Choosing baby names
Given the thousands of names to choose from picking the perfect name for your baby can seem like an overwhelming task. It is one of the first things you will ever give to your baby and it will last them a lifetime.
At this point I feel I should confess that our first child didn't have a name for the first five days of his life. Well actually, that's a small lie, he had about five but only one of them stuck. I still look at him some times and think he would have been a lovely little Gabriel but we're all happy with his name, and most importantly we think he is.
For some choosing a baby name is much easier than for others. Some couples will have decided on a name years before the baby even arrived. You may know whether you want a traditional name, there may be family names or something reflecting religious beliefs. Even then this can all be complicated by pressure from trying to keep everybody happy and not upset the grandparents but at the end of the day it is you and your partner's decision.
If you are starting with a blank canvas as far as choosing a name for your baby then the process may seem more than a little daunting. So where to begin?
The first step in picking a name is to discuss it with your partner as soon as possible. The longer you have, the less pressure there will be and the more likely you are to find the prefect name.
At this point it is probably easier to think of names, or types of names that are off limits. Maybe you want to avoid celebrity names or your partner wants to name the boy after his favourite football player. If you have already decided to find out what gender your baby will be then this will help cut down the choices, unless of course you opt for a unisex name.
Once you have narrowed it down it might be time to start making some suggestions. The first person you need to run these past are your significant other. There are many reasons why your partner may dislike your baby name and you may have to accept this without argument. It may be a kid they were bullied by at school, something that reminds them of the Icelandic word for poo or they can't even explain why. Whatever the reason you should try and respect this.
The more you can narrow down the choices at this early stage the easier and less overwhelming the task will feel. Below are some of the main points and a few helpful tips for choosing a baby name.
How it sounds
This is probably the most common way names are chosen. If you like the sound of a name, then why not choose it? Before setting it in stone though it is worth looking at some of the tips and pitfalls listed below. After all you don't want to inadvertently name your beautiful baby after a notorious axe-killer or give them a name that means pig (see below)!
And last of all, don't forget how the name is going to sound along with last name. Try not to choose names that rhyme e.g. Jane Payne or Owen Cohen. Also watch out for unexpected combinations that might spell something new as Mr & Mrs Dover found with their son Ben! One last tip is longer first names tend to go well with shorter last names, and vice versa.
Whilst names are often chosen because they sound most actually mean something. This probably isn't the best way to choose a name though as it is probably the last thing people think about when you are introduced. The fact that Baldric means “brave ruler” is probably lost on most people. However, on the other hand it is possibly a good thing that no one will know that the pretty girls name Suri means “pig” in Punjabi and 'pickpocket' in Japanese!
So, if you like a name and you also like the meaning, look at this as a bonus and not a decider.
Family, ancestry and culture
Not unrelated to the meaning of the name is derivation of the name and how that reflects your child's culture. This is probably more important than the actual meaning of the name. Some names can help define who you are and what you stand for in terms of heritage and beliefs.
This can be relatively straightforward in some families where first-born sons are named after their fathers. If, however, there is no existing tradition in your family then a little more research may be required into ethnic or religious names.
Naming traditions can create their own problems, for example where your chosen name is at odds with your family's expectations. If this is the case then compromise is usually the best way forward, and that is what middle names are for.
Many names have a variety of spellings. You can often replace a 'ph' with an 'f', a 'c' with a 'k' or an 's' with a 'z'. Whilst this is fine in the majority of cases don't get too carried away with your exotic spellings and choose something that is going to be mispronounced all the time.
The same problem can arise when using a non-English sounding name. I have a friend called Juan, this is one of the most common names in the world but in the UK it causes no end of confusion.
Remember a name is generally spoken and does not need to look pretty on a piece of paper.
For many parent the holy grail of baby naming is finding a name that is unique but not pretentious or weird. Having a name that stands out a little can help your child's sense of identity. In my oldest boy's school class there are three Sams; having been referred to as Sam E, Sam F and Sam H for so long now they actually refer to themselves this way. (please note, I think Sam is a great name!)
Obviously you can easily go to far the other way and believe me, unless your kid has a really strong personality they may not thank you for it! Just remember, naming a baby is not a competition and not everyone can carry off 'Fifi Trixibelle' or 'Moon Unit'.
Kids can be merciless, and whilst your children are generally stuck with your surname you can avoid compounding this by carefully choosing given names. Using the tips above and a little thought should help prevent them becoming a target.
Whilst it might not seem obvious or even that funny to you your child's initials might spell something the average nine year old finds hilarious. For example Paul Oliver Osborne might cause untold hilarity for everyone in your child's class, except them!
There is a wealth of advice on how to choose a baby name out there. But however useful it might be, in the end it comes down to looking through as many names as possible and choosing one that both you and your partner are happy with. All we can do is provide you with a few tips and precautions.
Once you have a name, or at least a shortlist, it is up to you whether you discuss it with anyone. You could run it past friends and family or even discuss it with strangers on any of the numerous baby websites out there, but remember the final decision is yours and it is only the beginning of the journey that is being a parent.