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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OBEDIENCE - a "virtue name" introduced by the English Puritans. Nickname: Biddy.

- a classical Roman name that comes from the Latin word for "eighth."  This name was borne by several members of the Roman imperial families including the wife of Marc Antony.  It was popularized in England during the Classical Revival period by Shakespeare's play Antony and Cleopatra (1623) and John Dryden's play All for Love (1678). 

OLIVIA - English, Spanish, Portuguese.  The name "Olyfa" (Oliva), from the Latin word for olive, was fairly common in the Middle Ages, but it subsequently dropped out of fashion.  Shakespeare introduced the variation "Olivia" in his play Twelfth Night (1599).  Nickname: Olly.

OLLY - a nickname for Olivia or perhaps Eulalia.

OPHELIA - the Greek word for "help."  Shakespeare seems to have been the first to use it as a name, bestowing it on a beautiful but tragic character in Hamlet (1604).

OPHRAH - Old Testament; a man mentioned in 1 Chron. 4:14, and also the name of the city where Gideon resided (Judges 6:11, 9:5).  It means "fawn" in Hebrew.  Although "Ophrah" is a male name in the Bible, in the U.S. it was more often given to girls, perhaps due to confusion with "Orpah."  Variation: Oprah. 

ORENA - variation of Irena.

ORILLA - either a variation of Aurelia, or short for Amarilla (Amaryllis).

ORLENA, ORLEANA - a Southern U.S. invention that first appears in the 19th century.  Possibly inspired by the German name Marlena or in some cases, perhaps, by the city of New Orleans.  Also: Arlena, Arleana.

ORPAH - Old Testament; a Moabite woman who was Ruth's sister-in-law (Ruth 1:4).  Her name means "gazelle" in Hebrew.
PALMYRA - an ancient city in Syria; the name is Greek and means "city of palms."  "Palmyra" was used as a female name in America as early as the mid-1700's.

PARTHENIA - a Greek word for "maiden"; popularized in England by Sir Philip Sidney's romance "Arcadia" (1590).

PATIA - nickname for Patience.

PATIENCE - a "virtue name" introduced by the English Puritans.  Nicknames: Patia, Patty.

PATTY, PATSY - common English nicknames for Martha. created by substituting "P" for "M" in the nickname "Mattie."  Note, "Patty" can also be a nickname for Patience.

PAULINA - the feminine form of "Paul."  Both "Paul" and "Paulina" have been common names in England since the Middle Ages.  St. Paul, of course, was one of the most important figures in early Christianity.

PEGGY - a common English nickname for Margaret.  It was created by substituting "P" for "M" in the nickname "Maggie."

- a name from Greek mythology that became popular in England during the Classical Revival period.  Nickname: Penny.

PENNINAH, PENINA - Old Testament; one of the two wives of Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:2).  Her name means "coral" or "pearl" in Hebrew.  Nickname: Penny.

PENNY - a nickname for Penina or Penelope.

PERLINA - a Southern U.S. invention.  It may have been inspired by the word "pearl," or it may reflect the Appalachian pronunciation of "Paulina."

PERMELIA - a Southern U.S. invention; possibly a variation of "Pamela."  The name "Pamela" was coined by the English poet Sir Philip Sidney for his romance "Arcadia" (1590), and was later popularized by Samuel Richardson in the novel Pamela (1740).

PHEBE, PHEBA, PHEBY - common spelling variations of "Phoebe."

PHERIBA, PHERABY, FARIBA, FERABY - apparently a Southern U.S. invention.  The name first appears in the mid-1700's in Virginia and North Carolina.  It could be a variation of Phoebe, although it is also curiously similar to the Arabic name "Fariba." 

PHILADELPHIA - the U.S. city; also a city mentioned in the Bible (Rev. 3:7-12).  The word means "brotherly love" in Greek.  Nicknames: Adelphia, Delphia, Delphy, Della, Dilly, Alphia, Alpha.

- New Testament; a deaconess who delivered Paul's epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:1,2).  Her name comes from the Greek word phoibos, meaning "bright."  In the ancient Greek religion, Phoibe was one of the Titans (the earliest gods in the Greek pantheon).  Her name was also associated with Artemis, the goddess of the moon and hunting.  This name is often spelled "Phebe" in 19th century American records, as it is in the King James Version of the Bible.

PLUTINA - a Southern U.S. invention.  The earliest example of this name that I have found is Regina Penelope (Plutina) Dickens who was born 1804 in Surry County, North Carolina.  In her case, "Plutina" appears to be a nickname or creative variation of Penelope.  More examples of "Plutina" can be found from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century in Surry, Yadkin, Wilkes, and Stokes Counties, North Carolina, and Grayson Co., Virginia.  "Plutina Cox" was the heroine of a 1915 novel and silent film about about Wilkes Co., NC, called Heart of the Blue Ridge by Waldron Baily.

- a common English nickname for Mary.  "Polly" was created by substituting "P" for "M" in the nickname "Molly." 

PRISCILLA - New Testament; a Christian woman of Corinth who travelled with Paul to spread the Gospel (Acts 18:2, 26.)  Her name is Latin, and comes from the Roman family name "Priscus" meaning "ancient."

PROVIDENCE - a "virtue name" introduced by the English Puritans.

PRUDENCE - a "virtue name" introduced by the English Puritans.  Nickname: Prudy.

PRUDY - a nickname for Prudence.

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Copyright 2002 by Rebecca Moon