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Can I Turn a Word Into a Name?

I'm obsessed with the concept of 'Chlorine' and 'Adrenaline' being names for girls, as I love the way they sound, but I'm worried that people will find it odd or weird because... well, they're words. Would altering the spellings (Clorine, Adrenalyn, etc.) preserve the sound but keep people from connecting it with the word?
- Name Lover

This Name Lady wasn't born yesterday. I'm not convinced that you're really planning to name your daughter Adrenalyn. I am convinced, though, that your question has a worthwhile point behind it.

There's a popular idea floating around that playing with the spelling of a common English word somehow transforms it into a name. I assume the thinking is that turning adrenaline into Adrenalyn strips it of its "wordness," making it easier for people to perceive "nameness." But since when do we rule out real words as names? Are Grace and Jasmine any less names for having entries in the dictionary?

Here's the heart of the matter. If a word is problematic as a name, you can't rescue it by changing the spelling. And if the word isn't problematic, then it doesn't need rescuing, does it?

Every name has two faces, a written one and a spoken one. The two have to work together to produce the desired effect. You wouldn't dream of naming your child Smelly "with a silent S." By the same token, it's just no good introducing yourself with "Hi, I'm Slovenleigh." You might think you're squeaking by with a subtler baby name like Trayler, but your child shouldn't have to worry about squeaking by.

If the word you love has an attractive meaning, you can feel confident taking it straight. You're also free to play with the spelling, just as with any other name. But be aware that creative spellings have a bigger impact on word names: they move the name farther from the word's essence. Grayce, for instance, has less grace than Grace. If you like that effect, more power to you. But do it because you love the spelling, not to make it "more like a name."


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

April 25, 2011 8:52 PM
By Fritinancy (not verified)

I went to high school with a girl named Vaseline. Parents, do not do this to your children.

April 25, 2011 8:55 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Unless your baby is a mermaid, Chlorine is not a name.

April 25, 2011 9:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Corrine/Corinne and Adrianne aren't good enough? PLEASE don't do this to your daughters.

April 25, 2011 10:15 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have thought for years that Adrenaline looked and sounded like a girl's name (with a cool meaning). I'm not planning on using it, but I think it's got potential.

April 26, 2011 11:17 AM
By mk (not verified)

I have a hard time believing this is real. But I'll answer anyway. Changing the spelling won't change the association, since the pronunciation is the same.

And no, do not name a child Chlorine. I can actually see a case being made for Adrenaline, but still I say no (use it as a middle name if you must have it). You aren't the one that has to live with the name, your child is. Remember that.

April 26, 2011 11:55 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I always thought Cloris (as in Leachman) was bad enough, but please no Chlorine...that's horrible!

April 26, 2011 11:59 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This made me laugh out loud. I had a friend who claimed to want to name his first daughter, "Valvolina," a play on the oil, or whatever it is. I always like thinking of ridiculous names, but Chlorine was not one I'd considered.

April 26, 2011 12:01 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

Wouldn't touch that one with a 10-foot pole, but then I still can't believe that people would consider 'Rena' an acceptable name for a baby girl because it sounds too much like 'renal'... I mean, basically once the syllables "re" and "na" come out of one's mouth, they are nearly always followed by "~l failure" or "~l function' or "~l system".

Swimming pool chemicals and common words from anatomy and physiology textbooks just... don't make good names.

That said... you could probably get a detailed anatomy and physiology book and find the name of some obscure (or not so obscure) bump, hole or groove in a given bone and make a name of that... though they would probably make better dog names (Magnum and Xiphoid come to mind) than people names.

April 26, 2011 12:07 PM
By Jenna (not verified)

thats just stupid!

April 26, 2011 12:09 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If this question isn't a joke, the asker obviously isn't a science person. These children will have no end of torment in Chemistry and Biology class.

April 26, 2011 12:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know someone who is preparing to name her son Fender (guitar, not car part). I believe her family is opposed, given that it sounds more like a random noun than a child. This trend of using words as names only works for certain words, and chlorine, adrenaline, and fender are poor choices.

April 26, 2011 12:35 PM
By Missy (not verified)

The meaning if the word certainly is more important than how it sounds...

Maybe 200 years from now Kloreene will be a baby name that means clean and white like Hygieia is a goddess name that is the root of the word hygiene. Words and names influence each other over time.

Right now I don't think the world is ready for a baby Chlorine.

April 26, 2011 12:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Please, please, don't do this to a child. That's as bad as "Female" (femolly) which has been used--it's not an urban legend.

I had a student insist that he wanted to name a little girl "Misery." I hope he didn't. Diahrea sounds pretty, too, but hopefully nobody would do that.

One of my first students, a Vietnamese girl, was named Bich.

Pronounced Bick, thankfully.

April 26, 2011 12:54 PM
By With an E (not verified)

Chlorene is a person I know--she's probably 85. Eulene, Raylene, --all those -ene names smell of ignorance and shacks in the mountains.

April 26, 2011 12:57 PM
By Debbie (not verified)

@Pamela S.

Rena or Rinna (pronounced the same way) is actually a fairly common foreign name. I don't think it's fair to attach judgment on a name based on an English word when the name isn't English to start with (same goes for the Bich example). We might snicker, but that doesn't mean the parents were unintelligent or uninformed for choosing it when it means something important to them in their country, language, or family. On the other hand, English words like Chlorine and Adrenaline, chosen in an English-speaking country are fair game. I'm not jumping on that train anytime soon... although I love the name Juniper for a girl and will probably use it for my little one on the way, if s/he is a she.

April 26, 2011 1:10 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

Normally I'm pretty tolerant of name choices, but Chlorine is unacceptable. I think the name lady is right; this must be a joke.

April 26, 2011 1:21 PM
By Deirdre (not verified)

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not name your daughter any variation of Chlorine. What if she swims or lifeguards. That would just be about the worst thing ever. Also, Chlorine can have a negative connotation because there's plenty of people who are allergic to it and who hate the smell of it. It is not a name at all. It is an English word with a meaning that is a chemical. Would you name a daughter Plutonium, or Carbon or Radon? I hope note. So please, don't name anyone Chlorine. Alternatives include Corinne, Clarissa, Careen, Maureen, Christine etc.

As for Adrenaline, I can see how it sounds like a name, but there's definitely better more name-like choices out there. Adrienne, and Evelyn for starters. Just don't do this to your child. Give them a name that is in fact a NAME.

April 26, 2011 1:22 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Chlorine no... Adrenaline, on the right girl, I think could be cool. She'd definitely have to have a strong skydiving, skateboarding, surfing, mountain climbing kinda side to her, though. ;-) Hard to know when you're naming your kid what her personality will be like. That said, not sure if I've mentioned it on here before, but I met someone named Edge and while she wasn't WAY over the top, I think she grew to be somewhat like her name. But I'm also guessing that parents that name a child Edge are going to rear her in a less than boring environment. So maybe Adrenaline is a fine choice for a daughter of adventurous parents. And I do see lots of nick name potential, too. I would hate to learn to spell that name in preschool, though. Guess that's where nicknames come in handy. Yup, that one could grow on me.

April 26, 2011 1:45 PM
By moll (not verified)

I have an aunt I've written about here before who always thought that two surnames in our family - Arrigan and Ferrell - would make great baby girl names.
She didn't get that everyone would hear "arrogant" and "feral", and even after I explained that they were near homophones, she didn't think it was a big deal. The meaning matters - I guess in theory a name that sounds like Adrenaline or... I don't know, Flower or something isn't the worst thing, but a name that sounds like a negative adjective is bad news.


April 26, 2011 1:54 PM
By Laka (not verified)

When I was in middle school my best friend's sister's name was Allegra and my best friend's name was Valilia, and their other sister was Katy. I thought, "Is Allegra a name? Is Valilia a name?" I always thought it was funny because they're names don't go together at all. Katy Jane, Allegra Molisie, and Valilia Nosi.

On the other hand, don't name ANYONE Chlorine OR Adrenaline. They're terrible names and the owners of the names with most likey be...well, teased.

April 26, 2011 2:06 PM
By Kate (not verified)

Hey, there's not low-class connotation to real "ene" "een" names, as suggested by one responder...I hope!

April 26, 2011 2:11 PM
By Lysis (not verified)

I could definitely see Adrenaline catching on. Its similar enough to real names (Adeline, e.g.) to feel name-y and the heart-pumping meaning would make it attractive to adventurous parents. Misspelling would take away the edge and make it impotent.

April 26, 2011 2:13 PM
By Evie (not verified)

One of my friends named her cat Chlorine, nicknamed Chloe. She was a swimmer and chose it in homage to her sport. I would probably recommend the same thing to this poster—get them out of your system by using them on your pets.

April 26, 2011 2:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Unlike Chlorine though, Rena is a name in its own right, and an old one at that. It was once fairly popular in the US. When I hear it, I think of "queen". Never "renal", and I work in the health field.

Choosing a word you know has negative associations in your language as a name is quite different than choosing a name that just happens to have similar letters to another word.

April 26, 2011 2:51 PM
By Vicky (not verified)

I'm not so sure this is a joke. I have a friend whose kids are named Ultraviolet, Millivolt & Combustion. They are known as Violet, Millie & Buster, but their given names are a source of amusement for her friends & acquaintances. We considered Soleil for one of our girls, but my husband did have the complaint that it was "a French word, not a name". Like a lot of people, I'm not at all opposed to words as names, but not if the meaning is negative or just plain weird.

April 26, 2011 4:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Vicky - what about Soleil Moon Frye, aka Punky Brewster?

These suggestions make me think of the story of a midwife talking a new mother out of calling her baby Meconium because she'd heard the midwives mention it and thought it sounded like a good name :P

I do have to agree that Adrenaline has potential for the right family. Chlorine sounds like it could be one of those new Monster High dolls. Which I suppose could work but I wouldn't use it on a baby or child. I know of a girl that changed her name to Lucrecia in high school, it always made me think of "la créature". I could see Chlorine working that way too.

April 26, 2011 8:41 PM
By Dee (not verified)

Vicky- I work as a guest teacher and one of my students, a very sweet girl, is named Soliel, so the word is used as a name other than for Hollywood types.
In my line of work I come across some unusual names, such as Friendly (male), Secret (female) and Unique or Uneek (both female). While it seems some words become names, I don't think Chlorine, no matter how you spell it, would make a good name. Unless, of course you give her the nn Chloe.

April 26, 2011 9:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I suppose if you are really into the Punk or Goth lifestyle Chlorine and Adrenaline might be cool names for kids, and in that case, I would not "cutesy" up the spelling. In the mainstream though,I do not think they work as names. My first thought was that they sound like names for aquarium fish where one is named for being an algae eater and the other is named because of it's speed in the tank.

April 26, 2011 9:58 PM
By Mir (not verified)

@Pamela: I know someone very well named Rena. Neither she nor I have ever heard the renal association.

April 26, 2011 10:34 PM
By hillary (not verified)

@Moll, Ferrell is a legitimate (albeit male) name. My grandfather was named Ferrell, actually (but not-so-ostensibly went by Jack).

April 28, 2011 5:28 AM
By Julie (not verified)

When I was young (mid 1980's), my parents were friends with a couple who had a teenage daughter named Valvoline.
The mother swore that she had "invented" the name, and was furious with the oil company for "stealing" her daughter's name, making her/her daughter a laughingstock.
I had forgotten about them until reading this post, so I just googled Valvoline to see when the company was named. It was 1868!!
And more on-topic, Adrenaline and Chlorine would be great names for dogs, but certainly not babies!

April 28, 2011 10:24 AM
By nedibes (not verified)

Does anyone else remember a stand-up routine, I think by Paul Rodriguez, about how the word "genitalia" is such a beautiful word, and would make a great girl's name? He ends by introducing his "family": "This is my daughter Genitalia, my son Scrotum, and our dog, Nuts [maybe Peanut?]."

Also I know I've heard of a bacteriologist who named his kids after bacteria--the only one I remember for sure was Escherichia, which is the E in E. Coli. I kind of think that example is acceptable, since there was a strong personal tie to the names and they were obscure enough that your average middle-schooler wouldn't know what to tease about. Also I think Escherichia sounds cooler than Chlorine, lol.

April 28, 2011 9:03 PM
By GilaB (not verified)

Escherichia was the son's middle name, which is a much better use of it than as a first name. See the 'Trivia' section here:

April 29, 2011 11:14 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I wouldn't use them as such but I do see your point, there is a kind of "beauty" in some words. It's like Celestia in the word "celestial" or something. I absolutely love Celestia as a name. I agree though that if the meaning of the word is kind of a bad or awkward one, you shouldn't use it, or abstract it enough (Adrenalyn is not Sounds like an acton hero (or villain) though... ADRENA-LYNN SAVING THE WORLD AGAIN! (Fighting the evil Dr. Chlorine)

April 29, 2011 8:08 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

On the other hand, there are so many beautiful names that are ruined because htey became words for something else, like Allegra and Mercedes.

April 30, 2011 11:42 AM
By Genie Apple (not verified)

Oooh I love the word-name game! Not so sure about Chlorine, but Adrenaline (Not Adrenalyn!) could work well, though some teasing is, I think, inevitable.
I was recently bedridden because of illness for some time, and found myself going through the dictionary listing words that I thought would make good names to cure my boredom! Some were already used as names (Amber, Aura, Ash, Archer, Blue etc), but I also found a few more abstract possibilities:
Boy: Abacus, Aero, Anchor, Arctic (or it's root, Arktos), Astron, Atlas, Banjo, Canyon, Cello, Citrus, Cobalt, Cosmos...etc
Girl: Arena, Ballet, Bookie, Calyx, Camomile, Chapter, Contra...etc
Celestia is pretty beautiful. That 'Genitalia' story made me think of a few real people I know, including Jenna Tayler and Jenet Hill..

May 2, 2011 6:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Chlorine and Sarin would make a great sib set, don't you think? LOL

May 3, 2011 5:42 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Irish -een is fine--it's boy's names with ene added that are awful--little girls usually being named after their fathers. Raylene, Carlene, Joelene, etc.

May 6, 2011 9:16 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If you use Adrenaline please for the love of all spell it the proper way. It's one thing to have a weird name and another to have to spell it out every time.

Skip Chlorine (and any possible misspellings) altogether.

May 6, 2011 1:08 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Gonorrhea and Syphillis sound pretty, too. But I wouldn't name my daughters that.

Studies show kids given wierd names don't like it. Most kids just want to fit in.

When they grow up and start a punk rock band, then they can change their names to "B.L.Zeebub" or "Phil S. Stein."

May 6, 2011 3:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Do you all remember the episode on Seinfeld where George decided if he ever had a child he was going to name him/her "Seven?" I guess it's better than Chlorine!

May 9, 2011 2:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is the funniest thing I have read in a long time. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES NAME YOUR CHILD CHLORINE!!!! That is ridiculous and I think deep down you know it. Adrenaline has more possibilities, but please don't do it. Pick a name that means exciting/excitement/dare devil or something, but sounds like a name. I love the Ghonnorhea/Syphillis comment, though. Too funny. I sure hope it was a joke, because I automatically made fun of those names. If you like swimming, name your child after a body of water- Lake Chad, Erie or even a word like Bay, would be better than Chlorine. Chlorine quickly becomes Choroform and such in my head. Too close to Clorox as well, come to think of it, Chlorine isn't too big a jump to Bleach, and who wants to name their kid Bleach? Chloe resembles Chlorine, but sounds like a real name- go with that if you like the sound. If you really like Adrenaline it can be worked with, but maybe include Lynn as the middle name and go with Adrienne as a first name, then you can say it in your head, but most people will see normal names.

May 23, 2011 5:39 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

haha got to admit - my great aunt's name was Chlorine. I think they didn't know the meaning, but just liked the sound.

June 7, 2011 4:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Is Audra Lynn LastName an option? I think this is pretty close to adrenaline, and you can call her by both the first and middle name or go with Audralynn Middlename Lastname.
As for Chlorine, is Klarina (pronounced like corinne with an cl, and an a at the end) a viable option? Its a different vowel and there are plenty of ways you could spell it. With the vowel change and adding the a to the end, you get far enough away from Chlorine that it is not longer a problem, because no matter how you slice it, Chlorine is not a name that you can name a child. It's about as bad as the girl named facebook, but at least there, the dad had a reason for doing it.

June 27, 2011 11:39 AM
By Mel (not verified)

I like Adrenaline as a girls name! It sounds like a name to me in the same way Grace and Faith sound like names.

Also, don't bash -ene ending names! There are lots of good names ending in -ene.

June 28, 2011 10:25 AM
By Jesy (not verified)

Unfortunately my good friend's daughter named her (now 9 month old) daughter Chlorine. Didn't even change the spelling. They are calling her Chloe for short. No jokes, nothing fake about this. I wish people could have talked her out of it. I feel so badly for her daughter. She's a beautiful little thing strapped with a horrendous and horrible name.

July 2, 2011 3:43 PM
By Juli (not verified)

Gack, people actually saddle children with such abominations? I thought a friend's mother-in-law had it bad enough: she's Annesia. It looks exactly like Amnesia, except someone forgot one "hill" off the 'm'.

July 6, 2011 11:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The culinary writer M.F.K. Fisher told a story about a Spaniard she met who insisted Iodine would make a beautiful name for a daughter, "correctly" pronounced as yo-DEEN. In that sense I see what you're saying- Chloe and Adrena are real names, -rine and -line are common name suffixes, spoken without prejudice the combinations DO sound plausible. I wouldn't do it, though; a few hundred years ago when neither word was in common use they would have worked and were probably used, but now you face the Latrine(a) problem.

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