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See alsoBrendan

Brenda is a feminine given name in the English language.


The overall accepted origin for the female name Brenda is the Old Nordic male name Brandr meaning both torch and sword: evidently the male name Brandr took root in areas of the British Isles under Nordic dominance and through being heard as '"Brenda" was eventually adopted as a female name.[1] The name Brenda was probably influenced by the iconic Gaelic male name Brendan: although linguistically it is unlikely that the name Brendan would yield the name Brenda as its feminine form, the name Brenda is widely considered a feminine form of the name Brendan in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.[2]


The British Isles[edit]

Occurring in the medieval legend of Madoc - the purported son of the 12th century historical Welsh ruler Owain Gwynedd by Brenda the daughter of a Viking overlord in Ireland[3] - the name Brenda was apparently until the 19th century confined to the Northern Isles being an evident remnant of the Northern Isles' Norse rule from 875 to 1470.[4] The name's utilization by Sir Walter Scott for the heroine of his 1821 novel The Pirate - set in Orkney - is credited with bringing the name Brenda into general usage throughout the British Isles [4] although the initial appearance of The Pirate generated no evident vogue for the name Brenda, and while the Late Victorian children's author Georgina Castle Smith, first published in 1873, made the name Brenda well-known via Castle Smith using Brenda as her mononymous pseudonym (as suggested by her mother for no known reason),[5] actual significant usage of the name in the British Isles is only in evidence from the early 20th century[6] with the name Brenda ranking for the first time as a top 100 name for newborn girls in England and Wales in the 1920s (e.g. #58 in 1924).[7]

The first evident celebrity to be named Brenda was "bright young thing" extraordinaire Brenda Dean Paul whose "party girl" career afforded her a high society press profile from the mid-1920s: she was a member of the same social circle as writer Evelyn Waugh who gave the first name Brenda to a "bright young thing" who was a major character in Waugh's 1934 novel A Handful of Dust, a rare example of the name Brenda occurring in highbrow literature.[8] From 1931 media attention on Brenda Dean Paul was focused on her substance addictions and legal woes: "in and out of rehab and court... she became a tabloid fixture that the public loved to hate."[9] However, the negative associations of such tabloid press headlines as "Brenda Jailed Again"[10] had no evident adverse effect on usage of the name Brenda in the British Isles of the 1930s, that decade affording the name Brenda its peak usage in England and Wales (e.g. #16 in 1934):[11] still popular in the 1940s (e.g. #22 in 1944) the name Brenda had in 1954 dropped to #52 on the tally of the 100 most popular girls names for newborns in England and Wales with the name being absent on the respective tallies by 1964. In 2013, the name Brenda according to the ONS was given to a total of six newborn girls in England in 2013.[12]

In Scotland the name Brenda was first heavily used in the 1940s: ranked at #47 on the tally of the most popular names for newborn girls in Scotland for the year 1950,[13] the name Brenda remained popular in Scotland until the 1970s when its popularity took a steep drop: in 2014, 14 newborn girls in Scotland were registered as being named Brenda.[14] According to the CSO the name Brenda, which in 1964 had been #63 on the tally for names given newborn girls in Ireland, was not given to any newborn girls in Ireland in 2014.[15]

In 1971, the UK satirical magazine Private Eye ran a pseudo-item that Queen Elizabeth II "is known as Brenda to her immediate staff" resulting in the name Brenda being used in the media as an irreverent nickname for the Queen.[16] A cross-dressed impersonation of the Queen was a standard routine of comedian Stanley Baxter who never identified his character as a parody of the Queen instead calling "herself" the Duchess of Brenda.[17]

The United States[edit]

Brenda Frazier
Brenda Frazier.jpg

Commentary from Glamour: a history by Stephen Gundle
"Drawn into a realm that had more to do with show business than elite living [Brenda Frazier] mingled with film actors and sportsmen, a perfume was named in her honor and her likeness was borrowed by department stores for fashion illustrations. She was even photographed dunking a doughnut. When she went to the Metropolitan Opera, the special arena of bejeweled high society matrons, she was applauded to her seat"..."She had striking blue-black hair deep-set eyes and full round cheeks. Her features were described as doll like and ample use of heavy red lipstick made it look as if her lips were painted on...Described as beautiful and composed although a photograph of her used on Life on its cover made her look like a seventeen year old ingenue[,] Frazier became a star of the press, a girl about who five thousand article were written and whose every act seemed to result in a photograph. She was called in a term invented by a prominent New York columnist Maury Paul "Glamour Girl #1". According to Paul the girl who received this unofficial title should be monied and mysterious, exotic in appearance and daring in her gestures - in brief she should have the potential to be glamorous. Although no one could explain quite why it was Frazier and not someone else who attracted so many headlines she received hundreds of fan letters some of which were simply addressed to Brenda Frazier #1 Glamour Girl or Brenda Duff Frazier the World's Prettiest Debutante".[18]

In the US the name Brenda was first afforded a high-profile in the mid-1930s, as the press began charting the "career" of "celebutante" Brenda Frazier.[19][20]

Named for her mother, whose own father Frederick Williams-Taylor was the son of Irish emigrants to Canada,[21] Brenda Frazier had first been mentioned in the press as a pre-teen due to her parents' 1925–26 high-profile divorce and subsequent parental custody battle over Frazier, whose first name of Brenda, consequently, began appearing in the annual tally of the Top 1000 most popular names for newborn American girls from 1925, when it was ranked at #977.[22]

As Brenda Frazier's name began appearing in the society pages when she was a teenager in the mid-1930s the name Brenda began rising in the yearly tallies for the top names given newborn American girls: ranked at #423 in the respective tally for the year 1937[22] the name Brenda was ranked at #241 on the respective tally for 1938,[22] the year of Frazier's coming-out ball, held following months of avid publicity. The full-force of Frazier's 27 December 1938 coming-out ball — which generated headlines fêting her as "the debutante of the century" — was evident when the name Brenda appeared for the first time among the Top 100 names for newborn American girls — at #86 — in the tally for the subsequent year 1939,[22] with the cachet with which Frazier imbued the name Brenda evidenced by two Hollywood movie studios conferring the name on their respective 1939 "discoveries": Brenda Joyce[23] and Brenda Marshall[24] (although neither actress would herself generate significant star-power).

It was also on account of Brenda Frazier that cartoonist Dale Messick utilized "Brenda" as the first name for the heroine of the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter which debuted 30 June 1940;[25] Messick would state in a 1986 interview that prior to Brenda Frazier becoming a society page staple "I had never heard the name Brenda".[26] Although Brenda Frazier's own vogue soon ebbed, the initial popularity she'd afforded the name Brenda was evidently reinforced by the success of Brenda Starr, Reporter: ranked as the #42 most popular name for American newborn girls as tallied for the year 1940, the name Brenda accrued favor so as to rank at #21 on the respective tally for 1948 with a subsequent 17-year tenure in the Top 20, with its strongest showing #11 on the tally for the year 1961[22] the year singer Brenda Lee had her career peak.

Last ranked in the Top 50 of the most popular names for American newborn girls in the tally for 1972 — at #44 — the name Brenda made its last Top 100 ranking to date — at #91 — on the respective tally for the year 1977.[22]

People named Brenda[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]


  1. ^ "Brandr - Nordic Names Wiki - Name Origin, Meaning and Statistics". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  2. ^ Hanks, Patrick; Hardcastle, Kate; Hodges, Flavia (2006), A Dictionary of First Names, Oxford Paperback Reference (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 38, ISBN 978-0-19-861060-1
  3. ^ Traxel, William L. (2004). Footprints of the Welsh Indians: settlers in North America before 1492. NYC: Algora Publishing. ISBN 978-0875863009.
  4. ^ a b Scott, Walter (2001). David Hewitt (ed.). The Pirate: the Edinburgh edition of the Waverley Novels. Edinburgh UK: Edinburgh University Press. p. 504. ISBN 978-0748605767.
  5. ^ Statton, Hesba; Brenda (2013). Jessica's First Prayer; Froggy's Little Brother (Introduction by Elizabeth Thiel). Basingstoke (Hants): Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-36054-9.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ "UK Census Online - Free Search". Archived from the original on 25 May 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  7. ^ "The Top 100 Names in England and Wales 1924". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  8. ^ Taylor, D.J. (2007). Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918–1940. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0701177543.
  9. ^ Mic. "The Origins of Bieber Fever Go All the Way Back to the 1920s". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "The Top 100 Names in England and Wales 1934". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  12. ^ Henwood, Jo (19 August 2014). "PLAY: The name game - how many newborns share your name?". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 29, 2015. Retrieved April 19, 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "- ScotlandsPeople". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Irish Babies' Names 2014 - CSO - Central Statistics Office". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  16. ^ Doonan, Simon (2 June 2012). "Meet the Most Fashionable Woman in the World". Retrieved 8 June 2016 – via Slate.
  17. ^ "Where are they now? Comic actor and impressionist Stanley Baxter". 13 March 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  18. ^ Gundle, Stephen (2008). Glamour: a history. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199569786.
  19. ^ "Babies Named for the Original Celebutante". 30 November 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  20. ^ "Brenda". Behind the Name. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Frederick Williams Taylor". Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  22. ^ a b c d e f OACT. "Popular Baby Names". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  23. ^ The Ogden Standard-Examiner 24 September 24 1939 p. 12
  24. ^ "Dietrich and Marshall Keep Glamor Alive (July 28, 1940)". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  25. ^ Davison Reynolds, Moira (2003). Comic Strip Artists in American Newspapers: 1945–1980. Jefferson NC: McFarland & Co. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7864-1551-9.
  26. ^ "Full text of "Starlog Magazine Issue 111"". Retrieved 8 June 2016.