New way to build the largest dictionary of names on the planet

What do you know about your name? Probably a lot. Now on, you can share what you know about your name or any of the other names in our database. Just like on Wikipedia, we’re relying on you, the expert, to give others the information that they’re looking for. Search for a name and click “edit” to add information about history, meaning, nicknames, famous people, and anything else you know.

The Names of How I Met Your Mother

One of the world’s favorite English sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother (also known as HIMYM), is going to be wrapping up its nine-year run pretty soon, and when it does, the somewhat uncommon names of its five main characters – Barney, Lily, Marshall, Robin, and Ted – will probably slip from the public’s consciousness, no longer peppering overheard conversations in the train or dominating the watch-and-tell TV blogosphere. Or will they? We were interested in seeing whether the popularity of the show HIMYM, which directly targets the getting-married-and-having-children age demographic, inspired any new parents in their choices of names for their children born during the last nine years. So let’s take a look at the five main characters’ names – as well as a bonus name – to see whether any interesting patterns pop up. Barney – Barney’s full name, Barnabus, has never been in the top 1000 names in the U.S., nor has the shorter name of Barney since 1976. No pattern here. Granted, from what we know of the character, no self-respecting parents would want their son to share his name… Lily – the name Lily was unpopular for years but has been on the rise since …More

Indian Names in the News

First there was Bill. Then there was Steve. And now there’s… Satya? The recent naming of Satya Nadella as the new CEO of Microsoft has put the spotlight on the growing influence of the Indian community worldwide, especially in fields like business and technology. While Nadella is certainly not the first Indian CEO outside of India, he’s one of relatively few Indian names in the English headlines. However, his home country has far more to offer over the next several decades, and as India continues making massive contributions to the worlds of business and technology, Indian names in the news will become more and more common. The appointment of Nadella – well, not the appointment itself, just is name – piqued our interest, so we wanted to investigate the names of some of the most prominent Indians in business and technology. Let’s start with Satya himself, whose full name is actually Satyanarayana Nadella. The name Satyanarayana is one of the names of the famous Hindu deity Vishnu, he who protects and maintains the world. In pictures, Vishnu has blue skin and four arms. The word satya is Sanskrit for “truth” or “reality,” and Satyanarayana literally means “truth protector.” As Microsoft …More

Welcome new! Name Generator, Name of the Day, and more!

If you haven’t been to the main site in a while, check it out! We have a new look and feel, and we hope that you’ll find it even more useful than before. As soon as you get to our new home page, you’ll see the difference. We’ve got a new “Name of the Day” feature with a spotlight name chosen at random from the thousands of names in our database. When will your name be the name of the day? You’ll have to check in every day to find out! (Just kidding… you can scroll through previous spotlight names right there on the home page.) Right next to the “Name of the Day” feature is a list of “Recently Added Names.” This list is updated regularly so you can see brand new names that have been added to the site by any of our thousands of users. Check out where our latest visitors are coming from, and watch our website grow! A new name generator feature finds names matching all of your specifications, including length, letters, and popularity. If you’re searching for a name for your future children, a fictional character you’re writing about, or your newest online …More

Breaking First Name Stereotypes… or Not?

Common sense tells us that having an uncommon name, while it might attract a little more attention in the classroom, won’t make any great difference in the real world. Who we are is based on what we do, not what we’re named, right? You may have heard the story about the man who named his children Winner and Loser. You might be surprised to hear that while both brothers ended up in the criminal justice system, it’s Loser who’s the cop and Winner who’s the criminal. But other than far-out cases like this, a name is just a name. Or is it? In fact, Kalist and Lee (2009) found that children with unpopular names are more likely to end up juvenile delinquents. How about the study by Willis, Willis, and Gier (1982) that found that people with unusual names had more problems with personal and social adjustment? In that study, unique names were found more frequently in low-income areas and less frequently among professionals. Another study by Joubert (1983) found that students with unusual names were less likely to graduate with honors than those with more common names, and this effect was especially strong among women. Now, of course this …More

The Fashion of First Names

Say you’re a manager, and you’re interviewing for a position in your company. There are three candidates coming in for job interviews today named Jennifer, Lisa, and Mary. Can you put them in order from the oldest to youngest without knowing anything else about them? Chances are you can correctly guess that Mary is the oldest and Jennifer is the youngest. But tomorrow you have three more candidates coming in named Michael, Matthew, and Christopher. Can you put them in age order? Probably not. Just as clothing trends cycle in and out of popularity (and in again), and each generation has its own prominent themes in media and pop culture (which also cycle in popularity, as the producers of Sharknado took profitable advantage of), names also follow fashion trends. A modern family would hardly consider naming their daughter Dorothy or Esther these days, even for the sake of a long-suffering grandmother (or great-grandmother). But these trends are far more fickle when it comes to girls’ names. For a variety of reasons, boys’ names don’t change nearly as much from year to year. So how do naming trends change? How can entire countries suddenly decide that this name, which served well …More

The Power of First Names

Think about the last time you went to see a doctor. You probably called your doctor by her last name, e.g., Dr. Miller, right? But if you have a friend who’s a doctor, you probably call her by her first name. In many societies, we use last names not just as an indication of title or rank (as in President Obama or Detective Poirot) but to show a certain social distance. Think about how Mr. Burns calls his assistant “Smithers” or how colleagues, especially in more professional settings like the government, call each other by their last names, even if they’ve worked together for a long time. In these societies, first names have a kind of intimacy, a feeling of familiarity that is reserved only for those with whom you really are familiar. In some societies, this is even more pronounced – as in Japan, where you simply do not refer to other people by their first name unless you know them well and last names are written in all capital letters to show the primary means of addressing a person. In some traditions, names are even considered magical, and a person’s “true” name is kept secret, while they use …More

The Long and Short of Our (Nick)Names

Our names are part of our personality, no doubt. There have been plenty of studies showing a correlation between our self-esteem and how well we like our own names, and our names affect our interactions with those around us, including our family, our peers, our teachers, and our colleagues and bosses. But here’s something you might not have thought about: the length of your name can affect what people think about you, regardless of the letters and sounds that are in your name. Pretty strange, huh? Not only that, you might want to think twice about using a nickname – and you might want to carefully consider what nicknames your children may receive before naming them – because nicknames invite certain expectations of their own. First, let’s make one point: size matters. For English names, anyway, name length works like hair length: longer names are associated with being less masculine (Mehrabian, 2001; Joubert, 1994). When lists of names were analyzed phonemically (meaning that they looked at the specific sounds in each name), it turned out that women’s names were longer and had more vowels (Whissell, 2001), and had more sounds and syllables (Slater & Feinman, 1985). If we look at …More

Hurricane Names

There’s been some buzz recently about a proposal by climate change activists to start naming hurricanes after people who claim that climate change isn’t influenced by people. Of course, we can’t imagine policymakers actually taking this proposal serious, but it’s funny to think about. (Just for the sake of science, climatologists believe that climate change won’t necessarily cause more storms, just stronger ones.) But it got us thinking – how have major storms in the past affected baby names in the years after? A little history on hurricane names: the U.S. has been naming tropical storms for more than 60 years now. (Tropical storms are the precursors to what are called typhoons in the Pacific and hurricanes in the Atlantic.) The reason was because during a busy storm season, it’s a lot easier to talk about Tropical Storms Alice and Carol and Hurricanes Betty and Denise than it is to talk about Tropical Storms 1 and 3 and Hurricanes 2 and 4. The latter could cause a lot of confusion about where and when each storm was expected to make landfall. But the U.S. wasn’t the first to name storms, although they were the first to do so systematically. Back …More

Celestial Names

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has historically seen no reason why the unnamed stars, asteroids, planets, and other space things that have been discovered should have any sort of real “name.” If astronomers and other scientists are the only ones who pay attention to such things, why should they bother assigning them names when they could just stick with a scientific designation? And so they did. That’s why we were all pretty surprised when they announced a couple weeks ago that they were opening up the naming of newly discovered planets and their moons to the public. You’ve probably heard about companies that will name a star for you, right? You pay a fee and they send you an official-looking certificate that admittedly makes a nice, meaningful gift for someone you love. Unfortunately, these companies are bogus. The only people with real authority for naming celestial bodies are the folks at IAU, and until now, they weren’t too keen on the idea of inviting normal people into the naming process. But if you’re interested in naming something in space – for real, not just for fun – now’s your chance. There are some rules, of course. Names must contain 16 …More