February 7, 2017

Today alone, two different people told me that they had never heard my name before. A third person told me that they thought my name was pretty. People ask me about my name all of the time, and I love talking about it.

My mother grew up living with her grandmother, who immigrated to the United States from Poland when she was a teenager. I can’t imagine leaving everything I have ever known to move to a country I have never been before – especially without cell phones or internet – knowing I would never see my home again.

But my great-grandmother did.

My mom has the best stories about her grandmother, the things she would say, the advice she would give, and the way that she always supported my mother, no matter what. My great-grandmother went through some really rough times, but she did what she had to do and was always very strong.

I never met my great-grandmother, but I know that she never missed a single person’s birthday. I know that I get my love of sending letters and cards from her.

Her name translates from Polish to Carol.

My great-grandmother and my mom were very close, and before my mom was ever even pregnant with me, she promised her she would name me after her. Of course, being the way she was, my great-grandmother told my mom that she didn’t need to do that, but my mom always knew that if she had a daughter, she would name me after her.

When my mom found out she was pregnant with me, my name was decided — almost.

She knew she wanted to name me after her grandmother, but she also wanted to give me an English name. So, my parents decided to name me Carol-something. Carolyn? Caroline? Carolina? They tossed around all of the different versions of Carol-something, but nothing felt right to them.

Even after I was born, they couldn’t decide. Three days after I was born, my mom said to my dad, “What about Carolann?” And they knew that was it.


Not Carolanne.
Not Carol Anne.
Not Carol-ann.

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I love that my parents gave me a name so unique that I’ve never met a single person with the same name.

People always ask me about my name because it’s not common. You might know someone named Carol -something, but they go by Carol. Not me. I will always be Carolann. I’ve never had a nickname and have never wanted to be called anything but Carolann.

Well, that’s not exactly true. My dad calls me Carolannie – but he’s my dad and I love when he calls me that. I also love that instead of shortening my three-syllable name he lengthens it. Only dads can do that.

Names are important. They have history, meaning, connotation. They have weight. They have power.

I love that my name is different. I think it’s pretty, and I love the way it flows. I love that my parents put so much thought into it. I love that they took 3 days to choose just the right one. I love that my name carries meaning in my family.

I love that I was named after a strong woman.

I never met my great-grandmother, but I feel her spirit with me. Whenever I have to do something hard, like pack up and move yet again, I just have to remind myself that I am the great-granddaughter of a woman who came on a boat from Poland to America when she was 16 — and never looked back.

I don’t know if I will ever live up to my name, but I sure will try.

What’s the story behind your name?

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30 responses to “What’s in a name?”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I love this. My name is not special at all. I am one of many, many, Jennifers. We tried to give our kids different names that meant something to us. My daughter is named after two great-grandmothers. I hope it means as much to her as your name means to you.

    • Carolann says:

      I think it’s hard to come up with a name that is different enough from all the other names but not super weird. I didn’t always appreciate my name. I should have written more about that, but it was not until I was older that I started to realize how special my name is, and how special my great-grandmother was and everything she endured. You just can’t appreciate that until you’re older, I think. I think that your daughter will grow to love and appreciate her name and her great-grandmothers.

  2. I love the story behind your name, and it really is unique without being weird. I feel like parents today come up with really weird names because they’re trying to make their kids more unique, which in actuality it doesn’t really work for the kid. Your name on the other hand is beautiful and has a special meaning and is unique as well. I think about it now and whether or not I’d be able to move somewhere without my family, and I don’t know if I could do it, even in the day of internet and cell phones. That just shows how strong you are and how strong your great grandmother was too!

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you so so much!! That is such a nice compliment and I loved it so much. I really do think that it’s hard to find a name that is unique but not too weird and I think my parents did a good job with that. Leaving home that first time was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, especially since it was just 5 days after we had this big wedding with all of our family and friends and we were moving so far away. The only thing that makes it easier is being able to go home pretty often. Those visits home are so special and I love them so much!

  3. I guess I’ve never thought that your name was odd! I like it. I love when people are named after a family member or something special. You probably know this, but R’s name is my maiden name 🙂 So the story goes, my parents picked my name out of a hat with 3 other names. They drew the first name but that wasn’t it. They drew the second name, and that wasn’t it either. The last name was Amanda and they liked that the best for me!

    • Carolann says:

      Thanks! I like that it’s different enough that you don’t hear it all the time but not too weird, like Apple or something. I love the story behind R’s name! My mom’s maiden name has become a common first name for in our family as well, and it’s my brother’s middle name. Do you have a name picked our for baby boy?

  4. Carly says:

    Your name is so pretty and I loved hearing the story/meaning behind it! My name was just something my mom had liked since she was young. When we have kids we definitely plan on incorporating family names.

    • Carolann says:

      There are so many beautiful names that I just randomly love, but there are also some special family names that I love too. When I have kids it’s going to be hard to pick a name! Carly is so pretty – I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with that name before, and I love that it’s part of your blog name too. I was thinking about incorporating my first name into my blog name but I just couldn’t come up with anything I really liked.

  5. Sarah CC says:

    We are on the same wavelength, Carolann! I have a post scheduled that’s also about my great grandma and grandmother, who were also immigrants! Although it’s not about names, but side note… my Grandma’s name was Carolyn and my middle name is Caroline! I think our parents were ALSO on the same wavelength haha. You do have a very memorable name – it’s beautiful and unique 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you! I can’t wait to read your post! Everything that is going on in the US has me thinking a lot about my great-grandparents and everything they went through. I love the names Carolyn and Caroline! I love that your middle name is a variation of your grandma’s name like mine. I think that is a great way of honoring someone. There are a few people in my family with Carol-something names and I really think that all of them are so lovely.

  6. Joan Lauri- Martines says:

    What a beautiful story – the way it flows and the warmth of all the details . Of course being your mother. … I love that you love your name. Love you forever Carolann

  7. You do have a pretty name and I love that you’re named after someone so special!

  8. Julie says:

    What a lovely story! And you’re right, I have never met anyone with your name before! How my name came to be is definitely not as exciting as your story!

  9. Audrey says:

    This is great!! I love stories behind names! Your name is unique! I’ve never heard it before. It’s gorgeous, too!

    I share a middle name with my mom. K and I have already decided if and when we have a daughter she’ll have “Louise” as a middle name, too 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      That is beautiful! Funny thing is that my mom’s name is Joan Carol. Her Confirmation name in Catholic school was Ann, so she is Joan Carol Ann. I really have no idea what I am going to name my kids. I have so many ideas and some of them are a bit too weird for me to feel like I can actually follow through with. We have so many special family names too – it will be hard!

  10. Jen says:

    I absolutely love your name and I love the meaning behind it. My daughter shares a middle name with my Mom and it was so important for me to do that to honor the memory of my Mom. I have met very few people who have heard of the name Emersyn, it’s fun to have a unique name that is special. 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you!! I love the name Emerson. With Emersyn as her first name and your mother’s name as her middle name, your daughter has such a special name.

  11. This is a lovely story, and I enjoyed hearing about your great-grandmother. She sounds like quite a woman!

    I find the reasons behind names so interesting, and yours is unique and pretty without being crazy, if you know what I mean. I recently had a relation name their child Perdita and I just can’t really get my head around that one!

    My name means ewe which isn’t perhaps the most flattering of things but I’m fond of it all the same 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      She really was! I wish I had gotten to meet her but I love that my mom keeps her memory alive. I love hearing about how people got their names which is kind of what triggered me to write this post. I think it’s a hard line to come up with a name that is different and unique without being too weird and I really love that my parents were able to do that (in my opinion!)

  12. I absolutely love how unique your name is, and what an amazing person to be named after!

  13. Rachel G says:

    I loved hearing the whole story and reasoning behind your name! Choosing names for their meaning and connection is really cool. My name is very common, obviously. Angel’s is less common where we live so he gets a lot of questions about it!

    • Carolann says:

      I love that you have a real-live Angel. I don’t know Angel, but I just have a feeling that that is a perfect name for him. I always love hearing stories about how people came to get their names.

  14. Natalie says:

    This is such a wonderful story! I love etymology and naming, so I’m always into a good conversation about why people are named what they are. Your great-grandmother sounds like a kind, brave, incredible person–what a name sake! My parents named me Natalie for 2 reasons: they really liked the actress Natalie Wood (who died just a few years before I was born), and I was due at the beginning of the Christmas season (Natalie meaning “child of Christmas”). However, I had different plans and arrived two weeks early! They still liked the name, so I was Natalie even though I showed up before Thanksgiving! 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      I had no idea that Natalie means Child of Christmas. What a beautiful name and a beautiful meaning. In my family we start to get ready for Christmas before Thanksgiving (yeah we are those people!), so that still sounds perfect to me! What a cool story.

  15. I absolutely love this Carolann and I too have never heard of this name with anyone else but you and it is such a beautiful sounding name-what a lovely story behind it! it really made me think when you said how it must feel to leave everything you know to move to a country you’ve never been with no cell phone, as I suddenly realised that’s exactly what my parent did when they came to the UK before we were born. I think I sometimes take it for granted and not always appreciate how much sacrifice that must have been.

    • Carolann says:

      Your parents seem like truly incredible people. Since my family has been here for so long I know I take for granted everything that I have here in America. But everything that has been going on here has made me think about what my great-grandmother and all immigrants go through and how grateful I am for what she did. Other than Native Americans, none of us would not be here in America without immigrants and I don’t understand how people don’t understand that.

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