Baby Name of the Day: Nevaeh

English: clouds in the sky

English: clouds in the sky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s among the most hated of baby names, one that can prompt pages of accusations.  But where, besides the skies, did she come from?

Our Baby Name of the Day is Nevaeh.

As we all know, Nevaeh is simply Heaven spelled backwards.  As a given name, Heaven has ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since 1990, coming in at #317 in 2011.  Heavenly – and, of course, Heavenlee and Heavenleigh – are heard, too.

Nevaeh is a little different, though.  She sounds like she should be a name, something with exotic roots or an intriguing backstory, a sister for Cloelia and Corisande.  Indeed, you’ll find lots of comments that Nevaeh is actually an old Scandinavian or Hebrew or what-have-you appellation, something with plenty of history to silence all the haters.

And yet.

In 1999, there were just a few baby girls named Nevaeh.  Then in 2000, Sonny Sandoval, frontman for P.O.D., went on MTV’s Cribs to show off his living quarters.  Sandoval was a proud new papa, and also introduced his newborn daughter, Nevaeh – “heaven spelled backwards,” he explained.

Apparently we were all watching.  Nevaeh’s debut in the US Top 1000 in 2001 was a record-setting #266.  By 2005, she was up to #69, and by 2010, she’d reached #25.  Misspell it Neveah, which is phonetically more logical but spells Haeven in reverse, and it still makes the Top 1000.

The interesting thing about Sandoval isn’t necessarily his musical career – though P.O.D. has had a good run.  Instead, it is the lifestyle and perspective he represents, and that’s the clue to Neveah’s success – and her controversy, too.

Sandoval was a teenage gang member, a ne’er do well who converted to Christianity following the untimely death of his mother.  We tend to think of conversion tales as straightforward narratives, where the changed life results in clean living and the pursuit of a career in something sensible.  Bank teller, maybe, or HVAC repair technician.  But Sandoval launched a musical career instead.  P.O.D. stands for Payable On Death, a reference to the death of Jesus on the cross.  Christian metal – and Christian-themed popular music in general – made a certain openly religious, cross-on-your-sleeve style not just acceptable, but downright cool.  It’s quite the phenomenon, an evolution tracked and analyzed by academics.

That’s the secret to Nevaeh’s success.  Sandoval’s other kids are daughter Marley and son Justice – a mix of musical influences and virtues, names that are meaningful and current – just like his music.  And that almost certainly strikes a chord with many parents.  If you’re not Catholic, saints’ names like Mary and Ignatius may lack relevance, just as they did for Protestant Reformers.

At the same time, plenty of the devout may find Nevaeh uncomfortable – like Trinity, it is a name that may appear to trivialize religious faith rather than celebrate it.  But that really depends on how each individual understands faith.  It is similar to the debate about Cohen – is it a disrespectful borrowing, or an innocent adoption?

But factor in that evangelical Christians may have children younger, and that younger parents tend to choose different names – more creative, less traditional – and there’s more than one reason for Nevaeh’s appeal.

Nevaeh fell to #35 in 2011, suggesting that, like many a supernova’d name, she may quickly plummet from use.  But it will be decades before another name occupies her unique space in the naming ‘verse.

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  1. I'd rather not give my name says

    I like the name Nevaeh. I didn’t particularly like it at first, but it’s really grown on me. I spelled it wrong the first few time, but I soon got used to it. I don’t think it’s much of a problem; there are lots of names that are commonly misspelled that people use anyways.

    I think the name means heaven. Backwards does not mean opposite. And it’s like Raquel Somatra said: “I keep thinking how often I come across a thread that asks how to honor a relative without directly using the name, and, if it works phonetically, invariably someone will suggest spelling the name (or part of it) backwards– but no one freaks out about that, and, in fact, people often like the hidden homage.” And as British American said: “I can understand wanting something more subtle than actually naming your child “Heaven”. Nevaeh seems to dilute the ‘pressure’ of having everyone immediately think of God and angels when they hear your name. Plus you can nickname Nevaeh “Neve” and what do you nickname “Heaven” – “Hev”? As a Sunday School teacher, I think I would feel weirder having to call a child “Heaven”, rather than Nevaeh.”

    The most common pronunciations are Neh-VAY and Neh-VAY-uh, although there are others. I don’t think that’s a big deal – when you introduce yourself, you don’t spell you name, you say it the way it’s said! And I think that most of the pronunciations that I’ve heard sound very sweet.

    A lot of names have a meaning listed on baby name sights, but it’s unclear how or why they mean that. How does Alexandra mean ‘defending men’? Why? But Nevaeh isn’t like that, the name has a simple explanation for it’s meaning.

    I’ve heard that’s is a popular name, but I’ve never met a Nevaeh, so I personally don’t find it overused. But I’m sure that there are places where it is.

    Nevaeh also has lots of nickname ideas: Neva, Neve, Vay.

    I really like the name, but I don’t think I would use it here and now. There are just so many people who hate it, and I think that would make it hard for a little girl who has this beautiful name.

  2. annamaria says

    I know two Nevaehs. I tutored one about two years ago so she would be a third grader now. The other would also be in third grade this coming school year. It wasnt too bad to deal with their names on a daily basis, but then I’ve also had a Kal-el in one of my classes. There are many names I don’t like but I try to not be judgmental about the name to a child. I admit to thinking their parents must have no sense but wouldn’t say that to any of them.

  3. Night says

    When I was younger and first saw the name Nevaeh, I loved it. It was a list of the top 100 baby names, and that one was highlighted. At the time, I didn’t realize it was heaven backwards. I liked the sound, however. I thought of it as ne-vay (although some other pronunciations entice me as well). So now that I know what it means, I’m not such a fan- I wouldn’t give the name to my child- but I still think it sounds nice and it has biblical connections, so I don’t think it’s such a horrible name as other namers.

  4. says

    Unlike other namenerds, I actually have never had any sort of hatred toward this name. I can definitely see the appeal and sentiment behind it, but its definitely not a name I’d chose myself. It has a pretty sound. I think we can all agree that Nevaeh is truly a name of the Millennium.

  5. says

    I actually didn’t know any of that. Very interesting.

    Nevaeh has never inspired any emotion in me except for mild dislike. It could be worse. Back when I was acting in plays, I had a directer that also did substitute teaching in New York City. According to him there’s someone running around with the name Dogevoli. It’s “I love God” spelled backwards.

  6. Sarah A says

    Nevaeh is one I really can’t stand. I’m in the camp where I see ‘backwards’ as ‘opposite’, so Nevaeh looks like it means ‘hell’. Ugh. I haven’t actually met one but I did hear a mother flag down her little Nevaeh at the water park last summer.
    Oh, and I was at Toys R Us over the weekend and couldn’t stop myself from perusing the cups with the names on them. There was a cup with Nevaeh, but on the UPC code tag it was spelled Neveah. Oops!

  7. says

    I get why people use Nevaeh and the (brief) history of the name; I do agree with Raquel that some names are just fashionable to hate, like poor old Jayden.

    I don’t hate this name, but it just makes absolutely NO sense to me. I’ve recorded myself saying the word “heaven” and then playing it backwards, and I can tell you it sounds NOTHING like the name Nevaeh. It doesn’t even have the same number of syllables!

    Also, I have a lot of trouble writing it down, it just isn’t intuitive at all. It actually hurts my brain trying to understand this name, and for hurting my brain, I have to give it a thumbs down.

    I do get that it’s one of those Neo-Puritan names, but the Old Puritans came up with some real shockers too, and I wonder if this name (refuse to hurt my brain writing it down again!!!) will be the Jesus-Came-into-the-World-to-Save-Us of our day.

    • KO says

      Agreed. This name hurts my brain to look at, spell, and oh, trying to pronounce it. The most reasonable prn I can figure is something between Neve and Nivea.

    • Lauren says

      I read a Dear America book set at the Plymouth colony with a main character called Remember Patience. I remember (ha!) thinking the Puritans really could name people.

  8. Emily says

    Consider me part of the camp that finds Nevaeh horrendous. I’m glad I’ve been fortunate enough not to meet one… yet. I don’t know that I could keep a straight face.

  9. Panya says

    FYI — our Nev@eh (neh-VAY-uh) has the nickname Nene (nay-nay). [One of my aunts keeps spelling it Nana & I keep telling her that’s NAN-uh or nah-nah!] Nene’s brother is a J0seph Jr., so he’s called Jojo; I do think Nene & Jojo are cute for siblings, but while he can be a Joe when he’s older, I don’t think Nene ages well.

  10. Audrey says

    I had a coworker who named her daughter Nevaeh (Neh-VAY-ah) and it truly suitethe little girl and her mother. I don’t care for the name personally, and would never pick it for one of my children but I get some people like it. To each his own.

  11. Charlotte Vera says

    Being an Evangelical Christian I guess I’m supposed to be part of the group that’s falling over itself in excitement about this name, but something about the phrase “heaven spelt backwards” makes my insides go all squirmy. I get the appeal of the sound of the name, just not its origins. Don’t get me wrong, if either of my children had been born *very* prematurely and female they might have been named Celeste; we chose the name because we liked its sound and obvious didn’t dislike the meaning. I admit to being something of a traditionalist in that I tend to prefer older names rather than new coinages. Nevaeh is not only a new coinage, it’s one whose meaning has always sounded rather kitschy to me.

    I’ve yet to come across someone with the name, but I hope that when I do I respond without judgement. And I hope that the parents in question chose the name because they sincerely like it and that it means something to them. Most importantly, I hope that the Nevaehs of this world grow into their names with grace.

    • British American says

      I very much agree with you – I named my kids more traditional / old fashioned names. I like seeing the little graph with the ‘way back when’ popularity being high.

      I also want to be conscious not to be all ‘name nerd snooty’ if I do meet a Nevaeh at church or preschool or the library etc.

  12. says

    I’ve always wondered why it causes so much hatred. I almost think that folks in the name world don’t like it just because it isn’t liked. I was reading a thread that asks for “most hated names” and Nivaeh was on EVERYONE’s list. I scrolled down and couldn’t believe that poster after poster kept typing “Nivaeh. Nivaeh. Nivaeh.”

    The “heaven backwards” thing *seems* misguided– but I keep thinking how often I come across a thread that asks how to honor a relative without directly using the name, and, if it works phonetically, invariably someone will suggest spelling the name (or part of it) backwards– but no one freaks out about that, and, in fact, people often like the hidden homage.

    I’m not fond of the aforementioned phonetic issues, but so this also stops me from using names Bea, Geoffrey, or Marzia. I’ve never liked names that look different than how they sound (including names with origins in ancient languages, however historically accurate they may be).

    Which leaves the final undesired characteristic, the “made up” part. Which I’ve never been incredibly dogmatic about. I’m sure there are plenty of names that have been made up relatively recently, but due to years of use, they sound perfectly legitimate.

    So why all the hate? I’ve often seen people, on message boards, claim it to sound “trashy”. I don’t see that at all. Nivaeh sounds really beautiful. A little too popular and little close to the skincare company, Nivea, for me, but I just can’t seem to hate it.

  13. Kristin says

    Nevaeh is one of a very few names that makes my skin crawl when I hear/see it. I dislike its sound and look. If one wanted the meaning of heaven/paradise, I’d much rather see Celeste, Celia, or Eden used. I have a cousin (whom I have not seen since a child) that named his first daughter Nevaeh. His other children are Dakota (male) and Kassidi. I must admit, I cringed with each birth announcement. Interestingly enough, his brother has children named Hannah, William, Jacob, and Lucy, and is the religious one of the two.

  14. Mia says

    I have met a cute little Nevaeh, and I think the name has a pretty sound, but I can’t get past the “heaven spelled backward” thing, and the fact that it is pronounced like “Neveah”. Does it make me a complete weirdo that I think “Haeven” looks more funky-cool to me as a girl’s name? I assume that would be pronounced “haven”. But, yeah, I’d name my daughter Heaven before Nevaeh… but Sky before Heaven.

    I think if I were going to give my daughter an explicitly religious name, it would be Theophany. But only if she were born at that time of year. (… If your daughter was born in June, don’t call her Noel. That’s all I am sayin’.)

  15. Tracy says

    The name seems artificial to me, but when I’m honest with myself, I quite like the sound of it. I wouldn’t choose it, but if I knew a child by that name, I think I could overcome my prejudice against it.

  16. C in DC says

    It’s just too close to Nivea to be usable for me.

    I’d rather see a parent use the name Nevaeh because she/he likes the name and/or it’s meaning than name her/his daughter Mary because tradition or the church says so.

  17. British American says

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Nevaeh, despite being a Christian and teaching preschool Sunday School at an evangelical church. Names I’ve seen twice on children at our church are Levi, Ruby, Andrew, Aubrey, Joseph, Brooke, Grayson and there were almost two Lucys. Newest church-going-babies that I’ve spotted locally are Zia and Landon.

    The closest thing I’ve met to Nevaeh at church is Eden – I know a 1 year old and a 7 year old.

    P.S. the Harvard article won’t load for me right now. Says the connection is timed out.

    I just asked my 7 year old if she knows of any at (public) school and she doesn’t. My son starts Christian preschool next month and I’m desperate to read his class list. Could there be a Nevaeh?!

    I’m not a fan of the name, but I could see liking it more if I actually knew a child by the name. The “backwards” thing gets me, as I always think of “backwards” as being “opposite” so it makes me think “opposite of heaven is hell” – plus the ‘if you play this record backwards there are messages from the devil’ idea adds into that in my mind.

    Though I can understand wanting something more subtle than actually naming your child “Heaven”. Nevaeh seems to dilute the ‘pressure’ of having everyone immediately think of God and angels when they hear your name. Plus you can nickname Nevaeh “Neve” and what do you nickname “Heaven” – “Hev”? As a Sunday School teacher, I think I would feel weirder having to call a child “Heaven”, rather than Nevaeh. (Though incidentally, the weirdest I felt in Sunday School was calling a little girl ‘Jordan’ because that’s the name of my 28 year old brother and it was so strange to use his name to talk to a little girl.)

    I keep mispelling the name too – typing Neveah instead. I think it would be strange to grow up and find out that your name means heaven backwards, but your parents changed the spelling or misspelled it.

  18. Jordanna says

    I’ve heard neh-vee-ah and neh-vay-ah. Maybe one was a Neveah and one was a Nevaeh though.

    I can’t say I find the MEANING “Heaven” stupid or I could say it but I’d look like a big hypocrite when it comes out later that I quite like Celeste and Celestina. And I certainly like the meaning behind any quantity of names that mean “blessed” or have ties to angels.

    But I am a history nerd. So that might be as much of it for me as the religious connection. I would take Celestina/Raziela/Eliora over Nevaeh any day, but I’m pretty sure at least 8/10 people encountering it on my kid would think they were exactly as modern/kreative/made-up and only I would really know the difference.

  19. Katherine says

    I can never figure out how to say it. I’ve never met anyone with the name, and I’ve only read it online. Pronunciation, please?

  20. Lauren says

    I’ve been fortunate to not meet a Nevaeh. It’s not popular in my area, it seems. I do like Neve though! And I agree with Photoquilty – why not just use heaven if you’re going to berate us with the word anyway?

  21. Photoquilty says

    Blech. I know one my son’s age. Her sister is Evelynn. Surprisingly – ab only if you factor out style – the two names go well together. The mom is an evangelical: no Halloween or Santa Claus in that family. The idea of the name is so insipid. I just can’t stand it. And I hate that no matter what, an explanation of its backwardness is always vocalized. But why not just use Heaven? Ugh.

  22. Panya says

    I am not a fan. The sound is nice enough, but…meh.

    My cousins actually fought over who would get to use this name [I’m not sure sure where they heard it, but they are Christian & it was around the right time for them to have heard it on Cribs (or from friends who did)], then the first one to have a daughter didn’t use it! [I’ve mentioned his daughters before, Preciou$ Joy & Tru $erenity.] The second did use it though, & Nev@eh Kri$tyne [after grandma Kri$ty] was born on 6-6-06 — make of that what you will…


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