Question of the Day

When choosing baby names, how much do you allow a name’s meaning to weigh in?

This seems to be the first time where several of my top choices have meanings that don’t jive with me (i.e. Blind, Bossy, etc.).


  1. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t consider name meanings (we use family names) but if it bothers you at all, you could look to either a thesaurus or a different baby-name-meaning dictionary. E.g., “bossy” can also be “leader” or “authoritative” – which are positive attributes. “Blind” is a bit more difficult to work around, but maybe you’ll find comfort in the adage that “love is blind”?

  2. lifeasamama says:

    i have to say i didn’t so much look at the meaning of a name as in who the saint with that name is.

    DH thought I was a bit nuts for eliminating all beautiful names that didn’t have saints with them…

    but I figure that if Peanut has a couple extra saints looking out for her, that’s a good thing, right?

  3. Tallahassee Lassie says:

    I don’t put any weight on meanings of names.
    I look at the meaning but it doesn’t influence me one way or another.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I enjoy knowing what the child’s name means.America is probably one of the few nations where names are given for how they sound, not what they mean. One of my children has a first name which means,”One who stands by the blue/black water”. My husband and I love the name,he doesn’t care at all about meanings,I didn’t find it too bizarre ,so we used it. That child, of course, is our only child with very dark hair.And the child was absolutely obsessed with the story of Moses until he was about 12. These facts fascinated me all through the child’s youth, as the child never was told about the discussion of the first name. I shrug these facts off as just one of those things now, but..go figure.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I like checking the meaning of names but I like context more. You could determine the context of your baby’s name and find that it suits you more than you thought. Some e.g.’s: “Caleb” is a beautiful name, right? So enjoy the “faithful” part and forget about the “dog” part. Go ahead and name a blonde baby “Adrienne” (“dark one”) and don’t worry about “the Dark Lord” and other metaphysical negativisms–think about the beloved bride in Song of Songs.

  6. I always love looking at meanings of names. But to each her/his own.

  7. My two sons both have their father’s name ( one is a Jr. The other has Dad’s middle name for his first and Dad’s first name for his middle) but as far as my daughters,I honestly never considered the meanings of names when I picked them out. I tried to pick out names that were not too bizarre or odd so that people would not easily mispronounce them. I guess that I would never use a name that has a downright evil meaning but as Anon stated , name translations can be good or bad depending on who translates them .

  8. Disclaimer: my husbamd works in the public schools, I help with the grading and made up names (and spellings) really bug me! Why name your kid Dyamin (like diamond, but…)?

    For me: I do want the name to mean something not embarrassing. And it has to be a saint’s name! And we like it to be in the family somewhere. And not have embarrassing initials! And we both have to like it… OK, so we’re crazy, but really we’re worse than that because… we like to have a THEME! No kidding! We are naming boys after the 4 evangelists and the 4th boy (Luke) is due next month. We didn’t manage a theme with the girls, alas. Maybe we just aren’t organized enough…

    On the plus side, I am trying to convince a friend of mine (not married yet) that she should go with a theme, too. I have proposed: “Early Popes.” She could have Sixtus, and Linus, and Cletus, and Clement… Sure it’ll be tough if she has all girls, but ya gotta stick with the theme!

  9. jerseygirlmama says:

    I don’t think too much about meanings, although I think they are fun to find out. I like having a saint’s name either as a first or middle name. We were more concerned with rhymes kids could come up with or names that our kids would be teased over. For example, our nephew is named Cooper, a name we threw out immediately because of a bodily function it rhymes with. Also, if you name your child after someone, there is the hope that he or she will have the attributes of that person, not necessarily their name’s meaning. We named our daughter Shelby because of the movie Steel Magnolia’s hoping she would become a woman who would go forward in the world and not let anything hold her back like Julia Roberts’ character and her middle name is Clare after St Clare of Assisi, lots of stuff to admire there. So, just because a name might mean something in its origin you might not like, see if there is someone you know with that name whose qualities you do like!

  10. Ken Wills says:

    We have several criteria:
    1) first or middle must be a saint. as an asside, our second is named James. Does anyone name their child after James the Lesser rather than James the Greater???
    2) My mother in-law has a charm bracelet so we must come up with a charm to match the name. My children are B.M.W. – a car; J.R.W. – a cow boy hat; Daniel E.W. – a lion specifically the lion from the NY public library DEWie decimal system; finally A.N.W – we are thinking of a mug ( A&W root beer ) Not sure if my mother in law would like a beer mug on her wrist 😉

  11. Ruth Anne Adams says:

    While only dating, my now-husband told me he’d like to have boys and name them Zeke, Zack and Zeb. He liked hard consonants and Bible names. I told him “you’ll brand them as rednecks” and he agreed to give them a real name and then that name. So our Zeke is really Robert Ezekiel [Robert is both grandfathers]. Annie is Sara Anne, named after her grandmothers. For Joey? She’s Mary Jo after the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, not uncoincidentally, she was conceived on/near St. Joseph’s Day and was due on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I guess we have a Southern thang of calling the kids their middle names.

    Erma Bombeck said to yell the whole name at the top of your lungs because that’s the only time you’ll use their whole name. And it has to roll of the lungs, ya know?

  12. For us, there was a story behind the name of our first child’s name. (We’re only pregnant with #2, so…I guess I’m not really qualified to comment too much.) She was named after someone we admire who has not been able to have children, and it was a way to commemorate a hero of ours. I also see the saints as a chance to give names a great weight or meaning or story.

  13. We did consider the meanings of the names we chose for our 3, but cultural tradition trumped the menings in each case. My husband is 100% Scottish, and his family is very big into the tradition of naming your child after a relative/ancestor. We played around with it a little, using maiden names as first names, etc, but each child has a “legacy” name. My oldest is named after her grandmother, and the original Hebrew translation of her name is “bitter” (can you guess which one it is?) I was never very keen on that translation, but I am devoted to the women (both human and heavenly) whose name she bears. Since then, I have found alternate meanings such as “wished for child” which sweeten the deal even further.

  14. I’d avoid a downright awful meaning for a name, but otherwise would let other priorities have an effect.

    Naming after saints is wonderful, but of course, the saints couldn’t possibly be protecting only those peanuts with the same name, right??!


  15. Beware of sibling name-coupleing. I had neighbors who named their two daughters Elizabeth and Veronica (after a saint I think, but I’m not sure cause I’m not Catholic). THINK about that … BETTY AND VERONICA! It had never occurred to her until I blurted it out one day on the sidewalk. She cried. I felt really bad 🙁

    ALWAYS test the name of the new one in conjunction with the older ones. And ask your friends for weird connotatins that you might be missing.

    Good luck! Because life will happen, as it happened to a friend’s mother who named her son Kermit a few years BEFORE SesameStreet!

  16. If you don’t like the meaning, check another baby book/name website. It might have another meaning for your name.

  17. I am fluent in 2 languages and have some knowledge of a couple of others, so meanings are important to me. If I hear a name that means something strange in a language I know I feel pity for the person who has that name. I think the name Terra is pretty, but knowing that it means “earth” or “dirt” in Italian prevents me from using it for any of my children.

    On a funny note: some friends of ours were expecting their first baby a few years back. They were bouncing some names off of a group of us to see what we thought. The Mom wanted to name their child Siena Sierra if it turned out to be a girl (after St. Catherine of Siena, but I don’t remember why “Sierra” as a middle name). One of our friends piped up, “You want your daughter’s name to be ‘Brown Truck’???”

    Our children (6 with one more on the way) are named after saints, and I do look at the meaning of their names before deciding what to name them. All of them had flower names before they were born (Luckily so far I have been able to “feel” if it’s a boy or girl, so the boys’ flower names were masculine enough – “Thistle” & “Johnny-Jump-Up”)

    I like Erma Bombeck’s advice – stand on your back porch and yell out the name you are thinking of every day while you are pregnant (full name as if your child were in trouble). If you can say it easily and you don’t get tired of saying it, it’s a keeper. If you get sick of saying it every day (ignore the looks you get from the neighbors) change the name to something else before the child is born.

  18. I never even look up the meaning. Picking a name is hard enough. My pet peeve are those people who, when you tell them what name you are thinking of, say, “Oh, I HATE that name!” With my next one, I’m not telling anyone the name until it is born!!! lol

  19. We’re trying to pick a name for our first (a girl) right now. We would like the name to have a story of some sort–to include a name of one of her grandmothers, so we can tell her stories about her (we probably won’t live very near our families), or after a saint we particularly love or admire, or a meaning. We only worry about some meanings though–one of our favorite names is the greek word for truth, but I have always had a special relationship seeking for The Truth that has formed my journey with God, so it is a lot more than a translation. I wouldn’t worry about a translation that no one will ever know or pay attention to. My name means ‘a young female sheep,’ and I’ve never had any bad effects =) If the name has a meaning with some story or connection to you and your family, that would encourage me to consider it more strongly.

    I just saw the movie Namesake last week, and it has some interesting reflections on names, autonomy, and identity. So if you need a date with your husband…(there are about three intimate adult scenes; I don’t know how you handle those in your household). I left with a strong desire to give my kid a weird name with a story, despite the fact that I also work in the public schools and despair at some of the spelling/pronunciations.

    If the whole “story behind a name” thing isn’t important to you, then I really wouldn’t worry about the meaning. Does it ever come up with your current kids? I always liked hearing and telling how my parents chose my name, but in some families it’s not a big deal. So only consider the meaning in proportion to how important it is to your family. I have to smile as I type that, because as I progress in my pregnancy, I am losing a lot of my sense of proportion. Good luck and have fun.

  20. As I am expecting #7 myself:

    We choose names based on (1) saint’s name (2) theme, based on heritage (3) what they mean and (4) sounds good when chanted with all the other kids’ names in our family.

    They all have to match up before we “go with it,” so to speak.

    What is fascinating to us is that the meaning of their names has really come through in their personalities!

    Did you ever have to look up the meaning of your name in school? I did, and my classmates got great enjoyment out of those poor souls whose name meaning was… well… entertaining.

  21. For me it depends on how well known the meaning is. If it’s something most people wouldn’t know unless they regularly read baby name books, then I would use it. If pretty much everyone knows that it means “pig,” then I wouldn’t use it.

  22. Just little ole me says:

    We worried about names and their initials. when trying to come up with a middle name with Emily…last name begins with S…couldn’t be Marie since her initials would be EMS. Name meaning really came into play with our last one. Hubby wanted a good German name like Wilhelm…I wanted a solid Irish name like Shaemus…settled on Benjamin.

  23. fivemurfs says:

    I didn’t consider the meaning of the name at all when we decided to call our youngest son Matthew. He was born six years after the rest of my children and when I was 39 years old. Only later did I learn that Matthew means gift. And he is.