Virtue names, also known as grace names, are used as personal names in a number of cultures. They express virtues that the parents wish their child to embody or be associated with. In the English-speaking world, beginning in the 16th century, the Puritans commonly expressed their values through creative names, many in the form of virtue names such as Grace, Felicity, Faith or Hope.[1][2] These names have entered the standard British and American usage, without the religious connection.

Some Puritan virtue names were compound imperatives, such as "Search-the-scriptures" or "Praise-God".[2] An example of the use of "Praise-God" as a name is Praise-God Barebone, whose son Nicholas may have been given the name If-Jesus-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned.[3] In Britain, such Puritan virtue names were particularly common in Kent, Sussex and Northamptonshire.[3] They are sometimes referred to as hortatory names.[4] Virtue names were more commonly given to girls than boys, though not exclusively.[5]

Virtue names, such as Iman, can also be found in the Islamic world.

Names meant to convey virtues or desirable traits are also used in Nigeria. For example, the former president Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience Jonathan.[6]

In the United States in 2011, Faith and Hope was the fourth most common pairing of names for twins. Sixth was Heaven and Nevaeh ('Heaven' spelled backwards).[7] Faith, Hope and Charity (the three theological virtues) has been used for triplets, including the Cardwell triplets, who were Guinness-recognised as the oldest triplets ever.[8]

Use of the virtue name Chastity was revived after the birth of Cher and Sonny Bono's son Chaz Bono.[2]

There are also names that derive from positive attributes but which have separated from those words over time, including in spelling. For example, Ernest derives from the same root as 'earnest', hence the pun in The Importance of Being Earnest, whose main character assumes that name. Ernest was a popular name around the turn of the 20th century.[9]



  1. ^ Bardsley, Charles (1888). Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London: Chatto and Windus.
  2. ^ a b c Burdess, Neil (2016). Hello, My Name Is...: The Remarkable Story of Personal Names. Sandstone Press Ltd. pp. 65–67. ISBN 978-1-910985-33-5.
  3. ^ a b Ash, Russell (2008). Potty, Fartwell & Knob : from Luke Warm to Minty Badger - extraordinary but true names of British people. London: Headline. p. 254. ISBN 9780755316557.
  4. ^ Fara, Patricia (2021). Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career. Oxford University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-19-257788-7.
  5. ^ Redmonds, George (13 April 2004). Christian Names in Local and Family History. Dundurn. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-55002-507-1.
  6. ^ Hao Li (18 April 2011). "What's up with Goodluck Jonathan's name?". International Business Times.
  7. ^ "Popular Names For Twins Born In 2011". Social Security Administration. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012.
  8. ^ Verhovek, Sam Howe (7 July 1994). "AT HOME WITH: Faith, Hope and Charity; 285 Years Young". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Ernest". Etymonline. Retrieved 28 March 2021.