Category: ancient names

By Linda Rosenkrantz

The Roman Empire reigned for more than five hundred years, led by 140 different emperors. In modern times, though, with a couple of exceptions, the names of these august figures were considered far too august and imposing for a twentieth/twenty-first century kid. But the times they are a-changin’ and lately several of these appellations have ridden into the realm of possibility.

AugustusAugustus, Julius Caesar’s adopted son, who was born Octavian and given the name Augustus by the senate in honor of his great achievements, was the first of the Roman emperors. Augustus is a perfect example of a name that was well used in the 19th century, then deemed too fusty for decades, and now is back at Number 688 and a high 123 on Nameberry, recently modernized by the character nicknamed Gus in The Fault in Our Stars.

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By Lauren Apfel

As both a classicist and a lover of names, I find myself in a unique position. On the one hand, I have been exposed, from a relatively young age, to a swathe of wonderful monikers that wouldn’t otherwise be on my radar: Achilles, Antigone, Andromache (to mention a few off the top of my head that all happen to start with A). On the other hand, I have spent many years studying and internalizing the tales of woe that accompany these names. Achilles, for instance, is not just an interesting three-syllable option to me with the benefit of a double letter. He is an angry man, with a delicate ego, who spent a long time sulking in his tent before embarking on a brutal killing spree. Not exactly the connotation I was looking for, you can imagine, when it came to naming my sons.

Okay, to be fair, I was never really tempted to call any of my sons Achilles. But there are some ancient Greek names that make me swoon, names I might even have considered using for my own modern offspring had their backstories not been so utterly problematic. Here are five:

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By Eleanor Nickerson, British Baby Names

When I was at University, I was lucky enough to study Ancient History as an undergraduate degree. l found the whole subject absolutely fascinating, but I must admit that I could often get sidetracked from my studies whenever a research paper or book contained a map or list of ancient cities. You see, the name-nerd in me couldn’t help revelling in the names of ancient places — I’d frequently roll the lyrical syllables around my tongue and scribbled them down on the corner of my research notes.

A whole heap of ancient place names are not only mellifluous but also aesthetically pleasing. Sadly, many are lost to us today or have long-since been renamed. Wouldn’t it be nice to reclaim a few of them back into nomenclature?

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By Linda Rosenkrantz

In the mythologies of ancient Greece and Rome, most of the deities had shared lineages, dominions and attributes—but not appellations.  I thought it might be fun to pit the names of the two cultures against each other and let you see if your taste ran more to the Greek or Roman.  The one major exception to this rule is Apollo—recently chosen by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale—whose name stayed the same.

Here they are, with Greeks on the left, the Romans to the right.

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Baby Naming Traditions Around the Globe

By Abigail Cukier

As we all know, choosing a name for your baby can be a daunting task. Many factors come into play – trends, tastes, opinions from relatives. But parents are also often guided by religious or cultural traditions. Here are some naming customs from around the world.

Judaism

Personally, when naming my own children, we had to be careful not to choose anything too similar to that of a loved one, because for Ashkenazi Jews this goes against tradition. We usually name a baby after a deceased relative. Some will use the full name, while others use just the first letter. For example, I am named after my grandfather, Arthur.

This is to honour loved ones who have died but also to a superstition. The old belief was that there might be a mix-up and the angel of death might take the baby instead of the older relative.

On the other hand, among Sephardic Jews, who originated in Spain or Portugal, it is actually an honour to name a child after a parent or living relative.

Babies usually receive an English and a Hebrew name. Some parents translate the child’s secular name while others choose a separate Hebrew name.

A boy is named on the eighth day after the birth during the bris (ritual circumcision). Loved ones have the honour of carrying the baby and often the grandfather holds him during the ceremony.  A girl is named in the synagogue, where the father reads from the Torah (Bible) and the baby and mom are blessed.

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