Sunday Summary 2.21.16We all want to know what our name means. Preferably, the meaning will be appealing, and short enough to fit on a bookmark or coffee mug.

It’s possible to achieve this, if you’re a parent naming a newborn, and you’re willing to do a little bit of searching. But once the name is chosen, parents – or the children themselves – are often disappointed that the meaning of their name isn’t more satisfying.

Last week, I talked to a parent who had chosen one of the names on this list of names that mean love for her daughter. Instead of love, one site had told her that the name meant wanton, adulterous. In this particular case, I felt confident that the other site was in error – the linguistic and literary roots don’t support it in English, and if – emphasis on if – it is occasionally used that way in another language, it’s obscure.

A few days later, I stumbled on a parent complaining that her daughter’s name has no meaning, and her daughter deserves a meaning for her lovely name. Some well-meaning commenters tried to supply one. But here’s the thing: the name actually has no known meaning. It’s a place name, and sometimes surname, and it’s coming up as a #BabyNameoftheDay in March. I did tons of digging, only to conclude that the origins were truly lost, lost beyond speculation.

My approach to meaning has always been this: the reasons your parents chose your name matter more than what you can look up in a database.

But if that’s not the way you feel about it, the only recourse is to research, research, research before you choose your child’s name.

Now, on to the name news:

  • There are some fantastic names in this round-up from Names for Real: the elaborate Ariabella, ancient Cleopatra, unexpected Jerra, the Harry Potter-esque Johnny Ollivander. And oh yes, Poet Grey!
  • What’s big in Warsaw.
  • And in Chile. Love the idea of Maite, but I’m not sure it works in English.
  • I’ve never been wild about the name Jesse, but Cleveland makes a compelling case for this one.
  • Disney XD’s quirky cartoon Gravity Falls came to an end a week ago. It’s probably part of the reason parents are embracing Mabel, the name of one of the main characters. But I mention it because my husband mentioned this unicorn name from the seriesCelestabellebethabelle. Ha!
  • I’m all about Chester, and there are more great names on this list from The Art of Naming.
  • Fashion Week = an obvious excuse to talk about babies named Armani and Chanel. My pick for a runway-worthy child’s name? Has to be Vivienne.
  • I’ve been thinking about this idea recently: We seriously need to stop bashing celebrity baby names. The counter-argument is that celebrities are public figures; all of their style choices are critiqued; why should a child’s name be off limits? I can appreciate that perspective, too. But here’s my take: first, often celebrity baby names that seem outlandish grow on me over time, and the general consensus changes, too. (Rocket is the example that comes most immediately to mind, but I’m sure there are others.) Second, what if I met, say, Suri Cruise? Would I ever dare say something cruel about her name? No, not in a thousand years! She’s a child. I try my best to be a grown-up. So no to bashing. Where’s the line? Erm … that’s going to be tough, and you’re welcome to call me on it if you think I go too far.
  • Related: Can I just say how much I appreciate the thoughtful insights and comments that you provide for all of our #namehelp posts? I know that sometimes the names aren’t your style. On other forums, I see comments that make me cringe. (Think: “I’m sorry, but these are awful names!”) But here, you’ve always approached them with goodwill and a generous spirit, and that’s what makes the world go ’round.

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great 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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  1. I love the name Jesse. Around here, I think it’s more common, particularly as an Anglicization of Jesus. But for me, it’s very Western and cool, a cowboy name like Wyatt.
    I like Jessica and Jessie, too, so doesn’t that make Jess a truly gender neutral name?

    1. Well, not just because I like it – I don’t really have that kind of power. Wish I did, though, wouldn’t that be fun for a while?

  2. My younger brother’s name is Jesse (born 1985), he was in elementary school the first time he encountered a girl named Jessie and spent a while trying to convince everyone to call him Luke instead (not his middle name). Ha!

  3. I love Jesse. 🙂 Thanks for the link. Maybe it’ll help me pitch the name to other half if we someday have a boy.