Baby Naming

Cover of A PERFECT NAME“From antiquity, people have recognized the connection between naming and power.”
– Casey Miller and Kate Swift, Words and Women 

 What was the process behind your naming? Do you know how and why you received your given name? There is always a story. And, whether the story is simple or elaborate, sweet or poignant, it is powerful.

 My parents were expecting a boy and planned to name me “Charlie” after a friend whose qualities they admired. When they heard, “It’s a girl,” they looked at feminine forms, chose the one they thought was prettiest, and followed it with my mother’s name. Even though it is a very simple story, as a child I loved hearing how I got the name “Charlene Ann.”

Over the years, I’ve heard many naming stories from children and adults. Some were dramatic, some were funny, some were glamorous, some were sad. However, it seemed to me that all were told with appreciation and a sense of wonder. I believe this is so, in part, because these stories remind us that we were once innocent newborn beings and that, no matter our present age or life circumstance, we are still precious.

If you are presently considering names for a child, keep in mind the meaning of the names and the way you approach this process. Consider keeping notes about the process. Someday, weave your thoughts and the steps of your process into a story for your child.

If you already have children, reach back and recall the stories behind their naming. In your own way, tell them the stories behind their naming. Hearing one’s personal naming story can help build self-worth and inner strength. You might wish to make for each child a hand-crafted book of their naming story or place a written version of it in a scrapbook or other keepsake place of honor.

My picture book story, A Perfect Name, was written to offer inspiration to parents and entertainment for children and parents alike. Published in 2002, it is about a hippopotamus family. I’m sharing the text of that tale here, hoping it will stir the storyteller in you with ideas and enthusiasm. 



A Perfect Name

By Charlene Costanzo ©2002


Mama and Papa Potamus sat side by side.

They searched through The Name Book one more time.

“Florella?” Mama said.

“Hmm…that has a nice sound. What does it mean?” asked Papa.

Like a flower,” said Mama.

Papa rocked the cradle and smiled at sleeping Little One.

“She is a pretty flower,” he said. “Prettier that all the flowers

that grow along the WadaWadaRiver.

Let’s add Florella to the maybe list.”


Mama unrolled the maybe list and wrote “Florella” on the bottom,

after names that meant moonbeam, dancing princess, and brave as a bear.

“We can’t add any more names to think about, Papa,” said Mama.

“We each need to choose one. The naming ceremony is tomorrow.”

“I know, Mama,” said Papa. “But we must give our daughter

a suitable name – a perfect name.”


Papa stood up and paces while Mama read out loud.









“Wait, Mama,” he said. “I’ve got an idea.”


Papa whispered softly into Little One’s ear.

Mama watched for a smile or a frown.









Little One stretched and yawned but gave them no clue.


Later they watched as she ate and played.

“She is so healthy and wonderful,” said Papa

“Her name should mean that.”

“That’s Drusilla Merilla,” said Mama

“But look! She’s graceful. And talented too.”

“Then we should call her Zuza Pandora,” said Mama


“And so kind, so friendly.”

“Adie Amissa,” said Mama.

But sometimes quiet and shy.”

Myra Modesta,” said Mama.

Papa sighed. “So many beautiful names.


Daylight dimmed.

Again Papa rocked the cradle and studied sleeping Little One.

“What name will fit her? He asked.

“What name will bring her luck?”

A night creature howled.

“It’s late,” said Mama.

“Maybe our dreams will help us.”


That night Papa dreamed of gifts from the heavens:

warm rain,

cool mud,

sweet grasses,

and his own Little One.

While he slumbered, he snored.

Mama couldn’t sleep,

so Mama didn’t dream.


Papa woke when a morning bird chattered.

He remembered happy dreams

but still had no name for Little One.

“We’ll look for sign, dear Papa,” said Mama.


Distant drums called them to the naming ceremony.

Mama, Papa, and Little One

followed the path to the WadaWadaRiver,

over the top of the grassy hill,

through the trees, through the reeds.

Everyone was there,

Waiting along the riverbank.


Little One was the first to reach the water.

After a few timid steps she splashed and laughed.

Dipping up and down, she turned ripples into waves.

Thousands of water stars sparkled around her.


“Look at our jewel!” said Mama.

“So heavenly!” said Papa.


Everyone joined Little One.

They made music and shared food.

All day long they danced and sang and celebrated.


When the low red sun faced the round yellow moon,

the crowd hushed.

It was time to announce Little One’s name.


Mama and Papa Potamus stood before their daughter.

Together they said the ancient prayer wish.

            May you grow to be old.

            May your dreams come true.

            We love you, Little One,

            And now we name you…


“Dorena,” said Papa, “a gift from the heavens.”

“Cordula” said Mama, “a jewel in the water.”

Dorena Cordula smiled,

everyone cheered,

and said it was a perfect name. 


Every child needs to know that he or she, like the Little One in this story, has many wondrous qualities and abilities and is “a gift from the heavens.” Every child also deserves to know that she or he is born with the inherent gifts of strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love, and faith and that all other children are born with these gifts too.


Perhaps you can use the story of naming Dorena Cordula as a way to introduce the unique naming story you will share with your own little one. The story about the naming of your child can be short, simple, and realistic–just the facts–or woven with whimsy and fantasy, like A Perfect Name. Or both! Your child will appreciate the telling and retellings of your story creations again and again.


Consider writing and sharing your naming stories. I’d love to hear from you.

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