I do not think it means ...File this one under #namenerdproblems.

The other day a friend was telling me about the fabulous name a family member had chosen for her new daughter.

It is a fabulous name, no doubt. But the “research” the new parents had done had yielded some information that was … wrong.

Wrong enough that I went home, puzzled, and started Googling. Could it be that I was the clueless one? I may be name obsessed, but I’m still human.

Nope. My gut reaction – that the name did not mean what they think it means – was right. Whatever research they did was a mix of wishful thinking and information gleaned from the many less-than-accurate name meaning resources floating around out there.

The very wise Sara of the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources has pointed out that it’s not always clear that names have meaning, at least not as we understand the concept, and not in every language, culture, and historical era.

But we want them to having meanings, and nice, lovely meanings that we can easily incorporate into a tasteful piece of nursery decor. So we’re all forgiven for believing things like this:

Incorrect name meaning

It just doesn’t make them true.

But the baby is already here and named, and the friend wasn’t asking for a professional opinion. She was waiting for me to say “Congratulations.” And so I did.

Elsewhere online:

  • I loved the idea of a rocker dad named Rufus on Gossip Girl. Matthew Settle, the actor who played Jenny and Dan’s father, is a dad in real life. He and partner Maria Alfonsin have welcomed a daughter named Nalu, which is Hawaiian for wave. (This Hawaiian-English dictionary agrees. After my opening, I figured I’d better fact check that one!) Settle is also dad to daughter Aven with his ex-wife.
  • Do you think Gotham works as a given name? I have my doubts. The Name Lady handled it nicely.
  • Lovely lunar names from Meagan at Tulip.
  • Short names rule in Slovenia.
  • Nothing Like a Name looks at under-used Z names for girls. Can I say that Zella is really growing on me?
  • Crispin Valentine! Saskia Tiger! And more great British Baby Names from 1999.
  • Siblings named Bugsy, Jem, and Tallulah Dorothy, called Lou? How fabulous. Read the whole story at Waltzing More than Matilda.
  • Animal names are also trending in the Netherlands! Though the list includes names like Caleb and Lionel, which are on the subtle side.
  • Mostly about naming a lipstick collection, not children. Except that the lipstick collection claims their colors – Tiana, Alice, Belle – aren’t named after Disney princesses, but popular baby names. Hmmm …
  • There’s another Hotel Transylvania movie coming out at the end of the month, just in time for Halloween. Will the sequel boost the name Mavis? The name is already up considerably since the 2012 release of the original. There were a mere nine girls called Mavis in 1999. In 2011, just 39. By 2014, there were 231 – that’s a huge increase! Credit surely goes, at least in part, to Drac’s daughter in the animated feature. And, yes, the name’s on-trend sound. If you’re counting, 231 newborn Mavises puts the name only about 30 births away from re-entering the US Top 1000, from which Mavis has been absent since 1964.

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a fabulous week!

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 was happy to find “hoped for child” to replace “bitter” with my daughter’s name. She’s a Miriam. I’ll take it. I also love Mavis. We call our daughter, Clover, Clovis all the time. We also call her Clove and Clovie a lot too. She’s the first of ours to have nicknames and since she’s our seventh, it feels strange. Still, Clovis is so lovely and old-fashioned sounding and Clovie is so sweet and baby sounding. I would love to see more Mavises.

  2. Regarding the meaning of names, I think ultimately what EVERY name’s meaning comes down to is “We think this is the best name that you could have”, and many different ingredients can go in to that, including other people the namers have known with that name, things the namers have been told about the name, actual linguistic facts, etc. It is the story behind the choice of the name that truly gives a name its meaning, and if that story happens to have misinformation along the way, well, that’s still a part of what makes the name have the unique meaning it has in any individual case.

  3. Oh I think Mavis is definitely due for a comeback! It’s so pretty once you forget that all the Mavises you know are 80 years old, and it does have a nice meaning too.

  4. I’m a name nerd and totally guilty of trying to find (and cling) to a shiny, happy meaning! I adore the name Molly but it’s meaning (bitter) was becoming a deal breaker. I found one random site that listed its meaning as “Star of the Sea” which I replace the real meaning with instantly!!

    1. Ha! I think that’s fine to do, as long as you won’t be crushed if it turns out to be a stretch. (Or even a total invention!) In this case, I’d say it’s a stretch, but not an unreasonable one. One of the many titles for Mary is Our Lady, Stella Maris – star of the sea in Latin. Since Molly is originally a diminutive form of Mary, it isn’t surprising to see meanings attached to Mary being attached to Molly.

  5. Worth noting that Zella is a traditional diminutive for Marcella… surprised that wasn’t mentioned on Nothing Like a Name.

  6. Oh boy, keep me away from a list of Z names. I so badly want to use Z again but it would be weird, I think, to repeat my son’s initials when the letter is Z. Sigh.

    My parents are especially good at misunderstanding names. They complained how they don’t like all the modern names out there, like Damian. I tried to explain that Damian is not a modern invention. No luck. They went on and on when a family friend named their daughter Isabella. You never hear that these days, they said. Really? They strongly recommended Henry for my second son. Why? Because it’s a nice name you never hear, they say. Three Facebook friends of mine had a Henry in the past year.

  7. I hate those moments (when someone’s idea about a name is totally wrong, but it would be rude/futile to point out). I had someone say to me: “I heard the most unique name the other day: Amelia. Isn’t that so distinctive?” *bites tongue*

  8. That name meaning generator is hilarious – apparently Brooke actually means “sensual goddess”, coming from the Greek “Bro” for Goddess and Greek “Oke” for Sensual. So not an English word for a “small stream” at all 😉 Great for a laugh!