Baby name meanings: What does my name mean?

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  • Have you ever wondered, what does my name mean? From Elizabeth to Robert, here are some of the meanings behind a selection of popular baby names. You just won’t believe which old fashioned name means ‘pearl’ or which name means ‘determined protector’.


    Classic baby girl name meanings


    • Meaning: God is my oath
    • Famous people called Elizabeth: Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Hurley.
    • Since 1837 over 1.6 million baby girls have been called Elizabeth and many, many women to this day have Elizabeth as a middle name. Popular modern versions of this traditional name are Beth and Liz.


    • Meaning: Star of the sea, wished-for child, sea of bitterness and rebellion
    • Famous people called Mary: Mary J Blige, Mary-Kate Olsen.
    • This was the name of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, and so has been an extremely popular name throughout the years. It’s a classic that has never really gone out of fashion.

    Mary Ann

    • Meaning: This name is a combination of Mary (see above) and Ann which means favoured grace
    • Famous people called Mary Ann: We couldn’t find any famous people called Mary Ann but over 700,000 non-famous people have been called Mary Ann over the years!


    • Meaning: Pearl
    • Famous people called Margaret: Margaret Thatcher, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone with the Wind)
    • Everyone knows someone called Margaret and it’s no wonder as well over half a million people have been named it in the last 170 years.

    Ann or Anne

    • Meaning: Grace or favour
    • Famous people called Ann/Anne: Anne Hathaway, Anne Boleyn, Anne Frank, Ann Widdecombe. Ann is the English spelling of Anne, which is the French version of the name Hannah. These days Ann is commonly used as a middle name.


    • Meaning: God has given/God’s grace
    • Famous people called Jane: Jane Austen, Jane Fonda, Jane Seymour.
    • Originally the name Jane was a form of John and it was also the name of the main character in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre all the way back in the 19th century but it’s been around much longer than that, the name Jane has been used since the seventh century.


    • Meaning: Sun ray or shining light
    • Famous people called Ellen: Ellen DeGeneres, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Ellen Pompeo.
    • We were a little surprised to see Ellen in the top ten most common names, but lo and behold over half a million people have been called Ellen. It’s is a version of the Greek name Helen.


    • Meaning: Princess
    • Famous people called Sarah: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Ferguson – the Duchess of York, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
    • It’s no wonder Sarah has become such a popular name, it originally comes from the biblical character who was described as being exceptionally beautiful even when she was old.


    • Meaning: Noble, exalted
    • Famous people called Alice: Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Alice Cooper.
    • Nowadays the name Alicia has become more popular than the traditional variant of Alice. Famous Alicias include Alicia Keys and the actress Alicia Silverstone.


    • Meaning: Grace, favour
    • Famous people called Annie: Annie Lebowitz (famous photographer), Annie Lennox.
    • Everyone has seen the musical ‘Annie’, the rags-to-riches tail about the red-haired orphan based in New York and the name was the inspiration for Woody Allen’s film ‘Annie Hall’ starring Diane Keaton.

    Classic baby boy name meanings


    • Meaning: God’s grace.
    • Famous people called John: John Lennon, John Travolta, John Terry.
    • There have been 2 million baby boys named John since records began in 183, making it the most popular name of the last 170 years.  


    • Meaning: Determined protector
    • Famous people called William: Prince William, William Shakespeare, Will Smith.
    • The name William, which is often shortened to Bill or Will, had a surge in popularity in 1982 when Princess Diana named her baby boy William. The name has been going strong ever since then thanks to the dashing Prince.


    • Meaning: Twin
    • Famous people called Thomas: Thomas (Tom) Cruise, Thomas Hardy, Thomas John Woodward aka Tom Jones, Tom Hanks and of course Thomas the Tank Engine!
    • The name Thomas has biblical roots as it comes from the apostle who doubted the resurrection of Christ. It’s where the modern phrase ‘doubting Thomas’ comes from.


    • Meaning: The supplanter
    • Famous people called James: James Dean, James Nesbitt, James Brown, James McAvoy, James Bond
    • James is such a popular name that six US presidents have been called James. Variations are Jamie, Jimmy and Jim and it’s one of our favourites here at goodtoknow!


    • Meaning: Farmer or earth worker
    • Famous people called George: George Clooney, George Bush, George Michael, George Foreman
    • George is a Greek name and over one million people have been called George in the last 170 years. Well, if it’s good enough for Clooney…


    • Meaning: God will increase/He will enlarge
    • Famous people called Joseph: Joseph Fiennes, Joe Calzagh, Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
    • The name Joseph has proved its staying power and it still appears near the top of popular baby names lists. Joseph can be shortened to Joe, Jo, Joey or JoJo if you’re feeling silly!


    • Meaning: Bright/famous
    • Famous people called Robert: Robert Redford, Robert Downey Jr, Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson
    • Some of the most handsome and successful men in showbiz have been called Robert and we’re predicting a boom in the name following the sudden rise to fame of a certain Twilight heartthrob!


    • Meaning: Noble or bear
    • Famous people called Arthur: King Arthur and of course Arthur Fowler from Eastenders!
    • This name may not be quite so popular these days and seems old-fashioned, but since 1837 over half a million little boys have been lovingly named Arthur. We think it’s quite cute!


    • Meaning: Free man
    • Famous people called Charles: Prince Charles, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Charlie Sheen
    • These days people are more likely to call their child Charlie as a stand alone name but Charles is still sitting pretty at number nine in the top ten boys’ names.


    • Meaning: Beloved
    • Famous people called David: David Beckham, David Cameron, David Bowie, David Tennant
    • There are so many famous Davids, we don’t know where to start. First there’s St David, the patron saint of Wales, then there’s the iconic sculpture by Michelangelo and then obviously there’s our very own Golden Balls!

    Have you ever wondered where a name came from? Our baby name meaning tool will tell you exactly what your chosen baby name means (and any name, including your own, if you’re interested)

    Stuck for some ideas? These classic baby names never go out of style – but what do they mean?

    Don’t like any of these? Try our brilliant baby names generator to find a name for your baby, or check out the most popular baby names this year.