Practical tips for choosing baby names

So you've pored over the naming books, looked at popular and unusual baby names and come up with a few you like. Now you need to put them through the extensive Mumsnet baby name check...

You're looking at everything from what they might mean in another language to seeing how they go with your surname. And then finally - perhaps most crucially - you can run the gauntlet see what other Mumsnetters think of your choice in our baby names forum.

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Hold on to your hormones

If you're seriously contemplating calling your child Moonbat, remember it's the preggie hormones peaking and that your partner is right to say no.

Shortening baby names

Like a name that's a shorter variant of another? Common sense says to put the longer version - providing it's not too vile - on the birth certificate. There's no law that says you have to call your child by anything other than the shorter - invariably cuter - version, but you leave them the option, as they get older, to wheel out the longer - invariably less fluffy - version when the occasion suits. (Essentially, this is the one time when you can afford to be indecisive and leave making a final decision for a decade or two.)

Let's face it, a five-year-old Effie is sweet, but she might prefer to be Josephine when she's running MI5.

Conversely, if you do opt to use the full variant of a name be prepared that everyone - school friends, teachers, relatives et al - will shorten it, regardless of whether you mind or not. Jonathan will become Johnny. Thomas will be Tom and nothing you can do or say will make a blind bit of difference. 

Does your baby name go with your surname?

Once you've settled on a shortlist, the next hurdle is how the first name and surname work together - because if ever there was the potential for disaster it is now.

Paige, Tess and Warren are all relatively innocuous. Add the surnames Turner, Stickle and Peace and they become not only legendary but the stuff that classroom bullies thrive on.

Don't forget to add any middle initials into the equation (Chris P Bacon, anyone?) or the fact that your child's first name can be shortened (Richard Scratcher...). Rhythm, rhyme and alliteration should also be taken into consideration. Frankly, A-level English is less of a sweat.

Ooh, and while you're playing the surname game, you really need to settle the thorny old question of one surname or both. If it's going to be one, and that one is your partner's rather than yours, are you prepared for 18 years of patiently correcting the assumptions of teachers, dentists and doctor's receptionists?

Or, if it's to be both, which one's going first? And are they going to combine as one new double-barrelled surname or does one surname get downgraded to a middle name, a la Hillary Rodham Clinton? And what about hyphens? Don't leave this decision till you reach the registrar's office: it's really not the place for a punctuation fight. 

Middle names for your baby

Middle names seem to serve little purpose - until you're naming your own child and then their use becomes immediately apparent. Here's how to placate your parents/in-laws.

You can have the entire Arsenal squad in here if you want to - nobody will ever know. The only thing you need to worry about at this stage is the issue of unintentional acronyms - just what do all those initials spell out? Charles Ramsay Archibald Pearce, beware.

Make a baby name shortlist

No matter how in tune you and your partner are, naming your child is one area where hitherto happy couples often fall out.

If you can't both agree on one definite winner, then your best bet is to draw up a shortlist of acceptable names and then one of you (and we're not saying who as that would be sexist) should point out in no uncertain terms that the person who has carried the baby for 40 weeks and then gone through a three-day labour gets the casting vote. RIGHT? The only proviso being that you can't use the names of past lovers or current crushes.

Get the Mumsnet seal of approval

Still undecided? Make straight for our baby names discussions, where you can put your potential list of monikers to the Mumsnetter jury. And find out Mumsnetters' predictions for the names you're thinking of - and then feel free to add your own personal prejudices preferences - with our baby name finder.

It's the easiest way to find out if a name is over-used (for which read 'horribly common'), slightly too unusual (for which read 'precocious, verging on downright ludicrous') or likely to lead to your child not reaching their full potential (for which read 'will be teased mercilessly throughout their entire life').

Be prepared for some forthright, nay blunt, advice. It might smart at the time, but believe us, in years to come your children will thank Mumsnet for it.

  • "Say it OUT LOUD. First thing. Make a list and say them all out loud. You'll be amazed what gets crossed off!"
  • "A name that sounds cute as a baby may not sound so cute for an adult. I always imagine them sitting in a bar introducing themselves to someone when they are 21. If the name sounds OK then it's a winner."
  • "I wanted Phoebe, but not good with our monosyllabic surname that starts with "Bee" sound. (Poor child would have ended up with a stutter.)"
  • "I had a meeting with a (very) fat man at work who was introduced as 'Porker', or so I heard. In fact it was Paul Kerr."
  • "A friend once worked in a pub where the owner sported a rather gauche diamond-studded initial ring - his name was Vince Douglas."
  • "My nephew's initials are F.I.R.M. However, his surname is Morgan so when older he will be writing FIR Morgan."
  • "Don't forget what your surname is. Why on earth people choose names like Peter Peterson is beyond me. Also acronyms - Alex Samuel Benjamin Olivers sounds lovely but spells out ASBO."
  • "I advise everyone not to discuss probable name choices in real life (MN is, of course, allowed) as someone will always say 'yuck, I know so and so with that name' or say something that could put you off a name. Much better to keep your name to yourself and announce it once the baby is born, people can't try and sway you then."

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Last updated: about 11 hours ago