Friday, May 1, 2009

What's in a name?

Our names are inextricably linked to our identities. Books of baby names were some of the most well-thumbed books in the house when I was growing up (I'm the eldest of six). I've always been intrigued with the meaning and origins of names and have researched the names of the Twelves:
  • Brenda (Teutonic/Old Norse) - flaming sword, firebrand;
  • Deborah (Hebrew) - bee. Deborah was the Biblical prophetess who summoned Barak to battle against an army of invaders. After the battle she wrote a victory song which is part of the Book of Judges;
  • Diane (French variant of Diana) Probably derived from an old Indo-european root root meaning "heavenly, divine", related to dyeus/zeus. Diana was a Roman goddess of the moon, hunting, forests, and childbirth;
  • Francoise (French) feminine of Francis meaning "from France" or "free one";
  • Gerrie (English/German - feminine derivative of Gerald) From a Germanic name meaning "rule of the spear", from the elements ger "spear" and wald "rule". This name was brought to Britain by the Norman. Though it died out in England during the Middle Ages, it remained common in Ireland. It was revived in the English-speaking world in 19th century;
  • Helen (English form of the Greek) Light, one who is bright, probably from Greek (helene)
  • Karen (Danish, Norwegian) short form of Katherine (Greek) - pure;
  • Kirsten/Kristin (Scandinavian/German) variant of Christina/Christiana - follower of Christ. This was the name of an early, possibly legendary, saint who was tormented by her pagan father. It was also borne by a 17th-century Swedish queen and patron the arts who gave up her crown in order to become a Roman Catholic;
  • Nikki (English dimunitive) - feminine form of Nicholas - mythological Nike was the goddess of victory;
  • Terry/Terri (English dimunitive) - From the Spanish and Portuguese name Teresa. It was first recorded as Therasia, being borne by the Spanish wife of SaintPaulinus of Nola in the 4th century. The meaning is uncertain, but it could be derived from Greek (theros) "summer", from Greek (therizo) "to harvest", or from the name of the Greek island of Therasia (the western island of Santorini).
Do you know the meaning of your name and does it fit?


Dolores said...

Dolores - means sorrow or our fair lady of sorrow. No it does not fit. My dad was in to numerology and we all have 7 letters in our names. I always wanted a Finnish name (that's my ancestry.)

Terry said...

What fun, Brenda! Yes, my given name is Teresa and I remember reading that it meant Harvester. Even though I am not Catholic, I was always fascinated with the stories of the Saints Teresa/Theresa and, as a teenager, read biographies of at least two. I was named Teresa because my grandmother loved the name and tried to change her name to Teresa from Clarice, which she thought was too old-fashioned, but she could never get anyone in the family to call her Teresa! You are right. Names are a huge part of our identity.

Terri said...

Hmmm, well my original name is just "Terri", and since the meaning is uncertain, does that mean I can create my own meaning?

Gerrie said...

Geraldine is a tough name to have as a child and the meaning is rather rough, don't you think/ I have sort of grown into the name, but do I resemble it - don't think I have every handled a spear except for aspargus!! I was named for my father. My mother wanted to name me Mary Ellen after my two grandmas. My bossy aunt convinced her to name me after my dad. Would I have been happy with Mary Ellen? I probably would have thought it was too boring.

Kristin L said...

My parents named me Kristin because I was born close to Christmas. They chose the Scandinavian spelling since part of our heritage is Scandinavian, but also because my father's name starts with a K. It's my name and I can't imagine being called anything else (I never even had a nickname that stuck), but as for being a "follower of christ," or any type of martyr, my personal identity hasn't lived up to the origins of the name itself.

Amanda said...

If you're looking for good information on names and their meanings, check out Baby Names Made Easy. It organizes the names by their meaning.

Love your quilting idea! Very fun.

Anonymous said...

My name was unusual when I was a child (I am 44) and I was 12 before I met another Kirsten. Now there are plenty! I've always kind of liked it. My parents planned to call me Strachan if I was a boy and I think that's a pretty cool name! I would like that, too :)

Helen Conway said...

I knew the meaning of my name but of course it would be very immodest of me to say, yes of course I have always been the bright one in our family!