Category: International Baby Names
By Sarah Linke Mezzini
Blaire Irwin Emerson, better known here as Rowangreeneyes, joined Nameberry not long after the birth of her daughter, Rowan Jane, in 2011. As a self-confessed name nerd, she was keen on finding names for her future second child. She loved many different types of names, particularly boys’ names on girls, which she became famous for within the Nameberry community. Her other loves included international names (particularly Welsh), nature names, Southern names and word names. At the time of her passing, she was 35 weeks pregnant with her second child. In remembrance of Blaire, here are some of her favourites.
By Beth Grimm
As the proud mummy of two, soon to be three, bilingual children, who attend international school and are exposed to multiple cultures on a daily basis, I am constantly reminded of the need to consider the implications of names. The wrong name could cause frustration for family members or even ridicule of the child. So what factors should you consider?
Pronunciation – It is important to be aware how the name will be pronounced by different family members, dependent on their native language. Having lived in Central and Eastern Europe most of my adult life, I frequently confront the difficulty in pronouncing the ‘th’ sound in my name, Bethany. My counterpart may think it’s fine to call me, a woman in her thirties, Betty; I, as a Brit, think of an elderly lady with permed hair.
The first criterium for naming my children was no ‘th’ sounds. Off the list came Dorothea, Martha, Arthur and Nathaniel. Other sounds may cause no problem, or the difference be unimportant. The Germans say Ze-ra-fee-na for Seraphine, which is similar and quite pleasant. My daughter answers to both. Just be warned, you may feel attached to the name Lawrence and your beloved uncle Larry, but your Japanese family may hate you for it, go for Ren and keep everyone happy!
Soundalike Rude Words – You would be surprised how many names sound like rude words in other languages. I was discussing names the other day with my husband and pointed out the name Akako, which was a Name of the Day here on Nameberry. I commented that we couldn’t use that name and he was baffled. Our six year old, on the other hand, sat in the corner giggling and when questioned as to why… “Mummy said the K word” Then, my husband understood; it contains a children’s word for toilet business.
This is far from an exception; many a beloved name has to be struck from the list for similar reasons. Zack and Chloe are a no-go for the Germans, Sookie for the Russians; Danish people, consider carefully before naming your daughter Bente, if you have British relatives. Where possible, it would be best to ask a teenage native speaker what they think of a name, as an adult may be too mature to spot the problem.
Direct Translation – Here, an adult will be of assistance, or even an online dictionary. A name may be perfectly innocent in your native language but sound ridiculous, or even unpleasant in the language of your foreign relatives. I adore the name Viola, but a deep rooted desire to move to Spain one day takes this one off our list. The verb violar means ‘to rape’. Another time, I was engrossed in my family history research and uncovered the gorgeous name Rosine. I turned to my husband with fluttering eyelashes and got the swift and uncompromising response, “I’m not naming my child Raisin!”
Historical and Cultural Influence – In school, you learn a little of the history of other countries, but even if you take it as a specialist subject in high school leaving exams, it is doubtful you would study enough of the history of another culture to make immediate subconscious connections between a chosen name and what it means to other members of your international family.
My personal experience with this came after the thought that I might name one of my daughters after my Great Aunt Eva, a woman who shared my passion for genealogy and was always kind and caring. It was quickly vetoed in the early stages of name selection, however, when my husband said, “What, you mean like Eva Braun?” Living in Germany, having a child who shares her name with Hitler’s wife may not be the most sound decision.
Honoring the family member – So how do you honor the family member with the strongly cultured or perhaps, inappropriate name? The first and easiest option is to use the middle name slot. Nobody shouts their child’s middle name on the playground and a teenager can easily hide it if embarrassed. Laura Brunhilda can tell everyone the B stands for Belle. Another option is to find a soundalike name without the association. With the Eva example, Evangeline and Evelyn could also work well, without the immediate historical link. The most subtle way of all would be to find a name which means the same thing from the partner culture, honoring Grandad Raul by naming your baby Ralph.
It’s definitely a minefield, but with a little more care and a lot of patience, you will find the perfect name that allows your little precious child to fit in, wherever they may be.
By Clarice Bourgeois
Even though Brittany is a region with a strong identity, up until the 1980s, regional differences in baby names were not really apparent in France. Local name trends followed those of the rest of the country, with a large proportion of girls being called Marie, Sylvie, Nathalie and Stéphanie and boys named Jean, Philippe, Thomas or Julien. This is still largely the case today : Emma and Lola and Nathan and Enzo top Brittany’s name charts.
However, since the 90s, there’s been a strong regional identity upswing: local languages are taught at school, forgotten traditions are being revived. People now want to learn about their roots and keep them alive in any way possible, including naming their children.
By Romina Angeleri
Nora Ephron was once asked to write her autobiography in six words. Here it is: “Secret to life, marry an Italian.” Whether or not you follow her advice, you don’t need to go all that way in order to give an Italian name to your baby!
Italian names often have layered meanings and a lot of romance, which makes them a great choice for naming your baby. At the same time – and for much the same reasons – searching for a good Italian name can be tricky. Names that sound perfectly fine to American ears may not be real options in Italy, if, for example, they might sound old-fashioned or carry strong regional connotations. Take Teodora: here’s a great-sounding, but also ancient-sounding name that virtually no one in Italy has chosen for decades. Or Calogero – a once-popular name that has been out of fashion for quite a while.
Names travel among cultures further and faster now than ever before.
The British like such French names as Sophie and Chloe, while in France there’s a craze for British names such as Emma and Tom. And then there are those names used throughout Europe that are gaining some attention in the US: Cosima, Leonie, Roman.