20 Tips for Picking a Baby Name

Wendy Robinson | Mar 24, 2020 Pregnancy
20 Tips for Picking a Baby Name
Image: eliza_og/twenty20.com


While no pregnancy or path to parenthood is exactly the same, there is one major decision that every family has to make -- what to name the baby! And, not to put too much pressure on anyone, there is basically no bigger decision a parent has to make. A name can say so much about a person, like his family history or origins, what his parents value, and even what kind of hopes a parent might have for a child's personality. 

So, yes, picking the perfect baby name is a BIG decision. But thankfully there are tons of resources out there to help a family choose. Actually, the number of resources can almost be overwhelming, which is why we've compiled a list of super helpful tips for finding the perfect baby name! These tips will help parents-to-be focus on the baby name factors that are most important to them. We've got tips for going in a religious direction, for going for a virtue name, for deciding between a gendered or a unisex option, and even advice on what to consider when it comes to naming multiples (spoiler: avoid rhyming names). Between our advice and the many baby name guides out there, anyone can have a short list of great choices in no time at all!

  • Explore Family Heritage


    A good place to start when it comes to making a list of name choices is by exploring names that reflect family heritage. With the growing popularity of home DNA kits, many families are more interested in finding their family roots than ever before and may have a better sense of what kind of names to look for! 

  • Naming Multiples


    Having multiples means having double (or even triple!) the amount of naming fun. With twins or more, parents will want to make sure they choose names that can stand alone, as siblings won't always be together, and that are complementary without being too similar. It's always good to remember that each child is an individual and not just part of a set!

  • Unisex Trends


    An interesting thing about names is that, while it is common for a male name to become gender neutral, and then become almost always used for girls (the name Evelyn is a good example of this), it almost never goes the other direction. This means that names that are unisex now may become distinctly feminine in the future. Parents of boys may want to consider how they feel about their son's name becoming "a girl name" in the future when considering gender neutral options. 

  • Consider the Great Outdoors


    Families that love the nature life can find a wealth of great name choices just by looking around on their next hike. Nature names like Lake, River, Ocean, Elm, Lark, and Sunny are also great choices for families that like a more unconventional name but don't want a name that is too creatively spelled. 

  • Remember the Initials 


    Once a parent-to-be has settled on the perfect first and middle names, it's always key to make sure to double check that the initials are not setting the baby up for an embarrassing or inappropriate monogram. Just say no to Kari Katherine Kennedy or Aaron Samuel Smith, for example!

  • Meet in the Middle


    The great thing about a middle name is that there's no rule that says there can only be one! Some families choose to go the double or triple middle name route, especially when parents are having a hard time narrowing the list down. A double middle name can also be a good option for families wanting to do honor names for both sides of the family. 

  • Consider How Creative To Be 


    Some families love the tried and true classic names, while others like names with a little more flair. One thing to consider when choosing a nontraditional spelling for a name is the frustration factor of having to constantly spell or having it mispronounced. It that doesn't feel like a hassle, go for it! 

  • It's OK To Not Know


    Sometimes parents are able to settle on a name months in advance and sometimes moms might not be able choose until they actually get to know the baby a little bit. More than one parent has gone home from the hospital without a name for their baby, so it is OK if it takes a few days of trial and error to get it right. 

  • Sibling Sets


    One naming question to consider is how a given name will work with a current or future sibling. Some families might like to go with a theme, like a specific letter (consider the Duggars or Kardashians) or all biblical names while others may just want names that sound complementary. 

  • Virtue Names


    Virtue names, like Hope, Faith, Chastity, or Constance, have a long history. While it can be sweet to use a name to signal a hope for a child's temperament or personality, there can also be the risk of unintentional irony if the child ends up being the opposite of that virtue. Parents should always consider the worst case scenario before naming a child Patience!

  • Religious Names


    Names can be a signal of what a family values most of all. Religious parents are sometimes drawn to names from the Bible, Torah, or Quran name choices. Scared texts can be a treasure trove of both classic and less common name options. Parents should make sure to read all the verses associated with the name before making a final choice, just to make sure there are no Sunday school surprises later on. 

  • Make Meaning 


    Sometimes it can be helpful for parents to think of things they love or that inspire them and work backwards from the meaning to the name. For example, parents who love the water might consider names like Delta, Kai (a unisex name that comes from the Hawaiian for sea), or Marina

  • Oh No Nicknames


    Before parents settle on a name, they should first consider every conceivable nickname option and make sure they can live with all the possibilities. If a parent loves the name Benjamin but hates the name Benji, there is a 100% chance someone will call that child Benji. So, parents should steer clear of names with nicknames they hate. 

  • Popular Picks


    Every generation has names that show up multiple times on the pre-K classroom roster. Forty years ago is was Katie, Jessica, and Emily. Now it is Sophia, Riley, and Emma. Parents who don't love the idea of having their kid share a name with classmates should avoid names in the top 100 of the annual Social Security name database

  • Google It 


    Before finalizing any name choice, parents should be sure to Google the full name choice. Not only do they want to see how popular the name is, they'll also avoid any unexpected name twins, especially those who are notorious for criminal or other unsavory acts. Nobody wants to share a name with a serial killer!

  • Legacy Names 


    Some families have a long history of name sharing, which can make choosing a name a foregone conclusion. Beyond a junior, there can be a third, fourth, and even fifth generation of a shared name. This can be both a cool family tradition and potentially confusing when all of the "Joes," "Georges," and "Franks" get together. Parents should be prepared for someone to be called "Little Joe"! 

  • Negative Meanings 


    Some names are just too loaded and weighted with historical meaning, or too controversial to be viable choices. There is a reason there aren't many babies named Adolph any more and why choosing a name like Osama would most likely generate a strong negative reaction. Just say no to names associated with mass murder and genocide, OK? 

  • Get Literary 


    Parents who are stumped for a baby name can always turn to a baby name book. Or they can turn instead to a book they already love. There are so many great characters in literature to choose from and we are convinced that there are not nearly enough little girls named Hermione or Minerva

  • Sibling Help 


    Big siblings can have lots of big feelings about the prospect of a new brother or sister. One fun way to make them feel included is to let them throw some names on the baby name list. Now, we're not saying parents should choose the name suggested by a 3-year-old, unless they want a child named Buzz Lightyear, but hearing their suggestions will for sure be fun!

  • The Happy Test 


    The bottom line when choosing a baby name is the happy test. Does the name just sound right? Does it make parents feel joyful to imagine whispering it in the dark of night or hollering it down the street at dinner time? Does it just make sense? Those are feelings that no baby book or list can predict. Like a lot of parenting, the smartest thing to do is to listen what sparks joy. 

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