The Irish prefixes O’, Fitz-, Mc-, and Mac- preceeding a name mean “descendent of.” The Dutch Van- (as in VanGogh) means “from,” and Vander- (as in Vanderbuilt) means “from the.” The German version is Von (VonTrapp). The French du- also means “of” or “from.” DuPont means “of the bridge”; DuBois means “from the woods.”
A man with brown hair, brown eyes, or a brown complexion might be named Brown in England; Bruno in Italy; Dun or Dunne in Ireland; or Braun in Germany.
The German name Schuster meant shoemaker; Spangler meant tinsmith; Zimmerman was a carpenter; and Schwarz meant black.
In old England, Kellogg was a person who killed hogs, Clark was a clerk, Coleman used charcoal, and Mr. Peck lived on a peak.
The person in charge of the food and drink in the great hall of a castle might be named Hall. The dispenser of provisions at an estate was often named Spencer.
Roosevelt meant rose field, and Rockefeller is a corruption of the German Roggenfelder, meaning rye field.
The Welch words Ap Rhys, meaning son of Rhys, was shortened and Americanized to Price. Leo Tolstoy’s last name meant “fat” in Russian. Mr. Sinclair may have had an ancestor from the French town of St. Clair.
When the majority of the population was illiterate, shopkeepers relied on signboards with pictures on them to tell people what business they were in. Many names came from the signs, including the German Rothschild, meaning “red signboard” and Weintraub, meaning “grape.”
Shakespeare’s name was spelled 83 different ways in his time.
Studies have shown that people with odd or unusual names are more prone to psychosis and criminal behavior. Kids with common names (such as Michael or Jennifer) tend to be more popular and do better in school than those with undesirable names or names that are hard to spell or pronounce.
In another study, school teachers were given essays to grade and were told they were written by students. Popular and unpopular names were randomly assigned as being the authors of the essays. The essays that were supposedly written by David, Mike, Lisa, and Karen received higher grades than identical essays “written” by Elmer, Hubert, or Bertha.
History’s most popular and enduring names have been Mary, meaning “star of the sea,” and John, meaning “gift of God.”
In England, the hundred most common boys’ names account for 94% of all boys’ names; and the most popular 100 girls’ names make up for 83% of the total. In some countries such as the West Indies and parts of Africa, people emphasize giving a child a name that no one has ever had before.
The birth records of Pennsylvania showed that 160,000 children born in a recent year were given 12,774 different names.
In the 1600s Puritans liked to pick inspirational names like Faint-Not, Stand-Fast, and Lord-Is-Nigh. Some popular names with these Puritan roots are Faith, Hope, Charity, Joy, Patience, and Prudence.
David Carradine and his wife Barbara Hershey named their son Free. Free changed his name to Tom.
There are about 2 million Toms worldwide.
The name Ann is used ten times more often as a middle name than as a first name.