Nameberry Nine: Meaning matters

Nameberry Nine: Meaning matters

For this week’s Nameberry Nine, columnist Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain talks about the myriad sources of baby name meaning and inspiration, from family to philosophy to art to politics to nature.

Beyonce is a new mom! She and Jay-Z have yet to officially confirm their daughter’s appellation but based on celeb friends’ comments and Tweets, it seems almost certain that their little girl is named Blue Ivy.

Speculators have been mining the star couple’s family histories for possibilities, just like her own mother did when she turned a family surname into the future star’s unique appellation. It appears that Ivy might be a reference to the number four – IV. Shades of Harper Seven Beckham, anyone?

As for Blue, she wouldn’t be the first, certainly not in Hollywood. She could have play dates with Alicia Silverstone’s son, Bear Blu. Ella Bleu Travolta is old enough to babysit, and so is U2 guitarist The Edge’s daughter Blue Angel. And Cher’s son Elijah Blue, who started the whole Blue-as-name thing, is over thirty.

Some will probably dismiss this one as wacky, but with Violet and Scarlett in favor, why not Blue? Others might object that blue is a synonym for feeling low. But then there are blue skies and bluebirds of happiness, too.

The thing about unusual names is this: choices that we might dismiss as outlandish and unwearable are transformed when the parents reveal their thinking. Something tells me that, should Beyonce and Jay-Z share their rationale, this name could be nothing short of perfect.

Baby names with intriguing meanings seemed to be all over the place this week, along with a few choices that were just plain pretty.

Whitsun – Can a name be edgy and cool, and yet spiritually significant, too?  Thanks to Jodi for pointing to blogger Molly Piper and her family’s naming philosophy.  The Pipers choose names that are actual words with meanings that resonate for them.  Youngest son Whitsun’s appellation refers to Pentecost – White Sunday, fifty days after EasterWhit makes for a smart short form.

EliInspiration is everywhere.  I love this story from Little Red Walking Hood about naming her son fifteen years ago.  They’d settled on Jonathan, but an “E is for Elf” poster she’d found for their shoestring nursery decorations sparked a meaningful name choice for a son.  E, it turned out, was for Eli.

Solace – Many parents honor loved ones with a child’s name.  Sarah Layton Campbell was inspired by the recent passing of her father, Canadian politician Jack Layton.  But instead of Jacqueline or Jane, her new daughter’s name is Solace.

Koa – It is easy to dismiss Koa as a kreative spin on Noah.  But The Name Station sets us straight this week, with a discussion of the part-nature, part-virtue name from HawaiiKoa means strong, and the Koa tree is found all over the state.  No Doubt’s Tom Dumont has a Koa, as well as sons named Ace and Rio.

Thatcher – With The Iron Lady biopic hitting the big screen this month, could Thatcher keep company with Asher and Archer?  A humble working name – thatch referred to roofing material – he has a lot of style, no matter what you think of Maggie’s politics.

Oskar – While we’re at the movies, the boy in the new Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is named Oskar.  The film is based on the novel of same name.  Oscar has long since shed his grouchy, green fuzz to become a viable option for a child’s name.  The other silver screen Oskar who might come to mind is Liam Neeson’s Oskar Schindler, hero of the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List.

Willa Lou – Once again Keri Russell and husband Shane Deary managed to choose a stunning, stylish name for their child without going too over-the-top.  Daughter Willa Lou joins big brother River Russell.  Could Willa be the new Ella

Sebella Rose Actors Roselyn Sánchez and Eric Winter could start a trendlet with their new daughter’s name.  Sebella owes something to Sibyl and something to Isabella, but we don’t know for sure.  The happy couple has yet to reveal their reasons for settling on this lovely, different-yet-familiar name.

Ethel Mary A slip by grandma Alison confirmed that singer Lily Allen’s new daughter is indeed named Ethel MaryEthel fits in with the 1912 names talked about earlier this week on the blog.  Believe it or not, Ethel ranked in the US Top Ten in the 1890s.  Which reminds me: of the names Ethel, Lily, and Alison, who would ever guess that Alison is the grandmother?

Does your child’s name have a specific meaning that might not be obvious to others?  Or it is just a name that you love?

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.