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.)


2013 in review

The 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.

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.

Name Geek Victory

Allow me a moment to brag here. Just another day in the life of Name Geek Victory.

I was doing some research for my book, specifically on Yucatec Mayan baby names. I came across some interesting info which seemed to point to the word “shark” deriving from a Yucatec word, “xoc“. However, most dictionaries hold that the origin is “unknown”.

This seems odd to me, when you think about it.

  1. We started using the word “shark” in English right around the time Europeans were arriving on the shores of the Americas (1500s). Specifically, there seems to be a connection to the period in the 1560s when John Hawkins arrived in the Caribbean. The English were using “sharke” by 1569.
  2. Although sharks exist all over the world, the European lifestyle and climate did not allow as much exposure to them as compared with people in Central America.  For the English, this would be a unique experience and discovery. The Maya lived in a region with more exposure to and awareness of these creatures, and naturally, they could feasibly introduce the word to these visitors.
  3. Think of an English accent. We could imagine the possibility that the way they pronounced “shark” (with a nearly absent “r”, audibly) is the same way the natives would say their own word, xoc (sounds like “shock”, or maybe “shoke”). It makes sense that the English would spell it this way when lifting the word. It would also differentiate it from slight-homophone, “shock”.
  4. The meaning of “xoc” is actually “shark”. Coincidence? I think not!

Historically, culturally, and linguistically, it makes total sense. So I mentioned it to my favorite online etymology source, Etymonline.

xocThe bottom portion is after our conversation. The site owner added the theory to the etymology for “shark”! I know not everyone can appreciate me geeking out over this, but trust me… it felt like just another great day and job well done in the world of language. For little old me, anyway. I think maybe what made it such a big deal is that I actually respect them (in a world full of bad sources), and they considered my info. I thought the info was pretty damn good, but still, it was great to feel like I had added or contributed somehow.

Baby names are just one form of expression of language. The study of names is a study in cultures and languages. This is why I examine them so closely and take them seriously. They are just one aspect, one facet, but are used for identity… they can come from anywhere and mean anything, and they deserve my respect.

So, I was thrilled that a source that I love so much followed up on my info and added it. Etymonline also happens to be one of many reliable sources I use in my upcoming book. You can find them in the list with other references once the book is finally out. 😉

In the spirit of fairness, arguments against this theory can be found here.

First & Middle Baby Names Fan Pics & Names

Directly from our fans on our Facebook First & Middle Baby Names page, comes real actual babies and their first and middle names.  Proof that our fans are obviously really into naming. 🙂

Blaize James

Bowie Imagine

“This is a photo of Bowie Imagine Graff… This photo was taken yesterday at 5 and a half months old… Both my partner and I love classic rock and roll… My partner also is a fan of classic rap.. The notorious B. I. G. especially… I wanted a verb as a middle name… Be careful what you wish for though… My ‘Mr. BIG’ was born at home weighing in at 11 lbs 6 oz… And at 5 months old is 21 lbs 14oz… Haha.”

-File that one under “Names We Wished We Could Take Credit For”. ~Elizabeth

Canaan Eleazar

Dhev Everett

“Our own spin on the sanskrit Dev- that begins many names. Meaning ‘God’ or ‘Divine,’

Everett, a family name back 3 generations, meaning ‘wild and brave boar'”

Finley Vail

Huckleberry Wilder

“We choose Huckleberry’s name because his older brother is named Sawyer and every Sawyer needs a “Huck”. His middle name is from Little House On The Prairie…Laura Ingles Wilder. ”

Kian Angel

Leo Michael

Nate Anthony Lukeson

“Just a quick story regarding my little boy, his name means so much to us.
My Father is Norwegian and their tradition when naming a Son is to add the Father’s name as a middle name with ‘Son’. I wanted to pass this on and keep this going in our family.
Our son’s name is Nate Anthony Lukeson Bryant. Nate was decided as I love 4 letter names and Nathaniel was too long. Nathan is also my Husband’s middle name, so it seemed to fit perfectly for all the right reasons. Anthony was my late Uncle, who passed suddenly and at a very young age. It was also a common middle name on my Mother’s side. Lukeson is the Norwegian tradition part, my Husband’s name is Luke.
I am all for family traditions and names that represent a special meaning. i can’t wait to explain his name to him when he is older!”

November Sue

“Born 11/30/12, my birthday. Sue after my mom (my middle name is Susan, too) and November because not only is it a beautiful word, but because after a loss, we decided to try again and the resulting babe would be due in November. For us November means hope, healing, and joy.”

Paloma Ixchel

“I wanted her first name to honor my mom without using her actual name, Sara. Sara is common in the US, and the pronunciation would not default to the Spanish, which I prefer. I chose Paloma, Spanish for dove, because in one of my earliest memories, my mom would play Mexican songs on 8 track tapes, and we’d sing along together. We did this many afternoons, and a favorite song was Cucurucucu Paloma. I can’t hear the word paloma and not think of mom, who passed 13 years ago.
Ixchel is a nod to the Mayan jaguar moon goddess. She is a goddess of fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth, among other things. Paloma was conceived and born after I turned 39, and with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. And so I really wanted a fertility goddess, more specifically a Mexican one. Also, I had an easy pregnancy and birth, so I do feel that we were being watched over! Ixchel just seemed like a perfect choice. Paloma is 1/2 Brazilian and 1/2 Mexican. And I really wanted a name with a story that would take her back to her Mexican ancestry, and hope to one day take her to Ixchel’s shrine on the Mexican island of Cozumel. Our family is actually from Michoacan, but I couldn’t find a name from that region that fit my criteria.”

Raya Rose

River Luca James

Saoirse Mae

Sawyer James

“Sawyer is named after the country band Sawyer Brown & James is my fathers name.”

Solomon Lloyd

Talbot Garrett Edward

“Talbot is for the county I grew up in on the Eastern Shore of MD.
Garrett is for the most Western MD county, where my husband grew up.
Edward is for my great-uncle and father in law.”

Wednesday Eliza

Zeppelin Mililani

“My bestfriend picked the name Zeppelin right before she passed away, unexpectedly. Her last text message to me said ” You should name him Zeppelin Mililani!” Mililani is her middle name. So we did, in memory of one of the greatest people I have ever come across. Kiersten Nicole-Mililani Hammer.”

“Which Baby Name Sources Can You Trust?”


None?  >:)

No, if I can be serious for a moment… I haven’t found even 1 place that is good all the time for all variety of names. Read the comments section from this blog post to understand how I feel about that.

Believe it or not, your name is not Ancient Welsh for “elven lullaby“.

I think that what you need to look for is that they (the source) are treating names like words and like language, and not like “baby names”. As soon as something is treated like merely “baby names” they have lost seriousness on the topic. If they list a continent but not a language (“African”, “Native American”), don’t trust them. Overly romanticized or long meanings for what appear to be simple names? Doubt them. When you see multiple meanings for something, try to figure out on a root-word level if any of it makes sense. That would involve studying the language and determining if there is any possible way that somebody else’s meaning makes sense. A source has to be of reference-level quality, like a dictionary, to be taken seriously.

For example, words and even some proper names/place names can be examined at this etymology dictionary online.

Another source is, because in their learning center, you can enter a surname and it takes its info from the Oxford Dictionary of names. Formerly they had a first name and surname field; recently they’ve done away with the first name entry, which I feel was a huge loss and big mistake. I wrote to them about it and they acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about, but that’s customer service for you. If you feel it was a loss, too, drop them a line and maybe they’ll listen to a bunch of us rather than just one mad name freak.

Believe it or not, I consider Wikipedia to be a far better source than most name books and sites. I was just talking to a fan privately today; we were discussing the varied meanings given to the name Miriam. “Baby Center said…”  Oh man, don’t get me started on Baby Center. But when she said, “Wikipedia said…” I had to admit that they had a pretty firm grasp on several of the possibilities for interpreting Miriam. And, they didn’t definitively declare any of them right or wrong. As much of a joking point as Wikipedia is when it comes to doing “real research”, they are doing a much better job in the world of baby names than most who solely discuss baby names! Pretty sad, huh? Wiki is worth a look. Doesn’t mean they’re always right, but they often do okay.

[For the curious, this is a snippet from what I had to say on Miriam:

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” -the song of Miriam, Exodus.
Painting is The Song of Miriam (Miriam right), by William Gale

My feeling is based on the combination of mar (מַר — means “a drop”) and yam (ים — means “sea”). The word מִרְיָם is the Hebrew way of writing Miriam. You can see those elements within it, but other interpretations seem to fit too… so I wouldn’t consider all others necessarily wrong.]

When it comes to trusting the accuracy of a source, whether you are trying to nail down a meaning or other nugget of info, I tend to not just take anyone’s word for it. I basically have to look at the name as a word within its language, which means cross-referencing a few times over, and making an educated guess or statement based on multiple sources of scholarly info. If you’re going to use a name and you are serious about wanting to know what it means, you’ll have to do the same for it.

And of course, you could always buy my book which comes out soon– this summer. 🙂

Silas: What Does it REALLY Mean?

File this under reason #58 to not believe anything you read on cutesy Baby Name websites.

On our page discussing names, we were recommending names to a fan. One of our fans innocently adds Silas to the list of considerations, adding that it would work well for the OP, because it means “third”, and this was to be her third child.

I was intrigued why she thought this (“where did you hear that?”, a common question I believe I will be asking often enough), and she informed me that a baby name site told her that. Figures.

Could she have been thinking of Birth Village? Here was the user contributed (!) meaning they ascribed to dear old Silas:

The baby boy or baby girl name Silas comes from the Biblical word which means, “three, or the third.” Biblical word which means, “three, or the third.”

That was taken directly from the entry for Silas without additional editing on my part. If you want something user-submitted to tell you about your name, you might be better off visiting Urban Dictionary. Tee hee.

Now, it just so happens that there is a very similar word in Hebrew to Silas, and it does mean third. From

As an example the Hebrew word for “three” is “shelosh”, and the Hebrew word for “third” is “sheliyshiy”.

It would be easy to see why “sheliyshiy” could seem connected to or related to Silas. However, there is already a Hebrew baby name that seems to cover this meaning– Shilshah, which does indeed specifically refer to a third son.

Most sources out there (yes, even the fluff sources) will tell you that Silas stems from the same Latin and Greek roots that “silvan” does, which definitely gives it a meaning of “woody” or “of the forest”. But, there is still a chance that this is wrong and that Silas and Shilshah are related, right?

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. -Robert Frost

I asked my favorite Hebrew/Biblical baby name expert (and all around brilliant guy), Arie, about this. This man is a scholarly genius when it comes to understanding the complexity and poetry behind Biblical names, words, and meanings.  Here’s what he said:

You are correct. The name Silas is short for Silvanus (like Bill is short for William), and both mean forest(ed). And you’re also correct about the Hebrew word for three, which is shalosh. The word for third generation is shilesh, which comes very close to the name Silas.

Names in the New Testament are not as often descriptive of the name-bearer as in the Old Testament. I doubt very much that there is something profoundly “third” about Silas. But maybe I’m wrong.

Most sources, from the fluffy and superficial books and sites, to reliable resources such as Biblical study books, genius Hebrew language students, and reference/dictionary sources seem to agree that Silas has to do with the forest, and not birth order.

For more information, news, and activities giving you the real deal on Baby Names, check us out on Facebook.

What to Expect From This Blog

Baby names… what can you possibly have to say about them? A lot. It isn’t just, “oh, that’s cute!” or, “yuck, I would never use that…”. It goes deeper. As the book nears publication and through future volumes being released, this blog and our Facebook page will stand to remind people that good resources are out there, if you know where to look.

But what will we be talking about?

This blog will be used for the following:

1. Baby Name Challenges
Baby name activities will help you to explore and go deeper into options and ideas you may previously have never thought of. This is for people who want to go beyond just the jotting down on a piece of paper trials. Which reminds me, you may want to invest in a baby name notebook/journal.

2. Name Dissections
Want to get to the root of a name? Interested in a debated history, and want the truth? We may occasionally break down names as needed on this site.

3. Name Combos
After all, the book IS about first and middle baby names. What better use of our blog than to explore the art and poetry of baby name combination by example? We will guide you by pointing out everything that is right, wrong, and neutral with various combinations, for your enjoyment.

4. Fan Questions
Questions or concerns we receive either on the Wall (Facebook), via e-mail, or in private messages may be used for blog material. We will use our discretion or your request to decide if the poster should remain anonymous, as may be desired in the case of debate or in the case of unwanted attention from family and friends of the poster. This will be a great way for us to give advice or info and have it be seen by all for a long standing period of time, to help more people beyond it’s time frame.

Jed I. Knight. Seems legit.

5. Name Trends & Social Issues
Specifically a place to whine or to commend. We will look examine everything from name popularity in history and in right context, to celeb “gossip”, to the fads taking over, and discuss from there. Hopefully this sometimes controversial topic will make people think twice about baby names. If you want to unlike or unfollow us, it’ll most likely come from this one. We don’t want to gloss over the contentious, we want you to have a healthy respect for the background.

But really, how could anything concerning these little guys be trivial? 🙂

6. Whatever the hell we want.
Hey, it’s open and I feel like it, I’ll talk about it. Even if it’s trivia or minutia, if it’s on my mind and I feel like putting it out there, you can find it here.

I have invited my 2 other FB admins to join me here, so you may sometimes find their posts on the blog, and it will be noted that it was their piece.

Thanks for reading, enjoy our page, and buy the book. Stuff just got real.