What’s in Your Name?

Who are you?

As I continue the search to discover my roots, I realize more how unknown we are. Think about it. How many people know your life goals? How many people know the pivotal moments of your life that shaped who you are today? How many people even known your eye color for certain? (I can’t say that I know all of my siblings eye colors for sure…)

I love walking in the cemetery. Though none of my family is buried locally, I love the sense of mortality that I feel when I consider the lives at rest there. Like you and me, these were passionate persons with dreams and goals and fears and faiths and allergies. When they died, close friends and family mourned them for a time, then joined them. With the passing of one, two, maybe three generations, that life is largely forgotten. The stories that families tell at Christmastime find their own graves there in the solace of the cemetery.

Who can call them to remembrance?

Maybe none of us can, entirely. Though, if you are searching out your own roots and stumble upon a name and a person that you cannot make sense of, there are usually some clues to chase after.

I confess, I find myself envious of ancient (or even outdated) naming practices. In the Bible, names meant something. An entire faith revolves around the importance of the name of Jesus–the LORD saves! If we all went through a name change as Abram and Sarai did, perhaps we, too, would have “a story in a name.” How many years have passed? How many generations have forgotten? But here, generations after the fact, in a different land, with a different language, we still know that Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. We still know the significance of that name change, and the countless stars in the sky.

I’m not suggesting that we can all be as infamous in our names as Abram. He is, of course, an exceptional example. He is, perhaps, the pinnacle of all name stories. But certainly there are stories within our own families.

Begin with yourself.

Were you named after someone, or did your parents just choose a name they liked?

Does your name mean anything to you?

Does it reveal anything about your character?

How about your surname (your last name, or family name)–where did it originate?

What does it mean?

What’s in your name?

I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this one.

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12 Responses to What’s in Your Name?

  1. My mother for reasons no one quite understands named me for Bryn Mawr College. I think it means “big hill” or something like that. I find that funny, although I’m not sure what it says about my personality. Am I a mountain or a molehill? It’s also traditionally a man’s name, which makes for some interesting misunderstandings. My agent was stunned when he called to offer to represent me and discovered I was a woman.

    • semmie says:

      See? Now that’s a wonderful story of a name that carries history! Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

      What a compliment to your writing, also, to be mistaken for a man. Not that either gender has a monopoly on excellent writing, but there tends to be a stigma that men write better characters and women can’t detach emotionally from their work.

  2. Toge says:

    People of the ancient world, particularly the Mesopotamians, did not put much emphasis on the afterlife. Of course, we know from the Epic of Gilgamesh that “immortality” was in one’s name. I find it fascinating that one’s “eternity” was, essentially, dependent whether or not your descendents remembered your name. Which, of course, is why there are so many name-lists in ancient literature.

    Its an interesting contrast to modern times. Yesterday I was thinking about my nutrition professor and how she had such an impact on my life at a critical time. Because of her teachings I made a lot of habit changes that will, in effect, lengthen my life. But I CAN’T remember her NAME! There are so many people that have impacted my life, and I haven’t a clue as to what their name was/is.

    I guess it makes me think of how I’m impacting others in this lifetime. My name may not be remembered by future generations, but who knows how many people I’ve impacted by my words and actions?

    • semmie says:

      It really is a contrast to modern times. But that is very cool–I’m glad you shared that, because it adds to my brain file of information about naming.

      I can’t think of very many people who have made a big impact on my life that I don’t remember their names. That’s really interesting. For me, though, I think the pattern of remember them has to do with the fact that I almost always journal about my life-changing experiences: When I write it down, I remember. That’s how I learn.

      Your point remains, though, particularly in our culture: the character of a person may very well live on when a name has faded. Very good point. And a very good reminder to us all–we never know how we’re impacting others (for good or for ill).

      P.S. Great to see you. 🙂

  3. iceangel16 says:

    My name is Celtic (I rather like that ^,__,^) According to some baby-books, my name means “white wave” or “white phantom”. And others say it means fair, smooth, pale.

    My mom wanted an uncommon first name. Which is funny cuz my name is popular for the 80’s.

    I’ve grown rather fond of the “white phantom” definition. Add that to the origin being Celtic, I am lovin my name.

    I think of myself as being invisible (and in some circles…I am invisible unless someone wants to verbally beat another up, then I’m seen) and able to move silently within worlds. Lately I feel that my name holds an ancient power in a way.

    But then again, I’m probably not making sense seeing as it is late/early and I haven’t slept much.

    • semmie says:

      I certainly don’t think of you as “invisible,” though I understand why you said that. To me, it’s not so much that others CAN’T or DON’T see you, but that you don’t NEED them to. It shows strength of character on your part.

      As for ancient powers, I cannot say. But I agree that your name suits you very well. 🙂

  4. Georgeine says:

    Very well said sweet Sarah. I know there is a lot of history within our family and between the two of us maybe we can figure out some of it. I gave you a few of the names and why (or the why as I was told it.)
    You sure have a wonderful gift in your writting ability.

    • semmie says:

      Thank you, Aunt Georgeine. 🙂 I do still have the email you sent with the names/history you shared. I loved reading that email. I’ve printed it out, actually, and I have it in my genealogy binder. I think I sent you ours, too, didn’t I? Why mom and dad named us all as they did?

  5. John Hinton says:

    I was named after my grandmother’s cousin, Johnny Bombie. He was a dairy farmer in Indiana and at the time of my birth was the only financially successful person my family had produced. At one time, when I was a teen, he offered to put me through college, apparently on the basis of the name link.

    The name has no personal significance to me. I was given two biblical names, John David. However, that was not the original intent of my mother (my father was not a part of my life at my birth.) My mother was 18 and a Johnny Weismuller fan, vis-a-vie Tarzan, and had decided to name me Boy with no middle name. Fortunately she was heavily sedated at the time of my birth and I ended up with the name I have.

    John and David mean Loved and Beloved. I don’t think either of those are identifiable with my character. However, if I were to be asked what name I thought would best suit my character I don’t think I could find any that would seem right.

    The Hinton name is Anglo-Saxon and refers a time when the family lived in the parish of Hinton in Salisbury, Winchester, Oxford, Peterborough, Bath and Wells in Britian. Earliest known roots go back to a family seat held in Cumberland before the Norman conquest in 1066.

    The first known Hintons in America were a family which arrived in 1623, two years following the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth The family settled in Virginia where a town bearing the surname exists. By 1720 certain members had migrated to Indiana and were amongst the founders of Lebanon, my birth town.

    The name has both ecclesiastical and Celtic connotations and, indeed means Of the Hills in Gailege.

    All that being said, the reality is, the name has very little meaning to me. My great grandfather Oliver Hinton was adopted and nothing is known about his actual birth family. In reality I am more Campbell, Blacker and Joseph, representing the Scot – Native American – English heritage. The Hintons are unknown to me, both in my present family and in my ancestry. I briefly knew my father when I became an adult, but never developed a relationship.

    Hope that answers some of your questions.

    • semmie says:

      John…do you have any idea how much I love reading your words? I really do. You would be wonderful at writing family histories. You’re so easy to read and entertaining. You also obviously know quite a bit about your family history, which is wonderful to read.

      As for a name that suits your character, I’m particularly fond of “dashy.” It has personal significance.

      Very interesting stuff, though, John–Johnny Bombie…Tarzan…Loved, Beloved, Of the Hills in Gailege. I really wish you’d write a book.

      But to me, “dashy” will always say the most about you. In fact, I named a character after you in the book I finished writing this summer. Did you know that? Well, the character was a female (sorry!), so I changed it to “Dasha.” She was loyal to a fault, wise, encouraging, generous, and far more concerned with others than she was of herself.

  6. Georgeine says:

    AWWWWWWW Sarah, you are indeed a Princess and your daddy is a KING, in fact HE IS THE KING OF KINGS and to me you are a princess. (I am glad your mom won out also) but Earleine is not bad, I have some friends by that name. They could have called you Earl, like they call me George:-)
    I love you and so enjoy your blog. You got talent girl.

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