How to Choose a Name for Your Baby

Trendy names stand out, but you want something that'll stand the test of time for your kid, too. Here are 11 foolproof tips on how to pick a baby name.

Are you – or is someone close to you – expecting a baby? Congratulations! Choosing a name is one of the most thrilling and potentially stressful duties on your long list of preparations. Stressful because names matter!

Expectant parents today are much more adventurous in terms of naming their children. There are endless trendy, traditional, Biblical and unorthodox picks to choose from – heck, even names that remind us of the mitten state! Yet it still seems many parents remain reluctant to break away from the pack in choosing a name for their baby. Hence, maternity floors are full of bassinets marked “Madison” and “Jake.”

And that’s why Jennifer Griffin, author of the book Bring Back Beatrice!, would like to see more parents choose traditional names and not feel shy about ignoring trends. “Names that will stand the test of time, reflect your values and bring joy to your child,” she says. “You can’t go wrong with something traditional, no matter how popular the name becomes.”

Since trendy names get vogue for a while and then disappear, it’s a good idea to think long and hard before using them. Traditional names are not always hot, but Griffin compares them to heirlooms. In other words, even if a traditional name like Emma rises in popularity, since it has stood the test of time, Griffin says your child will be better off in a classroom full of Emmas than a classroom full of a trendy name that fell from favor. Here are her 11 tips to picking the best name for your child.

1. Give your child a tie to the past. Consider family names of beloved relatives and cultural traditions.

2. The big three. Ask yourself three questions when evaluating a name: Will this name stand the test of time, reflect your values and bring joy to your child?

3. Think meaning. Think about how you will answer your child when he asks you someday why you chose his name.

4. Think nicknames. If you’re torn between a traditional and trendy name, one option is to use the trendy name as a nickname.

5. Think contrast. “Better to pair two or three-syllables with a single-syllable last name or a short first name with a long last name.”

6. Consider the American Express card test. Rule out names that are too long to fit on plastic.

7. Think monograms. RAT doesn’t look great embroidered on a spa robe.

8. Consider the school playground. You can probably remember certain kids who were teased mercilessly because of their name. Avoid that. Your child will thank you.

9. Don’t forget your last name. The name needs to make sense with your last name. If your last name is long, complicated or exotic, it may be wise to give your baby a short and easy first name that still complements it.

10. You don’t have to sacrifice the trendy name you love. If there’s a trendy or unorthodox name you adore, use it for a middle name.

11. Put it through the ‘flaky’ test. Your child will likely grow up and have to be taken seriously in the workplace. Be sure the name can fit whatever lofty vocation he or she sets sights on. Imagine your child saying “Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to welcome you aboard the aircraft. I’m your captain…'” If it sounds ridiculous, it’s a bad name.

Or imagine your doctor tells you that you need to see a specialist about your condition and hands you a business card with the name you’re considering for your child on it. Is that a doctor you’d feel faith and trust in? If not, go back to the drawing board and find a name that doesn’t hinder your child into adulthood.

“Imagine a political advertisement with your child facing the camera saying, ‘I’m… and I endorse this message.'”

This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated for 2016.


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