Authentic Ethnic Names, Baked Fresh Every Day!

Aug 13th 2009

Does your family have Scandinavian roots?  Would you like to honor that tradition with your daughter's name?  Here's a great choice to consider:


Ronja is a literary name, the heroine of a novel by a revered Swedish author.  The book and name are both well-known and well-loved throughout Scandinavia; the name is a current top-100 hit in most of the region.  Ronja is the local spelling, Ronia the standard English equivalent.

That's a rock-solid ethnic name, right?  A name distinctive to Scandinavia, with meaningful cultural/literary origins.  Now: does it matter when that literary origin took place?

The book in question is Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia the Robber's Daughter) by children's writer Astrid Lindgren, author of the Pippi Longstocking books.  (Regular readers may recognize this book as the source of another name I described recently, Birk.) Ronja was published in 1981, and a 1984 film version was a huge regional hit.  So the name is the product of one woman's imagination, less than 30 years ago. Doesn't that make it a modern, invented name instead of an authentically ethnic one?

Perhaps the answer is that it's both, modern and "authentic."  After all, the name Wendy was created by J.M.Barrie in Peter Pan. Vanessa was dreamed up by Jonathan Swift for Cadenus and Vanessa.  Great authors enrich their cultures with names as well as ideas, and that's every bit as authentic a process today as in centuries past.

If you look closely, you can see contemporary, authentic names being created all the time. For example, saoirse is the Gaelic word for freedom.  Patriotic Irish parents started using the word as a name in the 20th Century, and it's today it's the 29th most popular girl's name in Ireland.  It's not a traditional given name, but a truly and purely Irish one.

Does it mean anything, then, to talk about "real" or "authentic" names from a particular culture if new authentic names can be created every day?  I think it does mean something.  It means...that it means something.  That the name has cultural meaning and resonance beyond an individual family's choice.  A beloved book by a local literary icon or a term from a cherished linguistic heritage is an emblem of shared meaning, part of an ethnic identity that binds a people together.

In contrast, a baby name invented by one family is about individual rather than collective meaning.  Even if that name grows into broader popularity, it doesn't have the same hold on a culture's shared sense of self and community...for a while, at least.  Individual inventions have to prove themselves.  If an unrooted name manages to stick around long enough, it can create its own roots in the culture in the form of the generations of people who live their lives with that name.  Eventually, its origins may cease to matter.  After all, how many of us hear Vanessa today and think Jonathan Swift, or hear Cheryl and think "creative made-up name?"


By knp (not verified)
August 14, 2009 4:53 PM

emilyrae: I would guess Valecia is said: Va-LEEE-cee-ah. I also see the Valencia, but can't help make the long ee sound. I also find it simliar to Venezia (Venice in Italian).

Also, I cannot think of a male form of Katherine, maybe Kit--the only nn of Katherine that I see crossing genders.

By Qwen
August 14, 2009 5:04 PM

Re: Ronja – I’ve never heard this name before but I think it’s adorable. It also sounds like I need to read more Lindgren books. I tried to convince my husband to let me use Pippi as a mn to fit our literary reference theme… he was pretty adamant in his refusal.

@Guest w/ a question - Congratulations on your bundle of joy! I do know a male Marion and while I was startled by his name to begin with, I actually really like it. But here are my other M suggestions:
Of those my favorites are definitely Marlon, Mordachai and Moshe.

Re: naming assumptions. I agree that there is statistical data to back up the idea that names move through regions and socio-economic environments. However, I think to pick a name and slap a label across it (especially one like “Only used by uneducated moms”) is, at best, oversimplifying and, at worst, misleading.

@emilyrae – I like the look of Valecia, however I admit that if I came across the name, say in my job, I’d ask the client before I’d attempt to pronounce it. My best guess is vah-LEE-see-ah.

By Amy3, not logged in (not verified)
August 14, 2009 5:25 PM

emilyrae--Initially I thought it *was* Valencia. Realizing it isn't, my first stab at pronunciation would be Va-LESS-ee-ah. I can't say I really care for that sound.

August 14, 2009 5:55 PM

no, i agree. it does look a bit like a misspelled valencia, which i may bring up to my friend. i'm not a really a huge fan myself.

By sarah smile (not verified)
August 14, 2009 6:04 PM

Another who heard Valencia at first. I would pronounce it like Amy, unless told otherwise. It's not a bad name, but I do think she would have to explain it to everyone she met.

I believe that pronunciation also rhymes with Alesya, which is a Russian/Slavic girls name. Would that interest them? I have also seen Alessia; not sure what the origin is on that one.

By hyz
August 14, 2009 6:05 PM

Re: Valecia--I'd be stumped between "vah-LESS-ee-ah", "vah-LEE-see-ah", and "va-LEE-sha". I'd probably pick the first one if I had to guess, but I don't tend to like names that force me to guess.

By Anna (not verified)
August 14, 2009 6:11 PM

Alessia -

'ss' replaces x in some Latin languages:

Alexia - Alessia
Alexandra - Alessandra

Or, since I can't think of any other examples, maybe this is just the case for "Alex-something" names?

By Anna (not verified)
August 14, 2009 6:16 PM

Oh! It's also true for Max-something names: Maxim(illian) - Massimo.

By Claire (not verified)
August 14, 2009 8:05 PM

For guest - M names for boys -

Another vote for Mario, especially versus Marion. Yes, Marion is the boy's spelling, but there's enough female Marions, and the pronunciation's nearly identical, such that I think the kid would be teased rather mercilessly.

Personally, I love Mark - very simple, and traditional. I like Martin, too.

But most of the Mar- names, as a trip to NameVoyager will show, have gone out of fashion. Mario is one of the few of this new generation.

I'll also suggest the name of my brother-in-law, Merlin. He finds it embarrassing, and goes by a nickname. But I think Merlin is a total cool name - bespeaking of intelligence, and literary, if a little on the goth geeky side.

The interest in Hebrew and Yiddish names makes me wonder what the last name is. My husband and I really liked the name Moses, for example, but if we would have had a boy, his name probably would not have been "Moses Levine". That's double-barreled on the ethnic identity. I love Mordechai, too, but again - if you had a Jewish sounding last name, well, the whole name would sound very very Jewish.

Mark and Mario are identifiably Christian names, being after a disciple of Jesus and a masculine form of Jesus's mother's name. Martin and Merlin are more neutral.

If I were to meet a Mark Levine or Mario Levine, I'd think to myself, "He probably had a great grandfather named Moses or Mordechai", based on the Ashkenazi naming traditions. But I would not expect the parents to be traditional Orthodox Jews, either.

(FWIW, Mordechai, in the Book of Esther was named for a Babylonian god - Jews taking on names from other religious traditions has been going on for a while.)

So, if you're Jewish, or at least of Jewish origin, how Jewish do you want your kid to be viewed? That would determine whether you go with something in the style of Mario, in the style of Martin, or something in the style of Mordechai.

By hyz
August 14, 2009 11:39 PM

Guest, what about Merritt, Merrill, Merrick, Marek, or Merle? The Namipedia also yielded Marsden, which I thought was interesting.

August 15, 2009 12:25 AM

Couple of comments before I get to bed:
Valecia-I am of the Vah-LEE-see-a or Vah-Lee-sha fan club. I too think it would get confused a bit with Valencia also. Btw, I say that as Va-len-see-ah so that is why the above is preferred.

Re Ronan: I think this is an Irish based "on-trend" name. So I would think you either have Irish heritage/wanted to be trendy/or just simply liked the name.

For a male version of Catherine: I can't think of a direct relation but it makes me think of the male name Cassius or Kasimir. Maybe those would work.

Re labels-As has been stated many times here, I think we all try to stay away from labels and offense. However, there are "feelings" certain names give us. Trendy/classic/old-fashioned/diner-waitress/biblical/etc. In my opinion a Mackenzie can be many things. Parents may have wanted trendy or just liked the sound. Jacob and Emily may be the same. There is not enough information to make a guess on their reasoning. However, I may tend to believe (in my own head especially) that Neveah's parents wanted a creative feel for their child's name and Elizabeth's wanted a classic feel. Whether or not this is correct is not for me to judge really but in the context of this board it is fun to give a label to the NAME for classification purposes.

By PunkPrincessPhd (not logged in) (not verified)
August 15, 2009 6:28 AM


Another variation with the Latinate languages comes to mind -

Electra (Greek) - Elettra (Italian)

The shift to double "T" helps to soften the sound in the same way as the "S" vs "X".

By Anna (not verified)
August 15, 2009 7:20 AM


Yep, and Victoria - Vittoria.

I actually quite like these Italian and Spanish soft forms, they sound so ...Mediterranean ;-) But I'm not too fond of the Italian 'Gi' instead of 'J' as in Giulia - Julia, it looks a bit odd to me and I want to pronounce it Gee-oolia at first.

August 15, 2009 7:47 AM

Marum and Marnin are both Hebrew in origin I believe, although I don't know much more about either name.

As far as a male form of Catherine... Catherine means pure, so why not use a male name that means the same thing? Casta, Kaelin, Azra, Kasen, Sachin, or Zacchaeus?

August 15, 2009 7:50 AM

Anna - I believe that Xavier -Sabier also follows this pattern.

August 15, 2009 11:46 AM

oooh, bethany, nice idea. isn't there a site where you can look up names by meaning? does anyone know what that is?

By Nicole2 (not verified)
August 15, 2009 11:50 AM

Birgitte at 11, my child is not named MacKenzie, or anything similar, but somehow I do take offense to your post. Couldn't it be said that someone who would name their child XX (Agnes for instance) was just seeking validation from self proclaimed NE's on anonymous internet websites? I highly doubt anyone would consider such a name until they visited a website such as this. I really hope you are not in a position of authority where your snobbery could affect someone else's future.

By Nicole2 (not verified)
August 15, 2009 11:55 AM

And to add, your post comes across as more uneducated than any mother who name their child MacKenzie.

By Margot (not verified)
August 15, 2009 12:32 PM

My mom almost named me Britta after a character in an Astrid Lindgren book. (This was before people started using Brittany.) I guess that's a standard Scandinavian name, though.

I find I do have a knee-jerk prejudice against names like Mackenzie and Peyton, and I'm trying to figure out why. To my ears, I guess, these are still surnames, preppie names, basically attempts to sound like someone from an old-money family who is passing on the mom's maiden name via the daughter. When I was growing up in the early 1980s, that's how they were seen, Mackenzie Philips aside.

So it's interesting to realize that to others, they sound spunky and androgynous with no "social climbing" association at all. I have to remind myself that the turn-of-the-century names I gravitate toward are just as trendy.

August 15, 2009 1:39 PM

Guest- I vote for Marius- but then as regular posters will know, it's one of my pet favorites! Classy, elegant, has a pedigree but not overused. Also works well in different European languages.

By Guest (not verified)
August 15, 2009 1:47 PM

Margot, do you recall if your prejudice against those names was before or after joining this website? A year and a half ago I visited this blog quite often when we were trying to come up with a name for DD1 and I found my taste in names changing drastically (not that I had poor taste before).

I had to wean myself from the blog because I found I was developing prejudices against many names (and children with those names) that didn't bother me so much before. I'd never liked names like Kaylee, but names like Payton and MacKenzie which didn't seem so bad before were suddenly trendy and low-class. I had to remind myself that everyone does have different tastes in names and this site is just a sample of tastes.

(btw, we named DD Margot!)

August 15, 2009 2:38 PM

Margot + Guest: It's funny that you bring up Peyton/Payton. I am not expecting or anticipating anything as I am done having children, but I still love to talk about names. The other day I was thinking about Peyton and wondering if there were middle names that would lean the name to a different feel. So (anyone who wants to) please rank/grade these combos as to what you personally prefer, what sounds fancier, what flows best, etc.
Peyton Elizabeth
Payton Claire
Payton Mackenzie
Peyton Victoria
Peyton Joanna
Payton Laura
Peyton Nicole
Peyton Kylie
Payton Rochelle
Payton Alexandra

By Angela (not verified)
August 15, 2009 3:03 PM

I agree with Guest post 71 - I also had to wean myself off this blog for similar reasons - plus I was finding myself feeling highly defensive and insulted when less than flattering comments were made about the names of my own children. My youngest daughter's middle name actually is Kaylee - which is a combination of her grandmother's middle names - Kay and Lee. We wanted to honor two strong, important women in our lives and I do not care to defend our baby's middle name or our relative socio-economic class or level of education.

My other children's names have also been mentioned dismissively (as was the baby's first name) and I realized I am probably just too thin-skinned to frequent this blog - although I do find the topic fascinating.

By ET (not logged in) (not verified)
August 15, 2009 3:46 PM

I also think my name taste has changed slightly, I now worry much more about my childrens names sounding dated in the future.
I do actually like many surnames for firstnames on girls, I particuarly love Harlow and Regan, but I think when it comes to my actual children I will go more down the less contemporary route, as a student of history, there is something that appeals to me about a name that conjours up images of the past, whether correct or not.

The only presumption I ever make about names is when I child has a very trendy, or especially trendy and contemporary, name. I then tend to think of the parents as unimaginative, or uninformed. Which I know isn't a correct way to think, but to me it is the same as the hoards of teenage girls who wear ugg boots. Trying too hard to be trendy, or thinking you are original and look different and cool, when really you just blend in.

I really hope that doesn't sound too judgemental, and it certainly isn't a comment on anyones class, or against anyone's childrens names, and as a NE i do always judge names on whether I like them or not, it is just always a dissapointment to find out someone's new baby is called Emily or Aidan rather than something more unusual.

By Guest (not verified)
August 15, 2009 4:16 PM

I'm probably the only one on the board who doesn't mind trendy names. I'm from the school of thought that every generation should have a new group of names to replace the previous generation's. Of course, there are a group of names with longevity, but we can't all name our kids Victoria/Elizabeth/Katherine. I see Payton and MacKenzie as equivalent to something like Jessica or Amanda - trendy and current but I can't see any reason it would hinder someone's career prospects (that is my biggest concern when naming DC).

zoerhenne, these were my inital reactions to your Peyton combos:

Peyton Elizabeth A
Payton Claire B
Payton Mackenzie C
Peyton Victoria B
Peyton Joanna B
Payton Laura B
Peyton Nicole B
Peyton Kylie D
Payton Rochelle C
Payton Alexandra A

August 15, 2009 4:27 PM

ET-I'm not sure I would have used the word "disappointment" when describing my feelings about a new baby Emily or Aidan. As many have pointed out numerous times, there are as many valid reasons for naming as there are people to name. It does make sense also, that many people on this blog prefer to go with a more unusual style rather than pick from amongst the top 50 names of today.

I think one has to remember though, that although there may be 5 new Aidan's on the block (and each one may be spelled differently even), the parents all had there own reasons for naming them that. We don't have to agree with them, we don't have to name OUR kids that, but we DO have to be respectful.
And just for the record -I LIKE Emily and Aidan as names.

By ET (not logged in) (not verified)
August 15, 2009 5:11 PM

Yes of course, thats what I mean by always judging names on whether I like them, but as someone who has always been fascinated with names and how they sound, I always look forward to finding out the names of new babies, and it is always more interesting to meet a baby who's name is more unusual.
Im sorry if the word dissapointment offended anyone, and I should point out that as an Emily myself I always personally wanted a more unusual name, I also think it can depend on sibling names. I just think sometimes names, or whole sib sets, can be a bit predictable.
However I understand that it is simply somthing that isn't a problem to other people, and as such I really don't mean it as a negative point, it's just a personal side effect of being interested in names.

By ET (not logged in) (not verified)
August 15, 2009 5:12 PM

O and I like both Emily and Aidan as names also, but I think if a name is very common it looses some of its charm, becoming commonplace, and not though about in terms of its charm, sound or heritage in the same way it would have been done, had it been more unusual.

August 15, 2009 6:05 PM

zoerhenne, i'm so pleased that you like my name; i'm rather a fan myself. :]

i would like to say that i am not put off by popular trends in names; i have nothing against someone naming their daughter emma, sophia, isabella, or olivia. i actually like all of those names. popularity in and of itself does not bother me. my name was in the number one slot for twelve years. to me that just means that it's a good name. it has been well-loved since the 1880s or before (i'm afraid my knowledge doesn't extend past name voyager). it will continue to rise and fall over the years, but it probably isn't going to go away. to me, if a parent to chooses to name their child emily (or olivia or sophia, etc--this isn't intended to be a plug for my own name), they're just choosing a good, solid, classic name that will probably always be liked and will never go out of style. i've always liked my name; i feel like it transitioned well from childhood to adulthood, and meeting other emilys never bothered me (though i've met fewer than you might think).
i admit that names like mackenzie and peyton are not my style, but that's because i have always preferred names that have a long history. but i don't think they're bad names and i don't perceive them as low class or inferior. i'm sure to others they sound fresh and new, while the names i like sound old and boring and overused and outdated.

August 15, 2009 6:36 PM

I personally refer to when I'm looking for names that have a specific meaning. Now, I don't always think that they are correct, so I try to go back and reference them with a couple of my books or namipedia to double check meaning. I don't know of any other sites that currently have that option... maybe something to add here, Laura?

August 15, 2009 8:04 PM is searchable by meaning. So far I have found the site to be very reputable.

By Kim in Philly (not verified)
August 15, 2009 8:15 PM

I'm sure I've mentioned this before when it came up, but I named my 10 month old Isabel. I had very strong family reasons for doing so, my beloved departed grandfather was Isadore. Should I have went with Isadora? Perhaps, but my husband convinced me that if I have loved a name for 20+ years then to not do so just because it is popular is just as sheep-like (but in reverse) as choosing it because it is popular. Not sure if that made sense, but he was trying to go against my rebellious nature and used wonderful reverse psychology on me to go with my instinct and name her what I loved and not to worry about what number it was on a chart. (whew, too long a sentence- sorry!) I do agree with emilyrae that at least Isabel is not a made up name and has a long history to it (Queen Isabel!). Everyone I come across thinks it's a beautiful name, and it is. Do I have namer's remorse? Sometimes. We're working on baby#2 and I'm going to try to be more creative (NE-style) than family name-ish.

By Tawanda (not verified)
August 15, 2009 8:24 PM

Poster 67& 68: Stop being such a bully.
After being a reader on this board for the last 4 years, I have certainly noticed a trend in your postings.This isn't the first time you have gone too far with the name calling and accusations. Seriously, just relax. This is a name board for goodness sakes!

August 15, 2009 9:22 PM

I also get the disappointment, or maybe boredom, with the announcement of another Emily or Aidan or Jacob etc. I actually do like those names as names, they just aren't that exciting. Once you get to know the kids and they grow into the names they are fine and it matters less, but when a friends calls their baby something more 'interesting' it is more exciting. Most of my friends have very bland top 20 taste though.

I will admit that my taste has changed a bit over the time I have been reading this board. I never liked a lot of the really trendy names, although I did like some surnamey names that I now don't as much. I'm not sure if that is from reading this board or just growing tired of seeing them so much. I have had my range of names widened a lot from reading here, so I see that as a positive. I now have some new favourites.

By Guest (not verified)
August 15, 2009 9:54 PM

This weekend in the Births column:
New baby Eth@n R@in - older brother No@h Le@f.
I like them as a sib set.

By moll (not verified)
August 15, 2009 9:59 PM

Chimu, I feel the same way when people choose a "boring" name. I certainly don't pass any judgment on the new parents - boring or not, people choose names with love, and if they love isabella or aidan, that's just fine - but i do get a little wistful about what they could have chosen.

as for name assumptions, i think its hard to read name books and websites, frequent name boards, research the sociological trends in naming, and NOT make some assumptions about the parents. these assumptions follow the 'rule' of naming trends (nevaeh's mom probably doesn't have a doctorate and a summer home on the vineyard), but there are many, many exceptions (charlotte and henry may have a single, lower-SES, high-school educated mom).

my assumptions get all jumbled when i see a mismatched sibset. for example, i met a 5-year-old girl with my name (molly) today, and her little sister kayla. without saying anything positive or negative about either name, i hold different assumptions about someone who names a child molly and someone who names a child kayla. there is a common thread (both names sound childlike to me), but i can't help to wonder if dad chose one and mom chose the other.

August 15, 2009 10:06 PM

kim in philly,
i'm sure i've said it before, but i tend to agree with your husband: to me, not using a name because it is popular is not much different than using a name because it is popular. and i like isabel; i think it's my favorite of all the variants of that name. it's just so trim. :]

thanks bethany and valerie for the suggestions on where to go on name meanings! very helpful!

By Amy3
August 15, 2009 10:55 PM

I thought allowed you to search by meaning. Am I just making that up? (ETA: I see this was already mentioned.)

As for judging people based on names, I respect the fact that each parent gets to choose his/her/their children's names. I may not *like* the names, but that doesn't mean I don't like the kid (or the parents). Do I make certain assumptions based on a name choice? Sure I do. Am I ever wrong? Of course.

I love this blog because it gives me a place to discuss something I *love* with other people who don't think it's weird. It doesn't make me dislike certain names more; if anything, I've found the field of names I like widened by the discourse here.

And for the poster whose daughter's mn is Kaylee, while I'll readily admit Kaylee is nms, I think your creating a combo of the grandmas' names is totally charming. And Kaylee, even without the back story, is a sweet name. It's not one I would choose, but I'm sure we all agree it would be terribly boring if we all had the same taste. Isn't that part of what makes names so much fun these days? The scope of viable choices is just enormous.

By Beth the original (not verified)
August 15, 2009 11:33 PM

Jessi Ronan's mom -- out here in "SF" the kids named Ronan have parents who are hip in a relaxed way, and are comfortable with the slight androgyny of the name (though it's clearly a boy's name, there is room for confusion).

The discussion about judgment is interesting since last time it was me who came off as snobby. It's really easy to dismiss people's name choices; I do it all the time when it's just the internet. It's really hard to take, though when to you, Mackenzie or Peyton or Isabel or whoever is your own lovely child.

I was also thinking about the question of "unthinking" choices. It could be "unthinking" to choose one's mother's name, as I did, as opposed to names that sound in keeping the times, or one's friends, or whatever.

And I was thinking about the question of education. It's just not true that less education = less smarts or less creativity or less allegiance to community or family history. And I'm wondering what "education" stands for here. My guess is that *younger* moms of all demographics are more likely to choose names that feel fresh to them--i.e., trendier names-- rather than traditional or family names or names that reference a more distant ethnicity, because younger people aren't usually reconnecting to tradition, family, or ethnicity. They're going the other way, toward peers and popular culture. And my guess is that the average age of readers of this board is older than the average age of motherhood nationwide, and therefore this board is more likely to draw people who are reconnecting in those ways.

Either that, or we old-hag WASP English professors have just made a bunch of people sick. But I prefer a hearty defense of names I hate to bland sameness all around, so I hope my first theory is right and that moms of kids with more popular names will thrust and parry with confidence and joy.

By Kim in Philly (not verified)
August 16, 2009 12:55 AM

Thanks, emilyrae! I need to hear that every once in awhile. I did choose the Isabel variant because of its brevity. I have a long lettered, 3 syllable ln and wanted something easier that still got the point across.

Oh, I forgot to post a name I overheard on a 2year old: Islin (not sure of spelling) pronounced Eyezlin. They were calling her Eye-zee for short. Older sister was Keeley. Thought it was a cute sibset. WDYT of Islin?

By Jane, Mother of Five (not verified)
August 16, 2009 2:04 AM

I don't know any MacKenzies, but the one MacKenna I know is the daughter of a woman with a Ph.D.

I feel like at their best that family of names is the new millennium's answer to the female Georges and Frankies that we all imagine populated 1940s Katharine Hepburn movies. They're jaunty, anti-frilliana names. I don't love them, but I don't hate them either. Nevaeh may be the only name I hate, and only because I can never spell it right without thinking about it. But even that name can't possibly be described as "unthinking" - it is, after all, an anagram. I also wonder if Nevaeh is often given to NICU babies... the one I've known was a preemie.

On another note entirely... When I first started reading this board, right around the birth of baby number 3, there was a lot of discussion about how sibling names should make a harmonious set and not be wildly different in sound or style. I agree with that. But lately, some others have mentioned that sibling names can in fact be TOO congruous. I agree with that too. Anyone have any thoughts on that? Any examples of overly-matchy sets, or sets that seemed totally odd?

By Anna (not verified)
August 16, 2009 7:18 AM

Beth the original & others -Laura wrote an excellent post about naming choices as a function of education and age as well as a number of other demographic factors.

I'm quite surprised that some posters (e.g. #71 and #73) feel this blog made them develop prejudices against many names. If anything, I'd say I have warmed up to a lot more names (like Amy3) and I have certainly learnt a lot from Laura's posts.

ET - about being more exited about unusual names: I understand what you mean and I feel the same way - with an unusual name there is something to learn, something to discuss, and that's exactly what I like to do. It's all from a theoretical perspective and has nothing to do with the actual child (person).

By toothfairy (not verified)
August 16, 2009 7:21 AM

I just wanted to say that I don't see the strong socioeconomic trend in baby names that many of you mention. In my area, there does seem to be a trend among my very young, lower socioeconomic level patients to give their kids invented names or to use creative spelling ("Aliviana,"), but they also, in my experience, have more juniors among their sons than any other group. (I have a few patients under 5 with names like "Ronald," although most of them do go by "RJ" or other initials)

Having said that, our son attends the local Catholic school, which in our small town is also the private school of choice for many families of higher socioeconomic status.

The actual names of my sons' classmates are not too different, as a group, from the names of the aforementioned patients. Though, more families in his school seem to choose standard spellings. His school is crawling with names like Olivia, Alex, Kayleigh, Isabel, etc, and there are plenty of boy names ending in -dyn (Brayden, Hayden, Jayden...).

I think the only conclusions you can make about a family when you hear their children's names is that the family either
-is really interested in baby names
-or they're not.

Case in point: I'm pregnant w/ #3 (first girl, due in October); we are considering Eliza. A dear friend who lives 4 states away has a new baby "Elizabeth." I felt the need to ask her permission to use Eliza as they are essentially the same name...her response? -That's a great name! We didn't even get a baby book or anything, I kind of wish we had thought of it as a nickname for our daughter. We just wanted a classic name with good southern nickname options.

By Angela (not verified)
August 16, 2009 9:08 AM

Amy3 - thank you for the kind comments about my baby's middle name (Kaylee).

One of the names in particular I found myself feeling prejudiced against was Jaden. My husband's former college room-mate and his wife named their third child Jaden (one of their older children is named McKayla). They are both college educated, "older" parents (late 30's) - they just picked names they liked. My first reaction when learning the new baby's name (via email) was something like disappointment and surprise - Jaden? Really? And my husband wanted to know what exactly was wrong with Jaden - or McKayla for that matter.

I think it does come down to what toothfairy said - the only real conclusion you can draw is if a family is interested in baby names or not.

I am - and have always been - interested in names however my own children are named after family members - including a name that is historically a nickname and also a "diner/waitress" name.

By Guest (with a question) (not verified)
August 16, 2009 9:21 AM

Thanks Claire -

Mario does sound odd to me on a Jewish child. I don't know why I'm fine with a name like Martin or even Marion (in the abstract), but Mario sounds strange. Weird cultural bias? I can't figure it out.

I don't have a problem marking my child out as a Jew. In fact, I'm quite happy to. Just as long as people can pronounce it somewhat appropriately.

The person we're honouring with this name was not Jewish. So we don't have any Hebrew names to work with.

By Kim in Philly (not verified)
August 16, 2009 10:05 AM

I have definitely seen too matchy sibsets. I think those are of the theme variety (although alliterative sibsets could fall under this category as well.) I knew a mother P3rla (Pearl in Spanish) with a Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire for daughters. That is definitely overly matchy.

I'm Jewish, too and I could never name my son Mario or Mateo :( since these are so ethnic for either Italian or Spanish. My ln is just too ethnic Jewish and I have neither of the former ethnicities in my line. I wish I could get away with it because they are both lovely, but I think I would get a lot of weird looks and "who does she think she is?" attitudes. It's unfortunate.

August 16, 2009 10:49 AM

Say that you can tell by someones baby name if the ar "interested in names or not" does not always hold true... I have always been interested by baby names , yet my daughters name is Olivia. I did not name her this because it was popular but because I have loved it for 15 years. I was disappointed that it gained in popularity in that time but It didnt deminish my love of the name.
I feel the same way about people talking about Filler MN. My daughters middle name is Marie... not because I just need something to stick into the MN spot, but rather because, DH's mother who passed away 15 years ago, it was her middle name. Do I wish that we had a more unusual name to honor her with but she was Judy Marie, what can you do.
I know that most of what was said is and over generalization, and a gut reaction. Cre8tive spellings make me cringe, and generally I see them (like a little boy Micheal) and I think that the parents are just not that smart.... I try not to but it does happen. I know that it is not true in a lot of cases.

oh interesting name I heard the other day..
little boy around 1 names Om

August 16, 2009 11:29 AM

so, after reading goldenpigmom's post, our conclusion seems to be that you can tell nothing about people by their children's names. :] i'm not sure whether that's true or not, as i feel that surely it must reveal *something* (such as strong family ties or a liking of nature), but it appears that no assumption is without its exceptions (which is a good rule to go by in any case).

goldenpigmom, olivia is my sister's name, and i've always loved it. to me, it's somehow sweet and spunky at the same time (but maybe that's just me being influenced by my sister's personality!) also, were we helping you name another child recently or am i thinking of someone else? if so, did you make a decision?

angela, i actually like diner/waitress names! i won't ask you to tell me what it is, since it seems you might be uncomfortable doing so, but i'm always pleased to hear names like that in use. :]

islin + keeley, wow! i've never heard either name, but i think they go really well together. i like the sound of islin with the long /i/, but i admit that i don't think it is an intuitive pronunciation.

as for "om", wow again! is there another name that short? i feel like most names have at least three letters...

as far as too matchy sibsets, the only thing that would really not suit me is things like the aforementioned diamond, ruby, and sapphire. however, in light of the mother's name, it seems to be a bit of a family tradition, so perhaps it isn't fair to criticize that. it isn't something i would do though. un-matching sets don't BOTHER me so much as they just make me wonder. for example, i know a sibset: m@rissa, @ndrew, and s0ndra. i always found this an interesting conglomeration, as they are all very different styles to me. but i don't think it's bad, just interesting and perhaps a little surprising.

By sarah smile (not verified)
August 16, 2009 12:44 PM

The thing that I always remind myself about newly popular names for young children is that they sound the way they sound to me *because* they are newly popular. So I see the Rileys and Peytons and have trouble visualizing them as supreme court justices, because I have only ever seen them on people under 10. But in 50 years, all of those kids will have grown up, and it won't seem odd at all to have business people, and eventually nursing home residents, with names that sound very young and non-traditional to us right now.

For example, these names are not really that different stylistically:

Nancy vs Kaylee (both used to be nicknames)
Leslie vs Riley (both used to be boys names)
Stacy vs Mackenzie (both used to be last names)
Allison vs Madison (both have that son ending)

And there are plenty of names that gained rapid popularity out of the blue - Linda, Jennifer, Michelle, etc. These may be date-stamped, but they don't feel cutesy or kreative, at least to me. So my guess is that in 30 years, seeing a resume with Miley at the top isn't going to seem any odder than a resume with Nancy does now. And in 60 years, I am sure someone will be wanting to name their child after grandma Peyton and being told "no, that sounds like an old lady name".

By GilaB (not verified)
August 16, 2009 12:57 PM

A bunch of Hebrew/Yiddish boy 'M' names is below; I realize that some were said upthread. The 'ch' combination is a gutteral H, like in Bach or loch:

Menashe (son of Joseph)
Meir/Meyer (mentioned upthread - 'illuminator'; consistently pretty popular in the Orthodox community)
Micha/Micah (the prophet)
Malachi (the prophet)
Mordechai (from the book of Esther, and the only vaguely Mar- like one I could think of)
Matityahu/Matisyahu/Matthew (father of the Hasmoneans in the Chanuka story)
Menachem ('one who comforts')
Mendel (Yiddish, I'm not sure what it means - the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe's name was Menachem Mendel, so the two names paired are strongly associated with the Lubavitch movement)
Melech ('king' - considered very old-fashioned)
Matan ('gift' - fairly Israeli)