What’s In a Name?

Sometimes our authors will post questions on Facebook asking fans to help them name a particular character. These are really fun discussions to follow, and they always make me wonder: what’s in a name? Not in the way Shakespeare meant it, but how does the sound and meaning of a name fit a character?

Parents might have many reasons to pass on a name to a newborn—acknowledging a tradition or national heritage, honoring someone special, or simply liking the sound of a name.

Authors, though, know their characters’ personalities before ever naming them, something hard to determine in a hospital with a screaming infant. I decided to take a look at the names of the leading ladies in our April releases and see how they fit the characters.

Name Book

All of the meanings and spiritual connotations were taken from The Name Book.

Beauty So Rare

A Beauty So Rare
Eleanor Braddock
Meaning: “Bright as the Sun”
Spiritual Connotation: “Kindhearted”

Eleanor certainly brought hope to those around her through her kind heart, but even more significant was the pressure her family name that she felt throughout the story. Because of her relationship with her wealthy aunt Adelicia Acklen, there were certain rules and expectations she felt she must live up to. (Also, growing up, she also wished she was named Francesca because it sounded “elegant and adventuresome.”)

Caught in the MiddleCaught in the Middle
Anne Tillerton
Meaning: “Gracious”
Spiritual Connotation: “Understanding”

Although “gracious” isn’t the first word I’d choose to describe Anne (try “determined” or “fearless”), mercy was certainly an area where she grew throughout the story. More importantly, though, I love the simplicity of the name Anne Tillerton, especially in contrast to the ostentatious society lady Ophelia Stanford, another character in the book. It fits her well.

For Such a TimeFor Such a Time

Hadassah Benjamin/Stella Muller
Meaning (both names): “Star”
Spiritual Connotation: Significance

More important than the meaning of Hadassah’s name is its origin: it is very obviously a Jewish name. To protect herself from the horrors of Nazi occupation, she was forced to go by Stella and cover up her true heritage, much like the original Haddassah, who we recognize by her Persian name: Queen Esther.

The Last Bride The Last Bride
Tessie Miller
Meaning: “Harvester”
Spiritual Connotation: “Servant’s Heart”

The topic of names—first and last—are significant in The Last Bride. As you may have noticed, there isn’t a wide variety of last names in Amish communities. Intermarrying within a small group of people can sometimes lead to genetic problems, a subject The Last Bride deals with. And near the end of the book, Tessie discovers something about her first name that means a lot to her (but, of course, I won’t give that away).

A Sensible ArrangementA Sensible Arrangement
Marty Wythe
Meaning: “Lady”
Spiritual Connotation: “Helpful Spirit”

It’s ironic that Martha “Marty” Wythe has a name meaning “lady,” since most of the wealthy women of Denver would look down on her as decidedly unlady-like. Even so, throughout the book she lives up to her name in the truest sense of the word: caring about others and giving generously of her time and talents to those around her.


What does your name mean? (If you don’t know, try a website like babynames.com.) Why did you give your son or daughter the name you did?

4 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?

  1. My name is Dora. It means “gift”. I am not sure what the spiritual connotation is, could be the same. I truly understand that life is a gift, so perhaps I live up to my name.

  2. My name “Rayleigh Ann” means “Gracious Counselor” it is a combination of both of my grandmothers’ middle names, because i was the first grandchild to both of them.

  3. My first name is Victoria, which means Victory. I’ll take it 🙂 The other cool thing about “Victoria” is that reflects back to my mom’s maiden name of Vickers. Kind of nice family tie-in.

    Name hunting for characters is a ton of fun. I use the Social Security website to see which names were most common for an era, then I look up the meanings. Names are kind of like jeans. They have to fit perfectly or they’re just not right 🙂

  4. What a great post. I love knowing the meanings of names, although I didn’t look into the meaning when naming Anne. I liked the simplicity of the name and she also reminded me of Annie Oakley. BTW, I’m named after my dad, Rex.

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