Personal Anthroponymy

Disclaimer: Before anyone gets all excited, I don’t have any legitimate reason to be thinking about baby names. Promise.

If you were to ask my mom, she’d tell you that I’ve been obsessed with names since I was in grade school. I pilfered the family baby name book shortly after my sister was born; today, you’ll find it, heavily annotated, on my bookshelf next to the 2003 edition. My excuse has always been that, as a writer, I need great character names. In truth, I rarely go to a baby name book or website to name a character; they tend to name themselves.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about names because I know a lot of people who have been procreating lately. Ryan’s cousin was considering naming her unborn child Katherine Elizabeth – not sure if she knew it would be a direct namesake or not – but now that it’s going to be a boy, I doubt he’d appreciate it. (I still like Wyatt Elizabeth, though.) And, in all honesty, at SOME point in the future I hope to be poring over baby names for my own family, and I needed something to write about… so here you are!

Etiquette of Baby Naming

I’m blown away by the rudeness some people exhibit, to the point where I’d consider refusing to share my eventual name ideas with others. Why would you ask someone what names they liked, if you can’t refrain from exclaiming over how much you hate that name? It’s fine if you don’t like a name – don’t give it to your kid, or dog, or pet rock, or whatever. If that’s the name your friend or coworker or relative loves, you need to be gracious about that!

That Being Said, There Are Names I Can’t Imagine Someone Using

I went to and saw that they have a daily feature: Name of the Day. Today’s name is Chernobog, which immediately raises eyebrows due to its unavoidable similarity to Chernobyl. Then there’s the meaning:

CHERNOBOG: meaning ‘black god’ in Slavic, Chernobog was the god of evil, darkness and grief in Slavic mythology.

Can you just imagine?

Additionally, I’d have a hard time keeping a straight faec if you told me you were going to name your kid Dorcas, even if it does mean “gazelle.”

On the other hand, one of the past Names of the Day and its description put a naughty smile on my face:

LUCIFER: Unappreciated! Unloved! Scorned and shunned for its darker connections while its sweetness and light go unseen! C’mon, this name rocks. And it’s fun to tell people you plan to name your child Lucifer.

This brings me to another link that I have to share: What to Name Your Baby Goth. Although isn’t the proper term “baby bat”?

Beyond the Name Itself

Names have meanings, of course (although in today’s culture of “hey, I wonder what your dad’s name would sound like if I added de- to the beginning and -ina to the end?” name construction, some meanings might be along the lines of “bored on a Thursday evening”).

I’m not sure if people give a lot of consideration to name meanings, or if anyone thinks about the first and middle names’ meanings together. Mine means pure / God is my Oath, from the Greek and Hebrew respectively.

What does your name mean? Here’s some of my family:

  • Andrew: man, warrior (Greek)
  • Bonnie: pretty (English)
  • Bryn: hill (Welsh)
  • Kit: pure (Greek)
  • Meredith: guardian of the sea (Welsh)
  • Ryan: little king (Gaelic)
  • Wally: ruler of the army (Germanic)

If you don’t know what your name means, try ParentsConnect or BabyNames, and let me know what you find out!

Note: When I looked up “Bryn,” it came with a list of related names. One, with Norse origins, was Brynja. I am in love with the name Brynja and will probably have to call her that from now on. Ha!

Names I Like (Today, Anyway)

Remember what I said earlier about not being rude? 🙂

I’m always amending this list. If you’d asked me what names I liked for kids when I was a teenager, I would have said Olivia, Julie, Jill, Philip, James, and Christopher. Only one of those names survived to my current list. Plus, some of these names are on my “liked names” list but wouldn’t make it to a “names I’d actually use” list.

Boy Names

  • Acheron* (first syllable is “ash”) – river of woe (Greek)
  • Christopher – bearer of Christ (Greek)
  • Daniel – God is my judge (Hebrew)
  • Elwood – elder tree (English)
  • Graham – abode (English)
  • Rowan – redhaired (Gaelic)**

Girl Names

  • Abigail – Joy of the Father (Hebrew)
  • Aisling (pronounced ASH-leeng or ESH-leeng) – dream (Gaelic)
  • Anjuli (pronounced ahn-juh-lee) – beloved (Hindi)
  • Madeleine – woman from Magdala (Hebrew/French)
  • Megan*** – pearl (Welsh)
  • Penelope – weaver, duck (Greek)
  • Sydney – wide meadow (English)

* This would be an example of a name I like but wouldn’t actually use. It ought to go on that baby goth list, though!

** Presents problems, as I’m opposed on principle to having multiple people in the household with the same initials, and we’ve already got an R in the house. It just makes labeling things too difficult! 😉 Unrelatedly, this name could go on the girl list, too, but everything’s much more symmetrical if I just put it on the boy list.

*** This used to be my very favorite name, but I got a negative connotation for it after a while. This past year, I met two vivacious girls – Megan and Meghan – who changed that. So it’s back on my list.

Audience Participation Time!

What are your favorite names? Any particular reason why you like them? What does your name mean, if I didn’t already define it?


6 thoughts on “Personal Anthroponymy

  1. Interestingly, Stixen, did you know that your name was actually invented by Shakespeare? The Hebrew meaning is attributed to a name very similar to your own, that is thought to have inspired WS when inventing his character’s name.

    • I had heard something to that effect.

      Unsure as to which would be correct – but I always found it amusing that my name supposedly has hebrew meaning and my sister’s at least *sounds* like a Jewish one (which my mom was horrified to learn, actually)

  2. When we first found out we were pregnant, one of the first decisions we made was Naming the Baby. It came very quickly for us, because we like family names. But it was also important for us to choose names that would pass down a heritage a child could be proud of as he/she grows into adolescence and adulthood.

    So our little girl will be born in just a few short weeks, and her name will be Ivalee Grace.

    Kyle’s grandmother’s name was Iva Lee. My grandmother’s name was Grace. I looked them up in baby name books and Iva means “God is Gracious”. And Grace means “Grace of God”. A little repetitive, perhaps. But we’re most excited about passing down the spirit of the names. Iva’s great-late grandmothers were both strong women who enjoyed the simple things in life and left a heritage of love with everyone around them. We hope to be able to pass that down through her.

  3. Angela Michelle means messenger of God (Engl)/Who is God like? (Fr)
    Kelly Scott means bright-headed (Irish)/of Scottish origin (Engl)
    Eleanor Irene means *unknown* (Fr)/peace (Gr)

    Not much continuity there…

    We didn’t pay much attention to what names meant when naming Eleanor. Kelly had really wanted an Irish name, but I think most Irish things in general are no good – the food, names, clothes, literature, music. To his credit, though, he really tried.

    • I’m betting, Angela, that you went to when you got “unknown” for Eleanor. I hate that website sometimes. Has very bizarre gaps in its database!

      Eleanor actually has Greek origins, and means “pity.” So that’s actually a very beautifully-defined name – a child who will feel pity for others, and will know or spread peace. Nice!

      Irish names are tough, because the Anglocized ones are very overused, and if they’re not Anglocized, they’re horrible to spell and pronounce. Lots of them are beautiful (Sinead, for example) but just a bear, logistically.

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