Saturday, August 31, 2013

Atlas

Photo courtesy of Beth Wade Photography 

For years, Atlas had been somewhat of a sleeper name. Since 1880 it has charted more years than not in the U.S., both for boys and girls. Generally it was given to 10 or so children in the years it appeared. it was ever so slightly on the increase, and then Anne Heche bestowed the name on her second son in 2009. The next year the name Atlas almost doubled in use for boys, and was used in similar numbers again in 2011 and 2012. 2012 also saw Atlas reappear on the charts for girls after a 78 year absence.

It seems Anne simultaneously tapped into a rising trend, managing to both bring attention to the name and give people who were doubting it's suitability as a name the courage to use it.

The name Atlas originated from the Titan from Greek mythology who held the heavens on his shoulders. He is the Titan of astrology and navigation, and often associated with the moon. His name was the basis of the Atlas mountains  in Northwest Africa, The Atlantic Ocean and the legendary island city of Atlantis. In architecture, an atlas is also a name for a support sculpted in the form of a man. Interestingly, the Titan Atlas was not the inspiration behind the common name for a book of maps and charts - that honour went to a king of Mauritania who was said to be skilled in philosophy, mathematics and astronomy and thought to be the inventor of the first celestial globe. It is the celestial globe that the Titan Atlas is most often depicted holding, rather than a world globe.

It is the legend of Atlas that makes this seem like a "heavy" name for a child to bear for many. The idea that a child will be figuratively carrying "the weight of he world on their shoulders" is a deterrent for many, and has probably contributed to it's rare usage. It is possible though to look at this imagery as a positive rather than a negative. It shows a faith that your child will have the strength and fortitude to handle the pressures that life throws their way.

As to what Anne Heche had in mind when she chose the name, it's hard to say. I've heard that when she suggested the name to James Tupper (Anne's partner and Atlas' father) he said "Okay, cool name, but people will totally make fun of you', to which Anne replied "Okay, I'm used to that. Let's name him Atlas!". I'm also guessing though that for a someone born in a town called Aurora, with an alternate persona named Celestia, the name Atlas would have some personal symbolism for her. Plus it helps that it works well with her other mythologically related son, Homer.

I love the name Atlas. It's strong, rare but not too strange, and would be great for people who like mythological and constellation type names. Atlas also feels like a very modern sounding name. Personally I prefer it for a boy, but I can see how it also has the makings of a great girls name. It makes me think of an Amazonian warrior princess. What do you think? Is Atlas too much, or is it just right in today's namescape?


16 comments:

  1. I like this name a lot, but at the same time I do think it sounds very big and strong and manly, and I worry that it might be one of those names that don't suit everyone.

    This might be because I saw a preteen boy named Atlas, and he was very small and thin and fragile looking. I just couldn't see him as the mighty Atlas, somehow!

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  2. our boys name is Atlas and i think it is ok, peolpe are quicvkly used to it and pronouncing world wide is easy

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  3. I plan on calling my baby atlas if he is a boy. I couldn't think of a stronger or more masculine name. Fantastic. I'm also so pleased it is rare.

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  4. My 20 month old's name is Atlas Avery. We could not be happier with our choice, and it fits him well. We choose it to pay homage to a road trip that My husband and I took at the beginning of our relationship. Avery- after my grandfather- Johnny Bird, who was Cherokee, so we choose Avery for it's relation to birds.

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  5. My little girl is named Atlas-pheonix. It was Atlas for a boy and phoenix as a girl. we settled on both once we found out it was a girl when she was born

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  6. Anon E - My husband and I have always known we wanted to name a boy Atlas. It is the only name we agree on, and we each came up with it independently. I love the idea of adventure that it conveys. We were only a little bit disappointed when we found out in January that we're having a girl. The baby-naming process that has ensued has not gone smoothly thus far. I just haven't felt very inspired by any of the girl names we've come up with, as lovely as they are. And then today it happened, i thought, "Could we name a girl Atlas?" ... and it was like a mind explosion. And I think we just might. Thanks for the thoughts you've shared here!

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  7. Thanks for this article. We had the name picked since about 2004 and finally had our son and named him Atlas in 2013. We were thinking of the maps and the world, not a suffering mythical character. There is also a King Atlas of lore who assembled maps and after whom Mercator named his first book of maps. We discussed the heaviness of the name and agreed that we could call him Atty as a little boy, which we often do, but Atlas suits him fine as well.

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  8. what a beautiful name! sophisticated, traditional yet modern,intelligent,attractive, thats how i imagine s.o. named atlas! absolutely gorgeous! love it for a girl as well!!!
    if i have a boy or a girl i will name them atlas!!!

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  9. My 3 month old is Atlas Tiberius and it fits him perfectly!

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  10. I just received a call from my daughter; she and her husband were told a few moments ago they were to have a son. Because of my daughter's age (39) she and her husband will have only one child. They are thrilled, and I as well, with the news of an imminent new grandson! They have named him Atlas Benjamin. It was a name my son-in-law chose. I am not opposed to it, but it's obscurity needed to be -tried on- so to speak. After some study, I must say it's a powerful name; masculine in nature and directly related to the moon and the sea in Mythology. I like it, and some day the little one will be known for his strength and manliness. www.junglehouse.wordpress.com

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    1. Wow so weird. We were going to go with Atlas Benjamin with our son but only changed the middle name which I won't say to protect my child as his middle name is also rare. I have not regretted his name choice, ever. It rolls off the tongue and fits my sons personality beautifully. Congratulations to your daughter.

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    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pyue2N1XZ0M

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  11. I named my son Atlas. I had a dream about having a son named Atlas while my wife was pregnant Witt our second child. I told my wife that it will be a boy, and we will name him Atlas per my dream. He is owning the name, as he was born two weeks at 9.1 and is 13.4 at six weeks

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  12. I plan on naming my baby boy Atlas, who is due late October. I chose the name Because I work in the field of cartography and GIS. His daddy loved the name too, as he's a big fan of mythological Greek/roman names. We're also west coast people and love the Atlantic ocean; we later found out Atlas is a derivative of that name. This name fits us in so many ways that we hadn't at first realized. I think it's perfect :)

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  13. I named my son Atlas Orion. He was truly a bearer of heavy burdens... To our surprise he was born incompatible with life, and we only had 18 days with our son. He taught us the courage of the stars before he left. His name fit him perfectly, and I hate so much that I do not get to say his name every day. Though I do a lot of blogging now and bereavement art, it will never be the same. Thank you for your thoughtful post! Would love to see what you have to say about the name Ronin. ♡

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss Kimberley. My little Atlas has just turned one, and I couldn't imagine how I would cope if we'd lost him. I'll have to check out your blog and art. And will work on a Ronin post for you soon!

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