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60+ Good Names with Bad Meanings

60+ Good Names with Bad Meanings

Names with bad meanings are a dealbreaker for some parents – but you might be surprised to discover some of the most popular names of all time among them.

For example, longtime Top 20 favorite Emily (and its stylish variant Emilia) mean “rival” or "envious", from the Latin aemulus.

Kennedy means “misshapen head”, while Cameron means “crooked nose”. And Calvin may be one of the coolest vintage boy names of the moment, but its meaning is decidedly less appealing: “bald”.

Do Bad Name Meanings Matter?

Beyond that awkward moment in fourth grade when Kennedy’s teacher decides, as a “fun” activity, to have the whole class do reports on the meaning and origin of their names, does a negative meaning carry any deeper power?

We recently stumbled across a discussion from the Nameberry forums about the importance of name meanings, both good and bad.

Here are some of our members' takes:

I remember looking up the meaning of my name when I was like eight or nine and being utterly crushed when it didn’t really mean anything. So making sure that my kids’ names have wonderful meanings is really important to me. – @winterara

Meanings don’t tend to put me off of names, but they can help make me love a name more  I don’t care particularly much that Katherine means “pure” or Elizabeth means “pledged to God”, but I love the fact that Stephanie means “crown”. – @leafsgirl44

Meanings are interesting to me, but not very high on considerations when actually deciding on names. One of my favorite names, Desdemona, means “ill-starred”. Not the most positive meaning! Still, it’s on my list because I like the sound and other personal associations override the meaning. – @rubylark

I personally couldn’t. Meanings are really important to me, and no honor or significance would be able to override an unfortunate meaning. One of my all time favorites is Claudia (lame, crippled), and the meaning is simply too much for me to use personally. – @Clay_Maker

I’m one of those people who can’t use a name, on an actual child, with a meaning that I don’t care for. This is mainly because, when I was growing up, I had a cute little wall decoration with my name and its meaning. So I’ve always envisioned my child’s room with something similar. – @Elle1

Good Names With Bad Meanings

There are plenty of popular and stylish names with less-than-appealing meanings, which would suggest that most parents either don’t care or aren’t aware of the negative connotations.

Even James and Mary – two of the most popular baby names of all time in the US – are usually said to mean “supplanter” and “bitter”, respectively. (Although it should be noted that the true meaning of Mary is up for debate.)

Below is a selection of the best names with bad meanings. Read them at your peril!

Disclaimer: a few of these names’ meanings are not known for certain – Deirdre and Persephone, for example – but they are given with their most commonly ascribed meanings.

Girl Names

Acantha: thorn, prickle

Aphra: dust

Bronagh: sorrow

Capri: goats

Cecily: blind

Cornelia: horn

Courtney: short nose

Deirdre: sorrowful

Desdemona: ill-fated

Dolores: sorrows

Emilia: rival

Etain: jealousy

Everly: wild boar clearing

Kennedy: misshapen head

Leah: weary

Lilith: night monster

Lola: sorrows

Lyssa: fury

Malala: sad, grieved

Mallory: unlucky

Mara: bitter

Morrigan: demon queen

Persephone: bringer of death

Phryne: toad

Portia: pig

Rachel: ewe

Rebecca: snare

Rue: regret

Saskia: knife

Sloane: raider

Zillah: shade, shadow

Boy Names

Abaddon: destruction

Ares: bane, ruin

Blaise: lisping

Brennan: wet, tearful

Byron: place of the cow sheds

Cain: possessed

Calvin: bald

Cameron: crooked nose

Campbell: crooked mouth

Casimir: destroyer of peace

Claude: limping

Colby: coal town

Colin: whelp, young dog

Damian: subdue

Dempsey: proud, haughty

Esau: hairy

Fabian: bean grower

Flanagan: blood red

Fenrir: marsh dweller

Gideon: feller, destroyer

Giles: young goat

Gulliver: glutton

Huxley: place of scorn

Jabez: bringer of pain

Jacob: supplanter

James: supplanter

Mortimer: dead water

Perseus: destroy

Simon: flat-nosed

Soren: stern

Tristan: noise, sad

Viggo: war

Discover many more unfortunate name meanings in our list of names that mean trouble (literally!)

Or, if positive meanings are more your thing, you can find a selection of the best names with good meanings here.

About the Author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from the baby names to watch in 2022 to how not to choose the next big baby name. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks several languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and four young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.