What are your rules for names?

I’m curious to hear, especially from parents who have already named one or more children, what factors are most important in choosing your favorite names. What questions do you ask yourself about each name to make sure it’s a solid choice?

Mine would be:

  • The name should sound appropriate at every stage of the child’s life: babyhood, grade school, adolescence, teen years, college, adulthood, and old age.
  • The full name should be distinctive and striking, but each element should be somewhat recognizable and easy to pronounce.
  • No word names ([name_f]Star[/name_f], [name_u]Rowan[/name_u]) unless they are virtue names ([name_f]Faith[/name_f], [name_f]Clemency[/name_f]).
  • No names closely tied to a culture I have no claim to. Because I am Lebanese and grew up speaking English, I can use names in Arabic or English, but I would not use a name in Igbo or Cree. Similarly, because I’m Catholic I would use any name in the Hebrew Bible or the [name_m]New[/name_m] Testament, or the name of any saint, but I wouldn’t use a non-biblical Hebrew name that’s closely tied to Jewish culture.
  • [name_f]Honor[/name_f] names take priority over all other name possibilities, as long as the namesake is worthy of honor. :wink:

These are just my criteria, so I’d love to hear yours!

Not every name I like checks all these boxes, however, every name I would actually use on a child does.

  1. I would be fine with having the name.
    The name doesn’t have to be one I’d pick for myself, it can be girlier, grander, sleeker, etc., however, I’d have to be comfortable with it.

  2. It has to fit a variety of personalities.
    I usually try to picture multiple friends or family members with the name to see if it would seem very off on one of them.
    Sure, Norabella Sunbeam may fit my super confident, girly, alternative friend but not so much my black denim-wearing, rock-band-loving cousin (neither of which I actually have, but you get the gist).

  3. No misspelling or names you have to spell out letter-by-letter each time.
    Sure, you can spell [name_u]Elliott[/name_u] 4 different ways, but my son could always say double L, double T, no big deal.
    A daughter named [name_f]Cecilia[/name_f] can tell people “Cec-I and the lia” or [name_f]Cecelia[/name_f] “Cec-E and then lia”.
    Those correction are quirckly done and I’d be fine with them (especially as I’d have to make them for the first few years), especially as they are legitimate spellings.
    However, if a future partner whished to spell [name_f]Cecilia[/name_f] “Cyceleea”, I’d run away screaming.

  4. Somewhat interntional.
    Living in Europe and travelling quite a bit, I wouldn’t want my children’s names to either mean something negative in another language (at least the ones spoken close to Germany) or be completely butchered in a country I visit often (in my case, Spain).
    The only exceptions would be not-so-international names with international natural nicknames.

  5. Tame rather than bold.
    Most of the people I’ve talked names with, said they would rather have a tamer name than a bolder name. Something in between would be perfect, but if it came to “Delphinium” vs “[name_f]Anna[/name_f]”, they’d rather be [name_f]Anna[/name_f].
    However, if you’d throw “[name_f]Aurelia[/name_f]” in there, they’d likely go with that one.

I also think that a very bold name, more often than not, will restrain personality developement as it’s something to live up to, people expect the bearer to be as bold, artistic, creative, interesting as their name suggests.
Meanwhile, a name like [name_f]Anna[/name_f] is quite the blank canvas.

None of these apply to middle names, however, while middle names are allowed to be bold, I still wouldn’t but something in the middle that could be quite embarrassing to the child.
So no “[name_f]Lydia[/name_f] Pixiedust” for me.

  1. The name should be something that can be nicknamed or a name that is short and I would be totally happy to say the full name every time. Nicknameable: [name_f]Alice[/name_f], [name_f]Eliza[/name_f] and [name_m]Isaac[/name_m]. Short and I don’t mind: [name_f]Mira[/name_f] and [name_m]Luke[/name_m].

  2. Both partners should at least be ‘very happy’ with the name, I don’t want to say ‘love’ or ‘like’ because love is a big ask and like can be pretty meh.

  3. Middle names should be honour names - but being a bit of a stretch/quite subtle is ok.

  4. The name should be ones that feel appropriate for my culture, so names like [name_f]Alice[/name_f] and [name_m]Luke[/name_m] work pretty well because I’m a white [name_u]Brit[/name_u], and names like [name_f]Mira[/name_f] and [name_m]Isaac[/name_m] work because I’m Jewish. But I’m still a bit unsure about [name_u]Hunter[/name_u] and [name_u]Everett[/name_u], which I love but are decidedly ‘American’ in flavour.

  5. The name should be easy to pronounce and spell, and not spelled in an unusual way (actual spelling variants e.g. [name_f]Mira[/name_f] and [name_f]Meera[/name_f] are fine, but not Mearrah).

  6. Ideally the name shouldn’t be overwhelmingly popular, but still relatively well known. This rule is a bit more flexible.

Interesting question.

I don’t think I have rules, but I do have things I would do or not do (as in the case of naming our two unborn children).

I don’t misspell names unless I make a typo.
I don’t make up spellings of my own (see above).
I don’t like names that feel inappropriate to me (God, [name_m]Luther[/name_m], Allah, [name_u]Majesty[/name_u], [name_m]Lucifer[/name_m], [name_u]Messiah[/name_u], etc.)
If I had multiple children, I would have each first name start with a different letter ([name_f]Ada[/name_f] and [name_f]Dinah[/name_f] rather than [name_f]Ada[/name_f] and [name_f]Alura[/name_f]).
I would steer away from double first initials ([name_f]Ada[/name_f] [name_m]Smith[/name_m] rather than [name_f]Suzy[/name_f] [name_m]Smith[/name_m]).
I feel that if I loved a name, I would not care what ancestral group it came from.
I seldom if ever care about the meaning of a name.
I wouldn’t care if it was considered ugly or old-fashioned or out there by some people.
I wouldn’t want the last and first initials to meld, as in [name_f]Magdalen[/name_f] [name_f]Nell[/name_f], which I WOULD name a cat someday, but not a girl because it makes her name sound like [name_f]Magdalen[/name_f] L.
I would work hard to imagine what it would be liked to be named that name myself. Sure, I think [name_f]Tamarind[/name_f] and [name_m]Elgar[/name_m] are cool names, great for a friend of mine, but I sure wouldn’t want to be named them myself!


Interesting question…

  1. [name_f]Honor[/name_f] names add a certain preference to a name. And I think every name combination should have some family/honor significance. That said, I’m pretty flexible as to what constitutes an honor name (exact names don’t have to be used to honor the person, for example).

  2. Names with negative connotations are out for me. So I wouldn’t use [name_m]Aryan[/name_m] or [name_m]Gunnar[/name_m] here in the US.

  3. A culture’s traditional usage of a name should be followed. I wouldn’t use a traditionally masculine name of another culture for a girl, for example, and I wouldn’t use any religiously sacred names of another religion either.

  4. No place names or word names - personal preference.

  5. A name should have a history and be a bit classic. No modern invented names for me - I’m concerned that those names are going to end up being too tied to this decade or time period (like [name_f]Linda[/name_f] or [name_f]Deborah[/name_f] were).

  6. Names that work with our last name… so no starting or ending in ‘R’ ideally.

  7. If I received an email from a client/coworker with this name, would I scoff?

  8. No overtly frilly names for girls or overtly brash/macho names for boys. I grew up as a tomboy and appreciated the flexibility of my name.

I’m actually just figuring out what I look for in a name now, but here’s what I’ve come up with!

  1. S/O has to like it! - This is very very important to me, because on many sites, I’ve seen comments about how significant others (particularly husbands) don’t get to have much of a say in the name choosing process because “they’re not carrying the baby for 9 months” - I think comments like this are rather unfair (after all, men can’t carry babies???), so I’d like for S/O and I to both like (but hopefully love) the name we’re choosing for our future prince/princess. [name_m]Even[/name_m] if it was my all-time favourite name, and he couldn’t warm up to it, I’d rather compromise than choose something he dislikes. It just doesn’t seem fair imo, because we’re a partnership.

  2. It has to be easy to pronounce! - I’ve always struggled with my full name (my first, middle and last are always needing correction!!) so I’d prefer to use a name that’s not terribly hard to say, or one where the pronunciation is rather self-explanatory. If this means picking Deziray over [name_f]Desiree[/name_f], then so be it (even though I’d prefer not to!).

  3. We have to picture ourselves using it. - If S/O and I love a name, but just don’t see it working on our own baby (for example, [name_f]Jessica[/name_f] or [name_u]Addison[/name_u]), then we aren’t adding it to our list. We’d rather pick a name we can both naturally see ourselves using, not something we’re trying to force ourselves to like.

  4. It has to flow with our last name. - My soon-to-be surname is no less complicated than my maiden name, however, it’s very [name_m]German[/name_m] and R heavy. We’d prefer to choose something that fits well with that. For example; We [name_u]LOVE[/name_u] [name_u]Skylar[/name_u] and [name_u]Parker[/name_u] for girls, but, our LN ends in the ‘er’ sound, and they just don’t sound as nice as a FN/LN combo when said together.

That’s pretty much it, really!

> My husband and I come up with the names on our own. We do not take suggestions or accept input from other family members until its time to reveal the name we chose together. We do this because we have opinionated relatives on both sides of the family, and we want to keep things fair, balanced and between the two people who are going to raise the child.

> Both sides of the family need to be able to pronounce the first name. My husband’s family has a Spanish linguistic background, and mine [name_m]French[/name_m] and [name_f]Haitian[/name_f] Creole, and while the name itself might be of Spanish or of [name_m]French[/name_m] origin, everyone has to be able to say it. It is easy enough since Spanish and [name_m]French[/name_m] share a lot of sounds and patterns but there are limitations to names like [name_f]Antoinette[/name_f].

On the same note, the names have to be relevant to our cultures and families. We can like and appreciate names like [name_m]Wyatt[/name_m], [name_f]Hailey[/name_f] or [name_u]Madison[/name_u], but our children are going to receive names with some Caribbean flavor.

> No names with negative meanings like [name_f]Claudia[/name_f] or [name_f]Cecilia[/name_f].

> We don’t obsess with perfection or flawless names. Some other names are better with our last name or the flow of fn/mn isn’t ideal, so what? In the end we are drawn to certain names and for our own reasons, so we’ll choose to be off beat and genuinely like the name (s) and not attempt to create the ideal fashionable name.

> No matchy names for sibligs. Everyone gets their own initials. No patterns that are obvious like [name_f]Rose[/name_f] and [name_f]Daisy[/name_f] or [name_f]Faith[/name_f] and [name_f]Grace[/name_f].

> My husband doesn’t get to be lazy about it. He needs to sit down and be serious about names, instead of saying he likes everything and not contribute to the list. He’s the one with a name he doesn’t like and I’ll be damned if I let him screw up for our child because he couldn’t give some feedback. Turns out he is actually quite creative and does have a taste in names when he is trying.

> No juniors or girl juniors.

>When the name is chosen we test it, but we are not going to consider comments that are based on ethnic background and euro-centrism, like the name is weird, ghetto, trashy, exotic etc. Other comments like the name is too difficult to spell out or pronounce for English speakers are fine and taken into account.

I don’t have many rules but here’s the few I have

  1. Both families have to be able to pronounce the name.

  2. DH and I both have to love it (preferably)

  3. Nothing too common, different but recognizable or at least easy to pronounce.

  4. Name that would sound good through all stages of their life.

  5. [name_f]Honor[/name_f] middle name

One thing that I didn’t care as much about that I thought I would was name flow. Our sons name doesn’t flow the best with our last name but I loved his name so much I didn’t care.

My general naming guidelines:

  1. Cannot have a prominent “el” sound or end in an “ee” sound due to surname.

  2. Take care not to culturally appropriate a name e.g. [name_f]India[/name_f], [name_m]Cohen[/name_m].

  3. No creative spellings.

Other than that, I can’t think of any hard or fast rules.

I love this question! For us…

  1. Name has to be intuitively VERY similarly pronounced in my and my husband’s native languages, which means we can not include LOTS of letters. [name_m]German[/name_m] and English pronounce “r”, “th”, “j” etc very differently, and we didn’t want to end up with a “My-kul” and a “Mee-khy-el” ([name_u]Michael[/name_u])

  2. The meaning of the name must be something positive. We believe that what we speak carries power, so why would I want to name my child the equivalent of “hollow” and speak that into his life even though I love the sound of the name [name_m]Cassius[/name_m]?

  3. This rule is probably more important to me than my husband, but I don’t want to use overly popular names. I was the only one with my name in my grade growing up and I felt bad for all the Jessicas. By accident we chose a name for our son that was not in the top 1000 the year he was born, but I didn’t purposely look that far afield.

  4. I’m not sure it’s a rule per se, but it would never occur to me to use some made-up or kre8ive spelling. I think they look ridiculous. I would, however, choose an original spelling, regardless of what it looks like in [name_u]America[/name_u], where I come from. For instance, I live in Hungary now and love the name Anikó. I would probably try to keep the accent, because I feel it is authentic, even though people in [name_u]America[/name_u] would probably just drop it when they write the name.

My name rules are a little weird. There’s not really many of them but…

#1: The name needs to be easy to pronounce so the child can say it.

#2: The name needs to be easy to spell for when the child has to learn to write it.

#3: It doesn’t matter if it’s popular or not, if i like it, I’ll use it!

  1. Single middle only. [name_m]Even[/name_m] if there’s an amazing honour name for the second or whatever, only single middles.
  2. Honours for Dad’s side of the family must not be identifiable as the original name (eg [name_m]John[/name_m] cannot be honoured by [name_m]John[/name_m] or [name_m]Jonathan[/name_m]), unless they have passed away. Mum’s side + friends etc can be direct.
  3. The meaning has to be positive or the name/or nickname has to be positively associated.
  4. If the name is over 3 syllables or over it has to have a nickname that I like and my brother will use (there is a whole story behind this)
  5. I have to see them being able to grow up with that name or at least a nickname from that name.
  6. Nothing too creative spelling wise.
  7. If my brother can make fun of it, it’s out (like [name_f]Isabelle[/name_f] as a middle, as in [name_f]Kaia[/name_f] is-a-bell *school bell/cowbell ringing in my head)

That’s pretty much it.

Our “rules” seem to change over time, as we learn what is really important to us…here’s our most recent/some of our longest-standing “rules”:

  1. It has to be something that both of us like.

  2. The name combo (first and middle(s)) cannot be about just one parent or one side of the family…For instance, elements of our favorites contain things important to both of us (we both really like [name_f]Ada[/name_f], [name_f]Ada[/name_f]'s middle name has connections to my side of the family and to our mutual close friend; [name_m]Ivan[/name_m] and his middle name are favorites of my husband, but we may add a second middle name that I suggest but both like). Hard to explain.

  3. The name has to use the most common or most recognizable spelling.

  4. The names can’t be too long. Our surname is 6 letters, but the length can quickly get out of hand when you add a first and middle/two middle names.

  5. It can’t be something too offensive to a culture, if possible. I think it is impossible to screen every single culture on earth to find out and avoid names that could be offensive, but I’m talking obvious ones, like [name_m]Adolph[/name_m].

  6. The name/spelling has to be able to be pictured on any age. People may disagree with me on this, but this is just my feelings on the names we choose.

  7. We would have to be okay with having the name ourselves.

  8. [name_f]Honor[/name_f] names aren’t huge priority for us. I mean, we wouldn’t chase our tails to find an honor name…putting off a name we really like just for the sake of including an honor name, if that makes sense. It’s just a bonus if the name honors someone.

  9. A theme that we would like to keep with our kids’ names would be to give them Italian middle names. I’m Italian-American and feel a connection to my roots. My husband suggested doing this, actually. So Italian middles or Italian-sounding names are bonuses ([name_f]Rosemary[/name_f] doesn’t quite fit this, but it is a name that has been used by Italian-Americans before, including my grandparents/relatives).

  10. We prefer something not too common. It doesn’t have to be out of the Top 100 or anything like that, but I’d rather not use a name that we hear every day.

  11. If a friend or relative mentions wanting to use a certain name, it moves down or off of our list…depending on the name. I think it is fine for cousins or like-cousins to share names in principle, but it’s sort of a respect thing, for us.

  12. We will not discuss names with friends or family, even though we are not currently expecting. It gets too messy. I’ll ask for feedback on here, but that’s it. Our family members are really, really opinionated…and our friends are great, but we still don’t want to discuss the names. Besides, we plan to find out the sexes of our babies, so it would be nice to withhold something about the pregnancies…

  1. Not too popular (my name became really popular while I was growing up and it drove me nuts).
  2. Must work in my partner’s and my languages, but not in a boring, obvious way. So no direct crossovers like [name_m]Marc[/name_m] or [name_f]Olivia[/name_f] because I find it boring. Our daughter has a word name, and although the word is completely different in the two languages, each family uses the one in their language – and actually, neither can pronounce the other properly.
  3. Flow doesn’t matter. We already have crazily combined surnames, so that’s a losing battle anyway.
  4. The name has to make us both deliriously happy. We can talk each other into it if necessary, but by the time the baby is born we need to have our own extensive list of personal mythologies and associations built around it. If other people have negative reactions, we don’t mind because we are unassailable in our love for the name.
  5. Siblings shouldn’t be too matchy. I don’t mind if they start with the same letter but they shouldn’t be too similar in style. So nature names are out of the next one (although I might let them back in for number 3 if we get there).
  6. I do like honour middle names. I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule but I will probably continue with them.

Hanging out on naming forums has made me realize my naming priorities are different from a lot of people’s. I don’t care about flow or whether it’s easy to spell or pronounce. We just want something that represents us (interested in books, nature, history, local culture).

I haven’t really thought about rules for picking a first. I think I just know what I do or don’t like and start from there.

  1. Must not be popular. In an ideal world, out of the top 1000 where I live. In reality, I’ll settle for below top 500 for a name I really love, but most aren’t on the list.

  2. Easy (for me) to say and that sound nice when I say them. I need to like/love how a name sounds. Sometimes there are names I like (and may have on my list), but I might trip over them or have to think before saying them. I’d only choose names that come out correctly every time and are naturally easy, comfortable and non awkward for me to say. It’s an odd rule, and more intuitive then anything, but still important. For example I love Rowenna and have thought about using her, but I can see myself slipping with the R and W, so I’m not so sure about it. I considered adding [name_m]Pietro[/name_m] too, but in my normal accent I just can’t make it sound natural or attractive.

  3. Linked to the above, has to work or can be easily pronounced in English and for family/friends. Not necessarily from spelling to out loud, but verbally. I don’t mind awkward spellings, as long as the name can be said easily.

  4. For a first girl, the name must have a good meaning. This is so I can honour my dad who gave me a name with a meaning running through with my first daughter’s name (if I have one).

  5. Nothing offensive or insensitive (of course).

  6. No misspelled names, especially word names.

  7. Names from other cultures are fine, but must be spelled and said correctly, used on the correct gender and some research done into them.

  8. No names from religions I am not a part of or linked to. In general I’m dubious about less mainstream religious names as I’m agnostic (although technically Catholic with Islamic family ties), but I’ll still put them on my list even if I don’t use them.

  9. I don’t mind whether or not a name has nns, but for one I’d like them to ultimately arise naturally rather than be predetermined. And I would be cautious about using a name with a very obvious and intuitive nn that I really disliked.

And a couple I can’t take into account right now, not knowing whether or not I’ll have an SO, friends haven’t had kids yet etc.

  1. Both me and SO (if I have one) have to love it and want to say the name, day in, day out.

  2. Must work with surname. Decent flow (but doesn’t have to be amazing), and doesn’t cause issues, e.g. too similar or wordy.

  3. When friends or family (cousins) start having kids, I’ll try to make sure I don’t step on anyone’s toes, if we’re close/in contact.

For us, the most important is:

  1. A name that works well in our respective languages. We have a multilingual household and it’s important for us that our family doesn’t have any problems pronouncing the name.

  2. Names with rich history. We’re not fans of the modern invented names.

  3. We really like that the first or (preferably) middle name is honoring.

  4. Names appropriate to our culture.

  1. A name that people are familiar with. I have a name that while easy to pronounce and spell people aren’t familiar with so they’re constantly trying to make it something else that’s more familiar.

  2. Not super popular. Top 100 is ok, top 10 is not.

  3. Easy to spell. We have a difficult last name, no need to make it worse.

  4. Going along with rule #3, I always use the simplest, most common spelling. So Evelyn not Ehvalynne

  5. No names that start with Sh- or end with -ara because of our last name.

  6. I prefer if it fits into our heritage somehow. We tend to like English/Irish names, but also have [name_m]German[/name_m], Dutch, and Scandinavian heritage as possibilities.

  7. Middle name should be an honor name.

  1. Name pronunciation has to be relatively straightforward. Most of DH’s family has a thick southern accent. This combined with the fact that none of them are particularly well read means they tend to butcher the pronunciation of even what I would consider common and straightforward names.

  2. DH and I both have to agree to it. We’re going through this battle right now, and while I’ve had to say goodbye of most of my favorites, I would rather we both have an equal say in the process.

  3. Culturally relevant. We won’t consider anything too tied to a culture, religion, ethnic group, etc. outside of our own unless there are factors about a particular name that lends itself to crossing boundaries. I.E. while we wouldn’t use any blatantly Hispanic names given that both of our family histories are 99% Caucasian, we would consider some Greek names (neither of our families are Greek) as the widespread knowledge of at least some Greek myths, and their tendency to show up as references in literature and pop culture, tends to lend an air of acceptability to those names.

  4. Nothing overly popular. DH has a VERY common surname, so by choosing a popular name we risk not only our child being “[name_u]Noah[/name_u] R.” but being one of multiple Noahs with the exact same first and last name. DH doesn’t think this is an issue but it’s a major one to me.

  5. No made up spellings.

  6. Must work with our last name. In our case that means nothing that ends in -son, and some -en, -an, -on endings as well.

  7. No overly religious names unless they are also an honor name of some sort. [name_m]Even[/name_m] then they’d be more likely to find their way to the middle spot.

  8. We cannot know anyone with the name. While we can know of people that share the name, no family (including cousins, second cousins, etc.), no friends, no one in friends’ immediate families (this killed one of my favorites), etc. can share the name. I tend to dislike a name after I hear it too often, so out of our original 100+ name list, we had only ever personally met someone with 2 of the names. I’m also keenly aware of how annoying it is when people in a family share names. My close family (just immediate family plus grandparents, aunts, & uncles) has 3 Ryans, 3 Terrys, 3 Dougs, 2 Robs, 3 Joes, 4 Johns, 2 Gays, and it’s incredibly annoying to constantly have to correct and differentiate who you’re talking about.

I have 2.

  1. It cannot be overly romantic and/or generally related to love. My surname is romantic/related to love and so the poor mites’ll either sound like a [name_u]Valentine[/name_u]'s [name_u]Day[/name_u] product or a stereotypical porn star.

  2. Somewhat easy to spell and pronounce. My name isn’t spelt the usual way and it hasn’t bothered me, and neither has it bothered my sisters who have differently spelt names, but the spellings are moderately easy to figure out and remember. So I want to go with names that are spelled and pronounced moderately easy. The spellings don’t have to be the original, as long as the spelling isn’t ridiculous.

  1. Must have decent meaning and preferably a good one. Cannot mean something bad. If literal meaning is just alright it probably has a good personal meaning to me & my S/O or the middles names have better meanings.

  2. Preferably honors Italian & [name_m]German[/name_m] heritage in someway.

  3. No unisex names. Must be obviously masculine/obviously feminine.

  4. [name_m]Long[/name_m] use of history is preferable. No modern invented names.

  5. Preferably have many nickname options. If it’s shorter I have to really adore the name and enjoy saying it.

  6. Nothing in the top 10 as a FN.

  7. FN’s must be fairly easy to pronounce in the US. I don’t mind names that have a couple different pronunciations bc my name does and it doesn’t bother me. However, I’d rather not choose a name (as a FN) that’s completely foreign in the US and would get mispronounced all the time. For example, I wouldn’t use [name_f]Mireille[/name_f] or Océane as a FN.

  8. S/O has to adore the name as much as I do.

  9. No names too similar to family I’m close with as a FN that I’m not trying to honor.

  10. Must sound pretty well with surname. Cannot end in -son.