Having to choose the perfect baby name can feel impossible – it’s not like choosing which show to binge-watch on Netflix (and that’s hard enough!). This is the name you’ll be saying a bazillion times for the rest of your life. The name you’ll see on report cards and prescription bottles and birthday cakes. The name you’ll hear announced at sporting events and recitals and graduations. And, most importantly, the name your child will carry long after childhood is over: something that could make or break that valuable first impression on potential friends, lovers, landlords, colleagues, employers.
It’s not just the perfect baby name … it’s got to be the perfect lifetime name, too. No pressure, right?
That being said, we’re tossing you some tips on choosing the best name for your baby (and beyond).
1. Do your homework.
If you’re adamant about not naming your baby something overly trendy (read: totally overused), do some research. Look in online name databases. Check out the Social Security website, where you can browse the most popular baby names by state. Ask moms you know – or better yet, elementary school teachers – if there are certain names they keep hearing over and over. This is where Facebook really comes in handy.
2. Ignore the opinions of others.
Obviously you have to take your partner’s feelings into account because, well, they’re the baby’s parent too. Other than that, all bets are off. You don’t have to give a flying fig what the grandparents or your friends or the grocery store cashiers think: if you love a name, you use it. They’ll get used to it, and adore your little Flatuleesa Brinnifer all the same.
3. Don’t discount a name just because it has negative associations.
If you love the name Charlie, but can’t say it without remembering the kid in your kindergarten class with the perpetually snotty nose, use it anyway. As soon as you lay eyes on your very own Charlie, all previous associations will melt away.
4. Brainstorm possible nicknames.
Channel your inner bully and think of every single mean nickname stemming from your potential monikers. Could your little Carter handle being called “Farter?” Also think about nicknames that will come from regular people, not necessarily bullies – like Ricky, for example, which is a perfectly acceptable nickname for Grandma to call Richard. But Dick? Not so much, these days.
5. Do an initial check.
For example, Ava Selene Sullivan is a perfectly pretty name. But the poor girl’s initials might put the “ASS” in embarrassment.
6. Check for famous people with the same name.
Can you imagine being named Jennifer Lopez? A quick Google search (with the name in quotes to ensure an exact match) will let you know that you aren’t inadvertently naming your baby after someone they’ll never be disassociated with.
7. Do a pronunciation quiz.
Let’s say you have your heart set on naming your son an unconventional name like Josue, and you have a specific pronunciation in your head – whether it’s ho-sway or zho-swe or the phonetic pronunciation, joe-sue. Write the name down on a piece of paper, and then ask friends and family how they’d pronounce it. If most people get it wrong, you might want to choose something your child won’t have to constantly correct or explain. Or not.
8. Yell it out loud.
As a parent, you’ll do a lot of yelling: across playgrounds, crowded rooms, or just in the general process of losing your temper (it happens, promise). Does it feel and sound right when it’s bellowed? It should, ‘cause it’s gonna be said at a loud volume. Frequently.
9. Don’t limit yourself to just one middle name.
If you can’t narrow down the names that you love to just a first and a middle, why not add another? There’s no law against it, and though it does make it longer to write on forms, that’s a totally minor inconvenience.
10. Think of people you’d like to honor, even if you don’t like the name.
There are plenty of ways to pay homage to someone without directly naming them after that person. My late father-in-law’s name was Clarence, and we wanted to name our son after him … but Clarence wasn’t exactly our taste. However, my father-in-law’s friends and family had always called him “Cob” – so we named our son Coby. Yes, it’s pronounced a little differently (KO-be) and it has a Y on the end, but it’s still a tribute to the man we loved.
11. Consider the sound, not just the spelling.
If you’re thinking about using a widely-used name but changing up the spelling, think again. Jaedynn still sounds like Jaden and Jayden and Jaiden and Jaydon, so is it really any less common? People are just gonna spell it wrong all the time.
12. Look everywhere for inspiration.
Veer off the beaten path of books and websites and look to other sources to find names. Keep your ears peeled for names being called at the doctor’s office and DMV. Look in newspapers and magazines – at the subjects of the articles, the writers, the reporters. In the credits of your favorite movies and TV shows – not just the actors and actresses, but the crew. Look through genealogy records. Look at brand names – the name Mason, for example, was #7 in the top 500 most popular boys’ names of 2017, but it’s also a brand of canning jars, right there on the shelf in front of you. Baby names can be anywhere, so keep a running list on your phone.
13. Consider that your baby will one day be … not a baby.
Babies grow up, and what is the most adorable wittle name for a wittle baby might not be so charming on a grown adult. Naming your daughter Bunny or Fifi could be the cutest most squee-worthy thing ever until she grows up to be a hard-charging CEO. Then it’s just … weird.
14. Remember that you don’t have to hurry.
Sure, you’ve had nine months (or more!) to choose the perfect baby name, but there’s nothing wrong with waiting until you’ve spent a couple of days with your brand-new addition to decide what his or her name is going to be. Laws vary by state, but most allow you 5-10 days, with additional time if necessary (though the longer you wait, the more of a hassle it’s going to be).
Yes, it’s kind of a big deal, but don’t stress about it too much. Unless you choose something like, say, Butthole — which you likely can’t choose anyway, thank goodness — your child won’t end up hating you for the monstrous moniker you’ve bestowed upon them. Chances are they’ll love their name … and the story about how hard you tried to get it just right.
Naming a baby can be scary. Let us help! Browse thousands of cool names in our baby name database here.
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