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BellaOnline's Baby Names Editor

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Beware of Bad Baby Name Definitions

Guest Author - Nancy Man

Many baby name websites feature well-researched, reliable information. Many others, though, do not. Those in the latter group tend to offer definitions that are short, vague, and often inaccurate. For example, here are some not-so-great definitions I've seen online recently:

  • Aquila - "eagle-eyed" in Spanish
    Aquila is simply the Latin word for "eagle." Here, though, its definition has been fancifully expanded to mean something quite different.


  • Clyde - "river" in Scottish
    The River Clyde exists, and it's located in Scotland, but Clyde is not the Scottish word for river. (In fact, no one is exactly sure what Clyde means.)


  • Dara - "wealthy" in Persian
    This definition is correct but incomplete, as Dara can also mean other things in other languages (e.g. "compassion" in Hebrew, "oak" in Irish).


  • Forbes - "prosperous" in English
    Forbes magazine definitely caters to a "prosperous" crowd, but the name Forbes actually comes from the Gaelic word for field, forba.


  • January - "born in January" in English
    January refers to the Roman god Janus, not to babies born during the first month of the year. (This is not the definition of January, but a possible interpretation of January as a name.)


  • Knut - "respectable" in Danish
    I'm not sure where this association came from, but the meaning of Knut is straightforward: it comes from the Old Norse word knutr, meaning "knot."


  • Norma - "model" in English
    Marilyn Monroe may have boosted the popularity of the name Norma, but Norma doesn't mean "model" now as a result. The name may simply be a literary creation (from Alexandre Soumet's 1831 play Norma) or come from the Latin word norma, meaning "standard."


  • Tanya - "fairy princess" in Russian
    The Roman family name Tatius, from which Tanya (via Tatiana) is ultimately derived, has no known meaning. (My best guess is that "fairy princess" refers to the late Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia.)

...So how can you be sure you really know what your favorite names mean? By employing these three tips:

Dig deep. Never settle for a two- or three-word definition. Try to trace each name back to its origin and research how it evolved over time.

Consult many sources, both online and off. You may even want to verify certain facts using non-name-related references, such as multi-language dictionaries.

Be critical of everything you read, as even reliable sources can sometimes be incorrect. For each definition, ask yourself questions like: "Does this make sense?" and "Is this giving me the full picture of the name?"
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Good Baby Names, Bad Definitions
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Content copyright © 2013 by Nancy Man. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Nancy Man. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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