Why “River”?

Why River?

Lots of people ask me how we came up with the name “River Alexandra” for our daughter. I usually ask people the same question about their name choices—I love hearing people’s thoughts behind their children’s names.

I started out knowing that I wanted a very strong, beautiful-sounding, and unusual (but not overly esoteric) name for our daughter. This eliminated most warrior/Germanic names, no matter how cool the meanings were. I was sure I’d end up with some sort of Hebrew name (if we had a boy, I was hoping to name him Israel), but none of the feminine Hebrew names had the right sounds that I was looking for. Or they were far too difficult to say and/or remember.

Reading through 150,000 baby names in a book (yes, I read every single male and female name) yielded a few potential names, but nothing that truly “clicked”. Then, I was reading through one of their bonus lists of “nouns that work as names”. And there it was. The name I’d been looking for: River.

“River” embodies the idea of light, nurturing, life-giving, dynamic strength, as well as potentially destructive power.

I didn’t want a sweet name. I wanted a strong name that embodied positive qualities but also served as a reminder of our need to *choose* to do right and to use our talents and power for good rather than evil. There are also beautiful passages in Ezekiel and Revelation that refer to the river that flows from the throne of God, bringing life and rejuvenation to all it comes in contact with.

However, with the choice of “River”, I couldn’t choose a middle name like “Estrella”, “Hope,” or anything that sounded remotely hippy-ish. If River wants to be a CEO, I don’t want her name to prevent her from being taken seriously. So, that’s why we went with “Alexandra,” which means “helper of mankind.”

When I first announced the name to my parents, they alternately ridiculed it and hated it. They’ve since come around and love the name. While we still have to endure a slew of water-related puns and jokes (mostly from people in my parents’ generation), I’m still thrilled with the name we’ve chosen.

One of the great things about having an unusual, easy-to-say name has been that people find it easier to bond with River… This is another reason that I’m so very glad we announced River’s name as soon as we’d decided on it. I know this is a very personal choice for parents—many people prefer to keep the name secret until the child’s birth. And yes, it would have been incredibly inconvenient if River had turned out to be a boy and in need of a different name. ; ) However, in our experience, being able to refer to River by name, rather than as “baby girl” or “it”, really helped people bond with her as a person, even while she was in utero.

So there you go: River Alexandra. She has already more than lived up to the strength that I hoped her name would embody. I can’t wait to see how she continues to make this name her own as she develops.



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5 responses to “Why “River”?

  1. I love the name you chose for your daughter — strong and powerful, but still feminine. No one will mispronounce it and it’s highly unlikely there will be two of her name in any given classroom.

    I had a girl name picked out from the beginning — something that is strong and none too common for a girl, but the middle name was tough. I look forward to announcing the name of our little one too for the same reasons you listed — bonding with him/her in utero as a real, live person before s/he is even born.

    Blessings & peace,

  2. Thank you, Kirsten! The middle name was a MASSIVE struggle for us too, and didn’t feel “just right” until perhaps a month or three after she was born…. :) I love that you’re planning to announce the name…must be a Catholic thing. :) My hubby is Catholic too and was very in favor of announcing the name ASAP. I love these sorts of affirmations of life…. Our church did a sweet affirmation on Father’s day when there were 3 expectant mom’s and dad’s in the congregation: they recognized *all* the attending dads–including the expectant ones–by having them all serve as oblation bearers and come to the front of the church for a blessing. Such public, positive recognition of the sanctity of life brought tears of joy to my eyes… :)

  3. Ooh, that is wonderful!! I love it. :o)

  4. E. Rambo

    “River” embodies the idea of light, nurturing, life-giving, dynamic strength, as well as potentially destructive power.

    This is wonderful, and I can’t help wondering if similar thoughts weren’t at work when Joss Whedon created this character named River in Firefly and Serenity:

    If you haven’t seen this series, you must!

  5. Nice connection, E. Rambo! :) Oh, the husband and I are H U G E Joss Whedon fans. I didn’t even (consciously) think about the Serenity/Firefly connection until months after we’d decided on “River”….but it made me like the name even more :) It’s nice to know you’re a Whedon-ite too :)

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