Word Names That Aren’t

Word names are an undeniable trend. From occupational words like Mason and Harper to virtues like Grace and Chance, it seems words are hotter than ever. But many names we think of as word names actually have a totally separate history from the words they sound like. They’re essentially homonyms- they sound the same, but come from a separate root and often have a different meaning. A few examples:

Hayes- it sounds like “Haze, but it’s a surname with three possible derivations: English, from the word “hedge;” Irish, from Aodh (“fire,” also the root of Aidan); Yiddish, from a matronymic surname related to “Khaye,” meaning “life.”

Blaise- like Hayes, this is a sound alike, but it’s not related to blaze, as in “fire.” Instead, it’s from the Latin word meaning “lisp.” Catholics will recognize it as the patron saint of throat conditions.

Robin- a bird, or a nickname for Robert.

Carol-  a song to sing at Christmas, or a feminine form of Charles.

Mark- a blemish, or a form of Marcus. Marcus was used in Rome and is probably derived from the god Mars (“man”).

Hart- I suppose this one may be cheating. I always thought of “heart” when I heard this name. Hart isn’t related, but it is technically still a word- a hart is a male deer. The surname was given to people who lived in areas with lots of deer.

Jet- this nickname for Jethro has a distinctly aviational feel.

Axel- it’s the attachment to a wheel, sure, but it’s also the most stylish form of Absalom currently in use.

Saga- the original old Norse meaning of this name is “seeing one,” but the modern English meaning, “an epic story,” is just as interesting.

Hale- Hale means “healthy,” but the surname comes from a word meaning “nook” or “retreat.”

Rose, Lily- these names’ etymologies were heavily influenced by the flowers, but they aren’t entirely word names. Rose was also derived from the Germanic element hrod, “fame,” and Lily was a diminutive of Elizabeth.


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