Baby Names Guide

The Name Game

A few things to keep in mind when choosing a name for your baby.

Sound and Compatibility – How your baby’s name sounds when it’s said aloud is one of the most essential things to think about. Is it melodious? Harsh? Does it go well with your surname? Often, longer first names work better with shorter surnames, and vice versa. Combining a first name that ends in a vowel with a surname that starts with a vowel generally isn’t the best choice — the names tend to run together (“Eva Anderson”). Avoid first names that rhyme with your surname. And it’s probably wise to resist puns: A name like “Holly Wood” or “Rosie Lee” will be fun for about five minutes. Then your poor child will be stuck with it for the rest of his or her life.

Ancestry and Heritage – Your child’s heritage is an essential part of who she is, and you may want her name to reflect that. Your religious preference may steer you towards a certain category of names. Or perhaps your family has a tradition of naming first-born sons after their fathers. If you love a name but it doesn’t meet your family’s traditional requirements, consider using it as a middle name.

Relatives and Friends – Many parents choose to name their babies after a grandparent, other relative, or close friend. This option can provide you with a good pool of names to consider. Take ideas graciously, but don’t tell anyone what you and your partner have decided until after your baby is born — when it’s too late to give in to any subtle hints. And never let anyone pressure you into a name you don’t like. When it comes down to it, Great Aunt Hepzebiah won’t have to live with the name, your baby will.

Uniqueness – An unusual name has the advantage of making the bearer stand out from the crowd. Fran sometimes wishes she hadn’t named her second son Matthew. When he started school, he had three other Matts in his class. “It was years before he really understood that his name wasn’t “Matt B.” she says. On the other hand, a name no one has heard of and can’t pronounce can bring attention a child would rather avoid. One way of striking a balance is to choose a familiar first name if the child’s surname is unusual, and vice versa. If your son’s surname will be Smith, you might want to consider something with more pizzazz than Joe for his first name. But if his surname is Aytrivbsoan, then Joe might be preferable to, say, Archimedes, as a given name.

Meaning – No one is likely to treat your daughter Ingrid differently because her name means “hero’s daughter”, but the derivation of your baby’s name is something you may want to think about. After all, if little Stockard finds out someday that her name means “from the yard of tree stumps”, she may not be pleased.

Initials and Nicknames – People, especially kids, can be cruel when it comes to nicknames, so try to anticipate any potentially embarrassing ones. Of course, just because you don’t think of something doesn’t mean some clever school kid down the line won’t — and he’ll probably find it utterly hilarious. But at least you can rule out the obvious problems. Also, be aware of what your child’s initials spell. Zachary Ian Thomas will more than likely get a lot of teasing; Zachary Edward Thomas probably won’t.

Remember! None of these are hard and fast rules. The most important criterion for a name is simply that you and your partner like it.