Names that don't ethnically "match" your last name

See the results of this poll: Should first names match the nationality/ethnicity of your last name?

Respondents: 42 (This poll is closed)

  • Yes, they should be as close as possible: 3 (7%)
  • No, as long as the names reflect your heritage: 10 (24%)
  • No, it doesn’t matter one bit, as long as the names work together: 29 (69%)

Not at all! I actually think it is quite good if they don’t neccessarily match, especially if you are not living in the country which your surname originates from - it makes everything a bit more multi-cultural. I love the name [name]Paloma[/name], too :slight_smile:

We have an old Scottish surname, yet we named one of our sons [name]Raphael[/name], and we have never encountered any problems. I think, these days, when everyone is such a mix of ethnicities, no-one really expects first names and surnames to match in origin.

Nah. Doesn’t bother me. Especially because when a wife takes the husbands last name she could be taking on a last name that has nothing to do with her heritage or her first name which once went beautifully with her last name, may not when married.

I gave up a very Dutch last name for a [name]German[/name] last name. Our son has a full Polsih name, [name]Jacek[/name] [name]Pawel[/name], with a [name]German[/name] last name, though he goes by a nickname, [name]Jace[/name]. Our future children will have Dutch names with a [name]German[/name] last name…

THOUGH, I want to add, that I personally would go with names that have something to do with my heritage. I wouldn’t go ahead and give my children Spanish, Greek or Finnish names as I am not any of those nor is my husband. Though, I have no problem with people that do. I like for names to be an indicator of their heritage.

My married name is VERY Italian, all though I bet were not saying right. It starts with a “Ce” which we pronounce it as an “s” and I’m pretty sure it gets pronounced as “ch” in Italian.
I personally feel it’s quite fine to name your child a name from a total ethnic background than you’re from.

As stated above when a woman gets married for the most part anyway, she takes on the husbands last name. Of course this isn’t always true but that is something that can’t predicted.

Go with the names you love, don’t worry about the last name. I thought for a long time that I wanted to pick Scottish, or at least British Isles, first names to go with our Scottish last name (though it’s not strongly Scottish sounding, no [name]Mac[/name]-) and my own Irish heritage. In the end though, the names I really love aren’t Scottish or Irish, they’re all Latin derived names. [name]Don[/name]'t tie yourself into just one category of names because you feel like you have to match your last name.

I think this is all well and good as long as the names are more or less European which I think is no problem at all. ^^
My problem is the fact that I love [name]Sayid[/name] and [name]Mehmet[/name] but it would be seriously strange to be called [name]Sayid[/name] [name]Olsen[/name] or [name]Mehmet[/name] [name]Hansen[/name] I think ([name]Olsen[/name]/[name]Hansen[/name] are classic Norwegian last names). Especially on a blonde and blue-eyed little white boy…

Thanks all! I’m glad to hear that most people don’t find it all that important. I’d hate to give up the names that I love due to our last name. And we’re actually both half Italian (DH on his mother’s side though, so we don’t have an Italian surname).

Dearest, [name]Sayid[/name] is a character on Lost so perhaps it wouldn’t sound so out of place after all? I think it’s a very handsome name :slight_smile:

I have to agree that it never seems odd to see a mismatched first/last name. I have a Celtic first name and a [name]German[/name]/Dutch last name. Italian or Spanish with [name]German[/name] wouldn’t seem odd at all.

If you think about it, most familiar names used in English come from another language - Hebrew, Greek, French, Irish, Welsh, etc - and people feel free to use these regardless of their ethnic origin. Spanish, Italian and Russian didn’t use to be in the “widely accepted” category for Anglophones, but now they are.

I still think some origins seem odd, but that’s just because they’re rare. Borrowing names is nothing new.

There does seem to be a limit to people’s tolerance. White Anglophone Americans and Britons generally avoid using names from non-white ethnic origins, to put it bluntly. You don’t find, for example, many white Americans using Chinese names. Of course, Chinese-Americans use names of various European origins all the time, because that’s what the majority does.

I don’t think that first and last names have to match in ethnicity! I have an Irish O’… last name and the SO has a Russian last name. We’re not sure which we’ll pass on to kids but we like a lot of different first names from different ethnicities. Generally speaking though I like “British” names but have a soft spot for French names, although I have no French heritage at all! I guess now I could also use some Russian names but actually I don’t like very many.

Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t think it matters now at all because we live in such a globalized planet. Although sometimes I think really mismatched names sound very strange, but I get over it quickly!

Personally though I think I would use names that reflected my or my SO’s heritage (so Scottish, English and Irish on my part and Russian, Polish, French, Scottish on his side).

I agree with what everyone else is saying, first and last names definitely don’t have to match ethnically. I really like all of those names with your last name, actually.

Dr. [name]Oz[/name]’ first name is [name]Mehmet[/name]. [name]Mehmet[/name] [name]Oz[/name]… I think his name is so cool, and I’m not sure what ethnicity he is, but he looks white.

Hmm, here’s one except to the first and last names not matching that I don’t like: [name]Rashida[/name] [name]Jones[/name]. She just Does NOT look like a [name]Rashida[/name]. So I think maybe as long as the first name kinda goes with how your child will more than likely turn out looking, it’s fine! Does that make sense at all?

You guys have given me a lot to think about. Because I actually like a lot of [name]Indian[/name] names, and now I’m thinking I might be able to use some of those.

Something else that should have occurred to me: my Maiden name was my stepfather’s name, so it didn’t reflect my actual heritage at all, but I definitely consider it my name (I kept is as one of my MNs). So I guess your last name, even beyond your married name, doesn’t always reflect your heritage.

I had no idea her dad was [name]Quincy[/name] [name]Jones[/name] or that she was half black, she certainly doesn’t look it! That makes her name better for me now that I know that. And you’re right, you can’t know for sure what your kids are going to look like, but you do have some vague idea. I mean if one parent is white and one is black the child will either look white, black or a combination. If both parents are Japanese, the child will look Japanese, etc. It’s not like two white parents are going to have a child that looks [name]Indian[/name].

Anyway, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with names not ethnically matching at all. I [name]LOVE[/name] the Japanese name Ichigo (means strawberry), but I’d probably never use it since I have no ties to Japan. I also love the [name]Indian[/name] [name]Priya[/name], I’d maybe use that though, since it fits in with other popular names in [name]America[/name].

Funny, I know a little [name]Priya[/name] who is not [name]Indian[/name] (I didn’t actually know that name was [name]Indian[/name]).

My grandmother’s name was [name]Ina[/name], and I’ve considered using the Japanese Aina. Although I still think she might get teased since it rhymes with a certain part of the female anatomy :slight_smile:

Doesn’t bother me one bit. My last name is the English version of a Welsh surname…or maybe the Welsh version of an English name, haha, I forget. x) Whatever the case, it is fairly common here in the U.S., though I’ve never actually met another bearer who wasn’t family…
I like a lot of Scandinavian, Latin, all sorts of different first names, and I wouldn’t feel weird mixing it up a little. But then again, [name]America[/name]'s not known as the melting pot for nothing- some countries I bet the general consensus would be different, but English is a very flexible language and I really don’t think anyone familiar with the various naming traditions of English-speaking countries would be at all surprised at the variety.

I think it’s ok if you have a reason. And I know it’s subjective as to what “matches,” since names that sound “American/English” are from many different sources.

For example if you teach Russian literature and give your child a Russian name that makes sense. I do think it would be weird to name your child [name]Emilio[/name] (having no connection to Latin culture) solely because you like the way it sounds.

If you do name your kid something that someone wouldn’t expect, people are probably going to ask why. Personally I hate telling people the reason why my mother named me [name]Devon[/name] is that she saw it in a name book and liked it. There doesn’t seem to be much thought beyond, “it sounds pretty.”

I think it’s ok, but with also the idea that certain names just are or seem too ethnic in boring-town, USA. I wrote something about this a while ago, as I tend to like a lot of names that aren’t part of my own culture and I include “American” with that, you just don’t hear these names except on someone hardcore that particular ethnicity or a recent immigrant.


  • [name]German[/name] or Russian or Italian or Japanese (for example) last name picking from the handful of current Irish names that a lot of people are using even though there is no Irish heritage on either side. OK. People do this all the time.
  • [name]German[/name] or Russian or Italian or Japanese (for example) last name picking an Irish first name that is totally unfamiliar because the wife is taking her husband’s last name, but she is full Irish (for example) - I don’t know what the statute of limitations on calling oneself “full” anything if you don’t know anyone in [name]Ireland[/name] and it’s been several generations since anyone did; other than knowing you’re Irish, never do much of anything people in [name]Ireland[/name] do - nevertheless, it’s a credential. OK

If the name is difficult to pronounce and/or spell, is unfamiliar, and isn’t part of either partner’s heritage or lineage, it is kind of weird. I find it hard to believe it’s not just to be different, that you are sincerely in love with the name, but I could be wrong.

If the name is easy to pronounce and spell and, though unfamiliar to most outside of its language origin, fits in alongside the kinds of names people ordinarily give their children, I think it’s a judgment call. I like a few easy-going fit-in/stand-out Hebrew names that seem a little over the line, if someone can recognize them and think it’s weird that it has nothing to do with who I am, except I like the names.

These names in general, coincidentally, probably go well with a last name of another origin as well as their own. These names also have the best chance of translating into English, as well as possibly being accepted and no longer “too foreign” for general usage.

I am thinking a distinctly Italian name like [name]Fiammetta[/name] doesn’t go well with a last name, say, Eichenberger, no matter that the mother just came from her small hometown in [name]Italy[/name] and married Mr. Eichenberger. [name]Fiammetta[/name] [name]Berger[/name] is ok, or [name]Flora[/name] Eichenberger, although you can’t really (well, you can, really, but the rest of the Eichenbergers, including the husband, might have an issue with it) change up your last name just because you love [name]Fiammetta[/name]. It also helps that [name]Flora[/name] is not “only” Italian, but can situate itself vaguely in other European cultures as well as being heard of in the US.

Another example is, my name is Danish, and paired with a [name]German[/name] last name. I’m not Danish, but my name was very popular, as well as easy on the ears and eyes, so not a big deal. Would have been a little different if they named me Ragnhild instead. [name]Way[/name] too Danish.

[name]Hope[/name] that helps.

I think if you’re going to pick a name that is not familiar in the place where the baby is born or raised, and you have no family or ethnic reason to pick it, it’s kind of weird. I would choose names like [name]Joaquin[/name], [name]Julio[/name], [name]Karina[/name], [name]Luisa[/name] or [name]Malik[/name] if they didn’t sound so at-odds with being a white anglophone American. It would be different if I could say that my kid was born while I lived in country X or he’s named after a dear family friend or something, but otherwise it just seems like cultural poaching.

Many names have immediate cultural associations, and it can be awkward for the name-bearer to constantly not meet them. Also, a name that is unfamiliar and hard to pronounce will be a chore to explain thousands of times. I knew a 100% American girl with the beautiful french name Myl”ne, but only the French teacher knew it should be “me-[name]LEN[/name]” and not the ugly “MY-leen.” [name]Imagine[/name] if her parents hadn’t even known how to pronounce it correctly, when she met an actual French speaker for the first time, how she would feel about her authentic French name. It reminds me of when people get tattoos of Chinese characters and they don’t even know the meaning. It’s not authentically exotic, it’s a hollow imitation.