What's in a name

I love finding out why parents have chosen certain names for their children – this interest started when I was young  and  use to read the birth notices in the newspaper with my mum and comment (and chuckle) on the unusual names that parents call their children. 

When I went to primary school my friends had ordinary names like: Catherine, Wendy, Leanne, Jeffrey, Gregory and Karen.  Then one day a child turned up at my little country school and his name was Nimrod and we all thought that was really weird.  However what was interesting was when I changed schools and went to a up-market private school the names changed to: Georgina, Elizabeth, Mary, Caroline, Kate, Louise – no Wendy’s or Leanne’s at this school. 

Looking at the most popular names in Australia for 2009, we have gone back to the classic names of William, Jack, Lachlan, Cooper, Joshua, Thomas, Oliver, Noah, Isabella, Charlotte, Olivia, Mia, Emily, Sophie, Ella and Amelia.  However we aren’t using other traditional names such as Dorothy, Betty, Mildred, Marjorie, Harold, George, Donald, Kenneth.  I wonder why these are no longer popular whilst  William and Thomas have moved through the ages. What makes a name popular – I would suggest that  films, actors and novels influence parents (this isn’t new, Shirley became popular thanks to Shirley Temple), whilst others select family names or names that are perceived as being strong and powerful.  Some parents choose names as they are unusual, but once they become popular, parents stop using them, Brittany is probably a good example or Maddox (thanks to Angelina Jolie).  

Interestedly there has been an increase in spiritual and philosophical names such as (more so in the USA than Australia): Nevaeh, (which is “Heaven” spelled backwards), Heaven, Destiny, Trinity (probably thanks to the movie, The Matrix), Serenity, Harmony, Miracle, Charity, Journey, and Essence.  Fortunately the general public have not be influences by names that celebrities call their children: Sparrow, Petal Blossom, Midnight, Apple, Mars.

There appears to be a trend towards traditional names spelt “differently” (or with creative flair)— I have lived with a middle name that is not spelt the standard English way and have disagreements when told that it was “spelt wrong”, no it isn’t, just the German spelling.  Here are some examples that would be considered incorrect spelling: 
  • Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh, Brit’nee, Brittani and Bryttney or Brittany 
  • Madisyn, Maddisyn, Madisenne or Madison
  • Ayden, Aydan, Aaden, Aadan, Aden or Aiden
  • Jennyfer, Jennipher, Jennafer or Jennifer
  • Aeva, Avah, Aevaeh, Ayva, Aiva or Ava

When we chose names for our sons, we selected historical Welsh names (my dh is Welsh) – Tristan  and Caius. If we had girls we would have selected Sian, Rhiannon, Stephanie—as I love the traditional names, I would also consider Charlotte, Emily, Grace, Isabelle or Ruby (my cat got this name) for boys I like Hamish or Reuben.  It didn't take us long to decide on a name and there were no disagreements, however my dh did want Gareth and I had to say no! Both boys like their names and generally are not shortened.

How did you decide on a name?


  1. The meanings of names have a lot of importance for me. My daughter's name is a flower, but her middle names mean pure, gracious gift of God - and of course one of her middle names is shared by me and my mother. For my son, his name has special personal significance, and it means God is my judge, and gracious gift of God - his middle name is the same as my father's, and it turned out that his first name is the same as DH's. :)

    The meanings are especially important to me because you might notice that in the Bible people often lived up to the meaning of their name, and even now in our world I notice a lot of people live up (or down as the case may be) to their name's meaning.

  2. I was always sorry for the girl called Siobhán, which was pronounced Shivon. She always had to spell it out whereever she went. I have an easy name, but when I move into a new work place, I get called by my surname (also a first name) rather than my first name, and even when I e-mail that quite clearly identifies which is which, people ignore the first name and think the surname is more of a first name. As my middle name can also be either, it becomes very confusing for some if you have to write surname, first name, middle name - I know how they go, it is surprising how many people think that I don't know how to follow instructions!! LL S

  3. Stephen - My sons also have the problem of their last name getting confused with their first name. And as you can imagine, not many people know how to spell or say Caius, unless they have studied their ancient history or read the Bible.

    Clara - Tristan means noisy/tumult and he has lived up to that name completely! as for my youngest, it Latin it means rejoice and I like that. His middle name means "enthusiasm" and that suits him very well.

  4. I love names, meanings and derivations! Like Stephen, my maiden name can be girls name which made it a little difficult for my brothers :-)However it has been well used by myself and sisters for our daughters with only a couple of the grandchildren who don't have it in their name somewhere!
    My own children's names mean a Warrior, Truth, Light, Manly, A Beacon.
    My hubby and I loved many girls names in common but had a LOT of disagreements on boys names :-) Funny thing about names is they stick and once you know and love someone, you begin to like that name. My grnadsons have very modern names and I LOVE them now.

  5. Well we had to decide 5 times ~ & the first was hardest. He has an extremely unusual name as we just couldn't agree & an unusual 2nd name as Dearest wanted to commemorate his gf & i absolutely hated both his chirstian names but was ok with the surname. He also has a really weird surname ~ unusual still in this country. Everyone with it is related to us!

    Then we got twins! Double trouble with names. We ended up with a biblical name & a family name for one & an Irish name & a family name for the other but they were practically born before we could agree.

    The girls were much easier. Two family names for the oldest & an Irish & one of the spellings of my name for the other. By the last I was tired of squabbling & put down the name I prefered on her papers as I knew the shortening was a name Dearest liked & I figured we could have it both ways ~ which we have. Actually her given name has grown on him & he now really likes it. lol Unfortunately I do like rather odd names & I always wanted to use Angharad ~ which is welsh & means dearly beloved. Such a lovely meaning ~ but resisted the temptation because Dearest complained no~one out here would ever be able to spell it, let alone pronounce it!!! Sadly, all too true.

  6. Oh, & Jo, how did your boys escape being Tris & Kay? In Australia of all places. My oldest has a very elegant traditional names with many shortenings to choose from but we always called her by her full name ~ after all we chose it because we liked it! but when they started shortening it at school to something we absolutely hated we chose the nickname we liked & began using that in public. Now she says she knows how well people really know her by which name they choose to call her by! lol

  7. Ganeide - Tristan is sometimes shortened to Tris, but not very often, probably because my son refers to himself by his full name. When he was at primary school there was a short stage where he was called "Twisty". But that didn't last. As to Caius - perhaps because it is so unusual, it isn’t shortened - or people aren't sure what to shorten it to!

  8. I always wanted to give my chldren a name with a strong meaning. Their names mean many things from 'Follower of Christ' to 'Victorious.'

    After our first child ended up with one of the most popular names around (it was unusual when we chose it!) I was always careful to check the newspaper in the months leading up to the births to make sure the name we had picked was not a current trend.

    We gave them family names for their middle names, which has caused some resentment amongst the grandies.

  9. Names are a matter of taste and culture. We have a french friend who's name is Fanny. It is very common in her home town but unusual here. When we were travelling in Europe, the people we met had great trouble with our strange anglo names which are so common here.

  10. I love finding out how people choose names too! I have always found this subject very interesting... in fact I had thought of doing a blog post on this also, but with a slightly different angle. Great minds think alike! :D

    The meaning of my children's names were important to me, even though I was not yet a Christian. I am glad with what we settled on, and their dad and I had no trouble agreeing for either baby.

    I do feel sorry for some children out there... their names are cruel choices if you ask me. Some parents don't think about the fact that the children have to live with it a very long time! Especially the movie stars...

    You forgot two names that are popular religous names: Faith, Hope. And, for outlandish names, Michael Hutchins' daughter Tiger Lily is a weird one and Bob Geldoff (who now raises Tiger Lily) would have to take the cake for 'different' names. Peaches, and I can't remember the other 2. lol.

    Great post Jo!

  11. Names are very interesting aren't they and it is amazing to see the power that is in a name and how a person lives up to what they have been named.
    We had selected our dd's name and middle name years before she was born and funnily enough when I was pregnant, we didn't want to find out the sex of the baby so had to pick out both a girls and boys name and of course having already had a girls name, we tried to pick out a boy's name but couldn't agree on one. So, I believe God knew all along and put her on our hearts years before we had her. Strangely enough her middle name is Faith and that was prophetic too as she truly came about by faith as she is a medical miracle!

  12. Amanda - the names you were thinking of are (!):

    Peaches Honeyblossom
    Little Pixie
    Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily

  13. ahhh LOL! Jo, you are such a wealth of info! lol!!! You should enter into Sale of the Century of some quizz show haha...

    Interesting names eh?? :P


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