I’ve always been name-obsessed. I’ve kept notebooks of new-to-me names, striving to learn as much as I could about their history, etymology, and pronunciation. Naming my daughter was a fairly simple process, but what if I had decided to honor the season in which she was born? Such a pity that a baby born nine days before Samhain should be given the same name she would have received at Beltane. But you can spare your own child her fate. Here are some of my favorite picks for girls.
Cassandra is on this list for three reasons: It is the real first name of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; Cassandra Goth, daughter of Mortimer and Bella in The Sims videogame franchise; and Kassandra, the Trojan princess who was cursed by Apollo to utter prophecies no one would believe. Everyone, including her family, believed she was a madwoman and a compulsive liar.
Cassandra comes from the Greek “kekesmai” (to excel or shine) and “aner,” meaning “person.” Cassandra was very common in Medieval England, concurrent with the popularity of the Trojan War among medieval historians and poets. Cassandra ranked #606 for newborns in the United States in 2017.
With the Spanish pronunciation of elVEEra, this is one of my all-time favorite names. It appears in a couple of songs, my favorite being “L’Via L’Viaquez,” by the Mars Volta. Aside from the spooky nature of that song (about a woman seeking vengeance), Elvira was also a horror movie hostess on the air every Saturday when I was growing up.
Elvira has Visigothic origins, coming from the Germanic “ala” (all) and “wer” (true). The name was also shared by several Medieval queens in what is now Spain.
Samhain was first described in the 10th century Irish story Tochmarc Emire, the Wooing of Emer. Emer (Scottish Gaelic: Eimhir; Modern Irish Gaelic: Eimear, Eimer, Eimhear) was the wife of Cú Chulainn. He wooed her by trading riddles, but her father sent him away to learn the art of war from renowned female warrior Scáthach, assuming he would be killed by her. In the meantime, Emer’s father promised her to a neighboring king, who refused to marry her when he realized she was in love with someone else. Cú Chulainn returns to marry Emer. He fights off her father’s men (Emer’s father is killed by a fall from the ramparts) and wins her hand in marriage.
Emer’s pronunciation is fairly straightforward. It rhymes with lemur. It has never been in the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Top 1000 list, and last charted in the Irish top 100 in 1999.
Roald Dahl’s story of a telekinetic little girl has delighted generations. The supernatural aspect of her story puts her on the list. The original iteration of the name was Mathildis, from the Germanic elements “maht” (might; strength) and “hild” (battle). Many Medieval European queens were named Matilda (Mathilde, Mechtild, Mahaut, Maude). It has proven popular around the world, achieving a spike in Australia and New Zealand in the 2000s, hovering around #40 in Finland and #30 in Chile, and recently entering the charts in the U.S. and Ireland.
I kid, I kid. But there was a mom on my Babycenter birth board who strongly considered this alternate spelling of Autumn.
This name makes the list because of scary Samara Morgan from The Ring movies. It may come from the Iraqi city Samarra, or it may be from the Arabic word “samra,” or “fruit.” The year The Ring came out, 2002, Samara was at #921 on the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Top 1000 list. The next year, it was up to #456, and 2017 saw it peak at #324.
What are your favorite Halloween girls’ names? I’d love to hear them!