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Where Did This Name Come From?

While trying to find original names for my daughter, I looked back through my family tree. My great-grandmother's name was the only one that really stood out to me. Her name was Ailyion (pronounced Ail-yun). I think it's very pretty, but my family convinced me not to include it on my list because they thought it could be mispronounced as "alien." I'm wondering where this name might have originated. I've searched "Ailyion, name" many times, but I only come up with references to my great-grandmother! That's kind of crazy when you consider that she was born in 1905 and lived in the smallest of small towns. Where do you think her name came from? Did they just make it up? I didn't think people did that in 1905.

–Curious Descendant

Here's a little sampling of some names given to at least 5 (and sometimes over 100) female babies in the U.S. in 1905: Ocie, Velva, Jettie, Emmer, Grayce, Wava, Malissia, Lempi, and Macel. Oh, and Aili.

Some of these, like Grayce, could be alternate spellings of more familiar names. Emmer (for Emma) and Malissia (for Melissa) might fall into that category too. Some could be misspellings, accidental or deliberate: did Macel's parents actually intend to call her Mabel? Some could be twists on existing names, like Velva for Velvet. Some names, such as Wava and Lempi, are foreign imports that are still unknown to most Americans.

Ailyion could belong to any of those groups. It might be immigrant parents' or grandparents' attempt to transcribe a name from their culture. Aili, for example, is a Finnish name used for girls, and Aileen comes from Scotland and Ireland. Elion and Ellion have been used for boys in Scandinavian countries. Ailyion could be a variant, re-spelling, or misspelling of any of those, or of a name like Ellen or Helen.

Or, it could just be made up. While it was less common than it is today, we can find many examples of made-up names from a century ago. In fact, plenty of today's "traditional" names, such as Cheryl, are made-up names of past generations. Shakespeare was inventing names for his characters a few hundred years before your ancestor was born, and other authors—and run-of-the-mill parents—have always done the same. While you may never know the story behind Ailyion's name, it’s fun to ponder—and a good reminder of the value of the family tree as a resource for expectant parents.

Comments

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October 24, 2016 10:14 AM
By Jenny (not verified)

It reminds me of Aliénor, the French spelling of Eleanor of Aquitaine's first name.

October 26, 2016 11:52 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It sounds like it could be a homophone for Elyon, as used in the Hebrew phrase "el elyon," an epithet for God. More info on wikipedia under "Elyon," if you're interested. It more or less means "the highest."

October 26, 2016 11:53 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It sounds like it could be a homophone for Elyon, as used in the Hebrew phrase "el elyon," an epithet for God. More info on wikipedia under "Elyon," if you're interested. It more or less means "the highest."

October 26, 2016 1:03 PM
By Meredith M (not verified)

If you search "ailyon" (without the second i) on Google, you get some results. The first one, for a Solomon Jacob Ailyon from the 1700s, lists his family members, with the name spelled in various ways: Ailion and Ayllon. So my best guess would be it's a variant on a last name. Can you dig up anyone with a similar last name farther back up the family tree?

October 29, 2016 3:57 PM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

Unfortunately, none of this admittedly cool family heritage info changes the fact that it not only "could be mispronounced as Alien" but, uh... its *correct* pronunciation as you explain it still sounds exactly like Alien. I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer but I honestly don't think it's a great idea to give your child a name that (a) will be a nightmare to spell and pronounce her entire life, and (b) sounds like a non-complimentary unrelated word. Personally, I would keep looking.

October 30, 2016 9:07 AM
By Sasha (not verified)

Elizabeth - the questioner did decide not to use it for that reason. It also is too close to "hellion" to me, unfortunately!

November 2, 2016 2:10 PM
By Curlew (not verified)

It's a great name, off-beat without being off the wall, sounds as if it easily could be traditional somewhere - and is NOTHING like "alien"!

Go for it!!

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