Female Names in the Upper New River Valley of North Carolina, 1700's to about 1850
A Very Brief History of Names in England and America
Naming Conventions and Spelling in the Upper New River Valley
Short List of Names

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BARBARA - the feminine form of the Latin word barbarus meaning "foreign."  This comes from the same Latin root (barba, beard) that gave us the words "barbarian," "barber," and "barb."  Saint Barbara, a 4th-century martyr from Nicodemia, was a very popular saint in the Middle Ages.  According to the legend, St. Barbara's father beheaded her when he learned that she had become a Christian.  He was immediately struck down by a bolt of lightening.  Thus Saint Barbara became the patroness of fireworks, gunpowder, and artillerymen.  She is often shown with a cannon in Medieval art.  The name "Barbara" was particularly common in Germany, although it is also found in England.

BARSHEBA, BERSHEBA, BARSHEBY - from the Old Testament place name "Beersheba," meaning the "seventh well" or the "well of the oath" (Genesis 21:31).  The phrase "from Dan to Beersheba" was the usual way of designating the Promised Land (e.g., Judges 20:1; 1 Chronicles 21:2; 2 Sam 24:2).  Nicknames: Sheba, Sheby (which could also refer to the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10).  Note: it is tempting to think that "Barsheba" is a mispelling of "Bathsheba," but King David's adulterous mistress (2 Samuel 11) was probably not considered a good namesake for young girls.

BARZILLA - the English Puritans introduced Barzilla as a boy's name, from the Old Testament name "Barzillai" (see 2 Samuel 21:8 and other references), which means "iron" or "strong" in Hebrew.  As far as I can determine, the name was first given to girls in the mid-1700's.

BELINDA - this name was apparently coined by the English poet Alexander Pope for his poem, "The Rape of the Lock" (1712).

BELVA - probably derived from belvedere, an Italian word meaning "beautiful view." The names "Belva" and "Belvedere" can be found in U.S. records starting in the early 1800's, in both Northern and Southern states.  "Belvedere" was usually given to boys, "Belva" to girls.

BERTHA - a German name meaning "famous."  This name existed in England in the Middle Ages but subsequently fell out of fashion.  However, it remained popular in Germany.  Nicknames: Berta, Bertie.

BETHABARA - New Testament; the city where John the Baptist met Jesus, and proclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."  (John 1:28-29.)

BETHANA, BETHANY - New Testament; the village where Jesus resurrected Lazarus, and said, "I am the resurrection and the life." (John 11.)

BEULAH - a Hebrew word meaning "married," used by the prophet Isaiah to describe the land of Israel after the coming of the Messiah.  "[T]hou [Jerusalem] shalt be called Hephzibah [delight], and thy land Beulah [married]: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" [in the sense of, "claimed by God as his own"] (Isaiah 62:4). 

BIDDY - a nickname for Obedience.

BITHIAH - Old Testament; daughter of a Pharaoh mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:18. Her name means "daughter of the Lord."

BITHY, BITHA - variation of Bithiah, or a nickname for Tabitha.

BUENA VISTA - this name, which means "good view" in Spanish, enjoyed some popularity in the latter half of the 19th century, especially in the South and Midwest.  It was doubtless inspired by the Battle of Buena Vista which occurred in February 1847. This was a decisive battle in the Mexican-American War, and was glorified in the U.S. as a heroic victory by outnumbered (but better armed) American soldiers.  The name "Buena Vista" was given to both boys and girls.  Nicknames: Vista or Buena.  See also Vista.
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Copyright 2002 by Rebecca Moon