Did you know that middle names sometimes serve as adjectives to describe first names? My first name is Neala, meaning “cloud or champion,” and my middle name is Kay meaning “pure or innocent,” so my name means “pure cloud or innocent champion.” A more interesting example, however, is Nelson Mandela. His middle name was Rolihlahla which means “pulling the branch of a tree” or “troublemaker.” As Nelson also means “cloud or champion,” Mr. Mandela’s name fits him extraordinarily well. He was imprisoned by the South African apartheid government for being a troublemaker, and yet he became a champion of human rights. His troublemaking cloud had a silver lining, one that has inspired millions around the world.
Inspired Baby Names from Around the World
If your name is Bethan, it is the Welsh form of Elizabeth, from the Hebrew words bet t’eina meaning “God is my oath, joined with God, blessed by God.” You are blessed by God by being in union with the Divine, by being in connection with the Universe. An oath is a promise, and your name reveals that innately you have promised to be in union with God and the Divine promises to be at one with you. Through this there is much blessing. A blessing is defined in the dictionary as a “gift of God.” The dictionary also tells us that to bless is “to consecrate and to make holy,” and know that in your essence, you are truly blessed. Peace Pilgrim said: “You are within God. God is within you.” The Hebrew letters in your name are תן בּ: (beit, tav, and nun). Beit means “house” and is the letter of home, beginnings and relationships. Beit is a place where community is formed, where you develop the feeling of home and belonging. Its presence represents continuity of family and it gives birth to understanding. Tav means “sign” and is a seal of promise that loving presence is impressed upon your soul. Tav is the symbol of universal Truth, and its presence in your name is a mark on your heart, a covenent of God’s promise that will guide you along your path, like a rainbow of hope. Nun means “fish” and represents the faith journey to self-awareness and ultimate transformation. It marks the breaking out of bondage and moving toward revelation and home. Nun in your name, you have the innate courage to take the risk to discover your true self, that part of you that is forever connected with the Divine. Finally, the gematria value for Bethan is 452 and correlates with the biblical words “God is existence,” heights, and within.”
Donald is from the Scotch Gaelic words dumnán (world) and walos (ruler, leader), meaning “ruler of the world or world leader.” Leadership is defined as guidance, and it cannot really be taught. We all know what bad leaders look like. They have an over-abundance of pride and arrogance, they bully and intimidate, they lack clear vision and direction, they display poor judgment, and they resist new ideas and do not learn from their mistakes. It is their way or no way. Desmond Tutu once said: “The leader is the servant. So leadership is not having your own way. It’s not for self-aggrandizement. But oddly, it is for service. It is for the sake of the led. It is a proper altruism.” And Percy Bysshe Shelley said in “Political Greatness:” Man, who man would be, / Must rule the empire of himself.” Good leadership, however, is entirely different. It is an ability which involves flexibility, patience, courage, integrity, humility, and responsibility. A leader is optimistic and can inspire others. Bill Gates once said: “Leaders will be those who empower others.”
There are several languages in the world considered a divine language (Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit, and Tibetan, to name a few). Hebrew is a language considered by some to be the language of angels. Kabbalah, or mystical Judaism, holds that God spoke the 22 Hebrew letters into being in order to create the universe. The Hebrew alphabet symbolizes 22 energies, or building blocks, that represent a manifestation of Creation. In addition, each letter in the Hebrew alphabet corresponds to a numerical value, known as gematria, which explores the mystical correlation between words in the Bible that share the same numerical value. For example, the name “Adam” has a gematria value of 45. A search through the Hebrew Bible results in the word “might” as sharing the same numerical value. It is suggested that “Adam” and “might” have a significant correlation. An Adam may contemplate on how the word “might” connects to his experience of himself. By reflecting upon these letters, you may develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of your name.
Did you know that many countries have laws that prohibit parents giving names to their children that may embarrass them later on, such as in the case of Germany, Iceland, and New Zealand. In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, so neutral names such as Madison are not allowed. In Iceland there is naming committee that decides whether a new given name will be acceptable. The name can only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet, and it must align with Icelandic traditions. In New Zealand, parents are not allowed to name their children anything that might cause offence to a reasonable person. For example, a New Zealand couple recently went to court for naming their baby Messiah, and lost their case. Since 2001, New Zealand turned down six Lucifers, two Messiahs, and 62 babies with the name of Justice. In the United States, however, there were more than 700 Messiahs!
Nancy is the English form of Hannah, from the Hebrew word chaanach (grace, graceful, gracious). The dictionary defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance.” It is also the prayer used at a meal time asking for a blessing or giving gratitude. Grace is God’s blessing to you. According to Pope Francis: “Grace is not part of consciousness; it is the amount of light in our souls, not knowledge nor reason.” Grace recognizes God’s presence in our lives, and it responds with gratitude and compassion. The beloved song “Amazing Grace” by John Newton tells us: “’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.” Grace flows into and through each of you in a natural, unpretentious way, and it is an innate quality that you bring to the world.
My name is Neala Shane and I love to talk to folks about the deeper of their names. My degree in religious studies combined with my interest in meanings of names in 15 years of research for my book Inspired Baby Names from Around the World. Although the title contains the word “baby names,” the book is actually aimed at anyone who is interested in learning more about their name.
So what is a name? Some say that it is only an identification tag, while others believe that your name is your essence and the key to who you are. To most native cultures, a name reflects the essence of the individual. Names are also often seen as carrying a specific function and destiny for a child, so it is seen as a key to who you are and what you are here to do in the world. For example, if the name is John, which means “God is gracious, God is giving,” I already know that this person has a gracious and generous character.
Many cultures also believe that the baby already knows its name in the womb. An interesting thought. He or she knows who she is, and he or she also knows what they are here on earth to do. We all know of parents who picked out a baby name that was set in stone, but who then suddenly changed their minds after they heard or read a name that caught their fancy. Their promise to name their baby after Grandma Elizabeth melted away, for they simply just “knew” the new name was the right one. There are, of course, people who are misnamed. Perhaps a Herbert III for example, could have issues with his name, especially if the parents where intent on keeping family traditions over all else. Herbert III may go through life never feeling at home with himself because the name just doesn’t fit him. He may choose to go by a nickname which suits him better, or even change his name legally down the line. I myself had a near miss because my mother wanted to name me Scarlett O’Neal, after the well-known character Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, which was still very popular when I was born. Although Scarlett is more common and popular today, I was grateful that my family intervened. I may have grown up feeling that I had to maintain an 18” waist. Nor would I have enjoyed repeated taunts of the phrase, “My dear, I don’t give a damn!”
So the job as a parent is to find out what that name is, just as your own parents found out what name you wanted to go by in this life. It is one of the reasons I have added guided meditations in the book to help you in this process.