Baby Naming Issue: What Style is the Name Blythe?

Dear Swistle,

A friend recently had her second baby and, as we oohed and ahhed over this new human she and her husband created, we got to talking about other names they had been considering. My friend brought out her huge list of baby names for both genders and I was so completely, utterly shocked to see my (secret) in-the-off-chance-we-had-another-baby-and-if-that-baby-was-a-girl name on her list: Blythe.

The reason I was so surprised is because, while this friend and I have many things in common, taste in baby names is not one of them. Like, I don’t see any overlap at all. I respect her choices and can see how they’re right for her and for her children, but they are not names I would choose (as I’m certain my kids’ names aren’t ones she would choose).

My friend says she is without doubt finished having babies and I’m nearly completely certain we are, too, so this isn’t a territorial kind of scenario. It’s almost guaranteed that neither of us will use the name Blythe. Nor is it a “who wore it better” kind of thing where I want to be told my kids’ names suit Blythe’s style better.

I was just taken aback that two people with such very different tastes in names both felt moony about Blythe. So my question is this: what style is Blythe, would you say? Is it one of those names that plays well with others? I love the name, but it is a bit of a mystery to me. I’m not sure what I love about it; I think it’s a combination of the way it looks on paper and the lovely-to-me “th” sound at the end, with that bonus “e.” To me it’s unusual, short and sweet…much like my daughter’s name. Plus, my Gilbert Blythe association probably helps as we’re big Anne of Green Gables fans.

And, just for fun, what’s your personal opinion on Blythe as a name? And could I potentially use it though my other 3 kids have vowel names? NOT because “vowel names” are a style, but because Blythe might stand out as sounding different?

Your fellow name nerd,
M

 

It IS a little hard to pin down, isn’t it! I think it’s because it’s a name that’s never been in the Top 1000: I tend to group names with other names that were popular at the same time, but the name Blythe has never been popular in the United States. I looked in the Social Security database that shows the usage of names outside the Top 1000; I took a sample of the usage every ten years so we could see what it’s been up to:

1886: -F, -M
1896: -F, -M
1906: -F, -M
1916: -F, -M
1926: 6F, -M
1936: -F, -M
1946: 12F, -M
1956: 24F, 5M
1966: 16F, -M
1976: 58F, -M
1986: 68F, -M
1996: 43F, -M
2006: 65F, 8M
2016: 168F, 6M

Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908. The movie was made in 1934, and then there were a fair number of miniseries and made-for-TV movies starting in the 1950s and continuing until now.

The Blythe doll was released in 1972; I wonder if that accounts for a little popularity surge, or if it was heading there already?

Blythe Danner began her career in the 1960s/1970s. That could also account for increased familiarity with the name, and increased usage.

Blythe could be a surname name, because of Gilbert; that’s not how I think of it, but I could picture someone with a surname-name style choosing it that way. I guess I think of it (apparently incorrectly, according to the usage info) as a sophisticated, non-frilly name that’s almost old enough to come back, along with names such as Edith and Ethel and Ida. But I had a lot of trouble picking the examples I just used: I don’t seem to have any other names in the same category as Blythe. I think of The Golden Girls, probably because of Blanche (another one-syllable Bl- name)—so perhaps some good example names would be Bea, Betty, Rue, and Estelle, along with Blanche and Dorothy? (Sophia and Rose are too currently popular.)

Blythe is also a word name, and word names can be particularly difficult to put in a style category.

Well! What does everyone else think? What style is Blythe? What kind of sibling names would you put it with?

33 thoughts on “Baby Naming Issue: What Style is the Name Blythe?

  1. liz

    I would use it with virtue names like Prudence, or with old-fashioned classic word names like Violet, or with sixties-style word names like Zephyr. Or, as you said, with Golden Girls names.

    My biggest concern in using it is, how do you pronounce it? I always thought it sounded like “with” (short i, soft th) but I often hear others pronounce it like “scythe” (long i, hard th)

    Reply
    1. Britni

      Pronounciation is also one of my issues!
      I want it to rhyme with “with” but it seems like it’s always said rhyming with “scythe”
      Is one actually correct? Maybe everyone has it rhyme with scythe because that is how Gilbert pronounces his last name in the AoGG movies?

      Reply
      1. Sal

        There are two reasons I would pronounce it with a long I (i.e. rhymes with scythe): 1) an “e” at the end of the word often signals a long vowel rather than a short one (think hat vs. hate) (my second grade teacher called this “the magic E”); and 2), probably relatedly, the adjective “blithe” has a long I as well.

        Reply
        1. Christi with an I

          Grammar rules say that when there is a second vowel in a single syllable, the first vowel is long and the second is silent. The Y should sound like a long I and the e is silent.

          Reply
    2. Beckaroo Bonzai

      I say it with long I, soft TH, an almost rhyme with knife. I was aware of the scythe pronunciation, but I had never heard the rhymes with “with” pronunciation.

      Reply
  2. Brooke

    I can see how Blythe fits into a few different categories depending who uses it. I think it’s sound and trendy -y- falls in androgynous surname territory for parents who aren’t name nerds or fans of classics. So someone who hears it without looking it up would think it belongs with girls named Sutton/Suttyn, Blake/Blayke, Dylan, etc. It also fits with word names which are all the rage right now. I can see how it would appeal to people with those sound and spelling preferences.

    For me it feels much older/dusty a la Maude and Florence for some reason.

    Reply
  3. sbc

    I think of it as an old-fashioned name and as an adjective name.

    Could see it as an alternative to Joy or Felicity or Felicia for someone trying to convey happiness.

    Or along with names like Alma, Willa, and Nell.

    Or for someone who wants a name starting with B to honor an ancestor–Barbara is just a little too recent to come back, and the other B names I can think of (Brenda, Brianna, Bathsheba, etc.) just don’t strike the same note.

    Or an Anne of Green Gables fan!

    Reply
    1. Caro

      Yes! Sophisticated, preppy…doesn’t strike me as old and dusty. I wonder if its lack of use makes it seem like a new choice

      Reply
  4. Jd

    It’s a modern virtue name to me – fits with older names like Edith and Frances while it could also be a sister to Sloan or Taylor. It’s easy to say, spell, unique but not really out there. I love it!

    Reply
  5. TheFirstA

    I think Blythe is one of those names that fits in several categories. I can see it working with less-common short/sweet names (Maeve, Bliss, Dove, Fern). I think it would also work for someone looking for less common word names and/or virtue names (Bliss, Verity, Constance, Dove, Flora, Echo, Wren, Clover, Honor). I can see it reading as more surname or unisex (Blair, Greer, Lane, Brynn, Shea, Sloane). It has history, so I can see it appealing to someone who wants a vintage name, but prefers something more uncommon (Beryl, Alva, Nola, Mavis).

    Reply
  6. Shelby

    I have always loved the name Blythe as it was my childhood best friend’s surname. However now that I have an Alfred it doesn’t seem to suit.
    Alfred and Blythe.
    Fred and Blythe.
    Doesn’t fit! So I agree it’s more of a Blythe Sloan Harper and other ER names baker Parker porter

    Reply
    1. Erin

      Actually, me too! I was just thinking how lovely Alfred and Blythe are together! Sweetly vintage sounding.

      Now I think Blythe probably wouldn’t work with my daughter’s name (a place name: Évora, Portugal).
      Evora and Blythe?

      Reply
  7. Ashley

    I don’t really see it as unisex (probably because for me the name has such a strong association with Blythe Danner), but I totally agree with virtue/word names and uncommon short/sweet names. The first sibling names that came to mind for me are Maud, Bliss, Greer, etc. Claire also seems like it could be a good sibling name for Blythe (although much more common, of course).

    For some reason I can also see Blythe in a sibset with sort of “rustic country” names: Alma, Willa, Nell, Georgia, Tillie, etc.

    Reply
    1. beep

      I totally agree with this taxonomy. I love the name Blythe and thought about it for my second daughter, but ultimately felt it was too similar to my first daughter, who is Bliss. Alma and Nell were also on my list!

      Reply
  8. Stephanie

    It feels unisex to me, like Blaire and Blake. Probably just because it has the same first sound and a single syllable? Because I also only know of Blythe Danner, so I also picture it only on girls but for parents who like an old-fashioned, not-frilly girl name. I agree that it would fit in a category with Sloane. I also agree that Maeve and Blythe seem like sibling names.

    Reply
  9. Toniette Giesbrecht

    I have a Blythe!!!!! And I SQUEALED to see this discussion, as I certainly scoured the internet and your site for insight on this name 5 years ago :) So here I am to contribute:
    My Blythe is 5 years old, we pronounce it rhyming with ‘tithe’, with a hard ‘th’ sound. It’s utterly adorably to her called, “Bive” by her younger sister.
    And for sibsets, she is the one of four girls and one older brother, their names are Felix, Blythe, Eloise, and twins Charlotte and Fiona. Clearly, I lean vintage classic :)
    Anecdotally, of all of my children’s names, I have run into Blythe ‘in the wild’ more often then any other. Even more often then top-10 Charlotte! I can think of 2 other little Blythe/Blithe ‘s that live local to me, and I don’t know of any other repeats of my other more-popular chosen names. So strange!!!

    Reply
  10. Maree

    I’ll comment without reading others so that I’m not swayed…

    To me Blythe is a traditional virtue name. I would group it with Verity, Amity, Felicity. My primary association is the rhyme Bonny, Blythe, Good and Gay… from the days of the week nursery song. For that reason I also have a bit of a religious feel to it perhaps similarly to Grace or Mary. I also think of it as a traditional name so it would go with Elizabeth, Margaret, Jane, Catherine. It does seem quite English to me.

    The name was on my list as a middle name if we used the name Naomi (Naomi Blythe) but I got overly stuck on the pronounciation as I’m a bit of a stickler saying the pronoun differently to the virtue. If I had another baby I would go ahead and not worry about that.

    My style FWIW is religious (Christian), Traditional English style names and I am Australian.

    Reply
    1. Andrea

      That’s where I place it–kind of like how in the show the Facts of Life Blair was the upper-crust one and Jo was the blue-collar girl. Blair and Blythe read the same to me–kind of preppy and streamlined.

      Reply
  11. AlexiswithaG

    For me, TheFirstA nails it- unique short, virtue, surnamy style. Or I would call it Antique Anglo.
    It was on MY rather long list and I think it made my top 5 but DH vetoed it early as being too unfamiliar- exactly why I love it, right? That and…Anne + Gilbert foreva!
    The other names exactly in my top tier with Blythe have mostly been named already: Auden, Ava, Corinne, Drew, Dylan, Eden, Eva/Eve, Fiona, Greer, Isla, Maeve, Paige, Reid (yup for a girl), Sloane, Sutton, Tessa, Rowan, Shayne

    Reply
  12. Clare

    I love Blythe but with our family history of depression is might be a bit cruel come the teenage years. I see it as going with Clementine, Hazel and Zinnea. Those sort of names.

    Reply
  13. Megz

    I incorrectly thought Blythe was one of the Golden Girls. But apart from that I would associate it with late-20th-century unfrilly-female names such as Greer and Sloane.

    Reply
  14. Leigh

    I love it! My top pick for a girl, but I have four boys, and one named Gilbert. I’ll never get to use it. Style-wise, I group it with Gayle, Paige, Blaire, Leigh, and Clare. One syllable snappy names.

    Reply

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