Name Images and Impressions

Question of the Week: How much does a person’s name affect your opinion of them?

Do you get a mental image of people before meeting them, setting up positive or negative expectations because they have a name you like–or don’t??  Ever turn down a blind date because of his/her name?  Could you imagine yourself married to an Egbert or a Hortense?

On the other hand, does having a beautiful name add something special to a person’s appeal (as it does for me with my British friend Araminta)?

Has knowing a person changed your image of their name?

Do you judge people by what they’ve named their children—even a little bit– and even though you know you shouldn’t?

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39 Responses to “Name Images and Impressions”

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Mel Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 2:17 am

I just heard a caller on the radio named Francesca, and I thought, “Man, I sure hope she’s gorgeous, with a name like that.”

LC Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 2:27 am

I think it’s inevitable to judge someone (or someone’s child) by their name to an extent but I think people’s personalities modify that judgement throughout the course of your relationship to that person. It’s funny that the commenter above mentioned Francesca – I instantly thought of a beautiful/awesome girl I knew named Francesca and so I puzzled at why the commenter would assume she wasn’t. Just goes to show that we have snap judgement about names but that they are guided by our anecdotal evidence of that name and mutable over time.

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January 26th, 2011 at 3:06 am

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Cristina Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 3:20 am

I do believe an “ugly” name gives you an impression of a person before meeting them. That’s why parents try so hard to give their child a pretty or meaningful name most of the time. But after you meet someone you can judge them by who they are and not their name.
Think of the Victoria’s Secret Angels – Alessandra, Adriana, Giselle…their names seem to add to their beauty. But then there are others with names one would think are awful, and that person is beautiful inside or out, and your opinion of the name changes.
Its the same with names of people you’ve had good or bad encounters with. I never want to meet another Kelsey in my lifetime because of something that happened to me, for example.
As for judging people for naming their child a particular name, I still feel like my neighbor was wrong in naming his kid Dennis the third. Poor little guy.

Emmy Jo Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 4:19 am

When I was in college, I had a conversation with a friend where she commented that baseball caps are the great equalizer for boys. They make the hottest boys look slightly less cute, but they make not-so-cute boys look a little better. So a 10 become an 8, but a 5 becomes a 7.

We then theorized that some names seem to do just the opposite. Helen is one we thought of as a good example. A beautiful Helen would seem even prettier, but a plain Helen would seem even more plain.

Josie Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 4:31 am

I agree with the Helen thing definetly! I don’t think I could marry I guy named Egbert unless he was really, really amazing. Names don’t have the biggest impression on me but they still do. Like, all throughout high school there was a really tall overweight kid named Brandon. Then when I got to high school when the teacher first called out names she called someone named Brandon, and he was like the smallest little kid in the class who was really short and sporty and skinny, and I called him Branny because the association was strange….

Kathy Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 7:40 am

Yes, I judge people by what they’ve named their children and I realize how completely ridiculous that is. There is a mom at my daughter’s school who I think is wonderful but we have completely opposite naming styles and it makes me think, “could we ever *really* be friends when you name your kids x and y?” And then there is a woman at my church and we don’t really click, but we have the same taste in baby names and I always think, “why aren’t we friends?? we like the same names!” It’s so silly!

Filipa Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 8:25 am

Well, some people make judgements based on appearence, i make them based on names. Silly, but true 😀
But that’s just a first impression thing; I would never stop dating someone because of his name – i would get him a nickname!

mermuse Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 10:41 am

I definitely judge people by what they’ve named their children…. as terrible as that sounds.

And, I think that yes, names do affect impressions. But, I think that I have more so liked names I wouldn’t have otherwise liked then the other way around (I hope).

I did have a conversation once with a guy who said he didn’t care how smokingly hot a girl was, if she had an ugly name, he wouldn’t date her. We were telling him about a fabulous girl named Meryl, and he said he didn’t care how great she was, that was an unattractive name! His loss.

I think my taste has changed as I’ve grown, and I’ve known some awesome people by names like Albert that I might not have liked otherwise

British American Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 10:53 am

I do think names give you a first-impression of someone. But I don’t think it would be too hard to look past an ‘unattractive’ name, if you were attracted to the person. You could totally come up with a nickname and it’s likely that the person’s original name would grow on you.

I do judge parents for what they name their children and I would be more likely to try to befriend another Mom who has a similar taste in names to my own. I guess it’s like how in high school you’re drawn to people with similar tastes in clothes and music.

A parents choice in names says more about them than their own name, seeing as that was their parents choice. Though their own use of a nickname – or not – does reflect upon their personality.

sadiesadie Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 11:12 am

I can’t honestly believe that this many people judge others on what they name their child. I think we all love different sounds and meaning and that is why the whole world isn’t named Bob and Sue.
If I heard someone had an unusual name I would have to meet them to see their personality. I just met a guy named Tiberius the other day!

Jenny Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 11:50 am

Oh, I’ll judge the dickens out of you if you name your child Nevaeh or Kristayll or Natorious. Perhaps it’s racist/classist of me, but I think you are putting your children at a disadvantage right from the start and that’s stupid. Maybe even cruel.

That said, I hate both my husband’s name and nickname and I still fell in love with and married him. And I have an adopted cousin with a terrible name, but I love her to pieces. First impressions aren’t everything.

Stephanie Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Sadly, I too judge on names. Not overly harshly, but some part of me feels smug satisfaction when people I don’t like very much choose (what I consider to be) horrible names for their children.

We’re in an interesting situation now with adopting a second child. With our first child we ended up loving the name her birth mother had given her (Savannah) because of the nickname we chose: Savvy. Now with the next one I worry about pre-judging on a name and feeling pressured to keep a name I may not love because I did it the first time around…

Linelei Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Sadiesadie, I’m actually proud of everyone for being so honest. The fact is, ALL humans (including you) make snap judgments based on information presented to them. This is the way the brain works, and a useful evolutionary trait, because being able to make decisions without possessing all the knowledge about a situation allows one to think, “Hey, that bush is growling. It’s probably a bear and I probably should get out of here.”

Of course the problem is that our assumptions and stereotyping usually fall far short of the actual reality in this complicated, diverse age. So while it is a natural characteristic of the brain to judge on first impressions, it is important for all of us to take a step back and analyze those impressions, and allow contrary information to change our opinions. Names, having mostly been used many times before, carry little datafiles of “information” for us, and we usually need to take the time to adjust and add new information when we meet someone new. It’s not the initial stereotyping that is the issue; it’s the hanging on to that stereotype and making decisions based on it that causes problems.

On that note, I agree with the comment that I’m more likely to judge someone based on what they name their kids, rather than what their own names are. When I meet kids named Hayden, Taylor, and Emerson, I assume that the parents care about fitting into current social trends. When the child is named Ada or Margaret or Oliver, I assume family connections and more classic values are important to the parents. When the kids are named River, Reality, or Heron, I assume these people are a little offbeat, like me. 😉 Of course, I am fully ready to change those impressions based on new evidence.

nannbea Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Names definitly give you a first impression even subconsciously. The book “the secret universe of names” is interesting as it looks at the linguistics of names and how letter combinations associate to different things. For example, most words to do with the nose start with sn (Snooze, sneeze, snore, snout) so there are not many names starting with Sn. That being said it is definitly the person behind the name that changes your view of that name. Your name doesn’t make you, you make the name.

Marcia Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

This is funny. My husband’s name is Woody. Seriously, his parents named him Woody Michael ________. There is a really sweet story behind his first name, but I cringed the first time I heard his name. It didn’t stop me from falling in love with and marrying him. And on the plus side, there is no one in his age group (30s) named Woody. Professionally, he says it helps him because people always remember his name.

simplelife Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

People should name their children names that are meaningful and pleasant. Popularity trends should be considered lastly. People who name their children ridiculous names (names that will obviously affect the child’s social acceptance and possiby his or her entire future) just to make a statement or impress are irresponsible and selfish. Yes, names do make an impression. People do judge based on names. Employers do make judgements based on names. Teachers make judgements based on names. There are plenty of studies out there that support this. Be kind to your children; give them names that both you and they will love and won’t invoke negative responses. When I hear of names like Egbert, Egypt, E’Lyssa, Elvis, ETrade, or Euphoria I instantly think that the parents are using their kids to make themselves stand out. They are trying too hard, and I feel really sorry for their children.

Lila Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

If people have multiple kids with tryndee names I will totally judge them. But just one? It could be a simple lack of awareness of just how popular a name has become. I’m biased on this; my mother named me Amanda in 1985 because she was a Classics nerd who loved the meaning and didn’t pay attention to things like name popularity lists. My brother and sister got a family (old-man) name and a classic name, respectively,because she learned from experience.

Emily Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I am a high school teacher, and I definitely have some preconceived ideas about my students when I see the list of names before the first day of school! The interesting thing is that it is often based on previous students with the same name, or someone I went to school with etc. I think that happens to a lot of people. You automatically think of the personality, looks, etc. of the person you already know with that name. Also, I think it is interesting that with so many androgynous names that I often will assume a certain name is of one gender, and then be surprised if it is the other, and then if tell a colleague, that person will say, oh I would have assumed the opposite gender!

simplelife Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Sorry, one last addition to my rant. Why should naming your child be about what your friends are going to think of you? Why isn’t it about what’s best for the child? If my friends are going to reconsider a friendship with me based on the names I gave my children, I wouldn’t want to consider them my friends. Cliques and snobbery are best left at high school. I don’t want to be defined exclusively by my name choices (or my parents’), and I don’t want that for my kids or my friends.

Renee Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I will admit that I immediately and readily form a first impression of others based on what they have named their children – but that is because I am obsessed with names!

[I also immediately surmise information about people I meet based on their shoes – because I am obsessed with shoes. Other people do it with cars, hobbies, careers…there is always something personal to project on others – just human nature!]

I’m on the same boat as Linelei: I assume personality characteristics of the parents based on the “category” of name(s) they give their children. Classic (or uninspired), Elegant (or stuffy), Unique (or garish), Popular (or unoriginal), and so on. HOWEVER, this is just my first impression, and I stick around to get to know the real parents behind the names!

I have to say that I don’t judge adults based on what their own name is, because I know that most likely they didn’t chose it themselves. So I let my first impressions off the hook when I meet an adult. I just can’t help but judge the parents of other children!

Isabel Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I definitely judge people based on their names, and judge their parents even more. But the impressions can definitely change if I get to know them, and my feeling about the name can change as well!

Em Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 8:17 pm

I would never judge someone based on their name or what they’ve named their children. A name is just something we use to identify one another. It has nothing to do with who we are as a person. Yes, you can assume things about parents based on what they’ve named their children, but they are just that. Assumptions. Could I picture myself married to a guy named Egbert? Sure! Why not? Maybe I’m missing something here but I am failing to understand why you wouldn’t marry someone just because their name was Egbert or Hortense. Just the name snobbery of Nameberry?

linda Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 8:23 pm


Natasha Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Something tells me all name berries are likely to judge names… Because we all LOVE names! It would be really interesting to set up a poll on another site, and see what normal people think 😉

heidi Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 10:01 pm

I have a hard time believing that nameberries wouldn’t judge a parent by what they name their child – at least initially – if we’re being honest. We all come to this wonderful site because we have an indescribable love for and of names. I, for one, do not believe that “a name is just a name” – it is a first impression, the way it looks when written or feels rolling off the tongue are all important but obviously the most important part is the person who holds the name! Depending on what kind of person they are – that’s what allows us to get over any names we find homely or vice versa.

I have a cousin named Amber whom I always disliked because she was mean and swore and stole things and bragged about it when we were young. Therefore, I don’t tend to think of the name Amber too favorably. I’ve met two very wonderful Amber’s over the years. Even still, when I hear the name I think of my cousin.

Sunshinetina Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I very much think that a name evokes different things to different people. One of my best friends in high school was named Bambi-Jane, which people either shortened to Bambi (and made fun of it as an exotic dancers name) or worse they called her BJ (and made fun of it as well the obvious adult reference). She hated when people called her that, but knew that she was given her name in honour of both grandmothers, one who had served as a nurse in WW2 and the other who had become a nun. Those of us who knew that reason just called her beach.

Namestory Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I am admittedly a name snob, but I repeatedly (inwardly) rail against those who choose their kids’ names out of the top 10 list. I just don’t understand it! But I can’t be too harsh, because most of these people are friends of mine. Of course, I am extreme in the other direction, and don’t want my kids’ names to ever break the top 1000. So my kids have unique names, which is somewhat uncommon amongst my circle of friends. I wonder what they think of me???

Olivia Says:

January 27th, 2011 at 12:02 am

Generally I judge people quite quickly based on their names, but I can easily be won over by a lovely personality. Movies and television also change my ideas about names. I have been fairly lucky that the majority of my closest friends parents have great taste in names.

I have synaesthesia so words and letters really do conjure up strong images to me, and letters that don’t flow together really tend to get on my nerves.

Some names I still love in theory, but due to meeting horrid namesakes, I could no longer use any variant.

Janine Says:

January 29th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

oh i judge. Definitly. I work in a daycare centre and I mentally roll my eyes at some of the names that come through the door. That being said, I have fallen in love with a little Neveah. She makes the name a touch more bareable.

i won’t start on the names i’ve fallen out of love with though due to certain children.

That would make a great question. What names have you changed your mind about after meeting a person with that name!

WriterGirl Says:

January 30th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I used to love the name Hortense before I knew it had adult references, due to it’s literary connections. And Egbert could be the next Edward, so who knows?

Kat Says:

February 12th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

This has to be the snottiest set of answers I’ve ever seen on Nameberry, and I am disappointed. Describing yourself as someone who “loves names” doesn’t magically give you the license to be judgmental. That’s like saying you love white people so that gives you the right to judge people of another color based on the color alone. Prejudice is prejudice. And being “honest” about it doesn’t give you points either. How about making an effort to get to know someone instead of judging them? I am wondering how many people name their children a family name in order to honor a loved one that is gone, and others judge and mock the name based on that decade’s capricious taste. So what if someone is named something strange or trendy or something-not-to-your-liking? Find something more useful to do with your energy. People are dying of poverty and neglect in the world. Get a life.

anne Says:

March 1st, 2011 at 11:53 pm

it depends on the name. i won’t think of anything if i hear the name emily because it’s a common name and could be anybody. meanwhile i can safley assume that Jose or Mohammed are probaly spanish or muslim. those are only assumptions i don’t judge though.

Mair Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I don’t know that I judge children by their names do much as I do their parents. I worked in a semi-mega church nursery and as a nanny for some parents in the church for a while in the 90s, and have vowed never to name my children by any name of the kids I kept. I got so tired of having five of every top 40 name you could imagine.

Some of these names I like, but have strong associations with particular children bearing them. Others…I wanted to ask some parents if they had even thought about their child when they picked a name (For example, Tanner.) I grew up with a really common name, so I also thought some parents should try harder to find names that weren’t shared by four others in their kids’ classes.

Some of the more interesting and uncommon names that I saw come through the church rosters, though, were Tirzah, Annaliese, and Sari.

garnet Says:

June 15th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Initially, I might judge the parents’ choice of a name, but I think it’s personality that’s more important.

Lucky*Clover Says:

July 30th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

As a person who loves names and the history of names, I would be lying if I said that I never judge a name but those judgements can be dashed pretty quickly. Some judgements aren’t that bad though, if someone has kids with all trendy names, I might judge them to be perfectly fine trendy names just not all that creative. There are times where I will see a name like Carol and assume the woman is of a certain age because all the Carols I know are around the same age and then a girl who is much younger walks in and I become more aware of my judement. I don’t worry too much about it, we all judge names a little, as long as it doesn’t get out of control, I think it’s fine.

mytimehascome2 Says:

May 23rd, 2012 at 8:43 am

I love all the beauty you can find in world. The culture, language, nationality and names make us all unique.

janerita105 Says:

June 10th, 2012 at 9:18 am

I wouldn’t say I judge people on their names, but I do judge their parents.

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