Baby Name Meanings

So, you're looking for baby names and meanings, eh? Well, you've come to the right place.

New baby? Congratulations! Is it a doctor or a lawyer?

Okay, that's not what people usually ask. The big question is: Is it a boy or a girl?

Traditionally, expecting parents choose a boy's name and a girl's name, just in case. Despite technological advances that can tell us what gender our baby will be before we've been formally introduced, many still do this.

Here's another good question: is it a Yank or a Reb?

Yes, the United States is still United, but there are names that specifically reflect southern heritage. There are yet others which have recently been declared by the Social Security Administration to be the most popular names given to newborns in southern states. (Most of them reflect national taste, but there are exceptions: James and Emily are equally popular nationwide, but Ashley and Austin have an edge in the south.) Still others are relatively uncommon but bear such a uniquely southern flavor, either by origin or by association with a famous southerner of that name, that they warrant inclusion here.

Many names are unisex; those are listed under the gender one most often finds bearing them below the Mason-Dixon line.

Here are 26 girls' names and 24 for boys (hey, more girls are born than boys!) along with their origins and meanings.

Ladies first:

ABIGAIL is a compound name meaning "Father's joy," from the Hebrew "abba" (father) and the Latin "gail" (joy).

Alexis, used by boys and girls alike, is a variation of the Greek Alexander, "helper or defender of mankind."

Alyssa is another Greek name meaning "sane" but can also be a variation of Alicia, still Greek and meaning "wise" or "truthful." Alicia itself can be a form of Alice, a Teutonic name meaning "noble."

Ashley is an Old English appellation meaning "of the ash tree."

Brianna is feminization of Brian, Celtic for "strong."

Carson was most famously borne by southern writer Carson McCullers, the name is Old English and still popular for both boys and girls. It can mean "son of Carr" or "marshlands."

Destiny is an English word of French descent and it means what it says.

Dixie has three origins: the Anglo-Saxon Dixie means "dike," the French Dixie comes from the word "dix," meaning "ten," and the American South has coopted the name and given it the simple meaning of "The American South," referring to the Mason-Dixon line that divided the country during the Civil War.

Emily, derived from Amerilia, is Teutonic for "industrious."

Emma is also Teutonic but not related to Emily; the name means "healer of the universe."

Flannery O'Connor was a writer with a truly Southern voice -- and a boy's name, meaning "flat land" and probably of Irish derivation.

Georgia derives from the Greek George, "farmer." The state of Georgia was named in 1732 after King George II, but little girls are named Georgia after the state, not the King. Likewise the state of Virginia was named after Queen Elizabeth I, "The Virgin Queen," but it is the state, not the queen, parents intend to honor by thus naming their girls.

Haley, a unisex name popularized in the 1960s by British actress Hayley Mills, means "ingenious" or "wise"in Gaelic but also has a Norse meaning, "hero."

Hannah (also Anna) is a Hebrew name meaning "grace." (Grace is also a popular name in the south.

Isabella is a form of Isabel, thought by some to be a variation of the Hebrew name Elizabeth (also popular in the south), meaning "consecrated to God." Names ending in "bella" often mean "beautiful" (from Latin) and Isabella may have derived somehow from Bella.

Jasmine is a Persian name meaning, not surprisingly, "sweet flower."

Jordan, once more popular as a boy's name, is now feminine property, and, referring to the Jordan River, means "flowing downstream" in Hebrew.

Kayla is a Hebrew name meaning "laurel crown." (Lauren, another popular southern name, has the same meaning.) The laurel tree itself was, in turn, named from the Latin word for "gold."



Madison is a unisex name as well as a surname of Old English/Anglo-Saxon/Teutonic origin; it can mean "Gods," "mighty" or "child of Matthew or Maud" (Matty's son or Maud's son becomes Madison).

Mary, popular outside the South, is Hebrew for "bitter," and variations of it are found in almost every Western language.

Megan is a Welsh variant of Margaret, meaning "pearl."

Morgan, or "bright sea," is also Welsh and unisex as well.

Olivia is a feminization of the Latin Oliver, referring to the olive branch of peace and thus meaning "peace."

Samantha is a feminization of the Hebrew name Samuel,

Sarah, the biblical wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, is an Ancient Hebrew name meaning "princess."

Taylor is an old French name, now unisex, meaning "tailor."

Gentlemen last:

Anthony has two origins, one Greek, meaning "flourishing" and the other Latin, meaning "priceless."

Austin is thought to be a variation of Augustine, meaning "exalted" in Latin, but in the American south it may well simply refer to the capitol of Texas, which was named after Stephen Fuller Austin. The town had previously been called Waterloo (imagine naming a child that!)

Brandon is "raven" in Old English.

Bubba -- Where but in the south do you find this name? Well, in Russian, sort of. It derives from the Russian word for "grandmother" and has found its way into many cultures, including the Yiddish-derived English "bubbala" (literally

"little grandmother" but used as a general endearment without regard to age or gender) and, of course, Big Bubba driving that truck over there in a most ungrandmotherly manner.

Caleb, a Hebrew name, sometimes taken to mean "devoted one," actually means "dog."

Christopher is the Christian patron saint of travelers and comes from the Greek, "carrying Christ."

Daniel means "God is my judge" in Hebrew.

David is a Hebrew name meaning "beloved," and indeed it has never fallen out of favor in any century.

Ethan is a Hebrew name meaning "strong" or "firm."

Gabriel means "God is my strength" in Hebrew and was one of the biblical archangels. There is a feminine version, Gabrielle, of French derivation, but lately girls are being named Gabriel as well.

Hunter is an Old English name that means the same in modern English.

James, a Hebrew name meaning "the supplanter," is a form of Jacob (although not every Jack is a James) and both are extremely popular in southern states as well as elsewhere, and is found in one form or another in every Western language.

John is derived from the Hebrew Yonaton, God is gracious, and, like James and Jacob, has forms in every Western language.

Jose is a Spanish form of the Hebrew Joseph and both are popular in the south, Jose most specifically in Texas. The name is biblical in origin and means "God shall add," referring to the gift of fecundity.

Joshua is another biblical name, meaning "God is salvation" in Hebrew, as does Isaiah; both are popular in the south.

Matthew is Hebrew for "God's gift" and the name of one of the authors of the New Testament.

Michael was a biblical archangel and his name means "like the lord" in Hebrew; variations of this name are popular worldwide.

Nicholas is a Greek name meaning "people's victory."

Ryan means "little king" in Gaelic.

Tex is rarely bestowed upon anyone not born in Texas; this short moniker was once merely a nickname -- but since when is Texas "merely" anything?

Truman is Old English but sounds like modern English, as it means, simply "true man" (referring to honesty and faithfulness, not machismo). Truman Capote was one of the South's most prolific and admired 20th-century writers.

Tyler is an Old English name, unisex but more often male, meaning

"tile-maker."

William is a Teutonic name meaning "strong protector"; many southern (and other) Williams are known as Billy.

Zachary means "The Lord has remembered" in Hebrew.

That's the short list for the south -- but remember, whether your child remains in the south or travels worldwide, s/he carries the name you've chosen. Make sure it's not a burden but a treasured gift.

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