Namesake Day is celebrated every first Sunday of March, paving the way for International Celebrate Your Name Week. Can you believe that about five former United States presidents share the same name and surnames? Namesake Day is set aside for people to investigate the origin of their surname and given names, who or what they were named after, and what the names mean. While you share your name or surname with many other people, there is always a reason why your parents gave you that name. That is why Namesake Day was created to allow people to research the history behind their names and see if they can live up to its expectations – if any.
History of Namesake Day
The history of the ‘namesake’ is, in itself, a history of names, which is why many of us bear the same names today. However, we cannot say when naming began. But we do know it existed as long as humans have existed. From the beginning of written history, most names have always taken a descriptive form – that is, they were literal translations of objects, animals, or phrases. For example, Sarah named her son Isaac in the Bible, meaning ‘one who laughs’ or ‘one who rejoices.’
Also, Jacob was renamed Israel, meaning ‘struggle with God’ or ‘fighter of God.’ Early names were also compounds, for example, Frankish names such as Fredegund (peacebattle) and Childeric (battlepowerful). However, descriptive names were most pervasive, and as the pool of descriptive names grew in each culture, people stopped creating names and naming their children after existing ones. But as time went by and old languages went extinct, these names lost their meanings, and only the word itself remained.
The rise in prominence of the church began the traditions of naming people after saints and martyrs of the church. These include Jewish names found in the Bible, such as John, James, Joseph, and Mary, and ancient Romans that converted to Christianity, such as Mark, Nicholas, Martin, Paul, and Catherine. That trend spread across most of the world, with cultures abandoning their original name pools and adopting the Christian ones as they converted to Christianity.
Native saints and martyrs were also added to this pool. Due to that, many old names have survived to this day. An example is Edward, an Anglo-Saxon name, which is still used today because it was the name of a famous saint. Today, this tradition of naming ourselves after saints, martyrs, or famous people remains, and hardly new names are created. While some people’s names no longer mean anything literally, they still carry a meaning that reflects our parents’ hopes and dreams.
Namesake Day timeline
According to Judeo-Christian tradition, human beings started giving themselves names.
Ancient Romans develop the naming convention, ‘tria nomina’, which consisted of three names — given name, clan name, and nickname.
With the recognition of Christianity by the Roman Empire and mass conversion to Christianity, many people name their children after Christian saints and martyrs.
The onomatology hobbyist, Jerry Hill, creates Celebrate Your Name Week, of which Namesake Day is the first day of the week.
Namesake Day FAQs
What are the most popular namesakes?
According to the Social Security Agency (S.S.A.), James and Mary are the most popular names in the last 100 years — a century.
Which people have namesakes in the animal kingdom?
Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Beyoncé, and Attenborough are famous people who have animals named after them.
What are the most uncommon namesakes?
Names such as Bonnies, Amal, Calliope, Alec, Benji, Armani, and Cesar are some of the most uncommon names in the United States, with fewer than 100 people bearing them.
Namesake Day Activities
Discover the story behind your name
The answer lies with your parents. Ask them where they got the inspiration to give you your name. If it’s a person and they are alive, try to get in touch with them; who knows what you may learn. If it’s a place or a book, try visiting it or reading it and see if it aligns with who you are.
Have a date with your namesake
We don’t mean an actual date. A date can be just hanging out and having fun together. Contact the friend that bears your name and see if you two can have lunch at the new restaurant in your area, watch a movie together, watch a game, or hang out.
Share your celebrations on social media
If you take Namesake Day seriously, you can inspire other people to do the same. Share the importance of the day and how you plan to celebrate it with your friends and followers on any social platform where you have a substantial following.
5 Interesting Facts About Names
Identical surname and last name
About 4,746 people in the U.S. have identical surnames and last names, for example, Thomas Thomas and Alexander Alexander.
An approved list of names
People who want Icelandic names must choose from an approved list of 1,712 male and 1,853 female names.
There are about 729,862 people in the U.K. named Smith.
A case of unfortunate first initials
About 1,307 people in the U.S. have names such as B. Ware, B.Quick, O. Heck, and C. Below.
A battle for name
A British woman won the right to name her son Christophpher instead of the popular spelling, Christopher or Christoffer, after a legal battle that was nine years long
Why We Love Namesake Day
You discover the story behind your name
Names are as much part of your heritage as your roots and culture. Use Namesake Day to discover why you’re bearing your name and how your parents got inspired to give you that name.
It can be a day of reflection
You can use Namesake Day to reflect on the meaning of your name. People’s names are usually the hope and aspiration of their parents. Think about these and see if it’s something that aligns with your dreams, or maybe it’s something you don’t want to be.
Namesake Day can be fun
Namesake Day can be fun if you have a buddy who bears the same name as you. It can become a tradition, marked every year, to celebrate a shared name and destiny. You create a yearly tradition of having lunch together or going to games on Namesake Day.
Namesake Day dates