SPOTLIGHT ON: Eartha

The late Eartha Kitt

Eartha falls into the group of “familiar yet hardly used names.” Other “familiar yet hardly used names” include Farrah and Twila/Twyla. These names have a contemporary sound, and are known by a famous bearer, but have yet to climb up the baby name ranks.

Eartha is one of our 1930’s Style Names. It was almost one of the Sun Moon and Stars baby names but I decided to limit that list to names relating to objects and concepts beyond our home planet.

The name is perhaps best known by its famous bearer, Eartha Kitt, a multi-racial singer and actress of Cherokee, African-American and German descent. While her career spanned over 60 years on stage, TV, and screen and she won several awards, she’ll be remembered by most people as Catwoman.

Eartha is believed to have been used in honor of African-American philanthropist Eartha M. M. White who was born in 1876 and died in 1974. Eartha is nothing more than the word “earth” with an “a” on the end. This led me to originally conclude that Eartha was an 19th century creation unique to the African-American community.

Or could Eartha have older origins? Think Baby Names says Eartha was originally used by the Puritans in the 17th century and lists four varient forms: Erda, Ertha, Herta, and Hertha. Hertha means “of the earth” or “Earth Mother.”

Eartha spent some time at the bottom of the top 1000 in the 1930s, returned a couple of times in the 1940s, and once in the 1950s and then left the top 1000. It has never ranked higher than #818 in 1939 and has not seen the top 1000 since 1955. Eartha can’t even be found in the U.S. Social Security Data, meaning there were fewer than 5 if any babies named Eartha in 2011.

Hertha, a more subtle homage to the earth, which spent some time at the bottom of the top 1000 from 1886 to 1917, didn’t fare any better in 2011. While both names are downright obscure today, they had a subtle presence in the 20th century and are at least somewhat familiar to most people.

Perhaps the similarity to Bertha, a name that has been extremely out of style since WI, due to the large artillery named “Big Bertha” which was developed by the Germans, has made both names seem terminally dated.

Nevertheless, Eartha seems contemporary, and is simply awaiting discovery. Like other “familiar yet hardly used names” Eartha has a bit of a kitschy quality, but I don’t believe this means the name can’t be taken seriously.

The close tie to Eartha Kitt I don’t consider a deal breaker either. The current generation of kids and later generations won’t be too familiar with Eartha Kitt. She doesn’t seem to have the overshadowing presence of Oprah or Madonna.

Eartha is intuitive to spell, and has that simple two-syllable / a-ending pattern that is common among stylish girl names, especially now. Eartha’s history as both a Puritan name and a respected African-American figure give the name a multiracial quality, making Eartha a good choice for mixed-race babies. Best of all, Eartha has that “earthy” quality. Yes, I had to go there.

Readers: What do you think of Eartha?

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Comments

  1. My three year old daughter is named Eartha. I chose this name after meeting her post a highly traumatic birth, and my partner was unsure, but now agrees the name is both beautiful and suited to our wee delight. Our son was allowed to choose a middle name, and being obsessed with stars (and other Autism tickling shapes), he chose his star for Eartha’s middle name. Her other middle name follows star, naming the blooms perfuming the air right before her birthday, in Australian springtime. So the mouthful begins, Earth Star-Jasmine, Star-Jasmine being the particular Jasmine we had growing wild in our backyard. We’ve since moved, but are lucky to share our new place with more Star-Jasmine growing spectacularly wild out back and front. Eartha Star-Jasmine McCullen (last name altered slightly for privacy, but it’s a good Scottish name nonetheless). Worldly? The most worldly human ’round our neck ‘o the woods.

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  1. […] Eartha – Possibly originated from the Puritans. Today it is mostly known by the late singer Eartha Kitt. […]

  2. […] name sounds like a modern English creation, the word “gold” with an A on the end, similar to Eartha which is simply “earth” with an A on the end. But this name is not just English, it is also […]

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