“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2).” Juliet asks this of Romeo in their famous balcony scene, making the point that names are only titles. But, really, what is the purpose of names? What do our names say about us? Well, I am going to ask just that. I thought it would be fun to look at names and their meanings this week. Specifically, I’ve decided to look at the illustrious names of this website’s editors.
Exploring the Meaning of My Name
I’ll begin with mine. Rebecca means a snare, or to join or bring together. It’s Hebrew in origin, the name being mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. The story goes that Rebecca was the wife of Abraham’s son, Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob. She was noted as beautiful, modest, and kind, although I think this rather flies in the face of her actions in the story, as you’ll see momentarily. Rebecca marries Isaac and gives birth to twin sons, Esau, and Jacob. As Esau is the oldest, he is to take over as leader of the tribe when Isaac dies. However, Rebecca believes that Jacob would make a better leader for the people, and so tricks the old and blind Isaac into handing over the tribe to him instead of Esau.
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Although these actions don’t appear very honorable to me, I guess Rebecca is thought to be a good character and tricks Isaac because she thinks Jacob is more intelligent and intellectual, rather than simply popular, like Esau. While trickery and deceit may seem underhanded to modern readers, in the ancient world Rebecca and Jacob would have been admired. These actions helped in their survival and would, therefore, help in the tribe’s future ability to survive under Jacob, especially in the dangerous and unpredictable world they lived in.
So, how do I feel being named after a woman known for her ability to snare someone into her trap? Well, she certainly was clever and able to get what she wanted and, more importantly, believed to better her people. In difficult times, one must do what one has to in order to survive. Who knows, with her savvy, Rebecca might have been a top-notch businesswoman in our day and age. I can’t complain too much.
Exploring More Names
On to the next one. The names Amber and Autumn are a bit more straightforward. Amber literally means a gemstone made from fossilized tree resin and the color of that gem. Though the name did not become popular until the release of the novel Forever Amber in 1944. Autumn means the “season of harvest,” and comes from our name for the Fall season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any long story behind either of the names, probably due to their straightforward meanings. So, I’ve decided to include my middle name as well.
My middle name is Ilene, which apparently is Greek in origin and derived from the name Helen. Ilene is an English variant of the name, Eileen, meaning “light.” It is also thought to be related to the Greek word helene, meaning “torch,” and possibly the word selene, meaning “moon.” In most baby name books the name is paired with the mythological story of Helen of Troy, the daughter of Zeus and Leda, famed to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and the cause of the Trojan War.
So, what does all this mean? Am I a woman of light who can also ensnare people if I so choose? I don’t know, I’m certainly not going to dispute the clever and resourceful part of my name being related to the beautiful Helen of Troy. Make of it what you will. I suggest taking some time to look up your name and it’s meaning and origin as it’s quite a “Romantic” thing to do. Who knows what you’ll find.
What does your name mean? I’d love to hear about it!
Top Photo: Romeo and Juliet (Twentieth Century Fox)
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