flora are lovely names - they'd make a good sibset actually.

    Oddly enough, Kalinka is a name I was discussing only the other day, with both of us agreeing that the folk song is so romantic without being sappy, and Kalinka a very pretty name. I did not know that about the rowan tree - maybe you should use it!

    I just saw a Tyne in a BA, but Tyne was the father of the baby in question. Could see it fitting in well with the Tyler and Tyson names pretty easily.

  2. I have such an affection for folk music - I just posted recently about the Cohens, Wainwrights, and McGarrigles, three modern folk music families.

    I love Kalinka, Saro, and Cicely, but I think overall I prefer Cecily.

  3. I always felt that Zephyr and Flora go well together, forgetting their relationship in mythology!

  4. I love that you included Idumea!
    It's been on my lists since I first heard the song several years back (Patrick Wolf live with just him and his violin)
    It might be a little depressing, but almost all old religious folk songs are, and the melody is so hauntingly beautiful, I just love the song!
    I like Lulajze, but I have no idea how to pronounce it. Maranoa is also very pretty :)

  5. My deep affection on folk music. Nicely you have mentioned here with exact meaning. Nice posting.
    Some meanings are also can be found here

  6. It is interesting to see Lulajze (loo-LYE-zheh). I would have never thought of it as a given name, but it is definitely a cool suggestion, especially for a Christmas baby with Polish heritage.


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