What's in a name?

Naming your children is an important endeavor. After all, they have to live with it for their entire lives. It isn't always as easy as going with a name you like, either. Here are 20 things to think about before choosing a baby name.

Newborn baby


Popular culture

Has the name been used in pop culture? This includes songs, books, movies, television shows, etc. My friends Lola and Cecilia get serenaded every time they meet someone new. It has to get annoying.


Initials and monograms

You probably don’t want a B.U.M. or a P.M.S. on towels or luggage.



What does the name rhyme with? I knew a “Fatty Patty,” a “Pissy Chrissy” and a “Boozy Suzie.” Just saying.



How many syllables does it have? If your last name has four syllables, you might want to shy away from a long first name or your kid will end up with a tongue twister. Same goes with the middle name.

Short and unique girl names >>



Mull over what possible nicknames could be. This could include anything from Tara(ble) to Chad(erbox), or even a Richard being called “Dick.”



What will they call him or her for short? My sister named her daughter Brooklyn, but did not want her to be called “Brook” for short. Sometimes, it’s worth choosing a name you love, but nipping nicknames in the bud as soon as someone tries using one.


Word names and brand names

The same sister mentioned above is named Angel. And she’s a registered nurse. So, every patient comments on how she really is their “angel.” She also hears the old pick-up line, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven, ‘cuz baby you are an angel.” And try not to be tempted to name your child after a brand. Sure, they're nice to say — that's why they are brand names. But it is a little pompous to be called Mercedes, Armani, Chanel...

More designer baby names >>



Popularity matters. Refer to the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names. This doesn't bother a lot of people, but when there are six girls named Sophia in her kindergarten class, she’ll have to go by Sophia (last initial).



Has a celebrity used the name? Two weeks after my best friend named her daughter Camdyn, both couples Nick Lachey/Vanessa Minnillo and Kristin Cavallari/Jay Cutler named their sons Camden. If you want to name your daughter Suri, people will always wonder if you got it from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.



If you name your child Reagan, Kennedy or Lincoln, is it in adoration of past presidents or do you just like the name? Those are some big shoes to fill! This goes the same for less-admirable namesakes, like Cain or even Scarlet.


Puns and idioms

Does the name have obvious puns or idioms? For example, a Penny for your thoughts?



Is it phonetic? Our last name is mispronounced often, so I wanted a first name for our daughter that you could read and automatically know how to pronounce it. Well, I failed. People struggle with it and she’ll have to correct them her whole life.


Meaning and inspiration

The meaning of a name could also be a deal breaker. Here are nice names with unfortunate meanings —  Claudia, Blaise, and Calvin to name a few.

Using an inspired name is always fun. Maybe you're an avid sports fan. The name Patriot, Jet or Titan could be cool, but I can't say the same for Bengal, Seahawk or Buccaneer (though I have heard of Bear, Lion and Raven). Use your discretion.


First and last name compatibility

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West recently named their baby girl North. Last name, West. Or if your last name is Pitts, please don't name your son Harry.



It’s hard enough to grow up in this world, and then your kid has to spell Katie as Cayti or Michael as Mykel. Keep it simple.


Sibling's names

Sibsets are a big deal these days. If your firstborn son’s name is Ryder, you might not want to name your next son Walker. Many parents want to make sure the names have a nice ring when said together. If one child has a very classic and Biblical name like Rebekah, it might seem strange for her sister to be named something modern and unique, like Zephyr. And of course your kids' names shouldn't rhyme... Pam and Sam, Kim and Tim — you get the idea.


Last names as first names

It's been a trend to use last names as first names for quite some time. We're looking at you Jackson, Quinn, Beckett and Delaney. Also consider the "reversible name." If you have a last name that's a first name, like Kelly, Allen, Scott or Stewart, you may not want to use a surname as a first name.



Is that a boy or a girl? Unisex names on girls are pretty badass. But if it bothers you that people might think your Riley is a boy or your Rory is a girl, you might have to reconsider.

Gender-bending baby names >>


Origin or ethnicity

I loved the name Giada, but we’re not Italian. Loved Evita, but we’re not Hispanic. We didn't want people to hear our daughter's name and expect to meet an exotic foreigner with a cool accent, when we're pretty much the opposite.


Place names

It's become common practice to use cities, countries and continents as baby names. This includes Asia, America, Phoenix, Dallas, Boston or Madison. But what happens when they move to that place? They become "Phoenix from Phoenix." Adorable.

Destination names for baby boys >>

More about baby names

Girl names with great meanings
Classic baby names to stand the test of time
Boy names with serious swagger


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Comments on "20 Things to consider before naming your baby"

Ruth December 04, 2013 | 11:10 PM

I overheard a woman on a bus announce with pride that she planned to name her unborn girl baby aya. I feel very sorry for that child and all the cruel teasing she is undoubtedly going to have to endure. Kids will find any excuse to tease a child about their name. I have a very ordinary name, and still got teased. Imagine how horrible to have a name that is so obviously a target.

Agreed! November 11, 2013 | 12:11 PM

These are mostly good guidelines, though, really, if you're not naming your kid after the most evil person in history or setting them up for a lifetime of corrections (one from school that I remember is CyBELLE not CYbel) you are not guaranteed that they won't have a problem with it later on. A friend from primary school was mortally embarrassed to be named after Laura from Little House on the Prairie. But I doubt anyone named Calvin, Blaise or Scarlet is going to spend their life fending off questions about their name. And as a middle child with a plain name, with a brother and sister with unique names, I've always felt a little ripped off, a little plain. We give our kids an interesting first name and a middle name to aspire to, and I know several people with Einstein-like names who were not tragically overcome with the responsibility behind their name. It's got a lot more to do with the expectations placed on them by their parents than the name itself. On the other hand I've known an Aniken Skye Walker. Which pretty much is the reason people write about this topic :)

SheMellish September 19, 2013 | 12:56 PM

Going a bit further on the monogram/first and last name compatibility thing....Make sure the first initial and last name don't end up an unfortunate combination. My last name is Mellish. I've made it clear to my husband that our child will not have the first initial S. Same goes for first name, last initial.

Name Obsessed September 05, 2013 | 12:33 PM

Oh, another one is that the last letter of the first name should not be the same as the first letter of the last name, or else they run together and sound like one word. For example, Deb Bates or Ron Nelson.

MyFiveCentsWorth August 26, 2013 | 4:12 PM

And don't forget to do a Google search to make sure your potential baby's name is not the worst kind of famous: a mad axe murderer, any other kind of criminal, a famous porn star, a fallen from grace politician (Andrew Weiner, anyone?). Actually, never name a baby after a politician, it's just a idea. And aspirational names (Albert, after Einstein), Portia (the heroine in Merchant of Venice), Shane (after Warne, the cricketer) are plain cruel. Fine if you just like the name, but if you proudly announce "it's after Einstein" you are giving the child a huge legacy to live up to and measure themselves by. What if they're not brainy/athletic/beautiful? The mention of their name underscores their failure.

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