What's in a name?

i wasn’t sure where to post this, but i’ve been thinking about names and their meanings and how we relate to each other through our names. it seems like “indiginous names” (for lack of a better term…) seem to carry a story with them, where as “civilized names” seem often to be nothing other than sounds that the parents found somehow nice without paying much attention to their origin or meaning or having little to nothing to do with the person they belong to personally. what are your thoughts on this and have you considered adopting or asking (who would you ask?) for a new name, one that fits with your feralizing/wild identity? what does a name mean to you?


Wow. This is a great topic.

I think that our “civilized” (read: English) names do have meaning, the words have just been turned more and more abstract throughout the ages. For example, my name, Peter means Rock. As in petrolium (fossil fuels) petrified (turned to stone) etc. But no one knows that any more because Peter is “just a name” and not also a “rock”.

I’ve found it more spiritually enlightening to craft my own meaning around my name (like it was given to me for a reason) rather than change my name to something else.

When having children, I plan to name them something that will not just “be another name” but an object, or verb that doesn’t freak people out or sound too hippieish.

so how would you go about naming those future children? what things would inspire you to give a certain name? would it be the same things that inspired your parents to give you your name, or do you think you would draw your inspiration and reason to give that name from somewhere else? if there is a difference, do you think that difference would be a difference of rewilding culture v.s. civ culture derived? if so, how?

I don’t think our English names are meaningless. Names can tell you a lot about the society the person lives in. In the past people would usually give a new baby a family name. My mother had a traditional mindset, so she named me after my great- great-grandmother and my brother after her father.

Our society seems to be getting more individualistic, though. People nowadays try not to give their children the most popular names, and there is a lot of alternative spellings of common names. I know little girls named Carleigh, Harleigh, and Emmalee. Last names as first names are just as common as ever, although it seems that people now choose them for the way they sound rather than using a family name. I’m sure everyone has met at least one Madison, Mackenzie, Riley, etc.

You can also see gender bias in names. Traditionally masculine names like Leslie, Fern, Beverly, and Meredith have gradually gone from boy’s names to unisex names to girl’s names. You never hear about boys being given a traditionally female name.

I have heard about hippie type communities where they recommend you give yourself a name that you think fits your personality. I don’t like this idea. I don’t think that our names are for us; they are for the people around us. Names tell other people who we are, where we are from, what kind of people we live with. You cannot name yourself; your people have to name you.

My name is Glen - I usually tell people it’s a 4-letter word meaning “valley” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Take that however it pops into your mind.

I hated Dan while growing up. Still don’t feel like it represents my persona in any meaningful way.

This also could bring up a philosophical question: what should a name do? Why do we even need them at all? We do seem to. Do other animals have “names” for each other?

Also liked hearing about an island indigenous group that had fluid names. My dad naturally changes his “pet names” for people frequently and without the need for government forms, that sounds interesting to me.

i feel like western civilized names are tools for:


more than “idigenous” names which seem to be used more for “relational awareness”.
like how a person is called different names by different persons for different reasons.

Now “we” westerners do this as well (nicknames anyone?). But we use “official” names for reasons indicated above. I use nicknames and hacked versions of names for most of my friends.

Like what was said earlier, sometimes names can indicate family relations (or even clan affiliation). Anyone here know a Johnson? Someone somewhere in your ancestry was probably named John. Given names in english used to be perfectly intelligible. For example - Alice is short for aedel-wis, meaning “noble-wisdom” and Arnold is short for “arn-weald,” meaning “eagle-power.” Possibly, the parents were advised by woman soothsayers (as three women were said, in folktales and in norse literature, to come to the birthing of a child and declare its fortune. It depends on the source whether or not the women merely prophesied or if they created the wierd (fate) of the person).

My name means “church”. I used to think that ironic, but who knows.

I don’t have any desire to change my first name - the name everyone calls me by - as I feel like that should be given to a person by those who use it (who call them by it). Personally, I really like the idea of a person’s community, or a wise elder(s) of that community, giving a person an adult name based on their understanding of the person’s personality, life path, role in the community, unique talents, etc.

For me, right now I’m debating whether to change my last name (getting a divorce, and my “maiden” name doesn’t really sound right to me anymore), and what to change it to. I don’t like the idea of family names in general, since they are so completely a creation of patriarchy and the control of bloodlines (and family property) by men, but the government requires that I have one (or at least it would be a pain dealing with the government without one, I think). Preferably I would use the name of the female side of my lineage, but that’s impossible since the family names were all passed down through the men. So I’m thinking of acknowledging my recent female ancestry by taking on my grandmother’s maiden name, which resonates with me. Also, it was a traditional Romanian (Transylvanian, actually) name that every single one of my grandmother’s siblings voluntarily anglicized in order to fit in better with white (anglo) America. So its a connection to the old country of that part of my ancestry, and a restoration of a bit of the heritage was lost in the transition to the new country.

Interesting. Any major hesitation to do it? How would your parents react (if it matters in this case)?

My family name was changed a few generations back when they moved to Hungary. Don’t know it from before. I think I’d like having a name that connected me to a prouder ancestral past.

Prouder than what? How proud? In other words, what qualities are you looking for?

I always hated being called by my given first name, but always loved my middle name, so I began to use my middle name at the age of 21. I feel like it’s very important to at least be able to tolerate the sound of the name people use for you, if not actually enjoy it.

When my first marriage was breaking up (I was 25), I decided I wanted my own last name, and I wanted it to come from the women in my family. Since as far back as you go, a woman’s maiden name will come from a man, I took the first name of my mother and her mother (happened to have the same name!) and used a variation to be my last name. Changed it legally, just so I never had to hear about my original name as an alias or anything.

I feel like it relates to rewilding in that I took control over my life, following through on a strong impulse and doing what I deeply felt needed to be done regardless of what society or my family or friends or anyone else thought. I feel like rewilding is like this at times, when we have to step outside the human constructs of what is normal/acceptable and take action to support our true natures.

[quote=“oakcorn, post:12, topic:1500”][quote author=Dan Garmat link=topic=1612.msg16427#msg16427 date=1320322492]
I think I’d like having a name that connected me to a prouder ancestral past.
Prouder than what? How proud? In other words, what qualities are you looking for?[/quote]
Meant kind of like what Bereal’s thinking of. My last name doesn’t link me with my anscestors, because it changed only 4 generations back. Not that Smith, or Johnson or whatever links people much with their ancestors, lol. Sounds like Bereal also has a region in mind. Mine points to a region my paternal family lived in for one generation.

Nice. I agree. I think an intuition voice Civ tries to teach us not to listen to because hurts too much to have our individuality in a society with a necessarily high valuation of uniformity.

Here is a list of some names I like that either are intelligible now or used to be: Alton “old town”, Alfred “elf council”, Alvin “elf friend”, Ashley “ashtree field”, Ashton “ash-tree hill/town”, Blake “shining one”, Blossom, Cole “charcoal”, Edith (masculine and feminine) “prosperous in war”, Edward “prosperous guardian”, Hazel “hazel tree”, Heather “heath bush / heather”, Oliver “elf warrior”

I like a lot of English names but I don’t like how people just pick them out because they sound nice. I think names should have something to do with your identity. Maybe family/tribe connections, or to do with where you were born. I think I read once about an indigenous culture that named their babies whatever the mother was looking at the first time the baby kicked. I also like the idea of earned names, for example you accomplish something and get another name to do with that… if you get what I mean.

This… I thought I was a bit silly for thinking it at first, but oh well. My name, Alex, means “defender of men/ mankinds warrior.” It would be pretty cool if I can live up to that in some way.

So, I keep having an interesting thing happen and I thought this would be a good place to share it.

My friends and I have jokingly given ourselves plant names. It started out sortof playing with the idea of camp “forest” or “nature” names and how people pick plants like “Fern” and “Tree”. What if they picked the more silly plant names? Horehound. Broomrape. Nipplewort. Etc.

Well, one friend is “Hooker’s Fairy Bells”. I didn’t know what that plant looked like, but the silly name in the Plants book made me find it. Now every time I see that plant, I think about my friend.

This happens also now when I see the plant called “Pathfinder”. We changed one of our friends silly names to Pathfinder because he is really good and finding paths intuitively. On a hike we taught him the plant and switched his name. Now when I see that plant, I think about him.

This is kind of blowing my mind a little bit. This makes me wonder about indigenous names that are actual plants/animals. It reminds me of the place-name psychology discussed in Kieth Basso’s “Wisdom Sits in Places”. Could “wisdom” also sit in people?