How “Omicron” got Its Name: New COVID Variant Name Avoids Confusion

As described in recent articles in the New York Times and CNN, the World Health Organization has decided to use the Greek letter Omicron (Ο, ο) as the name of the new variant rather than the next two letters in the Greek alphabet, Nu (Ν, ν) and Xi (Ξ, ξ). The primary reason for this deviation was to avoid confusion: the Greek letter “Nu” sounds too much like the English word “New”, and the Greek letter “Xi” is too similar to the Chinese surname Xi.

Read more over at The New York Times and CNN,

About Names: “It’s ‘clear’ why Claire remains a popular name”

Claire Windsor, an actress who found greater success during the silent film era than all of the talkies she filmed in the 1930s

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 21st column, he looks at the history of the name Claire.

On Tuesday, we learn how Claire gets through the Revolution.

“Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone”, the ninth book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series, will be released Nov. 23. In 1991, “Outlander” introduced readers to Claire Randall, an English nurse who time-travels from 1945 to 1743’s Scotland. In “Bees,” it’s 1779 and Claire’s married to Highlander Jamie Fraser. They’re now settlers in backwoods North Carolina, menaced by both sides in the Revolutionary War.

In 2018, “Outlander” was second to “To Kill A Mockingbird” in PBS’s “Great American Read” contest. Caitriona Balfe has played Claire in Starz’s “Outlander” series since 2014.

Claire is the French form of Clara, feminine of Latin Clarus, “clear.” Two early male saints were named Clarus. Clare first appears as an English female name around 1200. After 1300, veneration of St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), Italian founder of the Poor Clares nuns, made it more common.

Clare was eclipsed by Latin Clara after 1750. 1850’s United States Census found 13,349 Claras and only 90 female Clares and 74 Claires, with 58 Claires born in France or French-influenced Louisiana.

That census found 225 males named Clair, Clare, or Claire. Clare was a nickname for Clarence, and also came from surnames Clair and Clare, sometimes derived from English place names or “clayer,” a medieval term for “plasterer.”

Interior Secretary Moves to Ban the Word “Squaw” from Federal Lands

An article on NPR details Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s efforts to ban the word “squaw” from use on Federal lands. Secretary Haaland identified the term as derogatory, often used “as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women,” and announced that some 650 place names would need to change. Recent years have seen many private organizations and companies remove the word from their branding, including the famous Lake Tahoe ski resort formerly known by that name.

Read more over at NPR.

Publication announcement: Names: A Journal of Onomastics 69, no. 4 is now available

The latest issue of Names: A Journal of Onomastics is now available online! Click here to read the latest in onomastics scholarship in volume 69, number 4 of Names. A table of contents appears below.

Volume 69 marks the first year that Names is published as an open access journal available to all via the Journal’s new home at the University of Pittsburgh. All journal content, including the content found in previous volumes, is now available for free online as downloadable PDF files.

Subscribers to the print version of the journal will receive their copies within the next few weeks.


Table of Contents


Corn Belt as an Enterprise-Naming Custom in the United States” by Michael D. Sublett

Snack Names In China: Patterns, Types, and Preferences” by Dan Zhao

How Three Different Translators of The Holy Qur’an Render Anthroponyms from Arabic into English: Expanding Vermes’s (2003) Model of Translation Strategies” by Mahmoud Afrouz

A Revised Typology of Place-Naming” by David Blair and Jan Tent

Book Reviews

The Life of Guy: Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot, and the Unlikely History of an Indispensable Word” by Dorothy Dodge Robbins

Rhetorics of Names and Naming” by Maggie Scott


2020 Award for Best Article in NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics” by I. M. Nick

View All Issues 

Cleveland Guardians Roller Derby Team Sues Cleveland Guardians MLB Team

New Cleveland Guardians Logo

In order to prevent the renaming of the “Cleveland Guardians” Major League Baseball team, the Cleveland Guardians Roller Derby team has taken to the courts. The roller derby team—established in 2013—rejected an earlier offer from the MLB team that would allow the former “Cleveland Indians” to use the name “Guardians”.

Read more about the name change, lawsuit, and the lengths that the baseball team went to register their trademark in the Chicago Tribune.

A Fight Over the Name “Prosecco”

A glass of Prosecco (Photo by HarshLight, CC-BY-2.0)

Winemakers in Italy and Croatia are ready to go to court over the name “Prosecco.” According to a recent story on NPR, the Croatian name “Prosek” is applied to a sweet dessert wine of the Balkan country. Makers of Prosekar claim it is over 300 years older than the Italian Prosecco, but Italian winemakers are very protective of the name “Prosecco” and worry about possible confusion that could arise between the Italian and Croatian beverages.

Read more over at NPR.

About Names: “Joan and Joni’s popularity almost the ‘same situation'”

A statue of Joan d’Arc near the Plaines d’Abraham of Quebec City (Photo by Jeangagnon, CC-BY-4.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 7th column, he looks at the history of the name Joan.

Both opera and pop fans could celebrate today.

Famed coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland (1926-2010) was born Nov. 7 in Sydney, Australia. Nine-time Grammy winner Joni Mitchell was born as Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, on Nov. 7, 1943.

Joan was the original English feminine form of John, brought to England by the Normans in 1066. By 1380, Joan ranked third for English girls.

When parish birth records began in the 1540s, Joan was No. 1. However, it was already going out of fashion with the upper classes, who preferred Jane. In the 1610s, Jane was No. 5 and Joan No. 6.

By the 19th century, Joan was rare. The 1850 United States census found 269,741 Janes and only 1,075 Joans out of 23 million residents. The 1851 British census found 626,280 Janes and 3,397 Joans out of almost 21 million.

In the 1890s, Joan began rising again, partly as an alternative to the already fashionable Jean, but also because of a huge upswing of interest in Joan of Arc (1412-1431), the French visionary who led armies against the English before being convicted of heresy and burned at the stake. Though the Catholic church overturned Joan’s heresy conviction in 1456, she was only beatified in 1909 and canonized a saint in 1920.

When Social Security’s yearly baby name lists start in 1880, Joan ranked 508th. In 1909, Joan was 303rd. In 1917, after Cecil B. DeMille’s film “Joan the Woman” starring Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc was released, it was 182nd.