POLL: Baby Names- Does the Meaning Matter?

Just curious how you guys see this issue... Some people put great stock in the meanings of the baby names they choose. Biblically and historically, this was often an influence in the naming of children. Some people might even see name meanings as a sort of expectation, prophecy, or prayer for what the child will be like: maybe brave, or a strong man of faith... perhaps a gracious woman or a woman of renown.

Nowadays, in America, it seems that meanings aren't as critically important to us. For one thing, I don't know any little boys actually named "Sonofmyrighthand" or "Godisgracious". But I do know people named Benjamin and John. The meanings of girls' names can sometimes be more easily pegged: for example, girls are often named after character traits: Faith, Hope, Grace, and Charity.

So I'm curious how you see this issue... how important is the meaning of the name to you?
  • VERY IMPORTANT: It may even be prophetic in the child's life... this is a high priority for me when choosing names.
  • IMPORTANT: I like a good meaning and select names with that in mind.
  • WORTH CONSIDERING, BUT NOT CRUCIAL
  • NOT IMPORTANT: If I like the name, it matters very little what it means.
  • IRRELEVANT: Meanings are completely meaningless. I don't consider this at all.

Answer the poll on the right hand sidebar, and leave me a comment! :) I would be interested in hearing not only what you've named your children and why (if you just want to leave the meanings for anonymity's sake, that's OK)... but also what YOUR name means and if you like it, and if you've lived up to it in any way.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

[Graphic generated at redkid.com]

35 comments:

Doug said...

No matter how neat or different the name is, we could never go for something that is not very meaningful.

As for my own name, Douglas, well, I have definitely not lived up to that as I am not currently nor ever plan on being the guardian of dark, deep, blue water!

The Simple Shepherdess said...

Meaning is HUGE for us. Our son Isaac Aaron Micheal's name means "the enlightened warrior laughs". Everyone who meets our 21 month old son says he is THE happiest baby they have ever met. He ALWAYS has a smile on his face or is laughing! Even when I put him in bed for naps he looks up and giggles at me and says, "night night". He is just one example out of our soon to be 5 kiddos.

I usually spend a pregnancy carefully listening for anything the Lord has to tell me about the person growing in my belly. I want his or her name to speak over them the truth of who God has created them to be.

Mrs. Brigham said...

We find a name's meaning to be important, but not as important as naming a child in memory or in honor of a family member. Peapod's "real" name is Sarah, after my late great-grandmother, and means "lady" or "princess" in Hebrew. If we had had a boy, his name would have been Ezekiel Michael, with the middle name being in honor of my father. :o)

My name, Amy, means "beloved," and I would certainly like to think that I am greatly loved by my family and friends. ;o)

Terri said...

We have two daughters named Rebecca and Bethany. We also had a daughter named Charity who died shortly after birth due to heart defects. For us, obviously, biblical names were a high priority. I also wanted feminine names for my girls, not anything that could be confused as a boy's name. Meaning wasn't really a big consideration. In fact, it wasn't until after Rebecca was named that I discovered that her name means "bound" or "knotted". I remember thinking, "Well, great. What kind of meaning is that?" However, her middle name is Grace and a friend commented that her name could be interpreted as "bound to grace". I liked that.

We went for names that were biblical and feminine and had positive associations. I don't think I would name a daughter Jezebel even though it's biblical. She wasn't a positive biblical character. It's not a pretty name anyway.

I do think taking meaning into consideration is good, but I don't think a child will necessarily live to fulfill the meaning of his name without the proper training in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess!

We are obsessive namers. But our names have meaning based on history more than definition. We view names as a connection to our past, and our families. This is especially important because we are separated from our families geographically. So dh and I, as well as each of our children, are named for grandparents and other family members. It hooks us together. My dd10 knows that she and I are both named for my dgma, and dd2 is named for my gma's dmom and dgma. Dh and ds are each named for their ddad and dgdad.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Jen/mamamoz from SL

Christine said...

Jess,
Name meanings are extremely important to me. I find it fascinating in the Scriptures, that when a name no longer suited someone, God would change his/her name. (Usually when they became a new creature in Him.) My firstborn's name is Lily Marie. Lilies usually represent purity, and we want her to shine as a pure flower before the Lord. Marie has several meanings, usually pertaining to the sea, but the favorite meaning that I found was "child of my wishes". My second born is named after my husband, and he is the third with that name. His name is Stephen, which means "crowned one". My third born is Anastasia Rose. Anastasia means "Resurrection" , which of course holds a wonderful meaning for us, as Christians.I truly feel that we should take great care in naming the precious ones entrusted to our care. Blessings to you!

Anna S said...

Jess, I feel the name is very important. My name, Anna (or Hannah) comes from "grace", and I feel it's something to live up to. It was also the name of my great-grandmother.

Pam said...

Hi Jess,
Name meanings in the Bible are very important. Therefore, I took great care in naming my children. My son is Jonah Daniel which means "peaceful one whose judge is God". He loves God and telling others about Him. I'm hoping the peace comes with age! My daughter's name means "the appearance of God in the meadow". He has gifted her as a wonderful artist.
Thank you for your sound teachings.
Pam

Mr. & Mrs. L said...

Daughter #1 - helper and defender of mankind. She was killed in an accident at 20 months and as a result sent 5 of us to the Lord for salvation and mercy. She certainly helped and defended us!

Daughter #2 – knowledge and wisdom. Very fitting for our 11 year old who is quite bright.

Daughter #3 – messenger of the Lord. Boy did He speak to me through my pregnancy with her!

Son #1 – may God protect. Having just adopted son #1 and #2, we thought this was appropriate. God has protected him thus far, and will continue to do so through our care.

Son #2 – honored and dignified soldier who died for his faith. While I certainly don’t want my children to die – I want them to be willing to obey the Lord with that much dedication.

My name means ‘the usurper’, and while a beautiful name, not a very pleasant one in meaning. It surprises me that people would not consider meanings in choosing names for their children. Why not just throw some syllables together and call it a 'name'?

Elizabeth said...

Names are important to us, but we most likely will be using historical or "family" names that have meaning for us....

I guess it's just history!

Sweetpeas said...

I look up the meaning of names I like, and sometimes will do a search based on a meaning, that I would like to use, to see if there's a name that I like with that meaning, for us, first names need to be somewhat unusual, we have a very common last name, and I grew up with a very common first name, and found it frustrating to be one of many people in classes, etc, with the same name, so I try to find first names that aren't too popular in their age group. Middle names, we use family names, one of our daughter has her daddy & grandfather's middle name (Lynn), and the other has my grandmother's midde name as her middle name. If we have a boy we will incorporate my older brother (who died when I was a baby)name into their middle name somehow, and if we have another girl we will likely incorporate my maternal grandparents' names somehow.

Erin said...

I love names that have a history - like a family name that gets past down (in our family it's the middle name that get past down) My middle name is Faith, which I hope to pass down one day. I also pray that I will pass on my faith to my children.

For me the meaning of a name isn't that important; except if it has a not-so-nice meaning. Like if I loved the sound of a name that meant "Hated by all" or "The one God rejects" I would stay clear of it.

Queen said...

I think name meanings are important.

My 1st ds is strong man.
My dd is meadow of flowers.
My 2nd ds is God is my salvation.

Their middle names our family names.

A friend once told me that whenever you call your child's name you are speaking it's meaning over them. I thought that was interesting, and I believe it's somewhat true.

Bobbie said...

Hi Jess
When I was growing up, it was not cool to have a "boys name". I got teased alot, and it hurt alot. My dad was Robert, and everyone called him Bobby also, very confusing, especially phone callers. It's very different now. It's the "in" thing now.

So when we chose our daughters names, we chose very pretty girl names. Then later found out the meanings. Kayla means "pure", and Chaeli means "who is like God".

In my husband's family, everyone is named the same, must be a Latin thing. :)

Anonymous said...

My oldest daughter's name is Carly Emerson. I chose it before I was a Christian. I liked how perky it sounded and also because Emerson was (at the time) my favorite writer/philosopher. Fast forward 13 years and my newest daughter we named Grace Eleanor. After three miscarriages and six years trying, she was a child of promise and hope. Now I'm pregnant (due in May) and we have chosen Nathaniel Jacob, both for its meaning and because of the men in the Bible (prophet Nathan and apostle Bartholomew/Nathaniel). We're not decided on a girl's name. Maybe Sarah or Rose Evelyn. One thing that I always thought was important was to choose distinctively feminine names for girls and masculine names for boys - and that they be spelled in the traditional way. I can't stand seeing "Kennedy" spelled "Kinadee!"
-- Jennifer

Cait said...

DH and I have differing opinions. I think the meaning of a name has some importance, and he absolutely doesn't. I also like family names and he doesn't. Naming our babies is a challenge! During my last pregnancy (God hasn't seen fit yet to let me bring one to term) we had finally settled on Moira Kennedy for a girl and Karol Emerson or Timothy Emerson for a boy.

Brenda said...

We're lucky our daughters have names at all considering how many we did NOT agree on!
I was interested in the meaning of them, but in the end it didn't make our decision one way or the other. More important to me was, "does this name remind me of anyone I don't want to be reminded of?" (former student, person I dont' care for...etc.)

Megan Preedy said...

Hi Jess,

Loved reading the comments so far! :)

First Son: Luke Stafford- Bringer of light, and Stafford is my mothers maiden name. Her parents have one son who never had children, and it was incredibly special to them that we carried on their name in our son.

First Daughter: Kiryn Spicer. Kiran in Hindi means Sunbeam. Since we live in India, we want her to be that sunbeam of Christ to all around her. Spicer is the last name of my husbands great-great grandmother, the first in our family to be a missionary, who had children who were missionaries, and so on, up until us, four generations later. We want our kids to grow up with the understanding that this call to missions is not just mom and dad, but on the Preedy family for many generations.

So, yeah, meaning is huge to us. :)

blessings!
megan preedy

CappuccinoLife said...

Names are very important to us. Dh attaches the most importance to them (for instance, I love the name Asher, and it has a fine meaning, but he is not so interested in it because the Biblical Asher was the son of a concubine, which to him isn't very honorable...)

Anyway, dh has been "given" the names of our children each time, very specific and prophetic meanings. Asrat is "tithe"--our firstborn dedicated to God. Gebreyesus is "servant of Jesus", and Biruk is "blessed". In my husbands culture, meaningful names are the norm, and people will often just name their children words or phrases, for instance, I knew one girl who was named "fruit of life" in their language, which I thought was sweet.

I used to insist that if we had girls, I wanted to name them, but I have been so pleased with Josiah's name-choosing for our boys that I may just let him do the same for any girls we might be given. :D

Anonymous said...

All right, I have to keep my anonymity going, so I'll use names, but sign anonymously, is that ok?
First, names/meanings I think ARE prophesies and when spoken are the blessing or cursing that they are..
Dh1 - Hadassah Jean - Hadassah was Queen Esther's original hebrew name, and means 'myrtle tree'. Myrtle trees have amazing properties, but I won't go into them here. Jean is a family name.
Dh2 - Shiloh Glory, and no, we had her long before that gal from the movies named her daughter that. :) Shiloh literally means 'tranquil', (though she hasn't shown many signs of it!) and is a reference to 'messiah' in Genesis. Glory is self-explanatory, I guess.
Dh3 - Tirzah Elizabeth; Tirzah means 'delightsomeness', and in the bible was one of several sisters whose father died without a male heir. They petitioned Moses and were granted his inheritance, including land and water in the Promised Land under Joshua. Very cool. And she's 2 months old, and SUCH a total delight. Elizabeth is a family name. The "el" refers to god, "sabet" or "sheba" deals with the number 7 and completeness or fullness. Plus, my grandma who is 'elizabeth' can't handle the crazy way we name our kids so this helped a bit. :D

Anonymous said...

Oops, I forgot; My own name, Lindsay means "of Linden's Isle" or some such. I'm always accused of trying to be an 'island to myself'. Technically my mom named me after Lindsay Wagner, the actress who was the bionic woman, or wonder woman, or something. I've occasionally been accused of that, too...

anya* said...

i have enjoyed reading the comments as well. name meanings are not very important to us at all, we like names we like:) my fist son is named Moses, and everyone always says, 'like from the bible?' and we respond with, yes that is true but my husband just loves the way the name sounds. my second son is named Lincoln, and after MANY long debates, we finally heard this name and just knew. i have never even thought of loooking up the meaning. but moses and lincoln both helped free slaves in their respective times, so i call my boys my little freedom fighters:)

now if we ever have a girl i dont know what we will do. we didnt know the sex with either boy and had no clue of any girls names, so i believe God knew what He was doing;)

Kim & Dave said...

Hmmm...

I think name meanings are HUGE! Now, I think my DH would say, "yeah, it's kinda important."

My name means "graceful, like a gazelle." At first, I thought I didn't like that meaning, since graceful I am not!!!

Then, I realized that maybe, the Lord would show me how to be graceious in my behaviors, instead of just a physical quality. So, that is my new goal to live up to. My middle name is "Joy," so that is a pretty clear challenge.

My DH & I have thought pretty carefully about the names of each of our kids, but there has been a combination of naming for family members, & for meaning.

dcrmom said...

Worth considering but not crucial. :-)

The Nester said...

Hi! I have a different name - it's Myquillyn. Like Jacquline. If I had a dollar for every time I said that! I appreciate that my parents put thought into it and I know they think it's beaufiful. If I could choose, I would probably change it. It is hard to look at and pronounce corretly. I really don't care that my mom came up with it from an old boyfriend years before she met my dad, Gary. I mean, I could have been Garyquillyn. Praise God that didn't happen! Needless to say my husband, Chad (with a common last name) wanted differnt names for our children.
We used family names for two: Landis Garrison, after Lanny and Gary, grandfathers. And Morland my madien name. Our middle child is Cademon. Because we like it.

annie said...

When my husband and I were deciding on names for our children, family history took precedent over meaning. That is, until we found out the meanings of the names we chose. Turns out they were right on target!

Our daughter's (first and only, so far) first and middle names mean God's promise of grace. HUGELY meaningful to us, as she was an absolute physical manifestation of his grace on our family.

My name means grace (middle name means pure, so if you switch it I'm pure grace :), but that's turned out to be a family joke since I was also born on a Tuesday (Tuesday's child full of grace) and I am the least graceful person. Even after ten years of dance training! I was not named for the meaning, though. Neither was my husband, whose name means beloved free man (first and middle). Amazingly, it is most appropriate!

So....we like family names and we especially like the meanings of names and feel they can prove prophetic.

Daniel said...

Hi,

I have been reading this blog for a while now, and never commented. There was a similar poll on babycenter a couple weeks ago.

For me names a important and there meaning means a lot, but we also want them to sound nice. One other thing that was important to us was international use. I am Dutch, My husband is Israeli and American, our kid(s) gets all three. And at the moment we live in Israel. With family speaking three different languages we wanted names that worked for everyone.

We have one daughter whose name means Song of God (Shirel). I picked her middle name Noa (The female in the OT, sister of Tirza, and not the man who build the ark). She was not named after anyone. The names for a boy where family names, but I won't go in to them, since we might want to use them in the future.

My name (Muriel) means, calm see, in keltic, but God is my teacher in Hebrew. I like both meanings. I never liked my second name, only in the last couple years it started to grow on me. (Jovita means Pretty) My parents picked our names based on originality. One of my high school teachers called them weird after my little sister was born. (she kept apologizing for the rest of the year)

My husbands name is Daniel Chaim, Daniel means God is my Judge and Chaim means life.

We like that our names all end with -el. It shows that we want to focus on God in our life's.

Kris said...

Our daughter's names reflect family relationships, our son's name has biblical meaning (Jonathan--God is gracious) we hope will follow him as he begins his family and that he will be blessed by the heritage we hope to pass on.

shannon said...

Wow! It's been so fun to read all the comments about people's names and their children's names! What a fun topic.
We named our daughters Shanti Grace and Asha Faith because of the meanings. Shanti means peace and Asha means hope in Hindi. We wanted them to have middle names that they could go by if they decide they do not like their first names.
We also like the idea of passing down family names and if we have a boy we will pass on my husband's middle name, which has been in the family since the 1600's! If we have another girl we will probably pass on my husband's grandmother's middle name - Love. We will use it as a middle name...it goes well with the middle names Grace and Faith that we have already given our daughters. :)

Jess said...

Shannon, you're right... it HAS been a fun topic.

Well, I guess I'll go ahead and answer. I think meaning is very important... not that every name (first and middle for every child) has to have some grandiose meaning, but we give each child at least one biblical name, and have a "theme" biblical idea for each child too.

Ethan Benjamin- Ethan was a worship leader in King David's court, and wrote five of the Psalms. Something we've prayed so much for Ethan would that he would be a whole-hearted worshipper of God. So far, that has played out. He is VERY tuned into music, VERY aware of worship, and I pray that will continue.

Baxter Daniel- Daniel of course was a faithful young man of prayer and steadfast obedience towards God (even while rebelling against the "norms" of his day). We have prayed and continue to pray these things over Baxter's life. He has a sweet spirit of prayer- and loves to pray for friends and family, and is definitely a non-conformist! :)

Maranatha Pearl- Maranatha is from 1 Cor. 16:22, and means "Our Lord, come". We pray that her life will be lived as a precious jewel (pearl) in God's Kingdom, and that she will live in light of eternity, and in light of Christ's return... making each moment of her life count.

Silas James- (our son that's expected on or around Easter Sunday 2008) Silas was a great teacher and spreader of the Good News... and James was clearly a man focused on obedience to God. We pray that these things will be true for Silas as well.


As for my name, Jessica Grace... well Jessica means wealthy (hahahahahahahaha) and Grace means, well, grace. Or gracious. So maybe you could take that to mean that I personally am rich in grace, which leaves me scratching my head- I'm certainly not very gracious by nature. I want to be, I pray to be, and I try to be. But when I am, it's only by God's grace. I am naturally, well, not so gracious.

Maybe then it means that I'm rich in grace in that God has been VERY gracious towards me... which I can certainly attest to. So in that way, I am indeed rich in grace, and thus live up to my name very well. :)

~Jess

Rebecca Nugent said...

My husband and I are Civil War buffs, and we had both read about the godly Confederate General, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. A very godly man indeed, and had such an incredible faith! So, we named our son (now 15 months old) Thomas Jackson, in hopes that he will grow up to have a faith and be a godly man like General Jackson.

Jaime said...

i'd always had names picked out for my kids.... until i actually got pregnant & didn't like them anymore!

my daughter's 1st & middle names essentially mean "gracious & courteous". and, honestly, it was coincidental. i probably would have changed my mind on her name if it meant something horrible, but i realllly liked it. and it was not in the top 100 list - and there were only 32 little girls with that name born in the US that year. (another goal in naming her)

i wanted my son's name to be a bit more traditional. we ended up with "God's Light".

deb said...

One of my daughter's names was chosen for its Hebrew meaning. Abigail means Father's Joy. My hubby always wanted a daughter,so we chose that name.

Jess said...

Here are the poll results (with 126 total votes):

"How important is the meaning of the name to you?"

VERY IMPORTANT: It may even be prophetic in the child's life... this is a high priority for me when choosing names. 30 votes; 23%

IMPORTANT: I like a good meaning and select names with that in mind. 45 votes; 35%

WORTH CONSIDERING, BUT NOT CRUCIAL 42 votes; 33%

NOT IMPORTANT: If I like the name, it matters very little what it means. 6 votes; 4%

IRRELEVANT: Meanings are completely meaningless. I don't consider this at all. 3 votes; 2%


Thanks everyone for voting-- it seems that as a whole, people find meanings important. While perhaps not the most important factor, it is a factor for the vast majority of parents when considering a name for a baby.

Fun poll! And it's been fun to see all the responses and reasons why people choose particular names for their children.
~Jess

Addie said...

As we are expecting our first child, and making lists of names it is more important what the name means to us than a definition. Names, whether they are after a family member or not make me feel a certain way. We are making a list of a few boy names and a few girl names. We don't want to assign a name to this little person until we have met them, and see what suits them best. In the end I think the person defines the name and not vice versa.