Mardi Gras Baby Names from the Bayou

by You Can't Call It "It"! on February 24, 2009

Keisha, by Christopher Porche West

NOTE: This post is also airing today at the fabulous nameberry!  Thanks so much to Pam and Linda for having me guest post again.  Special thanks also to Christopher Porché West for his generosity in allowing me to use this portrait of the beautiful Keisha.

 

Today it seems only appropriate to focus on baby names that hail from the Louisiana Bayou. It’s Fat Tuesday, and these names are rich indeed.

An inspiration for everything from vampires to voodoo, zydeco to the Krewe of Zulu– Louisiana has been a colorful melting pot of divergent cultures for centuries.  Cajuns from Canada, Creoles and others of Haitian, African, Italian, Spanish, or Native American descent, all come together to form a mélange of backgrounds, and in point of fact, names.  Most share a history of French language and Catholicism, even if it’s not by blood.  While these may not be the choices in use today in the Bayou, they have been culled from historical documents, maps, and folklore from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.  The majority are either French proper, or my favorite, Frenchified.  Still more trace their roots to Classical Greco-Roman civilization, deep Southern culture, or are somewhere farther afield and include a curious preponderance of the letter Z.

So come on.  Allez-y! Chew on these names (and some maque choux), prepare to bare all for those beads, and laissez les bon temps roulez!

 

LADIES

Acadia- The word Cajun itself has its origins in Acadian

Adelaide

Alexandrine

Alma

Alzophine

Ambrosine

Ameline, Emeline

Arzilla

Avoyelles- This Cajun Parish might be picked up as a first name, piggybacking on the current Ava and Ellie love

Beatrice

Belle

Berangere

Bernadette- A much beloved Catholic saint, and one of the prettiest songs in the native New Orleans Neville Brothers repertoire

Cezelia

Clotille

Delphine- While Delphine is a lovely and lilting name, Delphine LaLaurie was a famous socialite and sadist who tortured her slaves

Dixie- Used to refer to the South at large, this may have originated in New Orleans on the ten dollar bill, upon which a local bank printed “dix”, the French for ten

Dolucila

Elva

Ernestine

Eugenie- Napoleon’s first love

Eula, Eulalie

Evangeline- An epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recalling the 1755 deportation of Acadian Canadians to the newly Spanish Louisiana

Ezora

Geraldine

Gertrude

Ghislaine

Heloise

Hiawatha- Another tale regaled by Longfellow, Hiawatha may not have been from the Bayou, but she had namesakes here

Ida

Josephine- Napoleon’s (second) love

Leonie

Lougenia

Magnolia- The state flower of Louisiana

Mahalia- Mahalia Jackson is a gospel and blues singer from the area, with a name worth borrowing

Marie- Marie Laveau was a reknowned Voodoo Queen who was visited by slaves and owners alike

Maude

Maxzille

Melba

Mellette

Minerva, Minnie

Oatha

Odilia

Ola, Olla Mae, Olima

Onezie, Onezime

Ophelia

Philomine, Philonese

Rosella

Sabine- The Sabine River runs through in Louisiana

Sophronia

Tammany- Parish north of New Orleans

Ysabeau

Zeline

Zenobia (also spotted a Senobia)

Zerilda

 

GENTS

Alphonse

Amedee

Amos- Amos Moses is a song by Jerry Reed about a fictional one armed alligator hunting cajun man

Armand

Auguste, Augustin

Bartheleme

Beau, Beauregard- Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was the most famous Civil War soldier from New Orleans and fought in the Battle of Shiloh;  his ghost is said to roam the streets of New Orleans whispering “Shiloh”, which means “place of peace”

Bernard- Parish east of New Orleans

Bertrand

Buford

Charles- Geographically, Charles is everywhere, from a street in NOLA to the western city of Lake Charles to St. Charles Parish in the east

Cleophas

Clovis

Cornelius

Cyriaque

Dagobert- Pere Dagobert was a well-respected 18th century priest who is still said to be heard singing “Kyrie” while keeping a watchful eye over the city of New Orleans.

Dempsey

Eloi

Gaston

Gilbert

Gustave- Though 2008′s Hurricane Gustav may have dampened enthusiasm for this one

Hippolyte

Homer

Jacques

Jean-Baptiste- Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded Nouvelle-Orleans in 1718

Jules, Julius

Landry- St. Landry Parish is home to many a Cajun

Leon, Leontel

LeRoy- Leroy is originally from “le roi” or, “the king”

Louis -Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima are both Louisiana natives

Octave

Otis

Napoleon

Philippe- The city was named for Philippe II, Duc d’Orleans

Pierre- Pierre Augustin Charles Bourguignon Derbigny was among Louisiana’s creole governors

Remy

Rene

Rex

Theodore, Theodule, Theophile, Theophilus

Virgil

Nouvelle-Orleans 1726

Images Above:  1. Keisha, by Christopher Porché West  2. View & Perspective of New Orleans, 1726. Ink and watercolor by Jean-Pierre Lassus

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christina Fonseca February 24, 2009 at 1:23 am

Oooh, la la! What a wonderful way to celebrate Mardi Gras! I love the sound of Emeline when it is pronounced à la française, eh-me-LEEN. Minerva is so underused, and it gladdens me to see Evangeline is ranking again after being off the Top 1000 for 40 years!

Would love to meet little girls named Leonie or Magnolia.

What a wonderful and fitting post with great artwork to boot!

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2 Jata September 3, 2010 at 8:05 am

My middle name is Magnolia…. i was named for my grandmother.

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3 Nancy February 24, 2009 at 1:32 am

I’d never heard of Pere Dagobert before…what a cool little piece of history. Great list!

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4 Bounty2009 February 24, 2009 at 10:08 am

I love Belle meaning beauty, such a pretty name. I think meaning is really important too! If you are interested in names you may want to check this out http://www.bounty.com/babynames/ as not only does this have the top 100 boys and girls names, but you can also search for names by meaning and orgin.

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5 Christopher Porche West February 24, 2009 at 10:53 am

Happy Mardi Gras!

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6 youcantcallitit February 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

Happy Mardi Gras to you to Christopher, Christina, and to everyone!

Christopher, did you see your icon by your name? It looks straight out of the parade.

Will check out the bounty site. I’ve heard about that list.

Nancy, I love your site. WELCOME!

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7 Lola February 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Love this list, Elisabeth! I’m having fits of glee over here reading this. At least 1/8 of my ancestry is Cajun and I feel small kinship here. Rex, Remy, Louis, Julius, Josephine, Eulalie & Ghislaine all figure on my lists. Maybe I should think Eugenie as well? :)

Fantastic post, dear. Happy Mardi Gras!

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8 Mummie February 24, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Wow. I’m there just reading this list! Doug Kershaw is in the background singing “Diggy Liggy Lo” while I enjoy my gumbo and dirty rice with Jean-Baptiste and Ambrosine.
Merci, Elisabeth!

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9 chaneltara February 25, 2009 at 11:38 am

Great list, thought of one…I actually know a little boy named Bayou!

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10 SaraJane February 25, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Great list but you need to add Parish to both the boy and girls list. I know three Parishes from NOLA, two girls, one boy. Parish is their word for county, and I have really always liked it as an alternative unisex name. One of the feminine Parishes I know has daughters named Elodie and Alexandrine and sons name Bertrand and Beauregard. Called Ellie, Sasha, Trey and Beau. If I lived in Louisiana I would be all over these names if I had the charming drawl to go with them!

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11 youcantcallitit February 25, 2009 at 6:55 pm

SaraJane, that’s too funny! Here I was staring at names of parishes and wondering might make a great name, and never once did I consider Parish itself! Thanks for that. I like that it also refers to one’s church and is in the same vein as Deacon and Chaplain. Elodie, Alexandrine, Bertrand and Beauregard get a big, positive “WOW” from me! Their nicknames are pretty clever too.

I think I might resist adding Bayou to the official list, though. Hmm, what do others think?

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12 esmesqualor February 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I’m sorry, but I’m a little confused! Are these friends of yours? And if so, they are incredible namers! It would take to much space and time to write every single one I liked, but I’ll just mention how lovely it is to come across Bertrand! One of my long-time loves!

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13 chaneltara February 26, 2009 at 11:13 am

I wouldn’t add Bayou, it’s almost offensive in a way, according to my partner, who lived in NOLA until relocated to Kansas by way of Katrina. These are gorgeous names, and would gladly choose most of them!

SarahJane-that is the most exquisitely named family, I wish I could give a hug to those parents!

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14 J February 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Two more suggestions:
Mathilde and Inez

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15 SaraJane February 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Edited to add…

I called Parish to find out the middle names of her kids – I thought I sort of remembered but had a couple wrong. So here goes – Alexandrine Nichole (13), Bertrand Guillame and Beauregard Thierry (twins 10) and Elodie Juliette (4). She laughing informed me they have cats name Belioz, Marie and Toulouse after the Aristocats.

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16 Jessica April 18, 2010 at 4:39 am

I am from the Gulf Coast and I love this list. I actually know many people named these names, particularly friends of my grandparents. When we decided to name my daughter Emmeline (pronouced Emma-line, not lean) my mom got very into geneaology. We discovered that my paternal great-great grandmother was actually named Emmeline, spelled the same way too.

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17 shoeaddict July 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Being from south LA, this list amazes and inspires me. I love Evangeline (nn Evie) but am afraid of how is “goes” with my daughter’s name.

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18 Ty July 4, 2011 at 9:30 am

My dad’s middle name is kary with a long a pronouced kaa-ree it is supposed to be cajun do you know what it means

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