Vol. 71 No. 1 (2023): NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics

"A Change of Name during Sickness": Surveying the Widespread Practice of Renaming in Response to Physical Illness

Russell Fielding
Coastal Carolina University

Published 2023-03-14


  • children,
  • health,
  • illness,
  • personal names,
  • religion,
  • renaming
  • ...More


This paper synthesizes and summarizes a selection of literature—largely anthropological and ethnographic, published between the early 18th and early 21st centuries—that describes the practice of renaming a person who is physically ill in order to affect their recovery. In none of these publications is this particular practice central; rather, it is often mentioned alongside myriad other cultural and naming practices. While no claim is made as to the exhaustive nature of the literature review, this analysis reveals patterns and similarities related to the reasoning behind such a practice and the special relationship between personal names and physical health in a wide variety of world cultures.


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