Unisex names: Bronte


This weekend’s unisex name is Bronte.

Most people would think of the Brontë sisters or Bronte Beach when they hear this name, but few might also think of the twin minor goddesses of Thunder and Lightning in Greek mythology, Astrape and Bronte.

First, let’s take a look what Bronte means:

Bronte, as in the Brontë sisters, comes from the surname that the literary sisters shared and according to Behind the Name, it is:

an Anglicized form of Irish Ó Proinntigh meaning “descendant of Proinnteach”. The given name Proinnteach meant “bestower” in Gaelic.

Bronte, as in the goddess, means “thunder” (written as Βροντη) and, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word may, perhaps, come from the Proto-Indo-European imitative root *bhrem- meaning “to growl.”

Now onto the data section and looking at the data I’ve got before 1915, I can only find 6 boys, all from England & Wales. With regards to Americans, I couldn’t find a single Bronte from the data brought by the Social Security Administration.
So, I had to rely on census data made available on FamilySearch and there, I’ve counted about 15 female Brontes and 14 male Brontes born in the 2nd half of the 19th century. So that makes it rare yet evenly unisex, albeit with a 51.7% ratio for femininity.

Fast forwards to the second half of the 20th century and it’s still a rare name. In England & Wales, 2 girls were born with this name in 1980 with none in 1973 and 1966. In South Australia, it is rare yet usable.

1966 1973 1980
Male 3 3 4
Female 0 2 3
Ratio 100.0% M 60.0% M 57.1% M

It wasn’t until around 1991 when the name rose up for girls in the United States and United Kingdom. Feminine usage increased during this time as well in South Australia, though it didn’t rise as much.

BronteUK BronteSA BronteUSA

When I tried to find out what caused the rise that year, I ended up with nothing.

Back to the usual norm, here are the tables for 1996 and 2013 (2010 for Ontario).


E&W USA BC Ontario SA
Male 0 <4 <4 16 4
Female 59 37 <4 <4 1
Ratio 100.0% F 94.9% F // 93.7% F 80.0% F

2013 (2010 for Ontario)

E&W USA BC Ontario SA
Male <2 <4 <4 <4 0
Female 36 6 <4 6 0
Ratio 97.3% F 75.0% F // 75.0% F //

So, what do you think? Share your thoughts (and clues for the rise in 1991) on the comments section below.

Meaning of Bronte – Behind the Name
P-I-E root – Online Etymology Dictionary (brontosaurus)
Available at ancestry.co.uk: England & Wales FreeBMD Birth Index (1837-1915) and England & Wales Birth Index (1916-2005)
Available at familysearch.com: British Columbia Birth Registrations (1854-1903), Ontario Births (1869-1912) and Australia Births & Baptisms (1792-1981)
For USA: Social Security Administration
For England & Wales (1996 onwards): Office for National Statistics
For British Columbia (1915 onwards): Government of British Columbia
For Ontario (1917-2010): ontario.ca Male & Female
For South Australia (1944 onwards): South Australian Government Data Directory


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