One of the best vehicles for finding out name origins is to consult one of the great many baby names information sites available via the Internet. Other options include genealogy or heritage websites, including such examples as Ancestry.com and Genealogy.familyeducation.com.
Successful searches for name origins are typically the most precise. In other words, one should try to apply as many filters to the search as possible. For example, determine whether the name is a girl's name or a boys, a first name or a surname. Some sites, such as the Surname Database, particularly target the latter. Ancestry.com's page for Last Names' Meanings and Origins is designed similarly.
One of the reasons baby name sites in particular are so effective is that they often provide multiple forms of information for every name. For instance, they commonly supply the linguistic or ethnic source of the name, the meaning of the name, as well as other names connected to it or from which it is derived. Baby Names, at Babble, courtesy of Disney, is one such site.
For those with even more information at the outset, there are a number of sites which parse names out by ethnicity. Thus, if the person already knows that a name is French, Arabic, Hebrew, or other, these sites might prove most rewarding. BehindtheName.com, for instance, offers the ability to filter a search by specific ethnicity and gender in the initial portal.