Curious about naming customs & laws in different countries

I was wondering if anyone could tell me what the laws around naming are in the US? For example, what is the deadline for naming your child (ie, how long do you have after the child’s birth to legally register his/her name)? If you don’t pick a name for your child, what would happen? I think I’ve heard that it is easy to change a child’s name up until his/her first birthday without any penalty. Is this true? I’ve also heard that if you don’t legally register your child’s name within 10 days of his/her birth, you pay an additional fee to the government. Is that right?

I’m also curious about naming customs and conventions in other countries. In Norway (I think it was), I heard that babies are not customarily named right at birth, and that parents generally wait several months before selecting or finalizing the name. What are the naming conventions in your country, or in other places you know around the world?


These are fascinating questions. I can’t wait to hear the answers!

I know that in [name]France[/name], and in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, names must be chosen from a (very extensive) Government-approved list. This normally doesn’t prove a problem, except if you are foreign (say, Irish, and would like to name your daughter [name]Orla[/name]), in which case you must prove that the name is ‘normal’ in your home country.

I’d love to see what’s on that list!

I know of no State or Federal law here in the U.S. that compels parents to name their baby within any set time, but I believe that hospitals set their own rules and that many hospitals won’t allow the newborn to leave the hospital until proper paperwork – which includes a birth registration name for the baby – has been completed.

I could be wrong, and I’m very interested in hearing from others here on that matter.

As for paying an “additional fee to the government” for anything to do with naming one’s baby – that doesn’t sound quite right, to me. [name]Even[/name] the Social Security Administration, while encouraging registration of newborns, doesn’t make it mandatory.

It seems to me that the only fees to be collected in any connection with the birth of anyone’s baby in the U.S., should be strictly between the parents and their doctor/hospital/midwife or any other professional involved in the prenatal care and delivery of the newborn.

Again, I’d like to hear others’ experiences – both in the U.S. and abroad.

– [name]Nephele[/name]

But, I do have the understanding that a child has a legal right to a name (at least under international law, which may not apply in the US). [name]Even[/name] in the US, it seems like some child/family agency might get concerned if you didn’t give your child a name?

Hmmm… I really have little idea about these matters and look forward to more responses from those with more experience. (I haven’t given birth yet or officially named any child.)

Well, in Norway there are great individual difference as in any nation, but it’s not at all unusual to wait 3 or 4 months before naming your child… Th only time you need to provide a name for them is if you want them to be christened, but some wait almost a year before doing that for various reasons like not having the name ready or that the baby needs food all the time which can be stressful in your best attire or the baby just screams all the time, which we all know can happen… There’s no rush in Norway ^^

We do have laws saying which names are permitted and not though… They’re a lot nicer now than they used to be, but the government would intervene if you tried using God, [name]Adolf[/name] or Quisling, but that’s only if real people agree that the name would be too much of a burden for a child to bear. There’s also a rule that last names can be used as first names, but only if the last name is fairly widespread. [name]Hansen[/name] would be legal, Dyroey would not for example. Also, I think you’re allowed to use a last name as a first name if it’s in your family, but there’s no easy way to find out exactly, it’s all word of mouth really…

And I have heard some bad names in Norway, like Krissander, Carosander (yes, for a boy), Rockert and siblings [name]Storm[/name] and Orkana (Orkan is Hurricane in Norwegian) but I think I can say we’re fairly sensible when it comes to names which I’ very happy about ^^

Dearest, I’m glad to read that the Norwegian government is loosening up on what they will or will not allow parents to name their children.

I think most parents try to choose names for their children that they believe to be good names – even if others don’t quite agree with those choices! :slight_smile: I hate to think that some parents somewhere in the world might be denied the right to give their child a name from, say, mythology or astronomy or whatever, simply because that name isn’t on their government’s “approved” list.

Orkana (hurricane) is a name in Norway, hmm? I think I like it!

@ [name]Deirdre[/name] – I forgot to say earlier that this is an excellent topic you started! I hope to learn a lot here about naming laws and customs in other countries!

– [name]Nephele[/name]

My guess about the US laws - that it varies by state and maybe even by county or municipality. As far as fees go, it seems reasonable to guess that there are fees for filing things at the courthouse. I don’t know if there’s a deadline, but changing names and doing anything legal usually means a form and some nominal charge. I am looking into this because I don’t know any of this for sure. If I wanted to change my name legally, I’m not sure there’s a fee or who you have to go see, or in the case of a child’s name, but I can’t imagine it costs if you have gotten married and change your last name to your husband’s, or are adopting children. I knew someone who was adopted by (one of) his stepfather(s) and changed his whole name (he was a minor at the time), then changed it back when his mom was on her 4th husband and he was in his 20s. I am about to try to find out what’s what though.

This is a document article defining what procedures to go through for Suffolk Co. and Middlesex Co. (separately) in Massachusetts. I happen to live there, but it came up randomly in a cursory search. Like I said - forms, petitions, and fees - up to $165, and varies by county.

Here is another article for Massachusetts, a pamphlet providing NO legal advice dated 2000:
It says the name is recorded at the hospital, or if you give birth at home, it must be registered within 30 days. The name including surname can be anything you want - it apparently does not have to match either parent, or seemingly, be a real surname. You could call your child Universal Milkbone Giraffe if you wanted.

I should add that most name changes for minors seem to fall under custody/paternity, but I do not get the feeling there are special rules when you just take a long time to decide or decide to change it, essentially, “at whim”.

A phrase in one of these articles (I can’t find now!) to the effect “or whatever the court decides in the best interest of the child” refers, or seems to refer, to the application of a surname when two parents dispute what the child’s surname should be, not what the court deems a suitable given name, although I imagine if two parents dispute over the first name either, it could be decided by a court what his/her name shall be, but not if you both agree on a name - any name, if I’m reading right.

I found an interesting article about the laws for naming babies in Denmark. I will post the link for it tomorrow.
I remember both times when I named our two babies who are now so big - 24 and 18 in [name]November[/name]. My dh and I had decided on their names as soon as they were born. I would be saddened if my baby didn’t immediately have a full name within a minute after it was born. [name]Just[/name] the way I am.
So when the important woman with the clipboard and the pen and the baby book showed up in my hospital room so that I could fill out the birth certificate info, I was ready for her. I had a first name and middle name both times. But when my son was born, he was very sick and had to lie in an incubator. It said “[name]Baby[/name] Boy [name]Chesney[/name]” on the incubator as if we hadn’t named him yet.
Then he was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital. Two days later I was taken to see him by my dh. It was a hard time because I had to stay in one hospital for a couple of days while [name]Peter[/name] was in Children’s Hospital. My dh was going back and forth to both hospitals. A bunch of our family members came to Children’s Hospital along with my dh and me. We were happy to see that many of the babies had their names in black tape on the glass walls of their incubators. Our son’s incubator had the name [name]Peter[/name], largely written across the foot of his incubator-crib. I remember another baby’s incubator said [name]Sabrina[/name]. But another incubator didn’t say anything. That baby was named “[name]Baby[/name] Chong”. It was so tiny, just a pound. The nurse that we talked to told us that most of the babies were going to end up being fine. She said that even [name]Baby[/name] Chong would most likely live.
Some babies were in private rooms with glass walls. I saw names written on their incubators.
Happily, [name]Peter[/name] was able to go home after a few days in the Neonatal [name]Ward[/name].

I live in the UK and things here vary depending on where the baby is born. In [name]England[/name] and [name]Wales[/name] they get (I think) 42 days to register the birth before they start pestering you to register. Not sure if fines are involved, I would imagine so.

In [name]Scotland[/name] (where we are) we only have 21 days to register a birth.

I think it is straightforward enough to change the baby’s forenames in the first year, but in some cases you have up to 2 years to change the name if you can prove it was in common use during the first year. I think there is a small administration fee for this. The forenames can only be changed once. You can still change the name when the child is older but it think there is a bit more involved. You can give the baby any surname you want when you first register, but its a bit stricter to change this once registered - think you have to get letters from lawyers, etc.

I’ve noticed that most people over here seem to keep the name(s) they’ve picked for baby, as well as gender, secret until after the birth, but that most people do announce the name along with the birth. It’s rare over here to find a week old baby without a name, at least in my experience anyway. I’m actually from [name]Canada[/name] and I’ve noticed that all of my Canadian friends and family reveal baby’s gender and decide on baby’s name well before the birth, and in many cases even have baby registries at department stores in the baby’s name-to-be.

I think this may have something do with the fact that ultra sound technicians in [name]Canada[/name] are more forth coming about indicating the baby’s gender when it can be observed. In the UK they don’t tell you unless you ask, and even then they always warn you that they can never be sure (hmmm), and I’ve heard that in some areas they aren’t even allowed to tell you for fear of lawsuits. I’ve known many people purposely not ask so they can be surprised at the birth, and the ones that do know often keep it secret. Quite a cultural difference from N.[name]America[/name] I think.

I am glad the laws are looser, but it saddens me to see Carosander… I was among those who thought the Swedish government was too harsh when they denied Metallica for a little girl, so to some extent I can’t be all against Carosander… But then again, Metallica has a namesake, Carosander is just very invented for the purpose of being unique… There’s a difference!

I think the correct way of putting it is that Orkana is some Norwegian girl’s name, I think she’s the only one… XD I don’t like Orkana myself, it feels like it’s trying too hard… I’d rather use Bris or Vind (yes, [name]Breeze[/name] and Wind), Orkana just sounds so harsh… Ork is also a word used daily in Norway to say that something is tiresome or a lot of work writing a budget for example or clean up the entire house, so it doesn’t have the best of associations…
You could use it as a way of getting wind in a possible ‘Which Element are you?’ Anagram thread though ^^ that would be cool…

I wonder whether little Carosander’s parents’ names are [name]Carol[/name] and [name]Alexander[/name], or something like that? But it does seem to work better as perhaps a surname than a first name. Especially if that child is a girl – yikes!

I think the correct way of putting it is that Orkana is some Norwegian girl’s name, I think she’s the only one… XD I don’t like Orkana myself, it feels like it’s trying too hard… I’d rather use Bris or Vind (yes, [name]Breeze[/name] and Wind), Orkana just sounds so harsh… Ork is also a word used daily in Norway to say that something is tiresome or a lot of work writing a budget for example or clean up the entire house, so it doesn’t have the best of associations…

Based on what you told me about the word “ork” in Norway, I think I’m now having second thoughts on liking that name “Orkana”! lol

You could use it as a way of getting wind in a possible ‘Which Element are you?’ Anagram thread though ^^ that would be cool…

Hahaha! That’s an anagram theme I hadn’t thought of! I’ll have to make you my official Anagram Theme Inventor colleague!

– [name]Nephele[/name]

Wow, thanks, [name]Nephele[/name]! I’ll do my very best as your Anagram Theme Inventor colleague! ^^

And Carosander is a boy.
[name]Sander[/name] and [name]Alexander[/name] are very popular in Norway, so I guess people thought tacking a -sander at the end of anything would be awesome… Thus you have Carosander, Krissander and Elander. The last one isn’t too bad, but still…
[name]Carol[/name] isn’t used in Norway, so I guess it would be for [name]Caroline[/name]…

Has anyone got any links to sites where we can see the names that are on the list of acceptable ones? I would be very interested to have a look, I tried to search today but no luck.

Denmark, [name]German[/name], [name]France[/name], Hungary, Spain & [name]Argentina[/name] all have government approved lists I think,

Denmark has 7,000 names, if a name is not on the list it requires church approval.

Malaysian- babies can not be named after animals, insects, fruit, vegies or colours or numbers, no royal or honorary titles or Japanese cars (BBC News [name]July[/name] 2006)

NZ couple wanted call their child “4real” but were denied he is now “Superman”.

Portugal Ministry of [name]Justice[/name] Website has 39 pages of offically accepted names and 41 pages of banned names (BBC News [name]August[/name] 2007).

[name]German[/name] law- name must reflect the sex of the child and not endanger wellbeing of the child (

[name]China[/name] is set to limit the number of characters to 8,000 sometime this year ([name]China[/name] [name]Daily[/name] [name]April[/name] 2009)

NZ rules denied- Offense to a reasonable person

  • 100 characters long or more
  • titles, military rank
  • punctuation marks or numerals

I have been researching today and found this thread when I was searching :slight_smile:

I like those laws about no titles - I had this boss once whose first and middle initials were D & R…and for the sake of demonstration lets say his last name was something like [name]Mitchell[/name]. He would always sign his name with the D & R really close together and then a big space before the last name, like “DR [name]Mitchell[/name]”. Titles were everything to him - even if they had to be made up. :wink:

We don’t really have an approved list in Norway, but I can say the exact wording of the ‘namelaw’ we have here:
‘The name must not be an extreme disadvantage to its bearer or have other strong arguments against it’
They changed it in 2003 from ‘disadvantage’ to ‘extreme disadvantage’ to signify a loosening of the law…
There’s also a law that says you can’t use a name that is also a last name in Norway unless the name has tradition as a first name in Norway or other places in the world.
You have a duty to let the government know the name of your child within the first six months after birth…
You can also only change your first name once every 10 years unless you have a very important reason… :slight_smile: