What’s in a name anyway? When choosing a baby name, there’s a whole lot to consider. You might come across a name and think to yourself “that’s pretty.” The name might sound nice, but many popular names that we give our children have meanings associated with them that are pretty bleak. For instance, the name Leah means “weary.” You don’t want to go labeling your child “weary one.” Maybe you do and that’s between you and your maker, but most of us find the meaning of names important. A name with a solid meaning is something you can proudly tell your child about or let them discover themselves as they grow older. As we researched name meanings, we were shocked to find that some of the most popular names out there have dark, depressing, or even morbid meanings. Check out our list of 40 baby names with weird meanings. First to make sure your name isn’t on the list! Sorry to all the Rebeccas out there! And then secondly, to discover some names you might want to avoid for your kid.
Similar to the very popular name, Christian, Tristan is a name with a much darker meaning. It’s a Celtic name that means “tumult” or “outcry.” Popularized by Arthurian Legend, Tristan and Iseult, Tristan was a Knight of the Round Table. The story ends in tragedy with bramble briars growing from Tristan’s grave. So, not the happiest name!
39. Olivia and Oliver
Typically, scholars look to the Latin root of the names Oliver, Olivia, Olivier, and Olive to mean “olive branch” or “olive tree.” However, in German, the name means “elven” or “elf.” If you’re into little humanoid creatures, please read on. There’s the king of them on this list.
In Homer’s The Illiad, the prophet and daughter of King Priam, Cassandra predicted the fall of Troy. Over time, the name took on meaning from the epic and means “unheeded prophetess” or “one who entangles men.” Cassandra is saucy!
The Greek name Alexia means “defender of men” which is a lovely meaning! But, Alexia is also the name of a rare disorder that’s similar to dyslexia. Usually occurring after a stroke or brain trauma, Alexia causes “word blindness.”
The name Rue and its spelling became popular after a character from The Hunger Games. Rue means “regret.” The French spelling of the name, Roux is more traditional and means “russet.” If you’re into cooking, this would be a great name for your little nugget because it also refers to a type of French thickening agent for sauces made from butter and flour.
Aeron is a handsome name for both girls and boys that comes from Wales. The name is a derivative of Agrona which means “slaughter.” Aeron is really killing it.
Coriander is not the most popular name out there, but it’s become favored among parents who want to call their children “Cori” or “Andi.” While this botanical name might make you think of cilantro, it actually means “bed bug.” Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the Corianders bite.
In the Bible, Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi claimed the name Mara as a way to express her grief after the loss of her husband and sons. The name Mara is Hebrew and means “bitterness.” Who wants a bitter baby?
Because many of us were raised on Sesame Street, we associate the name Oscar with Oscar the Grouch. The real meaning of the name doesn’t mention a garbage-dwelling puppet. Instead, there are three different meanings for this name and all of them are odd. “God’s spear,” “divine spear,” and “deer friend” are all meanings of the name Oscar. Do deer have friends? Is the friendliness mutual?
Another unexpected name meaning comes from the Hebrew name, Deborah. Deborah was a heroine from the Old Testament who lead armies to destroy their enemies. She certainly knew how to make it sting. The name Deborah means “bee.” Which could be much worse! Of all the insects, bees are some of the least offensive.
The name Drake comes from the Old English “draca” and means “snake” or “dragon.” Maybe that’s partly to blame for musician Drake getting in his feelings. It was all part of God’s plan.
Cecilia and its shortened forms Cece or Cici all come from Latin and mean “blind” or “dim-sighted.” In fact, “cici” is a Romanian word that means blindness.
The Russian name Igor has an oxymoron for its meaning. Igor means “warrior of peace” which is like saying “keeper of chaos.”
Pepper became a popular occupational name for those in the spice trade. But, the name was more commonly used as a nickname for a man who is short in stature. Short men (short kings) were commonly referred to as Peppers because they were as small as a peppercorn. Additionally, Pepper was also used as a nickname for a man with a fiery temper.
Many people hear the name Lady and immediately think of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. Before the name became synonymous with a female head of a household, Lady meant “bread kneader.” If you want your child to grow up to make some sick loaves, consider naming her Lady. It might seem like an old fashioned name because it is.
The unisex name, given both to boys and girls, Kennedy, might sound classy to you. After all, we’ve had a Kennedy as president. However, the name means “deformed head.” Yes, this name has roots in both Celtic and Gaelic and refers to misshapen heads.
A heroine from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Portia might appeal to parents because the character has so many excellent qualities. The actual meaning of the name Portia is not so attractive. The name is of Latin origin and means “pig” or “hog.” It turns out Portia might be a better name for a pet than your human offspring. Sooie!
Don’t tempt fate with the name Calvin. Calvin comes from Latin and means “bald” or “hairless.” Nearly two-thirds of men in the United States experience male pattern baldness. Don’t curse your son to a life filled with comb-overs and existential dread.
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Lola is a shortened version of the name Delores. Lola seems like a cheerful name and many parents are naming their daughters this playful name. In fact, it’s one of the top 200 names given to girls over the past decade. Little did these parents know, they’re cursing their child with a life of sadness. The name means “sorrows.”
Fear not! Lola will be in good company with any boy named Brennan. Brennan comes from the Gaelic name Ó Braonáin. The anglicized version of this name means “sadness.”
Rebecca is such a common name, one that’s probably been in the family for some time. Rebecca comes from Hebrew and was the name of an esteemed figure in the Bible. After the Protestant Reformation, the name became popular with Puritans. But, those Puritans weren’t so pure. Rebecca means “to tie firmly.” This evokes… certain connotations.
Famed poet Lord Byron once wrote, “I love not man the less, but Nature more.” That’s probably because his name means “cowshed.” Yes, the name Byron comes from the Old English word “byre” which means “cow barn.” Lord Byron also wrote, “Adversity is the first path to truth.”
Gather round, and let me tell you the frightful story of Lorelei. Fishermen on the Rhine River in the 17th Century knew to steer clear of the “luring rock” because a tempting siren named Lorelei lived on the rock and was known to lure fishermen to their death. If you want your daughter to grow up to be a “maneater,” naming her Lorelei would seal her fate.
If your child was conceived while on a bad vacation, business trip, or an unpleasant visit with in-laws, consider naming him Melvin. Melvin is another Irish name with a less than savory meaning. It means “bad town.”
Courtney is a popular name for girls that has not one, but two horrible meanings. While the meaning is disputed, one camp thinks the name means “broken.” The other argues the name means “short nose.” Please do not maim your newborn with the name “broken short nose.”
The name Caleb comes from the Hebrew word “kelev,” which means “dog.” Dogs are absolutely the greatest, but dogs are not babies. You could always name your son Caleb and daughter Portia and then you would have a “dog” and a “hog.” Please do not do that.
The name Giselle seems like it should belong to a hip gallery owner or perhaps a worldly fashion photographer. Giselle is a German name that means “hostage.” Unless you plan on hiding your child away in a bunker, avoid the name Giselle.
The name Amos sounds friendly. Maybe a little too friendly. Amos is a Biblical name that means “burden.” Your child should be a blessing, not a curse! Don’t name your child Amos, because he’ll undoubtedly end up becoming “that friend.”
You might think that naming your baby Lilith and calling her “Lily” for short is smart. Wrong! The name Lilith means “night monster” or “ghost” in Hebrew. Your little Lily could actually become a vampire if you name her this fated name. Think long and hard before unleashing that sort of evil upon this world.
You’ll save thousands of dollars in unwanted orthodontist bills by avoiding the name Campbell. Campbell is another name that describes a messed up face. It’s Scottish and means “crooked mouth.”
Mallory is a name that comes to us by way of France. The French would label an unfortunate person with bad luck “malheure.” Naturally, the English thought it would be a great name to give children. It evolved into Mallory over the years. Don’t bestow upon your child a name equivalent of a dozen broken mirrors.
Ralph might sound like an apt name for an American trucker, but it’s actually Norse in origin. The name Ralph comes from “Rathulfr” which is a compound name that means “wolf-counsel.” Unless you want your son conspiring with a pack of untamed beasts, avoid this name for boys.
Your baby is not your frenemy, okay? The enviable name Emily comes from the Latin version of the name Aemelila which means “rival.” Emily Dickenson wrote, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” A girl named Emily will come for you.
You dodged a wolf attack by not naming your son Ralph. Now what? The unisex name Avery might be a sound choice. The name Avery is derived from the Ancient Germanic name, Alberich. What do you think this Alberich is up to? He’s the King of the elves! Avery means “Elf King.” If that doesn’t frighten you away from this name, we don’t know what else to tell you.
You might think the name Claudia sounds stately or even sweet. The name Claudia is Latin and means “lame.” Have you heard of these two dudes, Nero and Pontius Pilate? One was a debaucherous ruler who persecuted religious minorities in Ancient Rome. The other pretty much did the same but is infamous for his part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Both those jerks named their daughters Claudia. So, maybe don’t.
Luckily, the name Molly has fallen out of fashion. Molly eventually became a pet form of the name Mary, but before it got there, it had an unpleasant past. In the Middle Ages, a woman was called a “moll” or “molly” if she was considered a gangster’s girlfriend (not wife, if you catch our meaning). For those who the name stuck, it meant “bitterness.” Not a good look.
Your poor, hairless son, Calvin might have been better served by the name Cesar or Ceasar. Cesar means “hairy” and comes from the Latin term for “long hair.” Save your son from a lifetime of back shaving and waxing by avoiding this name.
Don’t even think about naming your darling baby girl Belinda! The name became popular in a time when snakes were considered sacred symbols of wisdom and mortality. Belinda means “beautiful snake.” Get that serpentine propaganda out of your life! There has never been anything beautiful about a snake. Give her a real name, one with legs!
Sure, the name Gideon sounds cool especially if you’re a fan of those mini bibles in hotel rooms. But, the name Gideon comes from Hebrew and means “one with a stump for a hand.” In the Bible, Gideon was a judge who rescued the Jews from the Midianites. The name eventually became popular with the Puritans and has remained common today. Do not name your baby for a hewed hand. Thanks.
Let us ruin the name Julia for you! The name Julia, as we know it today, became popular in ancient Roman. It was an imperial name given to females in the house of a Julius (Ceasars!). Julia sounds beautiful and in this context came to mean “youthful.” Before it became fashionable in ancient Rome, the name Julia was a Greek family name that came from the word “iolos.” Now, what does “iolos” mean? It means “downy bearded youth.” So in ancient Greece, it was the equivalent to today’s “peach fuzz.”
Just like all words, names are living things that change meaning over time. Many names have been part of the lexicon for centuries. As such, they’ve got some baggage. Who doesn’t really? If the origin or meaning of a name is something important to you, be sure to take the time and do some research. For most people, a name is what you make it. Fine. But, when your little Lillith is standing over your bed one night, may this listicle haunt you.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 40. Tristan
- 2 39. Olivia and Oliver
- 3 38. Cassandra
- 4 37. Alexia
- 5 36. Rue
- 6 35. Aeron
- 7 34. Coriander
- 8 33. Mara
- 9 32. Oscar
- 10 31. Deborah
- 11 30. Drake
- 12 29. Cecilia
- 13 28. Igor
- 14 27. Pepper
- 15 26. Lady
- 16 25. Kennedy
- 17 24. Portia
- 18 23. Calvin
- 19 22. Lola
- 20 21. Brennan
- 21 20. Rebecca
- 22 19. Byron
- 23 18. Lorelei
- 24 17. Melvin
- 25 16. Courtney
- 26 15. Caleb
- 27 14. Giselle
- 28 13. Amos
- 29 12. Lilith
- 30 11. Campbell
- 31 10. Mallory
- 32 9. Ralph
- 33 8. Emily
- 34 7. Avery
- 35 6. Claudia
- 36 5. Molly
- 37 4. Cesar
- 38 3. Belinda
- 39 2. Gideon
- 40 1. Julia
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