What’s Behind a Name

Cliff’s Garden Summer 2021

Growing up, I hated my name. In fact, I cringed upon hearing it called. Even the short form of Clifford, Cliff, seemed to foster just as much teasing with frequent references to cliff-hanger, or quiff, or the idiom “drop over sometime”.

I longed for a given name like Christopher. It didn’t seem to draw nearly as much attention and there were many successful and famous people with that first name like Christopher Marlowe (poet), Christopher Isherwood (author) and Christopher Reeves (actor – Superman). Not surprisingly, my first true love had the first name Christopher.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I began to understand and accept my name.

Clifford is an English originated name and an example of a topographic name – a name derived from a specific place. This can include specific locations, such as place of origin, residence, lands held, or can be more generic, derived from topographic features.

My name’s meaning is a combination of cliff (a steep rock face, typically at the edge of the sea) and ford (a shallow place in a river or stream allowing one to walk or drive across). So, Clifford is a cliff-side ford.

I’ve noticed that close friends call me Cliffy. Cliffy means an area formed by cliffs, like a cliffy shoreline.

Now when I hear my name, I think how fitting it is for where I currently live – at the bottom of a series of cliffs in West Vancouver BC, by the ocean. And, I love that my first name has a reference to Nature, where my passion, professional interests, and spirit are deeply connected to.

What about you? What’s behind your name?


This reflective writing activity was an exercise in building my own reflective practice as a HTR. Stay tuned – Katie McGillivray (CHTA Promotions Coordinator) and I are currently creating a reflective practice course for professionals like you. We hope to launch it early 2022 .

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