After all, part of what makes a name beautiful is its meaning. There are even some cultures that put meaning at the forefront of the naming decision (see African and Japanese names) and yet it tends to get overlooked in many English-speaking countries. Why?
Why is the meaning of your name, or your child's name, important? Or rather, why should you view it as an important factor in the naming decision process?
First of all, we can all agree that names are essential in life. It is how we are identified from day to day. Often, people will go above and beyond in their respective fields to ensure that their name stands for something now and in the future. People have a desire to make a name for themselves and see their name in lights. Names are important.
Shouldn't the meaning of our name have some kind of impact on us? Shouldn't the meaning of our name give us a deep-rooted sense of identity beyond what our personality or job title may offer?
Some may argue that they have never known what their name means and were no better or worse for it. I think that is a narrow-minded view. Perhaps you don't view it as necessary in your life, but it doesn't diminish the importance that the meaning of a name may have on the lives of others. You shouldn't deny your children of a nice meaning. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it will mean a lot to them. After all, wouldn't it be nice to have something to identify with? A basis for the way you view yourself and treat others? It couldn't hurt!
As I mentioned before, other cultures place much significance on the meaning of a name. In Africa, names are meant to give children something positive to strive toward. Many believe that it will have a major influence on the lives of the child and the family as a whole. There is a delicate balance between giving a child a name that is too ambitious and a simple name that may not yield high enough expectations.
Many African names also reflect the parents' hopes, aspirations and dreams for the child, or they may have to do with their fears, their religious beliefs and their own philosophies about life and death. Sometimes these names can provide outsiders with an idea of the culture and events surrounding the time of their birth. While the parents should never impose their own belief system on their child, it is beautiful to give them a foundation to build upon as they make their own choices in life. Perhaps they'll suit their name or perhaps not, but at least the parents tried to provide something positive.
While I can agree that the above example could be more on the extreme side of the naming spectrum, I like the idea of providing a sense of guidance right from birth. With a name that means faithful, happy, pure or loved, the child can have something to work toward. When you think of the contrary, having a name that means something like dark, bald, crooked nose, or even something like "field by the river", it does not provide much for the child to work with.
I like to stress the importance of at least acknowledging the meaning of your child's name. You do not have to write names off simply because they don't have a "perfect" meaning. But do at least consider options that have something good behind it. There are many names that mean noble, friend, wise or strong. Any of these would be so very lovely to grow up with. There is also something beautiful and poetic about having a first and middle name whose meanings flows nicely into one long phrase.
However, we are all different with different lives we lead and different meanings behind our names. I'd like to encourage you to research your own name and think very thoroughly about the names that you have picked or may pick for your children. Perhaps if you find it difficult to choose between two name choices, you could go for the one with the greater meaning. This is a great method for narrowing down options.
What do you think about the importance of the meaning of a name? If the meaning of your name has never had any impact on you, perhaps now is the time to reflect on it.