About Me

Per EVie's suggestion: Here is some information about me: Since personal names currently in use are derived from a multitude of languages and sources, no one can be an expert in all of them. My PhD is in Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic, and I also have had formal training in almost all the Germanic languages (Old and Middle High German, Old Saxon, Gothic, Old Low Franconian, Middle Dutch, Yiddish, Modern German, and Netherlandic/Flemish). In addition I learned Hebrew, Latin, and French before I left high school. Cobbling together my French and Latin, I know something about some of the other Romance languages (including Old French, Anglo-Norman, and Occitan), but I am no expert in Romance philology, although I have had formal training in Germanic philology. So that gives me a better than average background in many of the languages from which our current namestock is derived. However, what I know about Greek and Greek-derived , Balto-Slavic and Celtic names comes from my general knowledge of Indo-European philology, and my general knowledge of Indo-European philology does not really cover names from Sanskrit and other Indian languages and Persian. Knowing Hebrew gives me a bit of insight into cognate Arabic names, but I know nothing about Finno-Ugaric (happily we have our Hungarian sisters for that), Chinese, Japanese, the many indigenous languages of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

My Favorite Names

No favorite names yet.

My Recent Blog Comments
July 30, 2014 11:28 PM

I think the Ah-NEE-ka pronounciation is more likely with the spelling Anika.

July 30, 2014 11:23 PM

A famous person named Vada is the major league baseball player Vada Pinson.  If I saw the name Vada my first thought would be male, although I know there was a female character in a film named Vada as well.  So Vada is at least somewhat ambiguous as to gender which may or may not be of concern.

July 30, 2014 11:09 PM
In Response to Wroenna? with nn Wren

The Old English forms for 'wren' are wrenna, wrænna, werna, wærna and for a female bird, wrenne. The æ is pronounced like the a in ash or at.  And the w is pronounced.  I don't know where you got the form wroenna pronounced like Rowena, but wherever you got it, that source is not reliable to say the least.  I suppose you could name a girl Wrenne, the Old English word for the female bird, but remember that the w should be pronounced and so should the e.  Or if you like Wren, then just use Wren.  Well, there is also the clothing designer who recently hanged herself, L'Wren Scott.  In her case her birth name was Laura.  Another possibility is Renate/Renata/Renee/Rena.  Or maybe Maren....Or the (IMO) dubious Renesmee.

July 30, 2014 09:22 AM

The Hebrew name would have the long o.  I don't know how the name of Scots derivation would be pronounced.  I have also heard the name pronounced Rah-na, when it was used  for a girl named after her father Ron.  I think you could pronounce it however you like, depending on which derivation you prefer.

July 29, 2014 10:27 AM
In Response to Thoughts on Aven?

A random thought:

If you like Aven would you be interested in Afton? Afton Water is a river in Ayrshire which was "memorialized" in a famous poem by Robert Burns which was set to music and is or at least was frequently sung: Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes.  Pretty much as Scots as one can get.  I am not generally a fan of random place names used as personal given names, but to my ears Afton does have a certain namey-ness.  And because Afton Water was considered 'sweet' by Robert Burns (and who am I to argue with him), it does give me a feminine vibe.

July 29, 2014 12:52 AM

Since you want all girl I would suggest the speling Bronwen.  The -y- is the sign of the masculine.  Gwendolen, Bronwen, and Olwen are all feminine names.  Wynn and Gwyn are masculine.

Rona is a feminine Modern Hebrew name mean singing, joy.  It's a variant of the unisex Ron.  Rona is also a variant of a Scots feminine name more usually spelled Rhona.

July 26, 2014 07:46 PM

Liam Neeson?  The only Liam I know is of retirement age, and I certainly never thought of the name as anything but masculine.

July 26, 2014 05:24 PM

That's a help! LOL

July 26, 2014 11:58 AM

So then Anastasia, a Latinate Greek name, would be frilly, even though it is not an elaboration of anything, because it has later short forms like Stacy, which are presumably not frilly?

July 26, 2014 10:10 AM
In Response to Unique Names! ^_^

Ah, now I understand your comments, much clearer. 

I think there are quite a few people these days who agree with you in ignoring the negative "baggage" accompanying certain names.  People are now using names like Lilith, Delilah, and Jezebel, because they happen to have currently fashionable sounds.  Never in a million years would I name a daughter after a night-flying demon who eats babies, even though Lilith has a beautiful, lilting sound--also some prefer to concentrate on the "positive" of Lilith as the first wife and the first wife who refused to submit to her husband and never mind the demonic baby-eating part.  Nonetheless no matter how much you personally concentrate on Belladonna as a beautiful woman, the fact remans that belladonna is a horribly toxic poison, and many other people will react accordingly to the name.

July 26, 2014 09:57 AM

See, this is where I get confused.  L soft, I get it; L is a liquid.  But R hard?  How can that be? R is a liquid too.  If I think of "hard" sounds I have to go with voiced stops (B,D,G) and a voiced fricative like Z S, however, an unvoiced fricative, I would have to call soft).

If I were to classify some traditionally masculine names as feminine-sounding, I think I would have to go with those ending in -a (that is, the sound of -a), because of those who are under the mistaken impression that an -a ending is the universal sign of the feminine--which it isn't, not even in Latin (see Agrippa).  I might also call masculine names feminine-sounding if they can be shortened into a "feminine" nickname (such as those starting with El- and Em-).

July 26, 2014 09:42 AM

It's not a matter of Germanic.  Many of the great Norman names like Robert, Richard, William, and Henry, Matilda and Adela, are all Germanic.  The reason Charlotte is not a Norman name is that it wasn't used by the Normans.  It didn't come into use until the 17th century, long after the time of the Normans. My definition of a Norman name in this case is a name attested in use by members of the Norman aristocracy, be it in Normandy, England, Sicily, or Outremer.  I say aristocracy, simply because theirs are the names most frequently attested.  The Normans did use names of biblical origin, John being a prominent one, as well as names that were ultimately Greek like Eustace. Tiffany (spelled many different ways, ultimately from Theophania), Philip/Philippa, Sybil, Katerina, Margaret,  Helena, Cassandra, Dionisia, Alexander, Andrew, Stephen.  Besides John, Joan/Johanna, Marie, Elizabeth, Anna, other biblical names (mostly Hebrew/Aramaic origin filtered through Greek, Latin and Anglo-Norman) in use in Anglo-Norman England included Judith, Susanna, Peter, Paul, Simon, Solomon, Michael, Isaac, Noah, Jordan, Adam, Thomas, Eva, Sarah.  The great surge in usage of biblical names, especially Old Testament, comes with the Reformation.

July 26, 2014 08:53 AM

So a Latinate style contributes to categorizing a name as "frilly," but "frilliness" has nothing to do with etymological history?  Alrighty then.  Can a non-Latinate name then be frilly as well?  Adele non-frilly, Adeliza frilly?  Alice non-frilly, Alison frilly, Allison even frillier?  Ann non-frilly, Annelies frilly? Anneliese frillier? (I think I've got it!)

July 26, 2014 02:00 AM

Charlotte's not a Norman name.  It doesn't come into use until the Early Modern period, c. 17th century.  The big Norman aristocratic female name is Matilda (Maude).  Others would include Adela/Adeliza, Agatha, Cecilia, Constance, Joan, Isabella, Petronilla, Nichola, Sybil, Margaret, Marie, Mabel, Lucy, Alice, Agnes, Elizabeth, Beatrice, Judith, Adelaide, Aenor, Anna, Emma, and even such unusual names as Olive, Tiffany, Gunnora, and Gundrada (these last reflect the Viking origins of the Normans).

July 25, 2014 10:53 PM

Smollett: Launcelot (Greaves), Roderick (Random), Peregrine (Pickle). Humphry (Clinker)

Sterne: Tristram (Shandy)

Dickens: Uriah (Heep), Ebenezer (Scrooge), Barnaby (Rudge)  Actually Dickens has few peers when it comes to bizarre, one-of-a-kind names http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dickensian_characters Enjoy

Mervyn Peake (now there's a name): Titus (Groan), Fuchsia (Groan)  Peake's names are Dickensian in feel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormenghast_(series)#Characters_of_the_series

Tolkien: Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, and so many others, never to be mistaken for anyone else's characters

And if the names are Hermione, Ginevra, Severus, and Hagrid?

July 25, 2014 10:51 PM

Would Isabeau then be non-frilly?

I guess part of my confusion may stem from a couple of facts: (a) I am something like twice the average age of posters here and therefore have different associations, and (b) I am a philologist by inclination and training and day job, and so I react to names at least partly by their histories.

July 25, 2014 10:41 PM
In Response to Unique Names! ^_^

Well, if someone sees the name Belladonna and likes the meaning Beautiful Woman and thinks the sound is lovely which it is, before they use the name, they might want to know that belladonna is a highly toxic poison.  I don't think it's rude to point that out.  One person considering the name might not care, but for another it might be a dealbreaker.  People here, for example, have rejected names for much less, for example,  Allegra because it is a brand name of an allergy med, Alexia because it is a medical condition, Candida because it is the organism that causes yeast infections, Unity because of Unity Mitford, and so on.  A very toxic poison is more of a negative than the examples I just cited, and there are people who frequent these forums who would like to know that the Beautiful Woman is also a femme fatale.

I think Siena/Sienna would matter to someone who was interested in a name theme.  We have had posters here looking for suggestions for color names (one recently was interested in color names because she wanted to color code her children's cubbies and other possesions), and we have had others who wanted suggestions for place-derived names.  I don't think it would matter much to others.

July 25, 2014 08:28 PM

This is where I get confused.  I see adjectives like strong, feisty, spunky, soft, frilly, etc., applied to names, and I can't for the life of me figure out what characteristics a spunky name has that a non-spunky one doesn't, and I don't see any consensus as to what is spunky and what isn't.  Is frilly more than two syllables or three or nothing to do with syllables or what?

Are Gabriel, Emmett, and Gael 'soft', and if so, what makes them soft?  Are Bentley and Landon meant to be examples of a different kind of 'soft', or are they examples of non-soft, because inventive (and politically conservative) namers don't like soft?  I can see that names pertaining to guns and other weapons and word names like Rock and Brick are inherently non-soft, but what makes other types of names non-soft?

Or are these adjectives just one person's reaction and thus useful to the perplexed namer who is just trying to determine people's associations with/reaction to a particular name one person at a time? 

July 25, 2014 06:28 PM
In Response to Unique Names! ^_^

Siena is a city in Italy.  Sienna is a brownish pigment, made from a specific kind of soil.  The city of Siena was known for the production of this pigment, hence sienna is derived from Siena.  If the city reference is wanted, then the spelling Siena is appropriate.  If a color name is desired, then it should be Sienna.

Belladonna is a very nasty poisonous herb (deadly nightshade).  This plant got the name belladonna because it was used as a cosmetic--drops in the eyes would dilate the pupils, supposedly making the eyes more beautiful.  Might as well name your kid Arsenic or Cyanide.

The country is not pronounced See=REE-ah, although the name might well be.

July 25, 2014 06:15 PM

Etymologically speaking Rowan and Rowena have nothing to do with each other.  There is similarity in sound and spelling, but that's it.