What Does A Name Mean?
Posted by: Brittney Zellner
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Is this true? But what does a name mean?
If you want to know the answer to the question, “What does a name mean in a dream?”, an article from a notable Lebanese author and journalist Amin Maalouf seems to suggest that names might have originated from some other word used long ago. For example, the origin of the word “rose” which is now associated with beauty may have actually been associated with the word for “thorn” giving the rose both a positive and negative symbolism. Yes, the rose will still smell sweet but to quote Mr. Maalouf it might be safe to assume that “the original name for ‘rose’ was probably linked to its capacity to be a nuisance rather than to its beauty.”
My point in this post is to bring light to the fact that words all came from somewhere and more specifically, personal names all came from somewhere. Also, the meaning of those names might be different than what they originally were. I also am going to explain how this relates to dream symbolism.
Names in the Bible
Anyone with a Strong’s concordance, whether 100% accurate or not, can see that throughout the bible names always meant something. No one named their son Olah-beow-mow because they thought it sounded cool or Lilapushyla because it sounded pretty. It also appears based on biblical and other ancient texts I have read that the name of your child was often related to some experience had at their birth by the parents or namers of the child. For example, Moses was pulled out of the water and that is what his name means “to draw out”. Isaac’s name meant laughter. Abraham was commanded by God to name him this but aside from Sarah’s doubting laughter probably also symbolized the intense joy that both Sarah and Abraham had when she was finally discovered pregnant some years after they were told she would be.
All of Jacob’s children were named for the experience of the mother of each child at their birth or conception. Specifically, they were each given a name for the cause of their birth or for the feelings of the mother at the time of the birth. There is hardly a place where you will find a person who has a name throughout the Tanakh (old testament) where parents gave a name just because.
Names of Honor
As time moved forward, historically people from different cultures still named their children similarly. However, the naming began to take on a different meaning. Instead of a name that instills a certain character dependent on the experiences or feelings of the family, parents began to name their children after people known to be great in their own cultures or religions. Biblical names are still popular in Jewish cultures all the way back to the first century and before. The same is true for most Latin based language countries like Spain, Argentina, England, and even Eastern European countries. Here they had naming traditions based on saints and biblical people. In most countries today there is a movement away from traditional naming to names that represent the sound preferences of the parents or fashionable names based on famous people.
Origin of Surnames
Paternal, place, origin, and occupation naming also changed it seems. People were originally known by a name and then what followed in order to lend credibility to the person. This following name would be the name of his father, the place of his origin, or his family’s trade. Originally you might have the name “Great Oak Tree son of Happiness of Three Lakes Baker”. It sounds funny in English but this was how it appears to have been done. In more modern times, the “son of” and “of” words were simply lost or became part of the last name ie: MacDonald. The meaning of names has all but become mostly unknown to modern Latin language-based speaking countries.
Lingering Naming Traditions
Until as recently as the ‘30s, Turkey utilized only first names followed by “son of” and their father’s first name. Surname laws came into effect shortly after and families created family names in response. Many countries in the world still use circumstance naming. Like the Yoruba people in Nigeria have a naming tradition that when the baby is born if it is a twin it receives the name “twin” in their language. Likewise, if the cord were to be around its neck at birth or his father is out of town, the baby’s name would be the word for those things or anything else that would happen at the birth. This seems to coincide with biblical naming practices.
Sound Preference and Fashion
What I am attempting to explain is how names have an origin as regular words that simply describe a circumstance. Later, naming conventions moved on to what I call “honor naming” where the child is named after ancestors, family members, friends or religious figures and finally onto the more modern tradition of sound preference. Here the parents may have no idea what the name means that they are naming their child but do so simply because they like the way it sounds or it is in fashion.
One might imagine that something has been truly lost to us that was once common. For example, when one person met another person for the first time, they would immediately have some words in which to associate with that person that drew a mental picture for them, therefore forming a characteristic of that person. The advent of language evolution is what brought this inevitable loss.
In addition to the mother or father giving the name, oftentimes a person receives a name by a group of people based on some action of theirs. For example, if you had contributed to leading an army to victory, you might be given the nickname of “conqueror” by the people you’ve helped. “What do people call you?” was also a common question that we don’t pay much attention to these days but suggests that what people call you, as opposed to your born name, is more important in telling who you really are because names symbolize your overall character.
What Does a Name Mean in a Dream
In dream symbolism, names of people and people in general, represent the fixed character and inherited character of the dreamer. People in dreams all represent aspects of our own personalities or more literally a related set of actions and thoughts. As I have said before, no matter how you feel about them in your waking life, in your dream they represent a part of you. The character is both positive and negative in its symbolism, so as you go through life’s ups and downs, either symbolism can apply to you. Most people who interpret dreams do not utilize the meaning of the names of people in their interpretations. While I am sure some do, I have yet to read of one interpreter who does, so I will explain the symbolism of names in dreams.
First Names Meaning
Given names represent our dominant all-encompassing character but also represents our authority. Character and authority also connect to your clothing. A king’s family wore rich clothing…the poor wore rags or peasant clothing. Colors and fabrics were an important part of this as well but for the purposes of this post, our names as our character are what we will stick to.
Middle Names to Surnames
Middle names were similar to surnames when they began, in that they may be your father’s name while your surname might be your grandfather’s name and so forth. Surnames were either given by honor of your parentage or by honor/shame of your birthplace. A birthplace or the place you hail from could be an honor or a dishonor according to the point of view. An example of that would be the point of view of the Nathanael when he responds to Philip saying messiah came out of Nazareth. He said, “what good ever comes out of Nazareth?” This was a place of shame to some Jews.
Either surname whether from father or place would denote “where” you have come from or where your given name characteristic came from. Every middle name symbolizes the place where the initial character came from and every surname represents where the previous characters came from. Surnames could also represent the trade of the person or their family. A job or trade represents a person’s purpose in life symbolically.
Example #1 of What a Name Means in a Dream
Given this information, I will show some examples. Keep in mind that first, second, and third names create a picture of the dreamer’s path in life that led to their current characteristic or in the case of the young, will lead to their characteristics. Character begets character in all of these circumstances.
For example, you have a dream and there is a man named Sir John Tellerman of Glenwood. A dream will usually have people we already know but can often times have names in them we are completely unfamiliar with. But even if we do not see any people but hear names only or see them written, we can learn a lot about our own character from God’s perspective.
The title of Sir shows an honored status and possibly a purpose. Someone who receives an honorable position in life or he may be a knight, which symbolizes honorable and good virtues. If he were an evil knight he would represent an aspect of your mind and actions that should be honorable and loyal to good virtues but is not.
John comes from the Hebrew word Yochanan which means “grace of Yahweh”. This name represents a part of your character that seems to act out of being shown grace by God.
A teller-man represents your purpose or in the case of a surname, it represents where that purpose came from or the character it developed out of. A teller-man would be the person responsible for keeping an account or keeping accounts; a characteristic of organization and accountability.
Glenwood means valley forest. It is a place denoting difficulty in traveling and difficulty in knowing where you are going and what is next on the path.
Generally, you determine the message of the name by the actions of the person in the dream, the message of the dream itself, and how you feel about this name or person. An idea can form without that information, however. Essentially this name symbolizes a characteristic of the dreamer that came out of a situation where the dreamer does not foresee what is going to happen in their everyday waking life and finds the path of his life to be difficult. Because of this difficulty, the dreamer has developed an ability to keep watch and an account of his life. Out of his ability to be accountable, he has developed a characteristic that acts in response to receiving unmerited favor. He also has been bestowed with the task of living an honorable and virtuous life in service of the will of God.
Example #2 of What a Name Means in a Dream
Here is another example of a name in a dream; Miss Elizabeth Abigail Taylor.
Miss symbolizes the status of an unmarried woman and can sometimes represent something having passed you by.
Elizabeth is originally from the Hebrew, ‘Eli Shabbat”, meaning to offer up rest and an offering of rest.
Abigail comes from the Hebrew, “Avi-gayil”, meaning “my father is joy” and represents a further explanation of where Eli Shabbat came from symbolically in the dreamer’s characteristics.
Taylor symbolizes the job of a family. It describes a characteristic whose job it is to adjust the clothes or symbolically the character of themselves and others. It also denotes a servant or lower class status.
The name “Miss Elizabeth Abigail Taylor” heard in a dream symbolizes a characteristic that came from a place of helping other people to correct their character. It also comes from a place of correcting your own character. Out of that characteristic came a characteristic joyful about Abba and from that characteristic came a gift of peace. These are the characteristics of someone who has yet to fully commit to a covenant with God and at one point may have passed the opportunity by.
I hope I have made this explanation understandable. Most dreams will have a family member or friend in them and their name might not be spoken. While not actually spoken, the meaning of the name adds more details about the character of the dreamer during the interpretation. The family position and feelings about the person or situations with the person also contribute to the overall meaning of that character. However, the name is the most important aspect that all other people symbols fall under.