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Meanings of Names: Ever hear of Homophony?

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homo

 By K. M. Sheard, of NookofNames

There’s an old method of naming first recorded in use in the Old Testament.

It’s called homophony, and basically is the principal of choosing a name because it sounds like something which the bestower wants to commemorate. Or, putting it another way, the choice of name was inspired by something, which, in most cases is entirely unrelated to the name.

It works in all languages; amongst the biblical Hebrews, for instance, there was a period when names which had become long-established were chosen because of their resemblance to a word or words which suggested themselves during pregnancy or labor.

This is partly why the meaning of so many biblical names have gotten so muddled. It’s common in the OT for the mother to make some explanation as to why she’s naming a newborn such-and-such, and this explanation was often interpreted in the past as being the meaning of the name, when, in many cases, it’s actually homophony going on.

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lucky baby names

Triskaidekaphobic?  Then you’ll probably be hiding under the covers on this Friday the 13th – but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your laptop there with you and check out our list of baby names that signify luck, most of it good.  And to infuse the day with an extra measure of good fortune, we’ve paired the lucky names with classic symbols of luck, from rainbows to clovers to benevolent goddesses.

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animal baby names

Animal baby names are a new group in the lexicon.

There’s Alicia Silverstone’s little boy Bear Blu.

Singer Erykah Badu has a daughter named Puma, and Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen named their now-grown son Wolf long before animal names were fashionable.

Bird names Lark, Hawk, and Wren are rising, and actresses Busy Phillips and Maura West both have small daughters named Birdie.

And then there are those animal baby names that don’t sound like animal names: Arthur (which means bear), Destry (war horse), and Paloma (dove).

Would you use an animal name for your child?  Why or why not?

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Good Names with Bad, Bad Meanings

lame child

A visitor to our forums posed this question to the Berries: Would you give your child a name, a wonderful name that you truly love, if it had a negative meaning? How meaningful is the root meaning of a name, anyway?

The name in question was Kennedy, a name that has so much going for it: illustrious relatives, a stylish surname feel, a rhythmic sound, and growing popularity.

Some websites will try to tell you that Kennedy means “royal” or “loving” but it doesn’t.  It means “misshapen head.”  And that is the problem.

Or it’s the problem when, in fourth grade, the teacher decides to have the class do oral reports on their names: Where they came from, what they mean.  And poor “misshapen head” is forced to announce her name’s unfortunate meaning in front of the whole class.

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abby-secret

In this week’s Nameberry 9, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel talks about names with some personal significance that’s not necessarily obvious on the surface.

Sometimes the craziest name becomes instantly charming the second we learn the backstory.  Meaning matters, and I’m always impressed when parents take the time to seek out names rich with personal significance.

Passing down family names is great, but this idea takes it one step further.  It’s a process of thinking about what’s important to your family.  Favorite places, artists, experiences that signify something about the pregnancy.  Think of Shiloh Nouvel JoliePitt’s middle name, inspired by architect Jean Nouvel, or Zuma Rossdale, possibly a nod to a Malibu beach important to his dad.

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