Baby name meanings and trends


Baby name finder

Knowing the meaning of your baby's name may be the last of your worries if the posts on our Baby Names forum are anything to go by. While it's very easy to be certain about the names you don't like, it can be an impossible task coming up with the baby name that's right for your baby. And even when you have chosen, you can be sure that others will judge you on your choice. So how can you be sure that you've picked a name that doesn't mean stinky-soled one in Arabic or will make your child unemployable 18 years from now? Read on.

Unusual baby names
| Popular baby namesName associations

Is it any wonder we're so indecisive when so much is at store? Names have huge associated meanings, which is why it's highly unlikely we'll ever see a Kyle crowned King or a Hannibal on Strictly Come Dancing. Deed poll aside, our parents' follies remain with us for life, so it makes sense that when it comes to our turn to choose a baby name we choose wisely.

How unusual!
Give your child a really unusual name and they will spend their lifetime repeating it to non-believers and explaining how to spell it, what it means, why they were called it and how to pronounce it. Cethra, Ichabod, Ptolomy and Sexburga probably tick a few of these boxes.

But there's the rub - we're asked to make one of the biggest decisions of our child's life at a point where we haven't slept for ages, are ravaged by hormones – and, if we've left it until the last minute, probably have cabbage leaves down our bra.

"I couldn't decide on a name before my son was born and couldn't decide after he was born either. Seeing him made it no easier. My husband ended up naming him. And then seven months later we changed it! With the benefit of hindsight, I would really try to have a name sorted before birth as it was a hundred times harder afterwards, with our minds blurred by sheer exhaustion." Choklit

But there's really no need to panic. Kind souls that we are, we have come to the rescue with a quick checklist of things to consider before you decide that Ophelia Payne it is.

Unusual baby names

Strictly speaking, there's nowt wrong with them, provided you remember that context is everything. Think about the world in which your child is going to exist: if you're at the top of the charts with a multi-platinum selling album and are married to a Hollywood star then you can probably get away with calling your child Kiwi Fruit Moonbat.

The rest of us will have to make do with merely sniggering behind your back - or, if we live in north London and are sending our little darling to Montessori, opting instead for Star or Bear.

"I had to use Blaise for my daughter's middle name even though I love it. You can't call someone Blaise in London's east end. Imagine Bianca a la EastEnders - Blaiyyyse! Urgh!" Nimble

"I love Giselle, but we live in France and here it is the equivalent of Ethel." Lein

If you fancy a laugh at your child's expense but aren't keen on a daft name, you can get the same effect by using, say, an Irish spelling of a common name - for instance Concobhar instead of Connor - even though you haven't got a drop of Celtic blood in you and live in Staines. (Another plus is that you'll never be pestered into buying them personalised tat in theme park gift shops.)

"In Scotland they can refuse to register a name if it is inflammatory/contentious or just daft." Scottishmummy

"A girl in New Zealand was taken into care after a judge ruled her parents had committed abuse by calling her Tallulah Does the Hula in Hawaii." YesSirICanBoogie

"Ask yourself will it be easy to spell and pronounce - both for doddery old great aunts and the child? MIL cannot spell any of my children's names. And they are not hard either. One of them only has one spelling and she still cannot manage it. DD3 has four versions and it is spelt different every birthday/Christmas. If I have another child it will called Sam (boy or girl). No spelling variations (that I know of) and I don't think it can be pronounced wrong either." DoNotAsfinishedXmasShopping

Popular baby names

Apart from the fact your child will have to get used to being identified by the initial of their surname as a matter of course - "Oh, do you mean Tom B, Tom C, Tom D or Tom G?" - there's a lot to be said for good, solid, popular names that outlast the latest nomclemature fad.

But classics aside, trends come and go. Maybe it's something to do with the Sesame Street generation reaching maturity, but names in recent years appear to have been brought to you by the letter J (Jack, Joshua, James, Joseph, Jacob and, ahem, Jayden) and the sound 'ee' (Ellie, Evie, Gracie, Lily, Ruby).

If you're worried your child will be one of many, hang around playgrounds or Tesco on a Saturday morning to see which names get shrieked the most often and loudest. Alternatively, check out the national statistics for recent years.

Popular baby names
Find out how popular your prospective baby name really is.
Top 100 baby names England and Wales
Top 100 Irish baby names
Top 100 Scottish baby names

"I have a Ruby and I absolutely love it and don't care if there are hundreds around. Every time I call her name I love the way it sounds. We don't have any round here and I am in West London. I think all the popular girls names are lovely and sometimes that makes them all the more classic. If you love it, you choose it. But damn those Kaiser Chiefs." Luckywinner

"I know people say 'does it matter?' but I think if you like a name then it's because it has a special quality to you - if suddenly every third child is called that then the 'mystique' of that name disappears and it becomes an also-ran." Nancy66

"Every baby group and pre-school around here (sarf London) seems to have at least one Ruby and at least one Lola. They're nice names but ubiquitous. I think the pendulum has swung so far that if you want to buck the trend, you should call your daughter Jane or Anne (names of my vintage which seem to have fallen completely out of use)!" MadBadandDangeroustoKnow

Name associations

Much as you might want to tiptoe around this subject, there's no getting away from a name's class connotations or, in this day and age, celebrity associations. Don't believe us? Then visualise the names Hermione and Araminta and see what mental images they conjure. We get straw boaters, pony club ties and lacrosse/quidditch every time.

Related Talk topic

Conversely, the name Paris brings up something completely different (we're so glad our spam filter is now working). You may not care that your choice of name is overtly pompous, or that it smacks of a Daily Mail-reading, pro-hunting, octogenarian chairman of the WI. Nor may you care if it sounds like a bent car salesman with a BMI of 40-plus, whose concept of fine art is a page three calendar. But it's worth considering.

"A friend of mine taught a Dazzyboy. My first thought was 'there's a name you'll only ever hear on one side of a magistrates bench' - which probably makes me a snob, but hey ho." 2Helenback

"I really liked Gabriel but DH said he would rather call our son Archangel." TooMuchMakkaPakka

"I often used to have correspondence with someone called Comfort Golightly. Once I had to pick something up from that office and was surpised to discover that Comfort was a man! I don't know why, but Comfort Golightly is such a 'soft' girly name!" Bikerunski

"My interpretation of a 'chavvy' name? Made-up names (Kaydon, Zia, Shyanna); surnames as first names (Taylor, Bailey, Shannon); anything that sounds like a character from an American soap (Ashlee, Troy, Jayden) and finally traditional names spelled in some illiterate way: Genifer, Symon, Mellanee etc." Nancy66

Check the meaning of your baby's name

Think you've found the perfect name but just want to check it doesn't mean swinging fanjo in Swahili? Then Google it. Some names actually mean something else entirely (parents of a prospective Candida would be advised to check out the NHS website first).

Baby name finder And then there are those pesky celebrities to take into consideration - name your son Johnny Depp and you want to pray that boy has good genes. Others, such as Adolf and Beelzebub, are obvious no-gos.

More baby naming help

So that's the issues of popularity, meaning and trends covered, now you need to check our practical baby naming tips. Think how it goes with your surname, whether your MIL will settle for a nod to her side of the family with your choice of middle name, and then you might want to think about running your shortlist past other Mumsnetters on our baby names forum.  

Last updated: 09-Apr-2013 at 4:55 PM