A baby named "Like?" Let’s see if you like this history of names (anthroponymy)

Naming your newborn can be an exciting and creative experience. A person’s given name, or forename, is important because it is usually the first impression your child will make on the world. Some parents choose to honor a family member by naming their child after a father, mother, or sibling. Others look to history for that perfect given name. And some look to…Facebook? That’s right. The social networking website has inspired an Israeli couple to name their daughter after the “like” button on Facebook. Lior and Vardit Adler insist their daughter’s name is not a gimmick – they simply ‘like’ the meaning behind the name. So we got to thinking – what’s in a name?

Anthroponymy is the study of personal names. The name is derived from the Greek anthropos meaning “man,” and onoma meaning “name.” One of its subdivisions is the study of given names. While surnames are usually inherited and shared by family members, a given name, assigned around the time of birth, represents the individuality of the child – a name purposefully given to a child by its parents.

As far back as history can take us, people have been anointed forenames in order to identify themselves. Although it is impossible to pinpoint the exact origin, anthroponymists believe that the earliest forenames were derived from nouns and descriptive adjectives. For example, the Hebrew name Aharon means ‘mountain’ or ‘mountain of strength’ while the Irish Gaelic name Fial means ‘modest, honorable, generous.’ Some names date so far back that it’s difficult to trace the exact origin because the words are so ancient they have been dropped from the vernacular. For example, the name Edwin is a compound derived from the Old English words ead, meaning “prosperity, fortune, riches” and wine, meaning “friend” – two words that are not in use today or have a completely different modern meaning.

With the rise of Christianity, and later the Protestant Reformation beginning in 1517, there came a new trend – naming newborns after saints and martyrs from the New Testament. Some of the most popular Biblical names still in heavy rotation today include the Hebrew names Mary and Matthew, the Greek names Luke and Peter, and the Latin name Paul.

Other popular naming trends include ‘occupation names’ such as George, derived from the Greek georgos, ‘husbandman, farmer,’ ‘aspiring personal trait names’ such as Hope and Faith, and ‘word names’ like Apple.

As for Like – it’ll be interesting to see if her parents will plan a play date with the Egyptian couple who recently named their child Facebook in honor of the role it played in supporting the recent revolution there. After all, their parents only need to “friend” each other.

Incidentally, some have argued that “like” is the most abused word in English. Read an analysis of that debate here.