What’s in a name?

Reflection given by Selam Mekbeb-Gillett ’20


My name is Selamawit,  better known as Selam, which means hello and peaceful in my native language,Amharic. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I am anything but peaceful! I’m always running around, I never sit still, plus, I’ve been told that I’m really loud and I talk all the time. So, why in the world is my name Selam, and why would my mother give me a name so hard to live up to, I mean come on peaceful? I’m supposed to be untroubled by conflict, agitation, or commotion ( at least that’s what Merriam- Webster defines my life as)

First,  a little background on my Ethiopian culture. In Ethiopia, our name is one of the most defining aspects of our identity. Each name is strategically picked, if you are given a passed relatives name, you have the responsibility of keeping that legacy alive. For instance, My mother’s name Debritu meaning grandiose , her middle name Belinesh was her grandmother’s name. We also pick our names based on previous leaders, warriors and kings to commemorate them by infusing our rich history with the new generation. Another significant way we pick our children’s name is based on the environment they are born in or will grow up in. Ethiopians pick names that will shape their children into who they can become regardless the way they grow up. If you live in an improvised town, or unsafe household, your name might be Seih meaning sunny and bright to instill the importance of happiness in one’s life even in the midst of struggle. If you are born into a chaotic life filled with obstacles, disappointments and hardships, your name might be Selam as if a reminder to maintain peacefulness in your life amidst the chaos.

I’ve been so used to hearing my name in multiple conversations but only recently did I question the significance of my name to me. Maybe I am a tad bit loud and talk a little too much. Yet, I’ve taken it upon myself to take a moment to incorporate peacefulness into my life and my personality. I began by breathing. I take a few seconds to take a deep breath before everything I do, to get myself in that peaceful mindset. I live in a world that is so chaotic and I feel as if it is my responsibility to pause and understand what it means to be peaceful. I also try my hardest not to be so agitated all the time, especially when Schoology shuts down for two minutes. My new perspective on the significance of my name has allowed me to make some major positive changes in my daily life, and how I interact with my peers.

In his book of Proverbs, Solomon wrote that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1). your name may not seem important to you because you use it and hear it so much in everyday activities. But it’s your name, and it’s amazing to understand that your name holds power to you as an individual. I hope that you will truly reflect on your name. Your name is important and it will be with you forever. So as we go out into the world today, let us not think of ourselves as Emily, Ethan, or Selam but, as striving, strong, or peaceful. Thank You.


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