Humans have been using names since prehistoric times but although all cultures use names, the ways that we have of naming our children differ from place to place.

Magazine - Names


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by Katherine Bilsborough

Shakespeare told us that a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. But is that true? Are names important? Are you happy with the name that you were given as a baby? And how do you choose a name for your own children when they come along?

Humans have been using names since prehistoric times but although all cultures use names, the ways that we have of naming our children differ from place to place. In some places people have just a single name while in others the naming process is far more complex. Sometimes our names carry information about our family roots or even, in the case of some African cultures, the order in which each sibling is born. The etymology of names (the linguistic origin or meaning) is a subject which has fascinated us for generations. Another interesting aspect of names is why people choose to give their child one name and not another and why certain names become popular at particular moments in time.

In 2004 the top ten names for girls born in the United Kingdom were:

  1. Emily
  2. Ellie
  3. Chloe
  4. Jessica
  5. Sophie
  6. Megan
  7. Lucy
  8. Olivia
  9. Charlotte
  10. Hannah

For boys, the top names were:

  1. Jack
  2. Joshua
  3. Thomas
  4. James
  5. Daniel
  6. Oliver
  7. Benjamin
  8. Samuel
  9. William
  10. Joseph

It appears that parents are more adventurous when it comes to naming daughters. Boys names tend to be more traditional and favourites change less frequently. Jack has topped the list for the past nine years and shows no sign of moving.

A fairly recent trend in choosing a name has meant that there are now generations of young people named after musicians, film stars and even designer clothes labels. Kylie is one of the most popular girls names at the moment and last year in the UK alone, 221 babies were named Shakira after the Columbian singer. Following the success of “The Matrix”, fans started calling their children Morpheus and Trinity after the lead characters. And, if that isn’t bad enough, there are around three hundred American teenagers called Armani.

Colours have also entered the naming arena with Pink, Ruby and Scarlet popular choices for girls and Blue and Grey for boys. And what about the current craze for calling your child after a town or city? When David Beckham called his child Brooklyn, 105 other parents followed the craze and called their children; boys and girls alike, Brooklyn too. Other “place” names that are popular are Adelaide and Devon.

Beckham is not the only celebrity who has chosen to give his children unusual names. Bono, of U2 fame called his son Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi, the actor Sean Penn’s son is called Hopper and film director Robert Rodriguez has three sons; Rebel, Rocket and Racer. How do you think these children feel? When David Bowie’s son Zowie Bowie was old enough, he rebelled against his father’s choice of name and changed it to Joey.

There is little to be done about the name you were given as a child but maybe we ought to think more carefully about the names we choose to give future generations. It would be sad to think that names that have been good enough for Kings, Queens, heroes and heroines throughout history will lose out to passing trends or short lived crazes. So, let’s have more Georges, Henrys, Katherines and Annes and less Hilfigers, Khakis, Chelseas and Pinks!





i have been chosen a simple name to my son when he has borne"Jad", i don't know exactly why and how i chosen it but i feel satisfaction about it.

Your texts:

Ojong Gerrald writes “The nicest thing about unambiguity and distinctiveness is wholeheartedly embraced with this etymology of names. But, I would have been many more times be happier if I had been born without one. Albeit literally nameless is worth something – it is a name though! Besides, even if the upshot is in the arena of naming children basically on a predefined scale, this is certainly a great failure; since there would be an attainable plateau which, of course, would need some other renaming scheme. So why not adhere to a rather ad hoc system of naming children?”

Juan Jesús Díaz writes “At the moment I’m working with my students on this topic, and all of them coincide with the fact that the best thing is to choose a short and easy name. They think that if you choose a long name, people will finally shorten it. If it is a difficult one, they will never say it properly. On the other hand, if we choose a fashionable name, when time goes by it will become old-fashioned and nobody will understand why you got that name. Finally, I think it is very important to pay attention to the combination of names and surnames, because on some occasions they can turn out to be very funny.”

Nam Mai writes “Since I was very young, I have been very proud of my own name, thanks to the fact that it's unique (so far, I have not personally run into or heard of anybody with the same name). I have grown pretty arrogant about the sound of my name; two little rhyming syllables which can go smoothly in the melody of any song. My parents contributed to my pride towards my name by giving it a prestigious history. My grandfather was a Vietnamese scholar who learnt the Vietnamese and Chinese languages during his time. With his love for the beauty of these languages, he wrote a book of names, those for all his offspring. With different characters, he had woven a magnificent patchwork of names. Just reading out the name and trying to discover its meanings is like peeling off the petals of a rose. I have certainly enjoyed sitting down and telling a friend the list of my family members' names and observed the awe on their face. It is like showing them a collection of rare gems that they have never seen before, and stroking their ego. Certainly, you have sensed how proud I am of my name. This name has long been my identity. It certified my birth. It validated my citizenship. It would be resounded on the day of my marriage and day of my funeral. It is my signature: my responsibility and my right of being one unique personality. It would follow me along and its existence is one that is inseparable from mine. And yes, I am proud of my name and the significance it carries. Yet, I shall question: Who would not be proud of the one and only name that was given to them by their parents or life guardians? Everybody's name is one precious gem, unique and sound. If one does not even appreciate it, I don't know who does.”

Ser De Vivo writes “I think that parents can give to their own sons or daughters the names that they want. That's more beautiful and varied. Maybe this kind of choice of names can stimulate the individual personality of a child so they aren't homogeneous and can express themselves to the best.”