About Names: Dr. Evans on the name “Elijah”

Elijah Wood standing outside of a fan-built replica of the Hobbit Hole from the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (Photo: public domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 28th column, he discusses the name “Elijah”.

Frodo’s 43 today.

Actor Elijah Wood, famous for playing hero hobbit Frodo Baggins in the “Lord of the Rings” films, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Jan. 28, 1981.

Elijah’s the modern English version of Hebrew ‘Eliyyahu, “my God is Yahweh.” The Bible’s Elijah was one of ancient Israel’s greatest prophets, preaching against wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, in the New Testament he and Moses appear to Jesus in the Transfiguration.

Because of that, Elijah was the Hebrew prophet most revered by early Christians. St. Elias of Jerusalem, a fifth century patriarch, bore the Latin form of his name.

In medieval England, boys were named Ellis after the prophet and the patriarch. Families with surnames Ellis, Ellison, or Elkins descend from them.

The form Elijah didn’t occur until English Bible translations appeared during the Reformation. It was primarily used by Puritans in England. In Britain’s 1841 census, there were 4,444 Elijahs in England and only 17 in Scotland.

Elijah was even more popular with Puritans in New England. In 1851, there were 5,993 Elijahs in all of Britain, while in 1850, 22,937 lived in the United States, though total populations were similar. Puritan Massachusetts was the birthplace of 4,651 of 1850’s American Elijahs, while only 1,069 were born in Scots Irish and Quaker Pennsylvania, though Pennsylvania had more than double Massachusetts’ population.

Announcement: Best Article of the Year 2023 in Names: A Journal of Onomastics

Russell Fielding, author of the NAMES 2023 Article of the Year (Photo by Josee Cole)

The 2024 Winner of the NAMES Best Article of the Year is Dr. Russell Fielding (Photo by Josee Cole) of HTC Honours College and Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina, USA. The title of his article is “‘A Change of Name During Sickness’: Surveying the Widespread Practice of Renaming in Response to Physical Illness”  [NAMES vol. 71, no. 1: 11-28].

The second place winner is “Using the ANPS Typology to Unearth the Relationship Between Japanese Sign Language (JSL) Endonymic Toponym Distribution and Regional Identity” by Johnny George of Meiji University, Department of Political Science and Economics, Tokyo, JAPAN [NAMES vol. 71, no. 3 :1-19]. The third place winner is “A Case Study of De-Russification of Ukrainian Hodonyms: Rigged Trial or Justice Restored?” by Oleksiy Gnatiuk and Anatoliy Melnychuk of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in Ukraine [NAMES vol. 71, no. 4: 40-55].

ANS Annual Meeting 2024 Schedule

The American Name Society Annual Meeting for 2024 will be held online using the Zoom platform. It is accessible via Mac or PC. The meeting will require a passcode, which will be sent via email to all registrants and presenters by February 16th.

We have been working hard to set up a schedule that will work globally, and this means that some presenters will be scheduled at times outside of normal working hours. The schedule below is subject to change depending on speaker availability.

The Book of Abstracts will be available before the conference.

Keep apprised of any changes to the annual meeting schedule here.

Register for the conference here!



Saturday, February 17, 2024


Conference Opening Address

5:45 AM Laurel Sutton (Catchword Branding, USA), Welcome and Opening Remarks

First Session

6:00 AM Anna Tsepkova (Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University, Russia): American and Russian Nicknames of Persons, Motivated by a Combination of Linguistic and Extralinguistic Factors

6:30 AM Olga Chesnokova (RUDN University, Moscow, Russia): Ludic Representation of Toponyms in Riddles

7:00 AM Zhazira Agabekova (Nazarabayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan): The Concept of “UL” (son, child) in Kazakh Anthroponomy

Second Session

7:30 AM Halyna Matsyuk (Ivan Franko National University in Lviv, Ukraine): The linguistic landscape of Ukraine: Decolonization of geographical names associated with Russia

8:00 AM Reima Al-Jarf (King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia): To Translate or not to Translate: The Case of Arabic and Foreign Shop Names

8:30 AM Sara Racca (University of Zurich, Switzerland): From the Countryside to the Urban Outskirts: The Displacement of Old Microtoponyms in Contemporary Urbanization. An Italian Case-Study

9:00 AM Break

9:30 AM ANS Committees Meeting

Third Session

10:00 AM Deborah Ball (University of Oxford, UK): Exploring the landscape of proper names and their grammatical characteristics to understand how brand names fit in

10:30 AM Tristan Alphey (St Cross College at the University of Oxford, UK): Nicknames Maketh Man? Performing Masculinity in the Gesta Herewardi

11:00 AM Jane Pilcher (Nottingham Trent University, UK): Surnames and surnaming in families formed though adoption

Fourth Session

11:30 AM Cari Didion and Michel Nguessan (Governors State University, USA): Names, Immigration Trends and Cultural Identity: A Study Ethnic Restaurant and Grocery Store Names in Greater Chicago

12:00 PM Star Medzerian Vanguri (Nova Southeastern University, FL, USA) and Maggie M. Werner (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, NY, USA): Portmanteau Names as Ideographs

12:30 Mary Ann Walter (University of the Virgin Islands, USVI): The Persistence of Morphou: Diachronic Awareness and Usage of Toponyms in Northern Cyprus

1:00 PM Michael Akinpelu (University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada),  Hasiyatu Abubakari (University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana) and Michel Nguessan (Governors State University, USA): Names of God and Divinities in African Languages and the Myth of Polytheism

1:30 PM ANS Annual Business Meeting and Awards Presentation

Fifth Session

2:30 Evangeline Nwokah (Our Lady of the Lake University, USA): Clowning around with names: A linguistic comparison of hospital clown and entertainment clown names

3:00 Thomas Wickenden (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, retired): Reverse Reinterpretation in Dictionaries of English Place-Names: Why the origin and identity of the Hwicce remain so obscure

3:30 Sarah Bunin Benor (Hebrew Union College, USA) and Alicia B. Chandler (Wayne State University, USA): Perceptual onomastics: Survey data on Americans’ Jewishness ratings of personal names



“Gaza” and “Barbie” Chosen as Joint 2023 Names of the Year


“Gaza” and “Barbie” were chosen as the joint winners of the Name of the Year for 2023 by the American Name Society at its annual Name of the Year discussion and vote on January 4, 2024. The pairing of these names neatly captures the dichotomy of 2023: the reality of Gaza, the tragedy of another war in the Middle East, and the escapism of Barbie, a comedy movie about a classic toy that imagines a doll embracing feminism. Despite runoff votes, ANS members could not choose a winner, a rare event in the Name of the Year vote; these two names perfectly represent the zeitgeist of 2023, as well as two different types of contested spaces.

“Swiftie” was chosen as Personal Name of the Year. “Swiftie” is the self-identifying term for fans of Taylor Swift, a neologism that is a modification of Swift’s name. The term was quickly picked up and used by the media. Linguistically, it employs the diminutive ending “-ie”, which is a particularly productive pattern in pop culture (e.g., Trekkie for Star Trek fans, Durannie for Duran Duran fans); unlike many new words in pop culture, it has shown impressive longevity, being first attested in 2010. In 2017, Taylor Swift even trademarked the name for commercial usage, making it an interesting brand name as well. Other candidates in this category included Taylor Swift, Vivek Ramaswamy, George Santos, and Sheynnis Alondra Palacios Cornejo.

“Gaza” was voted Place Name of the Year. Gaza is the name for the stretch of land between Egypt and Israel, and has become shorthand for the ongoing Israel/Hamas War. Its Hebrew name is “Azzah”, meaning “strength” and its Arabic name is “Ghazzah”. It refers not only to the geographic region, but is now regularly used to refer to the current humanitarian disaster happening there. Other candidates in this category included Maui, Palestine, and Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

“ChatGPT” won the title Brand Name of the Year. The name of OpenAI’s artificial intelligence tool is a compound of the word “chat”, referring to the chatbot, and the initialism “GPT”, for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer”. It promises an interaction with AI as simple and casual as having a chat with a friend, while retaining the mystery of technical jargon that most people do not understand. Other candidates in this category included Discord, Ozempic, and OceanGate.

“Barbenheimer” was chosen Artistic Name of the Year. It is portmanteau of the movie titles Barbie and Oppenheimer, which opened on the same weekend in 2023. The name arose organically and captured the trend of people going to see both movies sequentially, and inspired Halloween costumes, memes, and fake movie trailers. It became a cultural phenomenon because of the huge success of both films, along with their wildly contrasting images of a fantasy comedy built on the Barbie doll vs. a very serious Oppenheimer biopic dealing with nuclear holocaust. Other candidates in this category included The Eras Tour, Barbie, and Renaissance (Beyoncé’s tour and movie).

“X” was voted E-Name of the Year. The attempted—and mostly failed—rebranding/debranding of Twitter by new owner Elon Musk illustrates the extreme difficulty of using a single letter as a brand. It was also a case study in the sacrifice of a tremendously valuable brand (the name Twitter, the verb “tweet”, the blue bird iconography) for the sake of a purportedly “edgy” and “disruptive” brand. Other candidates in this category included the hashtag #freepalestine, OpenAI, and Lu Do Magalu (a popular Brazilian virtual influencer).

The American Name Society is a scholarly organization founded in 1951 devoted to studying all aspects of names and naming. The Name of the Year vote has been held since 2004.

The 2022 Name of the Year was “Ukraine”, and “Great Resignation” won for 2021.

The 2020 Name of the Year was jointly held by “Kamala” and “COVID-19.” “Brexit” was Name of the Decade and “Arrokoth” was the 2019 Name of the Year. “Jamal Khashoggi” won for 2018, “Rohingya” for 2017, “Aleppo“ for 2016 , “Caitlyn Jenner” for 2015, “Ferguson” for 2014, “Francis” for 2013, and “Sandy” for 2012.

For further information contact Laurel Sutton, ANS President and Chair of the Name of the Year committee, at laurel@suttonstrategy.com, 510-501-2580.

A downloadable PDF of this press release is available here.

Registration opens for the 2024 ANS Conference, Online, February 17, 2024

The first ANS 2024 Annual Conference will be held online, using Zoom, Saturday February 17, 2024. This one-day event will feature presentations from 16 scholars, as well as updates on the ANS and a report on the Name of the Year Discussion.

The meeting is open to anyone who wishes to attend!  Each attendee must fill out this form and pay separately.

Detailed information for attendees, along with the book of abstracts, will be sent in January.

You can register online here, or download a PDF of the Conference Registration Form and mail it to ANS Treasurer Saundra Wright, as per the instructions on the form.

The schedule will be available as soon as possible.

For more information about the ANS Conference, please visit our Conference Page.