Are Names Destiny?

One question we’re asked frequently by interviewers: Are names destiny? Does the name you choose determine who your child becomes and how their future unfolds?

Some name sources certainly promise that choosing the right name can be an important factor in determining whether your child is successful in life.  And some studies have suggested that some names can help your child earn higher grades in school or be judged as more attractive or live longer, while others can set them up for a life of crime.

Madonna has been quoted as saying that she always felt her distinctive name set her up to be a star.  And Italian baby naming books make character and life predictions — honest, happy, lucky with money — based on the names.

And then there are the parents who wait to take a measure of their newborn child before they choose a name, along with those who claim their son or daughter IS a Felicity or a Rufus, an Aurora or a Joe….whatever that means.

What do YOU think? How much power do names have to shape who we become?  How has this played out with your children, and with you and your own name?  Is it a factor in which name you choose, and how and why?

Take our basic poll:

But please also give us your thoughts and details on how names have (or have not) been linked to destiny in your own and your children’s lives.

If you feel that names have a lot of influence, please tell us how you think this works. Does the meaning or the image of the name exert some magic influence? Have you or has your child been conscious of living up to a name of a revered family member or hero? Do other people respond to you or your child differently because of a name, and what kind of affect does that have?

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19 Responses to “Are Names Destiny?”

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Alexandra.Iseult Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 12:42 am

I believe names can certainly make a difference initially. Particular names can make a student more memorable to an acquaintance, or strike the heart of a boss in a job offer, and have subtle influences like that.

I believe names can be inspiring, and in situations where your life is in the fate of some unknown admissions officer or manager, a thought provoking name could provide the possibilities necessary to gain an advantage over common-named folk.

However, when it comes down to life, a person’s character truly defines him/her, and a name can only minimally influence. For example, a truly unique name in a college class off 200 could make the weary professor aware of who you are, but only your effort put into class and passion can create the kind of personal relationship needed for him to write a letter of rec. Long story short: a great name only means something if the person possessing it has its great characteristics.

minorbeatrice Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 12:44 am

I’ve noticed that a lot of unique people have very common names. Take for example some independent musicians. Beirut has Zachary, Nicholas, Benjamin, and a Kelly. Contrary to what people say, the latest beats the odd and turns out very successful despite having a name that is often used for girls. Camera Obscura has TracyAnne, a name that I bet she would never choose for herself. I think this is very interesting.

Sorry, English is not my first language and it’s so hard to express what I initially want to say.

Whirligig Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 3:11 am

I think a name can influence what peoples first impressions of who you are. A more unusual name will stand out and they will want to know who you are and what the world needs is a few people who are prepared to stand out a little. But the world also needs people who blend in and if those people want to stand out then they can do actions that make them stand out. I think there are pros and cons for having an unusual name or a non unusual name and even though some names will always have a certain first impression, the name won’t do the work for you-you have to make an effort as well. Sorry for rambling

AvianaGrace Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 5:53 am

I think since a name is literally your definition it has a lot of influence on your life. Everyone makes choices of course, but a name is how other people view you. A friend of my mother’s Logan ( A girl) says she gives her name credit as to why she’s doing so well as a lawyer, because it helps her fit in with her mostly male coworkers. My middle name is rather unique and I used to hate it, but now it is my nickname and it makes people think I’m a lot nicer than I am. So I do think names have a lot of influence. Sorry that was long.

mermuse Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 8:51 am

Throughout both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, names are given a lot of importance and do seem to reflect a person or shape their lives at times. I believe this can still happen today. My name is Stephanie, which comes from Stephen, of course, which ultimately comes from the Greek word for “crowned.” I used to be like, ooh, look at me, I’m a princess! But, just recently I found out that the particular word was actually more the idea of a crown which was earned rather than inherited. Which makes sense when you think of Stephen in the New Testament, the first Christian martyr. I still like my name and its meaning, but I feel as though it has made me to look at my life/fate a different way. It inspires me to press on and fight the good fight so that I might live my life well and earn my “crown” in the end. I think there is always some sort of meaning or connection between a name and the person wearing it, even if they/their parents aren’t aware of it. Some are more obvious than others. I know a little toddler named Claire, and her parents didn’t really take the meaning into consideration much when naming her. When she was an infant, she was always drawn to staring at lights, and I said, well, her name means “light”! They were surprised. And she certainly lights up our life with her sweet smile. Who knows how this meaning will show up in the rest of her life?

TinaBina Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 8:54 am

I think names have a huge impact/influence. On how memorable you are, how people perceive that name on OTHER people of the same name, on wether or not you’re taking seriously. Unfortunate but true, if you are looking for a lawyer and you have to chose between Charlotte Grace Smith or Diamond Destinee Smith… the later can leave you chuckling, thus not taking the person seriously initially. We SHOULD not judge a person by their name, but if you meet the name and not the person it can be tough. Having said this, people are special and often have something to say about everything which can affect how we even perceive ourselves, thus how we act and thus our lifestyle. In addition, names are often passed down through family and can affect future names. Your name doesn’t end with you, so it has an even greater impact than your own life.

So please people, name carefully!

notcinnamon Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 9:14 am

An obscure name can set someone apart in memory, I truly believe, which can be an asset. My son attends a national quarterback camp every year, and since the first time he went, the coaches have never forgotten his name. Six years later, they still struggle with keeping some of the Ryans, Hunters, Bens, Joshs, etc. straight. My daughter competes in pageants (it’s nothing like Toddlers and Tiaras!) and dance competitions, and we’ve had judges tell us that they could remember what she wore or said or how she performed by associating it with her unusual name.

CrimsonCat Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 10:17 am

I think we put too much emphasis on names and it drives me crazy. I know personally I put too much thought into my child’s name making this the hardest part about my pregnancy. My OCD doesn’t help either as I find something wrong with every name. It seems like there is more pressure these days to name a child as people expect something original and quirky as opposed to the tried and true traditional so called ‘boring’ names. We think a unique name will give our child a boost in life which it could like Beyonce or Reese Witherspoon, but is not just their names, but their talent that got them noticed. We want our kids to be stars, well just look at Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise,Matthew McConaghey, Julia Roberts, Eva Longoria, Jessica Alba and others. They have made it big with plain and classic names. We have the mindset that we need to name our child something like Lunar Polkadot Umbrella to make them stand out, but in reality they will stand out just by being themselves. I want my child to stand out by their character and not just by an odd or unusual name. The only time I truly like different names is if it is a family name. I love the idea of plucking a quirky name from the family tree. In the end a name is just a name and does not determine who a child will become.

corsue Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 11:57 am

I think my name is pretty girlie (Suzanne), but I grew up (and still am) a huge tomboy. I liked that it was uncommon and had a z in it and I often had/have to correct being called Susan, but beyond that it didn’t/doesn’t matter a lick to me. It’s just my name. My religious and military upbringing was the actual influence in my life that made me who I am, not my name.

Jessa Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I think names do matter insomuch as they signal status (whether or not we want them to do so). A name signals to the viewer certain ethnic, racial, or class identifications. Different cultures will interpret that identity data in different ways, but the name on your letterhead or resume can actually affect how others perceive you.

A name which 90% of your peers assume is “misspelled” or overwrought can be a barrier to making a good first impression. _Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything_ explores how this plays out in American business culture. This Slate article summarizes those observations: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2005/04/a_roshanda_by_any_other_name.html

Saranel Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This post just made me laugh. Our girl due in July is named Felicity and Aurora will be her little sister if we ever have another girl. 🙂

sarah110 Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 1:55 pm

There is a chapter of Freakonomics dedicated to this very topic. Studies show that your name can have a subtle influence on your life in certain circumstances. I can’t remember all the details, but it’s super interesting- everyone should check it out!

yellow Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I think that my name, which has hovered between 400-500 since I was born (uncommon, but not unheard of) has definitely had one effect: I value more unusual names. Mine was unusual enough that I felt protective/possessive over it, but common enough that I’ve met ~5 others in my lifetime. Which, of course, kicks up the aforementioned possessive feelings.

I hope to give a child a name that is so unusual that they’re unlikely to meet another in their lifetime, so unusual that meeting another will hopefully be a point of bonding. A slew of Emilys will reduce Emily’s sense of uniqueness (only as far as her name, of course), so she’ll feel neither possessive or special about it. A handful of other Emilys lands her with my situation. One or no others? That’s just cool.

Other than that, I don’t think my name has impacted “me” at all. I’ve always striven to be different, unique, but I think that’s just me. I was almost a Katie, and I can’t imagine I’d have felt differently on that front!

Alina Marie Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I firmly believe names have a direct correlation to who we are. At the very least, even if a name doesn’t shape a person, the person shapes the name. Numerology suggests that names are an integral part of who we are, and I believe they have much more influence on a person’s life than many people understand.

Flick Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I think that names can definitely influence someones future – imagine trying to find a job with some of the names floating around, people forget they are naming an actual person, not a baby. That “baby” is going to spend a majority of their life as an adult, people need to put more thought into it. Like someone else mentioned – the image a name portrays can definitely influence the success they might have in their chosen field.

jame1881 Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Names make a first impression, but nothing more than that. For example, my second cousin is named Chamberlain. The only thing I could think of was chamber pot when he was born. But now, I can’t see him as anything other than Chamberlain; the adorable toddler cousin. Names create a reaction, but not a lasting destiny.

miloowen Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I think names have and can have a powerful effect on your idea of yourself and also on the way others perceive you. I have never liked my name — ever — and it became very wrapped up in my not liking me either, my feelings of never fitting in, of never finding a place where I could just be. It affected how other kids my age saw me, and their teasing just reinforced my negative picture of myself. It wasn’t until I gave myself a new name — my Hebrew name — that I felt a sense of “this is right, this is me” and had that reflected back at me. While I don’t go by my Hebrew name publicly, my English name no longer bothers me the way it did when I was younger….I chose names for my children that were special to our family and to me but that would be classic and not “defining” in a way that wouldn’t allow them to define themselves.

As a high school teacher, I have repeatedly noticed that the kids with “normal” or “classic” names are the ones in the honours classes. My kids with the most creative/made-up names are all struggling to read and to do well in school.

tarynkay Says:

May 24th, 2012 at 10:33 am

Jessa- But if you read the article, you’ll notice that it concludes thusly:

“The data show that, on average, a person with a distinctively black name—whether it is a woman named Imani or a man named DeShawn—does have a worse life outcome than a woman named Molly or a man named Jake. But it isn’t the fault of his or her name. If two black boys, Jake Williams and DeShawn Williams, are born in the same neighborhood and into the same familial and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of parents who name their son Jake don’t tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn. And that’s why, on average, a boy named Jake will tend to earn more money and get more education than a boy named DeShawn. DeShawn’s name is an indicator—but not a cause—of his life path.”

LexieM Says:

July 15th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I think names can have an influence on your life. Ideally you want a unique name that isn’t too unpopular for the best memorability factor. My mom choose names where she also liked the meaning and I grew up knowing what my name meant. So I always thought of my name as a road-map to who I was supposed to be – esp as a teen, when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be. (my names means defender, wisdom and colorful so that’s always something to live up to).

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