my mother named me Kendra

My mother named me “Kendra” because she liked the name, she said.  Although the name “Kendra” has ranked in the US  1000 Most Popular Names since 1946, “Kendra” wasn’t so popular when I was born in 1979.  The name ranked #137 out of 1000, but when I was growing up in Miami, Florida, I was the only somebody I knew named “Kendra.”

I didn’t like my name very much.  I thought it was simple.  It lacked creativity and difficulty.  And although folk claimed my name was different, I thought it was quite dull.  It was only “different” because folks knew no other Kendras.  I actually liked the names that challenged people’s pronunciation, like my twin sister’s name: “Kiley.”  I grew up wishing to have her name.

Teachers always mispronounced Kiley’s name.  She was usually “Kelly” to them–a mispronunciation that always tickeled me, for I could not fathom why anyone, let alone an educator, would pronounce the obvious “i” in “Kiley” as a short “e.”  And calling “Kiley” “Keely”–which also happened quite often–didn’t make any sense either.  I mean, do we pronounce “Riley” as “Reely” or “Miles” as “Meals”?  I think the only mispronunciation that would ever make sense would be calling “Kiley” “Kill-ey” like “Billy.”  And maybe she was called “Kill-ey,” and I just don’t remember.  But what I do know is that the confusion over how to pronounce her name was attractive to me.  Her name was creative and different and beautiful because it was so deep that it could not be comprehended–unless by her permission–her informing.  And she did.  Kiley informed those who mispronounced her name of its correct pronunciation all of the time.

My name is “Kiiii–lee,” she would say.  “Kiiii-lee.” The slower and more drawn out she pronounced her name, the prettier it became to me.  And all I had was “Kendra.” A “ken” coupled with a “dra.” Bore-ring. But, my mother named me “Kendra” because she liked the name, she said.  She claims that the only other Kendra she knew was her colleague’s daughter, who was a professional dancer (not stripper), amongst other things.  My mother told me that she was so drawn to the name “Kendra” that she knew her first twin daughter would be given that name.

“Kendra” has many origins.  The most popular, it seems, is from the Welsh, which translates “Kendra” into “great champion.”  Eh.  I don’t feel like a great champion.  And so, I prefer the Irish translation of my name: “understanding, wisdom, knowledge.”  The Irish translation feels more akin to my personhood, for I have spent all of my adult like yearning for a peace that I know depends on understanding.  With understanding comes compassion and love, and love is the greatest wisdom that any human being will ever know.  “Kendra” also means “water baby and magical” in the English translation, and I embrace that origin of my name as well, for water is cleansing and transforming.  And with 75 percent of the human body and 2/3 of the Earth surface being made up of water, water is life.  I am life.  And every day that I wake up and live my life intentionally–manifesting the Creator who created me–I become magical.  How else can anyone explain humanity?  Our existence is absolutely magical.

My mother named me “Kendra” because she liked the name.  Surely, the various meanings of my name define my personhood and make me feel like my name is meaningful–like it’s just as aesthetically pleasing as “Kiley.”  However, my mother naming me “Kendra” simply because she liked the name is beautiful all by itself.  My mother naming me makes me a part of her–her creativity, her humanity, and her love.  I am her first born twin daughter, and she had already made up her mind that her first born twin would be called “Kendra.”  And so, it is.


  1. I think it’s cool for having a twin. I wish I had a twin, but I have two sisters and I love them very much. Kendra is a pretty name especially when it goes with Kiley. It seems like the meaning of Kendra fits you even if it’s boring. Not too many people I know named Kendra so it is special in its own way.

  2. I didn’t know you were a twin Dr. Bryant.! That’s cool. I like the name Kendra. But, I like the name Kiley better. Just because I like originality. Your name is simple, yet beautiful just like mine. If you thought your name was dull, you have the power to redefine your name. My name is common, but I put a new meaning to my name. I am my name; I make my name. I don’t let my name define me.

  3. I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO HAVE A TWIN! I like how both of you have names that start with K’s, which is very cool. Knowing the meaning of your name and understanding of how a name can mold who someone could be once maturing and aging in society is important when parents pick their child’s name. So your mother must have known what type of daughter she wanted you to be as you got older. I personally you are living up to every bit of your name to this day.

  4. Although, your name is getting popular as year’s pass, you are the first Kendra that I know. I am so jealous because I always wish that I had a twin, because I think it would be so cool to have another me walking around. Kendra fits you as a first name. Even though you don’t think that you are a great champion, you are a great inspiration to many of your students. In addition, I think that when a mother chooses a name, that show how much love she have for her unborn baby. Not only does she wait patiently for that baby, it also brings her joy when she can finally say her/his name is so and so.

  5. You are very interesting. I do not understand why you would want a difficult name. Though, my name is a bit different, especially its pronunciation I find it irritating when people mispronounce it. I love your name it has a warm, earthy feel to it. I have never met a Kendra until the fall of 2013. You put a beautiful face to the name “Kendra”. If I ever meet another Kendra she would have to live up to my high expectations of the name. I think your mother, knew you were going to be an interesting character. I think she knew that no matter what she named you, you would bring much personality to it.

  6. That’s amazing that you have a twin. It’s like you have your own personal look into a mirror at all times. I feel like Kendra’s a nice name. The fact that you go by “Kendra-Nicole” ads some flare to it I suppose. By the way, “My mother naming me makes me a part of her– her creativity, her humanity, and her love.” Ooooooh that was deep! In all seriousness though, nice post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I think it’s cool that you have a twin! I couldn’t deal with another person who has to share everything with me, especially my birthday. The way you go in depth about things amazes me. The fact that your name means great champion I think it actually fits you. I also find it intriguing that you know all the history behind your name. Kendra is a beautiful name and I like how Dr. KN fits together.

  8. Dr. Bryant I first would like to say I appreciate you sharing your feelings on WordPress about your and thoughts on your name. I believe Kendra is a beautiful name for a young black woman of such strength such as yourself. It sounds like a African name deriving from the country of Kenya. So however when I here a name like Kendra which sound non European I like the name and the person even more. I can relate to your feelings in your earlier years cause I didn’t like my name either until I found out though Alfonso was a great king in Africa who ruled for many years. I believe this was a great blog and a awesome reading.

  9. Dr. Bryant, your blogs are PHENOMENAL! I love to read them every time I log into my WordPress account. I must say, your name may be ordinary, but the way you explain the meaning of the name Kendra takes it to another level of unique individuality that you posses. The way you went into detail about the Irish meaning of your name truly fits your personality quite well. Although I have only known you for the fall term, through your writings and philosophical thoughts I can tell that you hold much knowledge and wisdom. You are quite an understanding professor, and the way you are open to us students voicing our opinions in class shows how much your wisdom continues to grow.
    Lastly, I can relate to your twin sister Kiley’s name situation. People always call me “Adrianna” “Adrine” or “Adria.” Yes, I know Adria. Lol. Overall I believe this blog was well written and showed self expression of your name.

  10. The way you take things that have one central meaning, central view and you turn it into something beautiful is something I truly admire about you. From the teaching approach with walking the students, to your beliefs on God and now you breaking down whom you are. It’s amazing how both of our parents really just liked our name and that was the reason for our names. I needed to read the part where you stated that your mother naming you ”Kendra” simply because she liked the name and it is beautiful all by itself, and it makes you a part of her–her creativity, her humanity, and her love. I now appreciate my name even more, thank you for your much needed perspective.

  11. I would like to start off saying that this was a great read Dr. Bryant. Your sister’s name is very unique and pretty. However, Dr. Bryant don’t sell yourself sort on your name being boring or plain, and not agreeing with Welsh translation. In my eyes I see you as a “great champion” for you have not just challenged me but the whole class to enjoy writing. Which by far makes you the person of the Irish translation “understanding”, “wisdom”, and “knowledge”. I want you to realize that you have opened up me and the class eyes to keep on challenging ourselves.

  12. To begin, with I’m not surprised your name is Kendra you look more like a Melissa or Katrina. That’s just my thought on what you rub on me as. What I am surprised about is the fact the you are 34 years of age you look more like 26 years old but that’s a good thing keep up whatever you are doing. I don’t agree that your name is dull it’s a great name and you should be proud of it but your twin sister kiley does have an interesting name and I found it quite amazing how a teacher couldn’t phantom the differences either. I do believe that your sisters names is amazing and I think is so cute how you liked your sisters name more than your own but my name is pretty dull to Kendra and I would have told you if I was growing up with you that your name is unique and you should love it. Give yourself your own cool nickname how I did seriously because my name just was so proper and white boyish. Your name blog was truly amazing I believe your mother named you Kendra because she loved you just as Kendra as well and I’m sure you made her proud, you’re a very compassionate women as your name does state and you’re truly amazing. I don’t know about the entire water baby and magical this is not a harry potter film now; but in all your name is great, and your personality fits your name as well.

  13. I think your name does fit you well.Both translations are great examples of how unique a person you are.You seem to live your life very tranquil and relaxed and many people could benefit from your example. Your name may not be what you have wanted but, it makes you a wonderful person and leader that others can follow.

  14. I happen to like the name Kendra it’s not too common or too difficult to pronounce it’s short and simple! As long as a name isn’t too ugly or too outrageous it’s cool with me. To me the meaning of name isn’t that deep I don’t put that much thought into the meaning of a name. The meaning of my name or anyone else’s name isn’t on my mind everyday and does not have a significant impact on my life. I’m just grateful to have a regular name it doesn’t have to be all fancy and stuff as long as it’s nothing that’s too long to write, too complex to pronounce or spell, or any name that would get a job application of mine trashed. Although I do understand that some people yearn to have a more unique name or a name with a better meaning I mean I don’t understand all the hype. A name is something that our parents choose to name us and for whatever reason that may have been is significant enough for me.

  15. I can relate first hand when you say that your name was “simple. I grew up in a very big household, and i was the youngest 5. I took the name Len from my father, but what kid in there rite mind would make in front of their dad, so instead they made fun of me. My older brothers and sisters said I had a girl name, and that my name meant nothing at all it was too simple. How rude! I have to admit though because of my older siblings making me feel bad i learned to establish myself in a well manner, only to make my name more than just “simple”

  16. I completely understand that you would want more creativity to your name. Like my name Alexandria it is quite dull and boring. I think that people like us should make our name more interesting, give it flavor, live up to it. I do find it special that you are the only Kendra most people know. I also find it so cool that you are a twin! Kiley and Kendra are beautiful names. I have twin brothers named Lawrence and Lance so it just goes. I hope that you learn to love your name because even though you find it dull and boring it’s your name and is unique. Despite what you think, to know that your name means “great champion” tells so much about you. You are an amazing professor, a phenomenal writer the name and its meaning fits you!

  17. Since you dislike Kendra so much would you change it? If so since Kiley is already taken what would you change it to? I like the many origins of your name. When I was registering for classes and seen your name despite FAMU being an all-black University I just knew that you were African American just by seeing your name. Your right Kendra is different, but unlike you I know a few people with the name Kendra. My boyfriend has an identical twin are you and your sister identical?

  18. This blog was very informative I feel like I’ve gotten to know you better. I find it interesting that you think your name is boring, but I am not surprised. Since the first day of class you struck me as being different. Even though some people like being different makes you weird. I find it unique to ones individuality. I think you would happy you wasn’t born into my generation because then u would truly dislike your name.

  19. Kendra is a very unique name and of course you’re the first Kendra I have known which makes you unique as well. I think the name Kendra is one to remember and recognize. Not to many have that name, but even if they did, you would stand out from the rest. The reason you would stand out from the rest of the Kendra’s is because you’ve created a mark on your community, you’ve went the extra mile to accomplish academic excellence, and you are a great champion.

  20. I personally believe Kendra is a beautiful name. It is not complicated and it is pretty easy to remember. I have a very simple name “Natalie Alexis” a “key chain” name if you will. I do not see why you envied your sister’s name because I like “Kendra” instead of “Kiley” because as I am writing this response to your blog, WordPress marked it as a spelling error, but Kendra remains untouched. Having a complex name can be strenuous upon others and most times people with more complex names have to shorten their name or resort to their simpler middle names. For example a co-worker of mine she resorts to her simpler middle name “Patrice” or “Tricey” because “Quankkarion” is a hard name to pronounce for some people.

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