Baby names - meanings and trends
Choosing your baby's name is one of the parts of pregnancy that, on first glance, seems the most enjoyable. However, the more you think about it, the more you realise it is a path beset with traps. From playground meanies to being taken seriously as an adult – or even being one of 20 “Olivers” in the class, here are the pitfalls to watch out for
Whether it's your first or fourth baby, all parents wrestle with choosing a name. There are a huge number of considerations to take into account when naming your new bundle of joy – from what your baby's name actually means, to whether it will make your (slightly snobby) granny clutch her pearls.
While it's very easy to be certain about the names you don't like, finding the name that's right for your baby can seem an impossible task. And even when you have chosen, you can be pretty sure that others will judge you on your choice (possibly what makes it so darned hard to choose in the first place).
So how can you be sure that you've picked a name that doesn't mean “malodorous” in Arabic (it's “karih alrrayiha” in case you're interested), or will make your child unemployable 18 years from now? Fear not – we've come up with a guide to help you navigate the murky world of monikers.
How to choose my baby's name
Like most things in life, baby names are subject to the whims of fashion. Think for a second – when did you last meet a baby called Gary or Kevin? And, conversely, just how many baby Olivers and Amelias have you met in the last six months? Probably quite a few – both names have topped the charts for the most popular baby names in the last few years running.
The most popular names of the year are undoubtedly popular for a reason, but before you follow suit, think of the practicalities of giving your child one of the trendiest names of the year. Will they be sat in a classroom of 10 other kids called Thomas? Sometimes, striking out on one's own is a good thing.
The popularity of TV shows such as Game of Thrones has spawned a number of Khaleesis and Aryas, and it is currently very much en vogue to name your child after your favourite book character, so don’t be shocked when little Timmy invites Atticus and Aramis round for tea.
And then there are those pesky celebrities to take into consideration – name your son Tom Hardy and you’ll want to pray that boy has good genes. Others, such as Adolf and Beelzebub, are obvious no-gos. Of course, a sudden rise to popularity is not always predictable, so naming your baby will always carry some degree of risk. But you can certainly mitigate it by not calling your son Harry if your surname's Potter, or Michael if you're a Jackson.
Unusual baby names (and why you should probably avoid them)I love Giselle, but we live in France and here it is the equivalent of Ethel.
Like most things in life, choosing a name for your baby girl or boy is a question of balance. While you probably don't want to go too far into the popular bandwagon camp, you also don’t want to venture too far from the tribe and into the Unknown. Unless you're a celebrity, choosing an unusual name for your baby is generally a big fat no-no. Keep yourself in check here. You might well have “found yourself” on a yoga mat in Goa, but rein in that spiritual awakening for just a second. If you give your child a really unusual name, 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. This goes for arcane, mythical names too – take note, future parents of Ptolemy, Nefertiti and Ichabod.
But here'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. This is definitely a case of “sooner rather than later” – remember, you can always change your mind further down the line when it occurs to you, mid night-feed, that Kal-El is actually more of a Kevin.
“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.”
Strictly speaking, there's nowt wrong with an unusual name, 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 a unique name like Kiwi Fruit Moonbat. The rest of us will have to make do with merely sniggering behind your back – or, for the very brave, opting instead for Star or Bear. If you live somewhere with a predominantly English population, Gaelic names might cause a problem, however beautiful they might be. Any Saoirses and Grainnes who live in Basingstoke reading this will now be nodding vigorously.
“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)!”
“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. If I have another child it will be called Sam (boy or girl). No spelling variations – and I don't think it can be pronounced wrong either.”
Most 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 nomenclature fad. Traditional names are always a safe option – they're traditional for a reason. They are as close to a cast-iron guarantee that you can get that the baby's name will “grow” with them.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 it then the 'mystique' of that name disappears.
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 so on) and the sound 'ee' (Ellie, Evie, Lily, Ruby).
If you're worried, hang around playgrounds or Tesco on a Saturday morning to see which names get shrieked the most. Alternatively, it's worth checking out the top baby names for the last few years – but bear in mind your child might end up being one of many.
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. The same applies for names such as Harley and Chardonnay. Is there a trashy Z-list sleb whom you regard with particular contempt? Loath though you may be to do it, check what they have called their children.In Scotland they can refuse to register a name if it is inflammatory, contentious or just plain daft.
Mumsnetters don't take too kindly to brand names, nor do they favour unusual spellings of ordinary names, such as Rilee, Jaxon, Destinee, Tshauna – the list is as long as your arm. The best way around this is to put yourself in your child's shoes and imagine a scenario where they have to spell their name for someone in a doctor's surgery, for example. If they have to spell it out because you “got creative” when they were 3 weeks postpartum, then it's probably not the best idea to use it.
You may not care that your choice of name calls to mind a Daily Mail-reading, pro-hunting chairman of the local Rotary Club, or a salesman of dodgy motors. But it's worth considering, and your kids will thank you.
What does my baby's name mean?
Think you've found the perfect name but want to check it doesn't mean swinging fanjo in Swahili? Google it. Some names actually mean something else entirely (parents of a prospective Candida would be advised to check out the NHS website first).
So that's the issues of popularity, meaning and trends covered – now you need to check our practical baby naming tips. Think about how it goes with your surname and whether your MIL will settle for a nod to her side of the family in the form of a middle name. Whether you are already convinced you've found The One, or are still floundering in baby name purgatory, consult our Baby Name Finder for inspiration and advice, and to make damn sure your future offspring will fit in at Fortnums as seamlessly as a well-chosen Farrow and Ball colour scheme. Once you've made a shortlist, you might want to think about running your shortlist past other Mumsnetters on our baby names forum.
Quotes from Mumsnetters on how to choose your baby's name
“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 à la EastEnders – Blaiyyyse! Urgh!”
“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.”
“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.”
“I often used to have correspondence with someone called Comfort Golightly. Once I had to pick something up from that office and was surprised to discover that Comfort was a man! I don't know why, but Comfort Golightly is such a 'soft' girly name!”