Choosing A Name

ECohen, via Flickr

What does your name mean? Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at the meanings of names around the world, and if names can influence the people who have them.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Joy Smith is one of Spotlight’s writers. Five years ago, her son and daughter-in-law were expecting a new baby. Joy had four grandsons. But the new grandchild was a girl. It was a very special event. Joy wondered what the baby would be called. She hoped she would like the name her son and daughter-in-law chose.

Joy told Spotlight,

Voice 3 

‘After the baby was born, my son James told me they had named the baby Katherine Grace. James said they would use a short version of Katherine and call her Katie. I thought it had a nice, happy sound. James also named his little girl after my mother, Grace. This showed his love and respect for her memory. Both names made me very happy!’

Voice 1 

What is your name? Do you like it? It may be that you have never even thought about that question. It is just your name. But would you still be ‘you’ if you were called something else? Today’s Spotlight is on names.

Voice 2 

Children seem to identify especially strongly with their names. A recent study showed that 25% of young children feel they would not exist any more if you took away their name. Another study shows that about one third of all young people wish their parents had given them a different name.

Voice 1 

Some people choose to change their names when they are an adult. Many people in show business do not use the names their parents gave them. Have you ever listened to Stefani Germanotta sing? No? The answer could be ‘yes’ if we called her Lady Gaga instead! You may never have heard of Margaret Hookham. But if we re-name her Margot Fonteyn, you might recognise her as a famous ballet dancer. And would you go to see a film starring Marion Morrison - or John Wayne?

Voice 2 

These people felt that the name they had from birth did not sound ‘right’ for the work they wanted to do. But what is it that makes a name ‘right’?

Voice 1 

In many cultures, there are particular ideas about how to choose a name. For example, many people choose a name that has been in their family for many years. This gives the child a sense of belonging. It tells the child where he or she has come from.

Voice 2 

But other parents do the opposite. They create a completely new word to use as a name for their new baby. Or they use a word that has never been a name before. David and Victoria Beckham chose an unusual name for their third son. They called him Cruz. Cruz is the Spanish word for cross. It has several meanings. The Red Cross is a group that helps people in trouble. But a cross is also an instrument of torture and death. And to ‘be cross’ means you are angry. It is an unusual name for a little boy.

Voice 1 

Choosing a good name for your child is not an easy job. Many parents search books that tell them the meaning of names. They might want to say something about how they feel when their baby arrives. They could choose a name that carries a message. Nathaniel means ‘given by God’. Wunand means ‘God is good’. Edith means ‘valuable gift’. Amanda means ‘worthy of love’. Fara means ‘cause for joy’.

Voice 2 

Names like these tell family and friends how happy you are with your new baby. Other names can tell something about the events surrounding the birth of the child. In Africa, a first born son may have the name Mosi. In Japan, the name Kazuo also means first born. In Africa, the name Ama means ‘born on Saturday’. And in China, Huyu means ‘born in winter’.

Voice 1 

But in some cultures, parents use names that carry a completely different kind of message. A girl may be called ‘No-good’ just because she is a girl and her parents wanted a boy. Or a child who is unhealthy may be called ‘Burden’ - a heavy load that the parents do not want to carry. Names like these cause great unhappiness. All through their lives, people with names like these remember that their parents did not want them. A name like ‘No-good’ affects the way a girl feels about herself and about her family.

Voice 2 

But can our names affect our lives - the way we behave or the job we do when we grow up? Some experts say that they can. Does every girl called Malak behave like an angel? And is every girl called Mahira quick and full of energy? Does every boy called Cahil lack experience? Or is every boy called Huang wealthy? Scientists who study names say that a name may influence a child’s future. However, this influence is small. A parent’s guidance is much more important. Everyone with the same name does not behave in the same way. They do not all like the same things.

Voice 1 

No parent can tell what kind of person their child will grow up to be. Just because parents name a boy Fahim, it does not mean he will be intelligent. All they can do is hope.

Voice 2 

But God can choose a name for someone that is exactly right because he does know what each person will be like. History records some people God named.

Voice 1 

When Abraham was born, his parents called him Abram. But when he was 99 years old, God told him to change his name to Abraham. The new name means ‘father of many nations’ and that is exactly what Abraham became. All the Arab nations and Israel have the same ancient father, Abraham.

Voice 2 

Another person God named was Jesus. Before Jesus was born God said to Mary, his mother, ‘You will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’.

Voice 1 

Christians believe that is exactly what Jesus did. And they believe he still does it. The Bible teaches that Jesus will take away the sins of any person who trusts in him. Jesus makes them pure on the inside, as if they never did any wrong.

Voice 2 

At the beginning of the programme we talked about Joy’s new granddaughter. Her name is Katherine. Joy discovered that the name Katherine means pure. Joy hopes Katherine will be a good girl. But the name also has a special meaning for Joy. Joy is a Christian. She also hopes that Katherine will trust in Jesus. Joy believes it is the only way for Katherine to be really true to her name.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Joy Smith. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Choosing a Name’.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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What does your name mean? Who chose your name?


Avatar Spotlight
said on November 08, 2011

In our country we named our children like some effective historical persons .My name is Batool and that’s one of our Prophet’s daughter names . it’s also have a good mean ,it’s mean Virgin.thanks for the good program ^_^

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 08, 2011

I think it is so important for parents to give a right name. My mother wanted to name me Aleksandra after my grandmother. But my father said:“My grandmother said to name all girls Tatiana. Its mean Sovereign!It is a strong name!” And so many girls in our family have a such name as me.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 08, 2011

I’m from Vietnam. My parents named me Xim but I do not understand what that means. I wish they gave me another name. In my country, the names of children must be different from the names of their ancestors. I think names influence life’s people but they can not decide all things.

Julie Ppark's avatar
Julie Ppark
said on November 10, 2011

I’m from South Korea. Most people in my country have 2-syllabled word name, each of which has different meaning respectively and they are combined to a whole good meaning. For example, my name is Ji-Eun, Ji means wisdom and Eun means grace. It means to live wise and graceful. ^^*

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 10, 2011

My name is international. I can use Ellen or Hellen in the United Kingdom or the United Stated of America.
My name comes from the Greek (origin), and it means one that shines…

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said on November 11, 2011

My name Patrick comes from the Ancient Roman classes, and also from the sitcom Bob Espoja. I’m from Ecuador

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said on November 11, 2011

Hey people and good evening everybody who live in this wonderful world. Good theme I want express my respect authors. If true I don’t believe that name can influence on person’s life and even on his or her behavior when it happens it’s just match. By the way my name is Denis you can call me Den in short form))) I wish you good luck. And care yourself.'s avatar
said on November 13, 2012

This is an interested topic! and I like it.
Because, I am an Asians, choosing a good name, right name or meaningful name is wonderful and amazing! it not only express a beautiful name but also state the window of the people who chose that name.
Imagine, there is some one has a name ” Thief or Robber”. how it be terrible!
good luck!

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 13, 2012

As always this topic is awesome I didn’t know that the artists had other names
I like the music of Lady Gaga but I thought that her name was a real name.
It’s interesting the meanings. What’s the meaning george? If you know please tell me thanks..
Bye everyone.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 16, 2012

I think naming for children depends on parent’s ideal.In Vietnam,there are many different ways and ideal for deciding their children’s name.
Ex,some parent like would like to name their child is Flower’s name (“Lan,Hong,Cuc…”), or all of names of their children can make a meaning sentences as:“Happiness (“Hanh”,“Phuc”),Success (“Thanh’, “Cong”)....

Have a nice day

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said on January 13, 2013

i dont like my name…..but my parent gives it for me….so, quite alright..i love it kekeke

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said on May 28, 2013

i think my name does not have meanings. my parents only want to give their children’s name for rhyme sake.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 30, 2013

I am from Vietnam. My name is Kieu Oanh and my grandmother named it for me. When i was a child i did not really like my name. But now, I like it and I think it means beauty and grace! :) I like everyone call me “Kieu Oanh” than only “Oanh”.
Have a nice day everyone! <3

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 06, 2015

This story make me thing that God created us and other tasks left, they would be given for our parents.
About myself, my parent named me Kha and gave me a religion is Roman Catholic. I love my name, and also appreciate God let me gave born in a catholic family.

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 20, 2015

We are born and named. Our parents, our family, everyone and our community desire we will become a good person. Our name has a meaning. We have a character. Our name is dear to our family and community. We are cared for, taught and educated. Our character may be gentle, very gentle, bold or very bold. Our character develops. Our family and community is dear to us. We grow up in family and community. We become a mature person of family and community. We become a good person of family and community. Family and community are hallowed to us. Native land is hallowed to us.

Mupmip218's avatar
said on October 05, 2015

Wow! So exciting when many people from Vietnam left their comment here! My name is Ngoc Diep, a very simple meaning of a butterfly for a girl.
Thanks my parrents for giving me this name althought I dont like my name much. Because Diep is so hard for foreigners could call my name exactly.
Anyway, It’s still awesome. :3

Have a wonderful Oct!

Avatar Spotlight
Yen Van
said on November 22, 2016

Thanks for this nice topic about NAMES. I’m from VietNam, I am studying in India right now. My name is Vân: it means CLOUD. But when you add my middle name: Yến (name of a spring bird). My name becomes: Yến Vân (bird flies over the cloud, my parents wish me develop. This name was given by my grandmother.
In VietNam, some families follow tradition of China. They will choose the name for baby follow the 5 elements in nature: water, fire, ... after analysing the baby’s birth chart. Not only the meaning of the name but also the nature contains in this name.

Avatar Spotlight
Jesús velasquez
said on November 22, 2016

My name is Jesus , the name like our God ‘’ Jesús’‘. My mother chose this name for me, because her embarazo was complicated , then she promised to God ‘’ Jesús’’ that if all about her embarazo with me was successful my name would be Jesús. This is the history about my name and thanks a ‘‘God ‘‘I am alive and very healthy.

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alsadig shareef
said on November 23, 2016

my name is Alsadig which means a honest in english.

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said on November 25, 2016

I’m Tinh from Viet Nam. In Vietnamese, “Tinh” means “love”. In the past, almost male’s name have “Van” and female’s name have “Thi”. But now, we name new baby in the way we like.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on December 04, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Sunday 04, December 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Joshua Leo, Joy Smith, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you for bringing us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!
My name means simplicity, naturalness, and sincerity.
Who chose my name was my mother. I have already told you that in a previous article about meaning’s names.
So, my name belonged to a powerful, rich, simple, and a religious man who was called SEVERINO DO RAMOS who lived in Paudalho Pernambuco in Brazil .
So, that noble man gave up about the whole his wealths to become a poor man. And he went to live together another poor people around his area.
However, God became that important man in a powerful and miraculous saint in Paudalho in Pernambuco in Brazil.
For that reason, every year a lot of people go to the Paudalho city in Pernambuco to get many unbelievable miracles from that powerful Saint; SEVERINO DO RAMOS.
Thank mother to give me this name; SEVERINO RAMOS.
Of course, I am not a Saint but I am not a bad man. I seek to do everything in a correct way to be well seen by God and people.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 03, 2019

A child’s name should be carefully chosen by the parents. They should think about their son’s future social relationships, such as at school and at work. I know a man who called his son “Esperendeus”, made by the composition of “Believe in God” in the Portuguese language. When the boy first went to school and the teacher said his name, the other boys and girls laughed a lot at him and he no longer wants to go to school, causing his parents big problems.
My name is “Honneur” and it means “honor”. I think my father expected me to be an honorable man, but living in Brazil is a lot of responsibility for a poor boy.

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said on September 04, 2019

I believe the parents have a big responsibility when a child born.
I`m from Brazil and here have a mens and women that have a strange names and during the life can cause a problems in the schools, companies and public places.
Sometimes this person is victmin of bullying…

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said on September 12, 2019

My name is Ayatuallah it’s a compound name formed by joining (ayah and allah)
It has a great many meanings
Ayah means miracle, sign , beauty , wonderful
And ayatu-allah together means miracle from (allah) god
I’m so happy to have that name
And it’s a rare name especially in Egypt maybe in Iran it’s common
Actually my dad told me if i was a boy he’d name me (Abd-allah, abd-elrahman) those mean a person who worships and believe in god
N he was so happy when i was born so named me that (Ayatuallah)