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4.0 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 28 September 2006
This is easily the best name book which I own (and I own several). It is arranged in alphabetical order (as one might expect from a dictionary, I suppose) but for all names rather than with the usual Girl/Boy division. The gender of the name is indicated in brackets with either m or f. Each name has a paragraph of information about its derivation, meaning and historic use. This is far more thorough than many others on the market and allows you to make a very informed choice about your son or daughter's future name. I have used this book to make many suggestions to my sister about my future niece/nephew and she is very impressed. Even if you aren't expecting a child, this is an extremely interesting book to leaf through and well worth the modest price tag.
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on 22 June 2007
The Penguin Dictionary of First Names is easily the most comprehensive compendium of names I have ever come across. It is peppered with historical background and little anecdotes making it a most enjoyable read even if you are not planning on having babies but have always been extremely curious as to the story behind the name .
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on 28 August 2014
This book is insightful on providing a 'definition' of a pretty substantial list of names. On the down side, I've been through the whole book and wasn't particularly inspired by any of the names. I also don't find it very helpful that genders are mixed, as we know what we are expecting and are still having to read a large number of names that don't apply just to get through the list. On the other hand, it is a well researched book and does have a lot of English names in it.
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on 25 December 2016
I like this book mainly for the part that does meaning with each name. Maybe people don't generally realise names have an origin but they do, - for instance mine, Robert, means bright fame or Duncan is thought to mean dark battle or Donna is from the Italian for lady or Miriam means good, or full, to swell from Hebrew origin. Sometimes, not that often, the meanings don't seem to quite ring true or a variety of sources are offered from which you might guess the correct one or not, still. good if you like this kind of thing
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 July 2016
On first acquaintance, this is a pretty standard 19.5cm x 12.5cm paperback that's wrapped inside an appealingly minimalist retro-style cover. It runs to a respectable 389 pages in total, but the quality of the paper being used here is slightly disappointing in that it feels unusually coarse - even at this price. The book initially exhibits a somewhat sickly aroma, too - although thankfully, its pungency diminishes with time!

A reference book of this nature serves two distinct purposes, and these are:

1) As a work for sourcing the etymology and derivation of first names

This is the principal reason why I chose to buy the book; and in this regard, I would have to agree that it turns in a perfectly acceptable performance: erudite yet concise. If there's a problem at all, it's purely one of scope: with 'only' around 5,000 or so names being categorised within its pages, this is little better than average for the genre (some alternative volumes, for example, encompass twice the number of name classifications)

2) As an aid to expectant parents searching for that elusively perfect name

In this respect, the book is surely not quite so successful. The volume is entitled a 'Dictionary of First Names', and that is literally correct: the names are listed in a strict alphabetical configuration, rather than being separated into two clearly defined sections according to gender. Whether a male or a female name, in fact, is denoted merely by employing a small bracketed 'm' or 'f' behind the main name heading, which is sometimes easier to miss than you might imagine - especially in cases where the male and female variations of a particular name are very similar.

Towards the rear of the book, there are some other useful listings, including:

i) 'Saints Days' (the relevant first names of the Saints are provided for each day of the year - handy if you're searching for such a name that corresponds to the date of your child's birth)

ii) Separate listings of the most popular local and worldwide first names (male and female) since 1700...but unfortunately, these are only continued up to (and including) the year 2003, which hardly makes them what you might call 'on trend'!

Ultimately, however, the problem of overall scope is once again the most noticeable limiting factor here, since some rival publications seem to provide many more options in terms of the alternative names they offer

In summary:

This is an authoritative though not entirely comprehensive reference volume that is presented in a handily portable size and offered at a not unreasonable price. Accepting its various limitations (as mentioned above), this is a recommended buy.
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on 5 November 2007
This book is great. It has so many names from so many different origins and even the variants of those. Within 10 minutes of picking it up I had found 2 great possible names for my new addition wheras I'd found none in the countless books I had studied so far. Well worth the £8.99 RRP.
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on 2 August 2009
We purchased this when trying to pick a name for baby. We already had a conventional baby name book but were not finding any inspiration. This was a great change from normal name books as it gave some interesting comments against each name and not just the bog standard meaning. Some of the references to well known and famous people with the same name are a bit outdated but that doesn't take away stop this from being a very entertaining and informative read and eventually helped us decide on a name we both liked.
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on 24 February 2008
....with all of the previous reviews. This book is divided into girl and boy names which are then listed in alphabetical order. There are so many names, 5,000 according to the book itself, that reading through them all to create a shortlist is time consuming!

We purchased the book to help us decide the name of our newborn and there are so many names to choose from that it is inevitable that you will find one that you both agree on!

Mainly European and biblical names, with a smattering of hebrew, arabic and Indian. Generally gives the history behind and the meaning of the name also.
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on 25 April 2014
There are LOTS of names in this book..... I am looking for traditional names so was rather overwhelmed by the large number of foreign or 'names suitable for famous people!'

However, it is nice to see the origins of names..
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on 16 December 2012
I bought this as a gift for girlfriend who is expecting. She is quite the traditional type so I wanted a book that would have lots of traditional names and less of the made up, mis spelled names you get in some books.

On that point it does deliver. I highly doubt any of the old faithfulls and historic names have been excluded. It also has a good, and I assume highly accurate description of the name and its history - it is a dictionary after all.

The reason I don't rate it above 3 stars is that unfortunately for me, it made the very exciting experience of choosing a baby name rather dull. It really is written like a dictionary, and a lot of the definitions are dry, or just refer to another variation of the name. I actually got bored after about the 4th name I looked up.

I think before buying you may want to consider why you are buying this book. I see a lot of reviews from writers looking to name their characters and for that its probably fine. But if its a gift or if you are expecting then I would suggest you review a few pages using names you know first and see if its for you.

This book just wasn't a page turner for me and I think that says a lot given how exciting choosing a baby name can be. I probably will go for something a bit more exciting when its my turn even if I do have to wade through the 18 ways of spelling "Britney" (sorry if your child is named Britney).
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