Choosing a baby name

  • By: Gian
  • Date: March 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 11 min.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Your beloved little baby arrives and, before he or she has even had their first bath, they’ve already been ‘crowned’ with the name or baby names that will accompany them throughout life….or until they’re old enough to change them by deed poll if they so wish….

How many times though, have we come across people who, for one reason or another, just don’t ‘suit’ their name?

I speak with experience on the subject…..

When I was pregnant with my now grown-up daughter, I had the perfect names prepared…..Shay for a boy, Fay for a girl…..sorted and good to go!

Two hours after she was born, however, I gathered her to my breast ready to feed her and was greeted by two little fists coming at me like a mini boxer ready to knock me out. 

Fay? Enchanted, fairy-like and delicate? 

I thought not…..

Try as I met, I just couldn’t see her ever being a ‘Fay’. Rather, I saw my perfect baby as a feisty, strong girl with a real sense of character. (I was right!)

When I had my first free minute, I immediately turned to the nearest baby name book and went for a name which, while feminine, was strong and powerful. 

It suited her – and continues to suit her – perfectly.

Little wonder then that it’s vitally important that you get your baby’s name right from the getgo….

So, no pressure then, huh?

Don’t beat yourself up!

I’ve been a pregnancy and parenting editor for more than 15 years and I never cease to be amazed by the number of parents – particularly new parents – who’ve confessed – albeit sheepishly – that they regret giving their baby their chosen name.

Whether they’ve opted for something that was ‘trendy’ at the time but which now sounds crass and ridiculous, or went for something that was linked to a celebrity at the time of baby’s birth – (how many Billies, Adeles and Ellies do you reckon have been born in the last few years?) – parents across the States feel that their babies have paid the price for their ill-advised – or ill-taken decisions.

So, here’s the thing….DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT! 

At the end of the day, if you end up feeling that you’ve ‘messed up’ with your baby’s name, you can always give them a ‘nickname’ until they get to the age where they can change it legally or, in some cases, embrace it.

Getting the timing right

The first thing you need to remember about choosing your baby’s name is that you need to work with your husband or partner (if you have one) so that you’re both sure that (a) the name is right for your baby and (b) you both like it. 

Compromise is always the name of the game when it comes to issues like this. Listen to each other and discuss the subject calmly and objectively. Read more in our fighting with husband over baby names post.

If necessary, work with a baby name book as this may not only give you a central focus but may also throw up some new and novel names that you’ve never heard of, let alone considered!

It’s all about the timing

So, what’s the best time to choose your baby’s name? 

During your pregnancy, when you’ve time to sit and calmly mull the subject over?

Or when you’re gazing into your newborn’s little pink face?

Great questions….

Only problem is that, unfortunately, there’s no great answer…..

In fact, there’s no answer AT ALL!

It’s all down to the individual parent or couple…..you’re either super organised and take your chances with the name you’ve chosen during pregnancy, or you wait until baby has arrived and you can take in your baby’s sex, appearance, personality etc. 

The choice is yours.

But what aspects of your baby’s name should you take into consideration?

Navigating the minefield

Unfortunately, from opting for hackneyed, ‘used-more-times-than-the-drugstore’ names to ‘just-waiting-for-an-inappropriate-nickname’, opting for the wrong name for your baby can bring a lifetime of embarrassment…..and, yes, humiliation.

I came across a guy one time who was – dare I say it – drop-dead gorgeous. Looked as if he’d stepped out of a Hugo Boss advert……I felt as if I’d entered an incredibly good-looking dream.

And then he spoke….

‘Hi,’ he said, ‘I’m Ergnat.’

Now, Ergnat is a traditional Irish name but, with the best will in the world, nobody would be writing too many songs about it. 

Who, I wondered, ever looks into a cot at a gorgeous little baby boy and thinks, ‘Yes, he looks like an Ergnat’?

Avoiding Passing Trends for Baby Names

The key to making this choice is the word ‘passing’ because that’s exactly what this trend will do….pass.

What constitutes a ‘trend’?

Well, let’s take a look at some of the most popular….

Random punctuation

(and when I say ‘random’, I mean simply wrong – (think D’lilah)

Deliberately misspelled names

(think of a common name like Ellie…..how about Eillie? Or Ellee? Elly? The choice is endless…. (like Ellie, check out our middle names for Ellie Guide)

TV programme references..

Jeez….How many Khaleesis have I come across recently? (Thank you Game of Thrones!) lol

Passing trends should be just that – passing, so avoid any names that are likely to look out of place and a little kitsch in a few years’ time!

As time goes by

When you’re choosing your baby’s name, it’s vital that you make sure that it will stand the test of time. Recently, I was introduced to a woman in her 70s with the same name as me – Debbie…

I looked at her. 

I looked at her again. 

And a third time…..

It seemed so wrong on so many levels……

And that’s when it hit me….

That’s ME in x amount of years….!

I’m going to be an ‘old’ Debbie where, previously, ‘my’ Debbie was lively, youthful and dynamic…..

‘My’ Debbie was a bit of a Petra Pan, not this old woman, who had to hold on to her friend’s arm to walk across the street. 

So, make sure your baby’s name will suit your baby throughout their life and not just for the first few years.

Stuck in the middle

While you may just choose your child’s middle name because you like it, or because it ‘fits’ nicely with its first and last names, but the middle name is an ideal way to honor a family member, such as a grandparent or other elderly relative. 

Career prospects

Now, this is an interesting one….

Apparently, names can have an impact on if – and how – you’re employed!

A study some years ago from Marquette University in Milwaukee discovered that people with common names were more likely to find employment than those with rare or ‘unique’ names! Equally, researchers from the University of New York found that those whose names were easier to pronounce managed to procure more senior positions within companies.

And blend……

Combining two names is another way of creating a name that’s innovative and, if you like, a little ‘off the wall’.

Many websites now feature name combiners. This is a great tool for parents who want to find a unique name or nickname for their babe. The mixing of two words or names to create a third word is actually referred to as a ‘portmanteau’ but you can also call it ‘shipping’, which is obviously easier to say and to remember. Portmanteau actually means ‘a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others’. The word ‘brunch’ would be a brilliant example, blending breakfast and lunch.

Location, location, location….

We probably can’t completely attribute it to the Beckhams but naming your baby after the place in which they were conceived has certainly gained some popularity over the last few years.

Brooklyn, after all, will never be able to forget the city in which he became more than the apple of his parents’ eyes.

But there are other examples….

U2 lead man, Bono, and his wife, Ali Hewson, named their child Memphis Eve, while Kanye West and Kim Kardashian not only named one of their kids Chicago, while naming another North….rendering the poor child, eh, North West……

Consider possible nicknames

Oh, this is one of the funniest ones….or, at least, funny for OTHERS…..not for your child….

Whether we like it or not, kids can be extremely cruel at times, and if they get the opportunity to change a child’s name into something ‘hilarious’ aka ‘cruel’, they most certainly will. 

For that reason……it’s vitally important that you and your partner run possible nicknames through with friends and other family names. One friend of mine, a minister named Pastor Eyre, named his daughter Jane….

You can picture the scene in the playground….

Not going for your ‘initial’ option

It’s not just names that can be embarrassing…sometimes initials can prove a major mistake. Check that your baby’s initials don’t spell out anything embarrassing or insulting.

Alice Susanna Scott, for example, (ASS) is not a good idea, closely followed by Felicia Clarissa King (FCK), which could eventually turn your child into a laughing stock! 

Try saying it out loud

You may feel like an idiot doing this, but it really does work!

When you’ve thought up a few names, try saying them out loud over and over again. 

On top of the fact that you find that a first name, middle name and surname don’t ‘flow’ well together, you may also find that they’re a bit of a mouthful, particularly if you have a long or double-barreled surname.

A friend, who had a double-barreled surname – Hyndman-Jefferson – added to her child’s potential embarrassment by not only giving her an Irish name with an unusual spelling – Meadhbh (pronounced ‘Maeve’) – but gave her a double-barreled middle name – Ciara-Anne. 

I think she was approaching sixth grade by the time she’d learnt to spell her full name… 

Meanings of names

Many parents love to give their new arrivals names full of meaning and significance. Aiyanna, for example, means ‘eternal blossom’, while Alamea means ‘precious’ and ‘whole’. 

Lovely, lovely.

But did you know that while Giselle means ‘protector with a sword’, it also means ‘hostage’? Or that Cameron means ‘crooked nose’? 

Using unique spellings

If you want something ‘different’ for your child’s name, then you don’t always have to find a name that’s new or that you’ve made up. One way of giving your child a ‘one-off’ name that no one else will have is to simply change the spelling of existing names. 

Jensn, Jaxen and Shanaan are just a few examples of names that already exist but which have been given a new ‘twist’ thanks to the innovative spelling.

Classic names can be, well, classic

When you say ‘classic names’, people automatically assume that you mean traditional and yes, old-fashioned names, such as Peter, Paul and Mary. 

There’s certainly nothing wrong with these names but remember that there are plenty of other ‘classic’ names that may not be so well known.

What about Ophelia, for example? It’s certainly classic – as Shakespeare’s Hamlet will testify to – but you’re unlikely to run into another Ophelia in kindergarten!

Celeste and Willa are another two gorgeous classic choices, while Edwin and Silas make brilliantly classic alternatives for boys. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous….wacky celebrity names

Oh, where do I start?

From the moment that David and Angie Bowie named their son Zowie in the 70s, quickly followed by Frank Zappa, who named his kids Moon Unit, Dweezil and Diva Thin Muffin, the celebrity tradition for making names up has become commonplace.

Singer Ed Sheeran and his wife, Cherry Seaborn, named their newborn daughter Lyra Antarctica…huh?, but we reckon the winner – by a long shot – is Elon Musk and Grimes’s X  Æ A-Xii, which is apparently pronounced ‘X-Ash’. 

Among today’s other ‘unique’ names are:

Blue Ivy – the daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z

Sparrow James Midnight – son of Joel Madden and Nicole Richie

Reign – son of Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian

Exton – son of actor Robert Downey, Jr, and Susan Downey

Bear Blu – son of Christopher Jarecki and Alicia Silverstone

Naming After a Family Member or Family Tree

It’s all very well using family members names as baby names if you like them. Just because boy names have been in your family since doomsday, it doesn’t mean you have to continue the family tradition. Whilst Ergnat was a name in my friends family tree for as far back as they could tell… it didn’t go well in the twenty-first century. Some family traditions can die, or even just be updated. Don’t feel pressured into not using a name you and your partner love because family members expect to be honored.

Just because it’s a family name, remember you can create new traditions to suit you, you have the final say!

Formal Name Vs Used Name

Just remember when you pick the formal name, that your children can often use their middle name for most things. The perfect baby name for you, your child my just loathe. Legally changing names by the social security administration isn’t that easy.

Sibling Names

Whilst the baby name is their own name, you need to ensure that they match with their siblings, or in fact have a different name to their siblings.

One of my friends was Charleigh and her sister Patricia, both lovely girl names. Except their brothers were Charles (always called Charlie) and Patrick… I could never understand why her parents essentially chose first names which were the same. Still to this day, forty years on I wonder did at least one person in that family long to change their name!

The confusion was endless. Whilst its good to be on the same page as your partner, maybe not that much on the same wave! Just having the same first syllable would have done..

Gender Neutral

The latest idea is to have more gender-neutral names and we see girls names increasingly being traditional ‘male names’.

Middle Name Saviour

Remember if you really really want to go all out wack for your baby names, then that’s what middle names are for! If one parent really wants Chewbacca, it’s a great story… once it’s in the middle. So got for it, pick a name that you love.

To sum up, choosing the perfect baby name…

Let’s face it…..choosing your child’s name should be fun, fun, fun! Trying to work out your baby’s personality and match it with the ‘perfect’ name can be an interesting activity, so just enjoy the process and try not to sweat!