This week’s pick of the week is the enchanting Jessamy.
Jessamy is an obsolete form of Jasmine. It is first found in the English language in 1633, in the variant form Jessamie, and had pretty much vanished by the end of the eighteenth century — but not before the Anglo-Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith had bestowed it upon a certain Miss Horneck in the 1770s, with whom he was supposedly in love.
It is first found as a given name as the eighteenth century closed, but it wasn’t until 1968 that it shows up on the radar of the SSA’s published data, and it has never made the top 1000 given names in America.
Likewise, in Britain, it has only ever been rare.
Use since the 1970s might sometimes have been influenced by the character of Lady Jessamy MacAthan, a character in Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series of fantasy novels (1970-).
Another attractive old form of Jasmine which has also seen a little use is Jessamine. This was often the preferred form of Jasmine in poetry in past centuries, and also came into use as a given name at the end of the nineteenth century.
Other obsolete spellings of Jasmine which would make deliciously unusual names include: Jacamine, Jasamine. Jasimine, Jesemy, Jessema, Jessima, Jezmin and Josma.
Jasmine itself has seen a lot of popularity in recent years, partly perhaps encouraged by the name’s use for the princess in Disney’s Aladdin (1992).
It is generally regarded as one of the “flower names” adopted at the end of the nineteenth century — but it was actually first used as a given name much earlier than that — as far back as the sixteenth century.
Although like Rose and Lily, it was early associated with the flower, its initial use probably came about as a late variant of Ismenia.
This curious name is often derived from the Greek Ismene, from ismê “knowledge.”
However, evidence suggests its true roots are Celtic, although its meaning is obscure. It may possibly be ultimately connected with the Common Celtic *moyni- “treasure,” which became muin in Old Welsh, and mwyn “worth” and “value” in Middle Welsh.
Another late variant of this intriguing name is probably Jesmond, found in Lancashire in the Early Modern period in a number of spellings, such as Jessimond, Jismond, Jesmaine and Gismond.
As for jasmine (or jessamy or jessamine) the evergreen climbing shrub, it is understandably much loved. With its delicate flowers and sweet scent, it is particularly associated with love. Even today, Witches still use it in love spells.
The essential oil has been used since ancient times, as a medicine, ritual ungent and aphrodisiac. It is still valued today for its ability to relieve depression, promote relaxation, not to mention ease childbirth. When used in a carrier for massage, it is also used to heal scarring.
The ultimate derivation of the word “jasmine” is the Arabic yās(a)mīn “jasmine,” itself from the Persian yāsmīn, which probably originally was used of the oil. Yasmin is also a popular girl’s name in the Islamic world, and has also sometimes used by non-Muslims since it was introduced to the West in James Elroy Flecker’s 1922 play Hassan.
A well-known bearer is the model Yasmin le Bon (b.1964), who is half-Iranian.
Jessamy, Jessamine and Jessimond are all perfect if you like Jess as a nickname, but think Jessica is just too tired. All have long histories, rich meaning and symbolism which make for thumping good names.