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LostInParadise's avatar

Why is it mostly girl's names that are also words in English?

Asked by LostInParadise (29658points) December 18th, 2010
28 responses
“Great Question” (5points)

There are dozens of girl names that are words: Hope, Rose, Jasmine, Ivy, Dawn, Sherry and on and on. There are few for guys and they are not used very often. I know that a lot of names for both boys and girls derive from words in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, so in the past there was more equal treatment in this regard.

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Zyx's avatar


Men have become the emmisaries of power.
Women have been made avatars of the abstract.

I can’t deny it and I don’t see what needs explaining.

Trillian's avatar

Do you have a study to back this up? I wonder at your choice of words; “equal treatment”. Are you suggesting an ineqality of names that should be addressed? Perhaps on a National level? With perhaps groups and volunteers? Slogans to raise awarenss? Maybe,no definitely, “someone” should do “something” I can’t wait to see what you have as a baseline and all your sources for this extraordnary phenomenon. This smacks of conspiracy at the highest levels of government.
Thank you, thank you, for opening my eyes to this highly important issue. I’m going to stop worrying about world peace and global warming. This trumps everything else.

LostInParadise's avatar

Perhaps that was a poor choice of words. I did not mean to make an issue of it. I was just curious as to why it is so.

@Zyx , There are plenty of words that could be used to convey the idea of power: oak, steel, mountain and diesel for example.

Trillian's avatar

I still want to know that it is so. You know of a few female names that are also nouns. You personally don’t know any male names like that and so asume that there are none, or a significant percentage less than female.
Names come from every language.
I’m saying that you should probably look into it a bit before coming to this conclusion. Chase, Chance, Ash, and Dale right off the top of my head….

MissAnthrope's avatar

(Edited because I had mistakenly remembered my first link being part of the SSA website, rather than an independent site.)

For reference, this site, in particular the NameVoyager, to visually track naming trends.

If I had to guess, it’s because the naming of boys, for a long time, had primarily to do with title, assets, finances, inheritance, and other practical matters. Girls were seen as delicate and beauty being their most prized possession, it makes sens to me that they would be named after flowers, seasons, or other things that evoke a feeling of beauty.
Also, the Social Security Administration has been tracking baby name trends since the late 1800’s.

Sweetpea's avatar

What about Mark, John, Mat, Bob, Basil, Art, Nick, Frank, Bill? OK, the only one I don’t really know personally is a Basil.

gailcalled's avatar

@Sweetpea: You haven’t met Andrew’s cat, apparently.

iphigeneia's avatar

@Sweetpea All those names are different to the English words that they resemble. For example, while ‘mark’ is a word in English, the name Mark comes from the Latin Marcus. The etymology is completely different.

Assuming that @LostInParadise‘s observations are correct, I think that @MissAnthrope‘s answer is the most likely.

Sweetpea's avatar

@gailcalled Who’s Andrew? I’d love to meet his cat.

Sweetpea's avatar

@iphigeneia You lost me. Are we looking for original Latin, Greek and Hebrew names that are still in the original language, that are also words? Can you give me examples of names to which this would apply?

iphigeneia's avatar

@Sweetpea All I mean is that those names have meanings in languages other than English. When a boy’s name is Art, it has a Celtic meaning: rock. When you call a girl Dawn, it is because of the English word Dawn. Since we are talking about an English-speaking society, taking a word from that language increases the significance of its meaning. (perhaps someone else can explain it better, I’m in a bit of a hurry)

crazyivan's avatar

@iphigeneia Interesting point, but I think it’s ultimately irrelevant to Sweetpea’s point. The question rests on the assumption that there are more girl’s names that are English words. That is an unsupported assumption, as Trillian pointed out. So far this thread has produced 6 girl’s names that fit the description and 13 boy’s names.

I’m not saying the assumption is incorrect but there’s nothing to support it. It certainly doesn’t reflect my experience and while I’ll grant that my experience could be atypical the same could be said for the questioner.

So are more girl’s names also English words or not? It would be useless to pose answers to the question without first establishing that it addresses a real phenomena.

LostInParadise's avatar

Mat, Bob, Art, Nick, and Bill are nicknames deriving respectively from Matthew, Robert, Nicholas and William. That leaves Mark, John and Frank. Mark, as was pointed out is from Marcus. The similarity to an English word is coincidental. I would guess that the name John precedes the word. That leaves Frank, which I would guess comes from the Franks rather than the English word.

For some more girl name examples: Prudence, Faith, Chastity, Joy, Pearl, Violet, Blossom, Brandy, Daisy.

I think @MissAnthrope may be on to something.

breedmitch's avatar

Stephanie, Donna, Mary, Elizabeth, Gwen, Susan, Kathryn, Jill, Nancy, Judith, Mildred, Tracy, Kelli…
I’m not sure I agree with your premise…

iphigeneia's avatar

John being a name for a toilet, if that is what you are talking about, is a much more recent development than the first name.

@breedmitch, the focus here is on the presence of such names, not how many do not fit in this group.

We have had here many examples of English words being female names, and all the male names have been shown to be taken from other languages.

breedmitch's avatar


iphigeneia's avatar

Ralph is derived from an Old Norse word, and I don’t even know what it means in English.

chocolatechip's avatar

Aren’t all names ultimately derived from words?

Dutchess_III's avatar


iphigeneia's avatar

@chocolatechip Did you read the last two words of the question? @LostInParadise is asking about names taken directly from the English language.

@Dutchess_III Dick is the shortened form of Richard, which came about much earlier than, and is perhaps the source of, dick as a colloquial term for penis.

Haha, this isn’t even my question. I think I’ll shut up now.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I think the kinds of names we’re talking about are like..

Autumn, Spring, May, June, Lily, Daisy, etc. That’s all I can think of at the moment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@iphigeneia I know what it is! My husband’s name is Richard. We call him Rick, though.

iphigeneia's avatar

@Dutchess_III Oh, good, I was certain it was common knowledge!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was being silly! When I was a kid our neighbors had a dog named Dick. The mutt peed all over EVERYTHING so the name was very appropriate!

iphigeneia's avatar

Very good then :) Carry on, carry on!

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, now you’ve hurt my feelings @iphigeneia! You have to give me a GA!! :)

SmartAZ's avatar

@Dutchess_III I had such a dog once. We called him Liberace because he was the peein’est.

Throughout history there have been two ways to name a kid, depending on culture. Either they had a list of words that were considered names, or else the kid’s name was whatever the father called him. In ancient Rome they had names for boys, but girls could only have a feminized version of a boy’s name. That is to say there were masculine names with no corresponding feminine form, but not vice versa. In America we seem to have a clumsy mix of those traditions.

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