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Category: Claire Clio

The Secret Meaning of Names

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Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel, one of nameberry’s favorite guest bloggers, writes about what names mean beyond what the books say they mean.

When I refer to the secret meaning of names, I’m not talking about kaballah.  I’m not even talking about names like Nevaeh, where the so-called secret meaning is quite clear.

Instead, I’m intrigued by the difference between the meanings given by baby books and the reasons our parents pick our names.

Head to most baby name websites, or flip open your favorite book to Kayla.  Or Kaylee.  Or Kaitlyn.  Odds are that the guides will offer a one-word meaning: pure.  They might also note that Kayla, Kaylee, Kaitlyn and kin are considered variants of Katherine.  As well as Kathryn, Cathryn, Katrina, Katinka, Caylee … the entry could fill a page.

Name aficionados will pause and reflect that Katherine’s meaning is debated.  It is likely that Katherine’s origins are wrapped up with the goddess Hecate, she of witches and demons.  At some point the name was altered to more closely resemble the Greek katharos, which does mean pure.

But if your mother loved the soap opera Days of Our Lives in the 1980s, she probably had the popular character in mind when she planned to call her firstborn daughter Kayla.

Or maybe your father’s mother was called Kay, and Kayla seemed like a fitting way to honor grandma.

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