The Story Behind Our Names

Constance Gibbs  //  Mar 5, 2021

The Story Behind Our Names

Today is Learn What Your Name Means Day! 

My full name is Constance Elly Gibbs. I was named after my aunt who died the year before I was born. My mother asked her son, my cousin, if he’d be okay with me having her full name. He said yes. So my name is a family name and is often seen as unique. I usually go by Connie, but when people see my byline or my name on my Starbucks order, I get lots of compliments about how pretty it is. I didn’t always feel that way. 

My first name often felt long and stuffy to me as a kid. It’s a pretty old fashioned name. It also sounds like lots of words you learn in school. A constant in equations. Constantinople in history and geography. Consonant in language arts. People used to turn my name into all sorts of other words. It didn’t really bother me, but it made my first name all the more unwieldy. 

It didn’t take me long to learn its meaning. As you may be able to guess, it means constant. (Gotta love those Latin roots.) My middle name, Elly, is a derivative of Eleanor or Ellen/Helen. Eleanor means “God is my light” in Hebrew, “sunray” in Greek. So I’m a constant shining light or sunray. How cool! 

Those who know me online by my social media handles know I go by ConStar. It was a cutesy name I came up with in college because I wanted a fancy way to sign my name. So “stance” got scribbled into a star. But looking back on my name’s meaning, what is a star but a constant shining light? The serendipity of that made me appreciate my name all the more. 

In fiction, names mean a lot for a character. Sometimes it is descriptive of who they are. Remus Lupin, a werewolf in the Harry Potter series, has a first and last name that connects to wolves and the moon. (In fact, many characters in the series are named after their most unique trait!) A character’s name in literature can give you a vibe about a person, foreshadow their actions, or offer insights into their past. Here are some literary icons whose names came to be descriptive of a characteristic or trait! 

  • A Miss Frizzle dress usually signifies someone is wearing a dress with a pattern of planets or animals, like The Frizz from the The Magic School Bus series.

  • Harry Potter glasses instantly put into people’s minds round circular glasses. 

  • Frankenstein, from Frankenstein, signals a mad scientist (or pasted together project, even though, yes, I know, Frankenstein is not the monster.)

  • A Scrooge, from A Christmas Carol, instantly tells you someone is stingy with their money.

  • Jon Snow is steadily rising as a synonym for someone who doesn’t know anything, like the character from the A Song of Ice and Fire series. 

  • Don Juan, Romeo both imply a romantic male, after Don Juan from the book of the same name, and Romeo from Romeo and Juliet

  • Moby-Dick, also known as the White Whale, typically signifies an deeply important item or goal that someone has trouble reaching. 

  • You might say, “She’s a regular Mary Poppins” if you’re referring to a nanny who is great with kids and/or someone who has an item tucked in their bag for every occasion. 

  • Nancy Drew tends to mean someone, typically a female, who investigates or knows how to find out information. 

To dive more into the literary side of names, read this post from fellow OOM blogger and editor Raisa Masood, who wrote about the meaning of her name after reading The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad.