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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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. Completely agree about the un-intuitive spelling, as evidenced in my consistent misspellings above.

    3. 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. 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.