I wanted to address an issue that has caught my attention while browsing through Nameberry. I just want to say that I know it’s difficult to maintain such a large database, and this isn’t meant to criticize anyone.
Occasionally, the origin of names is listed as their etymology when they aren’t actually used as a first name in that language or culture. I’ve seen names listed as German and French (two cultures I have enough knowledge about to notice this, though the issue might actually be larger) when they aren’t even legal as first names in their claimed origin. There’s at least one name which is used as an insult in its claimed origin (and the entry even mentions this).
I’ve noticed this for a while but the reason I decided to start a discussion is that I’ve seen a post ask for name recommendations that work in German, and I’ve seen someone else recommend a name that Nameberry lists as German since its etymology is German but it has never been used as a first name in German and wouldn’t be legal as a first name in most German-speaking countries. So it seems as if this is confusing to people (this is not meant to call anyone out, by the way! I had something very similar happen with an Irish name where I haven’t known for a long time that it’s not used as a first name in Ireland).
I noticed this mostly with surnames turned first names (which is a very American thing) and sometimes words from another lanuage which get used as first names in the USA, but there are also some gender-neutral names which are only neutral in the USA but not in their claimed origin. I think this is, in some way, misrepresenting the cultures and this could also become an issue for people wanting to honor their ancestry, where it could become problematic when they discover that the name they’ve chosen isn’t used as a first name in that culture.
Maybe it could be an option to list both etymology and usage of a name instead of an origin? Or maybe the origin could list the culture which first coined the name as a first name? I’m very interested to hear what other berries ideas are.
Edited to add
I think I should probably provide some examples to illustrate what I mean. These names are mostly surnames or words that are not used, and often not even legally allowed, as first names in German-speaking Europe. However, they are listed as being of German origin in the Nameberry database. Considering this site is dedicated to first/middle names, I find this a bit confusing. As a German, I don’t actually view them as German first names, they are German words or surnames, but they are American first names to me.
Some of these names are mentioned in Nameberry lists like “German names,” even though they are not used as first names in Germany.
(German Names | Nameberry)
I think in French, it could be a bit different since it’s spoken in more places. I believe some of these names could be used as first names in Quebec French but they are not used in France as first names.
Robinette – this is one of the names where it’s use as unisex is American and not French.
There are probably more these examples are just to illustrate what I mean.