How to Choose a Baby Name
Parents often find that the most challenging aspect of choosing a name is knowing where to begin. Let’s face it: your kid has to live with the name you choose forever. (Or at least until he’s old enough to legally change it himself.) To get going on your list, write down names you have always liked. Was there someone in school whose name you secretly wished you had? Did your favorite soap opera or sitcom have a character with a cool, trendy name? Browse the names chapters of this book and use the journaling prompts to jot down any that stand out (or names you think of along the way). Perhaps you are already receiving suggestions from friends and family. Are there any that appeal to you? List all the names you can think of that have caught your attention (in a good way) and list any family names you’d consider using.
Once you have a few (or maybe a few sheets’ worth), consider the following attributes and see how each measures up.
Popularity: Past, Present, and Future :
Every year yields a new crop of trendy names that makes last year’s list, well, outdated. While these fresh, fun names are fabulous and exciting, they also face the threat of being “so five minutes ago.” Of course, there are those names that have always been and always will be popular; they’re classic and chic, and they always make top-ten lists. They’re the names that are trendy one minute, but still sound good thirty years from now. The key to giving your child a popular name that he or she can be proud of is to avoid trend traps altogether, such as movie-character names or TV-icon names that have a popularity shelf life of about six months. Often, a child named after a memorable television personality will always be linked with that person’s TV character or personality traits.
One factor that makes a name popular is variation of spelling on a familiar or common name. While the new look might be pleasing to the eye, it might become a nuisance when you (and eventually your child) have to constantly correct others, telling them that Kristopher is spelled with a K, not a C. Similarly, if you’re looking for an exceptionally rare name, you’ll constantly be correcting both the spelling and the pronunciation.
At best, name trends give your child individualism. At worst, they ostracize him from a society of “regular” names. However, more and more parents are creating their own names or choosing from a more eclectic list of foreign names, vintage names, surnames, and place names. And since the unique-name pool is rapidly growing, chances are that your child’s classmates will have unique names too.
The increasing popularity of foreign names allows parents to honor their families’ cultures and give their children a sense of heritage. Irish, Scottish, and Welsh names are on the rise. Greek, Russian, and Italian names have more presence than they did years ago, as names like Nikos, Logan, Matteo, and Giovanni become more visible.
A recent revival of names like Charles, Willie, and George give a new perspective on some old favorites. While these names might seem classic or old-fashioned to us now, most of them were the trendy names of their time. During a period when a respectful tip of the hat was greeted by a graceful curtsy, these names reflected the chivalry and gentlemanly charm that made up society back then.
The use of surnames is another trend that seems to appear in cycles. Names like Carter, Sullivan, Kennedy, Taylor, Jackson, and Spencer can all be used for little boys. What’s more, surnames can prove to be a convenient alternative to using the first name of a family member you’d like to honor.
And don’t discount the nickname-as-name trend. Nowadays shorter nicknames like Finn and Dax are almost as popular as their longer counterparts, Finnegan and Daxton. So don’t be shy if you want your boy’s name to be short and sweet.
A fun, creative, and often unique way to choose your child’s name is to look for positive associations that come with the name. It also makes the naming process intentional and more special. If one of your favorite places is a wooded area where your family vacations once a year, look for names that have “trees” or “earthy” in their meanings. You can also look for names that reflect your favorite color, time of year, season,
animal, art, character trait, and flower. If your favorite relative loves to visit Ireland every year, and you wish to honor him or her, choose an Irish name for your baby and use your relative’s name for the middle name.
It’s a good idea to look up the meaning of the names you’ve put on your list because the last thing you want is to frighten your child if he finds out his name means “unlucky in life.” A name should evoke good feelings, positive thoughts, and pride. It should also be significant to you and your partner. Meanings are a way for your child to feel connected to you, to your family, and to life. Of course, if you like a name just because, that’s okay too.
Family Names :
Using family names to create your child’s name is a wonderful way to pay tribute to loved ones. Additionally, if after five hours you’re still staring at a blank piece of paper, jot down all the names of your family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, close cousins, or even close friends of the family.
What do you do if your late grandfather’s name, Jerome, just isn’t appealing to you, but you still want to include his name in your little boys’? The way around that is to us a variation instead, like Romey or Jerry. And if you’d love to honor your father, but Lawrence feels a bit too old-fashioned for your son’s first name, how about adding it as his middle name or using a variation like Lars or Ren? The intent is still there, the name is more appealing, and the family is happy.
Perhaps you want your son’s name to indicate his heritage. After all, it’s an important part of his identity, and connecting with it only adds to the richness of his character. Similarly, if you come from a particular religious background, you might want to explore that group of names too. If your family has been following a tradition for many generations, such as naming firstborn children after saints, but you have a different name in mind, consider moving the traditional name to the middle. You’ll make your family happy and still get to use the name you want.
If you and your partner come from different backgrounds, selecting one name from each to create the first and middle names is a great way to compromise. If you’re still having issues over whose name goes first, make them both part of the first name and use a hyphen. As for whose name goes before the hyphen, pick one out of a hat and be done with it. Danny-Mack is a combination of the Hebrew Daniel and the Scottish Mack and has a trendy ring to it that any boy can love.
A family tree and history can be helpful resources when linking your baby’s name with your heritage. For example, if your grandparents’ ancestors come from a village in France where they operated a cheese business that had been passed on from generation to generation, the name Monterey would be fitting. Or, if there were many carpenters in the family, Cedar would be appropriate for your little boy.
Spelling and Pronunciation :
While creative spellings and pronunciations of traditional names make a name unique, some parents can go a little crazy with it. The more difficult you make your child’s name to spell and/or pronounce, the more annoying it becomes for them to constantly correct people.
Even if the name is as clear as Jeffrey, but spelled Jephree, your son will still have to spell it out every time someone writes it down because they will undoubtedly spell it traditionally. The following list provides examples of how a small change can have big impact on a name.
- Replace i or e with y: Chrystopher, Devyn, Eryk, Nathyn, Nicholys, Tymothy.
- Add an extra letter (silent e): Raymonde, Roberte, Ronalde, Shaye, Taylore.
- Replace s with z: Alexzander, Izaiah, Joziah, Julez.
- Add to or take away from double consonants: Antthony, Colin, Mathew, Robbert, Tobbias, Waren.
- Add a capital letter in the middle: DaKota, MacAuley, McKinley, LeBron, O’Reilly.
Stick to one change per name. Too many different styles make the name look like the parents were trying too hard to be different. Once you narrow your list of names down to the top contenders, play around with different spellings to see how each one looks on paper. Then, try the variants out on friends to see if they can easily recognize and pronounce the names.
As you narrow your search, anticipate any nicknames that could arise from both the name on its own as well as the first name and the last name together. It’s inevitable that your child will receive several nicknames throughout his life (and some will have nothing to do with his name), so try to think of the ones that could have a negative effect. But don’t let this scare you out of using the name you’ve fallen in love with. Unless they’re obvious, most of the drawback names will probably never come up on the playground.
If you like a nickname and not its full name, consider using the nickname as the full name: Jamie instead of James, Alex instead of Alexander, Danny instead of Daniel. Or, you might consider using the full version of the name anyway to give your child the option of using it in a professional manner for résumés, interviews, and in titles like Dr. Daniel Green instead of Dr. Danny Green. Full names are formal and sound more professional. For that reason, people tend to enlist the services of professionals with more sophisticated names. See if you can tell the difference in the following sentence: After having my taxes done by Daniel, I played soccer with Danny. That’s not to say that Danny wouldn’t have prepared your taxes as accurately as Daniel would, or that Daniel wouldn’t be fun to play soccer with. However, the names create different images in our minds because one is casual and the other is formal.
Full names tend to demand more respect and are more influential, whereas casual nicknames are associated with fun, relaxation, and lightheartedness. When Mom calls Danny by his full name, it usually means one thing—trouble. And when she calls him by his full first name and his middle name, he quickly learns that Mom means business!