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How to Ask Jennifer

I receive hundreds of emails a month asking for name advice. I do love researching names!  However there is a right and a wrong way to ask. So I thought this was worthy of a post:

1. If asking about the meaning of a unique name, first look up alternate spellings of the name in question. Sound out the name. In other words, please don’t ask me what “Tiphanie” means because it’s not in our database. In these cases, I take a drink of my coffee (or wine if it’s after 7pm), mumble “People are stupid” and press DELETE.

2. If you are asking about a family name, it is helpful to know: your surname, where you grew up, and the ethnicity of the person with the name. Names are very much tied to region, and that cuts down immensely on research time. I’m more likely, then, to take a drink of my coffee (or wine if it’s after 7pm), say “THANK you!” aloud and commence my research on your name.

3. Please do not ask me to suggest names for you. I am busy running a big company and rarely have time for name consultations unless they are paid–and when I do agree to be hired, I charge beaucoup bucks. Bucks that would be better spent on a crib. Or coffee and wine, for when you’re not pregnant anymore. If you want solid name advice, join our BabyNames Community. There are many parents, name-o-philes and even several name experts in our community that are happy to help you!

4. Keep it simple. If your email/question requires me to scroll and scroll and scroll, chances are I’m already bored with the story and have jumped out of my chair to refill my cup. This does NOT contradict #2, as most times the long letters are about family drama, in which I am not interested as I have more than enough of my own.

5. If you have created a name, don’t ask me what it means. And don’t tell me it means “Beautiful Princess” because it does not.


Brothers’ Names too Similar?

Hello Jennifer,

My boys are 2.5 years apart and we wanted to give them strong Persian names. Our oldest is Darius (Dariush) and our youngest is Darian. I loved their names until recently when people/strangers started commenting on how similar they are, and it’s confusing. Our family voted on our youngest name and chose Darian (who is 16 months old).

Now I’m worried that they are going to be made fun of at school. In your opinion, should I start calling Darian by a nickname like Rian or Ian…..or am I over-analyzing this situation. My husband thinks Darius and Darian are fine and there is no issue, but I’m losing sleep over this.

Your advice is really appreciated.

Shadi (confused Mom)

Dear Shadi,

You can try giving a child a nickname, and that will stick until they are old enough to decide whether they like it or not. Kids tend to shed their “family” nicknames at school, use their given names, or their friends will create new ones for them.

If you had asked me when you were pregnant with Darian if you should use the name, I would have advised no, because it is too similar to Darius.  But now that it’s done and is part of your son’s identity, you can’t change it.  In order to keep confusion out of the home, sure, give the boys nicknames — but make sure you give both of them nicknames, so one doesn’t feel left out!


Meaning of the name Chainie

Hi Jennifer,

My husband’s cousin’s name is ‘Chainie’. I have never heard of this name before until I met her. As far as I know this is not a nickname and is her actual first name. I could not find it on your website so I was wondering if you could shed some light on her name’s origin and/or meaning.

Thank you,


Dear Kaitlyn,

Sometimes you just have to sound it out!  Chainie is an alternate spelling of the surname Cheney.  (Remember, our Vice President under G.W. Bush?)

According to the Surname Database, the surname Cheney is from the Old French words “chesne, chesnai” meaning oak tree, oak grove. It is most likely a geographical surname, indicating that the family comes from a certain area of that name or where the oak trees grow.


New Names: Nathana and Veina?

Hello Jennifer,

I’ve come up with two new unique girl names. The names are Veina and Nathana. I think I came up with Veina because I was thinking about the name Reigna which is beautiful as well. Nathana is derived from Nathan but has a feminine side to it. Both names are feminine yet strong willing. For the name Nathana, you can shorten it to Ana or Athana (Athena) along with Natalie.

Please consider adding these names to your site.

Thank you,

Emilee D.

Dear Emilee,

I love when people create new names from existing names. (See my article on Game of Thrones Names, where author George R.R. Martin does this a lot!)  I really like the name Nathana.  Not so sure about Veina, though, as it conjures up a vision of someone with a lot of veins!  Since a vein is  a part of the body, I don’t think it would work so well as a name.



From Grandma
Dear Jennifer,
I am a 66 year old grandma.  I have two grandchildren right now, however, my youngest son just got married. Your website provides not only information and fun facts to the expectant parents, but a wonderful resource for me.  I can have a conversation with my daughter-in-laws and feel comfortable that they find the info as rewarding as I do.   My two grandsons: Noah Christian and Jackson Cooper. Really great names, aren’t they??
Grandma Sally
Dear Grandma Sally,
What a nice email to wake up to!  It’s rewarding to hear that the site I started 18 years ago is still informative and helpful to so many people. Noah Christian and Jackson Cooper are fine names.
Congratulations and thanks for visiting!
Game of Thrones Names

Jon Snow played by Kit Harington

Fan of the HBO Series Game of Thrones?  In honor of Season Four debuting this Sunday, I have done a full analysis of Game of Thrones Names on our sister site,!

Check it out!

Kreatyve Name Feedback

I wanted to add some input to Jennifer’s request for information on people’s experience with common names that required spelling out.

I am an unfortunate victim of just such a name, KATHRYN. I have never liked my name and never felt like it fit me – however the worst part about my name is constantly having to spell it out for people. Even when I spell it out for people, it is still often written wrong! I have to spell my name out EVERYWHERE I go for EVERYONE – it is the biggest pain!

There are so many variations on how to spell it: Kathryn, Catherine, Katherine, Katharyn, Katharen, Cathryn, Catharin, etc etc. it’s usually hard to ever find anything personalized with my spelling, also. I can appreciate that I don’t have a very weird or unusual name that might cause ridicule, but having this type of name has caused me to want to change it entirely when I get married.


 a VERY frustrated K-A-T-H-R-Y-N.

Dear Kathryn,

Thank you for your input! I can imagine your frustration.


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