What’s in a Name?


My mother thought when she chose the name Lisa for me it was a different, uncommon name that sounded pretty to her. Apparently so did many of the other mothers the year I was born, as I was rarely the only Lisa in my class growing up. We were all known as Lisa with whatever initial our last names started with.

My husband didn’t know his true given name until he was 10, when he asked what his “real” name was. He had always been called Sender. His given name was Alexander, which had been shortened to the nick name of Sender, not an uncommon name when someone of Jewish heritage came from Poland. (If someone were from Hungary, the name used would have been Sandor.) When I began exploring his family tree I found the name Alexander was that of both his great, great grandfather, and his great grandfather. They had also been known as Sender.

Jewish tradition (among Ashkenazic Jews) is to name after those who are deceased. I never really thought much about it until my mother in law died and that same year 3 of her granddaughters gave birth to girls. They were all named Esther for her. A few years later her grandson had a girl and also named her Esther.I then realized how nice a tradition it is, reminding us of the person, remembering that person.

According to the Talmud, the naming of a Jewish child is a most profound moment. For at the beginning of life we give a name, and at the end of life a “good name” is all we take with us.

My mother in law Esther

Her namesakes

Daily Post: Name

38 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. how fun to learn this and I like the history of your and your hubs names.

    we have a cousin who was named esther and she has struggled with it – and goes by her middle name. kind of sad….

    but looks like the beauties here are with the right name and the older esther they are named after looks so sweet ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. What a beautiful post, and so interesting. I have a great-grandmother (obviously long deceased) from Poland whose name was Violette. She came to the U.S. very shortly before WWII started to visit her older brother, who had moved here. Her mother had passed, and her father was the mayor of their town in Poland (don’t know which town), and they were apparently wealthy with servants, etc. When she came over to the U.S. her trunk was “misplaced” and so everything she had brought with her was gone forever. Then the Russian Czar forbid travel over the border and she couldn’t go back to Poland. She never saw her father again. My family are Catholics, yet, for reasons I can’t explain, I have always wondered if that side were really Jewish and my great-grandmother changed her religion to avoid persecution. Some day I hope to do research on this. There is no reason for me to think this, other than one day the thought popped up into my mind and I haven’t been able to let it go. Sorry to ramble, but your post got me thinking about all this.


  3. Alexander the Great figures prominently in Jewish legends and myths. Not religious apocrypha, but the stories that mothers told their children. I wrote about some of them some years back, but that is how this very un-Jewish name became a traditional name in many Jewish families. Alexander The Great was the original Righteous Gentile and a sort of legendary Jewish superhero.


  4. I love such traditions… the mom of my bff and my mom meant it well and they maybe thought to make us to something special if the give us names of queens… but neither the katharina nor the elizabeth became famous or rich… LOL


  5. A good friend of ours is named Sandor and had a wonderful restaurant here in town. But it was ahead of its time and he moved his family to a different (read: wealthier) beach town where he thrived for many years. Yes, he was from Hungary, and I did not realize what his real name was!
    Michael has always been my favorite boys name so that is what I named my older son. Yes, he was known as Michael J–not to be confused with Michael B, Michael C or Michael Mac!!


  6. What a great tradition – naming babies after the deceased. In my fiance’s family, the first son takes the first name of his father as his middle name. I think that provides a nice linkage all the way up the family tree.


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