I recently had a reader request a list of names that mean wished-for child. It’s a lovely, thoughtful meaning, and for so many families, a reflection of their journey.
It also isn’t a very Western meaning. Light and bright, yes. Battle-ready, sure. References to animals and nature? They’re abundant.
But the more poetic meanings can be elusive, turning the search away from Germanic, Latin, and Greek roots to Eastern-leaning ones. That might not trouble you in the least – there are plenty of reasons to sidestep conventional Western choices. The list is far richer for girls than boys – but that’s so often the case.
My only hesitation is that so many of these names have debated origins. Perhaps it isn’t really a list of names that mean wished-for child … as much as it is a list of names lots of parents truly hope carry that auspicious meaning.
Amani – She’s a frequent entry on lists about this meaning, but the Swahili dictionary seems to indicate that amani translates to peace. Could there be a separate meaning, either in another language or in a sense of the word native speakers understand? Besides wish, I’ve also seen references to amani meaning safety – which seems consistent with peace.
Asha – She does indeed mean wish or hope in Sanskrit, as well as life in Swahili – making her a doubly-appropriate choice for some parents, as well as one that fits with recognizable English given names, from Ashley to Asher to Sasha.
Ava – She’s so mainstream that few will consider the possibility that her name was chosen for meaning. And in fairness, Ava and company’s origins are a guess. She might come from the Germanic element avi – desire. This means Aveline, Avila, Evelyn, and all of those related names could possibly claim same meaning. If you’re looking for a mainstream choice, she’s the logical pick.
Desiree – Another name that means desired, this time literally. She’s a French appellation from the Latin Desideratus, the name of a sixth-century saint. Desiree feels slightly dated – she peaked in the US in the 1980s – but it is tough to beat if you’re seeking a name that clearly indicates this meaning. She’ll also share her playground with lots of little mademoiselles, like Genevieve and Vivienne, so her slightly frilly name will probably fit right in.
Hope – Exactly as it appears, Hope is a virtue name and an expression of desire, too.
Kayin – I can’t quite unravel this name, which seems to be Yoruba and has been repeated in a dozen message board threads. Native speakers contend that this is a short form of longer names – and possibly should be spelled Kanyin. I suspect the origins are a little different, though this likely appeals to parents seeking a modern name with this meaning.
Maram – Said to mean wish in Arabic, the only use I could find was a thoroughbred. It also seems that Maram might mean wish in the sense of attainment of a goal – appropriate for a prize-winning horse, but possibly less so for a child. Still, the sound is intriguing – exotic and tailored at once.
Miriam – Among many of her possible meanings, ranging from bitter to beloved to rebellious, one of Miriam’s speculated meanings is wished-for child. Thus she’s the inspiration for a long list of the names that usually occupy these lists: Mariam, Maria, Marie, Mary, Molly, and even Mia – sometimes a diminutive of Maria – can all be listed with the meaning. Is it legitimate? Maybe.
Samuel – This might be a little bit of a stretch, but one of the interpretations of Shemu’el is that he means God has heard. It’s indirect, but if you’re spiritual, it could be a great way to honor a long-awaited child. It is also the first solidly masculine name on this list, though Kayin strikes me as male, too. For girls, there’s always Samantha.
Venya – Is she a Sanskrit name that means wished for, or a short form of Venyamin, the Russian version of Benjamin?
Would you use any of these names, or are there other ways to celebrate the arrival of a long awaited child?
“Amara” is also a name which has this meaning as it’s possibly derived from Miriam.
Sarah A says
I have cousins who are sisters named Amani and Maram, how funny! Now I need to ask my aunt if she was really in to meanings or something. I do know that the Arabic word for ‘Hope’ is a pretty common girls name: Amal, though I think spelled Emmel is a better transcription.
I feel like Isaac should also be on this list, as the long-awaited son of Abraham and Sarah.
His name means “laughter”, which I also think is something I would be doing a lot of if I were to finally conceive after all this time. 🙂
Asha’s my fave from the list. Feels sweet and she’s a secondary character in Martin’s ‘Ice & Fire’ series. I rather like her, as well.
Pandora’s easily my favorite ‘gifty’ name. 😀
You could also go with all the names with “gift” meanings:
Theodore / Theodora / Feodora / Dorothea / Dorothy
Isidore / Isidora / Isadora
Matthew / Matthias / Mattéa
Charlotte Vera says
Many of those are lovely, but Elgiva? I’m sorry, but reading it made me laugh!
I love Abeni (“ah-ben-EE”)–‘We asked for her, and received’ in Yoruba.
There’s also Esperanza, ‘hope’ in Spanish, as well as the rarer French Esperance.
The name Malou might fit on this list. Most sources I have seen are unsure of the meaning or indicate that it is a smoosh of Mary (or Marie) + Louise but baby namer lists it’s meaning as “Wished-for child” and says that it is a Hebrew name, a variant of Miriam. Either way I think it is has a lovely sound. 🙂
The name element Will-/Vill- also means wish/desire so names like Will and Willa (plus the other names starting with Will) would work.
Thelma is an invented name, but one of it’s sometimes attributed to the Greek thelema meaning “will”.
Elpida (el-PI-dah) is a Greek name meaning “hope.”
Samuel definitely belongs on this list – Shmu’el is the son of Chana, who famously prayed for a son, promising to give him back to God as a priest. When her prayer was answered, she named him “Borrowed/Requested from God.”
I agree with Charlotte Vera regarding Saul (Sha’ul) – the name’s meaning fits the bill, but parents would be well-advised to read up on Saul before naming after him.
Other Biblical names connoting a wished-for child include Ishmael (Yishma’el), Abraham’s first son, whose name means “God heard/listened”; Nathan (Natan, Netanel) or Jonathan (Yonatan), meaning “God gave”, and also any variant of Matthew (Mattan, Mattaniah), meaning “gift”; and Shai/Avishai (gift/gift of my father).
Mary was my first thought reading your intro — it is my favorite meaning for that name (and in that case, ultimately western!)
Also..birds symbolis the fulfilment of wishes, so any bird names would be perfect.
If I had a girl, I would name her Wish. I think it’s a gorgeous name.
Charlotte Vera says
I’ve always found Reuben’s meaning (“behold, a son!”) somewhat amusing, but might he not fit this list? Another with a Hebrew root that might fit this list is Saul. According to nameberry.com Saul means “prayed for”, although that might be too spiritual for some people (plus the name might be seen as having negative connotations for those who are spiritual).
What about names that mean blessed? They imply the fulfilment of hope and are probably easier to come by. Or parents who have had to wait a long time for their desired child might reflect their patience and perseverence in virtue names like Patience and Constance.
According to The Complete Dictionary of English and Hebrew First Names, Saul means “asked, borrowed.” Not as religious.
Charlotte Vera says
The “borrowed” definition is interesting. Wikipedia says that the name means “asked for / prayed for” and then includes this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul#Saul.27s_name_and_Samuel.27s_birth-narrative
The birth-narrative of the prophet Samuel is found at 1 Samuel 1-28. It describes how Samuel’s mother Hannah requests a son from Yahweh, and dedicates the child to God at the shrine of Shiloh. The passage makes extensive play with the root-elements of Saul’s name, and ends with the phrase hu sa’ul le-Yahweh, “he is dedicated to Yahweh.” Hannah names the resulting son Samuel, giving as her explanation, “because from God I requested him.” Samuel’s name, however, means “name of God,” and the etymology and multiple references to the root of the name seems to fit Saul instead. The majority explanation for the discrepancy is that the narrative originally described the birth of Saul, and was given to Samuel in order to enhance the position of David and Samuel at the former king’s expense.
It’s just one critical position on the text, but it’s intriguing none-the-less.
Nadezhda/Nadia/Nadine/Nada/etc. – hope
Tikva/Shprintza/etc. – hope