Science inspired names

I'm not even pregnant yet but we're starting to try and I'm brainstorming. We're both huge science nerds so I am entertaining science names and am curious what people's reactions are. We may go more traditional for the first name and playful science for the middle. TBD.

 

Tesla (girl)

Entropy (boy)

Lumen (girl)

Inertia (girl)

Fission (unisex)

Quark (boy)

 

Anything sound particularly awesome or horrifying to you? I'm in the very early brainstorming stages.

Replies

1
By Guest (not verified)
July 13, 2012 12:17 AM

Nova. 

2
July 13, 2012 12:51 AM

As a bit of a science nerd myself I do like this category of names.

Tesla is a favourite and I think very very usable.  

Fission and Inertia don't really work for me as names. They are just too tied to the concept rather than being a name. Others may beg to differ though.

Quark I think is quite usable and very snappy. 

At first I wasn't sure about Lumen. The sound is very close to Luna so I think it can work.

Entropy I think I wouldn't mind as a middle name but it skates on the edge of being too descriptive and not name like (for me).

I'll have to have a think about some others that might work but my 'joke' science names (aside from Tesla) were Xylem and Phloem.  I'm sure I had others too, so need to put my thinking cap on.

3
July 13, 2012 1:54 AM

In the astronomy area I know of two named Tycho--an adult and an infant--and an adult named Rigel and an infant named Orion.  Peter Abelard and Heloise named their son Peter Astrolabe, generally known as Astrolabe.  (Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe is the first technical manual written in English, written for his son Little Lewis who was not so hot in his Latin studies according to his dad.)  Names associated with scientists and inventors: Edison, Newton, Kelvin, Pascal, Wright, Euclid, Leonardo, Sagan, Celsius, Halley. but maybe not Bohr.  Other star names: Vega, Altair, Sirius and Bellatrix (hey, if J.K. Rowling can use them), Andromeda, Antares, Regulus, Lyra, Arrakis, Polaris.  Scientific terms: Joule, Infinity (better than Entropy IMO), Catalyst, Crystal (is that cheating?), Gene (more cheating?), Ion, Halogen, Kenesis, Vector (well, it's close to Victor), Volt.  Scientific instruments: Caliper, Theodolite.  In general, surnames of scientists as given names and scientific terms that have obvious "normal" nicknames might be good categories to consider.  I also think many of the star, constellation, galaxy, planet and moon names are nice.

4
July 13, 2012 12:53 PM

These are some great idea.  Just a thought on two of them: Lyra and Arrakis.  These both have strong science fiction connections: Lyra is the heroine of the Golden Compass triology by Phillip Pullman, and Arrakis is the main planet in Dune by Frank Herbert.

If you're proud science nerds, I bet a lot of people in your social circles will think of these associations.  (I didn't even know they were real stars until Miriam's post.)  That could be great - double-down on the geek pride! - or bad - too fiction, not enough science.  Just something to consider.

5
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:32 PM

i love the DUNE reference. i wanted to name one of my sons DUNCAN IDAHO, but my husband wasn't into it.

6
July 23, 2012 4:15 PM

I am trying to talk my husband into Duncan Idaho for a kitten.  "Look, we'll get a kitten that looks JUST LIKE the old cat...." 

7
July 14, 2012 9:45 PM

There was actually a little boy named Bohr in my son's kindergarten class last year. He was Chinese, so I have no idea if this was his real name or simply the name that his parents (both post docs) gave to him for their time in the States. Poor Bohr had a very tough time adjusting to school and spent much of the first semester screaming and jumping on desks. After that he settled down, learned to read, and became a model student. Then it was time to go back to China. At any rate, no one ever commented on the homynym 'bore'. I think the kids just assumed he had a foreign name.

8
July 15, 2012 1:35 AM

It's funny - "bore" didn't hit me because I went straight to "boar". However, neither is a terribly flattering homonym to have to live with...

9
July 13, 2012 10:03 AM

Tesla & Lumen are nice.  But naming a child Entropy or Inertia?!!  Please no.

Miriam's suggestion of Scientists and stars is more wearable.

10
By Guest (not verified)
July 13, 2012 11:59 AM

I really like Kelvin also, but it sounds so close to Calvin or Kevin.

 

My last name is really french so maybe Curie as a girl's name would work but that also sounds so much like Kirie...names are hard.

11
July 13, 2012 1:47 PM

I was about to suggest Curie, as well, though Marie Curie is far from the only awesome female scientist deserving of a namesake, as illustrated in this XKCD webcomic: 

http://xkcd.com/896/

12
By hwar
July 16, 2012 2:00 AM

I know an eight-year-old Kelvin. He goes by Kelvin or Kel, and it's pretty great.

13
July 23, 2012 2:43 PM

I actually really like Kelvin because it sounds so close to Calvin... it's subtle enough that it will read as a "regular" name to almost everyone who hears it, but it still has that science flair that the "nerds" among us (LOL!) will get and appreciate. I think it's a much easier name for a child to live with throughout life and to use professionally.

14
July 13, 2012 12:33 PM

I think this is a really great concept, and that you'll definitely be able to find a scientific name that works.

But Inertia is just plain terrible.  People use the word inertia metaphorically to mean lack of progress - a meaning directly counter to all the growth and exploration that I would wish for a child.

Tesla and Lumen aren't bad, though.

Miriam has some great suggestions - I like Tycho and Kelvin, and especially Joule.  The spelling is a quirky science name, but it sounds like a recognizable girl's name.

Another girl option would be Ada Lovelace, the early computer programmer.  You could use the whole name as a first and middle.

For a boy, how about Hawking, as in physicist Stephen Hawking?

15
July 13, 2012 2:59 PM

Lumen is tough. It does mean a unit of light output, in which case it's fine, but it also means the central cavity inside a tubular tissue or within a cell. The egg matures in the ovary in a compartment called a lumen. I wouldn't recommend it.

Also, Entropy and Inertia have negative connotations outside their scientific meanings, so I don't recommend them, either. It's a pity, because Inertia is quite pretty.

Tesla, Quark? Fine. Fission? I think we can do better.

In addition to names below, a few more astronomer names that work well in today's trends: Kepler, Chandra (short for Chandrasekhar), Abell, Cassini, Copernicus, Galileo, Herschel, Kuiper, Lalande, Dyson

Also looking in other fields: Feynman, Aristotle, Angstrom, Dalton, Doppler, Eigen, Millikan, Oliphant, Avogadro, Erlenmeyer, Faraday, Thorne, Hawking, Pauling, Richter, Volta, Audubon, Carver, Dawkins, Linnaeus ( ;) ), Nobel, Stirling, Lovelace, Pascal, Kelvin

Scientific and mathematic terms: Symmetry, Lemma, Theory, Rhombus, Radius, Logic, Thesis, Root, Fractal, Quartic, Quintic, Enthalpy, Kinesis, Catalysis, Rhyolite, Xenolith, Perihelion, Vertex, Apex, Ether, Ester

16
By Guest (not verified)
July 13, 2012 4:31 PM

Thesis is great! 

17
By Guest (not verified)
July 16, 2012 10:20 PM

Really digging Logic as a neo "virtue" name, but only in the middle.

18
July 23, 2012 2:45 PM

Pascal is a great suggestion! I think it works great because it has that double identity too--it can read as a "normal" name AND have that science/math connection.

19
March 24, 2014 5:15 PM

Great list!!! I love a lot of these. If you are going to use the name of a scientist I would stick to one that is well known. Otherwise it may loose it's science meaning to the general public. They would just see it for the names actual meaning. Although I mentioned below that you could use Nichola for a boy, it is a name that's meaning may be lost on the general public.

From these suggestions my favorites, including nn suggestions, are Cassini (nn Cass), Copernicus (nns Cooper or Coop), Galileo (Leo), Faraday, Pascal, Kelvin, Theory, Logic, Quintic (Quint, boy or Quinn, girl), and Apex (Ace)

I like a lot of the others too, but these are the ones I would consider using for my own child.

20
July 13, 2012 6:42 PM

I'd say name the kid after a specific scientist rather than a scientific concept.

Entropy, Inertia and Fission... no. I simply don't like the "meaning" of those terms - mess, inactivity, splitting - as names. 

Lumen... as someone above me pointed out, the other meaning, "hole", is not that flattering. 

Quark... well, it has a quirky sound but quark is also a kind of cheese. Are people going to think particle or cheese?

Tesla... I have no objections to this one because it's an actual name.

 

 

21
By EM2N
July 13, 2012 10:50 PM

I'm a science nerd too and have also considered sciencey names. I actually have three on my boy name list: Pauling (from Linus Pauling), Aldo (from Aldo Leopold) and Kelvin (the temperature scale).  I don't think I'll actually use any of them if we have a boy but I like them.

I don't really like any of the ones you've selected.  Tesla would be ok, but I guess it sounds too much like a name a science fiction writer would come up with.

@lorelai - I LOVED that xkcd, sent it to all my fellow lady scientist friends when it came out :)

A few others - 

Berkeley (f) - from the element Berkelium which is named after the city and lab I think.

Lise (f) - from Lise Meitner, my personal favorite female scientist.

Rosalind (f) - from Rosalind Franklin, my 2nd fav female scientist.

Higgs - after the newly discovered particle??!

Dmitri - after Mendeleev

Albert

22
By Guest (not verified)
July 14, 2012 11:14 PM

I know of a little boy named Atom.

23
July 15, 2012 1:42 AM

Quark was the name of the dog in Honey I Shrunk the Kids - but since he was named as a science homage, it might not be too bad an association (thought I think that you can probably do better for a first name, anyway).

24
July 15, 2012 1:08 PM

Quark was also the name of one of the Ferengi on the Star Trek series Deep Space 9. If you're seriously interested in this name, do an image search to be sure you can live with the comparisons that sci fi nerds are bound to make!

25
By Guest (not verified)
July 16, 2012 10:29 PM

Bunsen

Beaker

26
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:13 PM

Tesla all the way. Coolest baby girl name ever.

27
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:23 PM

I like Tesla!  My husband is a physicist and our daughter's name is Katherine Theta.

28
July 17, 2012 1:28 PM

Very cool! I could list out the entire Greek alphabet. Some of them have seen use (Delta), others have extra meanings associated with them (Alpha, Iota, Pi, Omega), and some don't work well (Xi, Nu), but there are a few gems in there!

Beta, Gamma, Delta, Zeta, Theta, Eta, Omicron, Sigma, Tau?

29
August 1, 2012 3:27 PM

"Theta, my little angle!" :-)

Actually, I think Katherine Theta is a pretty fun combination. Of course, all the Greek letters have been re-used multiple times in various branches of science to represent different variables, constants and units. Theta is first and foremost the size of an angle to me, but what did you two have in mind in choosing it?

30
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:28 PM

I love the star names, particularly for girls.  Tesla's also pretty good.  Lumen might get a few more hits as there was a character named Lumen on Dexter and it does sound similar to Luna.  Curie and Joule are cute too.

Quark is nice, and would fit nicely with the Q crowd without completely blending in.  I do like Atom as well (although I'd say middle name for sure on that one or he's going to have a lifetime of correcting Adam) and obviously many of the scientist names would work well (Edison, anyone? Yes, he's more of an inventor than a scientist, per se.).

31
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:34 PM

i like lumen (there was a character played by julia stiles on dexter by the name) and i also really like tesla.

one thing i would consider is possible nicknames that could come of these. someone might want to call QUARK "QUARKY'.

32
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:36 PM

I think this is a fun concept and like the other posters, I'm sure you'll find something just right.  I think Entropy, Fission and Inertia would be tough names to grow up with, though.  Tesla is fun, but I hear it and immediately think 80s rock band!  Good luck!

33
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 1:36 PM

Tesla & Lumen are beautiful as names.

Quark quickly brings to mind the Ferengi of the same name from Star Trek - probably not a good choice because of that.

The others just don't sound like names to me, sorry. :)

34
July 17, 2012 1:47 PM

Of your list I like Tesla the best. I'm sorry, I really don't like the others. Entropy is just setting your kid up for teasing if he's a rowdy boy or throws the inevitable tantrums that all kids do. And Inertia, well I can just imagine people telling her, "Get off your butt, Inertia!" Lumen isn't the best choice because of the aforementioned "hole" meaning, and Fission seems rather divisive. Quark is too much like Quirk to me, which could also invite teasing.

There are plenty of science names that are beautiful and meaningful and useful though. I'm sure you can find plenty more options! Of the ones mentioned above, I really like Nova (I knew one person named Nova). Although if you're Latino, that wouldn't work (remember the Chevy Nova that didn't sell well in Mexico?).

My favorite real life example is a doctor I knew named Electron. His dad was an electrical engineer and his siblings were named Positron, Neutron, Deutron, and Proton. Awesome!

Good luck and congrats!

35
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 2:43 PM

Like the idea, don't like the names. I was a physics major and now an MD. I work in a hospital and I would say avoid all medical terms. Many have been tried, all will have bad associations for most people. There have got to be some good quantum physics terms, though not what I see here.

A lumen is basically a hole (really the inside of a tube or blood vessel)- don't use it.

Tesla sounds the best as a name- he was a very distinguished man and the father of computers, but legally persecuted for being gay despite his accomplishments, thought to have ended his own life. Which may be a positive but might be negative. When girls have been given surnames, usually more neutral or similar to a female name (Madison, Harper)

Entropy and Enertia (actually spelled Inertia) seem horrible, even knowing the neutral definitions

Quark sounds like the small bumpy faced Star Trek Vogager alien obsessed with making profit (his "race" was a Ferengi or something), pronounced different but probably spelled the same.

I liked all the Star Trek shows and did consider Jadzia (as in Jadzia Dax) for my daughter- she was pretty and smart:)

 

 

36
August 1, 2012 3:23 PM

"Tesla ... was a very distinguished man and the father of computers, but legally persecuted for being gay despite his accomplishments, thought to have ended his own life." - I think you're thinking here of Alan Turing, certainly another worthy namesake. Nicola Tesla was famous for his pioneering explorations and inventions in using electricity and was a rival to Thomas Edison. (Edison and Tesla sound nice as a pair, but the rivalry makes the combination a bit edgy for me.)

37
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 2:45 PM

Tesla is a winner IMO. The others not so much. lumen was also a character on Dexter.

I guess it depends on your field as to what appeals. For boys I like Darwin and in neuroscience, Cajal, Huxley (as in Hodgkin and Huxley) Adrian, Sherriington I know a fellow scientist named Kelvin so sometimes the joke is "Lord Kelvin" or people get it wrong (Calvin, Kevin?). Others Nobel, Ohm

for girls, ester is cute, but everyone woud get the spelling wrong. I knew someone who named her cat that. Linnea (for Carl Linnaes), Sagan (Carl)...

I also suggest looking to Greek for inspiration... photon/light becomes Fotis, mars becomes ares, etc...b
Anyway - naming a baby is fun... So enjoy and don't be disheartened by naysayers. That's why I always liked to keep my name musings online and anonymous!

38
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 5:13 PM

I knew brothers named Quantum, Quark, and Quasar. Theirnames got got quite a few giggles, but people got used to them pretty quick. 

39
By Guest (not verified)
July 17, 2012 5:59 PM

My son's middle name is Tesla.  :)

40
July 21, 2012 4:09 AM

Not a fan of Lumen, for its biology associations of hole or cavity, as others have said. Inertia is a no, despite the pretty sound, also for its meaning. Entropy is perhaps a bit better in that regard for me.

I like the idea of picking a favorite scientist, either first or last name. Ada Lovelace would be fantastic, here. In a more mathy direction, I think Hypatia is very wearable!

I also find I like Logic as a neo-virtue name in the middle slot. My three-year-old is currently pushing for various mashups with Curious as a name for a next sibling... perhaps less science-y, and a bit more "have read the Curious George books too many times", but I thought I'd mention it.

41
By Guest (not verified)
July 21, 2012 12:58 PM

What a fun idea! Very easy to over think it. I love Scifi, but many of these associations were new to me. Cheese? Hole? Why do girl names seem easier? I like:

Girl:

Tesla, Lumen, Curie

Boy:

Joule, Adamantium, Mendeleev

42
March 24, 2014 6:24 PM

Curie

Brilliant name for a girl!

43
July 21, 2012 1:35 PM

I agree with the comments by Linnaeus and the Guest who was a physics major and now an MD. I appreciate the idea, but I would prefer a science-inspired name to be more subtle, or at least to be a name that has positive connotations among laypeople or more accessible nicknames. Honoring scientists is one idea. Might I suggest Mendeleev?

Of your original list, I had an immediate, negative aesthetic reaction to lumen. I have studied too much anatomy to think of it as anything other than a space inside a tube, which may be filled with urine, blood, or other bodily fluids. I think the sound is trendy, but to me it would be akin to naming a girl "alexia" because it sounds pretty. People do it, in considerable numbers. They are either ignorant of the meaning or choose to disregard it. Quoting a comment on Namipedia, "The Random House Dictionary defines alexia as "a neurologic disorder marked by loss of the ability to understand written or printed language, usually resulting from a brain lesion or a congenital defect."" I know, Alexia was not on your list, so I'm off on a little tangent.

Have you seen Despicable Me, with the super-villian who dubs himself Vector?

Like several other commenters, I have negative reactions to Entropy and Inertia. Along similar lines, I think in general usage, the term Momentum has much more positive connotations, and better possible nicknames.

 

 

 

 

44
By Guest (not verified)
July 23, 2012 2:29 PM

I agree with you. However, the difference with Alexia is that it is an actual name that just happens to be the same as a condition.

 

45
July 23, 2012 1:51 PM

Just adding another category to science names: botanicals.

Yes, a bunch of these are used regularly--plants have influenced names ever since we started naming ourselves. But once you delve into botany, you find more possibilities:

  • Sepal (the "leaves" at the base of a flower)
  • Calyx (the cup-like structure formed by the sepals)
  • Anther (the male part of a flower)
  • Myristica (the genus of the mace and nutmeg tree)
  • Ginkgo
  • Sida (a mallow genus)

 

46
By Guest (not verified)
July 23, 2012 2:33 PM

I love this topic.  My husband and I are both scienetists and we're having this conversation too.  I wouldn't name a kid interia, thats almost synomous with lazy.  (Takes a lot a of force to get moving, and once moving won't stop.)  Or entropy.  I mean do you really want to remind your kid he's supposed to make things go from ordered to disordered.

For sceince names we're thinking Haley, like the comet.  Another one I like is Andromeda for the galaxy, and Andie for short (also has a cool mythological story.) Marie for Marie Curie, which I like a bit better than fission, and Carl for Carl Sagan are cool.  Feyman or Richard Feyman would be awesome.

Stella means star.  I like Tesla as a girls name, it has the ending for it, though I'm not sure I personally would go with it as a first name. 

Oh and there is always Albert, as in Albert Einstein.  You can call your kid Al.

 

47
By mk
July 23, 2012 3:19 PM

Girls:

Rosalind for Rosalind Franklin

Aurora

Luna

Nova

Artemisia: plant and ancient botanist

If Opal, Ruby, Jade etc are too common for you, you could use mineral names like Beryl and Alexandrite.

Boys:

Xenon: heavy noble gas

Blaise: Blaise Pascal (Pascal also works)

Atom: would be confused with Adam too much though

Newton:  Isaac Newton

 

Is there a specific scientific field you want to focus on?

 

 

48
July 31, 2012 12:40 PM

I know this thread is a little old, but I've been wanting to comment! Being a science nerd myself, I love the idea of science names in theory – but I’m finding that personally I’m rather picky about what works well in practice. Then, my general bias is towards names that offer some flexibility for the kid’s interests and personality. A strongly one-note name is one I’d be more likely to use for a middle; since the kid won’t have to share her middle name if she doesn’t care for it, there are fewer potential negatives to being quirky there. Lots of posters have shared in other contexts that having an unusual middle name is fun, but having a quirky first name might not suit as well.

Like others, my instinct was to look to a scientist namesake (lots of good ones mentioned already; I’ve personally mulled Aldo, Rosalind and Lise, and I’ve heard of Tesla being used) or a name that has resonance in both science and another context. The star/constellation/planet names that also have mythological references, as Miriam suggested, represent another obvious route, though I'd caution you to check out the stories as well and make sure those associations are ones you're comfortable with. (E.g. Io, moon of Jupiter, is named after one of the god's lovers who was cursed by his angry wife by being turned into a cow.) The moons of Uranus are mostly named after Shakespeare characters, so that’s another direction you could follow up. A lot of flowers and minerals are themselves named after people or places, so they have a built-in name-like quality that makes them more wearable. I particularly love Linnea, after the twinflower (linnaea), which is of course named after the father of biological taxonomy, Linnaeus/Carl von Linne: you get a science homage, a pretty flower and even naming nerdiness itself all rolled into one sweet name! (Other flowers named after people: Dahlia, Forsythia … )

Some astronomy name lists:

 

  • Satellites of Jupiter: Adrastea, Amalthea, Ananke, Callisto, Carme, Elara, Europa, Ganymede, Himalia, Io, Leda, Lysithea, Metis, Pasiphae, Sinope, Thebe
  • Satellites of Neptune: Despina, Galatea, Larissa, Naiad, Nereid, Proteus, Thalassa, Triton
  • Satellites of Saturn: Atlas, Calypso, Dione, Enceladus, Epimetheus, Helene, Hyperion, Iapetus, Janus, Mimus, Pan, Pandora, Phoebe, Prometheus, Rhea, Telesto, Tethys, Titan
  • Satellites of Uranus: Ariel, Belinda, Bianca, Cordelia, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Miranda, Oberon, Ophelia, Portia, Puck, Rosalind, Titania, Umbriel
  • A handful of interesting asteroids (there are plenty more; a lot of these are entertaining/wacky and not good human names, while some are surprisingly common and just a fun extra reference for a more ordinary name): Ceres, Pallas, Vesta, Hygeia, Interamnia, Europa, Davida, Sylvia, Cybele, Eunomia, Juno, Euphrosyne, Hektor, Thisbe, Bamberga, Patientia, Herculina, Doris, Ursula, Camilla, Eugenia, Iris, Amphitrite, Diotima, Fortuna, Egeria, Themis, Aurora, Alauda, Hermione, Palma, Nemesis, Hebe, Psyche, Metis, Apophis, Eros, Melpomene, Flora, Ganymede, Nausikaa, Massalia … Dioretsa, Astraea, Antiope, Undina, Kleopatra, Ida, Thule, Glauke, Brucia, Veritas, Albert, Hidalgo, China, Icarus, Chiron, Bacchus, Phaethon, Cruithne, Toutatis, Castalia, Eureka, Echeclus, Adalberta, Adelaide, Transvaalia, Susi, Aase, Mentha, Tulipa, Virtanen, China, Zhongguo, Silvretta, Lipperta, Maritima, Schorria, Crocus, Mathilde, Bede, Braille .....

 

The scientific-concept-as-name route is certainly an option, but I’ll have to admit that personally I’d be more inclined to use most of these in the middle name slot. I agree with others that, since these are familiar as words and not as names, the actual meaning does matter; just having a name-like sound isn’t good enough. As Linnaeus points out, they work a little like virtue names (I love the suggestion of Logic! Hey, if Lyric works … ). So, I’d want the name to have a positive connotation – and I can’t quite get behind the mindset of “it’s a science term and science is cool therefore the name is positive, Q.E.D.” Fission, Entropy and Inertia all have negative connotations in the vernacular (splitting, chaos, resistance to change). To someone who works with these concepts, they don’t feel any more name-like than Temperature, Pressure, Mass, Density, Radioactive Decay, Meiosis, Refraction, Eruption or any other physical property or process. Lumen is a mixed bag, as has been pointed out, and that would be enough to steer me away. A unit of measurement (the meaning I assume you’re going for) seems like an odd choice in general for a name, assuming you wouldn’t go with Centimeter, Degree, Light-Year, Calorie or Millibar either. Some units are named after famous scientists (Pascal and Newton leap to mind), so that feels more natural. I also rather like Fathom, which in vernacular use references not just the unit of water depth but also the processes of both measuring and (metaphorically) understanding/imagining, not bad connotations for an aspiring scientist. Or, if you want to invoke light and/or its propagation through space, why not go with Lux, Luster, Aster/Stella/Star or even Ray? (I’d skip its counterpart Particle, but I think Photon could work.)

Quark is neutral meaning-wise but has a fun, quirky sound, so I could get behind that one; I do think of the cheese, but I don’t see that as a serious obstacle. If you like the subatomic particle genre, I’d say Proton is a “happier” name than Neutron (could you live with the “Jimmy Neutron, boy genius” association?) or Electron. Electra, of course, is an ancient Greek name that sort of invokes electrons and electricity and has a nice, snappy sound and the easy mainstream nickname Ellie; of course, there’s also the mythological character who was the subject of tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides and the namesake of the Electra complex (the female counterpart to the Oedipus complex), so you’d want to weigh those associations as well. Other subatomic particles that sound vaguely name-like are Muon, Pion, and Boson. I could sort of see using Boson for the middle name of a kid born this summer, in tribute to the exciting Higgs discovery. (Bosons, of course, are named in tribute to the great Indian physicist Satyendra Bose, while the other particle names are just derived from Greek letters.)

All these –on names make me think of the noble gases – Neon, Argon (Argonne for a girl, after the national lab?), Krypton, Xenon, probably skip Radon – which might be similarly plausibly name-like. Other elements might be possible as well, though I think it’s easier to get away with the more obscure ones. If you do decide to explore this route, let me recommend reading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. Levi was an Italian Jew and a Holocaust survivor and is best known for his writings about the Holocaust, but he was also a chemist by trade and this lovely little book is a collection of short stories centered around the “personalities” of various elements. As such it conveys a sense of their cultural associations as well their physical properties. Think about whether you care if your namesake element is poisonous (lots are), and also look for interesting properties or associations. For example, I think Iridium is kind of cool: the name comes from the Greek root for “rainbow,” and because the element is concentrated in asteroids, the discovery of iridium enrichment in K/T boundary rocks worldwide led to the proposal that the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs was due to an enormous meteorite impact, which means the element also has an interesting story in the history of scientific discovery and thought. The whole periodic table, for your perusal: (Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium), Beryllium, (Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine,) Neon, (Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum/Aluminium, Silicon, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Chlorine,) Argon, (Potassium, Calcium,) Scandium, (Titanium), Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, (Iron), Cobalt, (Nickel, Copper), Zinc, Gallium, Germanium, (Arsenic), Selenium, Bromine, Krypton, Rubidium, Strontium, Yttrium, Zirconium, Niobium, Molybdenum, (Technetium), Ruthenium, Rhodium, Palladium, Silver, (Cadmium), Indium, (Tin), Antimony, Tellurium, (Iodine), Xenon, (Cesium, Barium,) Lanthanum, Cerium, Praesodymium, Neodymium, Promethium, Samarium, (Europium), Gadolinium, Terbium, Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, Lutetium, Hafnium, Tantalum, (Tungsten), Rhenium, Osmium, Iridium, (Platinum), Gold, Mercury, Thallium, (Lead), Bismuth, Polonium, Astatine, (Radon), Francium, Radium, Actinium, Thorium, (Protactinium, Uranium, Neptunium, Plutonium, Americium, Curium, Berkelium, Californium, Einsteinium, Fermium, Mendelevium, Nobelium, Lawrencium, Rutherfordium, Dubnium, Seaborgium, Bohrium, Hassium, Meitnerium, Darmstadtium, Roentgenium, Copernicium, Ununtrium, Flerovium, Ununpentium, Livermorium, Ununseptium, Ununoctium)

 What I’d be looking for in a science name, the more I think about it, is something that invokes what is exciting and inspiring about science. It could be related to a natural phenomenon that I find beautiful, mysterious or compelling; it could be related to the process of inquiry; it could be a tribute to a scientist I admire for his/her insight, persistence, brilliance or courage. Hopefully names of those types would feel meaningful to my kid whether he turned out to be a geneticist or a poet or plumber. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m insisting I’d be sensible … but that also hasn’t stopped me fantasizing about names that don’t meet all these criteria either. And of course your own approach doesn’t have to be the same – at all!

My own background is in geology, so I’ll post again later with some geology names! Meanwhile I think this contribution has gotten long enough. :-) Hope my ramblings are of interest to someone here.

 

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August 1, 2012 3:18 PM

OK, I said I’d be back to post some geology names, so here goes! I realize I’m probably talking to myself here, but hopefully at least a few of you will find these entertaining. :-) I’ve always had a soft spot for the names and jargon of my favorite branch of science; in keeping with my general interests in history and the resonances of naming, I especially love how they reflect the history of the science, being drawn from such a variety of sources. Glaciology terms often come from Scandinavian languages or French (the Alps); volcanology bears the imprint of the Italians and their famous volcanoes; structural geology and mineralogy borrow a lot from German; desert landform names are often sourced from Arabic (the Sahara and Middle East) or Spanish (the American Southwest). Rock and mineral names are a whole genre of their own. Some mineral names are delightfully medieval, hearkening back to the days of the alchemists. Of course many are tributes to either people or places, and lots of them draw on Latin or Greek roots to describe some aspect of the mineral, just as scientific names in biology often do. Often this gives them “extra” meanings or associations, such as Celestine, which invokes the sky in reference to the mineral’s pretty blue color. Sometimes the descriptions reflect comical misunderstandings: for example, pyroxene means “stranger to fire” from the mistaken belief that minerals in this group do not form in an igneous setting. In any case, many of them sound cool and exotic and still name-like. So, here are some geology terms I've joked about using – not an exhaustive but still a pretty extensive list. Some of them already have history as given names (generally with a distinct etymology), others I think are pretty wearable if unfamiliar, and of course there are also some that are best kept in the realm of fantasy!

Gemstones already used as names – boys: Diamond, Garnet, Jasper, Jet; girls: Amber, Beryl, Coral/Coralline, Crystal, Diamond, Emerald/Esmeralda, Garnet, Jade, Opal, Pearl, Ruby, Sapphire

Other minerals and mineral properties that sound name-like –  boys: Aerugo, Alabaster, Alkali, Amianthus, Antimony, Argil, Asbolan, Bardiglio, Bismuth, Bort, Carbonado, Clay, Corundum, Cyprine, Edelfarse, Epidote, Euclase, Euxenite, Frost, Jarosite, Lavendulan, Lyncurium, Malacon, Massicot, Meerschaum, Natron, Pyrope, Retzian, Rubellan, Rutile, Ochre, Schiller, Schorl, Spodumene, Topaz, Umber, Wolfram, Xanthitane, Xylochlore; – girls: Adamantine, Adelite, Aegirine, Aerinite, Alexandrine, Allanite, Almandine, Amatrice, Amygdule, Anatase, Andalusite, Annite, Aquamarine, Aragonite, Azure, Baryte, Birnessite, Callaina, Calomel, Cassiterite, Celadonite, Celestine, Chrysocolla, Cleiophane, Davyne, Delessite, Desmine, Dorrite, Drusy, Erionite, Fluorite, Galena, Gismondine, Glaucophane, Haüyne, Hedyphane, Iolite, Iserine, Ixiolite, Kaolin, Kyanite, Lapis Lazuli, Leucite, Laurionite, Melilite, Monazite, Nepheline, Olivine, Peridot, Psilomelane, Pyrochlore, Pyrolusite, Rhodochrosite, Riebeckite, Rubicelle, Spessartine, Spinel, Staurolite, Tourmaline, Trona, Turqoise, Uvarovite, Vesuvianite, Violane, Viridine, Zigueline, Zoisite

You could name a large family of kids just after different varieties of quartz (Agate, Amethyst, Ametrine, Aventurine, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Citrine, Gwindel, Jasper, Onyx, Prase, Quartzine, Sard, Silex) or feldspars (a smaller group: Adularia, Albite, Andesine, Celsian, Loxoclase, Muldan, Sanidine). I also love Realgar and Orpiment as a pair, or Fay and Forster, after the end members of the olivine solid solution.

Rocks and Sediments – boys: Arkose, Basalt, Culm, Elvan, Flaser, Gabbro, Gosson, Lode, Marl, Obsidian, Rapakivi, Porphyry, Sarsen, Skarn, Varve; – girls: Ademellite, Arenite, Aureole, Breccia, Caliche, Coquina, Dacite, Diorite, Glaucony, Gyttja, Kimberlite, Komatiite, Lherzolite, Lumachelle, Miarolite, Minette, Phyllite, Rendzina, Rhyolite, Scoria, Syenite, Travertine, Tufa – Incidentally, Dostoyevsky’s relentless detective in Crime and Punishment has a fantastic geology name: Porfiry Petrovich.

Glaciology – boys: Col, Drumlin, Esker, Firth, Fjord, Kame, Lochan, Loess, Monadnock, Nunatak, Serac, Stoss (twin to Lee), Tarn, Thufur, Till, Tor; – girls: Corrie, Crevasse, Firn, Moraine, Ogive, Riegel

Volcanology – boys: Ash, Geyser, Guyot, Lahar, Maar, Puy; – girls: Caldera, Kipuka, Fumarole, Pozzolana, Tephra, Tuya – Or (if you don’t mind naming your kids after noxious fumarole emanations) how about twins Solfatara and Soffioni?

More geomorphology (landscapes) – boys: Arroyo, Basset, Bolson, Canyon, Clint, Erg, Inselberg, Karst, Pingo, Reg, Rhourd, Rupes, Ruware, Scree, Seif, Serir, Swale, Swash, Tafoni, Takyr, Talus, Tombolo, Wadi, Wold, Yardang, Zeugen, Zibar; – girls: Aquifer, Avalanche, Bajada, Cascade, Chenier, Cuesta, Doline, Draa, Hamada, Majanna, Palsa, Playa, Ria, Sabkha, Tundra, Uvala

Structural geology and ancient worlds – boys: Albian, Allochthon, Arundian, Bashkirian, Burzyan, Caradoc, Chazyan, Dryas, Grenville, Gzelian, Horst, Flysch, Lias, Orogen, Solvan; – girls: Anisian, Avalonia, Cordillera, Cruziana, Ediacara, Farallon, Laurentia, Merioneth, Molasse, Panthalassa – I like these pairs: Flysch & Molasse, Laurentia & Panthalassa.

Winds and weather – boys: Barat, Bise, Beaufort, Buran, Chinook, Etesian, Föhn, Harmattan, Leste, Levanter, Libeccio, Pampero, Ponente, Scirocco, Vardar, Zephyr; – girls: Bora, Khamsin, Kosava, Leveche. Purga, Shamal, Vendavale

Maps – boys: Azimuth; girls: Zenith

And of course there are historical tributes – just scratching the surface here, I like Hutton and Lyell together, or Dana and Bowen, or Darcy and Gilbert. I’ve always found the name of J. Tuzo Wilson, one of the pioneers of plate tectonics, particularly striking, but haven’t been able to find any information on Tuzo – does anyone here know anything about it? I’ve actually met a little Luna, daughter of a geologist, whose name was inspired partly by the respected hydrologist Luna Leopold (a man, incidentally, and brother to the great conservationist and writer Aldo) and of course references the moon as well. And I know a non-geologist who liked the mineral Galena enough to name his daughter after it. One I’ve thought about, though the connection wouldn’t be obvious to most, is Florence, after the pioneering Dr. Bascombe, who was the first woman to earn a geology Ph.D. in the U.S.

When it comes down to it though, probably everything here will stay in fantasyland for me. Some of the terms, while they sound name-like and kind of cool, don't have the best associations (e.g. Lahar = deadly volcanic mud flow) or just betray their etymology a little too obviously for my taste (e.g. Breccia = broken). And then, our colleagues and families would probably let us live down very few of these. (Well, we'd likely get teased for Clay, Crystal, Terra or even Peter, as far as that goes... ) I figure these lists will come in handy though when we’re expecting and getting bugged about names before we’re ready to share. If I toss out, “Oh, we’re thinking of Arkose for a boy and Travertine for a girl” that will keep everyone off-kilter … and make them relieved when whatever we do end up picking is just slightly more normal! :-)

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By EM2N
August 1, 2012 4:00 PM

WOW, Kalmia these are two amazing posts.  I especially appreciate this geology one ... my undergraduate was in geology though now I'm an environmental scientist.  I think my favorite part: 

"Fay and Forster, after the end members of the olivine solid solution"

That is so awesome and nerdy.  I don't think I'll ever use a sciency name but I just love thinking about them and reading your ideas is so much fun!  There's a few "out there" ones that I've thought would make good names: Epidote, Anatase, Karst.  Violane I hadn't ever though about but seems like it could really take off!

I will give a word of warning on the name Avalanche... I was back country skiing one time when a guy starts yelling, "Avalanche! Avalanche!"  This is the worst possible thing you want to hear someone yelling when in the winter mountains and it made my heart jump straight up into the back of my throat.... luckily turns out the dude was trying to get his dog to come to him... he got his dog to come back eventually and also received many talking-tos (nice name for a dog, jacka-$!).  I would not recommend naming anything Avalanche!!  

I'm also laughing thinking about a little Lahar - I picture him being highly destructive and looking like Pigpen from the Peanuts.