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Parents often wonder if the name they choose for their baby will affect its destiny. There are many theories and belief systems about the power of a name. The naming process is important because your baby will have the name you select for the rest of their life.

Can Your Baby's Name Predict the Future?

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," says Juliet, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Does anyone really believe that? What if a rose were called a "slothgum," for example? Would you still send a dozen red ones to your loved one on Valentine's Day?

It is doubtful. As many people acknowledge, names are freighted with meaning and significance. Over the centuries, different philosophical and religious groups have attributed great significance and power to names.

At least four important philosophies speak of names. There is the "mystical" camp, the "psychological" camp, the "sound" camp and the "religious/spiritual" camp. The four overlap, and yet have real differences.

Numerology, for example, involves the study of numbers and their interrelationships. For centuries, different cultures have created complex, symbolic systems of numbers. Through numerology, which assigns meanings and significance to each number, you can develop an understanding of the symbolic meaning of your name, and utilize this understanding in your day-to-day life.

Ancient Jewish philosophy developed the Kabbalah, a system which is based on the Tree of Life and the interrelationship among all things. The Kabbalah combines numerical values from the Tree of Life with the meaning of letters of the alphabet. This can be used to develop an analysis of a person's name, leading to unique insights into their personality and character. Your name, according to the Kabbalah, is a key to self-awareness.

There is also an ancient European system of symbols, known as "runes." The runic alphabet, known as the "Futhark," has a method for converting your name into a group of runes, which, like the Kabbalah, provide important insights into your personality.

From a psychological perspective, many experts say that your name influences how people perceive you, and this affects how they treat you. One well-known study, by a professor from UCLA, found that people with unattractive or undesirable names tended to be handicapped in their social and work lives. A child with an "unusual" name, such as Clarence, may be continuously teased in school, and this will hurt his self-image and development. By contrast, a "Michael" or an "Alexander," both very popular names, are empowering, because people respond to them with a subconscious degree of respect.

Research indicates that boys with strange first names may display more emotional problems than boys with "traditional" names. However, as researchers note, this should not be overblown. It is not clear which is more influential - a really strange name, or the parents who gave that name to the child. But there is a body of research linking traditional names to greater success in adult life.

The naming of a baby is very important in many religions and cultures. The Ashkenazic Jews, for example, identify the name with a person's soul, which influences their entire life. Ashkenazic Jews do not name children after living relatives, based on a belief that the sharing of the name by two living souls shortens the life of the older person.

The Bible is very clear in placing a lot of importance on names. The Book of Proverbs, 22:1, states that "a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches." Many biblical names have both spiritual and literal meanings, and some believe that the spiritual power of a name is carried into the child, and into their later life.

It has been held that the very sound of a name, repeated endlessly through many centuries, helps create the "meaning" of a name. In his book "The Secret Universe of Names," Roy Feinson theorizes that the sound of a name has a specific emotional effect on the listener. And, according to Feinson, the physical action of speaking twists the facial muscles in specific ways, which also impacts the listener's emotional response. Feinson discusses different patterns showing how certain names, and their sounds, can affect our lives in various ways.

There is even a school of thought labelled "harmonic vibration," championed by Pierre Le Rouzic in his book "The Secret Meaning of Names." Le Rouzic claims that names possess concealed vibrations, which are aspects of the personality, that begin before birth. According to Le Rouzic, the baby within the womb "speaks" to the mother. Because of this, Le Rouzic says, mothers innately understand the nature of their child, and they should be the ones most responsible for naming the baby. The vibrations of a name relate to specific animals, plants, colors, and so forth. These aspects join to form "character" types that predict a baby 's future personality and character.

Can a parent be certain that a particular name will affect a baby in a specific way? Probably not. But there is much food for thought in the various belief systems about the power of baby names. At a minimum, it makes you think about the importance of the naming process. The name is going to belong to the child for his or her entire life. And if it does affect the child's destiny, then the responsibility of naming is an important one.

Article by Neil Street. Neil Street is co-publisher of Baby Names Garden, a website for everyone who loves baby names. He writes frequently on this topic.