While one of the most exciting tasks of preparing for the baby’s arrival is choosing the name, it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. You want to provide the child with a name that will give them strength, a name they’ll love and carry with pride.
A name is more than a word. It has more power behind it than we could ever realistically fathom. It’s been widely claimed that a name has its own vibration. This could be a good vibration, omitting joy, energy and passion, for example. Or a negative vibration, omitting, for instance, depression, sadness and reluctance. Doesn’t it make sense to give your child a name which represents something optimistic rather than something bleak? Personally, I’m on the fence with this because I’m besotted with the name Brona, and it appears on this list!
While it’s not considered bad luck to change your name, you should try to give your children a name they’ll want to keep! The following names have been regarded as unlucky in one way or another, yet they’re often also beautiful, and several have more than one meaning.
At the end of the day, your child’s name will have an influence over his or her life. But we all hold the keys to our own thoughts, emotions and behaviours despite the name we’ve been given.
Origin – French
I’d heard this name before, a long time ago, and it took a while until it dawned on me that it was Mallory ‘Mal’ Pike from The Babysitter’s Club books. Mal doesn’t think she’s pretty and lacks confidence, which makes me wonder if the author Ann M Martin chose her name because of its meaning – ‘ill-fated luck.’
Mallory reportedly originates from the French surname Maloret, and made its way to England with the Normans. While this name is considered unisex, it’s a rare occurrence to encounter a male Mallory.
Origin – Welsh
Tristan brings to mind a delicate youngster, so it was surprising to learn one of the best known meanings is ‘noisy.’ It’s possible the name might originate from the Welsh for tumult or uproar which relate to the noise of battle – ‘the clanking of swords.’
Tristan also has a Latin translation, ‘full of sorrows.’ This makes sense if we think of the poignant medieval story Tristan and Isolde, and the 1994 film Legends of the Fall starring Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow. The film was based on a novella by Jim Harrison who chose the name because of its connections to sadness. In the film, bad things happen to everyone who Tristan encounters. Unsurprisingly, the name saw an increase in popularity after the film’s release.
Origin – Irish
It was through TV show Penny Dreadful that I first encountered Brona. A beautiful, feisty, strong willed immigrant from Ireland living in London and working as a sex worker while battling tuberculosis.
This unique name, which is mostly used in Ireland, is pronounced Bro-Nah and means ‘sadness.’ It was the name of a sixth century mystic.
The popularity of the name Brona peaked back in 1921. The past 128 years haven’t been kind to this exquisitely melancholic name, and it’s failed to make it into the top 1000 names in the United States.
Women called by the name Brona are known for being sensitive creatures, but they’re not fond of showing their emotions. Their independence is vital to their well being, and they possess a deep inner strength.
Origin – Hebrew
I encountered the name Molly when I was young and staying with my Grandmother. She had a penchant for the Irish folk song Molly Malone. I always thought the song was about a doomed, beautiful fishmonger, and though it was wonderful, it was still terribly depressing.
The name itself translates to ‘bitter.’ Maybe Molly Malone was bitter about needing to push a cart of fish around Dublin like ‘her mother and father before…’ Though it is a name derived from Hebrew, Molly is actually mostly used in England and Ireland. In the UK in 2015 it was ranked as the country’s 46th most popular name for girls.
Origin – Latin
Derived from the old Roman family name Porcius, Portia means ‘pig.’ This not overly flattering name dates back centuries. It’s unknown where the name came from but it’s thought the family were once pig farmers.
One notable Portia is Portia Catonis, the wife of Brutus, a man famed for being one of Julius Caesar’s assassins. When she discovered her husband had been killed in battle, she committed suicide in the most perplexing way – by swallowing hot coals.
The name isn’t commonly used in America. It appeared in 1900, but only 25 baby girls that year were given the name. It went out of use for 40 years (1901-1941). It was used sparsely during the 70s and made a small comeback in the 1980s. 1992 saw it disappear once again and it has yet to resurface.
Origin – Hebrew
You don’t hear the name Cohen used very often as a first name. This could be because it’s considered extremely offensive to the Jewish faith. A Cohen is a Jewish Priest, so if you aren’t Jewish, giving your child the name Cohen could be compared to a non-Muslim calling their child Muhammad.
Despite it being frowned upon as a first name, Cohen is the most common surname for Jews in the United States, but even then it isn’t thrown about. It’s reserved for ‘the priestly caste’ who are descended directly from the biblical Aaron. Cohens are granted certain privileges within the Jewish faith, but their lives are also restricted. They cannot, for example, marry a widow.
Origin – Scottish
I’ve met plenty of people called Kenny, but I’ve never met a Kennedy. Pronounced KEN-a-dee, this name has various meanings connected to it, though the two most known are ‘ugly head’ and ‘helmeted.’ The names, however, don’t have anything to do with the person having an ugly head. Back in ancient times, when wolves still roamed the forests of England, ‘ugly head’ was given as a name to a wolf skull ‘helmet’ worn by powerful members of Scottish clans.
Kennedy is often given to children – both boys and girls – in honour of the late John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States who was assassinated in 1963.
Origin – Latin
This striking, airy, feminine name translates to ‘blind,’ though some claim it actually means ‘leader of the blind.’ In the 2nd century, a martyr Saint Cecelia was sentenced to death because she refused to worship the Roman gods. When the first method of execution – suffocation – didn’t work, she was beheaded and struck three times.
In Scandinavia, Cecelia is a common name, especially in Sweden. In Norway it has the alternative spelling of Sissela.
You may recognise the name from the Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970’s hit Cecilia.
Origin : German
The name Lorelei is easily mispronounced. It can either be lawr-e-LIE, or LAWR-e-lie. It’s origins come from a Germanic name meaning ‘Luring Rock.’ This name is nothing but alluring and seductive, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn there’s a sinister tale behind it.
In German legend, Lorelei was a beautiful maiden who threw herself into the Rhine after learning about a faithless lover. In death she transformed into a siren and lured sailors with beautiful singing toward a rocky section of the river where they’d perish.
The esteem of this unusual name has fluctuated over the years. It saw an increase in popularity in 1953 following Marilyn Monroe’s role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where she played the seductive, gold digging siren Lorelei Lee. The name experienced another resurgence in 2004 with Gilmore Girls and Lauren Graham’s character Lorelai.
Origin : Hebrew
For sailors out at sea Jonah represents someone, either a passenger or a fellow ship mate, who brings bad luck.
The name in the Bible is borne by the bad-tempered, untrustworthy Israelite prophet who disobeyed God, ended up in trouble on the sea and was saved by a whale. In medieval times, the story of Jonah and the Whale were very popular, which boosted the name’s popularity.
Between the years 1880 and 1910 the name Jonah was used here and there, but then completely disappeared for almost 60 years. It was only in 1970 when it re-emerged but again it wasn’t massively used.
Origin : Latin
I’ve met lots of women using Claudia – pronounced KLOW-dyah.
Claudia is the feminine form for the ancient Roman family name Claudius and means ‘lame.’ The meaning is often debated because no evidence exists that the earliest bearers of the name were actually lame. They were, however, recognised for being haughty and arrogant and harbouring disdain for classes lower than themselves.
Though this is a name that sounds beautiful, it’s notorious for belonging to badly behaved little girls, including the little child vampire Claudia in Anne Rice’s novel Interview With the Vampire.
Origin : Hebrew
When I think of the name Jezebel, I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t want to meet someone who goes by this name. Jezebel was in fact a queen of Persia, and a strong leader, but was demonized by the Bible. The name Jezebel means ‘impure’ or ‘wicked.’
When we think of Jezebel we think of a seductress, a temptress, a corrupt woman. It’s a name geared towards the evil. Like me, if you were going to meet someone called Jezebel you would probably make assumptions about them before you’d even met.
However, in recent years the name has seen something of a resurgence, and there’s even been the launch of a blog called Jezebel which is aimed at independent women.
Origin : Hebrew
Pronounced Lee-uh, Leah means ‘the weary one’ and in the Old Testament Leah is the first wife of Jacob and the mother of seven of his children. Some people believe Leah could also mean ‘little eyes’ referring to someone who doesn’t have perfect sight. However the name is saved by the Gaelic meaning which translates to ‘The Light of the sun.’
Despite the connection to weariness, Leah is a very popular name and has been in use since the 1880’s. Since the 1980’s it’s been in use continually.
Leah is a popular name in Scandinavia (though it was officially rejected by Iceland in 2009).
Origin : Spanish
Meaning ‘The Devil’ in Spanish, Diablo brings to mind an extrovert with an adventurous spirit and a quick tongue. Pronounced dee-AH-blo.
This name isn’t popular in the slightest. The last time there were more than four recorded males named Diablo was way back in 1975.
Diablo happens to be a super villain in the Marvel Comics’ universe and an enemy of the Fantastic Four. It is also an action role-playing game. Diablo Cody is the creative name of the screenwriter of Juno, a mountain range in the eastern San Francisco Bay area and a car made by Lamborghini.
Origin : Gaelic
When I think of Doyle I definitely don’t think of a ‘dark stranger.’ The name comes from an Irish surname which was derived from Ó Dubhghaill.
Doyle is common as a surname in Ireland, but not as a first. In the 1930s the name went through a boom of popularity in the United States with 283 boys named per million babies. It remained a somewhat popular choice until the 80’s but hasn’t been popular at all in recent years.
Aside from Arthur Conan Doyle the author of Sherlock Holmes, the name Doyle does have other interesting contemporary cultural references, including the guitarist from the American Horror Punk band The Misfits who changed his name from Paul Caiafa to Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein.
Origin : Hebrew
Gideon means ‘having a stump for a hand’ though despite it’s somewhat grizzly meaning, it’s a strong name with an equally strong history. In the Old Testament, Gideon was a judge called on by God to rescue the Jews from the Midianites.
People with the name Gideon relish working with others to create peace. They are extremely passionate and tend to have magnetic personalities. If you meet a Gideon, it’s not likely that you’re going to forget him.
Origin : Hebrew
Mara is a fascinatingly dark name. It translates to ‘bitter’ in Hebrew and is also the ‘ancient root’ of Mary.
It’s known throughout other cultures, too; Mara is the Maltese name for woman and a Scandinavian folkloric creature which causes nightmares.
In 2015 Mara was rated at rank #737 in the United States and has been on the top 1000 list since the 1950’s. It’s considered by many as a strong female name.
Origin : Irish
I will forever associate Deidre with a character from Coronation Street, a popular English soap opera. She was a chain smoking miserable lady with a croaky voice and a bad temper. The meaning of the name is ‘sorrow’ and it’s always been associated with broken hearts.
According to Celtic legend, Deidre was the most beautiful woman in ancient Ireland. She killed herself when her lover was slaughtered by a jealous rival.
Deidre has not been a popular name in recent years. The last time it had anything like a boom was back in the 1940s.
Desdemona will always be a smack of sadness for me. While it’s a romantic, seductive and strong name, Desdemona actually means ‘ill fated’ and, in Greek, ‘of the demon.’
Desdemona was the name of the murdered wife in William Shakespeare’s Othello. In this sad story, Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army is corrupted by his unfaithful commissioned office to kill Desdemona, his devoted wife.
Origin – Hebrew
If you’re naming your baby Samuel, be careful when spelling his name for the birth certificate. One small mistake and you could have a ‘demon’ on your hands! The history behind the name Samael is extensive, though it translates to “severity of God” in Hebrew and Samael is a demon in the Jewish demon lore. He also holds important roles in occultism and is known as being one of the fallen angels.
Samael’s dark connotations mean that it’s a name which is extremely low in the ranking: #11,474. In 2015, 5 babies in every million were called Samael.
Origin : Greek
Persephone, pronounced per-SEH-fo-nee, means ‘unknown’ though it’s possible the name can also mean ‘she who lights the darkness.’
In Greek mythology, Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. She was kidnapped by her uncle Hades, the God of the underworld, who would only permit her to return home for part of the year. Persephone’s journeys to and from the underworld signify the changing of the seasons.
Origin : Latin
The Omen. That was the very first thing that came to mind when you saw this name wasn’t it?! Well, it’s not as sinister as you were expecting. Damien doesn’t actually mean son of the devil. The name actually has no links with the devil at all. This English name, which is pronounced DAY-mee-ən, is derived from Latin Damianus and actually means “to tame, to subdue.”
The name has seen a dramatic increase of usage over the past fifty years and in the United States, its ranked at #115.
There’s variations in the spelling across the world. In Bulgaria they spell it Damjan. In Italy it’s spelled Damiano, and in Russia it’s spelled Demvan.
Origin : Greek
Cassandra, pronounced kahs-sahn-dra, is Greek for “entangler of men,’ though her name can also mean ‘bringing light to mankind.’
Medieval stories of The Trojan War were popular in England during the Middle Ages which subsequently saw the name Cassandra being passed to many babies. Recently, 1990 has been the year of this name. It’s popularity has slowed right down since then.
In a Doctor Who episode called The End of the World, there is an evil character called Cassandra who is an evil human and is… bear with me… a trampoline made of skin.
Origin – English
The name Emily is an interesting one. Emily has been a hugely popular in England for what seems like forever despite its meaning of ‘rival.’ In French, German and Latin however, it means ‘hardworking.’
Girls named Emily have a tendency to be leaders and have a desire to set life at their own pace. They can be proud, stubborn and impatient. Perhaps one of the most famous Emilys is Emily Jane Brontë, author of the classic English novel Wuthering Heights.
Origin : Latin
The name Dolores was introduced to me when my Mum was into the Cranberries in the early 90’s. The vocalist for the Irish rock band who had a tendency to play grief-stricken music was called Dolores.
Pronounced do-LO-res, this name has its origins in Latin and the word ‘Delor’ which means ‘sorrows.’ The name Delores translates to “Lady of Sorrows.”
You may well remember the name from Vladamir Nabakov’s novel Lolita where the real, full name of the lead character was Dolores. There is, of course, also Dolores Umbridge, the awful Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from Harry Potter.
The name peaked in popularity in the 1930’s but has yet to gain a foothold again.