My husband and I are expecting our first child November 2nd. We don't know yet if it will be a boy or a girl, but we have names picked out. We recently looked up the girl name in one of those baby name books, and it essentially means unlucky girl. This doesn't bother me because I think name definitions are kind of silly, but it does bother my husband. What do you think? Does the definition of a name matter?
Hm. This is tricky. But overall, I'm with you on this and think it doesn't much matter.
For one thing, many definitions aren't "real," per se. That is, some names don't actually mean anything; someone at some point just made up a definition for it. Many names appearing in the Bible have meanings based on Biblical stories---but what did the names mean before the Bible stories? Other names come from another language and do in fact mean their meanings---but only in that other language. Other names are words from our own language and come with the meanings of that word: Grace, Patience, Peace, Ireland, Ivy, Rose, Hunter, Mason, Tanner, Archer, Piper, Ruby. Chastity. Moon Unit.
Different baby name resources can list completely different meanings: one of my books says the name Hannah means "he has favored me," and another says it means "gracious." We've had the issue raised a couple of times on this blog that Hannah is "the same name" as Grace, because it means gracious. I don't think sharing similar meanings (if they even DO share a meaning) makes two names "the same name," but plenty of people do.
I remember in elementary school standing around looking up the meanings of our names---but I was the one who brought in the baby name book, and almost no one in the class knew their meaning already. And even being a huge baby-name fan, I don't know the meanings of my kids' names without looking them up.
The names Mary and Maria and Miriam all mean "bitter," but there are nevertheless hundreds of thousands of Marys/Marias/Miriams. Elizabeth means "pledged to God," but it doesn't mean she has to be given up to the local nunnery. Delia means "born on the island of Delos," but she doesn't have to be. The name Dawson means "son of David," but his daddy's name doesn't actually need to be David. The name Melissa means "bee," but she needn't buzz or make honey.
In fact, sometimes with things like this, I like to ask myself the question bluntly: "Do I believe that using a name that means 'unlucky girl' will have an actual effect on my daughter's actual luckiness?" And in my case, I answer that question no. In my opinion, baby name meanings are only for fun. If I found a name I loved and it meant something negative, I don't think it would bother me. ...Much. I guess I wouldn't use a name that meant something like "unwanted child" or whatever, but that would be because I wouldn't want my child to wonder about it.
But we're all likely to be at different points on the spectrum on this issue: some of you will agree with me; some of you will go even further ("Names have meanings?"); some of you will be way at the other end, choosing the meaning before you choose the name; and most of you will be somewhere in between. Where are you on the spectrum?