Anyone interested in names knows there is a veritable ocean of articles, books, and websites that cover everything imaginable about names and naming. There are, in fact, people whose hobby is collecting names–funny names, weird names, and celebrity names, for example. In fact, people who have an unusual (some would say unhealthy) fascination for names are called Name Nerds. Names and naming are, however, more than just a hobby for genealogists. Understanding the history of names, as well as finding name definitions and patterns, can sometimes make or break a genealogist’s quest to find ancestors.
Among the numerous sources of information about names and naming are two websites that are extremely valuable as well as entertaining. These two websites are Behind the Name: The Etymology and History of First Names and its sister-site, Behind the Name: The Etymology and History of Surnames. Both of these websites are not only entertaining but are also filled with information and definitions of names that can be very helpful to genealogists.
Behind the Name: The Etymology and History of First Names, found at http://www.behindthename.com, offers background information about names and naming. It also offers search capabilities where people may type in a name and browsing capabilities to search by gender and by nationality (everything from African to Welsh), ethnicity, or topics such as astronomical, biblical, literary, and mythological names. It even offers ancient and medieval names and their meanings. The entries provide the meaning, pronunciation, variations and other information about the name.
Behind the Name: The Etymology and History of Surnames, found at http://surnames.behindthename.com, offers browse capabilities for names derived by given names, location, nickname, and occupation. Surnames are also searchable by nationality. The emphasis is placed on European surnames from Albanian to Welsh, but the site also includes regions like Basque, Catalan, Cornish, Frisian, Galician, and Provençal. In spite of the European emphasis, the database also includes surnames from other nationalities and cultures like African, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Khmer, Turkish and Vietnamese.
These websites are fun. Just try to visit either one and leave after only one search. Before you know it, you will find yourself looking at names that have “fiery” meanings or names associated with “warriors.” The sites offer a lot to anyone interested in names and are user friendly enough for Name Nerds and genealogists alike to use and enjoy.