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
September 23, 2014 12:51 PM
In Response to Baby Number Five

Not clear as to why Gordon might be "too recent."  Gilbert has the traditional nickname Gib which might appeal.

September 23, 2014 12:47 PM

Good heavens, Luke is one of the four Evangelists, so whoever compiled this list just dissed the Gospels,  Not cool!

September 21, 2014 11:45 PM

Adults might not know who Anna and Elsa are, but I guarantee just about every little kid knows and loves them.  My son just told me that my 4-year-old grandson has a three-day weekend coming up, and they are planning to return to Disneyland especially to see Anna and Elsa and the rest of the Frozens at my grandson's request.  When they were at Disneyland this summer, the line to see the Frozen exhibit was several hours long, so they skipped it.  They're hoping for less crowding this time of year.  I don't think Frozen-mania is a reason not to use Anna or Elsa--Ariel and Jasmine were popular Disney-princess choices, but the world was not swamped with little Ariels and Jasmines.  However, I do think Queen Elsa is something to take into account when naming a child today, because her peers will certainly make the connection.  WHich may or may not be bothersome....

September 21, 2014 03:48 PM

Loukas is the standard transliteration of the original Greeik form.

September 20, 2014 05:38 PM

Alas, Isis has taken on a new and horrifying association.  I can only hope the horrifying ISIS is put out of business very soon.

If you like goddess-y names, perhaps Tanith, Anat, Cybele, Nanaya, Neith, Aglaia, Acantha, Anthea, Hera, Astraea, Callisto, Cynthia, Daphne, Danae, Despina, Demeter, Electra, Evadne, Leda, Melia, Rhea, Camilla, Flora, Dido, Juno, Iseult, Rhiannon, Deirdre, Emer, Branwen, Enid, Sibyl.


All of these names are derived from various mythologies, but IMO for most of them the mythological connection is not so obvious as to be overly "theme-y"  with Isis (well, Juno/Hera are pretty obvious, Enid and Emer less so).  I personally like Tanith and Cybele with your other daughters.

September 17, 2014 04:47 PM

Rather than Amelia, perhaps Amalia, crown princess of the Netherlands (her sisters are Alexia and Ariane).  Current European royals with A names: Athena, Anne-Marie, Anne, Angelica, Astrid, Alexandra, Angela, Anna.

Other possibilities: Antonia, Aurelia, Aurora, Andrea, Adela, Adria/Adriana, Agnes, Agatha, Aglaia, Augusta, Alana/Alanis, Alethea. Alfreda, Alba, Alberta, Alice/Alicia, Alyssa, Alma, Althea, Amanda/Amandine, Ambrosia/Ambrosine, Amethyst, Amice, Amity, Anais, Andromeda, Annike, Angharad, Anita, Anneliese, Anouk, Aphra, Apollonia, Ariadne, Aspasia.

Also some botanicals: Amaryllis, Acacia, Acantha, Amarantha, Aster , Anemone, Anise,

September 17, 2014 02:36 PM

Well, you are right in that Anatevka is not offensive in the sense that naming a child Treblinka would be (and sadly I could see some person not well versed in history thinking that Treblinka sounds cute and name-y and that "Blnkie" would be an adorable nickname).  However, I think you are off the track when you claim that you are not naming your daughter after a ficitonal town.  Anatevka IS the name of a fictional town--you didn't just make it up out of whole cloth.  Your daughter will perforce be taking on all of the cultural associations of Sholom Aleichem's stories, whether that is your intention or not.  If you haven't already done so, I would do some research into Sholom Aleichem's writings and the cultural significance of the world he created in the fictional shtetl Anatevka to be sure that you are comfortable with the baggage that comes with the name.  Venturing into a culture not one's own can be a positive thing, but can also veer into inappropriate cultural appropriation.  One very painful possibility you may not have thought of: being called Anatevka may attract negative attention from anti-Semites.  An example of this:  In the mid-seventies before the fall of the Shah, I was teaching in a college where about 10% of the student body was Iranian.  I had a colleague named Kuhn.  Now Kuhn was an ex-Benedictine monk married to an ex-Benedictine nun, but some of the Iranian students did not understand the difference between Kuhn and Cohn/Cohen.  My colleague  was harassed and threatened with death, and numerous other unpleasantries.  Being that he was Catholic, anti-Semitic attacks were unfamiliar to him, and he had no idea how to cope with them.  And lest you think such things are a thing of the past, there is a candidate currently running for the US Senate in Kentucky with the slogan "With Jews we lose." (I am not going to link with Stormfront, but it's out there.)  He's not going to win, but that is his public platform.  You like the name because you like the sound and the fact that it would be unusual, and you downplay the fact that it is the name of a shtetl, however fictional.  But it is the name of a shtetl, and the world of the shtetl follows right along with the name.  Before I used that name, I would be very very sure I understood the ramifications and were OK with them for yourself and for your child's lifetime.


As for Tevye, just no.  Tevye is a Yiddish nickname for the male name Tobiah/Tobias.

September 16, 2014 12:54 PM

Why not Quentin instead of Quinton?  I do know a Quentin nicknamed Quint.  He isn't mistaken for a girl.

September 15, 2014 01:05 PM

Were they perhaps reacting to Whig?  After all, it's been a good while since the Whig party was active.

September 15, 2014 09:04 AM

FYI Roman Gabriel was an outstanding NFL quarterback.  Just something to be aware of with that name.  Gabriel Roman would not call up that association, or at least I don't think it would.

September 14, 2014 02:34 PM

I think you have two winners in Gabriel Roman and Rosalind Flora.

September 13, 2014 09:33 PM
In Response to A West Point Family

Well, Mom's a Blanchard, a very common Cajun/south Louisiana name, and unless she is someone who has weak or no ties to her heritage, she would surely know the pronunciation Ay-MAY.  If the family wanted Amy, I would think they would spell it that way.  They don't seem to mind that son has the same name as dad, so I imagine they wouldn't mind that daughter had the same spelling as mom if AY-mee was the pronunciation they wanted.  In New Orleans and Acadiana, French pronunciations of names are the rule.  Every Suzanne I met down there was Su-ZAHN, every Jeanne was ZHAHN, and every Aimee was Ay-MAY.  My sister is a Suzanne, pronounce like the vowel in stand, so it took me a while to get used to saying Su-ZAHN.  As to the Kat mystery, maybe she just likes being called Kat?

September 13, 2014 09:18 PM

There is a new astronomical term, laniakea, which is said to mean "immeasurable heaven" in Hawaiian.  This term refers to a super-cluster of roughly 100,000 galaxies, of which our Milky Way is just one.  There are also other known galaxy superclusters.  The main research on this was done by astronomers at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, hence the Hawaiian name for this supercluster.

It strike me that Lani, perhaps combined with some appropriat adjective, would make a very nice name for a girl.  Better than Nevaeh in any case :-).  I know no Hawaiian, so I don't know if lani would be feasible as part of a name, but I think it would be easy for non-Hawaiians to pronounce.

September 13, 2014 04:56 PM
In Response to That poor Wentz boy

In my version of Hebrew pronunciation Sarah is Sorah.  Rebecca is Rifka/Rivka.  You can get an idea of the pronunciation of Sarah in Ashkenazic Hebrew with the matronymic surname based on Sarah which is Sorkin.

September 12, 2014 07:59 PM

Juliet doesn't mean 'youthful.'  It is derived from a Roman family (gens) name, the most famous member of that gens being Gaius Julius Caesar.  The etymology of Julius is unclear.  The Juliae were a very old family, and given their high status, there was motivation to trace the name back to a divine progenitor, in this case Iulus, believed to be a son of Aeneas, and thence grandson of Venus.  Julius Caesar considered himself a descendant of Venus.  Other possibilities that have been advanced include derivation from the first syllable of Jupiter which is cognate with Zeus, both going back to an Indo-European root that refers to 'sky' as well as descent from a Greek word referring to 'beard.'

Your source may have confused Julius with juvenis 'youth, young person' which comes from the Indo-European root *yeu--.  There are many cognates, all with meanings pertaining to youth, young: jeune, jung, juvenile, rejuvenate, junior, jong, and so on.  But Julius and all its derivatives have nothing to do with juvenis and all its cognates.

Sorry, Julia is a lovely name for your daughter, but it doesn't have anything to do with youthful.  Better to think of it in terms of its association with one of the most ancient and powerful of Roman patrician families.

September 12, 2014 07:28 PM
In Response to Baby Jesus?!?

My grandfather had the name Wolf as the second part of a double name.  It doesn't seem over the top to me, but then I am used to it in my family.  I think it's quite dashing in fact.

September 12, 2014 04:57 PM

I would never name a child any other way than after a deceased relative.  In my culture that's pretty much an absolute.  However, basically for superstitious reasons, newborns are generally not named after family members who died young or "before their times."  It is common to give a child who is born after the death of a sibling a name signifying life or longevity, like Chaim/Chaya (life) or Alter (old).

As HNG said, in previous centuries in Europe (as well as in America), it was common practice to name a new baby after a deceased sibling.  However, I think today many people would find it painful to recall the loss in the newborn's name.  If the family wishes to commemorate their loss, perhaps it would be more psychplogically helpful to follow instead the custom of using a name which refers to life (like Vivian, Enid, Vita/Vitus or Zoe) or a virtue name (like Faith or Serenity) or peace (Pax, Solomon/Salome, Frederick/Frida, Geoffrey/Godfrey, Irene, Paz, Pace, Wilfred), or one of the "angel" names, something where the name gives comfort (indeed possibly Comfort itself).

September 12, 2014 04:31 PM

Wisteria (Caspar Wistar. a physician/anatomist, but the plant was named for him by a botanist, aptly named Nuttall)

poinsettia (Joel Poinsett, American diplomat stationed in Mexico)

September 12, 2014 12:27 AM

Actually the name (personal and flower) Linnea comes from the Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus (also Carl von Linné).  The name Carolus Linnaeus  reflects the fashion in northwestern Europe of Latinizing names.  (People in the south of the Netherlands still use Latinized names.)  Thus, Linnaea would be the proper feminine form for Linnaeus.  I would either use Linnaea or Linnea.  Any other alternate spellings have no historical justification, and I think they would be more trouble than they are worth as far as indicating pronunciation.

September 12, 2014 12:18 AM

There was a Louisiana politician named Fox McKeithen.  Actually his name was Walter Fox McKeithen, Fox being a surname used as a call name, southern style.  This led to hilarious campaign commercials for his opponents which tended to feature chickens and hen houses.  I think Fox is a cool name, chicken jokes notwithstanding.