Sunday, October 20, 2013


Mavis in 'Hotel Transylvania', voiced by Selena Gomez

When I told my husband that I was doing a post about Mavis, his response was "Isn't that a grandma name?" Indeed, this is how this name would be seen by many people. After all, Mavis peaked in the 1920's and 30's, at which time it was in the top 300 in the U.S. It was also used for boys occasionally in those days. These days, Mavis can now be considered to be a "vintage gem", and that usually means hot property.

As character Johnathan says when introduced to Mavis in the 2012 movie 'Hotel Transylvania', "Mavis? That's a neat name!". Of course in this movie, Mavis is a 118 year old vampire, Dracula's "teenage" daughter to be exact. This Mavis has suddenly given the name some cool cred - when I went looking for pictures the suggested Google searches included "Mavis hot" and "Mavis sexy". The words hot and sexy, paired with Mavis? Who would've thought it.

There's a few mixed ideas as to where Mavis originated. Some sources say it is Scottish, some English and some French. From what I've read, it started as the Old French word mauvis meaning 'redwing', also known as a thrush or song bird. It's thought that it was first used as a name by English author Marie Corelli in her 1895 novel 'The Sorrows of Satan' for her character Mavis Clare. She must have been inspired by its' meaning, as the character was said to sing "quite as sweetly as any thrush". As this was the reportedly the first use of Mavis as a name (I say reportedly as it first appeared on the SSA charts in 1893, two years before the publication date), it's often said to be an English name. However as the word mavis was almost obsolete by the 19th century it is thought that Marie Corelli was inspired by one of two other sources.

One possibility is the 1850 love song 'Mary of Argyle' by Charles Jeffrey. The other speculated source is the Robert Burns' 1794 poem 'Ca' the Yowes'. As the Robert Burns poem came first and he is Scottish, mavis seems to have been in common use in Scotland - the song thrush migrates to Scotland in spring and hence is known as a harbinger of Spring in Scotland - and  has led to some sources saying it is a Scottish name.

Regardless of its' origin, Mavis has the potential to experience a resurgence soon. Mavis and similar names Maeve, Mae and Mabel all increased in use in 2012. Maeve and Mae are already in the top 1000 on the SSA charts, and Mabel will most likely join them there in 2013. Positioned at #3667 in 2012, Mavis has a long way to go to join them, but this only means it has a fresher feel. In fact, Mae or Maeve would be cute nicknames for Mavis, meaning you get the cool name and more popular nickname in one fell swoop (bird pun unintended ☺).

Yes, there will still be people out there who think it is a fusty name. But then there are others who think Mavis is stunning, sweet, pretty, adorable, spunky, classic, smart, adventurous and strong. She's a literary, poetic, nature/bird, and now vampire inspired choice. Thanks to 'Hotel Transylvania' she feels youthful again, and with a 'Hotel Transylvania 2' said to be in the works for 2015, she'll be relevant for a little while yet. It's very likely that todays' children will be more likely to think of Mavis as fun and clever rather than old and fusty. Mavis is definitely a name to watch.

1 comment:

  1. I think Mavis is such a pretty, sweet name, and definitely ready to take off the shelf. It's not so different from fashionable Maeve. Sexy? Hm, maybe!