I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the meanings of names. The theme of our church’s women’s retreat is “I Will Change Your Name,” based on Isaiah 62:2-4. This is certainly a familiar Bible concept, starting with Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Hadassah to Esther, right down to Joseph to Barnabas and Saul to Paul.
The words of the song by D. J. Butler are:
I will change your name;
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.
I will change your name;
Your new name shall be
Confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one
Faithfulness, friend of God
One who seeks My face.
Love, love, love this song and the concept!
My own name has no clear meaning. Since “lana” means “wool” in Spanish and the ending “-ita” indicates “little” or “small,” then I guess Lanita means “little wool.” Quite inspiring, huh?
On the other hand, I was named for my two aunts, Lola and Juanita. In Spanish, Juanita means “gift from God.” I love that! But Lola means “sorrowful.” Think I’ll ignore that part and look at “La” as simply meaning “the,” the basic meaning we learned in Spanish 101. That way my name can mean “The gift from God” and not “sorrowful gift from God.”
But wait! If I only use the first part, what does the last part mean? Turns out that in Hebrew “Nita” means “planter.” I can take that, too. I hope I am a planter of God’s word, thus being a gift of God to others.
In Choctaw, “Nita” means “bear.” Who knew? I’d like to think I’m as fierce as a bear for God and his word. We can usually tweak our name meanings to glorify God if we wish!
My friend Grant Testut of Oklahoma Christian University is an expert in Hebrew history, and he gave me this explanation of name meanings:
In ancient Egyptian culture, a person’s substance was thought to be made up of about five parts: the body, the shadow, the soul (or “ba”), the life-force (or “ka”), and the name. For this reason, when someone wanted to wipe out a person’s existence post mortem, he would try to scrape off or otherwise destroy any trace of that person’s name on monuments, etc. Or if someone were putting a curse on another through magic, that person would often write the other’s name on a piece of pottery and smash that vessel. I think names meant a lot more to the various peoples of the Ancient Near East than they do in many U.S. societies.
Thanks, Grant. I think that process was continued in the United States in my teen years. When a dating couple broke up and he’d carved their initials on a tree, such as “S.D. loves L.B.,” the person wronged would go back and try to obliterate the message from the tree trunk (or school desk!)
So what you do know about the meaning of your name? Do you have any anecdotes to add?