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Posts Tagged ‘Esther’

Vashti — a name it seems everyone loves, but few actually use!

I’ve met more than one person who have said they set their heart on Vashti, but when it came to crunch time, settled on something else. Something less distinctive.

Why is that?

After all, Vashti’s not exactly a new creation. It’s found in the Bible.

The biblical Vashti was the name of the first wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus — better known to history as Xerxes, though it is unclear which Xerxes he is supposed to be. He is popularly identified with Xerxes I — whose known named wife was called Amestris in Greek sources.

And, actually, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Vashti and Amestris share the same source — just as Ahasuerus and Xerxes do; the one traveling from the original via Hebrew, the other by Greek.

Indeed, according to one theory, it may be that another name closely linked to Vashti’s tale also stem from the name of this queen — none other than Esther.

In the biblical Book of Esther, the story goes that Ahasuerus banised Vashti because she refused to come before him “to show her beauty to the people and nobles.”

He was “in high spirits from wine” at the time.

Reading between the lines, it was considered improper for Vashti to be at the party, and in summoning her in such as way, Ahasuerus would have dishonored her — and himself.

As king, of course, he was used to being obeyed, whether his commands were reasonable or not. He couldn’t be seen to allow her to disobey him.

So Vashti was shown the door, and Ahasuerus married Esther instead.

For standing up to her bully of a husband, Vashti is now regarded as a bit of a feminist icon, though she’s had more than her fair share of flack in past centuries. The Midrash is particularly unflattering.

Which is kind of ironic really, as it is possible that the historic Vashti and Esther were actually the same person, the two emerging from different interpretations of the real name of the wife of King Xerxes.

I’ve mentioned before that Esther might derive from Ishtar, but have only recently come across the interesting theory that both Amestris and Esther come from the Akkadian Ummu-Ishtar “Ishtar is (my) mother” or Ammu-Ishtar.

Ammu is more difficult — it may be the same as the Hammu of Hamurabi, which is thought to be an Amorite name, with (H)ammu a divine name.

That Amestris and Esther might come from either of these is perfectly plausible; and the same is true of Vashti, with the loss of the initial vowel and mutation of the “m” to a “v.”

Other theories keep it simpler, and suggest Vashti derives directly from an Old Persian word meaning “beautiful” or “best.”

Another plausible option is a derivation from the Old Persian vas “to desire.”

Like many biblical names, Vashti came into use after the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century; it appealed particularly to the Romani, and by the nineteenth century had come to be regarded as very much a Gypsy name.

Augusta Jane Evans used it in her 1869 novel Vashti.

Nowadays, its best known bearer is the English singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan, whose 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day is a cult classic.

A bit like the name Vashti!

In 2010, only 29 little girls were called Vashti in America, and less than three in Britain.

Isn’t it time this diamond of a name got to sparkle?

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Yesterday’s Pagan Name of the Month Stella inspired todays Pick of the Week choice — Aster.

Aster is a direct adoption of the Greek astêr “star.”

Not only is it cognate with the Latin stella but also the word for star in most European languages, some of which are, of have been, used as given names, including the Welsh Seren, English Star — and Old English Steorra (which was also used as a name) — German Stern and Russian Zvezda.

In the early seventeenth century, “aster” was adopted into English as an alternative word for star, though this usage has since become obsolete.

The word is best-known now, however, as a flower name. It was first used as such in the early eighteenth century, as an alternative name for starworts, becoming the formal botanical name later for a genus of the daisy family, because of the star-like nature of the flowers. It includes the Michaelmas daisy.

As a given name, there are a couple of examples of Aster known from Antiquity, but it certainly wasn’t common.

In the English-speaking world, Aster is found in the records as early as the seventeenth century, although in many cases this may represent variant spellings of Esther, Hester and Easter (which also got thoroughly muddled), or of the surname Astor.

This surname itself is a variant of Easter — but mostly a different Easter to the festival. It derives from the Old English ēowestere “sheepfold,”  or Good and High Easter in Essex, which share the same source. Occasionally, however, it may be from Easter as a medieval girl’s name, which is the adoption of the name of the festival.

There are also a number of rather nice related names:

Asteria — feminine form of the Greek adjective asterios “starry.” Borne by more than one character in Greek mythology, and used for the name of a precious stone by the Romans, possibly an asteriated sapphire

Asterial — an English adjective meaning “star-like” derived from the Greek

Asterias — scientific name of a genus of star-fish

Asteridas — a rare Ancient Greek personal name. The –idas ending was originally used with the sense of “son of,” so Asteridas can be interpreted with the meaning of “son of a star/the stars.”

Asterion asterios plus the name suffix –ion. The name of two sacred kings of Crete, one of whom was the father of King Minos. The other is often identified with the Minotaur himself, and is used as such in Jorge Luis Borges in his short story “The House of Asterion” (1949). In Antiquity, it was the name of the white campion, which the Greeks used to weave garlands for Hera. It is also an alternative name for the star Chara.

Asterope (“as-TEH-roe-pee”) — one of the Pleiades; her name combines astêr with ôps “face.”

Astoria — an elaboration of the surname Astor (see above), originally used of the famous New York Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria.

Astra — the plural of the Latin astrum, a Latin cognate of the Greek.

Astraea — feminine form of the Greek adjective astraios “starry.” This is the name of Virgo — the “starry maiden.” Astrea is a variant.

Astral — another English adjective meaning “starry” or “relating to the stars,” perhaps best known through mystic and esoteric beliefs such as “astral spirits,”astral body,” “astral plane” and “astral projection.”

Astrantia — the botanical name for the masterwort, coined from astêr or the related Latin astrum.

Astrion — an obsolete English name of a type of precious stone, probably an asteriated sapphire

Astro — generally a prefix, as found in words such as “Astrophysics”; it was used of two investigative missions to Mars in the ’90s.

Astromancer — rare old English word meaning “diviner by the stars.”

Astron — Greek astron “star” — a variant of astêr.

Astronoe (“as-TROH-no-ee”) — Greek form of the name of a Phoenician Goddess — probably Astarte — remodelled to give it meaning in Greek, i.e. astêr plus nous “mind.”

Astrophel

Astrophorafeminine form of the Greek adjective astrophoros “bearing-stars.” Astropher would make an enticing alternative to Christopher…

In 2010, 16 girls were called Aster in the US; and 4 in the UK. It didn’t make it into the official records as a boy’s name at all. But it has been used for boys, and given how little used it still is, there’s no reason not to.

Aster is a rarity — but it’s definitely a magnificent little star…

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Yesterday, I gazed into my crystal ball (a.k.a. the American SSA’s Popular Baby Name website), and predicted what boys’ names will be in the top 10 in 2035.

They were:

  1. Lucas
  2. Judah
  3. Jacob
  4. Rafferty
  5. Elijah
  6. Owen
  7. Silas
  8. William
  9. Indigo
  10. Joseph

My method is simple. How were today’s top ten ranked in 1985? And what names occupied those spots in 2010?

Today’s top ten girls’ names were ranked as follows in 1985:

  1. Isabella: Unranked (only 34 girls received the name in 1985)
  2. Sophia: 236 (in slight decline in 1985, though generally rising)
  3. Emma: 267 (rising)
  4. Olivia: 248 (in decline — but started to rise again in 1986)
  5. Ava: Unranked (only 132 girls called Ava in 1984, but it re-entered the charts again in 1986)
  6. Emily: 24 (rising rapidly)
  7. Abigail: 153 (rising)
  8. Madison: 628 (its first appearance in the rankings, prompted by the 1984 film Splash)
  9. Chloe: 564 (rising)
  10. Mia: 438 (rising)

And their 2035 replacements look like this (with a bit of tweaking)

  1. HERMIONE. Many people are pretty amazed to find out that not only was today’s darling Isabella not in the top 1000 in 1985, but only 34 baby girls were given the name at all. There were some interesting names in the same place in 2010, including Ara, Empress, Indiana, Mathilda, Saba, Wisdom and Zamora, but I can’t see any making the top 10 (Mathilda’s big sister Matilda might, but she is in the top 1000). There are one or two interesting possibilities among the names given to 35 little girls, such as Clarice, Lavinia and Polly; while another old classic Ursula was borne by only 32 girls in 2010, but it is lovely Hermione, given to only 37 baby girls in 2010 that gets my vote. I can’t help thinking it’s only a matter of time that the USA finally embraces her, and that she’s the one to watch from the bottom of this barrel.
  2. ELIZA. Jayda occupies the present 236th slot, but although she may rise quite high, I think her time in the sun will be over by 2035. Nearby, however, Eliza (240) is rising.
  3. ESTHER  is 267. She’s been away in the wilderness a while, but I think the tide is turning in her favor now.
  4. HARMONY. Ranked 248th is Cassidy, but she’s in decline. Harmony, however, is 249th, and rising…
  5. CLEMENTINE — 132 little girls were called Clementine in 2010. This beauty vanished from the top 1000 in 1953; in 1994, less than three girls received the name (if any at all), but since then, the numbers have generally been increasing.
  6. LEAH is 24. Like her predecessor Emily was, twenty-five years ago, she’s steadily rising. Will she have made the top ten by 2035? Perhaps.
  7. DAISY. Actually ranked 151 in 2010; 153rd was Makenzie, which is in decline and pretty unlikely to be in 6th place in 2035 now. Popular in the UK, Daisy, however, is on the rise again. Another possibility from the 150s is Vivian (158).
  8. ANNABEL is 628. She re-entered the top 1000 in 2000 and might well go places.
  9. ROSA is 564. She’s at her lowest yet, but surely the time is ripe now for her fortunes to change? They have already in Britain.
  10. ADELAIDE. In the 438th spot is Kadence, a doubtful top ten contender for 2035. Adelaide (434), however, is rocketing up the charts. Another possibility is Helen, languishing in the 437th spot. Its a long time now since she was in favor, and perhaps its her time to shine once more?

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This week is ‘Sneak Peek Week’ at Nook of Names. Each day, I shall be previewing the entry or entries for the names of five friends who first ‘put their hands up’ when I announced it on Facebook.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Estelle. It’s a good name to start with, as it demonstrates very well how one entry often leads to another — a name in capitals indicates that name has an entry of its own. And Estelle leads us on a journey that takes us to Rome and beyond…

Estelle

A French name. It may be from an old form of French: étoile ‘star’ < STELLA. A comparative development of how the word étoile arose from stella can be seen in the development of Étienne from Stephen. However, another plausible option is that Estelle developed as a variant of ESTHER. The -er ending sits awkwardly in French, and the linguistics involved in a shift to -elle in French are slight. Certainly, the resemblance to the Latin stella, if not an archaic form of étoile (no coincidence, as stella and Esther are probably cognate anyway), may have encouraged the development. The name was rare in France before the 19th Century, being found only in Les Charentes and Provence – another hint that its origins lie in Esther; Provence was where Isabella developed from Elizabeth. Although it had become more widespread by the 2nd half of the 19th Century, Estelle’s use in France still largely postdates the publication of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1860-61), the heroine of which is Estella – which naturally became Estelle in the French version. Bearers: Estelle Masterson, a (shrewish mortal) character in the US film I Married a Witch (1942).

Stella

Latin: stella ‘star’. Stella was used by Sir Philip Sidney in his Astrophel and Stella (1591). Stella Maris meaning ‘star of the sea’ is now considered a title of the Virgin Mary, but it is likely that the title was originally bestowed upon the Goddess Isis. 17th Century. Bearers: Stella Mayfair, a character in Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (1990-94).

Esther

In The Bible, Esther was the name given to Hadassah when she entered the harem of King Ahaseurus. It is widely believed to have derived from the Old Persian stāra ‘star’. However, it may actually be from ISHTAR. Esthêr was the Greek form used in The Bible; the Latin forms were Esthera and Hestera, with Esther deriving from the former and HESTER from the latter. Both came into use in the 16th Century and quickly became confused with EASTER and each other. Variant: Esta (modern). Diminutive: ESSIE. Czech, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese: Ester, Finnish: Esteri, Dutch, French, German, Spanish: Esther, Hungarian: Eszter; Eszti (diminutive). Bearers: Esther Vanhomrigh (c.1688-1723), probably the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s VANESSA; Esther Forbes (1891-1967), the US writer among whose works was A Mirror for Witches (1928) about the Salem Witch trials. Esther (1689) is a play by Racine.

As you can see, Estelle’s journey doesn’t end with Stella and Esther – but that’s quite enough for today :).

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