Made-Up Names: The Pros and Cons

Nameberry is having a super fun contest- invent a name! There are lots of great submissions. I spotted Isadela, Avantine, Samadhi, Viterra, and Candem. My entry was Maxienne, which I loosely based on Maximus.

Although the contest seemed well received, I don’t think invented names generally are. “That sounds made-up!” is a common phrase on naming boards, and it’s not a compliment. Newly coined names seem to be generally viewed as graceless and gauche. Even when they combine popular sounds or elements, they seem to be more criticized than their more classic counterparts. There are cons to using new coinages. Among them:

  1. They may not actually be unique- Take a new coinage like “Blakesly.” You’ve likely never encountered one. Less than 5, and possibly 0, children were given the name in 2016. However, nearly 3000 girls received a similar name in 2016, mostly variant spellings of Blake, Blakely, or Blakelyn. Altogether, that’s about the same number of girls named Alexandra or Faith- hardly something you’d be surprised to hear on the playground.
  2. They’re tough to spell and pronounce- One of the winners of Nameberry’s 2015 invent a name contest was Avonlea. But is the last syllable pronounced like Lee or Leah? Is the first syllable a long or a short A? Because it’s an invented name, there really is no right answer. Explaining a name might be okay at first, but it will likely become very tiresome very quickly.
  3. They have no history- There’s something appealing about the thousands of years of history behind a name like Alexander. It was worn by kings and conquerors, saints and scientists, poets and heroes. Its roots are ancient and wide-reaching. New names just don’t have that.

 

But at the same time, I don’t think invented names are all bad. There are lots of reasons they may appeal:

  1. They’re different- Even though Blakesly may not be unique, it is a little Blakesly may share a classroom with Blake and Blakelyn, but she’ll be the only one with her exact name. For many parents, that’s the sweet spot. And inventing a name allows parents to choose exactly what they want in a name. If they like the nickname Ace, but want something longer that ends in -n, they can invent Acian. There really are no limits, so the customization possibilities are endless.
  2. It’s a new name for a new person- Some modern parents don’t care about their choice’s history. They want their 21st century baby to have a 21st century name. That’s just as valid as wanting a historically rich name. And new coinages are rarely totally new- they’re almost always smooshes or variants of existing names, so the history isn’t totally gone.
  3. Many of the problems with new names exist in old names as well- “Acian” doesn’t have a meaning. It’s just a sound. But there are lots of older names- Declan, for example- whose meanings have been lost or forgotten. Some classic names (like Catherine and Isabel) have just as many spelling variants as invented names. Choosing a classic name doesn’t mean the name will have no drawbacks.

 

Like everything in naming, it’s all a matter of taste.

And just for fun, a few names I thought of for Nameberry’s contest that didn’t make the cut:

Najalei (nah-jah-lay)

Pyaran (pie-a-rin)

Etienna (eh-tee-en-na)

Elikai (el-ih-kai)

Adden (add-in)

Claraveive (cla-ra-veeve)

Atlan (at-lin)

Azilee (ah-zih-lay)

Naroe (nuh-ROH)

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