The Meaning of Popular Classic Baby Names

Naming Your Baby: The Meanings Behind Classic NamesLately it seems if you don’t give your child an original name, you haven’t made enough of an effort. What’s wrong with a simple Anna, Julia, Sebastian or Daniel? Now colors, fruits, geography or the calendar are the source of inspiration for names that would be more appropriate for a pet. Celebrities are at the forefront of this trend, in a crazy race to surpass each other with the most unique baby name.

I have to agree many have a nice ring and are very musical—and, once in a while, I really like a new fancy name and wonder why it didn’t occur to me. Because I admit, when naming my first child, I gave it quite a bit of thought. In fact, even at the hospital after she was born, I still hadn’t made a decision. But I went a different route and chose classic names for my two girls, doubting that 20 years later a new name, however poetic, would still be music to my ears.

LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION
In ancient cultures, Nature was the inspiration when naming newborns: flowers, for their beauty; animals, for their strength or grace; natural phenomena, for their magical qualities… All this liberty ended in the Christian world when Pope Gregory IV (827-844) banned names that did not belong to Christian saints. By then most had a Roman, Greek or Hebrew origin, and a well-known meaning.

Names used to run in the family and first-borns were christened after their father or mother. Following with tradition back then, younger siblings received the name of the saint of the day, even though some were pretty awful! (Igantius or Aldebrege, anyone?) Many of these are no longer in use, but other names have survived 2,000 years and are still popular today. Not a small feat in our fast-paced world, considering how short-lived trends are and how quickly novelty fades.

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MEANING BEHIND THE NAME
Among the most popular baby names in the United States, we find the timeless Sophia and Alexander, two names with Greek origins and interesting meanings. Soon-to-be parents can easily check the Internet to find the meaning behind their favorite names.

Top girl names among Latinos in the U.S. include:

Sophia or Sofia (Greek) • She who has wisdom
Isabella or Isabel, also Elizabeth and Lisa (Hebrew) • She who loves God
Valeria, variant of Valentina (Roman) • Strong, healthy
Mia, diminutive of Maria also Marita, Mariana or Mary (Egyptian) • Beloved
Victoria (Roman) • Victory
Lucia or Luciana, also Lucas or Lucio (Roman) • Dazzling like the light; born in the light of day
Sara (Hebrew) • Princess
Catalina, also Karina, Katia or Katherine (Greek) • Pure
Natalia (Roman) • She who was born on Christmas Day
Olivia (Roman) • She who brings peace
Ana, also Anna or Anne (Hebrew) • Full of grace
Zoe (Greek) • Full of life

At the top of the list for Latino boy names are:

Alejandro, also Alex and Alexander (Greek) • Defender of men
Sebastian (Greek) • Worthy of veneration
Daniel (Hebrew) • God is my judge
Santiago, also Jacobo or Jacob (Hebrew) • He who took the place of his brother
David (Hebrew) • Beloved by God
Gabriel (Hebrew) • Strength and power of God
Diego (Greek) •  He who has great knowledge
Samuel: (Hebrew) Name of God, heard by God
Mateo, also Matias and Matthew •  (Hebrew) Gift of God
Lorenzo, also Enzo or Laurence (Roman) • Victorious, crowned with laurels
Nicolas (Greek) • Conqueror of the people
Benjamin (Hebrew) • Son at my right, the youngest

Another thing to consider when making a decision that will mark a child’s life, aside from the name’s meaning, is simply if it goes well with the last name—check this by saying it aloud a few times. It is also a good idea to make sure the initials don’t spell anything…inconvenient. Think ahead for possible nicknames you might dislike and anticipate how any potential nickname will sound followed by the last name.

Bilingual families may favor a name that refers to their heritage or is similar in both languages, to facilitate spelling and pronunciation. Fortunately among classic names, there is a bunch of these to choose from!