Inaccurate Origins

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.


There is an ongoing thread you can post on to have the information updated. Many of these descriptions are from when the authors of the original book first wrote it and they are working to update the info on the site as it’s found and provided.

See this thread to enter what you want to see corrected. They do work through the posts in order, if I’m not mistaken, so it might not happen overnight.

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I really like this idea! I’d also like it if there was a way to show how a name with multiple origins is pronounced in each country, because right now that isn’t possible.

It does seem to be a technical problem as well. Sometimes the origin is different when you see the page on google search from when you actually click on the page. Usually the version on Google is correct, but when you go on the website it’s suddenly showing the wrong origin. I was told a few months ago that at the time this couldn’t be fixed, but that they were planning to work on it, so I’d love to hear if anything’s been achieved!

Again, much love to the nameberry team and especially all the volunteer mods and admins working hard on improving the website :yellow_heart:


@shells15 thank you! I am familiar with the thread. However, I don’t believe it’s a mistake. Instead, it seems to be a different definition of the word ‘origin’ that is used on Nameberry. I find this definition slightly problematic and confusing, as it leads to names like [name_m]Boden[/name_m] and [name_m]Bauer[/name_m] being labeled as [name_m]German[/name_m], even though they would not be legal first names in [name_u]Germany[/name_u] and have never been used as such, as it’s even mentioned in both entries.

I love the idea of showing different pronounciations!

Absolutely! I just reread my post and I think it might have been a bit harsh. I just want to say that I do appreciate all the hard work that’s put into Nameberry!


Thank you for bringing this up, @Luellia

You are right- our definition of origin is purely the language of origin and does not take into account usage. Therefore the origin of a name like [name_m]Bauer[/name_m] is listed as [name_m]German[/name_m] in origin, because that is the language the name comes from and where the name originated. As you mentioned, we do our best to note in the names description that it is typically a surname in that place.

As far as usage in a particular country, if that country releases public name data you can see on the name pages how they rank. For example, on the page for [name_u]Leo[/name_u] you can see that it is #13 in [name_u]Germany[/name_u], #8 in Switzerland, #14 in [name_u]Sweden[/name_u], etc. If a name listed as [name_m]German[/name_m] or [name_u]French[/name_u] in origin does not list a ranking for that country, you can quickly rule out whether it is in common use there.

There are many many names that originate from a language but are not used in areas that speak that language. The large majority of parents using the name [name_u]Bodhi[/name_u] are white Americans who have no ties to Sanskrit or Buddhism, but it still is accurate to list the origin as Sanskrit. I’m not sure if there would be a more accurate solution to this- other than making a note in the description which we try our best to do- but if you had something in mind let me know!

There are absolutely mistakes sprinkled throughout our huge database and that is why it is so very helpful that all of you bring them to our attention to be fixed in the thread @shells15 highlighted.

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This is a really neat idea! So many names don’t currently list pronunciation and I try to add them in where I can! I’ll bring this up.

I will follow up on this too!


Thanks for your reply!

Maybe I’m nitpicky here, but that’s what my issue is. It hasn’t originated as a name in German. It has originated as a word or surname in German, but not as a first name.

Germany doesn’t, which I think is part of the issue for someone not familiar with German name culture. This makes it even harder to estimate if a name is used there or not.

I think the most accurate way would be to split it up into etymological origin and origin of usage as a first name. Maybe, if that isn’t possible, I would list it as an American name of German origin or German-American, or something like this, to highlight that it’s not a German name.

My issue is that I have seen these false German names being suggested as German names. So I think there is some confusion about the idea that the origin doesn’t equal the usage of a name on Nameberry.


thank you so much!! i know there’s the “database entries you’d like to see amended” thread, but if there’s any other way that us users could help you sort out the little database tidbits such as names with missing pronunciations, i’m sure a lot of us would be more than happy to do so! :yellow_heart:

also, just popping in to say that i do really like the previous poster’s idea in regards to separating etymological origin and usage! i’ve had similar thoughts about names listed as “greek” that would never be used in greece, especially because i’ve seen a lot of greek american/greek canadian posters consider using those names without knowing that, for example, their greek grandma would struggle terribly with pronouncing lysander :sweat_smile: but i completely understand that it’s a very complicated thing to sort out, i’m just throwing some thoughts out there!


Unfortunately I don’t think it is possible to split those.

[name_u]Germany[/name_u] does release data!

I completely see what you are saying, but our definition of origin is the language from which the name originated- whether it is used as a first name, surname, or it is just a word in that language. I think that is where there is confusion- [name_m]German[/name_m] in this sense means the language, not the ethnicity.

The origin of the “name” [name_u]Luxury[/name_u] is [name_f]English[/name_f], despite it not having originated as a name in [name_u]England[/name_u] (or anywhere).

[name_f]Hope[/name_f] this makes sense!

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There is some private research done by [name_m]Knud[/name_m] Bielefeld and I think also someone else but there’s no official name data released, I have no idea where you have your data from tbh

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I’ll look into where we get ours from! I didn’t know that, thanks for explaining.

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Not much to add to this discussion, but I also think this would be a super helpful addition! Maybe if it’s not an option to have distinct areas on listings for etymology and usage respectively, they could be added directly to the descriptions. Perhaps they could be formatted differently (bolded or italicized, etc) so that they’re separate from the rest of the name description?

Unfortunately that probably means those aspects wouldn’t be searchable through the advanced search feature, but would still be beneficial I think!

Also want to second this! [name_u]Happy[/name_u] to know this will be suggested, because I think it would be a fantastic addition! The few pronunciations that are present on listings are very helpful to myself and I think a focus on that would be great!

Of course the site where the database is hosted has it’s own limitations that makes some things like this difficult to navigate. So thank you @Luellia for bringing this particular topic up and @Kipperbo1 and the rest of the team for being so open to suggestions and improving the database where y’all can!


I mentioned Germany as an example because that’s where I currently live, but my point is about the German language in general. I don’t think it’s comparable to Luxury. I’d understand if the words make sense as names, but the problem is that they don’t work well as names. Naming your children Boden, Bauer and Keller is like naming them floor, idiot and basement. These names only make sense if you don’t speak German or have any knowledge of German culture or language.

I think we might just have different definitions of the word “origin,” so I won’t argue any further. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I genuinely appreciate the effort and dedication you put into Nameberry.


makes a lot of sense! i wonder if adding a seperate “usage/used in” section may be useful, then? i know you mentioned that you can use the popularity lists to figure that out, but it’s not the ideal method, since some countries don’t publish name data, others only publish their most popular 50/100 names, and there are also cases where a name is common in a country but amongst older generations so it wouldn’t be found in recent popularity lists. i know it’d be quite a lot of work to do an overhaul like that, but i’m just mentioning it in case it could be something you’d like to consider for the future! thanks again for hearing us all out :yellow_heart:


This would be really cool! I will bring it up, but I suspect that the main issue will be how to actually determine whether a name is used in a certain country unless they do publish some kind of name data. That is typically the only evidence we have access to other than anecdotal/subjective experiences- any ideas?

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ah, good point! hm, maybe by searching for people with that name? that’s what i usually do to double check a name’s origin if i’m not fully confident about where it’s used! if you look it up - on something like google, social media or perhaps some genealogy website? i’m not too sure - and see multiple figures from the same country popping up, it’s probably pretty safe to say that it’s used there! i’m not 100% sure on how reliable that would be (if a name is quite rare it might be hard to find namesakes) but it’s the only thing that comes to mind at the moment :thinking:

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I totally see your point. I think we can make more of an effort to be clear in the descriptions that the name is not used in [name_u]Germany[/name_u] (or whatever country) and is part of a larger American naming trend, although I don’t think that putting the origin as German-American or anything of that sort would be accurate since they aren’t distinctly American.

[name_m]Boden[/name_m] for example is certainly given to the most babies in the US by far, but another 57 baby boys in [name_f]Canada[/name_f], 41 in England/Wales (ranking at #790 there versus not close to charting in US), and a handful in [name_u]Ireland[/name_u] and [name_u]Scotland[/name_u] were named [name_m]Boden[/name_m] last year. Others like [name_m]Bauer[/name_m] are more unique to the US rather than the rest of the English-speaking world. I’ll bring this up with my colleagues and see what they think!


Sometimes, there’s literature available that may be helpful. For [name_u]Germany[/name_u], the author [name_m]Wilfried[/name_m] Seibicke published a five-volume book series in the 90s and 2000s where he attempted to document all the names used in [name_u]Germany[/name_u], although it may be slightly outdated by now. Apart from that, I agree with @tallemaja that social media could be a good resource.

And @Kipperbo1 thank you for listening to my concerns and taking them seriously!


From an [name_u]Irish[/name_u] POV, I have noticed this too. E.g. [name_f]Colleen[/name_f] is listed in the [name_u]Irish[/name_u] category, but that’s a name from the [name_u]Irish[/name_u] diaspora, it’s not a name that most people who were born and raised in [name_u]Ireland[/name_u] would use. Granted, it does say that in the description, but someone who is casually glancing through Nameberry’s [name_u]Irish[/name_u] names category probably isn’t going to notice that. Also, I have never met an [name_u]Irish[/name_u] person who has [name_u]Delaney[/name_u] or [name_u]Quinn[/name_u] or [name_m]Rafferty[/name_m] (or many other [name_u]Irish[/name_u] surnames) as a first name. I’m sure it happens occasionally, but it’s not common. It would be good if the database made more of a distinction between names that are used in [name_u]Ireland[/name_u] and diasporic Irish/Irish-inspired names that are rarely used by [name_u]Irish[/name_u] citizens.

I think listing names by origin rather than usage is part of the issue, because many casual readers are going to read the word “Irish” and assume it means that the name is used in [name_u]Ireland[/name_u]. Also, this categorisation doesn’t seem particularly consistent to me either. E.g. [name_m]Leonardo[/name_m], [name_m]Rodrigo[/name_m], [name_f]Imelda[/name_f] and [name_m]Francesco[/name_m] should all be listed as “Germanic” rather than Italian/Spanish if they’re categorised by origin instead of (common) usage because those names come from the ancient Germanic rather than Latin origins.

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One thing I’ve seen in a couple of entries is that the origin is listed as “___ from___”. I noticed this first with [name_f]Lilac[/name_f], which is listed as being “English, from Persian”. I could see a wider implementation of this format being a good way to express a name having roots in one language, while not being used in the associated culture within the current formatting system.

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