Let me start out by making one thing perfectly clear: If you love a baby name, you should use it. It doesn’t matter if you know 12 other kids with that name. It doesn’t matter if it’s “out of style” or your mother-in-law doesn’t approve. Naming a baby is a hard process, and if you’ve got your heart set on a certain name — if it feels right — you shouldn’t worry about anything else. That being said, if you’re the suspicious type and believe that a name’s meaning is significant, you might want to know that there are some beautiful baby names with bad meanings out there. And by “bad”, we mean anything that usually has an association with negativity or misfortune.
Not all baby names mean things like “hope” and “joy” and “blessing”. There are some that mean less-desirable things like “crooked nose”. The name with that meaning is Cameron, by the way, which happens to be what I named my second son. Did I know it meant crooked nose when I chose it? Yes. Did I care? No. I can definitively say, 15 years into his existence, that I don’t regret choosing that name because it’s perfect for him. Its weird meaning has never impacted him in the slightest (and, incidentally, his nose is straight as an arrow).
A name is just a label. It does not define who a person is or what they can achieve. Still, many cultures believe that the meaning of a baby’s name can influence their personality or destiny. And if you share those beliefs, it may be reason enough to steer clear of the following baby names with “bad” meanings.
From the Irish surname Ó Cinnéidigh, Kennedy means … “ugly head”. While sources do agree that “head” is definitely part of the meaning, some debate the “ugly” part, saying that it means “misshapen” or “armored”.
Whether you spell it Cecilia or Cecelia — or go for the related name Cecily — this name comes from the Roman surname Caecilius … which comes from the Latin word for “blind”.
Mara is a gorgeous Hebrew name … that means “bitter”. In the Old Testament, Naomi calls herself Mara after her husband and two sons die, expressing her grief and despair over her losses.
The beautiful Emilia — and also the megapopular Emily — both come from a Roman name derived from the Latin word aemulus, meaning “rival”. However, the similar Amelia means “industrious” or “brave”, so there’s that option if the meaning bothers you too much.
The name Claudia is said to have derived from the Latin claudus, meaning “lame” or “crippled”. Still, claudus gave rise to Claudius, which was the name of a prominent Roman political family (not to mention several saints) — with the feminine form being Claudia. So even though its meaning is not sweet and cheery, it hasn’t stopped the name from being associated with power and prestige.
To be fair, the meaning of Calvin isn’t exactly ominous — but if you want your little guy to have a voluminous head of hair, you might want to steer clear of this charming vintage moniker. It comes from a surname that originated from the French word chauve … meaning “bald”.
This intellectual-sounding name calls to mind famous 19th-century Danish theologian, philosopher, and poet Soren Kierkegaard. But its roots come from the Latin name Severus (yes, like Snape!), meaning “stern”.
The peppy Mallory first became popular in the 1980s thanks to the superficial-but-sweet Mallory Keaton in Family Ties. But its meaning is a little less sweet: “unfortunate” or “unlucky”.
The perky-sounding Lola is short, sweet, and completely on-trend with the vintage baby name craze going on right now. But it’s a diminutive of Dolores, which means … “sorrows”.
Now, regarding Simon — there’s good news and bad news. The good news is, it has dual meanings, and one of them is “hearing” or “listening” (from the Hebrew name Shim’on). The bad news is … the other meaning is from the Greek word simos: “flat-nosed”.
Rue is an adorable name, calling to mind The Golden Girls’ sassy Southern belle Blanche Devereaux (played to perfection by actress Rue McClanahan). Its meaning can be traced back to a bitter medicinal herb — but it is also literally a word that means “regret”.
A perfect example of a beautiful name with a less-than-beautiful meaning, Lyssa is of Greek origin and means “rage”, “fury”, “anger”, and by some accounts, “rabies”. In Greek mythology, the goddess Lyssa embodies uncontrolled rage. Tack a letter A onto the front, though, and you’ve got Alyssa — which means “noble”.
There are two possible meanings behind the name Tristan … but to be honest, neither one is exactly fantastic. The first is that it stems from the French triste, meaning “sad”. The second is that it’s related to the Celtic name Drustan, meaning “noise”.
A preppy-sounding unisex name? Absolutely. A name with a sweet and honorable meaning? Not so much. Sloane is an Anglicized derivative of the Irish surname Ó Sluaghadháin, meaning “raid”.
Thinking of having a Roman emperor moment and bestowing your little guy with the name Caesar? Fair enough, but you should know that it comes from the Latin caesaries, meaning “hairy”. (Another name with this meaning is Esau!)
While this name’s meaning isn’t something rosy like “angel” or “beloved”, we have to admit that its meaning is pretty cool, if you don’t mind something a little ominous. In Irish mythology, Morrigan was a powerful goddess of war and death who often shapeshifted into a crow … and her name means “demon queen”.
Leah is an Old Testament classic, a pretty name used for centuries. But it comes from the Hebrew word le’ah, meaning “weary”.
The name Barrett sounds refined, genteel, even aristocratic — and has associations with celebrated poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But unfortunately, its meaning is a little less agreeable. It comes from an English surname meaning “quarrelsome” or “deceptive”.
This name comes from a Biblical Greek town named Bethania, which itself is likely of Aramaic origin. There are two possible meanings: “house of affliction” or the slightly-better-but-still-not great “house of figs”.
The meaning of this English occupational name is “cloth pleater” — not bad, right? But what if we told you that it comes from the word tucian, meaning “torment” or “offend”?
Gorgeous and lyrical, Delilah is a solid, ultra-feminine name choice — if you don’t mind that it means “languishing” or “weak”. Although some sources say “delicate” instead … potato, potahto!
With the popularity of vintage names like Oliver and Theodore on a sharp rise, Melvin is an old-school classic that could be cool again. If you’re cool with the fact that it comes from the French place name Malleville, meaning “bad town”.
Some Greek mythological names have lovely meanings like “beautiful voice” (Calliope) and “to flourish” (Thalia). And then there are Greek mythological names like Persephone, which is a combination of two words meaning “destroy” and “murder”. Still pretty, though!
The bottom line is, the name you choose to give your baby should be influenced only by how you feel about it. A person’s name is just one small part of who they are, and it’s impossible to sum up a person’s personality, character, or potential in a single word. Many people go their entire lives without even knowing the meaning of their names, anyway. And besides — a baby name with a bad meaning is better than a name with a bad association. Just ask anyone named Karen.
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