Is Meaning Important?

[name_f]Do[/name_f] you think it’s important to consider meaning when naming a child? (not expecting, just curious) I’ve heard plenty of people say you shouldn’t give your child a name with a bad meaning, but do you think it really matters?

For example: the name [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u] means misshapen head, but I love [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u] for a completely different reason. I’ve been told that [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u] shouldn’t be used just for this reason. What do you think, not just of the name [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u], but of any names with negative meanings?

On the one hand, some people care about the origins of their name beyond its personal significance. (Ahem, Berries…) Yeah, I would probably have been disappointed if my name had a banal or negative meaning. There were also a couple of occasions at school that required us to research our names, and some of my classmates were lightly teased—though not maliciously—about their name meanings.

But… I imagine most people just care about the personal meaning of their name and why their parent(s) chose it, whether or not that has to do with its origin. If you have a personal reason for loving the name [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u], then that’s the meaning that ultimately matters. In fact, I see more people complaining that their parents chose a name more or less at random—a name with no meaning for them. That seems to rankle more than a thoughtfully chosen or beloved name with an unfortunate origin.

I don’t think meaning matters as all. I believe if you like it, it does not matter. Let me give you some examples: Aphrah means dust, [name_f]Cecilia[/name_f] means blind, [name_f]Cornelia[/name_f] means horn, [name_f]Ophelia[/name_f] means help, and [name_m]Damien[/name_m] means to subdue. All pretty bad meanings, but the names themselves are wonderful in their own ways. I, personally, have never known someone to have to search their name for any reason. If you like [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u], use it. It’s not like your child will have a misshapen head if you give that name to them. Avoiding names due to bad meanings is all superstitious. [name_f]Do[/name_f] what you want, who cares what others say?

I don’t think the literal meaning of a name matters very much in society generally. Unless it’s a word name, the meanings of most names in the English language are just not obvious. Most people aren’t going to know what the etymology of a name is, unless they actively look it up. Some very common names have not-so-great meanings - like [name_u]James[/name_u], which means “supplanter”, and [name_f]Mary[/name_f]/[name_f]Maria[/name_f], which is often stated to mean “bitter” - but there are still plenty of Jameses and Marias about.

I consider the history of a name to be part of its meaning. For example, with [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u] most people are probably going to think of US president [name_m]John[/name_m] F. [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u] before anything else.

Meaning is only important to me if it’s overtly bad, such as “son of [name_f]Maud[/name_f]” ([name_u]Madison[/name_u]) or “lame” ([name_f]Claudia[/name_f]), or if it’s completely meaningless (like [name_u]Jayden[/name_u], [name_u]Brayden[/name_u], [name_f]Kaylee[/name_f] and pretty much every other modern name).
Most of my favorite names have very positive meanings, but I care about the look and sound first and foremost.

I feel the same way.

If it’s in memory of a specific person or in honor of a specific person, it wouldn’t matter to me because the personal connection overrides the meaning of the actual name.

If it were a name that we just happened to like, then the meaning might be more important to me. While I really enjoy dabbling in names, I’m not as much into the etymology of names as I am into style and sound.

For me meaning matters a bit, but it isn’t as important as sound, look, feel, or flow. Nobody really knows the meanings of other’s names unless you’re a name nerd. While I wouldn’t personally use something with a negative meaning, I don’t think it matters in the long run.

I think a nice etymological meaning is a positive feature in a name, and one that I look for as a name nerd, but for most people, I think what they care about most is that their parents chose their name for a reason, rather than the etymological meaning. Who cares if [name_f]Cecilia[/name_f] means “blind” when you’re choosing to name your baby after your lovely Great Aunt [name_f]Cece[/name_f] who opened your eyes to the world by taking you on your first international trip?

I also feel strongly that the meaning the parents intend when they choose a name overrides the linguistic history of the name. Names are part of language, and language is organic and evolving. There are a lot of names that have been derived from multiple different origins all over the world, and none are more “correct” than the others (see: [name_f]Azami[/name_f], [name_m]Evander[/name_m], [name_m]Idris[/name_m], [name_m]Kamal[/name_m], [name_f]Nessa[/name_f], [name_f]Talia[/name_f], [name_f]Zahara[/name_f]). There’s nothing stopping parents from deriving a name from a specific origin/meaning even if that name already exists from a different origin. For example, my middle name, [name_u]Rae[/name_u], is typically seen as a derivation of [name_f]Rachel[/name_f], which means “ewe.” However, my grandmother chose it as an alternate spelling of the word “ray,” as in a ray of light. So to me, my middle name means “ray of light.”

Also, what constitutes a “bad” meaning? [name_m]Even[/name_m] in this thread, [name_u]Madison[/name_u] is given as an example as a name with a bad meaning because it means “[name_f]Maud[/name_f]'s son.” Is that bad? Or just not literally accurate? And do name meanings need to be literally accurate? If so, then only fair-haired children should be named [name_u]Finn[/name_u]. Only the children of royalty should be named [name_m]Brendan[/name_m]. And maybe no baby should be named [name_f]Sophia[/name_f] or [name_f]Bella[/name_f] - because who knows if they’ll grow up to be wise or beautiful?

I do think Berries and other name enthusiasts have a tendency to put [name_m]WAY[/name_m] too much emphasis on the origin and meaning of a name, and can have a tendency to be quite snobby about their opinions of “good” names and equate features that they personally don’t care for with qualities that actually make a name ill-advised or unusable. [name_f]Remember[/name_f] that these are the opinions of people who care and think about names a lot more than the average person. Take them with a grain of salt. And keep loving [name_u]Kennedy[/name_u]!

(Sorry about the rant, apparently I have a lot of opinions about this subject!)