Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's In A Name?

I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice
if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage."

— from "Anne of Green
Gables," by L.M. Montgomery

I was talking with a friend recently, and somehow we got onto the subject of names and their meanings.

It's probably one of my favorite subjects to ponder, as evidenced by the multiple "name your baby" tomes I have lying around. (Unsolicited tip to first time parents: all the books have essentially the same names. And you can find them all on the internet for free.)

I love going through my baby name books to see which names we bandied about during all my different pregnancies. It's funny to realize that I am still attracted to all of the names we picked, but how obviously NOT RIGHT they were for the particular children I have.

Some unused names on the short list for my children?:

Girls: Isabel, Margaret, Charlotte, Lydia
Boys: Henry, Asher, Joseph, Charles

Maybe one day I'll get to use some more of these names, but anyone who knows my children in real life knows that these names just don't fit them.

For me, the meaning of the name is just as important as the way the name sounds. More than once, when faced with a choice between two equally lovely names, Rob and I have been completely won over by the meaning of the name we ultimately chose.

My own name, which as a child I thought sounded too "baby-ish" (whatever that means . . . I WAS a baby, for crying out loud!), has always been redeemed by its meaning.

Aimee means "beloved." Pretty awesome, right? I mean, in one little name, I get the gift of knowing that my parents thought me lovable from the get-go.

And I'm also pretty tickled with the fact that my name states right out: "beloved." It's just already there, built-in love. Bam.

Robert's name means "bright fame," and although I'm pretty sure his parents picked his name for family reasons, I think the meaning suits him.

I don't think of it as meaning famous in the way of a celebrity, but more of his character. He's such a good soul, that he is like a light to others. People naturally follow his example, especially my sons, which thrills me.

All of our children have very traditional names, many of which come from family and all of them are saints' names as well. A kid's got to have a go-to saint after all.

Francie's real name is Hebrew, and it originally meant "bitter," but there are other meanings for her name that I like better. Plus, she is named after the greatest woman EVER.

I won't say any more, but if you're feeling clever, you may have guessed it already. Besides, she goes strictly by a family nickname -- so much so, that most people don't even know her real name and are shocked to learn it.

Her middle name means "great one." That might seem hard to live up to, but so far she's got it in the bag.

I just love that Fiver's name means "little ears" or "he who hears," especially considering all of his early hearing trouble. I just like to think that was God's little way of making sure Fiver was only listening to love, to what really matters.

And his middle name means "God is gracious." You better believe it.

Sally's name couldn't be more perfect for her, even though we had a hard time deciding on it. Her first name means "full of grace," which is appropriate for our girl who spends her time dancing from place to place. Her middle name means "industrious," and once Sally is on a project, there is no way that project is not getting finished.

For Bun, we chose his name more for the way it sounded and the family connection than for its meaning. His name means "Supplanter," which is kind of weird when I think about it in terms of our family alone.

To supplant means to supersede or replace, usually in a dynastic context. Unfortunately, Bun was not born into royalty, so he'll have to muddle through somehow. Besides, he's a second son, so he would have been the one promised to the church. Maybe I'll just promise him to the church anyway.

And Mopsy's name means "God is my oath." How can you go wrong with God as your oath, right? And her middle name means "light," which she already is. She smiles so much that the kids call her Sunshine.

All of this name talk makes me interested to know about you, my friends. Do you like your own name and what it means? Is there another name you wish was your own, like Anne Shirley when she wished so hard to be called Cordelia by Marilla?

What about your children? Did you pick names based on sound, family history, meaning, a combo of all of the above? Are your children's names a perfect fit, or is there something you always wished you had named them and didn't?

Do tell!


  1. I, too, love names and I was just thinking about this on the way home tonight... I posted my kids' names and meanings sometime last year because someone asked why we named John Michael the way we did. We totally went for meaning or special saints. Our latest addition, Luke Joseph, was named Luke for the apostle and means "bringer of light". It came to me as I was praying for a name (knowing we were having a boy) at an out of town Catholic church. I looked up at the stained glass window and St. Luke caught my eye. It was then that I had "Luke" planted in my heart, but still explored other names until it became clear that he was meant to be "Luke".

  2. I don't like my name. I never have. I think because it's just not common here. Now if I lived in France (even though it's Hebrew), it would be OK.
    I picked the Little Man's name off the front of one of those "baby announcement" order books that came in the mail while I was pg. We were talking about names and I picked the book up read it and said I like ____ _____ and the hubs and I agreed and that was that. The Older Boy is named after his father. Wouldn't have been my first choice in a name but he's a Jr. His name means "defender". My name means "gracious".

  3. Anonymous7:22 AM

    There were 5 Lisa's in my class in my small Catholic school. I hated it because I was always known as Lisa C, never just Lisa. My best friend from 3rd grade who I am still super close with is also named Lisa. When picking names for our children, I wouldn't consider any name that was in the top 50 according to that social security website. I loved Julia but it was number 25 or so, therefore, it was out!

    My children all have family related names. Lil prof is named after my father, the Americanized version of a very Italian sounding name. The girls both have middle names after their grandmothers so they are very old fashion sounding. Their first names are Italian but not Sophia, Olivia, or Isabella!

  4. I always disliked my name -- it's such a hard name. It's only saving grace is my patron saint -- she was such an awesome martyr. Barbara means "mysterious stranger" -- who wants to be a mysterious stranger? Haha! ;-) My husband's name (Douglas) means "dark river." Clearly our parents didn't care what our names meant!

    My children's names mean "God peace (Geoffrey)" "God saves (Joshua)" "peaceful, restful (Noah)" and "faith." I was four months pregnant with my daughter, Faith, on September 11, 2001, so the meaning of her name was very important to us, more so than the others, but I would never have chosen a name that didn't have a faith-filled meaning.

  5. I have never loved my name, but that is as much because I don't like its most common nickname (I am NOT a Nikki) as anything else. I like now that it is easy to pronounce and spell, but is still not so common that I was in a class full of Nicole's.

    If BTS was a girl his name would have been Charlotte Joy. We choose names based on what we like, primarily. We don't look up meanings, we don't consider popularity, we just like what we like. Our two oldest sons middle names are after their uncles (one on each side) and BTS is named after Husband's grandfathers, but we also just like the names.

    I suppose as Catholics we could have spent more time looking for saint names, but we'll let them choose their own at Confirmation instead. ;)

  6. I, sadly, have the next boy name picked out (should I ever find a man I feel like marrying and procreating with!), and the next girl's middle name picked out. (Middle names, for the most part, for my kids are after people who are important in my life - either alive or not.)

    I have been told that my kids all have preppy names, that sound like they belong to cheerleaders and football players. I can't help it. I don't choose based on what the names mean, I just choose names that I like, that are less common, but not totally bizarre. (For the record, the next boy name I've chosen is Trevor. Is that really a football player-y name?)

    It's better than the people who name their kid something strange just for the sake of it being strange. Or mess up the spelling to make an otherwise 'normal' name, unique. (There's a kid in my daughter's class whose name is spelled Gennyfur. Really. Give the kid a break and spell it close to normal!)

  7. I was supposed to be named 'Sabrina', but was two weeks overdue. The extra time allowed for more consideration and my parents changed it to Valerie. My middle name has always given me trouble, though - it's Rhea (pronounced 'Ray). Valerie means 'strong'.

    Bella's real name is a combination of two names - my husband liked one, I liked another, so we put them together. My mother passed away while I was pregnant with Bella, and before she passed she wanted to know what we were going to name her (up until that point we hadn't told anyone, only that we had selected a name). We told her, and then felt bound to stick with it. Bless Bella's heart, we did her no favor - people can't pronounce it or spell it. But it's a pretty name and it suits her. I can actually track it back to Bubba's middle name, I just learned, which is pretty cool. Her middle name is for her Aunt. If Bella had been a boy she would have received Bubba's name, which we liked so much we used it the second time around. :)

    Bubba's first name is for an Uncle in the Phillipines, although we did have to Americanize it since the original spelling and pronunciation would have been hard here in the states. His middle name is for my father. His name, I just learned, is Gaelic in origin, but just means 'descendant of...'. If Bubba had been a girl he would have been Danae (pronounced 'da-NAY'), another family name from the Phillipines.


  8. Well, there was that little matter when Middle Sister, upon researching possible Confirmation names, discovered that her middle name CAN mean "rebellious" among other things. Naturally she was thrilled. Me, not so much!

  9. This was such an interesting, enjoyable read! Bear's is named after his grandfather on Champ's side (who I never had the honor of knowing as he dies when Champ was young). We wanted to name after a saint too and so at first we were struggling with the family name/saint name for a first name, but after researching we discovered that indeed they were one in the same! Problem solved in the most wonderful of ways :)


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