Choosing a baby name for your new arrival is a tricky business. Here’s how to come up with a winner.
Deciding what your child is going to be called is no small feat. For starters, ‘baby name’ is a bit of a misnomer. You’re really choosing a person name: a label by which your son or daughter will be known at school, at work, and, come to think of it, by everyone they meet for the rest of their life. Not too much pressure then.
You’ll also have to agree with your partner on a single name chosen from an almost infinite list of words you each love or hate based on completely subjective criteria. And let’s not forget your mother-in-law, who thinks any non-biblical name is child cruelty, or your grandad, who nearly cried when you said you might not continue the family tradition of Reginald as a middle name.
A 2016 Mumsnet survey found that a fifth of parents come to regret their choice of name, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are our top ten tips to help make a success of your search, so by the time you sign on the dotted line, you’ll be sure you picked The One.
1. Cast the baby name net wide
Before you even zone in on a shortlist, try opening your mind to as many names as possible. This will let you get a feel for whether your co-parent shares your taste, and it also helps you discover if you love J names or hate anything with more than two syllables. Nameberry has the widest selection of names we’ve found online as well as loads of useful lists, from supermodel names to hipster names to old lady names.
It also suggests similar ideas to those you like – a useful way to expand your list. Other good places to plunder for inspo: favourite films and books, your family trees, lists of flowers, stars or gods and goddesses… even if Thor and Tulip aren’t quite right, they might spark your imagination and lead to something great.
2. Find out what’s hot and what’s not
For some people the ‘most popular’ list will be a source of inspiration, while others wouldn’t touch those names with a bargepole. Either way, it’s useful to know what’s in and what’s out this year so you can bear it in mind. The most popular baby names in the UK at the moment are Oliver for a boy and Amelia for a girl, while the least loved are Bertram and Angela.
Whether you’re into safe names or something more unusual, remember we’re lucky to have the choice. Unlike Germany and Iceland, where all names have to come from an approved list, the UK’s only rule is that your choice mustn’t cause offence. That’s L’il Twit crossed off the list then.
3. Make it fun
If all that arguing over whether Katy should end in Y or IE is getting you down, just search for a good old ‘weirdest baby names ever’ list.
Give each other a fond pat on the back for not being the parents who called their child Cheese, Kashmere, Nimrat or Zzyzx and remember not to take it all too seriously. Choosing a name for the new love of your life should be a happy, fun experience. If it’s getting too pressured, give yourself some time out.
4. Try the test of time
As you hone in on that perfect name you’re probably picturing a sweet sleeping baby or a cheeky toddler dashing round the beach. Remember though, that Coyote might one day want to apply for an accountancy apprenticeship or tiny Petal could blossom into a 6’3” pro shot putter.
We’re not suggesting you reject a name you love based on such imaginary criteria, but it is wise to at least consider how it might fit (or humiliate) a grown-up.
5. Spell it out
Once you’ve made a shortlist, say the names out loud around the house and get used to the way they sound – and that includes the full name. Before you seal the deal, you need to check you’re not unwittingly naming your child after something off Urban Dictionary. Important tests to run include writing out initials and checking that any possible nicknames work with your surname. You don’t want your little Jed I. Knight getting bullied at school.
6. Find some middle ground
Here’s a piece of solid if hardly groundbreaking advice. If you love Persephone but can’t bring yourself to shout it across the park, or if you’d really like to honour your grandpa’s memory but find Humphrey too outdated, you can always stick it in there as a middle name. Lots of children in the school playground will have weird ones so it’s hardly a teasable offence. And if your child hits 13 and falls in love with it, no big deal – just swap.
"...by the time you sign on the dotted line, you’ll be sure you picked The One."
7. Develop a thick skin
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never please everyone. If you pick a top-ten name, some Facebook friend somewhere will be gossiping about how it’s ‘a bit boring’. If you go for something unusual, at least one relative will phone you up with concerns about bullying. And what sounds like beautiful poetry to one person just makes someone else think of that boy they hated at school.
According to a survey by MyVoucherCodes, choosing a name causes more arguments between parents than any other baby-related subject (and that’s saying something), so if you find one the two of you love, you’re winning. If anyone else tries to sway your choices, just listen, nod politely and then do exactly as you please. Once that little bundle becomes a real person they know and love, the name will be the least of their concerns.
8. Agree to keep your baby name a secret… or not
Once you’ve narrowed things down to your final choice, decide whether you’re going to tell other people or keep schtum. Then stick to your guns. As soon as you drop the merest hint that baby's name might not begin with an M, people will sense your weakness. Then you'll be inundated with relentless questions until you break.
You must be strong! There are arguments in favour of both keeping it a secret and going public. Telling people beforehand gives you a chance to test out any confusion over spelling or pronunciation and allows everyone to feel closer to the baby before it arrives. But if you suspect even the slightest chance of controversy, save the announcement for after the baby is born. Hopefully that way they’ll get the message that your decision is final.
9. Consider delaying the inevitable
In the UK you have 42 days after the birth to register your child. OK, so your baby is not going to display a fully-fledged personality by that point. But at least you’re naming a human being you’ve actually met rather than a bump-dwelling bean. Waiting a bit gives you time to gaze into your baby’s eyes and find a name that suits them. Yep, he definitely looks like a Raisin.
10. Take courage
Let’s finish by returning to that list of reasons parents regret baby names. More than a third of those surveyed said the source of their problem was that the name was either too common or not distinctive enough. A grand total of none regretted a name because it was too unusual. So unless you’re considering Cheese, we say follow your heart. What would life be if everyone was an Amelia or an Oliver?
Now the name's sorted, don't forget to check out the rest of our advice & guidance posts...