Once Upon a Baby Name – Considering a Name’s Story

Having trouble choosing between equally good names? Try flipping things inside-out and looking at each name from a storyteller’s perspective.

For instance, imagine your child as an adult, dining with a group of colleagues. The subject of names comes up. The people at the table take turns explaining where their first names came from. The stories include:

“I was named for my great-grandfather. I never knew him, though.”

“Mine was stylish around the time I was born.”

“My name came from my mom’s then-favorite song. I still hear it on the radio sometimes.”

“Believe it or not, I was named after perfume. They don’t make it anymore, but I found a bottle on eBay a few years ago.”

“My parents liked the sound of it, I guess. I’m not sure where they got it.”

“Mine came from a baby name book.”

“It’s a family name.”

“My mother’s favorite poet gave his first son this name, so my mother did the same.”

“It may sound exotic here, but mine’s a traditional name where I’m from. It has religious significance.”

“My parents made it up.”

“From a soap opera character.”

“It came from the name of a restaurant my parents used to go to when they were dating. It was the name of the original owner.”

“I was named after my dad’s best friend.”

Now it’s your child’s turn. What kind of tale will your child tell about his or her name? Will the story be simple, or complex? Will it be traditional, or will it stand out? Will it be fun, or serious? What kind of values will it communicate?

7 thoughts on “Once Upon a Baby Name – Considering a Name’s Story

  1. Great post! I never thought of it this way– my own personal horror would be ‘from a soap opera character’…
    My kids’ story would be simple, and logical (I hope!)– We’ve chosen traditional Irish names for first names (which fall in the ‘it may sound exotic here, but’ category), to go with our heritage and super-Irish last name. Middle names are simpler family names, and the first and middle initials are ones that go together well if they ever have trouble or want something easier to go by…
    Values? I hope they grow to be as proud of our family’s history and heritage as my husband and I are. I hope we are able to teach them to be independent and self-confident enough to use their given names and withstand all the mispronuciations without shame or distress.

  2. Exactly! I find that nearly any name – from Ava to Zipporah, James to Hezekiah, Orion to Madison – is more appealing when there’s a story.

  3. Abby, I feel the same way.

    A few weeks ago, Nancy of Fritinancy told me about Montana Tessa, newborn daughter of SF mayor Gavin Newsom. I didn’t love the name when I first heard it, but my view softened when I learned that Montana was where Newsom and his wife were married, and Tessa was the name of Newsom’s late mother.

  4. I’ve known a few people named after the place where they were conceived… My family has either “just because” names or we’re named after relatives. Nothing terribly exciting, either way.

  5. Mine: I was named for my great-aunt and also as an homage to Irish roots.

    My daughter Sophia Esme: I was named for a JD Salinger story and just because my parents liked the meaning of Sophia (wisdom)
    My daughter Maeve Beatrix: Beatrix Potter and the only girl’s name in the Irish baby name book both my parents liked.
    My son Edward Leo Cassidy: I was named for my father, three great-uncles, and a Grateful Dead song, in that order.

    That’s a great little exercise.

  6. My 7-year-old got his first name when I found it in “The book of Magical Names” and just loved it.

    His name is Torin Xander.

    I had wanted Xavier but my ex hated it so he talked me into Xander (from our fav TV show – Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    Now I am pregnant with my new SO and it’s such a trial coming up with names. I love Torin’s name but I am at a loss at how to come up with something equally as original.

    When Torin was 2 I encountered a series by a Canadian author I love and in this series I had never read — the female main character’s name is Torin :>

  7. My first born son will be named after his died uncle right down to the last name, I only thing that we are doing dif is adding my married name to it. Jacob Ray ____last name and then my new last name, I know it is a big name for a child but we love it. My mom got the name Jacob from the Bible and Ray is a middle name from my dads side of the family. Everyone has it all the guys and all the girls, I am Amber Rae. Even though I dont use Ray any more my Aunt will still call me Amber Rae!

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