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.

Eli Inspiration 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 RoseActors 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 MaryA 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?

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10 Responses to “Nameberry Nine: Meaning matters”

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Poppy528 Says:

January 9th, 2012 at 2:09 am

I keep coming back to the name Solace. I love Saul & word names – presto Solace (and Ace for a snazzy nickname). So many babies recently but Willa Lou gets the gold star from me.

Abby Says:

January 9th, 2012 at 8:11 am

@Poppy528 – would you use Solace for a boy? Ace makes me think boy …

And yes, Willa Lou is easy to love!

name-obsession Says:

January 9th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Willa is one of my favorites, and Willa Lou is so sweet! Solace definitely has a cool vibe, and I’m liking Sebella as well.

Me & Beyonce are Cool Baby-Namers! | Molly Piper Says:

January 9th, 2012 at 6:27 pm

[…] someone Tweeted me that my child-naming techniques are famous. I clicked on the link and there it […]

miloowen Says:

January 9th, 2012 at 6:30 pm

The only name I really like here is Solace, which is a virtue name quite common in my family. Although I honestly can’t understand why anyone would use the beautiful name Solace and then call the child Ace, which somehow reminds me of Hell’s Kitchen and bulldogs.

I do like Willa, but Willa Lou is too Southern for me. And I like Sybilla — seems to me there was a pastoral poem with that name? German maybe? I can’t remember (lol).

Whitsun is just strange.

Abby Says:

January 9th, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Miloowen, when I hear Willa Lou, I think of Dr. Seuss and inhabitants of Whoville … as in Cindy Lou. Which doesn’t make me like it less, but does make me want to smoosh it all together into one long sound … Willa-oooo! Somehow, this does not make me like it less …

Poppy528 Says:

January 10th, 2012 at 1:46 am

Abby, I guess I completely glossed over baby Solace being a girl. Oopsie! It’s always been boy to me. If I used it for a son, I’d just call him Saul (hearing it over and over in Homeland made me really love this name).

leffie Says:

January 13th, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Ethel is absolutely adorable!! Congratulations and well done, Lily Allen.

emilymaryjane Says:

January 16th, 2012 at 11:42 pm

My name was formed by the initials of family. E is for my grandad Edward, M for Grandma Margaret, I for Nana Isobel, L for Pop Lawrence and Y for my Aunt Yvonne who had recently died in a car crash.

My eldest sister Charmaine was for Dads uncle Charles and my Pop migrated to Maine in the US from Scotland for 30 years before he migrated to Australia

Jacqueline for Mums brother Jack who had just lost his 20yr battle with Cancer

Michaela for Dads favourite brother Michael an army soldier recently killed named after his grandfather

Mollie formed like my name the first three from my french mums side M for great aunt Marie, O for great uncle Odilon, L for Great Grandma Louise the last three my dads Scottish side
L for great uncle Lachlan, I for great grandma Iona and E for great aunt Elspeth

Erika is named after uncle Richard (same nn Ricky)

Anna is named after Great Aunt Anne

Harriet is named after Great Aunt Harriet

emilymaryjane Says:

January 16th, 2012 at 11:45 pm

My Great grandma lived in England when my granddad was born. And my Middle names Mary and Jane honour my 2 other great grandmas

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