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 24, 2016 03:57 PM

Better incessant sibling hugs than incessant sibling bops!

I actually have new family members to announce.  To his great delight Elliott got to escort his new kitties home.  They are named...Chris and Martin after the Kratt brothers who make kids' tv shows about animals and adventures in nature.  I gather Elliott is a fan.  Elliott is certainly a fan of the kitties--huge grin showing the very immediate loss of a tooth.  He told my son that since fairies aren't real, the tooth fairy must be a rich girl who likes teeth.  Occam's razor?

July 23, 2016 10:35 PM

She'll want to get hold of a facsimile of the Exeter Book to copy.  I would guess the relevant public library could get a copy by interlibrary loan if there is no academic library nearby.  I took a course in paleography in grad school--which I didn't find very congenial, at least in part because of my poor eyesight, not good at seeing little squiggles.  Anyway Anglo-Saxon hands are easier to read than the hands of the late Middle Ages which look like barbed wire fencing to me.

It pleases me no end that the dear little hwelp will have such an artifact in his nursery decor.  Never too young to appreciate Old English poetry, and if he doesn't understand it, no matter because no one else does either.  Rather reminds me of my son who took his laminated copy of the periodic table of the elements to bed with him in his crib along with his menagerie of stuffed animals. He also had a placemat of the periodic table for his dining pleasure, but he ended up majoring in physics, not chemistry.  He was however co-author of an article in a peer-reviewd chemistry journal when he was in high school.

July 22, 2016 09:03 PM
In Response to Hello again! Baby #3

Brand, Bard, Thor, Tyr, Harald, Lothar, Walter. Werner, Gunnar, Wystan, Dieter, Ragnar, all Germanic names derived from roots meaning war, battle, army, sword--plus a couple of "strong" gods.  Also the "beasts of battle" names from various languages: Wolf/Conan/Conor/Randolph/Rudolph/Ulf/Ulric/Varg/Wulfstan (wolf names), Arne/Arnold/Ari/Arnulf/Arvid (eagle names), Bran/Bertram/Corbin/Cormac/Wolfram (raven names).  Arnulf and Wolfram are two-fers: eagle+wolf and wolf+raven.

From other languages with similar root meanings: Cadoc, Straton

Insofar as I know, none of these names has been appropriated for girls--they are all unambiguously masculine.  As to whether you would consider any of them "soft," I haven't a clue.  Peter and Kevin don't seem "incredibly 'soft'" to me--Peter is a rock name after all--but my sense of hardness/softness is irrelevant.

July 22, 2016 06:50 PM
In Response to Hello again! Baby #3

Viggo is traditionally a nickname for names like Vigfus, Vignir, Vigmar, etc.  It is also used as a stand alone name as in Viggo Mortenson.  So it can be either.  Alec and Viggo together look like you want a stand alone nickname, but you say you are open to a longer full name with a nickname you like.  Can you give any guidance as to what you consider "strong," a pretty subjective quality?  Viggo is derived from a root meaning war.  Are you interested in names which have connections with battles, weapons, etc.?  Is that what you mean by "strong"?

July 22, 2016 05:20 PM
In Response to Hello again! Baby #3

Are Alec and Viggo full names, or nicknames for, say, Alexander/Alexandra or any one of a number of Scandinavian names starting in Vig-?  It would help to know if you are looking for a full name that has one or more appealing nicknames or a nickname that can also stand alone.

July 22, 2016 05:15 PM
In Response to Twin Names!

If Cohen is a family surname, I would suggest following the common practice of putting family surnames in the middle. 

Amalia is another name that follows the -lia pattern.  It is pronounced like Talia, while Malia is likely to be pronounced Mah-LEE-a, like Ms. Obama and like Maria of which it is the Hawaiian variant.  Also Amelia/Emilia, Cecilia/Celia, Delia, Bedelia, Aurelia, Lelia, Natalia.

July 21, 2016 02:39 PM
In Response to James and Jack

The Hebrew scriptures are written in Hebrew (duh), and the Greek scriptures are written in Greek (duh).  Except for a few brief quotations Aramaic is not a biblical language.

If you don't like the name James, there is no reason for you to use it.  There are almost countless variants of the original Hebrew Ya'akov, and you can use any of them you choose.  There is no reason not to use Jack if you like it, but the fact remains that its roots lie as a form of John, not of Jacob.  If you get tired of Jack or Jake, you can always give Coby/Kobe a try :-).

July 21, 2016 02:25 PM
In Response to Boy #3

Julien looks French, not feminine.  Juliun, just no.  A favorite around here is a medieval (and literary) variant Jolyon.

July 21, 2016 12:28 PM
In Response to James and Jack

No one said that Jack is only a nickname for John.  What was said is that Jack is a traditional nickname for John and is derived from John.  Yes, there are Jacobs who use the nickname Jack, my uncle for one and a Dutch friend of mine named Jacobus who uses Jack (not Sjaak).  The more traditional nickname for Jacob is Jake.  BTW in the past in English Ja(c)ques was pronounced Jay-kweeze, and in As You Like It Shakespeare puns on the character Jaques and the word jakes which means toilet.

Etymologically and traditionally Jack is a nickname for John.  However, it is also used as a nickname for Jacob as an alternative to Jake and for Jackson.

July 20, 2016 12:55 PM
In Response to Ellery or Esme

To me Ellery is Ellery Queen, a pen name for two (male) people, cousins who wrote mystery novels in which the detective was also named Ellery Queen.  The cousins' own name "situations" are rather interesting.  The real name of one was Daniel Nathan who published individually as Frederic Dannay.  The other was born Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky who used the pseudonym Manfred Bennington Lee.  The two cousins also wrote jointly under the name Barnaby Ross.  For those of you who fret that you have more beloved names than you have children to bear them, perhaps you can encourage your children to follow the examples of Messrs. Queen who each used fistfuls of names.

BTW just because a name starts with Ell- does not mean it is feminine.  Thus my vote is for Esme.

July 19, 2016 02:10 PM
In Response to Twins: part three

It's probably just me and it probably doesn't matter, but Ellis and Harbor together make me think of Ellis Island in New York Harbor.  Ellis Island is a good association for those like me whose forebears found it a gateway to a better life.  It's a sad association for those who were turned back to endure the hardships they were trying to escape.

July 19, 2016 10:06 AM
In Response to Ellery or Esme

There are many good things about this very website, but its etymologies are not one of them.  When it comes to "meanings" BNW is not reliable.  The information in the blog posts tends to be particularly atrocious.  The fact is that most of the online information about name "meanings" is, more or less, nonsense.

July 19, 2016 09:04 AM
In Response to Ellery or Esme

I'm curious as to the source of the information that Ellery and Alden are both in some way linked etymologically to the alder tree.  The more reliable sources I have access to say that Ellery derived from Hilarius/Hilaria (i.e., Hillary/Hilary) which has a root meaning of cheerful and that Alden can come from several sources, including the Old English Ealdwine (old+friend), but no links to alder trees cited.

July 18, 2016 05:37 PM
In Response to Wesley- for a GIRL!

Well, there's Meadow Soprano....

July 18, 2016 04:24 PM

I didn't find out until years later about the incision business, and when I did I was INCANDESCENT with rage, the passage of time not withstanding.

While I was still in the hospital, the chief of OB-GYN (not the obnoxious incompetent) came bouncing into my room to announce cheerily that second (i.e., planned) C-sections were not nearly as bad.  And I said, "Let us not talk about second C-sections, but rather let us talk about birth control.  We ain't doin' this again."  And thus Edward is an only child, although since I was an elderly primagravida to begin with, I was unlikely to have a dozen kids in any case.  Actually Edward was a bit of miracle, since I was told repeatedly by assorted physicians that I was incapable of conceiving.  Finally I decided to try to track my ovulation.  This was a bit of a project back then, because none of those home testing gizmos were on the market.  So I tried it once to see if the tracking procedure worked.  It did, and the second tracking, boom, baby on the way.  Hahaha, assorted physicians!

July 17, 2016 04:24 PM

some additions--

peace: Salome, Frederica, Jemima (dove), Columba (dove)

blessed/holy: Benedicta, Helga/Olga

life/birth: Eugenia/ie

happiness/joy: Letitia, Rina, Gioia, Gail

love/friendship: Amy, Amanda, Carys, Amabel/Mabel, Cara/Carina

wonderful: Miranda

hope: Amal (as in Amal Clooney)

July 17, 2016 02:01 PM

In the midst of my whole labor and delivery mess, I had an epiphany.  This is why women don't write epic poetry.  No need to write about a descent to the underworld and (one hopes) a return, when women descend and return with a boon with regularity in real life.

BTW I threw obnoxious incompetent OB out of my room.  I told him that I would rather die in the street than see his face again.  He stalked out, yelling as he went, "If you throw an embolism don't call me."  I didn't and I didn't.  I learned later that as he was about to commence the C-section he asked "Dad" who was present in the operating room if he objected to a vertical incision rather than the usual transverse "bikini" incision, because Edward was so "undescended" that the OB didn't think he could get the little fellow out in time with the lower incision.  Although I was present and conscious and in full possession of my faculties, the obnoxious incompetent didn't ask me.  Obviously for the obnoxious incompetent, the male gaze took precedence over the well-being of both mom and babe and over the right of women to make their own decisions about their bodies.  (Of course, I would have agreed to anything which would have protected my child--if he had bothered to ask.)

July 16, 2016 07:57 PM

I'll bet your little hwelp will love having such a noble beast for his personal totem.  There are really great wolf-themed t-shirts out there for when he is bigger, and I hear that plush direwolves are now available.  I think Wolf, which has been in use as given name for a thousand years and more, is way cool, and I wonder why it isn't in more common use in the current naming landscape that includes nature choices like Osprey, Aspen, and Canyon.

When I think of Wolf as a name (in the case of tiny Wilfr3d a nickname), I think of one of my favorite poems, the Old English lyric usually known as Wulf and Eadwacer.  It has a female persona who seems to have had a fraught relationship with two men, Wulf and Eadwacer (or maybe they are the same man).  The poem is a complete enigma, and there have been any number of widely varying interpretations (including one scholar who thought it was about literal canids).  Nonetheless it is hauntingly evocative.  Here are the last of its few lines:

Wulf, min Wulf, wena me þine
seoce gedydon, þine seldcymas,
murnende mod, nales meteliste.
Gehyrest þu, Eadwacer? Uncerne earne hwelp
bireð Wulf to wuda.
þæt mon eaþe tosliteð þætte næfre gesomnad wæs,
uncer giedd geador.
Wulf, my Wulf, my hopes for you have caused
My sickness, your infrequent visits,
A mourning spirit, not at all a lack of meat [or more generally, food as in sweetmeats and funeral meats].
Do you hear, Eadwacer? A wolf [or Wolf] is carrying
our wretched whelp to the forest.
that one easily severs that which was never joined,
our [dual number] song together.
That last bit "þæt mon eaþe tosliteð þætte næfre gesomnad wæs,
uncer giedd geador" is one of my favorite lines of English poetry, although I have no more idea than anyone else what the poem is really about.  But this is the sort of association I have with the name Wolf.
And as for birth being a beautiful and amazing process until it isn't, I had a full labor that was all contraction and no rest in between until the "pushing" part when the (incompetent and obnoxious) OB figured out that it wan't gonna happen--absolute cephalopelvic mismatch--and off to the operating room. But Edward was born beautiful and with a perfect Apgar score, the last birth on the shift when every other baby born that period had serious problems requiring the NICU and there was one maternal mortality.  So we were blessed.  Expectant moms, do not be scared by that statistic.  Edward was born in West Texas almost 37 years ago in an area with high rates of obstetrical problems, because women went into labor on isolated ranches and in those days often did not get proper medical care in a timely fashion (or indeed during their entire pregnancies).
ETA:  Don't forget to keep us posted on the niece/nephew naming process.  Collectively we are always ready to provide unsolicited advice whether needed or not.



July 16, 2016 12:30 PM

As a veteran myself of a painfully dysfunctional labor and an abrupt surgical conclusion, I am happy to hear that both parties intimately concerned with a similar event are doing well and on the way home.  Yay for little Wilfr3d Ge0rge! Bet the three sibs will be thrilled, especially T who has suddenly morphed from little sister to big sister.

As someone who named her one and only kid almost 37 years ago, I can testify that name nerding is a worthwhile lifelong pursuit.  After all, with four offspring you are almost certain to have numerous opportunities to give unsolicited advice in the naming of your grandchildren :-).  (Disclaimer: my advice was solicited and taken, at least in part.  I did plump for a middle name, but that part of my advice was ignored.)

July 16, 2016 10:25 AM
In Response to Twins!

With the spellings of Tzipporah and Devorah I would absolutely assume Jewish.  With the spellings Zipporah and Deborah, I wouldn't.