Humans are interesting in the way that they come up with names for everything. Every object in this world must have a label so we may understand what another person is speaking about when we communicate. Names and labels are an integral part of language and communication; without them, we would never know to what anybody is referring. The story is no different when it comes to human beings themselves. We all have names in order to identify ourselves, whether to friends, co-workers, or verifiable government documents. Our names are essentially who we are. Some people come upon their names very simply. For example, parents may pass a specific name on to the first-born male of the family, allowing them to carry the name as a tradition. Others come upon their names randomly; a mother or father may overhear a name they like and decide to give it to their child one day. Some names are given based on their meaning or origin. As for me, my name is Zenaida Vasquez, and this is my name origin.
My mother is the one who decided to name me Zenaida. She found the name one day when she was flipping through a baby magazine when she was pregnant. She said that it sounded unique and powerful. At the time she thought that if she gave me a strong name that meant something, I would grow up strong, as well. In “The Complete Book of Baby Names,” by Lesley Bolton, it states that Zenaida is a Greek name. It is the feminine version of the name, Zenaide, or Zinaida, which is Russian and Greek. It means “life of Zeus; belonging to Zeus.” The name does not have a rich history. There are no famous people that share the name with me. One interesting fact, though, is that Zenaida Laetitia Julie Bonaparte discovered a small genus of doves that contain seven species. They are Zenaida doves. I also have two cousins, named Kathryn and Marlena Vasquez. Kathryn took the name of her paternal grandmother and Marlena took the name of my aunt’s best friend. There was no ceremony behind any of the namings. Kathryn was named for her grandmother because her father always promised her that his first daughter would carry her name. Marlena took the name of my aunt’s best friend from high school and college because she passed away before Marlena was born, and was considered part of my aunt’s family. “The Complete Book of Baby Names,” reveals that Kathryn is also Greek in origin. Its definition is simpler than mine; Kathryn only means “pure .” Marlena is of German heritage, but also has English roots, and both version translates to mean, “Woman of Magdala . I do not have any specific nicknames in my family that I am able to research. Some family members call me Z because it is quicker than saying my entire name, but I was unable to locate a meaning for this, or even confirm that it was a real name.
In regards to my last name, my family did not know anything specific. They were able to tell me many things about certain family members, but nothing about the name itself. There is nobody famous and nothing that I can trace back that would give light to the origin of the name itself. Unfortunately, Vasquez if a very common name, and scouring the internet led to millions of results. There have been several relatively famous people who have the same last name as I do, whom I have no relation to, proving that the name is common, but not necessarily a link between two people. They included football players, concert pianists, and CEOs but my family confirms that we have no blood relations to any of these individuals. The word itself is sometimes spelled “Vazquez,” and is normally recognized as a Spanish, or Galician surname. It is a surname that sometimes appears in Portugal and is thought to be an evolution of the Roman “Vasco.” “Vasco,” later evolved in Spanish and Italian languages to “Velascus.” Using this information, the argument could be made that my surname, Vasquez, is originally Roman, or Portuguese in origin. It might mean that my bloodline began as one of those two nationalities. The far more likely assumption, however, is that my name, Vasquez is a simple trick of evolutionary language. It probably split from the Spanish oriented Velasquez. This conclusion would most likely make my name Spanish in origin since the name is less likely to be seen Portugal or areas in Europe. I did find a more official definition for my name, stating that Vasquez was a patryonic surname, meaning “son of Vasco.” It also refers to one who came from the Basque country. It comes from the words vasco, velasco, and belsaco; each word suggests and ethnic origin from the Basque provinces of Spain.
In sum, names are fun and sometimes mysterious things. They can teach us so much about ourselves, but it seems the more we learn about them the less we know. They are also not definitive of who we are, as we like to believe. My name is not who I am; it is just what people call me. My last name is not indicative of anything more than my origin. And even that is untrue for some because origins can be tricky to discover. The meaning of the name is much like a horoscope: my name means “belongs to Zeus,” which is as descriptive and accurate as my morning horoscope telling me to watch out for big changes in my life. I do believe that names, their meanings, and their origins can by delightful to learn about, but it is possible to take it all too seriously. It is as Juliet spoke of Romeo, “that which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet” My name is Zenaida Vasquez, my cousins are Marlena and Kathryn. Our names mean different, wonderful, interesting things, but it would not matter what our names were or what they meant; we would still be the same vibrant young women we are today.
Bolton, Lesley. The Complete Book of Baby Names. New York: Sourcebooks Inc., 2009.