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A name is a term used for identification. Names can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. A personal name identifies, not necessarily uniquely, a specific individual human. The name of a specific entity is sometimes called a proper name (although that term has a philosophical meaning also) and is, when consisting of only one word, a proper noun. Other nouns are sometimes called “common names” or (obsolete) “general names“. A name can be given to a person, place, or thing; for example, parents can give their child a name or a scientist can give an element a name.
Caution must be exercised when translating, for there are ways that one language may prefer one type of name over another. A feudal naming habit is used sometimes in other languages: the French sometimes refer to Aristotle as “le Stagirite” from one spelling of his place of birth, and English speakers often refer to Shakespeare as “The Bard“, recognizing him as a paragon writer of the language. Also, claims to preference or authority can be refuted: the British did not refer to Louis-Napoleon as Napoleon III during his rule.
The word “name” comes from Old English nama; cognate with Old High German (OHG) namo, Sanskrit नामन् (nāman), Latin nomen, Greek ὄνομα (onoma), and Persian نام (nâm), from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *h₁nómn̥. Perhaps connected to non-Indo-European terms such as Tamil namam and Proto-Uralic *nime.
In religious thought
In the ancient world, particularly in the ancient near-east (Israel, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia) names were thought to be extremely powerful and to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. This viewpoint is responsible both for the reluctance to use the proper name of God in Hebrew writing or speech, as well as the common understanding in ancient magic that magical rituals had to be carried out “in [someone’s] name”. By invoking a god or spirit by name, one was thought to be able to summon that spirit’s power for some kind of miracle or magic (see Luke 9:49, in which the disciples claim to have seen a man driving out demons using the name of Jesus). This understanding passed into later religious tradition, for example the stipulation in Catholic exorcism that the demon cannot be expelled until the exorcist has forced it to give up its name, at which point the name may be used in a stern command which will drive the demon away.
In the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful, and a change of name indicates a change of status. For example, the patriarch Abram and his wife Sarai are renamed “Abraham” and “Sarah” when they are told they will be the father and mother of many nations (Genesis 17:4, 17:15). Simon was renamed Peter when he was given the Keys to Heaven. This is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16, which according to Roman Catholic teaching was when Jesus promised to Saint Peter the power to take binding actions.
Throughout the Bible, characters are given names at birth that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. For example: Solomon meant peace, and the king with that name was the first whose reign was without war. Likewise, Joseph named his firstborn son Manasseh (Hebrew: “causing to forget”)(Genesis 41:51); when Joseph also said, ““God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.”
Biblical Jewish people did not have surnames which were passed from generation to generation. However, they were typically known as the child of their father. For example: דוד בן ישי (David ben Yishay) meaning, David, son of Jesse (1 Samuel 17:12,58).
The Babylonian Talmud maintains that names exert a mystical influence over their bearers, and a change of name is one of four actions that can avert an evil heavenly decree, that would lead to punishment after one’s death. Rabbinical commentators differ as to whether the name’s influence is metaphysical, connecting a person to their soul, or bio-socio-psychological, where the connection affects his personality, appearance and social capacities. The Talmud also states that all those who descend to Gehenna will rise in the time of Messiah. However, there are three exceptions, one of which is he who calls another by a derisive nickname.
Names of names
|Name of a…||Name of name|
|Body of water||Hydronym|
|Resident(s) of a locality||Demonym|
|Author writing under an assumed name||Pen name or pseudonym|
|Item named after a person||Eponym|
|Other names||-onym-suffixed words|
- For Wikipedia’s own naming conventions see Wikipedia:Article titles
A naming convention is an attempt to systematize names in a field so they unambiguously convey similar information in a similar manner.
Several major naming conventions include:
- In astronomy, planetary nomenclature
- In classics, Roman naming conventions
- In computer programming, identifier naming conventions
- In computer networking, computer naming schemes
- In the sciences, systematic names for a variety of things
Naming conventions are useful in many aspects of everyday life, enabling the casual user to understand larger structures.
Street names within a city may follow a naming convention; some examples include:
- In Manhattan, roads that cross the island from east to west are called “Streets”. Those that run the length of the island (north–south) are called “Avenues”. Most of Manhattan’s streets and avenues are numbered, with “1st Street” being near the southern end of the island, and “219th Street” being near the northern end, while “1st Avenue” is near the eastern edge of the island and “12th Avenue” near the western edge.
- In Ontario, numbered concession roads are east–west whereas “lines” are north–south routes.
- In San Francisco at least three series of parallel streets are alphabetically named, e.g. Irving, Judah, Kirkham, Lawton, Moraga, Noriega, Ortega, Pacheco, Quintara, Rivera, Santiago, Taraval, Ulloa, Vicente, Wawona.
- The same tendency is seen in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, where Arlington Street is followed by roads to the west running parallel to it and named Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, and Hereford.
- In Washington, DC, East Capitol Street runs east–west through the Capitol. East–west streets moving away from Capitol Street toward both the south (toward the Potomac River) and the north are lettered A, B, C,…, omitting J to avoid confusion on street signs and addresses, but after these are exhausted to the north, the streets are named with simple words in alphabetical order, omitting a few letters such as “x”. The first cycle of names consists all of one-syllable words; then followed by a cycle of two-syllable words; then followed by a cycle of three-syllable words, and before these are exhausted, Maryland is reached. (Washington has north-south streets that are numbered, increasing to either side of North Capitol which likewise runs through the Capitol.) Suffixes (NE, SW, etc.) are used to distinguish between (up to four) duplicate addresses. For example, 140 D Street SW, to indicate the 140 D Street location southwest of the Capitol
- In Montgomery, Alabama, the old major avenues are named for the Presidents of the United States, in their order of entering office, omitting John Quincy Adams. Hence, these streets are Washington Ave., Adams Ave., Jefferson Ave., Madison Ave., Monroe Ave., Jackson Ave.
- In Brampton, Ontario, different sections of town all have streets starting with the same letter and the alphabetical order reflects chronology.
- In Phoenix, Arizona, roads east of Central Avenue are termed streets, while those west are avenues. A similar system applies in Nashville, Tennessee, but only to the numbered avenues and streets, west and east of the Cumberland River respectively, all of which run roughly north–south.
Large corporate, university, or government campuses may follow a naming convention for rooms within the buildings to help orient tenants and visitors. Otherwise, rooms may be numbered in some kind of a rational scheme.
Parents may follow a naming convention when selecting names for their children. Some have chosen alphabetical names by birth order. In some East Asian cultures, it is common for one syllable in a two-syllable given name to be a generation name which is the same for immediate siblings. In many cultures it is common for the son to be named after the father or a grandfather. In certain African cultures, such as in Cameroon, the eldest son gets the family name for his given name.
In other cultures, the name may include the place of residence, or the place of birth. The Roman naming convention denotes social rank.
Products may follow a naming convention. Automobiles typically have a binomial name, a “make” (manufacturer) and a “model”, in addition to a model year, such as a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette. Sometimes there is a name for the car’s “decoration level” or “trim line” as well: e.g., Cadillac Escalade EXT Platinum, after the precious metal. Computers often have increasing numbers in their names to signify the next generation.
Courses at schools typically follow a naming convention: an abbreviation for the subject area and then a number ordered by increasing level of difficulty.
Many numbers (e.g. bank accounts, government IDs, credit cards, etc.) are not random but have an internal structure and convention. Virtually all organizations that assign names or numbers will follow some convention in generating these identifiers. Airline flight numbers, space shuttle flight numbers, even phone numbers all have an internal convention.
The process of developing a name for a brand or product is heavily influenced by marketing research and strategy to be appealing and marketable. The brand name is often a neologism or pseudoword, such as Kodak or Sony.
Name used by animals
The use of personal names is not unique to humans. Dolphins and green-rumped parrotlets also use symbolic names, as has been shown by recent research. Individual dolphins have distinctive whistles, to which they will respond even when there is no other information to clarify which dolphin is being referred to.
- Personal name – names of people
- Anthroponymy – the study of personal names
- List of adjectival forms of place names
- Numeral (linguistics)
- Onomastics – the study of proper names
- Popular cat names
- Proper name
- Title (publishing)
- ὄνομα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
- “Online Etymology Dictionary”. Retrieved 2008-09-20.; The asterisk before a word indicates that it is a hypothetical construction, not an attested form.
- “Egyptian Religion”, E. A. Wallis Budge”, Arkana 1987 edition, ISBN 0-14-019017-1
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 881: “The episcopal college and its head, the Pope”
- The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church by Gerard Mannion and Lewis S. Mudge (Jan 30, 2008) ISBN 0415374200 page 235
- “Dolphins Name Themselves With Whistles, Study Says”. National Geographic News. May 8, 2006.
- “Names” by Sam Cumming, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), a philosophical dissertation on the syntax and semantics of names
- Matthews, Elaine; Hornblower, Simon; Fraser, Peter Marshall, Greek Personal Names: Their Value as Evidence, Proceedings of The British Academy (104), Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-726216-3
- Name and Form – from Sacred Texts Buddhism
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