Words as names

Words have a long history of being used as personal names, though some of them are more versatile and timeless than others. It all depends upon the name, your style, and the child’s ultimate personality.

Flower and gemstone names seem to be among the most established, with popular choices including Violet, Rose, Lily, Saffron, Juniper, Pearl, Opal, Coral, Ruby, Amber, and Emerald. Others aren’t so common, and may take some getting used to on a person, such as Sapphire, Onyx, Orchid, and Hydrangea. Another option is to use the name of a flower or gemstone in another language; for example, my spider plant’s name is Kalanit, which is Hebrew for “anemone.” The name Anemone might sound odd in English, but it’s an established name in modern Hebrew.

Month names are either long-established as personal names, or sound odd and outlandish. Obviously, the most popular month names are April, May, and June, with some people who still use various forms of August (e.g., Augusta, Augustine, Augustina, Augustus). September is also sometimes used, and I’ve also seen January, but the other months don’t seem to get much traction.

When it comes to days of the week, Tuesday seems to be the most normal name. Other people have made this observation as well, though I’ve never figured out just why that particular day of the week seems to work best as a person’s name. Mind you, if I were using this name, I’d use it in the middle slot, not as a forename.

Nature names are various and sundry, and seem to have more possibilities for boys. Many other word names tend to be used more for girls. There are familiar nature names including Cliff, River, Acadia, Forrest, Sequoia, Clover, Ginger, Olive, and Rain. And again, you can always use a name from another language if the English form seems too weird. For example, I rather like the French Océane, but find the English Ocean to be bizarre as a name. But some nature names are too weird even for me, like Rainbow, Sunshine, Branch, Lake, Tide, Prairie, Meadow, and Birch. I personally think River is a weird name too, but at least it’s somewhat established as a name.

As for season names, Autumn and Winter seem the most normal. Uncharacteristically, I don’t even mind the alternate spelling Wynter. I never cared for Summer as a name, and Spring seems the most un-namelike of the four.

Pilgrim-era Virtue names have long been my delicious guilty pleasure, though in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t use them on actual children. I just love those archaic Virtue names like Honesty, Courage, Fearful, Thanksgiving, Thankful, Fear, Remember, Increase, Amnesty, Blessing, Radiance, Reliance, Hopeful, Amity, Charisma, Wrestling, Peace, and Obedience. Maybe it’s just the old-fashionedness that appeals to me, the fact that they’re all pretty much unisex, what each word represents, how they’re so un-namelike and out of the ordinary.

Even I think food names are weird, though since one of my long-shelved 19th century characters is named Apricot, I’ve always made an exception for that particular food name. My lifelong pronunciation of Apricot is AP-er-cot, not AYP-er-cot.

Random words as names make it seem like you just grabbed the dictionary and didn’t bother to think of actual names. Even worse, a certain venerable baby names book, in print for almost 30 years and with several updated editions, has even suggested names like Afternoon or naming your child after pieces of furniture. If you love music, for example, why not pick a name like Allegra or Cadence instead of Flute or Song?

And if you’re proud of your religious faith or love a particular holiday, there’s no need to pick a non-name like Halloween, Christmas, Cathedral, Prayer, or Sabbath. However, I’ll make an exception for Easter, since not only is that one of the two names I’ve loved longest, but it’s also pretty established as a personal name. I’ll also give a pass to Valentine. There are so many great names to choose from which still reflect your love of that religion or holiday, like Noel(le), Holly, Faith, Raven, and Liberty, as well as names of people associated with these holidays and faiths.

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4 comments on “Words as names

  1. Sara says:

    We were a foster family to a girl named Sunshine back in the late 80s. She had flaming red hair and a bubbly personality, the name was perfect for her.

    As for Christmas — I’d hardly call that a non-name when you can find people named that all the way back into the Middle Ages, when it was common to name a child after an important holiday if they were born/baptised near it. Where do you think all the Tiffany‘s came from?

    • Carrie-Anne says:

      Just because Christmas was used as a personal name centuries ago doesn’t mean it sounds like a realistic name in the modern era. It’s the same reason all those archaic Virtue name I love sound odd now, when they were once considered perfectly normal and commonplace.

      Tiffany, derived from Theophania, at least sounds like a name and has been used so regularly across history (even if the modern form of the name wasn’t so common until about the 1980s), it doesn’t stand out as odd.

  2. Chrys Fey says:

    I loved this! I like to give my characters all sorts of different names…one of my characters in a WIP is named Ring. 🙂

  3. Tarkabarka says:

    Hi! I am so happy you decided to participate in A to Z again! I really enjoyed your blog last year 🙂 Can’t wait for the theme reveal!

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