typical-female-first-names-amish

Following up last week’s look at 10 popular Amish male names, we have the female version as promised.

As with the male names list, I’ve included five Biblical-origin names, and five non-Biblical ones, since Amish tap both sources. At the end, I’ve also included 10 uncommon female names.

While last week I mainly relied on Raber’s Almanac to find male first names, that approach wouldn’t work this week. Raber’s Almanac contains a listing of Amish church ministers, who are only males.

So I searched a number of church directories for the female names you see below. I’ve also included background info for most names. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did creating it.

Background information on names is taken from A Dictionary of First Names by Patrick Hanks, Kate Hardcastle & Flavia Hodges unless otherwise noted.

10 Common Amish Female First Names

  1. Sarah – In the Old Testament, Sarah was originally called Sarai, which possibly meant “contentious” in Hebrew. God made the change to Sarah, meaning “princess”, as part of a covenant. Sadie was apparently once a pet form of Sarah, but is now considered its own name (also a popular one).
  2. Linda – According to the Dictionary of First Names, “Of relatively recent origin and uncertain etymology.” Possibly a shortened form of Belinda. Or, derived from other Germanic names ending in “-lind”. First recorded in the 1800s.
  3. Mary – New Testament form of Miriam (another name popular with Amish). Borne by the Virgin Mary, and other Biblical figures including Mary sister of Martha, and Mary Magdalene. One of the most common female names.
  4. Ruby – From the name of the red gemstone. Quite a few Rubies in northern Indiana.
  5. Fannie – The diminutive form of Frances; variant form Fanny. According to Behind the Name, “In the English-speaking world this has been a vulgar slang word since the late 19th century, and the name has subsequently dropped out of common use.” Not among the Amish, where it remains popular.
  6. Elizabeth – The mother of John the Baptist. Spelled Elisabeth in the King James Bible, though Amish seem to favor the “z” form. Means “God is my oath.” Lizzie is a popular form in some Pennsylvania communities.
  7. Emma – An old French name of Germanic origin, at first a short form of compound names. Popular in medieval England, has become more popular in general society since the 1970s.
  8. Rebecca – Latin form of the Hebrew Rebekah. In the Old Testament, the wife of Isaac and mother to Jacob and Esau. Pretty common in Lancaster County.
  9. Lovina – The background of this one was the hardest to find. You may also see it as Lavina, which according to Behind the Name is a variant of Lavinia. In Roman mythology, Lavinia was the wife of Aeneas, and “the mother of the Roman People.” Another example of how many Amish first names are not Biblically-based.
  10. Naomi – Another Old Testament name. From the Hebrew נָעֳמִי (Na’omiy) which means “pleasantness”. Ruth’s mother-in-law. Amish, at least in Lancaster County, pronounce this “Nay-oh-mah” rather than “Nye-oh-mee” like I would want to pronounce it.

10 Uncommon Amish Female Names

Now that we’ve looked at common names, how about the less common ones?

Paging through church directories, I found a nice mix of creative (invented?) names, and obscure ones. I could find a Biblical origin for only one of these, and you’ll see it’s unusual in its own way. Some, like “Rosmanda”, seem to be a combination of two names.

Do you know any Amish ladies with these names–or other unusual ones?

  1. Lynita – I couldn’t find anything on the background of this name. Found in a community in Kansas. Is this just a creative combination of Lynn plus the    “-ita” ending?
  2. Arleta – Another one I couldn’t find much on. There is a French name Arlette. Maybe Arlene + Rita?
  3. Adel – A variant of the French-origin Adèle. I found this name in a Swiss Amish settlement.
  4. Elvesta – Not much on this one, which I found in Ohio. Female form of Elvis? I like this name.
  5. Jaala – I found one female Amish example of this name, which is actually described as a masculine name. It was borne by a servant of Solomon and means “wild goat” in Hebrew.
  6. Cevilla –  Is this another spelling of Sovilla, a name you sometimes see among the Amish? I can’t find anything on the meaning of either name. According to this site there is a Spanish-origin name Sevilla. I found Cevilla in a couple of Minnesota communities.
  7. Arlowene – Perhaps, a feminized “Arlo”? Or Arlene with a bonus syllable?
  8. Rosmanda – Not much background on this one either. Sounds like a fusion of Rose and Amanda.
  9. Leora – Nothing on this one in the Dictionary of First Names. According to other internet sources, either a Greek-origin name, or a Hebrew-origin name meaning “my light.”
  10. Oneita – According to Behind the Name, the similar name Oneida comes “from the name of a Native American tribe” and might mean “standing rock.” I found this one in northern Indiana, which has a tradition of Native American place names, at least (Shipshewana, Topeka, etc).

Let us know any other common or obscure Amish female names in the comments.

Image credit: Jerry