Meaning Unknown: Can I Make One Up?

Books and sites may occasionally be honest and tell you that they have no idea what your baby’s name means. The dreaded word “unknown” has irked many a reader and parent alike.

If you don’t know what your baby’s name means, can you make a meaning up?  Yes, and no. First, try to find a way to be sure that it’s a true mystery before assigning your own meaning. If you’re not sure where to start, start by taking a stab at the language of origin. Research the root words and try to connect the dots (I’ll illustrate in a second). However, if you’ve made up a name on your own and it is completely original, not being taken from pieces of any other words you are being influenced by, feel free to give it any meaning you want! One of my favorites on my list I have given the meaning of “universal portal”. I know, it’s kind of geeky. But to me, it’s got such an ULTIMATE feeling to it, which is what I was going for. Most other names are subtle, and I wanted to go beyond.

After all, it’s not every day you get to invent a word or a name.

Hazel tree dispersing seeds.

The fan question and conversation that inspired this post and will illustrate an example of finding the roots is below (this occurred on our page; visit us)–

Chelsea: I’ve looked up my daughters name and it says meaning unknown could there be a way of making a meaning?
Elizabeth: I bet there could!!! But out of curiosity, what is your daughter’s name?
Chelsea: Haisley
Elizabeth: Seems like a mash-up of Hayden and Paisley. However, the dictionary of American names from Oxford IS able to trace it. It’s from England and Northern Ireland, and it apparently means “hazel meadow“.

You see, Haisley happens to be a form of Hazley which is derived from Heasley, which also has been spelled Haseley… phew… Anyhow, these are all words derived from the English language. Hæsel is equal to ‘hazel’, and ley or leah (as any Ashley or Hayley may be able to tell you) means ‘wood’, ‘clearing’, ‘glade’, or ‘meadow’. These are surnames, and would have been given to someone who lived in or by the hazel meadow or hazel wood.

So, if you were trying to figure this out for yourself (for example), you might start off by guessing that Haisley appears to be an English word. From there, you might try to break the word apart. What does the suffix “-ley” mean? What are other English names that contain “-ley” endings? What do those names mean? What might/must the “hais” part be referring to? Luckily in English, this can sometimes be pretty straightforward. Other languages may be trickier.

While it may be more fun to invent a meaning to a unique name, unless you are completely inventing one yourself free of outside influence, you might be disappointed to discover that the job has already been filled.

Why did other sources tell Chelsea the meaning was unknown? While I am overjoyed they didn’t take it upon themselves to invent a meaning (this would be commonplace), you can still file this under Reason #1 I don’t like most baby name books and sites.