Our Personal Names

We all feel very attached to and protective of our names. I hate it when someone misspells or mispronounces mine. It’s MY name! And I’ve been called by that name (and various nicknames) for 23 years exactly (it’s my birthday). In English we usually have 3 names – the first name, middle name, and last name (also called surname in the UK).

But it hasn’t always been like that. In the Middle Ages, people only had first names. In the 1300s, last names were added to distinguish between people who had the same first name. Middle names came along sometime in the 1600s.

Let’s talk about last names. There are several ways that last names are created: 1) come from a place or a landmark (Van der Water = from the water, Bridge, Wood, Hamilton – a place, Washington – a place); 2) come from an occupation (Smith, Walker, Baker, Knight); 3) describe a family relationship (Johnson, Robertson, Molson – from Molly, Madison – from Maud, MacDonald – Mac = son); 4) nicknames based on personality or appearance (Short, Brown, Black, Long).

There are many many ways to classify first names. Some are descriptive (Margaret = pearl), some relate to place names (Francis = Frenchman), some are just invented (Wendy from Peter Pan), some are religious (Gabriel), some come from plants (Lily), some used to be last names (Douglas), and some are just random (Apple? Kal-el? Kyd? Ocean? Blanket?Jermajesty? Click here for more strange celebrities’ children’s names).

The last time my name (Margaret) was in the top ten names (by decade) was in the 1930s (#8). It was actually #3 in the 1890s and 1900s. You can find out the top names by decade at the Social Security website, found HERE.

How did your name do? Do you like your name? What’s your favorite name?

0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    I was supposedly named after a soap operah character and/or a friend of my Mom’s in high school…I am used to my name…

    my name means moon something or other…fitting.. I am a bit Loony some times!


    I don’t know what a fav name is but I wanted to name JJ …Lily if he was a she..
    this was fun! didn’t have to hurt my brain to follow along!

    happy day sweet Pearl! 🙂

  2. 2

    im cool with my name. usually people spell it with an i though. when i write, i tend to be sloppy with my “r’s” and i used to get a lot of mail for Clave. what does my name mean maggie? clare lorraine…

    i always loved the name maryanne. until my now husband told me about his highschool girlfriend maryanne. kindof ruined that one. ha!

  3. 3

    ps happy birthday and what is your middle name?

  4. anilee #

    my name is not very well-known. iv reaschearched what it meant and only came up with that its first syllable “ani” is hawian for “glass” and that the last syllable “lee” is old English for “field.” So i mean “glass field”

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