How to Find a Symbolic Baby Name

Three Parts:Picking Names that Symbolize PeopleUsing Linguistic SymbolismLooking at a Name from All Angles

Your child’s name is the first impression that most people will have of it. That makes it important to seriously consider your options. The way that a name sounds is important, but you should also consider what it means on a deeper level. What does the translation of the name mean? Is it connected to important historical figures? Does it have a religious significance? Is it associated with any impactful characters that will give it an additional layer of meaning?

Part 1
Picking Names that Symbolize People

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    Pick family names. Naming your child after your grandparents, uncles, and aunts is a way to make that person live on in the next generation. It ties your child’s name into the heritage of your family. Thus, this is a way to make your baby’s name symbolic both of a person who you admire and your family more generally.
    • Sometimes family names have become outdated and would sound off-putting in the modern world. One way to deal with this is to give your child a middle name that comes from within the family. This will keep the name alive, without forcing your child to identify with a name that might not fly on the playground.[1]
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    Pick names of famous figures. It is dangerous to name kids after modern celebrities, because so many people do this, your kid might arrive at school to find that they are one of many in the class with their name.[2] Instead, look back to older figures and characters that have a strong, timeless resonance.
    • Consider naming your child after famous historical figures. Popular names like Anthony and Cesar come from Roman history. Plenty of women have been named Elizabeth after England’s greatest Queen.[3]
    • You could name a daughter Rosa after Rosa Parks, George after George Washington, or Martin after Martin Luther King.
    • Alternatively, pick the names of a literary character in classic books and myths.[4]
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    Avoid the names of people whose lives haven’t turned out well. Though it might seem silly, certain names are received badly by people and shape the lives of those named in detrimental ways. Names are often associated with particular classes and social groups.[5] Thus, if you know several people with a name whose lives have gone downhill, be aware that it might have developed a negative connotation.
    • Although it is difficult to discern how much of this has to do with the name as compared to the families that would give a particular name, there is a strong correlation between names and success. An Eleanor is 100 times more likely to go to Oxford than a Jade.[6]
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    Look to religion. An incredible number of names have religious origins. Even minor religious characters have important symbolic resonance because they are generally part of a parable that conveys a deeper philosophical message. Picking a religious name can be a way to convey your beliefs, traditional culture, or the power of a story.
    • Some of the most popular Biblical names include: Jacob, Ethan, Noah, Michael, Daniel, Matthew, Elijah, James, Benjamin, Joshua, and David.[7]
    • When picking a name like this, consider going back and reading the story from which it is derived. Is the message something that you approve of? Do you agree with the person’s action and character? Would you like your child to follow that example?

Part 2
Using Linguistic Symbolism

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    Name your child after meaningful places and times. When will the baby be born? Was there a time that was particularly important to you as parents? You could pick the name of a month or season, like April or Summer. You could also pick the baby’s birthplace or a place that was important to your relationship. Names like Paris and Brooklyn are popular.[8]
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    Pick a name based on a character trait. Common English words can be adapted into baby names. Consider, for example, Hope, Patience, and Destiny. Though some of these names might be a little bit unusual, their symbolism will be much easier to recognize than names derived from distant Latin roots.
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    Consider initials. Some initials might have symbolic undertones. They could be shared with a family member or a famous individual. They could also, however, be a name of their own. Initials can be used much the same way that nicknames are used.
    • Some initials that are easy to adapt into nicknames include A. J., C. J., D. J., J. D., J. J., J. P., J. R., J. T., M. J., R. J., and T. J.[9]
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    Work backwards from the translation. There are now websites that allow you to search for names based on a meaning. Find a word that has symbolic importance to you and search for it. You'll be presented with a list of names that are, in some measure, based on this word.
    • The search functions can have trouble connecting phrases to words. So begin with a search for a single, meaningful word and review the options that appear.
    • For example, instead of searching for “light bearer” search for “light.” The second will give you more options, some of which might have meanings you like but never would have thought of on your own.
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    Use your foreign language skills. If you know any foreign languages, think about names in those languages, or English language names that are derived from those languages. Does the name have a meaning that resonates with you? If you don’t like the name, but like the meaning, think of other names that sound similar. They might have a shared root and similar meaning.

Part 3
Looking at a Name from All Angles

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    Research the meaning of names you like. Typically, it is best to start with names that sound good with your last name, and then see if you like the translation and deeper significance. Most people won’t research the deeper meaning of your kid’s name, but everyone will know how it sounds.
    • Write write write! Use a legal pad and pencil to start a list of names. After you have a good list of nice sounding names, start looking into what they mean online.
    • You should typically avoid first names, for example, that rhyme with your last name.[10]
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    Check how popular the name is. A name might sound original and new to you, but it is possible that it is on your mind because you’ve heard it lately, even if you don’t remember where. There are websites that allow you to find out how common a name is. You probably want to pick a name that won’t make your kid stand out too much, but also won’t make him one of five in the classroom.[11]
    • These websites also include information about change over time. This can be important. If a name was popular when you were young, but has been losing popularity since then, it might have acquired a negative connotation or make your child sound twenty years older than she is.
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    Be cautious about popular culture. The names of celebrities, celebrities' children, and characters in movies and television shows can quickly pick up steam. Even without realizing it, you could be influenced by the names that you hear in popular culture. Unfortunately, so will many other people and they are liable to give their children the same name.
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    Consider nicknames. Remember children will rarely be called by the full name all the time. You also might not have control over what nicknames kids at school will decide to use. Think about how the name might be abbreviated. Do you like the way these sound? Could they be unflattering?[12]
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    Remember your child won’t always be a baby. Some names sound cute for a baby, but when was the last time you saw a baby working at a legal firm? Does the name sound as good for a professional as it does for a child?[13]
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    Run names by friends and family. You never know how a name will be received until you float it to people who know or care. You won’t know, for example, that everyone will mispronounce the name until you give your friends and family a chance to show how much difficulty they will have with it. These people might also be helpful in pointing out unflattering nicknames and initials that you might have missed.[14]

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Categories: Babies and Infants