Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 23rd column, he looks at the history of the name Amy.
Amy is the English version of medieval French Amée, “beloved,” itself from Latin “Amata.” Saint Amata, who died around 1250, was an Italian girl miraculously healed by her aunt, St. Clare of Assisi. By 1320, Amy was well-used by England’s Norman French-speaking aristocracy. It was among the Top 50 names for English girls baptized between 1538 and 1700.
The most famous Amy then was Amy Robsart Dudley (1532-1560), first wife of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite Robert Dudley. She was found dead of a broken neck at the foot of a flight of stairs. Though both a 1560 coroner’s jury and most modern historians conclude this was accidental, rumors abounded that Dudley murdered Amy in hopes he could then marry the queen.
In 1880, Amy ranked No. 108 on Social Security’s first yearly baby name list. It steadily declined, bottoming out at No. 364 in 1933. By 1948, Amy inched back up to No. 310. That year “Where’s Charley?”, Frank Loesser’s musical based on British author Brandon Thomas’ play “Charley’s Aunt,” began a two-year run on Broadway. Its hit song “Once In Love With Amy (always in love with Amy)” became star Ray Bolger’s signature. He often sang it on 1950s television variety shows. Both Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra recorded it.