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Name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder & CEO of BabyNames.com

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Character Names
I want to use a Tolkein Name

Hello Jennifer,

I adore your site and have been using it to add and or change up my “future” baby name list since I was 18, and I love being able to check the meanings/origins of names and also how they rank in popularity.

Now that I am married (all of 6 months) my husband and I have officially decided to start trying to start our family and the Great Baby Name Game has begun. You see, I absolutely love Tolkien. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are such wonderful books and I hold them dear to my heart. Most of the names of the characters are a little eccentric for our liking but I am am in LOVE with “Shire”, for a girl.

I feel it’s unique enough so she’ll have her own identity in a sea of Emilys, Scarletts and Olivias, but it’s familiar enough that fellow parents (and peers when she grows up) will recognize what she’s named for. I’ve looked and looked for a meaning for it, and as my husband likes to point out…the only thing we can find reference to is a rather large and stubborn draft horse. He isn’t quite sold on the name for that reason alone.

Could you possibly find the meaning and origin for it so I can reassure him that she won’t be teased for being named after a horse breed? Although, Morgan is very popular and also a horse breed and he isn’t opposed to that name. (I’m from Vermont and know all about them)

Thank you so very much!!!

-Leanne

Dear Leanne,

Shire is an old English word that refers to a specific piece of land. It would be equivalent to a county in the United States. The word was used specifically in the rural Midlands of England.

So no, you don’t have to worry about the equestrian meaning. We will add the name Shire to our database!

Sincerely,
Jennifer

Shire

An English “Shire”

 

Pronunciation of Madeline
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Hi Jennifer,

I have always wondered what the appropriate pronunciation of the name Madeline. I have heard it pronounced Made-line and Made-lynn. Me and my husband really like the name Maddie and are thinking of using the name Madeline (Made-line). Do you think that this name is too outdated or confusing?

Thanks!
Layla

madDear Layla,
The reason we don’t put pronunciations on our site is because there is no “one correct way” to pronounce a name. It depends on geography, culture and personal preference. I have met women named Dana that pronounce it “Day-na” and some that pronounce it “Dan-na.”

I believe in the cartoon of the children’s book they pronounced it Mad-eh-LINE, if that has any influence. But my answer would be: you can pronounce it any way you want.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

Moonyeen
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Hi, there –

Big fan of the site! I’m wondering if you have any information on the name “Moonyeen?” It was my grandmother’s middle name but I have no idea where it comes from or what it means.

Thank you,
Karen Siddiqi

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 1.53.54 PMHi Karen,

Moonyeen was an unusual name that turned up briefly in the U.S. from 1922-1936. Most likely because of a Broadway play called “Smilin’ Through,” first produced in 1919, which had a character named Moonyeen Clare. The play was made into three movies: one in 1922 which starred Norma Talmadge, one ten years later featuring Norma Shearer, and a musical in 1941 with Jeannette McDonald in the role.

Nancy over at Nancy’s Baby Names speculates that the playwright Jane Cowl based the name on the Irish word muirnín, which means “darling” or “sweetheart.” That certainly is a possibility. That, or she just made it up, which many writers do!

Hope that helps,
Jennifer

Dr. Who Name
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Jennifer,
I absolutely love your website! I was watching Dr. Who the other day and one of the characters names was Cathica. I can’t find any information on the n
cathicaame – if it is even a name used before or if it was made up for Dr Who. Do you know anything about this name?

Thanks and keep up the amazing baby name good work!
Tiffany

Dear Tiffany,

The name Cathica seems to have been created for the TV series. It is the perfect Sci-Fi name, as defined by my Character Naming Tips! It is easy to spell, easy to pronounce and is a combination of two recognizable, traditional names: Cathy and Jessica.

The character’s full name is Cathica Santini Khadeni.

Thank you for the addition! I have added Cathica to our database.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

New Name: Vahn
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Hi Jennifer,
I have named my son Vahn, I noticed it was not in your database, I have found it to be a male form of Siobhan and some of its meaning to be Justice. It was a name of a character in Legends of Legaia. I’m not sure of the origin, but I liked it as opposed to John (another male form of Siobhan). I thought you might want to add it to your database, so others can view it as an option. Maybe you can find its origin also.
Heidi

Hi Heidi,
The Irish female name Siobhan is a form of Joan, which is a feminized version of John. Therefore the meaning of Vahn would be “God is Gracious.” Vahn could also be a variation of the name Vaughn, an English surname meaning “small.”
Thank you for the submission, we will be adding it to the database.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

Feedback on Dexter
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Hi Jennifer,

I was just browsing through your Q&A and came across the question about the name Dexter being too reminiscent of the serial killer from the TV show. You advise against using the name because it has “bad associations” right now. While I think this would be somewhat true, I don’t think it should stop the parents from using the name if they really love it. If it were me, I’d hate to look back 20 years from now and think “I can’t believe that dumb old show stopped me from using the name Dexter.”

People have surprisingly short term memories and will likely forget the name has anything to do with the TV show after getting to know little Dexter. If the parents are worried about strangers prejudging their child based on a name, well I think that happens with a lot of names anyway and they can always say it was after their favorite childhood cartoon (strangers don’t need to know if this is true)! For what it’s worth, I am a fan of both shows and I love the name Dexter!

Thanks,
Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your feedback! If I were expecting I would seriously consider the name Dexter for a boy, even if I relegated it to a middle name.

Sincerely,

Jennifer

Hunger Games Name
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Dear Jennifer,

I’m fifteen and writing a Hunger Games fan fiction. It takes place after the last book and the main character is the daughter of Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen. I named her Willow. I have many reasons for doing this. One is personal connections. My name is Alora Danin, which comes from the Movie/Book “Willow”.  It is also a reference to the song Katniss sang to Rue in the 74th Hunger Games: “Deep in the meadow, under the willow.” 

Characters in Panem are generally named after something that has to do with nature. Katniss and Primrose are both plant names, as is Willow.  As another side note, I plan on naming my daughter Willow (:

Sincerely,

Alora

Dear Alora,

You have a beautiful name, yourself!  And a wonderful association for the name you have chosen for your daughter. It seems like you’ve put a lot of thought into it, and that is wonderful.  Willow is a great name and I, too, am  Hunger Games fan!  May the odds be ever in your favor!

Sincerely,

Jennifer

Daenerys
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Hi Jennifer!
 
I’ve recently gotten into the show “Game of Thrones” and I have fallen in love with the name Daenerys. I know it’s made up, but I can’t seem to find a meaning of it anywhere! Do you have any ideas? I’m all out except for asking George R.R. Martin himself!
 
Thanks,
GoT lover.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen

Dear GL,
I’ve just recently finished the first season, myself, and do love the creative names of the characters! (List coming soon)  As far as I’ve researched, many of the character names were inventions of Game of Thrones’ author George R. R. Martin. Including Daenerys.  He’s done a great job naming his characters, clearly following our advice to make the names easy to pronounce and easy to spell. Well, most of them! The name Daenerys does follow standard Gaelic naming conventions. So unless you contact George R.R. Martin to ask him about his naming thought process, there really is no “meaning” per se.

Since the popularity of the HBO series, there have been baby girls named Daenerys–at least 400 documented!  So if you do decide to use it, she won’t be alone.

Sincerely,
Jennifer
The Dexter Association
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Hi Jennifer,

My husband and I have a last name ending in –er so I always said I would NEVER name a child something ending in –er to avoid the rhyming sound. Lately, I’ve been hung up on Trent and he’s liking Dexter…I actually don’t think it sounds as rhyming as a lot of other  –er names and actually do like it, but I’m not sure I like the idea of telling our son we came up with his name from a serial killer on TV. Neither name actually has much meaning either. Thoughts?

Carolyn Cooper

dexDear Carolyn,

Dexter has always been one of my all-time favorite names ever since I first saw the movie Philadelphia Story, where Cary Grant played C.K. Dexter Haven. Then the cartoon came out, and I loved the cartoon and it still topped my (personal) name list for boys. Then came the TV series, eponymously named after the serial killer anti-hero.  And although I loved the series, the name is now unfortunately associated with that character. For that reason, I’d avoid it. At least for now. Perhaps ten years down the line there will be another Dexter that will “cleanse our palette” of the name, so to speak.

That being said, I don’t think you have to avoid “-er” names if you really love them.  The rhyming factor isn’t the issue, but I think I would avoid using a name that was originally an occupational surname–like Parker or Mason. To me, having two occupational surnames is less attractive than the rhyming factor.

Hope that helps!

Sincerely,
Jennifer