How do we pick our children’s names? How do we know that a certain name will suit a child?
Historically, people have been named for the following reasons:
2. To describe their physical features
3. As a prediction of what that person will be like or what they will do later in life
4. To honor another family member or friend
5. To employ a favorite sounding or unique name
According to the Bible, names were originally given to serve as a description of their bearers. The Book of Genesis, for example, cites forty-two examples of people being named to denote a circumstance of their birth, to describe a physical characteristic of that person, or to predict what that person’s personality or accomplishments were expected to be. God named Adam, the first man, for instance, because the name “Adam” is the Hebrew word for “man” or “human”. God named him in such a way as to describe what he was. Adam then named his wife Eve because “Eve” is a derivation of the Hebrew word for “life” and Adam knew that his wife was destined to be the ancestress of all living humans. When Adam and Eve had their first child, Cain, Eve named him “Cain”, meaning “acquired”, because she had acquired a child and thus named in such a manner as to denote something about his birth. Later, “Noah” is named “comfort” because he was prophesied to be a comfort to his family. “Enoch” is born and thus named because of the “reddish” tone of his skin and hair.
In modern society, we generally do not name someone as a literal description of who they are, what they will become, or the manner in which they were born. If we did, my parents would have named me “Stephen” in the hopes that I would some day would wear a “crown”, as this is the literal translation of my name in Greek. The truth is that in today’s society, the names we give our children are based on foreign words and so the meanings of those names are often unknown to us. The names have simply become traditionalized as, well, names. My parents, then, named me not because they thought it likely that I would be a ruler, but as a way of honoring my father, whose middle name happens to be Stephen. Many people throughout history and still today name their children as an honor to, or as a remembrance of, some family member or close friend.
Third and most simply, we name our children because we like the way a certain name sounds. We even make up our own names that we think have a nice or unique sounding ring to them.
Whatever your reason for naming your child, or for whatever reason you were named, your name is your own. You grow into it and define it far more than its origins could ever define you.