Getting ready for a new baby can be exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating all at once. One of the most challenging obstacles for new parents can be choosing a baby name. A name will identify your child throughout their life, people will form opinions about your child based solely on their name, and the name you choose will also play a role in molding your child’s personality and behavior. Learning baby name meanings is a good first step in narrowing your choices.
Biblical and Hebrew Names
Biblical and Hebrew names are probably the most popular names in the United States. Michael is consistently one of the most popular names for boys. In 2004 it was second, with the other four top five boy’s names in the order being Jacob, Joshua, Matthew, and Ethan. The origins for all are biblical or Hebrew. Biblical names for girls also endure consistent popularity with Hannah, Abigail, and Samantha being in the top ten most popular. Sarah, Rebecca, and Jessica also have enduring usage.
It is sometimes possible to “date” someone by knowing when their name was popular, especially for fad names that are used for only a short period of time due to the current popularity of a singer, movie star, or fictional character. Consider Marilyn, Jacquelyn, and Shirley, all examples of names that became popular for brief periods because of public figures. Another source of old-fashioned sounding names is classic literature.
Baby name meanings are often less important in vintage names since usually the original meaning is secondary to the cultural associations. Girl’s names seem to be more subject to trends and fads, as well, with boy’s names changing less. For old-fashioned names, look to your grandparents or great-grandparents, books, and movies from the era you would like a name from.
Choosing a name based on your ancestry can be a way of showing pride in your heritage and passing that on to your child. Names from other cultures can also be a way of giving your child a less common name but without some of the negative associations that can come with making one up. You can look to other languages for different spellings of common names, too. Using a common name in a foreign language can result in a distinctive name for your child, for instance, the Swedish Mattias instead of Matthew.
Another option for a distinctive name is to use family names. Find out what your grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s middle names are. Using a mother or grandmother’s maiden name can be a way of providing a unique identity for your child while preserving family ties and heritage.
Choosing a unisex name can be an easy compromise rather than coming up with a “boy name” and a “girl name”, but it is rarely necessary now that most expecting parents know the gender of their child before birth. Unisex names can seem stylish and clever, but be aware that gender confusion can upset children. It’s a safer choice to give a unisex name like Mackenzie, Tracy, or Morgan to a girl. It is more accepted for women to go by seemingly masculine names than for men to go by feminine-sounding names. Plenty of girls with feminine names like Samantha or Maxine may even go by shortened forms that are male names like Sam and Max.
Hollywood often sets the style for baby names, just as it does for so many other trends. The rich and famous rarely give their children common names. They range from the old-fashioned and classic to make up and unique to downright strange. Consider Frank Zappa, who named two of his children Moon Unit and Dweezil. Madonna’s children are named Lourdes and Rocco. Nicole Kidman and Tom cruise named their children Isabella Jane and Connor Anthony. They traverse the spectrum, but one thing almost all celebrity children have in common is that their names are not.
Creating a Name
Making up a name for your baby is becoming more popular, but it is still a choice you should consider carefully. There is some evidence of job discrimination when it comes to applicants with extremely unusual or made-up names. Your child may also be subject to frequent mispronunciation by teachers and later coworkers. Creating a new name can also give your child a strong sense of identity, as with using a word not normally thought of as a name. Make sure you check dictionaries and other reference sources if you make up a name, though. It could already be an obscure word that may potentially embarrass your child.
Names and Personality
The name you give your child can go on to affect their personality, their behavior, their self-worth and their identity. Choosing a strange and unusual name can make your child a target for teasing and bullying. While using words for names, or making them up entirely, is gaining some popularity, your child will probably still encounter prejudices based on their given name. Some children may even choose to change their names as adults or to use their initials instead of given names.
Using a name that is extremely common also has its pitfalls. If you select an extremely popular name for your child, like Matthew, Brittany, Dylan, or Ashley, it’s probable that he or she will be one of several in his or her class at school. While that may not be an issue for your child, some may feel as though it is difficult to establish an independent identity. Others may feel that they don’t fit in if they are identified differently than other children, such as by last name or first name and an initial if other children aren’t also identified that way.
Tips for Choosing a Name
Try saying the name out loud. Make sure it sounds good with your last name. It may take some time for you to get used to it. Avoid names that can easily be turned into taunting nicknames. See if the name you like rhymes with any words likely to be used in an insult. You might not want to use Bart as a nickname if you choose to call your son Bartholomew.
Check to see if the initials spell anything potentially embarrassing. If you are making up a name, check the dictionary first. Urban legends are rife with stories of children named something embarrassing by unwitting parents. Remember that your child’s name will be with them for life. Choose something that they will be proud of.
Coming up with prospective names for your child doesn’t need to be difficult and fraught with arguments. Discovering the different name origins of common monikers can be both fun and educational. Even if you have already decided to use a name that has been in your family for generations, learning baby name meanings can still be fun.