Category: ethnic baby names


Nameberry guest blogger Andrea, whom many of you may know for her intelligent and thoughtful advice on our message boards, and who most recently blogged for us on royal baby names, now focuses her attention closer to home, with this report on naming trends in the midwest.

On a recent Saturday somewhere in North Dakota, an athletic field was filled with fledgling 4-year-old soccer players, learning how to kick the ball and congratulate teammates when they did (or didn’t) make a goal. Behind them were their proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and volunteer coaches, all hollering at once:

Maddox, where’s your soccer ball?” “Yay, Logan. Yay, Logan!” “Hustle, Camden, hustle!” “Chloe, take a time out.” “Go, Ethan!”  After awhile the hard “C’s” and “an” ending names started to blend together. I could imagine next year’s preschool or kindergarten teacher mixing some of them up the way their soccer coach occasionally did.

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Guest blogger Sachiko has a penchant for unusual names, and a talent for deflecting the criticism of strangers.

“You named that poor boy WHAT? That’s a terrible name! Shame on you!”

With those words, a nice old man in the hospital lobby turned into a mean old geezer, looking down on me and my newborn son, Musashi, where we were sitting in the mandatory wheelchair, waiting for my husband to pull the car around. I hugged my baby to my chest and scowled at the mean geezer until he went away.

Oh, wait, how about this one: The lady in the fabric store who whipped around and denounced me as an abusive mom for saddling my daughter with a monstrosity like — gasp! — Bronwen.

“She’ll never be able to write it!” Fabric Store Lady said. “And her teachers won’t be able to pronounce it.”

“Have you ever named a baby?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, proudly. “I have a son named Jody.”

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Let’s say you like the basic concept of a place name, but you’re not so thrilled  when it’s tied to the image of a specific locale.  If, for example, you’re thinking Tulsa sounds like a nice, friendly, easygoing,  Western name– but then suddenly the image of Oklahoma oil fields spring to mind, or say you think Trenton might be the perfect boy’s name—if it weren’t for the New Jersey connection.

There is one way around this.  You could consider place names that are no longer on the map, either because of a name change, possibly for political reasons, or because the place itself disappeared—or may have never even existed at all.

Here, some romantic, faraway examples, mostly with non-specific images:

ALBION—old poetic name for England

ANGLIA—Latin name of England

ANNAM—historic name for part of Vietnam

ARABY—old poetic name for Arabia

ATRIA –ancient city in central Italy

ATLANTIS—legendary island supposed to have sunk into the Atlantic

AVALON-another legendary island, this one featured in the Arthurian tales (though one still exists in California)

BRIXIA—the ancient Latin name of the modern Northern Italian city of Brescia

CANDIA –old name of Crete

CANTON—Chinese city now called Guangzhou

CARAL –a Peruvian settlement considered the most ancient city of the Americas

CEYLON—old name of Sri Lanka

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posted by: Nephele View all posts by this author
Jewish baby names

By Nephele

Yiddish names have a rich history, rooted in an older generation of Jewish people belonging to the Ashkenazic (from Germany and Eastern Europe) community. The Yiddish language evolved during medieval times from High German (influenced by Hebrew and some eastern European languages), and the word “Yiddish” itself literally means “Jewish.” Genealogists familiar with old U.S. Federal Census records will have noticed many a census record where the census taker recorded an immigrant’s language as being “Jewish” when it more properly should have been recorded as “Yiddish.”

While many fondly associate Yiddish names with their beloved grandparents and great-grandparents, Yiddish is nonetheless making a comeback. California‘s San Francisco Bay area is home to Der Bay, a widely circulated Anglo-Yiddish newsletter of events, and such movies as Fiddler on the Roof and the animated An American Tail (both featuring Yiddish-named characters) are fondly familiar to mainstream America.

Accounting for the many spelling variations of Yiddish names is the fact that Yiddish is a language written in Hebrew letters, which then may be transliterated into the letters of the Roman alphabet for English language readers and speakers. In Yiddish names, “creative spellings” (a frequent complaint on Internet baby name discussion boards) are not only common, but necessary!

Here are some Yiddish names (with their variations) worth considering:


BIELKA, BIELKE — “beautiful, white.”

BLIMA, BLUMA — “flower.”

BREINDEL –“brunette.”

CHANI– derived from Chanah, Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel in the Bible.

CHAVA, CHAVELE, KHAVA, KHAVE – “life,” the name of Adam‘s wife (known as Eve in English).

DAVRUSHA –“ form of Deborah, the Biblical prophetess and judge.

FREIDEL– “joy.”

GOLDA, GOLDE — “gold.”

HINDA, HINDE —  “hind, doe.”

HODEL — form of Hadassah, the Hebrew name of the heroine Esther in the Bible.

KAILA, KAYLA, KEILA —  possibly from the Hebrew Kelila: “crown.”

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Icelandic Baby Names: And the name is…

International Baby Names

Today’s guest blogger ALANA ODEGARD describes the joys and unique challenges  of naming a baby in Iceland.

A version of this entry originally appeared on Iceland Review Online (, an online magazine that Alana contributes to weekly.

When I first came to Iceland from Canada nearly six years ago, little did I know that it would be here, on this little island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, where I would not only meet the man who would become my husband, but that I would give birth to my first child.

Life is full of surprises, as they say, and I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out.

With my due date just around the corner, my husband and I are as prepared as any new parents can hope to be. We’ve taken the prenatal courses, set up the change table, the crib, the stroller, and have a drawer full of diapers at the ready.

So, what else do we need? Well, aside from the baby, of course, it would seem we need a name.

Naming your child may sound straightforward enough, but as it turns out, what should be simple tends to get complicated when one person is Icelandic and the other is, well, not.

Although I am pleased to say that my experience of being pregnant in a foreign land has been a positive one, certain restrictions, regulations, committees, ceremonies and language barriers have made choosing a name quite the eventful task.

Being from Canada, it’s not unheard of for parents to have chosen and announced the name of their baby months before it’s born. In the cases where the parents decide to keep the name to themselves until after birth, the name is among the very first bits of information that is passed along to friends and family.

But in Iceland, things are done quite differently. Generally a baby’s name is not revealed until its official naming ceremony (often accompanied by a baptism). Legally, parents have up to six months to name their baby and it’s not uncommon for a child to be “nameless” for this period of time.

Of course the parents may call their baby by its first name if they have chosen one, but it’s kept a secret from other people. Everyone including grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, best friends, and even siblings must wait until the naming ceremony to find out the little one’s name.

So, what do you call a baby with no name? Up until the naming ceremony babies are often referred to as drengir (boy), stúlka (girl), and elskan (an affectionate term like “honey” or “sweetheart”). The baby may also be called by its last name which is determined according to the Old Norse naming system. For example, if the father’s first name is “Gunnar”, the child’s last name would either be Gunnarsson or Gunnarsdóttir depending on if it is a boy or a girl (the suffix “son” (son) is used if it is a boy and “dóttir” (daughter) if it is a girl).

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