What is In A Name? : ThyBlackMan

Saturday, November 18, 2017


What is In A Name?

December 20, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Names are very important because they become part of our identity.  The definition of a name is that it is a label given to a noun, either a person, place or thing.  When it comes to names for people, it is more than just a label; the name is a vital part of who that person is.  Because names are so important, they are never given lightly. 

New parents often want to impart a name that has meaning; often it is thought that the meaning of the name or the characteristic upon which the name is derived from will become part of the person who takes on that name.  Because of that, there is a lot of interest in what’s in a name or what is the meaning of the name and where did it originate.  Etymology is the study of the origin of words, and since most names are derived from words, etymology is very closely linked to the study of names as well; the study of the meaning of names is onomastics.

Names hold meaning and within that meaning comes power; the meaning of a name is a gift that the parents bestow upon the child.  Sometimes, names are picked for how they sound; it just resonates with the parents asNameTag being the right name for their child.  Other parents want a name that has origins to their heritage for their child.  Other parents might choose a name because the origins of the name, the etymology is a word that has characteristics that they wish for their child to have and so they choose it.  No matter the reason that the name is chosen, it is always a big event to find the name, the perfect name for your child.   Studies have shown that when potential job applicants are screened, their names are an important factor in preevaluation.  In fact, some applicants may be removed from consideration on the basis of name alone.

Our surname, which is our last name, is usually inherited.  Our surnames are usually used to help with genealogy, tracing the family roots.  Our given names, or our forenames, are uniquely personal to us because they are given to us.  The name that we are given helps to identify us, and it also carries meaning in the word itself.  This article accentuates the meaning of names. It answers 2 deeply rooted personal questions: Where did the name originate and what does it mean? 

Names can be indicative of past cultures.  Many of today’s popular names have ancient roots.  Modern names can often be traced to ancient or biblical cultures and are modernized versions of ancient words or old names.  Looking for a name that is based on an ancient language is a good way to link the past to the present and give a nod to one’s heritage.  Many of the words that we use today have roots in these older languages.

Examples of past cultures that modern names are often derived from are:

  • African – The birthplace of all humanity.  African names represent ancestral meanings from diverse ethnic groups throughout the continent, across the Sahara desert to the great Serengeti toward Mount Kilimanjaro names are drawn from a history of beauty, traditions and generations of great warriors.
  • Slavic – Slavic names typically are based on adjectives and are based on word roots, for example, Slava, which means glory, is a common name derivative for names with two lexemes.  Examples are Stanislav and Miraslav.  Single lexeme names are shorter names that are named after adjectives or descriptive words and are either used alone or combined with root names, such as in the above examples.
  • Germanic – Much like Slavic names, the Germanic names also have common root elements.  Many of the Germanic names tend to be warlike.
  • French – French names are often in themselves, derived from older languages themselves but have been modified to be uniquely French.
  • Celtic – Celtic based names are often based on Celtic words, Celtic mythology, traditional Celtic names or Celtic versions of Christian saints.
  • Greek – These are often names that are based on Greco-Roman gods and goddesses, Greek words, or named that come from the New Testament.
  • Hebrew/Biblical  – Many of the Hebrew derived names come straight from the Bible, and never go out of style, or have an element in them that means “God.”  Included in names that are of Hebrew origins are names that are Aramaic, which are also names that are found in the Bible. Michael and Mary are traditionally at the top of the list for American boys and girls.
  • Latin – Latin names are either unmodified, or modified to drop an element, for example, Justinus becomes Justin.

As mentioned above, the meaning of the name is often an important factor in using the name.  Names that are based in any of the above languages also have a meaning that relates to the word that the name is based on.  Here are some of the more common types of meanings that a name can be derived from:

  • Places – These are names that are derived from cities or places. Alexandria, Phoenix, Nash (Nashville), Paris, Dallas. 
  • Occupations – These are names that are derived from words that describe a certain occupation. Bailey, Baker, Booker, Butler, Archer, Gardener, Keifer (barrel maker).
  • Colors – These are names that are derived from words that describe colors. Auburn, Rusty, Sterling, Cherry, Ebony, Raven.
  • Birth order or time of birth – These are names that describe the order of birth, such as third child (Trey), or even as a twin. Names can also have to do with the day of week that the child was born on or a holiday, if born on a holiday. Tuesday, June, September, April, May.
  • Physical characteristic – These are names that are derived from a word that describes a physical attribute. Hulk, Tiny, Pea, Tree.
  • Objects and things – These are names that are based on the word for a particular object or thing. Rock, Stone, Diamond, Peaches.
  • Famous People – Keifer (Sutherland), Barrel Maker, Condoleezza (Rice), Mercer (Seller of luxury fabrics) as with classic pop composer Johnny and Mercer Ellington, son of Duke Ellington.

Names can be variations on a name, such as feminizing a male name like Georgia from George or translating a name from one language to another, such as Francis, which is a literal translation from the word that means Frenchman, Franciscus.  Names can also come from English words that have pleasant associations, often words that are flowers, colors, gemstones, or birds. 

Names that are gender neutral (boy/girl) may or may not be spelled the same. Sean, Gene/Jean, Kelly, Adrienne/Adrian, Chris, Carby, Reese.

Names can also be diminutives, names that are derived from a common name but are not the same.  Danny is a diminutive of Daniel, Tom is a diminutive of Thomas, and Vicki is the diminutive of Victoria.  Diminutives can also include nicknames and/or shortened names, such as Jim instead of James. A person named Richard is often referred to as Dick.  Somebody named James can go by the nickname of Jim or someone can just be named Jim.  A person named John is often referred to as Jack. 

When we think about what’s in a name, there is certainly more than meets the eye.  Our names carry meaning, influence, integrity and history; that is why names are so important.  This article sets the record straight and helps one discover the meaning postulated in the title: What’s In A Name? 

Staff Writer; Stanley G. Buford

Feel free to connect with this brother via Twitter; Stanley G. and also facebook http://www.facebook.com/sgbuford.

 


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  1. […] What is In A Name? Slavic – Slavic names typically are based on adjectives and are based on word roots, for example, Slava, which means glory, is a common name derivative for names with two lexemes. Examples are Stanislav and Miraslav. Single lexeme names are shorter … Read more on ThyBlackMan […]



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