What's in a name?

The journey to our little man's name was a long one.  We picked his name and changed it a few times until we found the one.  The perfect name.

I grew up Jillian Marie.  Jillian because my mom used to teach and she had a little Jillian in her class, whom she adored.  Marie because it sounded nice.  My brother got my dad's name as his middle name and my sister got my mom's.  As a kid I always felt like I missed out because I wasn't named after someone.  My first name didn't even mean something special.  Jillian means "downy soft." Not the apex of meaning.   The one vestige of meaning I clung to was that my name started with a "J" and so do both my grandmother's names.  I remember telling my little friends I was named after them.  Pretty sure I made that up. (Because my parents read this I have to say I actually love my name now and I often am complemented on it, so don't worry Mom and Dad, you didn't totally mess me up. ;-) )

John, on the other hand, has a name with a rich story.  He is what you'd call a "miracle baby."  A baby who came even though the doctors said he wouldn't.  Deep in the depths of gratitude for this new life, his parents named him John, from John 1:6 which says, "There was a man who came from God.  His name was John."  My husband has grown up as a man who came from God.  That is like a million times better than "downy soft" isn't it?!  His middle name- William- is his father's name.  Carrying on a legacy.

When it came time to name our son, there was no room to deviate: it had to be a name that meant something.  That was my goal.

My husband and I both agreed that we also wanted something unique.  But not something Yoo-neek, if you know what I mean. 

So: meaningful and unique.

And then we threw in one more objective: we wanted something that honored his Russian heritage.

You can already imagine this was going to be quite the task.

So the first question we had to answer for ourselves, was: do we keep his Russian name? He's two, so he already knows his name.  To us, changing his name felt like robbing him of something and he was already loosing so much.  We wanted to keep his name, but-again- didn't want to step into the yoo-neek name territory.

His name is Artem- also spelled Artyom, which is how it is pronounced in Russian.  "ARE-tee-yom."

Artem means "of pure health." That might not mean very much to the average person, but let me tell you- as his parents, when we started this adoption journey and worried over what it would mean to adopt an institutionalized toddler with an unknown health history/future- discovering the meaning of his name was like a divine whisper.  I will never forget that moment, John and I talking about this adoption- worrying about it- when suddenly out of the blue I said, "Hey I wonder what his name means?"  "Look it up," John said.  I did.  When I read the meaning, "of pure health." John and I both got quiet for a moment.   A divine whisper- not saying "he's perfectly healthy," but rather, "he's perfect in my sight. Whatever health issues come your way, I will equip you.  And someday, in eternity, he will be made perfectly pure."

With that whisper, we decided to keep his name.  Artem.  We've been pronouncing it "are-TEM."One of the favorite names we already had on our "boy names" list was "Arie," which is an old Dutch name- a nod to both our Dutch heritages.  So Artem is his name and we will call him "Arie" - a nickname of sorts.
My brother and sister-in-law bought this for us from a street vendor on their honeymoon to Amsterdam! Love it.

Then came name the middle name.  This was the hard part. I think we tried out five different names with various meanings until we settled on the right one.  I was frustrated one night and decided to pray about it (what a novel concept right- why I hadn't I done this before?).  After my "amen" I turned to my computer and asked God to just please guide me to the right name.

Ten minutes later I had it.

An African name, of all things, but it was the meaning that mattered the most, "the long awaited child.  The celebrated one."


Even more fitting- my mother-in-law's middle name is Kay.  And my sister-in-law, who was also adopted!- has the same initials "AKB."

Artem Kayin Burden.  Our little Arie.

Meaningful.  Yoo-neek Unique.  Russian.

What's in a name?  A lot.  ;-)



  1. I love it! How humbling to be given the gift of choosing a forever name for a child. This is beautiful!

  2. Anonymous11/13/2012

    Thanks for sharing your joyful process. May God bless you on this journey as he obviously already has. ow for the fun part...parenting. May you always be a blessing to each other and in the difficult times and happy times which are to come, may you always hold each other's hands and bless the Lord together. TRenkema

    1. Thank you Professor Renkema! Always so nice to hear from you!

  3. Perfect! :) I love how you'll call him Arie. That seems like such a perfect fit! I have two Arie's in my very Dutch extended family so I'm partial to that name anyway! :)

    I'll be praying as you make your trip to Russia to finally bring your little boy home! SO exciting!!! :) God bless!

  4. Anonymous11/13/2012

    Wonderful choice! I think the name suits and I also like that you are keeping his russian name as well. I also have Arie in my dutch background.

    1. That's awesome! I've heard more people say that since we started telling people. Obviously I love it. I went to school with a guy named Arie too. :-)

  5. What a wonderful and meaningful name. :)

  6. Artem Kayin Burden! I think its a perfect fit! :)
    Side note I love reading your blog, your writing is honest, well thought out, and it tells a wonderful story.
    I think this entry should be in his baby book, so he knows just how he got his name.

  7. Anonymous11/13/2012

    I love his new name! Just found your blog after bouncing adoption blog to adoption blog. I looked up the name to see if there were alternate spellings and I found this which may or may not matter to you. I only know as we named our first born with a name we thought meant one thing when we found out shortly after is not what it really means. We still love her name anyways! Not trying to kill the name spelling, but I thought I would point out it is a female name and the spelling that many Americans use is not appropriate (Kayin - means to lose teeth, not long-awaited child in the real language):

    This name Kayin, is misspelt first of all (as is often done anyways), secondly it does not mean celebrated child per se, there are many other names that signify celebrated children like Oluranti, Abike - Basically indicating how much the parents have wanted the arrival of this child.

    The correct spelling of the name is Kanyin (it doesnt have variations because the Yoruba language does not make allowances for spelling variances). As such one misspelt letter might make the word mean something else as in the case of "Kayin" as you have it spelt which means "to lose teeth". The full name itself is Oluwakanyinsola or Oluwakanyinsolami, the latter specifically relating the meaning of the name to the person in question, hence the "mi" at the end which indicates me, my or mine. The short spellings typically are: Kanyin & Kanyinsola. The name itself literally means "God has added honey to my wealth", which often indicates that the arrival of a child into this family has brought sweetness into the existing wealth. It's the significant equivalence of "drinking a toast to wealth". I know personally because I speak the language and Oluwakanyinsola is my first name!

    1. I did read some information on this in my name research but no it doesn't matter to me. Language evolves and the name Kayin has evolved from it's original spelling to what it is today and is noted in many name meaning sites and books to mean "the long awaited child" or "the celebrated one"and that's what matters to me. I do like the spelling "Kanyin" though! Thanks for sharing Oluwakanyinsola!

  8. What a wonderful name! Congratulations!!!

  9. I think his name sounds like a beautiful melody. Well chosen. :)

  10. stumbled on your post, as I was poking around on the name Artem. Why? well because we named our son Artem as well. I have not met anyone else (in the US) with his name. I am curious to hear what your experience is with his name?

    1. Hi Laurie! How cool to hear another US family using the name Artem! We call him Arie as a nickname which everyone loves but have not had any negative comments to "Artem." We do have some people pronounce it differently than we do (We say "Are-TEM" and they say "ARE-tem.") but no big deal. Do you have Russian heritage?

  11. No Russian heritage, we have a hyphenated last name that is pretty difficult and wanted a name that could stand on its own. My husband was given a Russian name (Dimitri) and we decided to keep the tradition. Initially we called him Army (an outcome of big sister not being able to pronounce his name) but he now is pretty adamant that he is Artem. The only time we have any trouble is with the initial meeting, people not use to hearing the name have a trouble until it is spelled for them, and then it is smooth sailing with occasional misspellings. But it could be worse. :)

  12. I agree. Besides Jill the writer has only indicated that the name Kayin is an African name, there's nothing else to suggest that it is the nigerian name Kanyin that Oluwakanyinsola refers to as there is no variation of the meaning of kanyinsola that would mean or could ever evolve to mean awaited or celebrated child, so it is more likely that this Kayin is simply a correct pronunciation of another African name altogether not the Yoruba Kanyin to which the commenter refers. My second child is also going to be called Kanyinsola and no where is Kanyin ever misspelt as Kayin so I think you may simply be conflating 2 entirely different names. Also it's not a girls name, it's very much a unisex name. I know as many male kanyins as females and there is nothing in the meaning of the name that limits it as female.


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