The meaning behind the name Emilia might surprise you

Names with bad meanings are a dealbreaker for some parents, but you might be surprised to discover some of the most popular names of all time among them. For example, perennial favorite Emily (and its stylish variant Emilia) mean “rival” or “envious”, from the Latin aemulus. Kennedy means “misshapen head”, while Cameron means “crooked nose”. And Calvin may be one of the coolest vintage boy names of the moment, but its meaning is decidedly less appealing: “bald”.

There are plenty of popular and stylish names with less-than-appealing meanings, which would suggest that most parents either don’t care or aren’t aware of the negative connotations. Even James and Mary – two of the most popular baby names of all time in the US – are usually said to mean “supplanter” and “bitter”, respectively. (Although it should be noted that the true meaning of Mary is up for debate.) Below is a selection of the best names with bad meanings. Read them at your peril!

The name Brennan is both a boy’s name and a girl’s name of Irish origin meaning “descendent of the sad one.”

The name Calvin is a boy’s name of Latin origin meaning “bald, hairless.” Calvin is a slightly quirky but cozy name that has a fashion edge thanks to Calvin Klein.

The name Campbell is both a boy’s name and a girl’s name of Scottish origin meaning “crooked mouth.” The seventh most common surname in Scotland, once associated only with soup, is now being considered as a last-name-first choice, accessible but unusual.

The name Cornelia is a girl’s name of Latin origin meaning “horn.” In ancient Rome, Cornelia was considered the paragon of womanly virtue, making it a handsome name with an excellent pedigree. It’s rare today, so if you want a name no one else is using, somewhat reminiscent of Amelia and the Shakespearean Cordelia, Cornelia should be on your list.

The name Desdemona is a girl’s name of Greek origin meaning “ill-starred.” Desdemona is as Shakespearean as a name can be, but because the beautiful and innocent wife of Othello came to such a tragic end, her name has been avoided for centuries. But at this point in time, there might be some adventurous parents willing to overlook that.

The name Emilia is a girl’s name of Spanish, Italian, and Hungarian origin meaning “rival.” Emilia is rising as an Emily/Amelia alternative. In modern pop culture, Emilia is the name of the main character in The Princess Diaries and the first name of Game of Thrones and Solo star Emilia Clarke.

The name Gideon is a boy’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “hewer; or, having a stump for a hand.” Gideon is a no-longer neglected Old Testament name but still makes an excellent choice for parents looking to move beyond such overused biblicals as Benjamin and Jacob.

The name Jacob is a boy’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “supplanter.” Jacob has widespread appeal to a range of parents, with an image of honesty and warmth. Another plus is the friendly nickname Jake — also given on its own to thousands of boys every year — which shares the cool appeal of equally stylish cousins Max and Sam.

little toddler playing peek-a-boo

The name Lola is a girl’s name of Spanish origin meaning “lady of sorrows.” A hot star baby name–chosen by Kelly Ripa, Chris Rock, Lisa Bonet, Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen, Carnie Wilson, and Annie Lennox, and used as the nickname of Madonna’s Lourdes – Lola manages to feel fun and sassy without going over the top.

The name Malala is a girl’s name meaning “sad, grieved.” This name has a hauntingly appropriate meaning for its most famous bearer, Pakistani women and children’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousefzai. If you’re looking for a soft-sounding female name that packs a punch in history and in meaning, Malala is definitely a strong contender.

The name Persephone is a girl’s name of Greek origin. Persephone is the esoteric name of the Greek mythological daughter of Zeus by Demeter, the queen of the harvest. Despite the mixed message of her mythological past, Persephone has a light and lyrical aura, and pleasant associations with springtime and the harvest; she was also the goddess of spring growth.

The name Rue is both a boy’s name and a girl’s name meaning “herb; regret.” A botanical choice that can work for either gender. Simple and straightforward. Caveats: rue means “regret” in English and “street” in French.

The name Saskia is a girl’s name of Dutch origin meaning “Saxon” and knife. Saskia is one of those names that’s been used in Europe since the Middle Ages but has never crossed the ocean.

The name Soren is a boy’s name of Danish origin meaning “stern.” This gentle Scandinavian name, soft and sensitive, is being discovered in a major way by parents in the US. It’s most closely identified with the nineteenth-century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, but there have been modern fictional Sorens as well, in The Matrix Reloaded and the book series Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Charlie and Lola, and Underworld.

The name Tristan is both a boy’s name and a girl’s name of Celtic origin meaning “noise or sorrowful.” Though Tristan was the male figure in the romantic legend and his name has become trendy for boys, it’s used now for girls, too: About 15 percent of the baby Tristans are female.

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