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How do researchers find out what baby names mean?

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The study of baby names (or any human names) is called anthroponymy, which is a branch of onomastics - the study of the origin, history, and use of proper names. Historians who study anthroponymy try to determine the following about baby names: etymology (origin, based on historical language), how names are used in various cultures, and why some names are chosen by parents more than others. The historical language origin of a name can reveal deeper meanings, in many cases.

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There are resources and databases that have been compiled to determine the etymology of words, including names. For instance, a search for the name "Alice" in the Online Etymology Dictionary shows that the name has origins in Old German (Adalhaid), and literally translates to "nobility, of noble kind." The pronunciation and use of the name has changed over time as it is adopted by different cultures and languages, but parents may still take origin meanings into consideration when selecting baby names. Anthroponymy also studies trends of how names are popularized across different cultures, demographics, and time periods. Additionally, names can gain new meanings or connotations over time as they are sometimes associated with popular or historically significant people, characters, places or other entities.

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