Universal Mentors Association

Do You Like Your First Name? Would You Change It If You Could?


How do you feel about your first name? Do you love it, hate it or just feel meh about it? Do you think it fits your personality? Does it shape how others perceive you? Would you change your name if you could? If so, what name would you choose for yourself?

In “It’s Time to Address the Emily in the Room,” Emilia Petrarca writes about the name “Emily,” which seems to be everywhere these days — on TV, in film and in songs:

She’s in Paris. She’s a criminal. She’s the titular star of a new biopic. She’s being apologized to by Phoebe Bridgers, and she has recently made headlines for smooching Harry Styles. Turn a corner lately, or turn on a TV, and there she is: Emily.

The name has been used for centuries. It’s an evolution of the Latin name Aemilia, and the English spelling has been popularized by such historical figures as Princess Amelia in 18th-century England, who was called Emily by contemporaries, and the 19th-century poets Emily Dickinson and Emily Brontë. Emily Post, the 20th century’s arbiter of etiquette, added to its pedigree.

But it was only in recent history when the name, at least in the United States, had what might have been its heyday.

According to the Social Security Administration, Emily was one of the top five names for girls born in the United States in the 1990s. If you haven’t met an Emily born in that decade, maybe you’ve heard of Emily Ratajkowski, 31, or the TikTok star Emily Mariko, also 31.

From 1996 to 2007, when some 48 million people were born in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emily held the No. 1 spot. In 2006, American Girl released a doll named Emily Bennett.

The article continues:

The name’s popularity around the turn of the 21st century was an organic phenomenon, said Laura Wattenberg, the author of “The Baby Name Wizard” and the founder of Namerology, a website with a focus on names. “There wasn’t a single prominent Emily who sparked the whole thing,” Ms. Wattenberg said.

Ms. Wattenberg explained that many people who became expecting parents at the time wanted alternatives to names like Jennifer, Michelle or others that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Those people, she added, also avoided names like Linda, Susan and others common when their parents were born. Emily, Ms. Watternberg said, was classic and familiar. “Everyone could spell and pronounce it, but it wasn’t terribly common,” she said.

Emily Adams Bode Aujla, 33, a fashion designer, said she was named after “Emmie,” a 1968 song by Laura Nyro that her mother loved. Ms. Bode Aujla, who lives in New York, added that her mother wanted her to have “a timeless name that was sort of melodic.”

To expecting parents in the 1990s, the name Emily offered a “safe and friendly and well-liked way to step away from the crowd,” Ms. Wattenberg said. She grew up in Amherst, Mass., where an effort to rename the town has prompted suggestions including Emily, in honor of Emily Dickinson, who was born there.

Students, read the entire article and then tell us:

  • How do you feel about your first name? Does it have a story or meaning behind it? What do you think your name says about you?

  • Would you change your name if you could? Why or why not? If so, what name would you pick and why?

  • What do you think of the name Emily? Had you noticed it everywhere in pop culture before reading the article? What does reading the Times piece make you think about the meaning of names, and why some rise in popularity and others fall?

  • What are some of your favorite names, and why? Do you lean toward traditional ones or prefer more unique names? Have you given any thought to the names you might give your children some day?


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