I began writing it just after finishing last week’s Pick of the Week Snowdrop. As I mulled over a suitable choice for the middle of January, Winter sprang immediately to mind.
Then I asked Small Child for a suggestion.
Without any prompting, she said Winter.
Too much of a coincidence, I thought, to ignore!
And so today’s seasonal Pick of the Week is the evocative Winter.
I love Winter — the season and the name, and January is undoubtedly its heart. Although the days are starting to lengthen, the cold has built up, and it is usually the coldest month of the year. The hours of daylight are brief; it is often snowy, or plagued by chill winds, rain, and hail. Still, windless days invariably bring fog and mist.
The word “winter” has a long history. First recorded in English in the ninth century, its roots can be traced all the way back to the same Proto-Indo-European root from which words like “wet,” “water” and “otter” also evolved.
Father Winter or Old Man Winter are often seen as winter’s personification, but are sometimes identified with both Father Christmas and Odin.
In medieval times wall paintings were common and allegorical themes, such as those showing the seasons, were popular. Winter, it seems, was always depicted with a miserable looking face and thus it became a nickname for someone with a gloomy expression — the source, indeed, of the surname. Wynter and de Winter are variants of it.
It is found as a given name as early as the seventeenth century — with some examples possibly dating from the sixteenth, but these represent an adoption of the surname rather than the noun.
This was still the principal source of it as a given name in the nineteenth century, when it mostly featured as a middle name for both boys and girls.
However, particularly among children born in Winter, it is possible some were given the name by this period to commemmorate the season of their birth, although one Winter Day, born in 1845, was registered in the summer months! Winter Flower, however, was a baby of the last quarter, a year earlier in 1844.
At the present time, Winter seems to be seeing most of its limited use as a girl’s name, with 217 little girls receiving the name in America in 2010, in constrast with just 12 little boys. It actually managed to make the US top 1000 in 1978 and 1979, when it reached the dizzying heights of 705th place.
The same story is true in Britain; in 2010, ten girls were called Winter. It only registered as a boy’s name in 2006, when it was given to just three boys. But I would say it is still unusual enough to work well for either sex, and I’d certainly consider it for a boy as well as a girl.
And, nota bene, it ends in that very contemporary ending, for boys and girls, -er!
Winter in other languages offers some interesting name options too:
- Aeneva — Cheyenne (Native American)
- Chimon — Greek
- Cole — Chinook (Native American)
- Entena — Sumerian
- Evel, Ovol — Mongolian
- Fuyu — Japanese; occurs in girls’ names such as Fuyumi “beautiful winter,” and Fuyuko “winter child”
- Gaeaf — Welsh
- Geurey — Manx
- Gwav — Cornish
- Hiems — Latin
- Hima — Sanskrit
- Hiver — French
- Hivern — Catalan
- Hustola — Chickasaw (Native American)
- Iarna, Ierna — Moldavian, Romanian
- Iema — Lithuanian
- Inverno — Italian, Galician
- Ivern — Languedoc, Occitan
- Jara — Hindi
- Keremte — Amharic (Ethiopia)
- Kesik — Micmac (Native American)
- Lowan — Lenape (Native American)
- Mariga – Tswana (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa)
- Negu — Basque
- Peben – Abenaki (Native American)
- Raudra — Sanskrit
- Saradi — Hindi
- Takurua — Winter (and Sirius)
- Talvi – Finnish
- Tél — Hungarian
- Vandi – Kashmiri
- Vetur — Faroese, Icelandic
- Zaya – Avestan (Old Persian)
- Ziema — Latvian
- Zima — Bulgarian, Croatian, Russian, etc
- Zimni — Czech.