Can your name determine your life?

Can a name guarantee success?


“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Unfortunately for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, names played a huge role in how their lives turned out (Spoiler Alert: Very badly. Everyone dead).

But tragedy aside, according to these infographics published by the Guardian, certain names have a greater chance of being found in Ivy League universities or national soccer teams. Or, alternatively, in prison. Yeah, sorry to all the Darrens and Craigs out there.

The Guardian’s Digital Agency examined the given names of prisoners, students and various professions and tracked how often certain names occurred and overlapped.

One graph compares the UK’s most popular baby names in 1994 with the most common names of current Oxford undergraduates born in that year. Popular choices like Nicole, Jade or Samantha didn’t fare too well at Oxford.

Classic names like Catherine, Madeleine and Claire were among the top undergraduate names – well, there’s a shock – while the likes of Elizabeth, Chloe and Georgia featured in both groups.

The concept of ‘name as destiny’ isn’t new – in fact, the Romans had the expression nomen est omen meaning exactly that.

And while the direct ‘name = destiny’ equation is a touch unrealistic, research does suggest your name can wield influence over certain aspects of our lives. Studies indicate we all make assumptions about a person’s class and education level based on their name – even when we don’t realise (or admit) it.

Some researchers also contest that names can influence our occupational choices. The phenomenon of “nominative determinism” refers to people choosing occupations with labels that resemble their given name or surname – like a woman named Denise opting for dentistry. (Although if this is the case, what compelled Kevin Bacon to become an actor and not a butcher?)

All Agyness Deyn needed for success was a couple of lucky Ys

Outside of science, other people believe names can be formulated to ensure their bearer success and fortune, using principles of numerology.

English model Agyness Deyn reportedly consulted with a name analyst because she wanted to change her birth name – Laura Hollins – to something more attractive to fame and success. Apparently two ‘lucky Ys’ and a surname with a sum total of 21 (based on the numerical ‘value’ of each letter) was all she needed to blitz the fashion world. Who knew?

Regardless of what you choose to believe, naming your son Lee doesn’t necessarily doom him to a life behind bars (look, I’ll even put money on it – my dad, a Lee, is a law-abiding school principal. Go figure.)

Sure, other people will always judge and make assumptions based on names, but ultimately our career prospects involve more than our name tags. With passion and effort, an Olivia by any other name could still graduate from a top university. And Shakespeare would probably agree with that.

How much influence do you think names have on their bearer’s life?