It was the Puritans in the 17th century who were ultimately responsible for popularizing virtue names. The Puritans were a group of English Protestants who pushed for Church reform during the Reformation, although they were largely obstructed in their efforts by the mainstream Protestants in England and ultimately ostracized for their new “extremist” nonconformist views on religion. In response to the prejudice against them, the Puritans quietly collected their things and moved their congregations first to the Netherlands and then to the New World in America (founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony).
In terms of naming their children, it was the Puritans who are most often credited with adopting and popularizing lesser known Biblical names (Elijah, Ethan, Caleb, and Abigail for example); names which they brought to America in droves. Another naming practice among Puritans was to use what are known as “Virtue” names (Hope, Faith and Charity are the most common examples). From the Puritan perspective, these nonconformists were disciplined adherers to the Bible and strict about self-examination. They practiced humility and temperance and they were devout in their religion (if sometimes a little over-zealous). Nonetheless, the Puritans believed it was an act of modesty to assume virtue names; and a demonstration of humility to choose lesser-known Biblical figures (they also did not shy away from the traditional Hebrew names populating the entire Old Testament, names like Abraham and Rebecca, for instance). As a result, the Puritans had a profound impact on the naming traditions in America.
Below are some Virtue names (many are currently out of circulation today). They are not as fashionable as they once were, but leave it to the modern American parent to invent new “virtue” inspired names for themselves (Eden, Heaven and Deacon are some such examples). Also on our list of Virtue Names are place names important to the Spanish Catholics (for instance, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, etc). Lastly you’ll find names like Vera (Russian for “faith”) and Veronica (associated with “true image") or Evangeline which means “good tidings”. Click on the names below to find out how they made our Virtue category.