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Is Lucifer Off-Limits?

September 6, 2016 Abby Sandel

The Name Sage finally finds a name she just can’t support. Happily, the mom’s shortlist is packed with other possibilities.

Emma writes:

I am expecting a baby this December, gender unknown, who will join sister Emory.

Since childhood, I have been interested in mythologies and folklore, and I prefer names with a similar background.

My current favorites are Lilith, Cassiel, Castiel, Eilo/Ailo, Asura, Lucifer, and Leviathan/Leviadan, along with Azrael, Seraphiel, Zophiel, Raziel, and Sariel.

I will use nicknames – e.g. Cassiel/Castiel would be Cas, Zophiel would be Zophie or Zoe, etc.

Many of them sound alluring and have such beautiful meanings – like Lucifer means bringer of light.

While I don’t have any problem with them, I worry others will. After all, who names their child after Satan?

What do you think? Is it too much to use these names?

The Name Sage replies:

I almost never say you should not use a name, but I’m going to say it this time: you should not name your child Lucifer.

The name has tremendous appeal – great sound, strong meaning, potential nickname Luc/Luke. Perhaps your personal beliefs don’t conflict in any way with the choice, or maybe you can argue that the name is misunderstood.

But the problem remains, and you’re wise to be aware of it: the reaction of others.

Normally, I think this can – and should – be overlooked. Not everyone will agree that it’s time to bring back Bernadette. Some will find names like Huxley or Lyra too different. 99 times out of 100, I absolutely believe that you should use the name that you love.

But Lucifer is one of the few exceptions. The name is so controversial that it will feel burdensome. It’s one thing to have to spell or explain an unusual name. It’s another to watch others’ jaws drop when you introduce yourself.

The good news is that there are other names on your list that honor your interests and seem far less controversial. So many great names are waiting to be discovered from history, literature, and myth.

Castiel strikes me as very wearable, thanks to its similarity to popular names like Gabriel, as well as long-running television series Supernatural. It could shorten to Cas or even Cash. The name was given to nearly 300 boys last year. That’s not common, but it’s familiar enough that your son won’t be the only one. Cassiel also seems like it would work well for a boy born today.

Ailo and Eilo are both pretty rare. It took some digging to find their mythological roots, but I think they’re obscure enough that either spelling would be wearable for a son or a daughter in 2016.

Zophiel – Like Ailo, Zophiel works because it is so unusual. But it’s also the kind of name that a parent might invent in 2016, a ZoeGabrielle smoosh. That makes me think that Zophiel – or Zophielle? – makes a better choice for a daughter, especially with nickname options like Zoe and Zophie.

Lilith – Parents have traditionally avoided Lucifer, but that’s not true of Lilith. Especially since the 1990s-era Lilith Fair changed our perceptions of the name, it has steadily become more common. Over 500 girls were named Lilith in 2015. That’s not exactly Isabella, but it can no longer be called surprising. One hesitation: nickname Lily is among the most popular names throughout the English-speaking world. I wonder if that makes this name less appealing to you?

You didn’t ask for suggestions, but there’s a name that doesn’t rank in the current US Top 1000, and might make a good substitute for Lucifer: Lucius, also derived from the Latin lux – light. Another ancient option is Aurelius, Aurelian, or Aurelia, all of which mean golden.

Choosing names that reflect your interests is a good thing. The challenge is to find one that honors your passion while leaving space for your child to grow into the name, too.

Readers, what names would you suggest to Emma? Are there others on her list that you find appealing? And do you agree that Lucifer is problematic, or am I wrong on this one?

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About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.
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