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A name is a word or term used for identification. Names can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. A personal name identifies, not necessarily uniquely, a specific individual human. The name of a specific entity is sometimes called a proper name (although that term has a philosophical meaning also) and is a proper noun. Other nouns are sometimes, more loosely, called names; an older term for them, now obsolete, is "general names". A name can be given to a person, place, or thing; for example, parents can give their child a name or scientist can give an element a name.
Caution must be exercised when translating, for there are ways that one language may prefer one type of name over another. A feudal naming habit is used sometimes in other languages: the French sometimes refer to Aristotle as "le Stagirite" from one spelling of his place of birth, and English speakers often refer to Shakespeare as "The Bard", recognizing him as a paragon writer of the language. Also, claims to preference or authority can be refuted: the British did not refer to Louis-Napoleon as Napoleon III during his rule.
The word "name" comes from Old English nama; akin to Old High German (OHG) and Sanskrit नामन् (nāman), Latin nomen, and Greek ὄνομα (onoma), possibly from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *nomn-. Also note the similarity to the Tamil "namam".
In the ancient world, particularly in the ancient near-east (Israel, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia) names were thought to be extremely powerful and to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. This viewpoint is responsible both for the reluctance to use the proper name of God in Hebrew writing or speech, as well as the common understanding in ancient magic that magical rituals had to be carried out "in [someone's] name". By invoking a god or spirit by name, one was thought to be able to summon that spirit's power for some kind of miracle or magic (see Luke 9:49, in which the disciples claim to have seen a man driving out demons using the name of Jesus.) This understanding passed into later religious tradition, for example the stipulation in Catholic exorcism that the demon cannot be expelled until the exorcist has forced it to give up its name, at which point the name may be used in a stern command which will drive the demon away.
In the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful, and a change of name indicates a change of status. For example, the patriarch Abram and his wife Sarai are renamed "Abraham" and "Sarah" when they are told they will be the father and mother of many nations (Genesis 17:4, 17:15). Simon was renamed Peter when he was given the Keys to Heaven. This is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16, which according to Roman Catholic teaching, was when Jesus promised to Saint Peter, the power to take binding actions.
Throughout the Bible, characters are given names at birth that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. For example: Solomon meant peace, and the king with that name was the first whose reign was without war. Likewise, Joseph named his firstborn son Manasseh (Hebrew: "causing to forget")(Genesis 41:51); when Joseph also said, "“God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father's family.”
Biblical Jewish people did not have surnames which were passed from generation to generation. However, they were typically known as the child of their father. For example: דוד בן ישי (David ben Yishay) meaning, David, son of Jesse.(1 Samuel 17:12,58).
The Babylonian Talmud maintains that names exert a mystical influence over their bearers, and a change of name is one of four actions that can avert an evil heavenly decree, that would lead to punishment after one's death. Rabbinical commentators differ as to whether the name's influence is metaphysical, connecting a person to their soul, or bio-socio-psychological, where the connection affects his personality, appearance and social capacities. The Talmud also states that all those who descend to Gehenna will rise in the time of Messiah. However, there are three exceptions, one of which is he who calls another by a derisive nickname.
|Name of a...||Name of name|
|Body of water||Hydronym|
|Resident(s) of a locality||Demonym|
|Author writing under an assumed name||Pen name or pseudonym|
|Item named after a person||Eponym|
|Other names||-onym-suffixed words|
A naming convention is an attempt to systematize names in a field so they unambiguously convey similar information in a similar manner.
Several major naming conventions include:
Naming conventions are useful in many aspects of everyday life, enabling the casual user to understand larger structures.
Street names within a city may follow a naming convention; some examples include:
Large corporate, university, or government campuses may follow a naming convention for rooms within the buildings to help orient tenants and visitors. Otherwise, rooms may be numbered in some kind of a rational scheme.
Parents may follow a naming convention when selecting names for their children. Some have chosen alphabetical names by birth order. In some East Asian cultures, it is common for one syllable in a two syllable given name to be a generation name which is the same for immediate siblings. In many cultures it is common for the son to be named after the father or a grandfather. In certain African cultures, such as in Cameroon, the eldest son gets the family name for his given name.
In other cultures, the name may include the place of residence, or the place of birth. The Roman naming convention denotes social rank.
Products may follow a naming convention. Automobiles typically have a binomial name, a "make" (manufacturer) and a "model", in addition to a model year, such as a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette. Sometimes there is a name for the car's "decoration level" or "trim line" as well: e.g., Cadillac Escalade EXT Platinum, after the precious metal. Computers often have increasing numbers in their names to signify the next generation.
Courses at schools typically follow a naming convention: an abbreviation for the subject area and then a number ordered by increasing level of difficulty.
Many numbers (e.g. bank accounts, government IDs, credit cards, etc.) are not random but have an internal structure and convention. Virtually all organizations that assign names or numbers will follow some convention in generating these identifiers. Airline flight numbers, space shuttle flight numbers, even phone numbers all have an internal convention.
The process of developing a name for a brand or product is heavily influenced by marketing research and strategy to be appealing and marketable. The brand name is often a neologism or pseudoword, such as Kodak or Sony.
The use of personal names is not unique to humans. Dolphins also use symbolic names, as has been shown by recent research. Individual dolphins have distinctive whistles, to which they will respond even when there is no other information to clarify which dolphin is being referred to.
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