Names from the Mayflower

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor. This photograph of a painting was taken between 1900 – 1920.

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday this week, recognizing baby names inspired by those Americans who ate the first Thanksgiving dinner seems fitting. Their names were mostly traditional. Many were Biblical. Among the roster of passengers on the Mayflower, most of whom eventually settled in Plymouth Colony, there were plenty of John’s, Mary’s, William’s, Sarah’s and Thomas’.

Yet some of the names remain contemporary standouts. A few Mayflower passengers had literal meaning names such as Humility. Other passengers had Greek mythology inspired names such as Oceanus, and some had offbeat Saint names such as Bartholomew and Peregrine.

Here are some of the more unusual or seemingly modern Mayflower passenger names (boys are blue, girls are pink, depending on the sex of the Mayflower passenger):

Bartholomew, while uncommon today, became common in England during the Middle Ages due to the apostle who was also known as Nathaniel, and was a Saint. It ranked in the bottom top 1000 during the late 19th/ early 20th century, and exited the top 1000 in 1975. In 2011 there were only 19 newborn boys given the name.

Constance was for Constance Hopkins who was sometimes listed as Constanta. Constance was the Medieval form of the Roman name, Constantia. This had been in the top 1000 from 1880 (the earliest year data is available) to 1999. It peaked at #85 in 1950.

Damaris was Constance Hopkins half-sister. This New Testament name was a woman converted to Christianity by Saint Paul. It entered the top 1000 for the first time in 1992 and reached its peak at #603 in 2006. Since then, it has gradually declined to the 1000th spot in 2011.

Degory was the name of Mayflower passenger, Degory Priest, also known as “Digory,” “Gregory”, “Degorie”, or “Digorie”.

Desire was a 15 year old girl on the Mayflower, and thought to be John Carver’s maid. Not much else known about her. She is thought to have returned to England where she died without any records of being married or having children.

Elder is a variation of Helder, which is a place-name from a Dutch town called Den Helder. In 2011 there were 34 boys named Elder.

Giles was often used in honor of Saint Giles the patron saint of the disabled. While Giles can be a surname, the given name could have been derived from the Late Latin name Aegidius.

Humility is one of many literal morality names common among Pilgrims and Puritans that would be difficult to bear today. Other moral themed names used by Pilgrims and Puritans that have become obsolete include Abstinence, Obedience, and Silence.

Jasper is fast becoming a popular revival name. It ranked at 282 in 2011. Sadly Jasper Moore, an indentured servant to John Carver, was one of the children aboard the Mayflower who did not survive the first winter in the new world.

Love. The color code is no mistake; Love was used for a boy’s name. In 2011 there were 64 newborn girls and fewer than 5 (if any) newborn boys named Love.

Oceanus was the first child born aboard the Mayflower. He did not survive past age three. Oceanus is the Latin variation of Okeanos, the name of the body of water believed by the ancient Greeks to surround the Earth. This name may seem over-the-top among conventional baby-namers, but with boys names ending in -us gaining attention, this may become realistic on future preschool rosters.

Peregrine was the name of several early saints and the second child born aboard the Mayflower. He was born in Provincetown Harbor. Peregrine (pronounced PER-a-grin or PER-a-green) means “traveler” or “wanderer”. While once considered outlandish, this name has potential in this brave new baby name world. And rest assured this unusual name has a history and was once appreciated in England for its aristocratic style. Perry would make a good nickname.

Priscilla is a Roman and New Testament name that would make a wonderful Isabella alternative for those who love the lacy style but want something less common. (Isabella was #2 in 2011, #1 in 2009-2010, and has ranked in the top 5 since 2006.) Priscilla only ranks at #487 and has trended down. Perhaps the “priss” sound at the beginning turns off many people.

Remember was also known as Sarah. She ended up passing on her unusual name to her daughter.

Resolved was the older brother of Peregrine, the second baby born aboard the Mayflower. Past tense adjectives seem like awkward names now.

Solomon. This Old Testament name is slowly making a comeback. It ranked at #449 in 2011.

Wrestling was Wrestling Brewster, whose nickname was Wrestling (With the Devil) Brewster. Enough said.

Some of the Mayflower passengers had family members with some interesting names:

Dorcas is the Greek translation of Tabitha from the New Testament, and means “Gazelle”. This was in the top 1000 until the 1950s, and was given to 25 newborn girls in 2011.

Fear was one of passenger Isaac Allerton’s three wives and sister to passenger Love Brewster (a man).

While some of these names may never see the light again, others make great choices and could show up on a birth announcement soon.

Readers: Which Mayflower names are your favorites? (Multiple answers are allowed.)

Photo credit


  1. i’m descended from Peregrine White and Giles Hopkins.

  2. Dorcas obviously is problematic because, hello, Dork! Not fun. I love Giles, but that’s the Buffy fan in me, too. Some good names in here–Damaris is my favorite, and I’m surprised I’m not familiar with it from the NT.

  3. I do think it was a bit horrible to call their son Love and their daughter Fear! Talk about name favouritism.

    I’ve always been a big fan of the name Damaris. I didn’t realise until recently that it was a Top 1000 name in the US.

  4. my favorite names are wrestling and jasper


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