Name Meaning Research
With 15 years experience in researching names, we've refined our process of researching a name's history, and always search for the most encouraging meaning. Explore the details of our research below.
NameStories & Name Research:
A Name's Meaning
In William Shakespeare’s 1594 play, Juliet mused “What’s in a name?” But in Shakespeare's personal reflection on the subject, he said, “He who steals my purse, steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which enriches him not, and makes me poor indeed.”
Your Name communicates so much more than simply a tag or label of what to call you. Your name becomes the representation of who you are; who you are to your family, to your boss, to your friends, to your children, to the businessman in the office or the waitress at your table. Your name establishes the beginning of a reputation, and the whole of that reputation is recalled by the thought or speaking of your name.
Throughout history, names have been of great importance. Adam, the first man, was given the task of naming all the animals, and was the only man ever to have the honor of choosing a name for his wife, Eve. And today, we still love to choose special nicknames for our spouses, and those names carry great significance between a husband and wife. Nicknames for children become as endearing as deeply engrained as the first time a parent hears "Mama" or "Daddy". And it is for that very reason that we must wisely consider what names we give to one another, and what names we choose for our children. Good and bad, the words we hear and the names we're called, have such a great impact on our hearts and lives.
God placed tremendous significance on names, and the meanings of them, starting with the creation of Adam, "One formed of the earth". Several times throughout the Bible, God chose new names for those he loved, including His choice for His own Son: Yeshua. When the Angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream, he came with a very specific message about the meaning of a name.
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name YESHUA:
for he shall save his people from their sins." Matthew 1.21
The name Jesus -or, "Yeshua" in the Hebrew, was the same word as SALVATION. Can you see how God chose a name that directly described the life purpose for His son? "call his name, JESUS, "Salvation": for he will SAVE his people from their sins."
And God's emphasis on the meaning of names didn't stop there. He continues to place incredible importance in the meaning of names. From the parents who name their newborn, to the couples who make up sweet nicknames for each other, to the names chosen for new businesses, to God's careful guidance of your life to develop and discover the meaning of your name.
Find out what your name means by giving us a call or sending us a note. (just click the chat box on the lower right, or Contact Us.)
Thanks for coming by!
By John Dehnart
There are several ways to look into a meaning of a name. When researching, we always look for the encouraging, positive aspect of it's meaning , not just the literal meaning. At it's heart, our research is to help others realize the significance and purpose of their lives from God's perspective. Each individual has incredible value to God, and understanding one's name from God's perspective can be a personal encouragement and inspiration.
The study of proper names is called onomatology. The root word is from the Greek onoma, which is the word for name. (with the negative a- prefix, it is the source of our English word anonymous, meaning "without name" or "against name") Anthroponomastics, (from the Greek words for man and name) is the study of personal names.
The academic side of the anthropnomastic field can stretch into many other fields, like linguistics, history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philology and others. Most basic name meanings can be found through etymology, which seeks the original literal meaning of the name or root word. Some meanings can be found easily, when names have a direct associative meaning, like "Rose" or "Grace" . Other names, like Lyria or can have a connection to another associative background, the Lyre , a musical instrument.
Names can also have historical meanings, based on someone who's name carries a certain amount of synonymy with their lives or reputation. Giving a son the first and middle name of "Bill Clinton" or "John Wayne" carries with it a certain amount of meaning based on past historical figures. During and after World War II, many German people who carried the surname of Hitler or lived on a street named Hitler changed the name to an alternative. This was because of the historical reputation of the name.
Contemporary social and cultural figures can also hugely affect the public view and interpretation of a name. The 2008 Census revealed an increase in babies named Barrack, explained by in no other way except that Obama won the presidency. The name Miley moved up 152 ranks in popularity, while the popular teen singer, Miley Cyrus, took on her given name rather than her popular character name, Hanna (Montana), which fell from rank #9 to #17.
Biblical names generally dominate the census's top baby names for boys, but popular culture names continue to carry great influence on the baby girl names. The name Emma made the Top-10 list in 2002 when a character on the show "Friends" gave the name to her TV baby. Social Security Commissioner, Michael Astrue said, "There's something about naming a child that's a very existential statement. Studying baby name trends As you read through this [census], you see the influence of recent immigration, religion, popular culture... sometimes it's just people who are admired."
Other people are named after a family or relative, who was known for a certain quality or characteristic. I was given the middle name of Richard because of a dear friend of my parents who was known for his compassion and generosity. Even though the name historically means Powerful and Benevolent (after King Richard the Lionhearted), the meaning of my name to me includes the generosity and compassion that characterized my namesake. Sometimes the reasons parents choose certain names can be part of the meaning of the name to them, and to their child. So if you are wondering about the meaning of your name, a good place to start would be to ask your parents the reasons for choosing your name.
The usual source for a name is to look into the language that it is from, and then the culture in which the name gained popularity. The case of the name Osceola is a good example, as it's Creek root word meant "Black Drink Song". But when examined in cultural context, we found that the black drink was a high-caffeine tea used in purification ceremonies by the Creek Indians.
Finally, we chose the historical meaning of the name, because the most famous Osceola fought for freedom for the blacks of his time and rights for under-privileged women. Anyone carrying the name Osceola today would most likely not have been given the name because of it's etymology to black tea, but rather because of the historical traits of the freedom fighter in history.
On the other hand, historical or popular culture does not always prove to be the most encouraging source for the meaning of a name. Such was the case last week, when someone asked for a bookmark with the name Mercedes. One would first guess that the name Mercedes came about because of the German luxury car line that began in the early 1900s, the Mercedes-Benz. While the vehicle popularized the name, and you could draw out its characteristics as the meaning of the name, the surprising truth is that the car was named after a little girl by the name Mercedes Jellinek (1889-1929), who was the daughter of the wealthy Austrian automobile entrepreneur, Emil Jellinek (1853-1901.) The girl's name is actually of Spanish origin, meaning "mercies."
My favorite source for name meanings is when the name has Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew roots, which connect it to the Biblical context of a name. Dozens of contemporary names come directly from Bible times, such as Jacob, Peter, Abby, Elizabeth, or my own name, John. Other Bible names come through concepts and qualities instead of names, like Cross or Joy. Dozens more are connected to ancient language that had meaning and inspiration in Biblical context.
The name Mary, for example. (can you tell I ramble a bit when it comes to names?) Most name meaning books cite the meaning as BITTERNESS. This is because they looked strictly to the language for the meaning. True, the name Mary comes from the Hebrew word for Myrrh, which was very bitter if you ate it. Even it's appearance is knarled and twisted, with it's long thorns sometimes even piercing it's own vine-like trunk. Such was the use of the word in the book of Ruth (1:20) when Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, and spoke to her daughter-in-law, Ruth: "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me."
However, with a closer inspection into the use of the myrrh plant, a much more beautiful meaning is revealed. You see, if the myrrh plant is hurt, or cut, it produces tears of sap, just as we have tears when we are hurt. Those tears of sap can be collected and if properly prepared, can be transformed into a most fragrant perfume, a costly healing balm, or even an anointing oil for burial. Those three uses are why it was so significant that the wise men who sought after the baby Jesus brought Him a gift of myrrh. You see, Myrrh, --like the hurts and wounds in our life--, was never meant to be tasted and bitterly ingested, but to be transformed through forgiveness, into a beautiful, healing annointing to us, and a glorifying fragrance of worship to God.
A much better meaning for Mary than the literal meaning of "bitter" is one that applies the positive qualities of the plant. It's true that hurts in our lives can cause deep wounds, and we can respond with anger and bitterness, but if we respond rightly to such hurts, our forgiveness can be a sweet aroma to God, and a priceless healing balm for us, and those around us. So on our name gifts, the meaning for the name Maria reads "Fragrance and Healing from Rightly Responding to Hurts."
The verse we include on those name gifts is Ephesians 4:32, which speaks of forgiveness.
"Let all bitterness, and wrath be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
By John Dehnart
When researching a name meaning, we often find more than one meaning or variations of a meaning. There are several reasons for this, but the primary reason is that researchers have gone to more than one source for the linguistic or cultural meaning. Many times in early history, infants were named directly from the language that was spoken. Names like "Laughter" (Isaac), "Little Lamb" (Rachel), or "Savior" (Joshua) were common, much like the names "Faith" or "Joy" are common in our language. But in today's world, names can originate from many different languages and cultures, historical figures or concepts. In fact, the most qualified person to research a name is the parent of the child being named. When more than one meaning or connection can be found for a name, most researchers will opt for the older or more encouraging meaning.
Occasionally, we find sloppy research that went to the wrong language to find a name meaning. A simple, rather silly example would be the name Bill, which in English is the word for an invoice, like an electric bill to be paid. I doubt anyone named their child after an invoice. More likely, and much more valid, would be to research the namesake, William, and its Germanic roots that meant protective helmet.
Another example would be Pierre, which is a French spelling for the name Peter. A researcher might check the French language or French history first to find a meaning. But because Pierre is the French equivalent to the older Greek name, Petros, so you could also go to the Greek meaning, which is stone or pebble.
Perhaps the best answer to this question is to think of name research as a journey, which can take some twists, turns, dead-ends and various stops along the way to gain insight into the correct meaning. CrossTimber's research takes the information available about a name, sorts through what research is useful, and what's a "dead end", and arrive at a meaning that is both historically legitimate and encouraging to the bearer of the name. Sometimes that process is simple and obvious, like the names Hope or Charity, and sometimes it requires more exploration on the "name meaning map". For more on that process of researching a name meaning, read on!
Researching proper names is called anthroponomastics, meaning the study of human names, which are called anthroponynyms. Whew, if you made it through that sentence, the rest should be easy! Here's what goes into CrossTimber's name meaning research:
The first and perhaps easiest step to finding a name meaning is to look at the language-based equivalent of a name. By itself, a strictly linguistic equivalent of a name is often dull and lacks purpose or encouragement. Kennedy would mean ugly head, Emily would mean rival, Mary would mean bitter, Brandi would mean burnt wine. These can be clues to finding a proper meaning for a name, but a purely academic, language-based meaning is just one of many steps to discovering the treasure of meaning within a name.
I just came across a humorous illustration of this on an Israeli blog that compared the Hebrew meanings of popular Israeli names with their linguistic English meaning. Osnat, a pretty girl's name from the tanach, would mean "gray snot" in English. Moran, Dudu and Nimrod were other Hebrew names that might not come across well in English culture.
So the next step would be to consider the meaning in the context of the culture it is from. Most modern names are variations on a root word from another language, that has its own meaning within that culture and time period. The name Wayne, for example, was an occupational name in Anglo-Saxon for Wagon Maker. While a wagon maker may have a variety of skills, the concept associated with being a wagon maker was that you used your skills to build something that would help others transport their things or loved ones to a better place. This is more encouraging than the occupational meaning, and is another important step to researching a name meaning.
But again linguistic or academic research by itself does not always produce a positive meaning for a name, and often requires further historical, Biblical or cultural insight.
When CrossTimber researches a name, we include a Life Meaning, which is the positive, encouraging concept associated with the academic side of a name. The name Amaral is neat example, which has Latin roots for "Wine Taster." In a modern context, we would associate that meaning with a connoisseur of wine, or someone who enjoys drinking wine. But in ancient cultures, it carried a meaning of significance and royalty that had nothing to do with enjoying wine flavors. Kings of old would appoint a trusted friend who was charged with protecting the king's wine from being poisoned. Wine's potent flavor masked the presence of an assassin's poison, so it was the wine taster's responsibility to guard the king's wine and sample it before presenting it to the king. The royal position is even mentioned in Genesis 40:13 when Joseph interprets the dream of the imprisoned, royal wine taster of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Incidentally, his title might be a clue to why the guy went to prison in the first place! In a real sense, a Wine Taster would put his life on the line to protect the king, so the meaning of Amaral would carry a sense of royal protection and self sacrifice in service to the King. We would try to convey that concept as a Life Meaning on our name meaning gifts.
The most important key to finding a positive, encouraging meaning to a name is to interpret the linguistic and academic insights in the Light of the Bible, where we can find God's perspective on the name. This vital step always reveals the greatest treasure of a name. Because names are carried by treasured human beings that Yeshua gave His life to love, God's perspective on a name meaning always reflects His great love and truth for that person. Sadly, this is why we see people who are rejecting Yahweh's plan demonstrate the exact opposite characteristics of the meanings of their name. I've seen names that meant "healing" borne by those known for injuring others or names meaning harmony or commitment shamed with actions of argument and accusation. This direct contrast is an uncanny clue towards the great potential God would inspire through the meaning of a name, or the very pitfalls we succumb to in rejecting God's plan. Perhaps that is one of His purposes for giving us a name: to guide us towards His plan for us, and away from the shame of dishonoring our name. Even the most stubborn or destructive people carry their name with them everywhere they go. The reminder found in their name's meaning can point them to the God that formed them in the womb.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you..."
The insights we've found in searching for Life Meanings are the best part of our name gifts, and require requires prayer and consideration on the life principles God has given us through the Bible, and how they can be applied to the meaning of a name. Repeatedly in the Bible, Yahweh loves, treasures and values each person, and calls them by name into a relationship with Him. And we are blessed to watch Him still do that today.
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."
“Fear not: for I have redeemed you and I have called you by thy name; thou art mine.”
“I will do what you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
By John Dehnart
In this business, we often get requests for a "Christian origin" or "Biblical meaning" for a name. I completely understand how they mean the question, but I've often found it helpful to clarify the terms. While we sometimes label our products as "Christian Name Meaning Gifts", I have found that it can sometimes be misunderstood to mean that certain names in history (which may or may not be in the Bible) are more "Christian" than others. But that is not the case. When we research a name, we are always seeking the most encouraging understanding of the meaning from a Biblical perspective. For every person, God is an integral part of forming their name and identity. Throughout history has placed great value on the meaning of a name. (See Value in Meaning.)
Occasionally, we still hear the term "Christian name" when someone from another country is given an English name instead of their foreign birth name or given name. Pocahontas, for example, was baptized and given the name Rebecca, which has its root meaning from a Hebrew word for "yoked together" like oxen would be bound together to pull a cart. The name Pocahontas is equally meaningful in her native language, Algonquian. While a neat historical "Bible meaning" can be associated with the name Rebecca from the namesake in the Bible, we can't say that the name had any more to do with being a Christian than her real name or any other name.
Interestingly, Pocahontas wasn't her real name either, but only a nickname given by her Powhatan father which meant "She is Playful." Her given names were Amonute, and Matoaka (or Matoika), which meant "Bright Stream Between the Hills." The 18th century historian, William Stith, claimed that the Indians "carefully concealed her real name from the English, and changed it to Pocahontas out of a superstitious fear, lest they, by the knowledge of her true name, would be enabled to do her some hurt."
Pocahontas/ Matoaka/ Amonute/ Rebecca was one of the first of the Indians to accept the gospel of Christ from the colonists. She learned to speak and translate English and used it to communicate the gospel to her people and the other Indian tribes. One author notes, "Through Pocahontas, the Powhatan Indians and the colonists made peace and the settlers saw their goal of spreading the protestant faith begin to come to fruition. Sadly, she died at just 22 years old. It was two years later that another group of English colonists landed in Virginia, where Historians claim the real first Thanksgiving took place, which was all about prayer." John Smith, who recounted his near-death experience in a letter to the queen of England said of Pocahontas, "she was next under God . . . the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine and utter confusion." If I were #to make a Pocahontas Name Meaning Gift today, I would include the meanings from her given names, and the historical meaning through the work of Pocahontas to spread the Gospel of Jesus.
"Playful One, Bright Stream Between the Hills: One who Spreads the Gospel"
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
When we research a name, we first look for its inherent, cultural or historical meaning, and then look for related Biblical principles that can apply that meaning in an encouraging way. That means that even names that are not in the Bible -or from an obscure tribal language- can still be understood through a Godly perspective of their basic meanings. What we seek to do at CrossTimber is to find that Biblical understanding of the meaning, whether that is through language or history. The meaning of the name Pocahontas can be found through the historical account of her missionary work to her people. The other name I mentioned, Rebecca, had its roots in the word for "Yoke" and also has a historical meaning from the life of Rebecca in the Bible, who was revealed to Abraham's servant as God's choice for Isaac.
More often than not, we find a significant connection between the root word for a person's name, and the historical or Biblical account of the namesake in the Bible. Rebecca, meaning "yoked together" and the Bible account of Rebecca's betrothal and marriage. On top of that, we can put the etymological meaning and historical meaning in the context of what God has to say about those concepts of connection, marriage and commitment to God as His Bride and His Church.
So for Rebecca, our name meaning reads
from Hebrew, "Yoked and United with Christ: Bride of Harmony"
You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. Joshua 23:14
The name Barbara is another great example of seeing a name through a Biblical understanding. Barbara, from Latin, comes from the same root word as "barbarian". By itself, that isn't very encouraging, but when you think about the Biblical concepts and examples for being a stranger in a foreign land, we often find that God's purpose for that person was to bring His messages of truth and salvation. We also find that a person chosen to be a missionary has the qualities of courage and determination. Just like Pocahontas, whose name means more than "yoked" or "she is playful" or "bright stream between the mountains", the name Barbara means more than just "foreigner".
"Stranger in the Land, Missionary: One who is Beautiful and Courageous"
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. The rich and poor meet together: Yahweh is the maker of them all. By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life. Proverbs 22:1