This Wonder of the Day is for Jacob and Isabella. And Grace and Samuel. It’s for everyone with a name, so that makes it for everyone!

Do you know what your name means? How about what language it came from? Researching the meaning of your name can be a fun exercise that can teach you something about the origin of words and maybe even your heritage or your parents’ hopes for your future.

So what’s in a name? Is it just a random grouping of letters? Or does it say something more? We all learn to identify with our names. Some of us like our names, while others might wish they were named something else. What about you? Do you like your name? Why or why not?

Parents choose their children’s names for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a name is passed down through many generations as a family tradition. Do you know someone with a “Jr.” at the end of his name? That’s because his father probably has the same name!

Other parents might choose a name simply because they like the way it sounds. Some names become popular because they are associated with popular movie stars or musicians. Still other parents might choose a name based upon its historical meaning.

The study of proper names and their origins is known as onomastics. A specific category of onomastics that focuses on personal names is called anthroponomastics. A particular name’s meaning usually is connected in some way to the language it comes from or the culture of the area where it developed.

Are you curious about the meaning of your name? Sit down with your parents and have a conversation about your name. How did they come up with your name? Do they know what it means or what language it came from?

How popular is your name? Are you the only Seth in your school? Or are you one of several Jacobs? Here are some of the most popular boys’ and girls’ names over the past five decades in the United States:

  • 1960s: Mary, Lisa, Kimberly, Michelle, Linda, Michael, John, David, James, John and Robert
  • 1970s: Jennifer, Lisa, Michelle, Amy, Heather, Michael, James, Christopher, Jason and David
  • 1980s: Jennifer, Jessica, Ashley, Brittany, Amanda, Michael, Christopher, Matthew, David and Andrew
  • 1990s: Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Sarah, Samantha, Michael, Jacob, Christopher, Joshua and Nicholas
  • 2000s: Emily, Isabella, Emma, Hannah, Madison, Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua and Daniel

28 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (7 votes, avg. 3.86 out of 5)
    • Hi Zach, we are SUPER excited that you enjoyed today’s Wonder! We love learning new things about ourselves and how we identify one another! Thank you for commenting and sharing the meaning of your name, too! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

  1. 3 times in a row to make a first comment. Also, I have many friends that have their names on the popular list, a few don’t. Christopher is my very first friend, John, Isabella and Joshua are at my school. Also John and Michael go to after school in the summer. 😀

    • How COOL that you can relate your friends’ names to our Wonder today, Carlos! We love that you have so many WONDERful friends who you can imagine with at school! Thank you for commenting and WONDERing with us today! :)

  2. That was a great wonder, it made me think about my name! I actually researched my name after reading the wonder. I guess it is Greek and means pure. I never knew that my name was Greek. I think your name is something more than random letters! My great grandma’s name was Katherine exactly like my name, and my mom and I have the same middle name! I think that this is your best wonder in a while!!!


    • We love that you continued to Wonder on your own, Katie! Learning about the origin of your name is exciting and WONDERful, especially if the name has been in your family for a while! We are THRILLED that you shared your findings with us– thank you! :)

  3. After reading this wonder today, I did research my name! My name means grace from God and also is famous from Grace Kelly which I think is perfect for me because I want to become a famous actor just like Grace Kelly! Today’s wonder was also very interesting! I loved reading the different names that were popular in the different time periods! I actually found that some of the people I know had their name listed on one of the lists of names from the time that they were born! I always like finding more out about my name and the names of others! This was a great wonder for today!!

    • You are SUPER awesome for researching your own name, Gracie! We LOVE how interested you are in different names and how they have changed over the years. You are a GREAT Wonder Friend– we are so happy you enjoyed WONDERing with us today! :)

  4. I researched my name before. It means admiring. And I think I am, although it seems pretty self-centered…
    I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about Merry Go Rounds. Will you do a WONDER about the difference between lice and ticks?


    • How exciting that you’ve researched your name before, Emily! We think admiration can come in many forms, like admiring others when they do their best, or acting as a great role models for others to admire. We think it’s SUPER to learn about the meaning of your name! :) Great guess and suggestion– we love your Wonder-filled ideas! :)

    • What a WONDERful name, Madison! We are SUPER happy you learned about your own name and many others, too! We hope you Wonder with us again soon! :)

  5. Hi wonderopolis, thanks for showing us this movie. It was amazing and I can’t believe my friend’s names is Madison.

    From Sapphire :)

    • We’re so glad you and Room 12 enjoyed WONDERing about names, Sapphire! We think it’s awesome to have Wonder Friends like you! Thank you for joining the fun! :)

  6. I feel that names are so important because they shape the destiny of your child. It’s like you are speaking into their future by giving them a name. Names denote who you are, and what you are. My name is Jeffrey which means Peace. And that’s exactly they type of person I am. Very peaceful. I think parents should consider this as they name their children.
    Names means so much. Thank you Wonderopolis!! Great information.

    • We love that you’re WONDERing about what’s in a name, Jeff– and you’ve even discovered the meaning of your own name, too! What a SUPER discovery about yourself and how your name has shaped you! We love your suggestions and connection to the importance of naming. Thank you for sharing your comment with us! :)

    • Not to worry, Wonder Friend! There are so many great names in the world that only a few were able to be shown in the top ten! You can rest assured that your name is unique to you and your name and personality make you who you are today! :)

    • Hi there, Jeff! We value your comment about the names Wonder, thank you for posting! We bet you’re determined in other ways, perhaps in school or in a sport? We hope you have a great day, Wonder Friend! :)

    • You’re lucky enough to have two words that make up your name, Abby! :) Some names served the purpose of describing a location or person. For example, someone with the last name “Westwood” might have lived west of the woods! We are so glad you are WONDERing on your own about your very special and important name, Wonder Friend! :)

    • Thanks for posting your comment and expressing your opinion, Jeff! We like that you’re thinking outside the box and WONDERing about what you do and do not like. We hope you have a great rest of the day! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What’s in a name?
  • What does your name mean?
  • What are the most popular names in the United States?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Do you know what your name means? If not, take some time to do some Internet research to find out. If you want, share your research with your Wonder Friends by posting on Facebook about your name.

What do you think? Does the meaning fit you and your personality? Why or why not?

Now that you know what your name means, we want you to create an acrostic poem that spells out your name. Make each line say something descriptive about you or your personality. In this way, you can make your name have an all-new meaning that’s your own!

Still Wondering

Check out ReadWriteThink’s Playing Name Bingo with Chrysanthemum lesson for a twist on traditional bingo. In this lesson, the game boards feature students’ names, and students answer questions designed to help them learn more about one another.

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Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day helps you go in and out by going around and around!

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