Names date back as far as oral and written history began, making it impossible to determine the exact origination date. Names have always been a way to self-identify and often carry specific meanings. 

For Example: Stephen originates from the Greek name Stephanos, meaning "crown, wreath".

Names adopted and used repeatedly in certain cultures helped form a greater identity. Muhammad is the most commonly used Arabic name in Islamic Culture. It is estimated that more than 150 million people in the world have the name Muhammad or some other adaptation of Muhammad (Muhammed, Mohammod, Mohammed, Mohamed)

Surnames (last names) originated from bynames to distinguish individuals who share the same name. Bynames started as specific to one person and were later inherited from father to son and man to wife. Today, many families share the same surname that continues to create a familial legacy.

Why It’s Important?

  • Asking for and using someone’s correct name pronunciation affords necessary respect and fosters an environment of belongingness, value, and inclusion. 
  • Embracing different cultures and ethnicities involves embracing other names. If we can adapt and encourage an inclusive work environment, employees may no longer feel they need to alter their birth names to assimilate to western terms and culture. 
    • Assimilation to western names/culture can have a negative, crippling effect on their personal culture and identity.

Why We Should Care?


  • As Cella continues to grow as a diverse and inclusive organization, it is important that we ask any person to correctly pronounce their name when we don’t readily know how to pronounce it, which includes first and last name pronunciation. 
  • Names are an essential part of one’s identity and culture.
  • Feedback has shown that some often feel personal shame or embarrassment associated with their name, especially when pronounced wrong. We can help to eliminate this by always asking for a persons name pronunciation
  • Asking for a person’s name pronunciation helps eliminate the other party having to make someone “feel better” for pronouncing their name wrong.

How to ask a person their name pronunciation respectfully and unapologetically: 

  • Phone Conversation:
    • Hello! This is {Your Name} with Cella. Thanks so much for connecting with me today. Can you please share with me how to pronounce your name?
  • Zoom Meeting:    
    • Hello! Thank you so much for connecting with me today.  I’m {Your Name} with Cella. Can you please share with me how to pronounce your name?
  • Face-to-Face:
    • Hello! I’m {Your Name} with Cella. It’s so nice to meet you. Can you please share with me how to pronounce your name?

Recommendations and Tips

  • When someone shares their name pronunciation, repeat it back to them; this helps contribute the pronunciation to memory.
    • Your response could be, “Hi {Their Name}. It’s nice to meet you.” 
  • When someone shares their name pronunciation with you, steer away from negative comments. Negative comments include, “I would have never gotten that right, or “Wow, that’s a heck of a name,” etc.. This could reinforce negative name connotations and make the individual feel shame for having what has been deemed through expression, a “difficult” name. 
    • Instead, you could say, “Hi {Their Name}. It’s nice to meet you.”
  • Once you have asked a person to pronounce their name, you should document the phonetic spelling and pronunciation to help eliminate having to ask for their name pronunciation again. 
    • Asking for pronunciation a second or a third time can exhibit a lack of respect, understanding, and engagement.
  • You can sign up for the free name pronunciation tool that offers access to over 400k names. It offers pronunciation from all different origins and phonetic spelling. This tool should only be used if you need help with pronunciation and phonetic spelling after asking the individual for pronunciation or future conversations.