American Names · Opinions

Languages as Baby Names

Some parents seem to be naming their children after languages!  I decided to compile this list after noticing a few curiosities (namely, Breton and Oriya) within the 2015 data.  Most of the names below are currently in use, though a few are defunct.

Appears in 2015:

  • Alabama – 22 girls.  Extremely rare Native American language spoken in Texas.  More likely namesakes are the state and her flagship university.
  • Breton – 9 boys.
  • Cheyenne – 943 girls (#347) and 11 boys.
  • Cree – 63 boys, 46 girls.
  • Dakota – 1323 girls (#242), 931 boys, #357).
  • Dari – 6 girls.
  • Dutch – 41 boys.
  • German – 154 boys.
  • Irish – 8 boys, 8 girls.
  • Kota – 36 boys, 5 girls.  Very small language in India.
  • Lakota – 47 girls, 44 boys.
  • Malay – 8 girls.  I wonder if Malay‘s usage ties to Malaysia‘s recent popularity?
  • Mari – 86 girls.  Refers to a language spoken in Russia or possibly to a language or two in Papua New Guinea.
  • Oneida – 11 girls.  Extremely rare Native American language
  • Oriya – 7 girls.  Language also known as Odia (not in the data).  I came across this name/language while messing around with the “lexicographer-only” levels on Typeshift (free word game; highly recommend!).
  • Romani – 10 boys, 9 girls.
  • Sami – 168 boys, 14 girls.
  • Seneca – 32 girls, 18 boys.  Also a tiny Native American language.
  • Shona – 7 girls.  A Bantu language (Africa).
  • Thai – 16 boys, 6 girls.  Ironically, this is a Vietnamese name.

Some might argue that Valencià (103 girls in 2015) is a distinct language, though I’m under the impression that it’s rather a Catalan dialect.

Defunct; Doesn’t appear in 2015:

  • English – Much like a continental divide determining which ocean water flows into, the name English has an onomastic divide determining gender.  According to SSA data, bearers born before 1960 are invariably male and those born after 1960 are all female.  English last appeared in 2014, so it’s likely we’ll see it again.
  • French – Mostly masculine, seemed to peak around the end of WW1.  Hasn’t appeared since the 90s.
  • Georgian – Strictly feminine, but hasn’t appeared since the 70s.  

Personally, I advise against naming children after languages because I feel that it brings up complicated and uncomfortable questions about cultural appropriation.  There are exceptions, though.  If it’s already an established name (i.e. German or Seneca) it’s probably okay!  Place names are also doable, but can still be iffy on the appropriation front.  If you really still want to use one of the names in this post, make sure you have reasons unrelated to the living language or speakers’ culture.

What are your thoughts on the subject? 


One thought on “Languages as Baby Names

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