Every person’s name is special. Read the following essays about your name for examples and prompts to discover how you can create a thoughtful and personal piece.
Whether given or chosen, names have a powerful hold over each person. They can be curious mysteries, reminders of painful pasts, fond monikers, or personal treasures. Like our faintest scars and mental states, they also have deep histories ingrained into our very being. They can become means by which we trace our ancestors, create opportunities, or cherish our present situations. Your name is more than a means of calling your attention. It can convey an abstract idea of your personhood, experiences, and beliefs.
For example, what comes to mind when you hear the name Marilyn Monroe? Most people think of the iconic blond bombshell from the 1950s to the early 1960s. Depending on how much you know about her, you may know her as a bright and determined woman or a sweet but ditzy character, which she often played in TV and film roles. Her name alone indicates her accolades, skills, and perceived personality.
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5 Essay Examples
1. Long Essay on What’s in a Name by Prasanna
“In a deep sense what creates the true meaning and power of a name is the worth of the individual or thing as reflected in the outer world.”
Prasanna divides her essay into three parts, explaining how people receive their names, how these monikers affect their identities, and how powerful names can be. The essay title was lifted from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” reiterating Juliet’s profound line, “What’s in a name? What we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This script refers to the reality that names’ importance is directly related to the unique qualities someone possesses.
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2. The Story of My Name by Rong Xiaoqing
“Those who read my name did not know how to pronounce it, and those who heard it did not know how to write it.”
Rong shares her struggles of being a Chinese American and the complications of her name. Her name contains two of the most complicated Chinese characters that she found difficult to write when she was young, plus it was hard to pronounce in English. However, when Rong learned the meaning of her name, she fell in love with it.
In the next section of her essay, she talks about instances where names are more than names, referring to cases such as a parent losing custody of their children for giving them Nazi names. Rong also includes relevant studies that connect names and race and the times people deliberately mispronounced her name to be cruel. She concludes that she’s still growing and has all the time in the world to learn more about herself.
3. The Mystery of Carl Miller by Sarah Miller
“The last name Miller says nothing about me, but if pressed I would say I appreciate the way it evokes a beautiful neutrality, and the way it reminds me that all of us could so easily have been someone else.”
The author, Sarah Miller, only knows part of the story behind her ancestors. In her essay, she shares a few facts about her father’s birth and what she knew of her grandmother, then she recalls how she often asked about her grandfather, Carl Miller. The essay focuses on the author’s curiosity about Carl Miller and her emotional journey about accepting that she might never learn more about him.
4. Name and Identity by Jennifer Wang
“No others show me being stretched between two very different cultures and places—the ‘Jennifer’ clashing with the ‘Wang,’ the ‘Wang’ fighting with the ‘Jennifer.’”
In this short essay, Wang describes her internal confusion between her two cultures, disclosing how she struggles to be in the United States as a Chinese woman. She remembers how she wandered toy aisles looking for dolls with the same skin tone as hers and how she turned to shun her Asian heritage because she didn’t understand it. While the essay centers around Wang trying to introduce herself, her writing echoes the dilemma many young immigrants still face today.
5. Call You By Your Name by Roxanne Krystalli
“By the time I went to college, Roxani had been left behind. I was fully Roxanne by then, until one day my roommate beckoned: “Rooooox, do you want to watch an episode of something with me?” My father had an aversion to nicknames and never called me anything short of my full name: Roxani.”
Krystalli talks about how her name transitioned from the Greek Roxani to Roxanne to several other variations and then back again. She shares her life experiences and thoughts about these names as she grew up and gained new monikers. By the end of her essay, Krystalli tells the reader how she yearns to become Roxani again and reconnect with her Greek roots.
6 Prompts for Writing Essays About Your Name
1. The Power of Nicknames
Your nickname has a history that is as unique as yours. Nicknames are unpredictable and can sometimes be challenging to accept. For example, some children often pick nicknames based on their peer’s appearance, particularly if something stands out to them. However, nicknames can often be a sign of affection; naming someone with a nickname can be a way to show your friendship and close bond.
With this prompt, share how you dealt with any given nicknames you didn’t like. You can also speak about a short backstory of how others chose these nicknames. Explain your thoughts when you felt like you had no choice but to take other people’s nicknames for you.
2. My Unique and Interesting Name
Whether your parents got creative in naming you or you chose a one-of-a-kind name for yourself, those with unique names share distinct experiences. For example, people may rarely pronounce or read it correctly. Others may have difficulty spelling your name when they need to write it down.
In this prompt, share your experiences that connect to your unique name. Talk about the most interesting and memorable instances you remember and if you expect them to happen again.
3. What It’s Like Being Named After Popular People
If your parents are die-hard fans and decided to name you after their favorite book character, musician, or public figure, your name can feel like a borrowed one. Although some enjoy sharing names with well-known people, others would rather have a unique name.
Delve into people’s reactions when they learn your name in your essay. Discuss how you’ve handled their jokes, or share the questions you already anticipate once they realize where your name came from.
4. Why I Chose This Nickname
Your name can change people’s perception of you, and choosing a nickname gives you control over that. This prompt is excellent if you have a nickname that has no connection with your given name. It’s also a great conversation starter. In your essay, explain why you chose that moniker and what it means to you.
You can also add how people reacted before and after they learned the history of it. Your nickname doesn’t have to have a deep history. It can be as simple as earning the nickname “Cookie” because you like to eat cookies.
5. Cultural Names and Their Meanings
In some cultures, people still practice giving traditional names or nicknames to children, and you may belong to a culture that does the same. If you want to share this experience with your readers, discuss your name in this essay. Explain the language your name comes from, what it means, and why you received it. You can also give other examples, like the nicknames of your siblings, cousins, or ancestors.
6. My Name If I Were From a Different Place
Appreciation of another culture can push us to ponder what we’ll be called if we were from that group. If you’ve had an intense interest and appreciation for another culture or country, you may have already thought about how you want to be addressed. Share the name you chose, its meaning, and why you picked it. This also extends to fictional or fantasy worlds or cultures.
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