what’s in a name? pt 4

I remember the first time someone heard my name and knew how to spell it. I was 10.

My family took a cross-country summer vacation to see as many US states as possible. We also spent half a day in Tijuana, Mexico. I think my mom still has bruises on her arm where my older sister hung on from fear, just like she did the first time we went to NYC.

Me, I was happy to be there. My most salient Tijuana memory is seeing a street vendor, an elderly man, and his cluttered table / workshop—small metal-cutting machine, a collection of files, boxes of chunky metal rings,  and a hand-made sign: “Your name on a ring.”

Not sure why I wanted one, and don’t recall all the details, but I do remember telling the man, Dina, and he said, D-I-N-A? And said, yes. Yes!

The man found a ring that fit me, carved & filed away the negative space around each letter until my name appeared on the ring. Way better than a pre-printed personalized mini license plate from a gift shop.

Years later…

I learned why Dina might have been so familiar to that man: the name Dina has etymological roots in Spanish/Latin, plus DINA is a manufacturer of trucks and buses (the Mexican equivalent of Mac trucks)—Diesel Nacional (DiNa), which later became Diesel International, but name changes can be difficult to make stick.

Like, for a very brief moment in the early 2000s, I had the nickname (the only one I can remember having) of Diesel. I think 3 people called me this for a few months, and then the nickname died.

In Dubai

When I meet people in here, after the usual game of Where Are You From?, we exchange names. I get the same response:

You know that’s an Arabic name?

I started asking, What’s it mean?

If there are many Arabic speakers in the group, they’ll speak in Arabic. Discuss. Look confused. Discuss. Return to me and say, it doesn’t mean anything, really.


I asked someone, got the answer nothing, and told her about a Syrian guy I met at the camel races who said, It means the sun and earth. It means everything and nothing. She said, Typical Syrian.

whats in a name camels at the start line

On the Internet…

Home of all answers & misanswers, says, Dina—Hebrew—means avenged, judged and vindicated.

From Dinah:

  • The name Dinah occurs only once in the Bible, as the only daughter of Israel’s arch-father Jacob (Genesis 30:21)
  • The name Dinah is the feminine form of Dan and both come from the verb דין (din), meaning to judge or plead or govern
  • The feminine noun מדונה (medina), meaning province. BDB Theological Dictionary submits that this word is an Aramaic word, but perhaps it was so readily incorporated into Hebrew because it expresses the smallest unit of governable area larger than a single city; i.e. a jurisdiction. Note that this word also exists in Arabic, where it also became applied as the name of the famous city.


What does Dina mean?

  • (Celtic) seaman, mariner; (Germanic) brave as a bear; (Hebrew) vindicated; (Latin) steadfast, constant
  • Dina is unusual as a baby name for girls. Its usage peaked modestly in 1969 with 0.089% of baby girls being given the name Dina. Its ranking then was #199. The baby name has since experienced a substantial fall in popularity, and is today of very light use.
  • Dina is also a variant of the name Murdag (Scottish).

Call me Murdag. Maybe? Call me maybe? Maybe?


8 thoughts on “what’s in a name? pt 4

  1. I have the exact same with my name!! Layla apparently means a million and one things in the Middle East and can be spelled a myriad of different ways! It’s good to know I am not alone in wanting things with my name on, I got way over excited to finally find a keyring with it on!

    1. Hello, Layla! At least you have a very cool song about you! The closest I have is reality star on the Real Housewives of New Jersey, and the stage mother of a troubled child star turned twenty-something tabloid fodder.

      Yay for personalized keyrings!

    1. Hey Rich,
      Thank you for the kind words, and so happy to hear you were inspired to research after reading my posts.
      Following you in return, you Powerful Ruler, you. Thrilled, always, to find like-minded literary people.
      Dubai misses you.

      1. Oh, hi! Hi! I thought maybe that was you! How are you? Ha, I still don’t know what that woman meant when she said Typical Syrian. Also, I still taking being mistaken as French as a compliment. Thank you!

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