The Hidden Meanings Behind Common Names

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What’s in a name? It turns out that many of the names we consider “common” and “ordinary” actually have powerful, valiant origins.

Check out the hidden meanings behind 20 common names that make these everyday monikers suddenly seem very interesting!

1. Emily

Emily is a name that calls to mind talented and passionate females ranging from Emily Bronte to Emily Blunt. However, there may be a reason why so many women named Emily feel driven to rise to amazing heights. This common name is derived from the Roman family name of Aemilius that actually means “rival.”

2. Noah

Noah is best known for its association with a man with a biblical story arc involving an ark. The modern-day name of Noah is derived from a masculine Hebrew name of Noach. It means “rest.”

3. Sophia

In addition to being an elegant name, Sophia is also a very smart moniker. That’s because Sophia comes from the Greek word for “wisdom.” In ancient times, the word was tied to clever, wisdom-seeking qualities.

4. William

William is a classic name that’s associated with rulers and warriors. While Liam has outshined William as a name choice in recent years, the names share the same valiant origins. Based on its Germanic roots, William means “resolute protector.” William the Conqueror is credited within bringing the name William to England for the first time in the 1600s.

5. John

While John may be a common name, it’s far from a boring one! This very traditional and spiritual name is derived from the Hebrew Name of Yohanan. It means “graced by God.”

6. Jessica

Jessica is a true “It” girl name. Just think of Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, or Jessica Chastain! What makes this name especially fascinating is that it was technically invented by William Shakespeare. Derived from the biblical name Iscah that means “vision” in Hebrew, Jessica was first anglicized by the Bard of England in “The Merchant of Venice.”

7. James

While it’s easy to think of James as a very unassuming and gentle name, this title hides a very interesting and powerful history. James means “supplanter. In other words, James is a person who usurps, seizes or circumvents.

8. Eleanor

Eleanor is a winner for anyone who loves bright, shiny names! The most popular Eleanor in the history of the United States is Eleanor Roosevelt. She was actually the longest-serving first lady in United States history. However, the name Eleanor predates the former first lady by centuries. Eleanor is an ancient Greek name that means “sun’s ray” or “shining light.”

9. Lucas

Lucas is a Latin form of the Greek word for “bringer of light. What’s fun about this seemingly common name is that it can be spelled in a variety of ways. Common variations include Lukas, Lukasz, and Luka.

10. Jennifer

There’s no denying that Jennifer was considered the quintessential girl name throughout the 1980s and 1980s. However, this modern name is actually a version of the old Welsh name of Guinevere. This name is a symbol of beauty and purity that translates to mean “fair one.”

11. Oliver

Oliver is a handsome name that combines strength and peace. It comes from the Latin word “olivarius” that refers to someone who plants olive trees. Symbolically, Oliver refers to someone who lives in peace and dignity.

12. Olivia

Like the masculine name of Oliver, Olivia is also a Latin name that refers to olive trees. Olivia has all of the same characteristics of strength and peace of its masculine counterpart. It also provides a beautiful way to select a nature-inspired name.

13. Michael

Michaël has become such a common name that it’s actually easy to gloss over its mystical, angelic meaning. Michael is a Hebrew name that translates to “who is like God?” The most notable figure with this name is Saint Michael the Archangel. Alternative spellings and pronunciations of Michael include Mikhail, Michel, Michal, and Miguel.

14. Ava

The soaring popularity of Ava in recent years ties in perfectly with the name’s bird-inspired meaning. It’s believed that Ava is derived from a Latin word called avis that refers to birds or birdlike qualities. However, some people trace the origin of Ava to a Hebrew word havva that means “life.”

15. Jacob

Jacob certainly comes across as a cool, calm, and collected name. However, the biblical origins of Jacob are actually pretty intense. This is a name that is associated with several different meanings due to the multifaceted experiences of its biblical bearer. Derived from the Hebrew name of Ya’aqov, Jacob can mean to follow, to supplant and overreach, or to be a heel.

16. Charlotte

Charlotte is the female version of Charles. It became a popular name for princesses and queens in Europe due to the fact that it was already a favorite name for little boys among royal families. In French, Charlotte roughly translates to mean “free man.”

17. Aiden

The hidden meaning behind the name Aiden is rooted in Irish mythology. Aiden is actually derived from the name of a Celtic god named Aodh, who controls sun and fire. The name Aiden literally means “little fire.”

18. Elizabeth

With its association to Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more class acts from modern history, Elizabeth is about as classic as it gets! The interesting history of this name is that it means “God’s promise. The name became popular due to its association with the mother of John the Baptist.

19. Alexander

While the name Alex might come across as a casual, laid-back name, the hidden meaning behind Alexander is fierce. Alexander means “warrior” in Greek. While there were many Greek men named Aléxandros, the name really gained its strength from its association with Alexander the Great of Macedonia.

20. Ella

Is Ella the most magical name in the English language? You might think so once you learn about its hidden meaning. Ella translates to mean “fairy maiden” or “goddess” in German. Fun fact: George and Amal Clooney named their daughter Ella.

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Emily Mendez, MS, EdS

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