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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.

While Melina is less common in the UK than it is in the United States, it's still known as a name, and it's filled with the sounds and letters that make it a pleasing one. Other names with medical ties have thrived: Alexia, say (another word for dyslexia), and Allegra (an allergy medicine). So have names with possibly unsavory associations, like Harry (sounds an awful lot like "hairy"), Peter, or even Flora (a brand of margarine). I admit that none of those are as unpleasant as bloody stool, but they are also much more commonly used outside of medical settings than melena is.

One possibility, if you just can't get over the term, would be to give your daughter another name for her birth certificate, and then use Melina as a nickname. Names such as Emmeline, Magdalene, or Amelia all work. (In Britain, Amelia is similar in popularity to Sophia.)

Still, if you love the name and it fits any other requirements you have (e.g., works in all three countries you are associated with; doesn't compete with your surname or your first daughter's name), rejoice! You have a winner.


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January 4, 2016 10:19 AM
By Sabby (not verified)

Find a nurse or doctor and ask if he/she knows what melena is? If they have to look it up or rack their brain to come up with an answer you will know it's not a big deal. I think Milena is pretty and I wouldn't worry a bit.

January 4, 2016 10:40 AM
By Kelly (not verified)

Avoid Amelia too if you don't like names that are also medical terms - that one refers to a condition where limbs are missing IIRC.

January 4, 2016 2:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Ask a hundred people on the street what melena means. If more than say 10 know what it is, then don't use melina.

January 4, 2016 2:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Many people inside the medical profession won't know that term either. I think it's a fine name to use.

And yes, Amelia is also a medical term but again, the vast majority of people don't know it as anything other than a female name.

January 4, 2016 8:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Melina is fine to use. Most people won't have any clue about the medical term. Even for people who do know the term, I doubt it's used frequently enough for it to be a strong association.

January 4, 2016 9:48 PM
By Juli (not verified)

Melina comes from the Greek word for 'honey'. You truly can't find a sweeter derivation than that!

(A distinction to clarify thought: names have derivations and associations, not meanings.)

I would say that the medical term for bloody stools is even less well-known than the medical term for missing limbs, so if Amelia doesn't have problems, then neither will Melina. Besides, they're not even spelled the same way, and esoteric vocabulary is most often encountered only in writing.

(The Name Lady's American accent is showing, though: in England, Harry doesn't sound much like 'hairy' at all.) :-)

January 5, 2016 2:35 AM
By MumCee (not verified)

Sounds really nice - but sorry, no from me. I work in a hopital (in Australia) & staff have laughed about this name many times. New mothers are warned their newborn's first poo may contain blood & use the term melena. So while not in common useage, most parents have heard the term. I'd find a name that sounds similar instead. Seen Lina (pronounced Leena) & Meena which I think are pretty... Best of luck for your new little global citizen!

January 6, 2016 11:29 AM
By Mo (not verified)

I've had 4 children and never was that term used when I delivered. No child is going to know that term so the playground will be safe. Melina is a darling name. I had a roommate named Melina. I remember her telling me that her name could be interpreted as something funny but can't remember what it was. Maybe it was this, I forgot about it until now.
Unless you bring it up, I'll bet no one will even know or care.
In my family we have one of those people who knows everything and loves to show it by shocking everyone with awkward and useless info. The way to deal with those people is to say, "I know, isn't that funny?" That usually works to shut it down.

January 6, 2016 12:55 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Melina is a recognizable name (actress Melina Kanakaredes, for example). Most people can handle the concept of two words with different spellings/meanings but same sounds.

January 12, 2016 12:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There's always Malia, if you don't like the association. I do like the name you've chosen, but admit it would give me pause. I like trying to find a different name which could serve as the legal name, though I think it's a shame to have to go that route. There are other choices that are similar in sound and style, though, so perhaps one of those would be nice.

January 14, 2016 8:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm a medical transcriptionist and hear the term melena all the time and it's always pronounced MEL-uh-nuh. Not muh-LEE-na (is that how you pronounce Melina?). I think it's fine to use.

January 20, 2016 9:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Agree with the previous poster. I'm a physician, and while everyone in the medical field is likely quite familiar with the term melena, I have always pronounced it MEL-uh-nuh, and to me it really is a distinctly different name than Melina which I would also say Muh-Lee-nuh as per above.

February 9, 2016 12:10 AM
By Anonymous

Thank you so much for comments and feedback everyone! Very helpful. Only just seen comments. Baby due any day now and we're going with this name and possibly a middle one that suits. Thank you. :-)

February 5, 2017 9:27 PM
By Dee Dee (not verified)

My gorgeous mother's name is Melina -- she is born in Austria with Russian heritage. In that language the name Melina means raspberry. I am aware of the medical definition but there is an entirely different pronunciation and spelling.

Select and stay with Melina, it is a beautiful name to hear in vocalization, feels exquisite rolling off the tongue and easy to spell.

Be blessed with your new baby always.

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