What’s in a Name?


As we come into the 30th week of pregnancy, my husband and I have many lists going. A list on things to get done, a list of things to buy for the baby, a list of things to pack for the hospital, a list of things to enjoy before we’re parents, and a list of names for this yet unknown little human.



It is tricky business, this naming of a child, particularly for me. I love names and I love them even more when they have thoughtful meanings behind them. Ever since the day I found out that my name is Irish and means “pure” I have been fixated on the meaning and history of names. At the time I was quite the pure of heart youth and relished the fact that my name meant “pure”. I thought for sure that by my parents naming me Kathleen, I was predisposed to being “pure”. And who doesn’t love a good Irish influence to boot! )

I love hearing stories about names and why someone is named what they are. Some of them are intentional and others are simply just amazingly coincidental! Take for example the story of Silas.


In Latin, the meaning of Silas is “Of the forest” or “God of trees and forests”. Silas is also very similar sounding to the word “solace” which means “comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.” This is a very appropriate name for this little guy as he is the little brother of a Ryland who passed away after a year-long battle with a brain tumor. During and after his brother Ryland’s illness, his mom and family found a lot of solace in the forests surrounding their home. When Silas’ parents chose his name, they chose it for the forest meaning. Now, there is also a coincidental meaning in this story. The name Silas is also found in the Bible and means “the third”. The mom & dad did not know this when they chose this name for their 3rd child, even though to anyone that might see their family he appears to be the 2nd. Just another bit of wonder in the coincidental (perhaps cosmic even!) meaning of names. 🙂

A friend also recently told me about how she name her kiddos. She really wanted to name her one son after her father, but her father did not want that. So she chose other meaningful names for her son so that his initials would be the same initials as her father. 🙂

I love when old family names are used, particularly if the child is named after a specific grandparent or other family member. What an honor for that family member! And what a nice story for the child.


We do not know if we are having a boy or a girl, so we have a list of names going on each side. Whenever we think of a new name, we look up the meaning and decide if it is worthy of being on “The Name List”. Recently my husband heard a name that he loved and I thought it was pretty too! But when we looked up the meaning of the name, we decided that it was best to not name our potential daughter a name where the meaning was “bitter” or “Queen of Death”. That would just be asking for trouble. 🙂

What is the story of your name or your children’s names? Please share below as I would LOVE to hear them!  Be well and Smile Often, Kathleen


  1. Loved this! I love old fashioned and Biblical names. We chose Eleanora (Nora) and Margaret (Maggie) because we liked the meanings…Shining light and pearl. Margaret is also a family name.
    Their middle names are Ruth and Grace. Ruth is a family name…it was Robin’s moms given name and my grandmothers name. Grace…well we just liked grace and all that it has meant in our own lives 🙂

  2. Can’t wait to hear what you choose, Kaht!!! I too am a huge fan of meaningful names and I am sure I must have already told you the meanings behind Rivkah and Nehemiah… Rivkah being both of my great grandmother’s Hebrew names and Nehemiah, meaning, “the LORD comforts”. Both kid’s middle names are after family members as well (Jane and Timothy).

  3. Three kids, two stories:
    Hannah Ballantine- I wanted a different first name but still traditional and still linked to family. One morning, before we even knew we were having a girl, the name just popped into my head. I did a little research and found a “Hanna” on My husbands Norwegian family tree, about two generations back. On my side I found a “Hannah” about four generations removed on my mother’s side. The middle name is a family name from my mothers side again, to fulfill a long family tradition of historical family surnames as middle names (I have one). We never came up with a boys name even though my midwife kept telling me we were going to have a boy-she was sure of it. Leo and behold our unexpected girl arrived and I knew just what her name had to be.

    Tomas Gabriel and Nickerson Fairbank: Twins. Both boys. We had no more success at finding boys names this time as we had the first. When I went into labor 6 weeks early we had not a clue even though we had known there would be two boys for many months. Literally in delivery my husband and I worked these names out and managed to pay tribute to all four grandparents! Boy one- Tomas-my husbands middle name and maternal grandfather’s first name. Also a shortened version of his mother’s Norwegian surname “Tomassen”. Gabriel: My father’s middle name and his father’s first name. Boy two- Nickerson: My husbands paternal great-grandfather’s surname (also a state park on Cape Cod). Fairbank: my mother’s and sister’s middle name (and that of many cousins) and my maternal grandmother’s surname. That name in our family dates back to the original Fairbank(s) who emigrated to the colonies in who knows when and built the oldest frame house in the US-the Fairbanks house in Dedham MA, built in the mid 1600s.

    So lots of nods to tradition and family in our kids names, no look at meaning. My goal in naming my kids was to acknowledge the tradition and history of both of our families while giving them unique (but not strange) names.

    Good luck Kath!

    • Great stories Louise! It’s so funny that Nick’s name is Nickerson and that you mention the state park on the Cape. I do believe that Nickerson State Park was created by my friend Evy Nickerson’s grandfather, or something like that. 🙂

  4. Oh, fun. I’m a name addict! I love them so.

    Xander is Alexander. In part he is named for a friend of John’s who passed away when they were younger, and also in part for the character Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His middle name, Rowan, is a nod to Tolkien’s Rohan, but is also a tree.

    Luna is, obviously, a Harry Potter character, but we also liked the nature/celestial nod. We had also considered Cyprus, and for a boy: Orion. Her middle name is Everly, which is an homage to my grandmother Beverly.

  5. My son’s name is Zachariah Judah. I’ve always loved the movie, Ben Hur, with Charleton Heston. His name in the movie was Judah Ben Hur. I wanted either Judah or Canaan for a first name, but my husband thought he might get called Judas or Cain and didn’t like the connotation of either of them. He liked the name Zachariah, but we also liked Gabriel. When neither of us would budge, I told my hubby we should put the names in a hat and pick one. He said he couldn’t pick his child’s name out of a hat so I told him to pray over it if that made him feel better. He did, and the name that came out was his choice. we had Zachariah Eli, Gabriel Levi, and Canaan Adoniah in the hat. When his name came out, I jokingly said that I should have been the one to pray over it. When Zach was born, I told my husband that Eli seemed like such a small name next to Zachariah, so I talked him into Judah as a middle name.

    We had already had my daughter’s name picked out when we were pregnant with Zach. We didn’t know if we’d be having a boy or a girl until Zach was born. We put the girl’s name on the shelf and 13 1/2 months after Zach was born, our daughter was born. Elise is my grandmother’s name. My grandparents immigrated to the US from Germany in 1953. In Germany, Elise is pronounced as Ee-LEE-za. We wanted to keep the original spelling even though it throws people off and they call her Ee-LEES. She corrects them, though. We didn’t want to give up either the spelling or the pronunciation. Interestingly, we didn’t name her specifically after my grandmother. No one calls my grandmother by that name. Instead, they’ve called her Lottie (a nickname for her middle name, which is Charlotte, pronounced in German as Char-LUTT-ah) and when I mentioned the name to my hubby, he loved it. He didn’t even realize it was my grandmother’s first name. Her middle name is Shalom, which is Hebrew for “peace.” I liked this as a first name, but my hubby didn’t and was fine with it as a middle name. The night before she was born, I was sitting at the table in our kitchen, my foot in a cast, and my crutches off to the side. I had broken my ankle 3 weeks before- two spiral fractures from slipping and falling on the ice. I wanted to give her a second middle name (we knew we were having a girl), but I knew that my hubby wasn’t keen on the idea. He’s very traditional. I know how his mind works, though, and knew that I had to give him a few selections and one bogus one so he would feel like he had to pick one that wasn’t bogus. I gave him the choices of Sunshine, Sunflower, and Smiley Face. He chose Sunshine. Of course, I would have gone with Smiley Face if he chose it, though I knew he wouldn’t. So, she became Elise Shalom Sunshine.

    My middle name is Erin, which is Gaelic for “peace.” Both my daughter and I have middle names that mean “peace,” though they’re in different languages.

    People often ask us if we’re Jewish when they find out our kids’ names. No, we’re not. We just love the strong and beautiful sounds of the Hebrew language.


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