First Names That Have Double Meaning

Etymology, or the study of the origins of words, is quite a fascinating field. Within this field is the more specific study of names, or onomastics. Like languages, names have developed throughout history through various influences, be it social-economic factors, migration, occupations, wars and conquering, shifting of empires, and more. 

Nowadays, giving a name is as easy as grabbing a baby name book and going down the list. Many parents choose their children’s names for a variety of reasons; some just like the sound of the word, some are naming the baby after another family member, but many often name their children based on the meaning of the name. 

Above all, names these days just seem to get increasingly more and more creative, especially with all these celebrities naming their kids things like “Apple”, “Blue Ivy”, “Puma”, and “Banjo”. With the culmination of thousands of names originating from hundreds of cultures, languages, countries, and regions, there is a lot to choose from, and many names that end up having multiple meanings. 

Here are some first names that have double meaning:

1. Griffin– The name Griffin is thought to have originated from the Welsh “Griffith”, which in turn was either Gruffydd (meaning red or ruddy) or Grippiud (meaning prince). However, the griffin, or gryphon, is also mythical, legendary creature from ancient Greece, with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. 

2. Rosemary– At first glance this name is just a combination of the names Rose and Mary. But at second glance you’ll see it references the herb, rosemary, an aromatic plant with needle-like leaves often used in cooking. Besides that, Rosemary can also mean “dew of the sea” from Latin. 

3. Linda– This fairly well-known name has two different meanings, depending on what language origin you look at. From the Germanic languages, it means “soft or mild”, but from the Latin languages like Spanish or Portuguese, it means “pretty or beautiful”. 

4. Duke– Although this first name might not be so common anymore, people with this name can boast that they are both a “leader” (from the Latin significance) and also a noble English title, such as the Duke of Cambridge (currently Prince William, married to Kate Middleton, which makes her the Duchess of Cambridge). 

5. Earl– Just like Duke, Earl is another name that is a title of English nobility, but also has a meaning in another place. It was first known as signifying a successful or notable warrior. 

6. Rebecca– This name comes originally from the Old Testament, where the name was in Hebrew: rivka. Rebecca was the wife of Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob. It means “join, tie, or knot”, but it can also mean “captivating”. 

7. Karl– Also sometimes spelled with a C, this originally Germanic name simply meant “man”. However, theorists believe it might have alternatively meant “army or warrior”. The interesting thing is that Karl is actually where the name Charles comes from, and from there developed into Charlotte, Carol/Carole, Charlene, and Chuck. 

8. Emma– Known by the famous novel by Jane Austen of the same name, Emma began in the Germanic form of ermen, which means “whole or universal”, translating to “universal woman”. But it can also come from the longer name Emanuele, which of course is the female version of Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us”.

9. Talia– Talia is a beautiful name that originates from the Hebrew language. It is constructed of the word tal, meaning dew, and yah, meaning God; it therefore comes together to signify “dew of God”, or “dew of heaven”. However, Talia is also the name of a town in South Australia, thought to be from the Australian Aboriginal language meaning “near water”.

10. Mackenzie– This name is more frequently used for girls, but it has been known as well as a masculine name, making it unisex in general. It means “pretty or good-looking”. But interestingly, this name actually began as a surname instead of a first name, and it follows the origins of Scottish patronymic naming rules, which is where the child is named after the father. In Scottish Gaelic, Mac or Mc means “son of”. So technically, Mackenzie means “son of Kenzie”. 

11. Sabrina– You may have heard of the movie Sabrina starring Audrey Hepburn, or perhaps the TV series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but Sabrina was the name of a river in Wales- now called Severn. There supposedly was a princess named Sabrina who was drowned in that river, therefore the name means “from the River Severn”. Though due to the story of the princess, the name has also come to mean “legendary princess”. 

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