meanings and origins

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Where Did This Name Come From?

While trying to find original names for my daughter, I looked back through my family tree. My great-grandmother's name was the only one that really stood out to me. Her name was Ailyion (pronounced Ail-yun). I think it's very pretty, but my family convinced me not to include it on my list because they thought it could be mispronounced as "alien." I'm wondering where this name might have originated. I've searched "Ailyion, name" many times, but I only come up with references to my great-grandmother! That's kind of crazy when you consider that she was born in 1905 and lived in the smallest of small towns. Where do you think her name came from? Did they just make it up? I didn't think people did that in 1905.

–Curious Descendant

Here's a little sampling of some names given to at least 5 (and sometimes over 100) female babies in the U.S. in 1905: Ocie, Velva, Jettie, Emmer, Grayce, Wava, Malissia, Lempi, and Macel. Oh, and Aili.

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I Need to Clone My Perfect Name

My husband and I are expecting our third child. We had settled on Asher as a boy's name: I love the rough-and-tumble sound, the biblical roots, and the positive meaning of the name (happiness). Unfortunately, we've realized just how popular Asher seems to be in our community. We've come across three little Ashers just this week! Can you suggest some other names that hit our three check points?

- Almost-Asher's Mom

This is the beauty and frustration of names: no two are alike. You can start with a list of thousands of boys' names and applying just three criteria narrows your list down to one. 

You've described Asher's unique appeal well. It's a have-it-all name, a Old Testament classic that sounds like a contemporary action surname. The name's literal meaning, from the Hebrew for "fortunate" or "happy," feels like an extra gift to bestow on a child.

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What If a Pretty Name Has an Ugly Meaning?

We are expecting our second daughter soon. Our first is called Sophia. I am of Greek descent and my husband is from South Africa. Our common language is English, and we live in London. We are thinking of naming our new baby Melina. We love the name, but since reading about it more on the Internet, we've discovered that, spelt "melena," it refers to black stool that contains blood from gastrointestinal bleeding. It's a term used in medicine and nursing, and is pronounced the same way as the name. We still like the name, but we are worried about its medical meaning and can't stop thinking about the implications. However, we can't agree on another name we all love.

–Confused Mama

I think you should set your worries aside and use Melina. It's an attractive name that's familiar enough for people to hear it as a name—not a medical term. And most people outside the medical profession are unaware of the medical meaning.

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Is My Name Older Than George Washington?

Is my name older than George Washington?

–Mia

Mia, there has to be a story behind your George Washington benchmark. It made me laugh—and then it made me think, because the age of a name can be tricky to pin down.

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Are Calendar Names Cool or Cheesy?

How do you feel about calendar names and whether or not they coincide with the time of year when a baby is born? I know an April born in September and an Autumn born in midwinter, but also a Natalie born on Christmas Day. I feel that names like this should fit somewhat with the season of birth (if June is born a few weeks early, the parents shouldn't have to change her name to May, for example). A friend, however, thinks this is cheesy and names that fit too well with the season or month of birth should be avoided. Can you settle our debate?

--'Tis the Season

This has been a cultural change over time, which means that while your view was once the prevailing one, opinion has now shifted toward your friend's position. It used to be that seasonal names were selected based on the season. But today, style trumps meaning, and April and June are farther apart in style than they are on the calendar. June is enjoying the 100-year resurgence that we often see in baby-name style trends (the name peaked in 1910 and has been on its way up again since 2008).

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What's the Secret of Silar?

I like the name Silar, but cannot find any meaning or anything else about it. "Silas" always comes up instead. Is it a last name? Am I spelling it wrong?

–Bridget

I can see why you're convinced that this is an established name, even when you haven't found any evidence for it. It has a familiar, fashionable sound, thanks to list-toppers and up-and-comers like Silas, Cyrus, Skyler, and Tyler, or even the Spanish name Pilar (pronounced pee-LAR and used for girls).

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Why Can't I Find Any Bible Names For Girls?

What are some female biblical names?

-- Searching Mom

Let me start by pointing out what you didn't ask: "Who were some prominent women in the Bible?" Chances are you're already familiar with women like matriarchs Sarah and Rebecca, and with Mary and Elizabeth, the mothers of Jesus and John the Baptist. I don't even think you'd be satisfied if I pointed you toward additional admirable women whose names are less common, like Eunice and Dorcas. 

So what is it you're looking for? My guess is your question could be rephrased as, "Where are all of the girls' names to go with boys like Elijah, Gabriel and Josiah?"

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Is This Name Too Dark For My Daughter?

All my life I've known I wanted to name my daughter Leila. My husband is totally on board with the name, too! But I just recently looked up the meaning of Leila, "dark-haired beauty," and now I'm second-guessing myself. With our genetics, it's highly unlikely our daughter will have dark hair. How important is it that the name's meaning match the child?

-- Too Pale for Leila?

Would it reassure you if I told you that Leila doesn't really mean "dark-haired beauty"?

Baby name dictionaries aren't like the dictionaries we're used to, that describe what a word signifies and how it's used. Instead, they burrow into history to find the name's linguistic roots. Imagine looking up the word "spoon" in Webster's and getting the definition "splinter of wood (Proto-Germanic)." That's the baby name dictionary experience.

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Is My Dream Name Just a Dream?

I have had a recurring dream that my son’s name is Astro. I like it but I am unsure if I should use it. I plan on using Michael or James somewhere in his name. Should I use Astro because of the dream, or just pick a different name altogether?

--Stargazing Mom-to-Be

I can see why Astro appeals. Having a name come to you in a dream feels like fate: a sign that can’t be ignored, or at least an awesome “How-I-got-my-name” story for your son. Plus it’s got that cool –o ending along with its starry sensibility.

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My Favorite Name is NOT Horrible!

I like the name Talon for a boy. I read a debate about this name online, and some people thought it was horrible because it means a claw. I think it's symbolic of an eagle and its strength. (Did you know an eagle's talons are 4 times stronger than human hands?) Anyway, I like the name. My name translated means dirt, so why do so many people hate the name because of the literal translation? - Tara (Dirt)

You say people hate the name Talon because of its "literal translation?" My friend, you don't have to translate Talon. It's already English.

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