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, make sure your name isn’t on the list! Sorry to all the Rebeccas out there! And then secondly, 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. Not the happiest name, but still pretty good.
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. We can see the appeal of this name, especially in Germany so 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! We love both meanings of this name, so you have good options when you’re telling other people what your name means.
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 two meanings of this name might be a little more on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they’re both cool.
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.”, this would be a great name for your little nugget because it also refers to a type of terrific 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. Believe it or not, this is also the name of a river in Wales, so we can just imagine how popular this name is there. We really do love this name!
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 and don’t let the Corianders bite. This name might also be popular with fans of comic books.
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? Despite its slightly bitter roots, this name is still a beautiful choice for your baby girl. So we’d definitely consider this name.
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. That’s variety!
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, and over here, we love bees.
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. This name definitely has a bit of a fantasy vibe that we’re really digging. For whatever reason, this name is still extremely awesome and a definite win.
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. Despite any of that this name is still extremely beautiful and overall a very nice name to give to your little girl. This one goes on the list of names we’ll be considering.
The Russian name Igor has an oxymoron for its meaning. Igor means “warrior of peace” which is like saying “keeper of chaos.” This name has that strong feel to it that’s even embedded in its Russian roots. To be a warrior of peace means that you’ll fight for it and that means you have to be strong to keep fighting.
Pepper became a popular occupational name for those who traded spices. 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 those with fiery tempers.
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. Elegant.
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. We certainly didn’t know the hidden meaning behind this name, but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘unappealing.
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. This name might just be the common link between all those bald men? Or maybe at least a few.
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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 were cursing their child with a life of sadness. The name sadly 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.” These people must know that you can’t have the happy times without a little bit of sadness. So when little Brennan and Lola come through it’ll be a pretty nice reminder.
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. But we don’t judge.
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.” Byron isn’t really a name you hear much, especially in recent years.
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. This name is beautiful though, and we’d say its a definite winner.
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.” We don’t think that Melvin is as common of a name today as it might have been in the past. Its not bad.
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.” How do you think your kid would feel to grow up named this.
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. That might not have been the best suggestion to give for children’s names.
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. However, Giselle is a very pretty name and if you choose to ignore its meaning, it’s pretty solid.
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.” But if you decided that that’s the name you want for your kid then so be it. Amos it is!
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. Or maybe, lean into it?
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.” It’s wild to think that so many good names describe something messed up. Campbell isn’t a name you hear every day, but when you do, it might be a last name.
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. It might be bad.
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. But like we always say, it’s ultimately your choice. You can choose!
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. When she does, please always remember that we told you it would happen. You didn’t want to believe us.
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.” This name lets you indulge in the fantasy.
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, he’s infamous for his part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
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. For those who the name stuck, it meant “bitterness.” Not great honestly.
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. Still though, the name Ceasar has been around for a long time, it’s hard to shake him.
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! Something to dance to!
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 is still common.
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Let us ruin the name Julia for you! The name Julia became very popular in ancient Rome. 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.” In ancient Greece, it was the equivalent of 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.
If you liked these names with strange meanings and origins, you might also like some banned baby names from around the world. These names were actually chosen by new parents but they were so bad that local governments had to step in for the welfare of the children. You won’t believe them!
These Banned Baby Names from Around the World Will Seriously Crack You Up!
A couple in Sonora, Mexico named their newborn Robocop. Robocop! Officials in the town were outraged and thought one baby named Robocop was too many. They outlawed the name. No more sequels to Robocop now.
24. Sex Fruit
Officials in New Zealand intervened before a couple could name their beautiful bundle of joy Sex Fruit. Thus saving local registrars offices from having to legally change the name in the future, we think the Kiwis did the right thing.
In Denmark, parents are required to choose approved names from a list of 7,000 names. Special approval has to be granted to use a name not on the list. About 250 names are rejected each year. Monkey is one such name.
Parents were interested in naming their Swedish child after the Swedish furniture giant, IKEA. Unfortunately (fortunately?), the name violates Sweden’s strict naming laws.
21. Prince William
This one is a two-parter so be sure to read the other name a set of parents from France chose as well. Two maniacal new parents wanted to name their French baby Prince William. A court intervened and the couple was told to choose another name for their son.
20. Mini Cooper
After the devastation of not being able to name their child Prince Harry, the same parents came up with a new name for their baby boy: Mini Cooper. The same court said no once more saying that the parents couldn’t name their child after a car either.
We’re so #blessed that New Zealand releases lists of names that they’ve banned every year. In 2013, the country released its list and one really stood out to us. A parent there tried to name their child Anal. The government of New Zealand deserves a special award for saving that poor child from a life of humiliation.
18. Osama Bin Laden
Shortly after the attacks on the US on 9/11, a Turkish couple living in Germany wanted to honor the man behind the attacks by naming their child Osama Bin Laden. German officials stopped that from happening because the name violated part of the country’s naming guidelines that state a name “must not be likely to lead to humiliation.”
17. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii
What are they drinking down in New Zealand? The government stepped in and assumed legal guardianship of a 9-year-old girl who was named Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii. They took the action to find the girl a proper name after she complained of being “mocked and teased.”
A couple in France wanted to name their child Nutella after the sweet, chocolate, and hazelnut spread. A French judge ruled the name would result in “mockery and disobliging remarks” and forced the couple to change the name to Ella.
15. Akuma [Devil]
Akuma is the Japanese word for “devil.” In the 1990s, parents in Japan named their child Akuma and a media frenzy followed which caught the attention of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. A Justice Minister ruled that the government couldn’t force the parents to change the name. But, they did ensure that no other children would be given the name. Akuma was outlawed in Japan.
Swedish parents somehow got away with naming their boy Metallica and he was even baptized under the name. However, a tax official came across the name and alerted officials and the parents were forced to change the name to something more appropriate.
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13. Chow Tow [Smelly Head]
Malaysian authorities received a huge influx of applications for name changes several years ago which motivated the government to publish a list of banned names to keep that from happening again. One name that made the list was Chow Tow which means “smelly head.”
Here’s another two-parter. New Zealand is clearly over its citizens’ bullsh*t. Parents decided to name one of their children Fish. Fish! As if that weren’t bad enough, Fish had a twin brother. Please read on below.
Chips is Fish’s twin brother and the parents intended to name their twins Fish and Chips. New Zealand said ‘not on our table!” Parents were forced to change the names.
A stoned throw away from New Zealand, in Australia attempted to name their child after food as well. The government stepped in and banned the name Spinach.
Not many of us look to various poisons as baby name inspiration. But, one woman in Wales is an exception. She tried to name her daughter Cyanide but a court intervened. She took it to trial and gave the explanation that Cyanide was “responsible for killing Hitler and Goebbels and I consider that this was a good thing.” The British Court of Appeals did not let the little girl receive the name.
Another banned baby name from the fine residents of Sonora, Mexico was banned after being found in the registries. Mexican authorities couldn’t stop a baby from being named Circumcision but they did ban the name so that no other babies can receive it in the future. Thank heavens.
China doesn’t allow symbols for baby names. One couple, challenged that rule, arguing that the “@” symbol which is pronounced “ai-ta” in Mandarin and sounds similar to the phrase “love him” makes it an appropriate name. The government didn’t see it that way and the name @ is banned.
You’re looking at this in disbelief, but Saudi Arabia banned the name Linda in 2014. They released a list of names that are unacceptable and Linda made the list because it was too closely associated with Western culture.
In case you were wondering, the ‘name’ Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 is banned in Sweden after parents tried to convince authorities the name is pronounced “Albin.”
Sonora, Mexico really had a time trying to get a handle the names there. In addition to Circumcision, the name Scrotum was also banned.
Officials in Germany had a similar problem as officials in Japan after parents tried to name their child Lucifer. They argued that the Lucifer is Latin for “light-bringing” but the Association for the German Language said the name was unacceptable.
In Iceland, the letter “C” isn’t in the Icelandic alphabet and due to this fact, you can not name children with the letter “C.” The former Mayor of Reykjavík found this out the hard way after he wanted to name his daughter Camilla. It’s a no go. The Mayor called it an “unfair, stupid law against creativity.”
Can you believe Tom is a banned name? Portugal has some odd rules about names. All names must be Portuguese and a couple there was denied naming their child Thor because it’s not Portuguese. Additionally, shortened names or nicknames are also unacceptable. A couple tried to name their child Tom, but they were forced instead, to name him Tomás.
Some names are just really awful and should not be allowed. Portugal has an 82-page list of banned names. We’re torn over the restrictive naming rules of some countries because they do seem a bit draconian. However, you don’t want Scrotum and Circumcision showing up in the same classroom, so there’s that.