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 1, 2014 12:51 AM

Some of the names derived from the construction and woodworking trades: Thatcher/Thacker, Cooper, Tyler, Mason, Cartwright, Wainwright, Joiner, Chip (shipwright/carpenter), Hiller/Hillier (tiler), Slater (roofer), Turner

September 1, 2014 12:10 AM

With a last name that starts with D, a middle name that starts with a vowel will bring up the issue of the mongram spelling a word; e.g., Suzanne Alice Dodge SAD, Clarice Opal Dodge COD.  This may or may not matter, but some people have expressed concern when initials spell a word, especiially if the word has some negative--or at least not positive--connotations.

August 30, 2014 08:40 AM

You don't say where you live, but having grown up in the US Mid-Atlantic region, all I can think of is the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River.

August 29, 2014 07:20 PM
In Response to Names to chew on

In French it's Ma-TEELD.  In Dutch it's pronounced like Matilda in English.  Actually the Dutch form of the name would be Mechteld, and the German would be Mechtild.

As for Alexander, the current Dutch king is Willem-Alexander (the second a is pronounced ah).

If you like Cecilia, Cornelia would also go well in Dutch.  I did know a Dutch woman named Xandra Cornelia.

August 28, 2014 10:54 PM

To clarify just a bit, Lilith is not an Old Testament personal name per se.  It does appear as a word that occurs in a list of animals, apparently meaning some sort of monstrous night creature.  The passage where lilith occurs is Isaiah 34:14.  Here is a gathering of various translations of this passage (http://biblehub.com/isaiah/34-14.htm), and it is clear that there is much confusion over exactly what animals/creatures are being referred to.  According to the various translations, there can be one or more than one of these creatures which can be male or female.  The creature(s) is called night monster, lamia, night bird, screech owl, nocturnal animal, and night owl, and a couple of translators just give up and use lilith(s).  The canids referred to in the beginning of the passage are variously called hyenas, wolves, wild dogs, jackals, and simply wild beasts.  The "goat" is designated in the various translations in both singular and plural as wild goat, hairy goat, satyr, goat demon, male goat, hairy one.  It is interesting to note that in the Douay-Rhiems, the traditional Roman Catholic translation,  the creatures are translated as demons, monsters, hairy ones and lamia, completely situating the passage in the supernatural realm.  The various other translations all refer to real animals of the natural world: wolves, dogs, hyenas, jackals, goats, and owls.  Some use only natural animals, while others mix the natural animals with supernatural  figures like satyrs and demons.  This is an object lesson in why it is inadvisable to split hairs over the meaning of this or that word in a translation.  Those wanting to do "close readings" need to go back to the passage in its original language.

FWIW Lilith does not appear as the personal name of Adam's first wife until folkloric sources of the Early Middle Ages.

As far as I am concerned I wouldn't touch the name Lilith with a 10-foot pole.  I know people choose it for its lovely and fashionable sound and because Lilith was replaced as Adam's wife by Eve, because Lilith refused to be submissive, thus making her in some eyes a proto-feminist.  But for me, the demonic associations are overwhelming.  Yes, little children can have their devilish moments, but I wouldn't want to encourage that by giving a daughter a demon name.  Perhaps I am just a little superstitious about the influence of a name, but....

August 28, 2014 03:46 PM
In Response to Sibling for Duncan?

If not Gareth, perhaps his brother Gawain/Gavin?

August 28, 2014 12:40 AM

In the 14th century, the final e in Penne would be a schwa.  The webpage cited by HNG above has Larry Benson reading and so is trustworthy.  I looked around at some of the other online Chaucer readings, and some of them are horrid.  One poor soul didn't even know how to pronounce Geoffrey Chaucer.  So listener, beware.

August 26, 2014 01:56 PM

I assume you are asking about hunting-related names.  In that case, I would suggest Diana the Huntress, or the Greek equivalent Artemis.  Here is a list of hunting deities.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hunting_deities Of these Devana, the Slavic version of Diana might work.  Or perhaps the Egyptian goddess of the hunt Neith (rhymes with Keith or alternatively pronounced like night with a th ending).

You could also consider "deer" names like Fawn, Doe, Bambi, Ayala/Ayalet, Ofra/Ophrah--and Daisy (duck). 

August 26, 2014 01:40 PM
In Response to Outlander

It's the name of the lead actress, not of a character, and therefore it's not pronounced on the show.  I daresay the actress knows how to pronounce her name :-).

August 26, 2014 08:55 AM

I think that Penelope Ryan with the call name Penny would be a fine choice.

August 25, 2014 09:47 PM
In Response to A name for a boy

My son is named Edward, and I went to every length to assure that he would be called Edward, not Ed, Eddie, Ned, Ted, or whatever.  And I was successful until he reached high school and decided to call himself Ed to my extreme and evident dismay.  And so he is Ed to his wife, to his friends, on the covers of his books, and so on, but to me and my friends he is and always will be Edward, period.  OTOH my sister was called by her nickname Suzi when she was a child at home, but as soon as she went to university she became Suzanne.  Her family called my mother by her initials, which she hated.  She ditched them when she married and moved to a different town, but her family persisted with the initials until she died.  I was called by my nick name Mimi from the moment I was born, and I still am called Mimi.  I didn't even know my name was Miriam until I went to school, and the teacher broke the news.  Point being, you really can enforce your preferred name until your child comes of age, and then he or she will suit him/herself.  If you like Edward and dislike Ned, you absolutely can enforce Edward successfully while your son is a child at home, but when he becomes of age he will introduce himself as he pleases.  My guess is though that an Edward is more likely to become Ed than Ned,  I think the great majority of Neds were so-called by their parents from birth. 

August 25, 2014 04:46 PM
In Response to A name for a boy

Well, if not legendary per se, there are kings about whom legends are told. for example Frederick (Barbarossa), Richard (Lionheart), Charles/Karl (Charlemagne), Alfred (the Great), Robert (the Bruce), Owen (Glendower, if not a king, a soi-disant prince and national hero of Wales to whom the aura of magic clings).

August 23, 2014 10:58 PM

I am confused.  The possible meanings you cite are postulated for the Miriam/Maria/Mary group of names.  However, Mariana does not belong to that group, although people have misread it as something on the order of Mary + Ann.  Mariana is the feminine form of Marianus which itself is derived from Marius.  These are Roman names, and they are not related to Miriam/Maria/Mary.  I don't see how it is to the OP's advantage that multiple theories exist for the origin of a name which is not the one she is considering.

This sort of misattribution/false etymology is not uncommon.  In fact, the meaning 'bitter' for the Miriam/Mary group is probably an example.  The meaning 'bitter' is dependent on Miriam being a Hebrew name derived from the root 'mar' bitter (the bitter herbs of the Passover seder are called maror, same root).  However, Miriam is probably derived from Pharoanic Egyptian, and not Hebrew, which renders a Hebrew etymology irrelevant.  Moses is definitely an Egyptian name, same root as the pharoanic name Thutmose. 

Other examples of false etymologies of names:

Rosamund which is etymologized as if it were Latin, that is, rosa (the flower rose) + mund (which is etymologized as both 'pure' and 'world'--as in the phrase "sic transit gloria mundi.").  However Rosamund is Germanic.  The first element is hros (horse) and the second element is mund ('protector' and ultimately 'hand'), as in Edmund and Raymond.  So if someone is looking for a flower name, Rosamund isn't it.  However, if someone wants an equestrian name, then Rosamund should be on the list along with Roswitha and Philippa.

Tristan which is Pictish in origin.  The original form was Drustan, the diminutive of Drust with the probable meaning of riot/tumult.  However, the medieval French-speaking elite who read the romance of Tristan and Iseult wrongly assumed the meaning was 'sad' as in French 'triste.'

The point of all this is that the OP expressed a liking for the name Mariana, but was turned off by what she thought was the meaning 'bitter.'  However, since Mariana does not mean 'bitter.' that particular concern has been assuaged.  This is not an issue of 'wiggle room' provided by competing theories.  Mariana just plain doesn't mean 'bitter.'

August 23, 2014 08:01 PM


August 23, 2014 07:58 PM

It's his real given name: Penn Fraser Jillette.

August 23, 2014 10:56 AM

The only person I know with the given name Penn is Penn Jillette.  I had the misfortune of meeting him and spending some time in his company.  He is a genuinely obnoxious individual.  I wouldn't want my child to be associated with him by name.  Before choosing the name Penn, you might want to look him up and see what you think.  OTOH I am originally from Pennsylvania, and I associate Penn as a surname with William Penn, and that's a positive.  Oh, and I have three degrees from Penn :-).

August 23, 2014 09:19 AM

Puts me in mind of a student I once had many years ago.  Her name was MIsty Dawn (surname one-syllable on the order of Clegg or Bragg).  And the reason I remember her and her name is that she was so not misty or dawn-ish.  Just sayin'....

August 23, 2014 09:09 AM

I personally wouldn't put Hank or Ike on a birth certificate.  As someone who has been called by a nickname since birth, I am very glad my parents put the full formal name on the certificate, available for use when I want to (appear to) be a dignified grownup.

August 23, 2014 09:05 AM
In Response to Margaret

I checked Margret out on forvo (http://www.forvo.com/search/Margret/).  That gives Icelandic, German, and Swedish pronunciations, and to my ears there is no substantial difference between Margaret as pronounced in English and Margret. 

August 22, 2014 05:06 PM
In Response to Our First Baby

If you like Brooklyn, how about the original Breukelen?  I have driven past Breukelen many times.  It's on the Vecht River between Utrecht and Amsterdam in a beautiful area lined with the country mansions of the Golden Age elite.  With your surname anything but Reeva.  (See Laura W.'s current blog post 9/20/14.)