“Rocket” & Other Space Names

Becky wrote to us:

Back at it again! This time I’m having a boy we named Gabriel but we don’t have a middle name. My 5 year old called the baby “Rocket” for a long time and I thought it’d be cool to pay homage to that for his middle name. Other than “Rocket”, what other space related names can you think of? I haven’t been able to really find any lists on google. Thanks! 🙂

screenshot-2017-01-11-at-11-32-31-amAnd then she added that she had named her other children Annabelle Grace, Isaac Christian, and Claire Elise. She was interested in any traditional names, as well. The last name will begin with L. So here is what I have to say to Becky–

First of all, you already know that I think Rocket is a great name. It’s cool, it’s out there, and your 5 year old is a genius. (My firstborn actually gave a middle name to *her* little brother, too…. Something I didn’t even realize was a name yet at the time.) Anyway, just in case you’d like to explore your options, here are some.

Gabriel Orion
After the constellation
Gabriel Cosmo
Gabriel Comet
Gabriel Starr
Gabriel Neptune
Gabriel Apollo
Greek god of the sun, and name of the space programscreenshot-2017-01-11-at-11-38-45-am
Gabriel Ripley
After the astronaut hero from the movie “Alien”
Gabriel Moon
Gabriel Titan
The largest of Saturn’s moons
Gabriel Rider
A reference to being on a rocket?
Gabriel Odyssey
Gabriel Frontier
Gabriel Galaxy
Gabriel Kennedy
After the space center, where rockets launch from
Gabriel Skylar
Has “sky” in the name
Gabriel Houston
A reference to the space center location
Gabriel Chase
Sounds like traveling during a space voyage…
Gabriel Ferdinand
This is one of the moons of Uranus, and Ferdinand means roughly “adventurer”. Ferdinand was also the first name of Magellan, so this name has space-rocket-navigation written all over it.
Gabriel Orbit
Gabriel Gauge
Gabriel Miles
Could allude to space travel, right?

Some traditional or more common names…

Gabriel Hunter
Although this could be loosely tied to Orion, who is known as The Hunter.
Gabriel Nathan
Means “gift from God”, so, a gift from… the heavens? 🙂 
Gabriel Julian
Gabriel Cooper
Gabriel Paul
Gabriel Rocco

Close to Rocket…
Gabriel Max
Gabriel Joseph
Gabriel Colton
Gabriel Owen
Gabriel Jaden
Gabriel Houghton
Gabriel Eckhart

Watch the initials with middles that start with A or R, in case that’s a deal breaker. (GAL, GRL)

Life is an adventure and full of wild, cosmic mysteries. Our babies come to us from this source and we are all made of stardust. That is why I don’t think these names are too far out but are, in fact, very fitting to use. Honoring their journey with names that reflect how we know this about them is only right. It sounds like your older child was very insightful about something special with the new baby, perhaps. Good luck and please let us know what you choose! We’re excited for you.



Biblical Names for “Heal”ing

Sarah asked for Biblical names, either sex, which have meanings containing concepts like “join”, “heal”, or “repair”.

Right away I was about to tell her that Raphael and Raphaella referred to “healed by God” (or, “God heals”), and Raphael of course is a Biblical name, while Raphaella is a female derivative. So, for me this was the most obvious (and perhaps due to my own personal preferences!), but the Bible is full of meaningful names, so let’s explore a few other options.


Raphael is the angel who is said to talk to doctors, or anybody with the task of healing and caretaking.

Levi, male, to be joined
Jahdo, male, united
Josiah, male, Yahweh heals
Asa, male, healer
Bethesda, place name (a place of healing), house of mercy
Hadashah, feminine place name, new or repaired
Azaba, feminine, restore or repair
Rephaiah, male, healed by Yahweh

This is by no means a complete list, because there are always a variety of possibilities, especially when we play with root words (as I have, with Azaba). Additionally, many people consider using -iah names in a unisex fashion, so I suppose if that appeals to you, it’s always an option– particularly for the lesser known names.

It’s Hard to Recommend Names To Go With Cheyanne…

cheyanneI used to like the name Cheyenne* a lot. It’s a place name and a Native American tribal name… both very hip, en vogue, cutting edge, etc. The more I grew and learned and witnessed– in terms of our culture and the ways in which we represent ourselves and even appropriate– the less fond I grew for such styles. It started to seem insincere to me, and maybe even rude of me, and so I could no longer really validate my preferences by telling myself how pretty and cute they still were. I couldn’t kid myself by telling myself I was honoring something I didn’t truly understand. The truth is, there was no other reason to keep these types of names on my list, and too many reasons to cross them off. The truth is, they were trendy and had no real connection to me, period.

I now value authenticity. Authentic being-you. Authentic respect for others.

There is so much for me, and for you, to genuinely celebrate! No costumes, no disguises. Choose something with a close personal connection to you when you are naming your baby and it will mean so much more.

The exchange pictured above inspired me to create a new category in the blog– Racism (where I will talk about any cultural faux pas in names, not just limited to racial differences.) Every blog link I am about to share with you now fits the new category.

For further info on this specific topic, read here: The Bastardization of Native American Names

To find out why being honest about names matters, see: Hispanic Baby Name “News” is Ignorant BS

Some brief words on Native American words becoming tweaked names, when we helped a fan here (she had a child named CheyAnne): Cowboy Prairie Style First and Middle Baby Name Combos

Where we urged readers to not take K-K-K lightly: K, K, and Definitely Not K

If you’re one of our long time readers or just an appreciative fan, you respect the fact that we always advocate smart, thoughtful naming, minus the fluff. What I like about the community we share is that you can tell we genuinely, truly love names.  Thanks for joining with us in supporting integrity and education! I look forward to the ways we’ll keep learning together.

(I will discuss the name Cheyenne [the usual “proper” spelling*] more in the upcoming book.)

A Hint at the Content of the Book

Someday, someday, I promise I will release this book (and maybe some other surprises with it). For now, here is a preview of what sort of content you might expect (this time, in brief) when it actually does come out. Alternate working title of this post was, “The One in Which I Help a Couple of Friends”.

Now I do my disclaimer that some names have multiple legitimate meanings and origin possibilities, so I’ll just name one or the most obvious one, depending. It’s a lot easier to debunk what names supposedly are than to tell you what they are completely. There are also multiple levels of depth to names and words, so sometimes things are taken at face value but you can almost always probe deeper. I think a lot depends on your intention when you are naming.


Lily Eden: “Lily” + “plain” = “lily of the plain”
Zoey Lila: “life” + “night” = “nightlife”, “alive in the night”, “the breathing night”
Winter Margaret: “winter” or “the coldest season” + “pearl” = “winter pearl”
Grayson Anthony: “son of the vigilant” + arguably (very arguably… I’ll talk more about this in the book) “priceless” = “priceless son of the vigilant”

A note on Zoey Lila– in the potential meaning I showed I think it’s really funny because my daughter’s name is Eve, which is commonly credited with meaning “life”, but the way I use her name it actually refers to “night”. Just a funny little coincidence.

Denee– (see a previous post about Denee here)
*notes in parentheses following the names are Denee’s info*

Caleb Eugene (middle name is my dads middle name): “dog” + “well born” = “well born dog”
Jeremiah Scott (middle is hubs deceased brothers name): “elevation” & “Lord” + “a Scotsman” = “a Scot whose height is with the Lord”
Payton Matthew (middle is hubs first name): “Pacca” & “enclosure“ & implied “from“ + “gift of God”= “gift of God from Pacca’s fence”
Jacobi James (middle is hubs middle): “supplanter”, or “to seize by the heel”, twice. Either “doubly the trickster” or “to take back what was taken from you”, if you want to get poetic.
Marlena Suzanne (middle is combo of my.moms middle “Sue” and hubs moms middle “Ann”): “Mary Magdalene” + “lily” as in “white” & “grace” or “favor” = “the pure graciousness of Mary Magdalene”
Arabella Rochelle (middle is my middle): “prayerful” + “little rock” = “prayerful little rock”

Hopefully from this little snippet you can see what I mean when I say that names are poetry.

No A. Ness or P. Ness, Please…

“friend directed me to your page and I’d love some help! We are having a baby boy and want to honor my Grandfather by using a name that honors him for baby’s middle name. The issue is we do not want an A or P name since when either of those initials are put with our last name, Ness, it’s quite terrible (family members with A


or P names agree). My Grandpa’s name was Arnold Patterson, so both of names are out! He enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping, and baseball. I’ve tried anagrams and nature names, but nothing is jumping out at me yet. I’m at a loss! Thanks!”

I absolutely agree with your stand on A and P names! (Are B or E names out too, or anything that rhymes with A or P?) Sounds like a tricky situation but I’m going to toss you some middle name ideas and hope something sticks. Please keep us updated as we would love to know your choice!

First of all… did your grandfather have a middle name? Maybe that would be a good option. Anyway, here are some possibilities.

It contains “Arn” but also has that old-timey vibe that a grandpa named Arnold would have.


Means the same thing as Patterson– son of Patrick– and very distinguished as a middle name.


Acceptable fresh-but-traditional way of honoring Patterson with just a light tie-in.


A good way of summing up his outdoorsy interests.


Has sounds from Arnold, but also has an outdoorsy meaning, for someone who lived on the mountainside.


Similar to above, and both have the added benefit of sounding like “wilderness” next to Ness!


Since Arnold has an “eagle” meaning, this just makes sense.


Combines the “wald” from Arnold’s original form with “ric” from Patrick. Two names in one.


Plays off of Patterson/Patrick’s supposed meaning.


Has an older, rustic appeal to honor your grandfather’s memory and interests.


Old-timey name that has sounds from both names, and means “ancestor’s descendent”, roughly.

Theoccoles: Over the Top, Too Death-Themed?

Grace asked: Thoughts of the name Theoccoles? Our first son is Lazarus, and we found it crazy that when looking into the name Theoccoles it means “bringer of death” I don’t know if I like this whole death theme for my boys but we do love the name Theoccoles but worry about it being a little too over the top?

My first impression is that it is a cool name. It’s not popular, and if desired, Theo becomes a great nickname. I think it goes very well with Lazarus. Considering both Lazarus and Theoccoles have somewhat darker (potentially, anyway) themes, it seems cohesive and styled.

However, Theoccoles does not mean “bringer of death“. Well, not directly! Simply, Theo means “God“. I’ll get more into the meaning possibilities in a second, but Theoccoles (or Theokoles) is very much a gaming and series name. Maybe certain characters bearing the name are known as bringers of death, but I wouldn’t say that’s a literal translation. Right now I’m under the impression that the name is mainly a modern craft. Theoccoles definitely looks like a legitimate Greek name.

Theokoles in “Spartacus”

If we were to use a death meaning, though, perhaps “thanatos” would be part of the name (think “euthanasia”). “Bringer” is typically “phoros” (think Lucifer, Christopher— “light bringer“ and “Christ bearer“, respectively). “Bringer of death” in Greek might be something like Thanasephor, as a name.

Theos in Greek naming can be about God/god, and can even refer to might, or a placer of something (“bringer“?). That’s if you consider Theos to be loosely about might and not God, maybe relating to the name Thetis (disposer, placer, to set up, to establish). Usually though, Theos in naming is just making a statement about God (think Theodore, “God’s gift”). I guess God does bring death, so maybe the name is trying to say that God is the bringer of death, but the name bearer himself might not be.

With this in mind, the root “kolos”  (meaning “dwarf”) may be the ending root word here. That root is used in Greek words to show cutting something short, striking a blow, mutilating or punishing. Cutting life short would be bringing death, if this is the metaphorical intention of the name. “God cuts short” could then be the meaning. Of course, you could also say “God’s dwarf“, if you like– that’s more literal.

If you take the “placer” meaning seriously, “placer of punishment” could be cutting life short, and maybe in that way Theoccoles could be a “bringer of death”.

So anyway, a death theme itself can sometimes be cool, but all things considered, I would probably leave this one alone. It is pretty negative, kind of holds a geek status presently, and may be loosely interpreted (giving us debatable meanings). Other than that, it wasn’t too over the top in my opinion.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Narcissistic Names: New Trend, or Imagined Crime?

ABC News and Good Morning America recently presented a piece called “Messiah, King Rise in Popularity for Baby Names“. Within, they quote psychologist Jean Twenge, who claims that the numbers prove our culture is on a narcissistic bend. Her outlook is so extreme that I believe that this is all sensationalism meant to stir up publicity for a book she is promoting, because a well-reasoned discussion can easily be had to negate her claims. (For instance, maybe she’s just mad her name is Jean.)

Messiah has been in news recently when a judge ordered a mother to change this name, given to her son. The ruling was of course thrown out (this is America). 811 total children were given this name in the USA in 2012. While Messiah as a name feels somewhat recent and sheds light on our taboos, this style of naming isn’t new. In Latin-influenced cultures, the name Jesus has been used for quite some time, for example. Other names we’ve come to accept include Angel, Heaven, and Salvatore (or, savior). The only thing that makes Messiah so special is people are not used to it yet. To that I say there is a first time for everything.

Yet, the author/psychologist goes on to say:

“The way people parent their kids has shifted. At one time there was the idea that you raise the child with the lesson that the world does not revolve around them and now we raise them that it does. This is witnessed in various ways from singing preschool songs like ‘I am Special’ to dressing up little girls in t-shirts that say ‘Princess.'”

I blame Disney.

Ah, the old school parenting nostalgia. Yes, there was a time you told children they were to be seen and not heard, and kids knew they were not special. This was back when wives stayed in the kitchen and if any of the household stepped out of line, they were beaten. Good times.

What times might these be referencing, exactly? Let’s look at the 1950s. Names in popular use then include dish detergents Dawn (does she think the sun rises on her?), Joy (is she going to think everyone is happy with her?), and other had-the-nerve names like Rex (who does he think he is? a king?) and Max (you mean, like the max or highest level of something?). Yes, the good old days, when kids were taken down a peg. When we had no hopes or dreams for our kids, except that they work at the mill. A nice dream, but our names don’t necessarily reflect that version of history. We’re just so used to them that they seem like conservative, safe choices for us.

And yet… in that golden era of child-rearing, princesses like Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (like Dawn, a narcissist) were still teaching little girls that you could be beautiful and kind at the same time. Even worse, they taught that anyone could be special and be a princess. Those stuck up witches!

Twenge’s stance assumes that a name denoting high self-worth will equate to a self-absorbed or even inconsiderate person. Isn’t it possible to be both celebrated as special and someone who cares about others?

All parenting styles have been used throughout time and culture. There were no “good old days” to be nostalgic of. There have always been loving, doting parents as there have also been parents who emphasized obedience and humility above all else. Sometimes there are parenting trends in certain times and places, and that is not constant. Even the Puritans (known for being real killjoys– sorry, Joy), who were masters of Obedience and Humility (real names they bestowed) had occasions to show softer sides. Names like Happy and Trinity were also used. Trinity– there’s a blasphemous, narcissistic name if ever I saw one. This girl doesn’t just think she’s the Messiah, she thinks she’s the whole Holy Trinity!

Or could it be that names like Messiah and Trinity are often done in homage to one’s faith, not in declaration of what one is? And either way, who are we to judge or care? Any faith-related name is a personal matter that every parent has the freedom to express in a country that upholds religious freedom and freedom of speech. If you think your child is the Messiah, who am I to judge?

In fact, another Puritan name, Christmas, was listed in this spin-off by The Stir as an up and coming narcissist name. Christmas may not be a name in popular use, but it’s not new. The article seemed tongue-in-cheek, but the lacking historical perspective of people labeling people in the present as “narcissists” (or worse, condemning our kids to being narcissists over their names) strikes as ignorant. By the way, the French word for

Noël, Noel, Noelle, Noelia, Noella– all names for self-centered jerks?

Christmas, Noël, has been in use for males and females in its various forms for ages (without criticism or spite). Again, a little cultural understanding and perspective on history and language goes a long way.

Back briefly to the subject of parenting, how dare we teach kids to sing songs about being special, or give them shirts that say “Princess”? I think the self-esteem culture is a culture created after years of damaging abuse. Everyone gets a medal, everyone is a winner, anyone can be anything, etc., were ways of combating an excess of “tough love”, or no love. Is uplifting children and giving them hope for their potential wrong? Would we prefer people sing songs about being not good enough in pre-school? Would we rather our kids wear shirts that say “Normal”? Would creating a culture of children who embrace a taught sense of only adequacy be helpful, or would it really just make other people feel more adequate? Let’s be truthful. We are coming out of a recent past where kids felt they had to constantly prove themselves to earn their parents respect and approval. Sometimes that token never came. It made for some seriously damaged adults. It makes sense that a new approach would be attempted in the aftermath.

Is it just me, or do some people in the older generations come off as a bunch of haters regarding baby names (and parenting)? Naming our kids some of these lofty things may not always be my own personal style… I prefer things a little more imaginative than Awesome, and a little less severe sounding than Major. However, if they and other names of this “narcissistic” variety are part of a parenting culture that is expressing its hopes for our children, I would never put that sentiment down.

Let’s take a look at some of the other names Jean Twenge and The Stir picked on, and really think about them:

Princess– It’s a sweet-sounding and -meaning name. Not my style because it is so literal in a common-use way, but we’ve been naming our children after royalty since forever. I don’t suppose using a title instead is terribly different. The problem here is whether or not one has a mental image of a spoiled brat when they hear the name, when it could really be a sweet little girl with loving parents.  It could be a longed-for girl after a string of boys, or an only child after years of infertility. Crying “narcissist” here is more about the psychology of the person judging than the child and parents, I would think.
Prince – This name is not just the name of one of my favorite musical artists (born in that golden era, the 1950s), but this name was also in use 100 years ago in America.

Prince was named after his father (his nickname or stage name, actually), partly because he had high hopes for his son.

Sure, the numbers have risen, but then again so has the population.
King – Roy (roi) is a French word for king, no one minds that. Ryan is an Irish word for king (+ “little”), no one minds that. Why is this any different? Because English is your only language? Keep in mind too that King is also a surname, so sometimes people are using the name to honor heritage. Or, maybe the use of the surname King is narcissistic, too? King has been used for well over a century in America.
Beautiful Bella and Belle are pretty well accepted, as is Jolie. Beautiful may seem more literal to us English speakers, and maybe less romantic or poetic, but still? So what? In the 1950s, Linda was very popular, and it essentially means pretty or beautiful. Another one was Donna, a title for lady (think of the Madonna). Similarly, Gorgeous shouldn’t faze me– not on meaning alone.
Amazing Again, so what? 100 years ago we were using names like Fairy, Ivory, and Golden. Fifty years ago we were using Ginger and Cookie. It’s all going to be okay.
Greatness- Big deal, but get this. Only 6 baby boys in 2012 were named Greatness in the USA. Just as many were named Hawkeye, and even more were named Napoleon. This is not an epidemic. But, of course, that doesn’t sell books…
Life- Eve, Vivian, Zoe— accepted girls names which literally mean “life” in their languages. The Stir jokes that this is the next name for narcissists, but how can you have inflated sense of self about being living, full of life, a life-form? Leif— an accepted, traditional boys name which is pronounced “Life” in certain accents. Lif is a legitimate Scandinavian girls name. Are they narcissists, too?
Queen– Guess which one they aren’t complaining about? Queen, and her sisters Queena and Queenie. That’s right, I added this name myself because Queen was actually more popular 100 years ago, and also in the 1950s, than it is today. Those weirdos and their delusions of grandeur! I’m glad we grew out of that era of entitlement we were burdened by for so long.

Twenge goes on:

Too bad the data actually shows that very limited numbers of babies compared against the general populace are a part of this “epidemic”.

“Vanity and grandiosity are two of the subscales for narcissism and we know that the narcissism is related to materialism and an inflated sense of self. So that’s why these names jumped out at me when I began looking at the data,”

But one thing didn’t jump out at her– materialism in our culture sometimes reflects a desire to rise above circumstances. As much as I despise brand names on a baby (like Armani), you have to recognize that a lot of this use comes from the lower classes. It isn’t that they worship material per se, but it’s an aspiration. People in privilege are often ignorant of this naming aspect. They can afford to be traditional or average when name-selecting if they choose, having all other advantages in life. In fact, sticking to tradition can signify a desire to maintain the security of status quo. Less privileged namers may decide to take more of a chance on a name if they feel it sets their child apart, gives them an advantage, or acts as a blessing on or wish for the child. This is partly a study in sociology, not just psychology.

Someone like Kim Kardashian, for example, isn’t naming her child Lexus. Why would she? She could have any car she wants.

Vanity? There’s another Puritan name. In terms of our “inflated sense of self”, is it wrong to call each other great or beautiful? Many of our names mean great or beautiful, literally or subtly. Are we saying we aren’t really great and beautiful, and we are giving our kids more confidence than they’re worth? Are our kids actually Ugly, Plain, or Mediocre?

You may be familiar with the fact that I am very picky and critical when it comes to the topic of baby names, but this is a bully mentality being applied. The misunderstanding here with names lies in the context. To label something as narcissism when it’s really a) not as widespread a problem as it’s made to be and b) more about repairing damage (years of abuse or poverty) is completely backwards and picks on the downtrodden. It favors sticking to the norm and status quo, even if that norm was dismal for many, because it suited the critic better. Narcissism may exist, but what we are witnessing is a trend into loving adoration in order to compensate for and break away from decades/centuries of culturally conditioned self-loathing and oppression. It’s a movement that needs to happen for our culture to thrive.

So is naming a child after yourself narcissistic? Some parents think so, but not Twenge.

“Naming a child after yourself has a number of elements to it. Naming a child Junior or ‘The Third’ is a long tradition and in some ways can be seen

Ah, it’s all starting to come together now.

as communalism, which is in many ways the opposite of narcissism. And

it’s actually the opposite of uniqueness because it means two people have the same name.”

Yes, naming a child after yourself has a number of elements to it. (I fixed that for you.) So basically, Twenge, you are for tradition (even though you ignore our grandiose naming of the past), but more importantly, for not being unique. And, this is a good thing, because when more of us are alike, no one is special. Got it, Jean.

You can read more about how Twenge is “Seeing Narcissists Everywhere” (“Except the One Inside the Mirror”) on this Psycritic post entitled, “What Jean Twenge Gets Wrong About Narcissism“.

When it comes to names, either we’re not narcissistic or we always have been. In any event, this is nothing new. In fact, these naming traditions are older than the profession of psychologist.

Hispanic Baby Name “News” is Ignorant BS

I’m getting tired of web publication sites circulating what is essentially non-news. “Hispanic” names are “on the rise” in the USA, and are “in”– and (gasp) with white parents! I’m going to explain to you why I have a problem with this on many levels.

Hispanic and Latino names are not a new occurrence in this country. Obviously we are land-connected to Spanish-speaking nations, and there have been Spanish settlements in the US since the 1500s. We have Spanish place names (Florida, California, Montana, Nevada, to name a few), and yet here we are acting amazed that anyone would suddenly favor these choices? Spanish naming is in our blood and history.

Spanish (Caucasian, white, European) colonization of Mexico.

Names with a “Latin” influence are everywhere, too– technically Latin encompasses such a broad range, and is ever-present in the English language. We name our kids Latin-influenced things every day without even realizing it, and certainly without considering it specifically “Hispanic”. Latin itself is/was a language… you can find it in the everyday vocabulary of people who speak English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and more.

(The following images taken from National Geographic’s “The Changing Face of America“, Martin Schoeller. Take note of their ethnicities, how they identify, and their names.)

Harold Fisch, 23, Austin, Texas Self-ID: eastern European, Puerto Rican, Jewish, Texan Census Boxes Checked: other

Daisy Fencl, 3, San Antonio, Texas Parents’ ID for her: Korean and Hispanic Census Boxes Checked: has not yet been counted

Tevah Jones, 22, Grants Pass, Oregon
Self-ID: Trinidadian American/colored
Census Boxes Checked: white/black

“Hispanic” does not mean “non-white”.
“Hispanic is definitely in,” says Belly Ballot editor and Baby Name Expert, Lucie Strachonova.  “We have seen strong indications of white parents selecting Latino baby names…”  Let’s go over what “Hispanic” and “Latino” mean, since sources like Hispanic Business, Latina.com, and Latin Post didn’t seem to question the language of the Press Release.

Hispanic: of or relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries, esp. those of Latin America.
Latino: a Latin American inhabitant of the United States.

Hispanic has always been potentially white– Spain is a European country. Spanish speakers can be any ethnicity. The “especially” in the definition is not a requirement. “Latino” is more understood as what we picture in the Americas– a person with heritage mixed with the native populations and the Spanish (with other stuff, including African, sometimes mixed in with varying amounts). How people identify, though, can be an intensely personal thing and what we can’t do is assert that Hispanic and Latino people are non-white. That’s offensive. These designations are more complex than that.

Neither term refers to race, as a person of Latino or Hispanic origin can be of any race. – Grieco, Elizabeth M.; Rachel C. Cassidy. “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2000, US Census Bureau

The increase of Spanish names may have more to do with immigration. Here’s a real duh moment… in the USA, we are having a population shift where immigrants from Latin American countries are multiplying, and obviously so are their names. Latin Americans whose families have been in this country for generations are also growing exponentially.

Your sources are full of it. The original story derives from the “experts” at Belly Ballot, the site known for the $5000 Baby Name Contest Hoax they fabricated for publicity.

Their site itself runs on a simple gimmick– create a poll to allow the people in your life to vote on your baby names, and each week the poll with the most votes earns the mom-to-be a prize. Seems like harmless fun, right? Well, sure, it could be. The fact that there is a gimmick is effective in drawing in people, and it could be fun to have others vote on a name, but could be ultimately meaningless if you are not truly invested in the opinions of others ruling your choice.

I decided to give the site a spin, and quickly discovered that my favorite names were not even available on the site, nor could I manually enter my own for loved ones to vote. [To be fair, they only advertise that you can vote on 50,000 top names.] Still, it’s a well designed site with cute, colorful graphics. It attracts people. I’m sure that was the goal they hoped to achieve.

Like most name websites, the generic designations Belly Ballot applies to its names such as “Native American” are not very helpful or informative, considering the vastness of area and language that encompasses. Those are errors by omission. Without language or tribe, how can they be sure their info is accurate? Other unresearched errors on the site would tell you, for example, that the Native American name “Missouri” means “from Missouri”. [For the curious, Missouri is supposedly Miami-Illinois in origin, and means “those who dug out canoes”.] You will find examples like these on most baby names sites, which is Reason #838 why I don’t like most mainstream baby name sites/books. I just want more from my experts.

Who are the experts? Etymologists, onomasticians? Editor Lucie studied English and has been interested in etymology for 3 years. Co-founder Lacey got the idea when she handed out ballots at her baby shower. I do not doubt that baby names are fun or interesting for these entrepreneurs, but they are being quoted as experts in articles dealing with cultural issues. It’s not their fault that baby names are not taken seriously in our society. We treat it like a fun topic, like baby’s first outfit. We tend to forget that baby names are language and heritage, literacy and social studies. Understanding them is understanding ourselves. Conversely, swapping for “misunderstanding” would also be accurate.

Now, the ones reporting what Belly Ballot had to say are all content churners to some extent. You’ll notice that the story is essentially a cut and paste, occasionally with new observations thrown in. See for yourself:

Yes Way, Jose! via Reuters (< who are not responsible for this PRESS RELEASE– a statement created to create buzz and publicity, presumably by Belly Ballot themselves). : “Hispanic is Caliente.” Yes Way, Jose? Caliente? Por favor.
Baby Name Site Claims “Hispanic is Definitely In” – Latina.com. For Fall of 2013, as if we were discussing new fashion color trends. Next Fall, it’ll be Vietnamese names. *eyeroll*
Hispanic Baby Names Gain Popularity – Hispanic Business. To their credit, they did say: “It’s even changing what non-Hispanic whites are naming their children” in their piece, which selectively copied passages from the Press Release.
Latin Baby Names on the Rise for Caucasians via Latin Post: “Does a name really make you more ethnic?” So not only are Latin names not Caucasian, but Caucasians are not ethnic? Excuse me, but Latin names are for everyone, and everyone is “ethnic”– we all have ethnicity. This is the same kind of thinking that talks about something being “skin colored” while only choosing the Apricot crayon from the box.

Some of these names aren’t even solely “Hispanic”. If we look at some of the links mentioned, they go on to list names such as Maria, Isabella, Ernesto. All of these names have been in our country for quite some time. But are these uniquely “Hispanic” names? No. I’ll grant you that some of them we can almost guarantee are coming from Hispanic influence or sources. However, Maria is used in other languages and cultures, including German and Italian; Ernesto and Isabella are also associated with Italy. Then there’s the fact that Isabella is on the decline, but has been in the top 3 for girls names for 6 years, and tends to not strike white parents as being a “Hispanic” name when chosen. When I think of Isabella, by the way, I think of Queen Isabella of Spain, who I can only assume was white (I never met the lady). Perhaps you might be thinking of Twilight‘s Bella (Isabella), who was also presumed Caucasian.

These names they used as examples aren’t even on the rise. We just touched on this with Isabella, above. There’s more. Maria has dropped ranking by almost 10 spots in the past 2 years. It was way more popular in the 1950s through 1990s in the United States, than it is today. (Source: Social Security Administration). Same with Ernesto. It’s dropped at least 50 spots in rank in the past 2 years, and enjoyed mucho mas popularity in the 1970s-1990s. Their info on “rising Hispanic names” is totally bunk. Our human population may be rising, but the name ranks are not.

Non-Hispanic people choosing Spanish names to “fit in” is the exception, not the rule. The info being spread quotes white parents who are supposedly trying to “give their kids an advantage” by choosing Hispanic names, and then goes on to interview a white supremacist (???) who discusses how unfortunate it is that white people are not preserving their heritage. Whoa… back the truck up. Does this strike anyone else as subtle propaganda? If not, it’s a very, very unfortunate accident.

The slant I see is one which convinces white parents that they are now the minority and need to be concerned with the uncomfortable changes they now face in the United States. Let’s say I’m incorrect there, and that was not the intent. The cultural shift they credit for the popularity of certain names is still untrue. Caucasians who are not Hispanic are not naming their kids Juan, Pablo, and Ana Maria to blend. No, I don’t have stats on this– it’s just common sense. I’m not saying it isn’t occurring, period, just that this would be the rarer explanation for what we are seeing.

For one, common Hispanic names are still associated in American minds with brown skin and menial labor. Non-Hispanic American parents are much more likely to name their children Apple or Zuma (Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwen Stefani’s kids) than Jose, because names are about hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Opportunity. With that in mind, consider this:  many Hispanic folks here are here because this is supposed to be a land of opportunity. So, I would say it is Hispanic parents who are giving children more “white” names, not the reverse. This is a generalization and may vary based on your community, but I feel the country overall reflects this.

Still, that didn’t stop mom Shaina from giving her daughter the “Hispanic” name Isabella, to give her the edge. Shaina (from the press release and “articles” above) laments that although she was a good student, there was less opportunity for her, and that part-Hispanic Isabella will have an increased edge in proving her ethnic identity with her name. I hate to break it to you, but Isabella is going to be lost in a sea of Isabella Smiths, Isabella Joneses, and Isabella Browns. No one is going to think, “Ah! The name! This proves she is Hispanic! Give that girl her scholarship!” Isabella is the #3 girl’s name in the United States. In recent years it enjoyed some quality time as #1. It is used popularly by citizens regardless of race. If Isabella has any advantages from her name, it will be because her mother chose something more popular than her own name was. Isabella is decidedly normal. This neutralizes her. Isabella works because it is safe. Tens of thousands of Isabellas are born in America, yearly.

On my page, one mother (funnily, named Sierra– which is Spanish) expressed concern that she felt Hispanic names were sort of off-limits for her. Even though there were some she liked, she felt it somehow would seem odd for her to choose since her family has no Hispanic heritage that she knows of, whatsoever. I think her opinion is a lot more indicative of the non-Hispanic white majority’s. I do understand her choice, and I respect her doing what feels natural and comfortable. It’s important that parents feel able to connect to a name. If others feel free to branch out, I respect that too.

How do they even know it’s the white parents they are seeing the increase with? Belly Ballot claims that they specifically see Caucasians using Hispanic names at an increasing rate. Are they discovering this data through only their own website? Are they conducting polls asking people what their racial identities are when they favor certain names? Why are we focused so heavily on white people using Latin names, and other racial identities (such as black) are not even mentioned? The origin of this info is never clarified fully in the articles, and my guess is that it’s all assumed.

These issues are racist at worst and culturally oblivious at best. I am very disappointed with how much this has been circulated on the internet by people presenting this as “news”, “fact”, “truth”, or “expert opinion”. Perpetuating this garbage and fluff journalism may be provocative and give people something to talk about, produce readership, but at what cost? We are using erroneous terminology, misinforming and misleading the public, and actually increasing feelings of divide and racism amongst the people. When it comes to baby names and the internet, we have enough of that type of junk already.

(And also, I don’t care what color you are, pick whatever name you want. I only ask that you research it and make sure you understand it beforehand.)

Baby Names: Often Deeper Than First Glance (Guest Post by Matt)

The following is a guest post from one of our fans– a man, a father, and lover of language. Check out his intricate explanation of his daughters’ names, and also his solid appreciation of our page.

My wife & I … share [with you] an affinity for the roots and value of good names.

My wife and I just had twin girls last month, and naming was very important to us (and more complicated for not knowing the genders pre-birth). I’m a linguist; she’s a librarian. With the odd surname, we both wanted names that wouldn’t make people raise an eyebrow, since they’ll have to spell or pronounce the surname to everyone all the time.

We ended up with Amelia Katherine and Heather Laurea.

(Backstory: Our original path got us to Heather Laurea and Katherine Linnea, cross-matching meanings with each other as you’ll see, but we also have a niece with the first name Linnea, so we decided we’d avoid it if we found a good alternative.)

Amelia: traditionally “work” or “rival” Ugh.

My wife’s name is Amy, and the “-elia” part references the name אֱלִיָּהוּ Elijah, meaning “my god is YHWH”. Our hebraic spelling, אַמאֱלִיָּה, makes that a little more explicit than English.

Katherine: debatably from “each”, “torture”, or “pure” Meh.
Our Katherine is coming from the Hebrew also: כתר [k-th-r], meaning “crown”, plus the letter nun representing “the Messiah”. There is also a trace of Greek ‘εκατερος (hekateros) “each of the two”.

Heather: Of course, it’s a beautiful flower, but it’s also a transliteration of the Ancient Egyptian word for twins. (And the determinative glyph at the end of the name will be two girls kneeling toward each other holding flowers.)

Would be something similar to this.

Would be something similar to this.

Laurea: This combines the “crown” meaning found in our Katherine and the floral meaning found in Heather, and it just sounds and feels better than Laura, Laurel, and other related names. Although I saw that you had a great description of the name in one of your blog posts, we’re adding that the final syllable [-yah] be the same as the final syllable in Nehemiah, et al; the name of God.

Amelia Katherine – “Amy’s god is YHWH”; “crown of the Messiah” (“each of the two”)
Heather Laurea – “One of twins” (flower), (floral) “crown of God”

Anyway, this is just a fan letter of appreciation. Thanks for your etymological integrity!



With some knowledge of names and language, you can see how traditional baby names with old roots can have multiple meanings, including very deep and very personal[ized] ones. It can go beyond expectation! Research everything intensely before you select it for your child, and you can even get inventive with it. The popular can be far more exotic and poetic than you’ve imagined.

For more on Ancient Egyptian glyphs and transliteration, see An Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph Dictionary, Volume I and Volume II.