When authors invent names (or not)

Feb 10th 2011

I recently wrote about the slippery concept of parents "inventing" a baby name. Some claim invention of a name already borne by hundreds of people, while others claim traditional origins for brand-new names because they resemble old word roots.

Yet we credit individuals with "inventing" names all the time -- when they put those names into books or plays. Does anybody question Shakespeare's role as the inventor of the name Miranda, even though it’s built off the Latin root meaning "admire"?

In fact, you can find the whole gamut of invented, discovered, and pseudo-invented names in literature. One reader noted a recent example: Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

Gaiman has been unusually frank about how he chose the name. One day he was typing the name Caroline and accidentally transposed two vowels. He was so taken with the result that he used it for the heroine of a children's novel. Only later did he discover Coraline was a "real" name. (It was modestly common during the joint heyday of Cora, Coral and Adeline in the late 1800s.)

For a mirror image, try Anne Rice's vampire Lestat. (Hmm, on second thought, don't bother trying to see his image in a mirror.) Rice named her undead hero Lestat de Lioncourt in the mistaken belief that Lestat was an old French given name used in Louisiana. In fact, the name was her own accidental creation.

So who's the name inventor, the author who fell in love with a "real" name he thought he made up, or the author who made up a name she thought was "real"?

Even when a writer does invent a name for a character, the job of creating a baby name isn’t necessarily done. For instance, Jonathan Swift invented the name Vanessa for his 1713 poem "Cadenus and Vanessa." Swift created the name as homage to a woman named Esther Vanhomrigh, building it out of bits of her first and last names. That’s as straightforward an origin as you’ll find.

The trick is, Swift's poem didn't inspire much use of the baby name Vanessa at all. The name was almost unheard of until the 20th Century. Celebrity parents Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson had a much bigger influence on the name Vanessa when they chose it for their baby daughter in 1937, by which time "Cadenus and Vanessa" was far from most parents’ minds. As young Vanessa Redgrave grew up, she added her own fame to the name’s profile.

Does that make Vanessa a literary name or a celebrity name? I’d say the answer is fully both. It’s literary in origin but celebrity in usage, much as a name like Eduardo is Old English in origin but Spanish/Portuguese in usage. The creative act is distributed; the name’s practical “meaning” continues to be shaped over time.

Which brings us back to Neil Gaiman. He may not have invented the name Coraline, but I’d say he clearly re-invented it. Doesn’t that name carry a different meaning than it did 10 years ago? And if a baby is named in honor of Gaiman’s heroine, isn’t his origin the one that matters?



February 10, 2011 10:17 AM

As a Vanessa, I was excited to read this. Since ninth grade, I've been adamant about the name's true history in the face of people who claim that it's Greek for "butterfly"--clearly an instance of retroactive meaning-finding for parents (who perhaps don't want their name sullied by the memory of Swift's mistress?). I also often get asked if I am named after Vanessa Redgrave. The answer is not directly, but Laura's post reminds me that the "artistic British" vibe given to the name by Ms. Redgrave was probably appealing to my parents, among many others.

February 10, 2011 10:48 AM

Question out of curiosity-
Do you folks generally think that if a person's given name is a nn that the meaning of such a name would be the same as the more formal name or would it have a separate meaning of its own? Or does it depend on the name?
Given name=Penny would it mean the money or the more formal "weaver", etc.

February 10, 2011 10:52 AM


I have to admit, I wonder at what point a diminutive becomes a name in its own right. Is Megan a name, or merely a diminutive of Margaret?

I generally think the diminutive to have the same meaning. (Bob should have the same meaning as Robert, rather than "bob" for apples).

By knp-nli (not verified)
February 10, 2011 1:15 PM

New twins born yesterday: Henry Stephen and Myles Aaron. Little brothers for Eleanor (nn Ellie--who is the cutest little blond!)

By knp-nli (not verified)
February 10, 2011 1:19 PM

The nn question is interesting. I think I'd have to agree that the nn has the same meaning.

Full disclosure, though, I think of meanings of names as just a fun trivia or interesting study of language transformation and not that, well, meaningful. :)

By Rayleen (not verified)
February 10, 2011 1:23 PM

I read somewhere that J.M. Barrie invented the name "Wendy" after a nickname he had when he was little.

February 10, 2011 1:29 PM

The legend of Wendy, I believe, is that one of the children Barrie befriended would call him her "Fwiendy-wendy" (like friendy, but r's are difficult for kids, I suppose) and he took the name from that.

February 10, 2011 1:43 PM

@Miriam- I am SO sorry!!! I didn't mean to start a rumor. I would of bet money that someone named Miriam said they were having surgery. On the other hand, I am so glad you are ok!

Now, I feel I need to prove my innocence and search in the archives for the past few months and find that post. Maybe I was reading it so late at night my eyes mistook your name for someone else's.

Again, so sorry!

February 10, 2011 1:49 PM

Oh, and so you are not confused. Rjoy and Mommafaith are the same person. Just different computers.

February 10, 2011 2:02 PM

On topic-I think most mainstream people don't care what the origin of a name is. It is just what it means to them.

and, Yes, I think names can be re-invented. Especially if most of society has never hear of it before.

@Miriam-I found the archive and it was psoted an Jan. 31, #26 by a Miriam and said this.

"NJ, I had my heart surgery in St. Radboud Hospital in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (happily they did a good job). The hospital is part of the medical school of what was then the Catholic University Nijmegen and is now Radboud University. And I did meet a Radboud in the Netherlands."

Is this you?

I realized now that it was written in the past tense my memory served me wrong. Again, I am so sorry.

February 10, 2011 3:00 PM

"On topic-I think most mainstream people don't care what the origin of a name is. It is just what it means to them."

One of the big surprises of life in the name lanes has been discovering how much "meanings and origins" DO matter to "mainstream people." In fact, much more so than to name enthusiasts.

In my experience, people who are seriously into names are much more sensitive to the complex cultural signals names send and less concerned about pinning the name down to some ancient root.

By DianaP (not verified)
February 10, 2011 3:49 PM

Laura is absolutely right. People do care a lot more about what a baby name book says the name "means" when they aren't name nerds. Because that's as far as it goes for them. People used to try to tell me my name "meant" moon -- they were perhaps not familiar with the concept of metonymy.

I think the name Pamela was also an invention of Samuel Richardson's.

My child's name is a thousand years old, but it was originally a nickname given to its famous bearer. Its literal meaning is gibberish, but according to some baby name books, it means all kinds of things.

February 10, 2011 8:14 PM

Yes Megan, this is more what I meant. I guess I used a bad example. I have to say that while I know the meanings of many names (mostly friends and relatives) I also do not know them all and mostly go for the sound or "feeling" a name has over its meaning.

Miriam-I am glad you are still lingering in the background too :)

By EVie
February 10, 2011 8:41 PM

I find I prefer to think of names not in terms of their "meaning," but in terms of their *derivation.* The whole concept of This = That seems very simplistic to me. For example, Cecilia = blind. Well, Cecilia is the feminine form of a Roman family name, Caecilius (plural: the Caecilii), which itself is derived from Latin caecus, which means "blind." Or Charlotte, which so many name dictionaries struggle to define, since the name is an inherent contradiction—a name with an essentially masculine meaning ("freeman," according to most sources), with a feminine diminutive ending. So, "little female freeman"? But by the time the name Charlotte came into being, I'm sure parents weren't thinking about it in terms of it's *actual* etymological meaning, because who would want to name their daughter "little female freeman"? More likely, girls were being named after men named Charles, which at that point was associated more with the might and glory of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne than with its original humble meaning. So if the people who *invented* the name Charlotte weren't fussed about its actual meaning, why should we be?

I guess what's bugging me is the blanket assumption that all names must have a single, concrete meaning. Some names do, obviously—word names in English or other languages, like Rose or Bella, or Old English/German bithematic names that are pretty clear-cut (e.g. Alfred = ælf ræd = "elf counsel"). But with a lot of names (like Diana) their origins are so ancient and shrouded in time that it is much more useful to forget about "meaning" and think instead about derivations and cultural associations. And with a lot of other names (like Charlotte), their current forms are so removed from their etymological roots that they might as well not mean anything. Yes, so Charlotte is derived from a Middle High German word meaning "freeman." What kind of implications does that have for a Charlotte's self-concept? Probably none—it's just too far removed to be relevant.

On the other hand, a young Rose may end up identifying very strongly with the flower and/or color. So perhaps the more evident a meaning is, the more important it is.

By Dawn (not verified)
February 10, 2011 8:58 PM

My 2nd daughter was given the name Te$ni $imone. Her first name is a Welsh name with the lovely meaning "warmth from the sun". I fell in love with it when I first heard it several years before she was born. Still love it, but just wanting to know...can it be pronounced??? My daughter is 8 months old and my mother still can't say it right! ...not exactly what I had in mind when I picked it. I thought it was different, but still easy to say. We are living overseas at the moment. So I'm wondering when we do get back to the States how is her name going to be said. How would you pronounce Te$ni?

February 10, 2011 9:07 PM

Tess-nee is what I would say.

By Beth the original (not verified)
February 11, 2011 12:21 AM

I always loved that my daughter Caroline's name meant "manly woman." But then, I'm a fan of manly women.

February 11, 2011 12:30 AM

Dawn-I think the mispronunciation lies in the combination of letters. It is a beautiful name but I cannot think of any words that have the __sni combination. It is more common to see the __NSi. So I think its one of those brain trick things where the eyes see the correct letters but the brain transcribes them differently and makes you say Ten-sy instead. (This is a paragraph floating around the internet about a similar thing)

"Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."

By Rhodolady (not verified)
February 11, 2011 6:42 AM

Baby Alert:
Alanis Morrisette, Canadian singer and Mario Treadway (rapper Souleye)announce their new son, named Ever Imre.

By mk (not verified)
February 11, 2011 2:09 PM

I'd pronounce it Tes-nee but I can see it also possibly being pronounced as Tez-nee.

Is either of those correct?

By JM (not verified)
February 11, 2011 2:53 PM

My name--Jessica--is often assumed to be a Shakespearean creation, so I think about authors' name inventions a lot. Many of these names do not seem to borrow heavily from current trends or firmly established naming traditions. Jessica, for instance, doesn't sound that different from Cressida. More likely, it was some sort of attempt to re-invent Iskah (or Jeska) or--even simpler--an attempt to create the Italianate feminine version of Jesse.

There are a lot of names that I've wondered about over the years, whether it was Elephi (the name of a cat in Jean Stafford's book) or Fiona (William Sharp's). Are these intellectual inventions? Or were they borrowing from cultural cues we cannot hope to understand?

Incidentally, when my sister was little, she couldn't say "eyelash" to save her life. So she called it an "ashlye." As an eight-year-old, I thought "ashlye" was such a pretty word that I named a doll Ashlye. (Look for it in my someday-novel.)

By JM (not verified)
February 11, 2011 2:54 PM

"do not seem to borrow"--Oops! Meant: "do seem to borrow"

February 11, 2011 3:53 PM

I would say TES-nee, and it wouldn't be particularly hard for me to say. I think it's a great choice!

I have heard similar issues of transposition with Tamsin being mistakenly called Tasmin, presumably to follow patterns set by the more familiar Jasmine.

It took our parents a while to wrap their tongues around our son's name, too, with some inadvertent lapses into Julian. But eventually they all got it, and they have even on occasion expressed their astonishment as to why other people have a hard time with the name at first. Give it time!

February 11, 2011 4:34 PM

So for those of you who like class list here's my son's class list. He's 5. This was for v-times cards so there are a mix of nicknames and given names.


By Dawn (not verified)
February 11, 2011 4:58 PM

It is pronounced Tess-nee. Emphasis on the Tess. ...much as you would say Brit-ney or Court-ney. We have gotten Teznee, but considering her brother $eth has gotten Zeth and sister, E1isa (Eh-lee-suh), has gotten Ehleezuh I shouldn't be suprised by the "S" to "Z" switch. The only person to have said Tensey so far was myself. haha. Someone asked her name when I thinking of something else and I shocked myself by saying Tensey... I thought, OMW! Where did that come from!?! lol! Anyway, she always has Tess she could use as a nickname if she chooses. I think it's a cute option. :)

Thanks for your input.

February 11, 2011 5:42 PM

I finished compiling the names from my children's yearbook. Not much can surprise me from this group as 25 different nations are represented in the student body. Some of the names I noted (such as Sarah, my daughter) surprised me because there were so few students with that name. Others that I thought were girls' names were given to boys (Alexis).

Aidan (2)
Alex (3 boys)
Alexander (3)
Alexis (2 boys, 1 girl)
Alma (2)
Angel (3 boys)
Ashley (4)
Ashton (1 girl)
Athziry (girl)
Ava (2)
Azzure (girl)
Bassel (boy)
Breanna (2)
Brianna (3)
Caleb (3)
Cherly (girl)
Christian (4)
Christopher (3)
Cindy (2)
Colby (boy)
Corvalen (boy)
Dennis (2)
Desmond (2)
Devyn (girl)
Elizabeth (4)
Ella (3)
Emerson (2 girls)
Erik (3)
Evan (3)
Garrett (2)
Gedler (boy)
Grace (2)
Hayden (boy)
Hemirson (boy)
Isaac (2)
I'Tiana (girl)
Ja'Bron (boy)
Jacob (2)
Jaidyn (boy)
Jailyn (boy)
Jalen (2 boys)
Jamaal (2 boys)
Jamel (boy)
James (2)
Jared (3)
Jenifer (2)
Jenna (2)
Jeobany (boy)
Jeremy (3)
Jerryl (2 boys)
Jerush (boy)
Jibner (boy)
Jihad (boy)
John (2)
Jordan (2 boys)
Jordyn (girl)
Joshua (2)
Josue (2)
Juliana (2)
Karen (2)
Kayla (2)
Kimberly (4)
Kufre (girl)
Kyler (girl)
Leonardo (2)
Liam (2)
Lieu (girl)
Lizbeth (2)
Llanin (girl)
Malik (2)
Mary (2)
Matthew (2)
Mauricio (2)
Maya (2)
Michael (4)
Nesli (girl)
Ngat (girl)
Nkosi (boy)
Noa (boy)
Noah (2)
Olivia (2)
Omar (3)
Oscar (3)
Peter (3)
Priya (2)
Rory (boy)
Ryan (3)
Rye (girl)
Saki (girl)
Sam (3 boys)
Samone (girl)
Samuel (2)
Sophie and Sophia (none!)
Stephanie (3)
Talia (2)
Tammo (boy)
Tara (boy)
Ti'Nijay (boy)
Trent (2)
Tristan (2)
Tylar (girl)
Tyler (5 boys)
Virginia (2)
William (2)
Woo-Jae (boy)
Yamilet (girl)
Yamileth (girl)
Yen (girl)

There are about 625 students in the school. I think this small sample gives a good idea of what the trends were for this particular set of kids--4 girls named Kimberly (all Hispanic) but none named Sophie? Only two Aidans, 1 Jaidyn, and no Braydens? Fascinating! It just goes to show that parents shouldn't worry about having their child be one of 15 Jennifers (or whatever) in the graduating class. Even the most popular name in this school (5 boys named Tyler and 1 girl named Tylar) is not ubiquitous.

February 11, 2011 5:50 PM

That's why in some ways I find school list more helpful than the SSA list. I definitely looked over my son's list with my mind set on naming this baby. So name enthusiast based on my son's pre-K list do you think any of my boy name choices - Jude, Eli(as), Henry, Andrew - are more on trend than the other choices?

By knp-nli (not verified)
February 11, 2011 8:27 PM

I would say TESS-nee too. I think it is a nice name!!

A name I always have a transposition with is from a poster here on this blog: Tirzah. I say it Tiz-rah in my head, even though I know it is wrong. Maybe because I've never heard someone else say it.

February 11, 2011 9:49 PM

knp-I believe it is pronounced similarly to Tear(like teardrop)-zah.

Elizabeth T-That was an interesting list. Anautica and Athziry caught my eye as I've never come across those before. I'm curious as to how they are pronounced.

Another Laura-I still vote for Andrew or Jude.

Dawn-Don't get me wrong. I like the name and think Tess is a great nn. I was just making comment as to the possible transposition error. Can I ask what your reasoning was behind spelling it that way rather than Tessney or something else? Just curious.

February 11, 2011 10:45 PM

zoerhenne - you should get a medal for bearing with me during this naming saga. The decision does seem to be coming down to Andrew and Jude. I'm wanting to love Andrew b/c it's perfect on many levels. Biblical, 2-syllables like Katharine but if we use Drew it could have a 1-syllable nn to go with Paul, Clare and Mark. And it sounds great with our last name and dh likes it. I guess I've just met more baby Andrews so it's harder for it to feel like mine. I've always felt that my oldest son's name (Paul) is an undiscovered treasure that most everyone else overlooks. Having a hard time recreating that magic a 5th time. My youngest is still holding out for a girl and it would make things easier if my doctor was wrong. =)

February 12, 2011 3:04 AM

This post is super interesting to me cause I see a lot of comments on name sites speaking out against "invented names." It's a good reminder that Vanessa, Miranda, Wendy and so many others were clearly invented by a specific author. I mean all names were invented at some point right? (to get a little metaphysical about it.) I think when people say they don't like "invented names" they mean they don't like *new* invented names. I wonder how many years a name has to exist before it's established, as I feel we would all agree Wendy is. Peter Pan was published in 1911, so let's say it's one hundred years.

By Dawn (not verified)
February 12, 2011 6:37 AM

Another Laura - "(Paul) is an undiscovered treasure that most everyone else overlooks"

I have a Paul. :) But you're right...there aren't too many young Paul's out there. I've come across one other.

zoerhenne - I'm not one to mess with spellings. Welsh name...welsh spelling was my reasoning. :) There are some Welsh names such as Myfanwy, which I would stear clear of just because it doesn't cross over into English very well, but I thought Te$ni would work. :)

February 12, 2011 8:04 AM

Zoerhenne, Athziry is in my son's class, so I know how it's pronounced. At-SEAR-ee (that's sear, like you do to a steak). I would guess Anautica is pronounced like nautica with an 'a' on the front, but I don't know.

Another Laura, based on your son's pre-K list, I'd say Andrew would be a great choice! Parker, Sklyer, Brayden, and Andrew. His name won't blend in style-wise. I don't imagine five years will change the naming zeitgeist among that set of parents, so if your fifth will be attending school in the same area with the same general population, and you're looking for a name that won't get lost in the shuffle, then Andrew's a good choice. Elias and Jude seem slightly more on trend with names like Zeke.

February 12, 2011 12:37 PM

Dawn-Thank you for the info. It's another name I have not come across before. So I will have to look it up. You learn something new every day ;)

Another Laura-Thank you for the medal although I think you deserve one for having 5 kids LOL! How about Keith, Kevin, or Peter. Not my favs but totally left in the dust of the 70's if you are looking for "undiscovered" or "overlooked".

By AnnaUK (not verified)
February 12, 2011 6:40 PM

Hi all, I wonder if you can help me- especially those based in the UK. We are expecting our second boy in May; our older son is Theodore Archer Cedric. We have a few names that both my husband and Iike, one of them is Meredith. I know that in the US this is predominately a girls name, but over here I haven't really come across any Merediths, neither male nor female.
I'd just like to get your well-informed input on the name- would it work on a boy? The name has just the right old fashioned charm we're looking for and I think it goes nicely with Theodore. I'm just not sure about that one aspect, that it seems to be viewed as a girls name only.
Any thoughts will be much appreciated!

February 12, 2011 6:51 PM

@AnnaUK, I'm in Australia, not the UK but name trends here are similar to the UK. I would say that Meredith is also a girls name here (even though I know it can be used as a boys name, it isn't these days). While I like the name and am all for claiming 'unisex' names back for the boys, I think Meredith will be a tough sell on a boy.

Do you have any other names in mind?

February 12, 2011 7:58 PM

I didn't know that Meredith could be a boy's name. But I guess that's true of a lot of names (Evelyn, Kimberly, etc.). In the US I think it would be a problem -- it's too much associated with girls. Worse, it doesn't have a masculine nickname that would help makeup for this (Merry is also too feminine). Unless there's a significantly different tradition in the UK, I'd stay away.

I have my own baby name question. I'm pregnant with my 2nd now, and we're hoping for a girl this time, to be little sister to our boy Ari (short for "Arieh", which is Hebrew for lion).

I have always loved the name Lilith or Leila. My grandmother's name was Leila. But I'm rather dismayed with the increasing popularity of Laila, Layla, Leila, Lilah, Delilah, and Lila (the list goes on). Lilith has some rather strong feminist connotations, which is fine, but it's a lot to saddle a little girl with, so I'm considering other options. (That said, I love the idea of naming my girl after the original tough lady ;)).

My husband is Israeli and neither of us is religious. We prefer Israeli names that aren't biblical or out of date. They also have to be easily pronounced by Americans, and not sound too weird in American culture. I like the idea of passing along a name beginning with L, since I'm a Lori named from Lawrence named from Lawrence. It was here on this blog that I got the idea of Ari (thanks!), so I'm giving it another shot.

The best I can come up with is Lilit (pronounced "Lee-LEET"), which is cute, Israeli, and not as immediately recognizable as being the same as Lilith. But nobody would know how to pronounce it (then again, nobody says Arieh correctly either, which is why we stick with Ari).

Anybody have any other suggestions similar to Leila, Lilith, or Lilit?

February 12, 2011 9:55 PM

AnnaUK: I love the name Meredith, but for a girl. So, in my mind, Mer will always be a girl. It means "protector of the sea" so I automatically think mermaid. Just my opinion.

I also agree with those saying that it should matter what it means to you. I'm Hayley which means "hay meadow" but my mom named me after Hayley Mills, which is so much cooler. I tend to go towards literary names, and even though i look up their meanings, it is more important to me that I like the name Emerson, not for being "Emer's son" but for Ralph Waldo Emerson. Just make sure their is a story to tell your kid, and even if there isn't...make one up anyway :)

February 12, 2011 10:19 PM


I did indeed have a heart attack, which I wrote about, but it was in 2002. Friday May 3 2002 to be exact, and if you are a reader of Chaucer, you know how weird it was to have a heart attack on that specific date. I'm doing OK now though.

Moonlady, how about the modern Israeli name Talia which could be nicknamed down to Lia easily enough? For the meaning oriented, Talia means 'dew.' As far as naming after, if you are Ashkenazic in background, you wouldn't name a child after yourself anyway. If you are Sephardic, I think naming a child after yourself or another living relative would be OK. In either case those are only customs with a little bit of superstition thrown in.

This effort to ascribe meaning to every name, even when it becomes ridiculous, might stem from Genesis where the patriarchs are given names that pertain specifically to the circumstances of their births and where Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob have name changes which reflect important changes in their lives. Those stories may have given people the idea that names should have meanings that pertain specifically to their children's births or to the particular aspirations they have for their children. Most of the biblical characters do not have naming stories, but some of the most important characters do. Obviously that's just a thought on my part--I have no evidence.

February 13, 2011 12:03 AM

So a year or so back, before this baby was even conceived, you all helped me over come my fear of alliteration and consider longtime favorite Teresa nn Tess for a girl with our last name Tyson. Would you all say Thomas nn Tommy has similar potential? Or is it too much of a mouthful?

February 13, 2011 3:31 AM

@another Laura -- Teresa and Tommy Tyson sound like standard superhero secret identities. I say go for it!

@Miriam -- I'm not Jewish at all, so carrying on the "L" in my name didn't even occur to me as odd. It doesn't seem to bother DH though. Unfortunately Talia won't work because he has a cousin with that name (she goes by Tali).

On the general conversation -- To me, both the sound and the meaning have to make sense to me. It can't just be a pretty sounding name and it can't be a meaningful name I don't like (like Hermione). It has to work on all levels. I figure there are enough names out there that something can be worked out. That's why I'm a regular on this site!

By AnnaUK (not verified)
February 13, 2011 4:00 AM

@chimu: thanks for your input. Australia is fairly similar to the Uk indeed, so that gives me something to think about... We have plenty of other names but not many we agree on! If it was just me he would probably be Atticus.
@moonlady: How about Lillia? It is very similar to all the trendy names but a little less used. I also like Lilit though- if you don't mind explaining the pronunctiation, I'd go for that.
@ hay Jay: Meredith actually has nothing to do with the sea, I don't know why that comes up on so many "meaning" explanations. It's a Welsh name, originally Maredudd, which means "great lord". So both origin and meaning are clearly masculine. I do agree though that you should have your own personal meaning for a name.

February 13, 2011 12:01 PM

AnnaUK-I am in the US and Meredith seems all girl to me even though like the others (Evelyn et al) you mentioned I know the history is male. I was thinking of others like Magnus, Marshall, and Reginald types of names for you.

another Laura-The alliteration works better for names like Teresa and Thomasina for me because of that extra "uh". But Thomas doesn't NOT work. It's not my favorite name but that's my problem.

moonlady-You may have a pronunciation problem with some of those names in the US. I pronounce all of them a bit differently:
Lilith=Lill-ith (short i like Fill)
Laila, Layla, Leila=Lay-lah (long A like Say)
Lilah, Delilah, and Lila=Lye-lah (long i like Fly)
So no where does the EE sound occur in those names above. I like the name Lily and many of its variants but it is awfully popular here. So other thoughts would be Eliana, Liana, or Silvia.

February 13, 2011 1:05 PM

Moonlady, another Israeli name that might suit is Liora (which has a "light" meaning).

February 13, 2011 3:28 PM

Another Laura, Our last name is similar to yours. My husband's parents considered naming him Thomas after his grandfather but didn't because they thought he would be teased because of the alliteration. When my husband was in college he changed his name to Tom because he revered his grandfather, despised the man he was named for, and hated his original name. The alliteration has never bothered him and no one (to my knowledge) has ever commented on it.

By EVie
February 13, 2011 4:51 PM

moonlady - I LOVE Lilith, but understand your reservations—it keeps bouncing on and off my name list for the same reasons. I will second Miriam's suggestion of Liora, or the simpler Lior, which I believe is used for both boys and girls in Israel (at least, I've met a girl named Lior, and I thought it was lovely—spunky yet sweet). I'll also throw out Leah, Liana, Lucia, Lyra, Lissa, Linnea. There is also Lilias, which I believe is a Scottish variant of Lily, and Linnet (like the bird), which I've never heard used but I've always thought was very pretty.

AnnaUK - I'm in the U.S., so take it for what it's worth, but I, too, think Meredith is overwhelmingly feminine (like Evelyn, as others have mentioned, or Shirley, Beverley, etc.)

Beth - alas, one of the things that I was trying to get at (but probably didn't express too clearly) is that "manly woman" and other such "meanings" attributed to Charlotte/Caroline are only the attempts of modern name dictionaries to impose a meaning on a name that kind of defies definition. They come to that conclusion because Charles/Carl literally means "man," and so they extrapolate the meaning "manly." But going from "man" to "manly" is a logical leap that I don't think is fully justified. When the Germanic word "karl" (cognate with Old English ceorl, which is the root of the modern word "churl") was adopted as a name, it didn't mean just vaguely "man"; it specifically meant "freeman," which was a man who was not a serf, but also probably not a land-owner. A modern equivalent would possibly be something like "middle-class dude." So, in modern terms, Caroline or Charlotte would mean something more like "little female middle-class dude." There isn't really any connotation of masculinity there—it's more a matter of social status.

To complicate things further, the words karl/ceorl took on different connotations throughout the history of their use... "peasant," "villein," "bondman," "ordinary man"... although I think that most of that was after its adoption as a name, so "freeman" is likely the best definition.

February 13, 2011 5:51 PM

@AnnaUK, I like Atticus. I also thought about Ambrose, Llewellyn and Gabriel as options for you?

@moonlady - I also like Lilith but I love the suggestions of Liora, Lior, Linnea and Linnet.

@another Laura - I agree with Zoerhenne, Theresa/Tessa, Thomasina work well with your surname but Thomas just doesn't flow correctly for me.

So, today on another forum I post on someone named their baby Juniper :) I'm glad to see it used, as it's the first time someone I 'know' has used it. However, I still don't want it to become too trendy :)

By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
February 13, 2011 6:48 PM

@moonlady I also love Lilith. It's beautiful and strong. I hope you end up not being afraid to use it. As far as other suggestions, the first that popped in my head was Laisha. I have a friend with that name, and she was named after a family friend (Ukrainian). I did a quick search online to find the origin, but the sites I saw said it's an American name. I know that my friend said that for her family it was a Ukrainian name. I have no idea and I'm realizing as I type this that this will be no help to you! What about Livia?

@AnnaUK I'm in Canada, so our naming is closer to the US, but I would also say that Meredith is a girl's name. Sorry!

By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
February 13, 2011 6:53 PM

@AnnaUK My eldest is Atticus. I know that some people have problems with it, but I love it and it really seems to suit him.

@Chimu I have a friend whose daughter is named Juniper! And I also know of a woman in her twenties with that name. I really like it, too. It's spunky and strong, yet still feminine.

By knp-nli (not verified)
February 13, 2011 7:10 PM

Speaking of a lot of L names, I LOVE the flower tulip, but dislike the word. I recently found out that the word for tulip in Farsi (which would be even better since the cultivation of the flower originated in the Ottoman empire) is Laleh or Lale. And that I could use, likely as a middle name. But does anyone know, how would a Persian say Laleh? Is it just like Layla?