The Thanksgiving story has a cornucopia of interesting names tied to the holiday, from arrivals on the Mayflower to those responsible for making it as a national holiday to the perennial Macy’s parade to poor old Tom Turkey himself. Here are some of the best Thanksgiving baby names.
John Alden sailed on the historic Mayflower’s 1620 maiden voyage to America and became a prominent member of the Plymouth Colony, and is also remembered as a famous rival of Miles Standish for the love of Priscilla Mullins. Alden, which means "old friend," is currently ranked at number 636, was a top 500 name from 1911 to 1932 and is likely to rise again via Alden Ehrenreich, portrayer of the young Han Solo.
Virtue names were popular with the Puritans, and a surprising number— beyond the expected Hope, Grace and Faith — are usable today. Amity, which means friendship, is a neglected gem, and others we love equally well are Verity, Mercy and Clemency — all aspirational virtues in the modern world.
In 1789, NJ Representative Elias Boudinot presented a resolution to Congress requesting it to persuade President Washington to declare a Thanksgiving observance to celebrate the new U.S. Constitution. So here’s a toast to Elias, whose Greek name now ranks at a solid #78, following in the wake of biblical original Elijah. It’s also the fourth most popular name in Germany. Michael Buble named his son Elias in 2016.
For 36 years, Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” campaigned to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Sarah, of course, is a biblical classic, but her middle name, long neglected, could make a more distinctive girl’s namesake for Joseph than Josephine. It’s Josefa in Spanish.
Most of the ancient deities associated with the fall harvest are goddesses — Ceres, Demeter, Parvati — but one of the few males in the pantheon, and bearing one of the most interesting names is the Celtic Lugh, pronounced Lou, and also known as Llew in Welsh myth. Definitely more distinctive than Hugh.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a NYC tradition since 1924, when it featured the store’s employees in costume and animals from the Central Park Zoo. The upbeat name has been largely associated with jazz/soul singer/songwriter Macy Gray, who was born Natalie, but its use has spread — it’s at number 545, and was picked by actress Edie Falco for her daughter.
Corn was one of the principal crops of the early Plymouth colonists and a staple of their diet, so it is no surprise to find it on the first Thanksgiving table. Maize is also a color name and sounds like a cute shortening of Maizie. An adventurous parent could be the first to use it as a unique name.
Oceanus Hopkins was the only baby born on the Mayflower’s maiden voyage. His name is doubly on trend — as both a water name and a Latinate appellation ending in us. In Greek myth, the Titan Oceanus was believed to be the father of rivers and water nymphs.
Peregrine White, a brother of Resolved, was an in utero passenger on the Mayflower, the first known English child born to the Pilgrims in America, on the ship when it was docked in Provincetown. Often heard in the British aristocracy, Peregrine has never crossed the pond, despite its standing as both a saint’s and bird name. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, not surprisingly, used it for his son. More surprising is that it’s number 496 on Nameberry.
Every poor turkey sacrificed for the feast’s table is a Tom — the generic name for a male turkey. Though this classic boys’ nickname has been off the U.S. list since the early 1990s, it’s a top 50 name in Ireland, the Netherlands and France, where it’s number 15! It could return here a la Sam and Ben.
Thanksgiving has been the last Thursday in November since George Washington’s day, solidified by an Abraham Lincoln 1863 proclamation. As for the name, we’ve had Sunday Rose Kidman Urban, Tuesday Weld and Wednesday Friday Addams. Could it be Thursday’s turn next?
It was President Harry Truman who started the tradition, in 1947, of "pardoning" a turkey or two and sending them into retirement on a farm. The name Truman carries the aura of that president’s integrity and humility and reached its highest point in the year of his inauguration, 1945. It’s now in the Nameberry 500, and we’re predicting it will go higher.
This article was originally published in 2018.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the first appearance of the Mickey Mouse float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Mickey made his debut in the parade in 1934.