What’s in a name?

With about 10 minutes of research, you could have a new appreciation for your name. In about that time I’ve found a lot of meaning in my own name, and I’d encourage looking into the significance of your own. What you find might surprise you!

All throughout history we see the power that names have.

Obviously the best example is the name that God chose when He came to earth: Jesus, or “God saves” and Christ, or “the Anointed One, the Messiah”.

Every time we cross ourselves, we do it “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:9-11

William Shakespeare knew the power of names as we see in Romeo and Juliet:

Juliet: ” ’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…” (Act II, Scene 2)

Juliet asks Romeo to give up his Montague name so that they can be married. She insists that their names don’t matter, but as we all know, that story ends up in tragedy. Names do matter, and they can shape a person’s character.

Most names can be traced back to a figure or person who embodied the meaning of the name—so, the idea and intention behind a name connect a person to a deep reality that transcends the present time.

Look for example at the name Michael and its female version, Michelle. Michael comes from a Hebrew word that means “Who is like God?” and is the name of the most powerful angel in heaven, St. Michael the Archangel. The rhetorical question “Who is like God?” is thought to be his war cry as he casts Satan into hell.

St. Michael the Archangel 001

If the name’s origin, St. Michael, is taken out of the picture, then Michelle will become Mychella, or Mikaela, or Mykayla, and eventually something crazy like M’quayluh.

Cash, Brooklyn, Jayden, Grayson, Bryce, Kaylee, Colton, and other trendy names—what do they all have in common? They all sound really cool, but none of them point to a transcendent meaning or tradition. There’s no real connection to a great Christian figure or biblical hero—in other words, the names have little power or character.

Actual Christian names carry a power that secular names just don’t. All of my siblings were given biblical names on purpose, because as Pope Benedict XVI says, “Not by chance, in fact, does every baptized person acquire the character of son, based on the Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit gives birth to man “anew” from the womb of the Church.”

So, in a mysterious way your name and your character are fused into one at baptism. Your name is a part of your spiritual mission and destiny as a person.

I’ve found this to ring true in my own life. I am named after the Old Testament Daniel and I’m the sixth out of seven children. So, just for kicks I looked up the Book of Daniel, chapter 6 and it’s “Daniel in the Den of Lions”.

While the historical Daniel was up against a den of lions, I am up against a terminal illness.

He was put there against his will, and I was born with CF whether I like it or not.

Our name means “God is my judge”.

In the eyes of the world, I may not amount to much—but the world is not my judge. God is. He blesses my weakness and sickness, and turns it into a treasure that I can only see with the eyes of faith right now.

My faith in God helps me see my cystic fibrosis as a good thing, as sixty-five roses. Daniel 6:5 reads, “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”‘

Daniel’s enemies were so frustrated that they resorted to attacking his faith in God. When life puts you in a corner and your faith in God is the only thing you have to rely on, that’s an amazing sign, because it means the devil sees your faith as a threat and is trying with everything in his power to crush it.

As for my family name Pruit, it is a combination of the Anglo-Saxon “prut” meaning “confident, proud” and the French endings “-ett, -itt” meaning “little one”.

The original name, Pruett, has its roots in the Norman conquest of England. It was a character description given to “a brave little man; one who carries himself with pride” that eventually turned into a surname.

I have always been a small guy. I’ve never weighed above 130 lbs, because my body has to use most of my calories to fight CF. This puts the struggle perfectly:

calories meme

It’s a battle that I never win, but I gladly fight to stay alive—and that seems to be my destiny, to be a small, happy warrior in an uphill battle.

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…”

Shakespeare showed that Juliet clearly had it wrong, that names do mean something. According to my name, I am a courageous little dude who is too proud to give up in a fight, and like Daniel the prophet I am able to see past my current predicament because of my faith in God—a God who uses my cystic fibrosis for the redemption of the world and turns it into a sweet-smelling bouquet of sixty-five roses.

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