Heptune presents:

Baby Names from Early Jazz and Blues

by Brenna Lorenz

    These are the meanings and origins of names used in jazz, blues and hokum songs from the first half of the 20th Century, as well as names used by the musicians who wrote and performed this music.
    Where available, songs are linked to their lyrics. Links to information about the musicians are also provided where possible.
    I will be constantly adding to this list of names, so check back frequently! If you are curious about a jazz or blues name not already listed, e-mail me.



Ada: (f) Germanic adal: "noble," or a form of the Hebrew name, Adah: "adornment." Alberta:  (f)  Germanic adal + berht: "noble and bright." Alexander: (m) From Greek alexein + aner: "defending men." Andy: (m) English diminutive of Andrew, from the Greek root andr-: "man." Benny, Bennie: (m) English diminutives of Benjamin, from Hebrew ben + yamin: "son of the south." A popular name for jazz artists: Bessie: (f) English diminutive of Elizabeth, from Hebrew 'el + sheba: "God is my oath." Betty: (f) English diminutive of Elizabeth, from Hebrew 'el + sheba: "God is my oath." Bill: (m) English diminutive of William, from Germanic wil + helm: "will helmet." Blanche: (f) French blanche: "white, a blonde." Cab: (m) Diminutive of the surname Cabell, from Anglo-Norman French cable: "rope maker." Caroline: (f) Feminine form of Charles, Germanic ceorl: "a freeman." One of several state names popular in the American South during the 19th Century. Cecilia: (f) Latin sextus or caecus: "sixth" or "blind:" Clarence: (m) English name derived from a Celtic river name. Cleo: (f) Greek kleos: "glory, fame." Corinne: (f) Greek kore: "maiden." Dan: (m) English diminutive of Daniel, from Hebrew: "God is my judge." Dinah: (f) Hebrew din: "judgment." Don: (m) English diminutive of Donald, from Old Celtic dubno + val: "world rule." Doug: (m) English diminutive of Douglas, from Gaelic dubh + glas: "black stream." Eadie: (f) Diminutive of Edith, from Old English ead + gyth: "wealth strife." Emaline: (f) English from Germanic amal: "work." Esther: (f) (Hebrew) "myrtle," or (Persian) "star." Ethel: (f) Germanic ethel: "noble." Fan, Fanny: (f) English-French diminutives of Frances, from Latin Franciscus: "French, a Frank." Flo: (f) English diminutive of Flora or Florence, from Latin floris: "of flowers, blossoming." Frankie: (m) English diminutive of Francis, from Latin Franciscus: "French, a Frank." Georgia: (f) English feminine form of George, from Greek georgos: "farmer." State names were popular for girls in the southern United States in the 19th Century. Hagar: (f) A Biblical Hebrew name meaning, "flight." Hannah: (f) Hebrew: "He (God) has favored me." Harlan: (m) From an Old English surname with elements hara + land: "from the land of hares." Harry: (m) English diminutive of Henry, from Germanic haim + ric: "home ruler." Helen: (f) From Greek helios: "sun, ray of the sun, brilliant as the sun." Inez: (f) Spanish form of Agnes, from the Greek hagnos, "pure, holy." Jack: (m) English diminutive of John, from Hebrew: "God is gracious." James: (m) English form of Jacob, from Hebrew akev: "heel, one who seizes another by the heel, one who takes the place of another." Jasper: (m) Persian: "treasurer." Jenny: (f) English diminutive of Jean, a feminine form of John, from Hebrew: "God is gracious." Jerry: (m, f) English diminutive of Gerald, Geraldine, from Germanic ger + wald: "spear rule." Jim: (m) English diminutive of James, English form of Jacob, from Hebrew akev: "heel, one who seizes another by the heel, one who takes the place of another." Jimmie, Jimmy: (m) English diminutive of James, English form of Jacob, from Hebrew akev: "heel, one who seizes another by the heel, one who takes the place of another." Joe: (m) English diminutive of Joseph, from Hebrew: "(God) shall add." and several involving Cab Calloway's character Smoky Joe, the gong-kicking boyfriend of Minnie the Moocher: John: (m) Hebrew: "God is gracious." Kate: (f) English diminutive of Katherine, from Greek katheros: "pure." Lena: (f) English diminutive of Helena, from Greek helios: "sun, ray of the sun, brilliant as the sun." Lil: (f) English diminutive of Lillian, derived from English lily: "the lily flower." Liza: (f) English diminutive of Elizabeth, from Hebrew 'el + sheba: "God is my oath." Lize: (f) English diminutive of Elizabeth, from Hebrew 'el + sheba: "God is my oath." Lizzie: (f) English diminutive of Elizabeth, from Hebrew 'el + sheba: "God is my oath." Lou: (f) English diminutive of Louise, from Germanic hlud + wig: "famous warrior." Louis: (m) Germanic hlud + wig: "famous warrior." Lucille: (f) From Latin lux: "light." Lucy: (f) From Latin lux: "light." Mae: (f) A name derived from many sources: a diminutive of Mary, Margaret, and Maeve, and a month name. Malinda: Variant form of Melinda, from Greek, mel, "honey," with the popular -inda ending. Mandy: (f) Diminutive of Amanda, from Latin amanda: "lovable." Margie: (f) English diminutive of Margaret, from Greek margaron: "pearl." Mary: (f) English form of Latin stilla maris: "drop of the sea." May: (f) English diminutive for Mary and Margaret, as well as a month name like April and June. Melindy: (f) Variant form of Melinda, from Greek, mel, "honey," with the popular -inda ending. Mezzanine: (f) From Latin via Italian medianus: "middle." Mike: (m) English diminutive of Michael, from Hebrew: "Who is like God?" Mildred: (f) Old English, from mild and thyth, meaning "gentle strength." Minnie: (f) English diminutive of Wilhelmina, from Germanic wil + helm: "will helmet." The character also appears in several sequels, including: Mirandy: (f)  A variation of Miranda, a name invented by Shakespeare, from Latin mirandus: "admirable." Molly: (f) An old diminutive form of Mary. Mose: (m) English form of Moses, from Egyptian mose: "born of, child of." Nan: (f) English diminutive of Nancy, in turn a diminutive of Ann, from Hebrew: "He (God) has favored me." Noble: (m) English, from Latin nobilis: "noble." Oscar: (m) Irish Gaelic os + cara: "deer friend." Phoebe: (f) From Greek phoibos: "bright." Rosie: (f) Originally a Germanic name meaning "horse," it has taken on the meaning "rose" from the English world. Sadie: (f) English diminutive of Sarah, from Hebrew: "princess." Sal, Sally: (f) English diminutives of Sarah, from Hebrew: "princess." Sam: (m) English diminutive of Samuel, from Hebrew sha'ul me'el: "asked of God." Sam is a common name in blues, hokum and jazz songs, often used for an undesirable person, commonly with the surname Jones. Sammy: (m) English diminutive of Samuel, from Hebrew sha'ul me'el: "asked of God." Sandy: (m) English diminutive of Alexander, from Greek alexein + aner: "defending men." Susie, Suzie, Sue: (f) English diminutives of Susan, from Hebrew shoshan: "lily." Tessie: (f) English diminutive of Theresa, a name of unknown origin. It might be from the name of the island of Thera, hence meaning, "from Thera." Another common theory is that it derives from Greek theros, "harvest," so you often see it in name books defined as "reaper." Thomas: (m) English form of Greek didymos: "twin." Virginia: (f) Derived from the Latin name Virginius, of unknown origin, but most commonly associated with virgo: "virgin." In the United States, also associated with the name of the state. State names were very popular in the American South during the 19th century. Wesley: (m) Originally a surname, from Old English west + leah: "from the west meadow." Willie: (m) English diminutive of William, from Germanic wil + helm: "will helmet."

Return to Heptune Baby Names Central!
Published 10/23/99.
Updated 2/23/01.

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