Pitfalls to Watch for When Naming Your Baby

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Finding a suitable name for our precious baby-to-be was an exhilarating process. We would be giving our child something to carry for the rest of their life and knew most people consider their name part of their identity later in life.

Whether you’re thinking of honoring loved ones who passed away, finding a name that has a deep meaning, or just want something original, there are pitfalls to watch for when naming your baby.

Just Too Popular

When searching for names you may like, some names may get stuck in your head because of the sound or how cute they are. Be sure to check for popularity online. Most countries have a database that shows name-popularity over time.

Did you pick a name that is already very popular or on the rise? You may want to consider a change then. A classroom with five Eva’s isn’t only annoying for your child, the teacher and the other four will also be grateful if you chose another name.

Impossible Spelling or Pronunciation

You may like the sound of a name so much, but come to see it’s too popular. Some people consider adding, removing, or juggling around with letters that give the same sound, but still have some originality. Remember that in class or on the playground, this doesn’t make a difference, as it still sounds the same.

Trying to be over-original may also lead to the impossible pronunciation of your little one’s name.  “Saoirse,” for example, may break many people’s heads and tongues, and your child may curse you for giving her such a hard name. By the way, it’s pronounced “Sur-sha.”

Consider the ease of spelling and pronunciation for others to avoid the annoyance of  correcting people for life or for people never remembering the spelling or their name altogether.

Play Around With Initials

Owen Frank Fairfield is a very normal name until you take the initials into account. Alison Sophia Sanders may hate her parents for not thinking of this, as much as Tabitha Iris Townsend would. Consider initials when naming your baby to avoid embarrassment later on.

Another thing to consider is the initial of the first name(s) in combination with the full last name. Placing initials before or after the last name is a very common email procedure for many universities and companies and having to ask people to email dick@whatever.com when your name is Damian Ick is a bit tricky. Or think of poor Denise Ying with dying@uni.com or John Erkins… You get the point.

Look Into Meanings

After selecting a few names you like, you may want to spend some time online researching their meanings. As their name will often be part of their identity, you won’t want to set your child up with any weird or negative connotation.

Names like Mallory or derivatives actually mean “unlucky.” Adrean, Andre, or derivatives refer to “darkness” or “dark man.” Of course, the total meaning of combined names might change completely, but doing some investigations on where names are coming from will avoid disappointment later.

Sibling Name Pairing

If your baby-to-be has siblings, try combining their names to call for them, as in “Faye! Vicky! Time for dinner!” If the combination sounds good, perfect. The combination of Justin and Casey sounds a little different, though it may be funny.

Also consider the fact that very traditional names combined with very hip names might not work so well, like with Beatrice and Rainbow. Try both their names individually as in the first example or by adding “and” between them, as that may give a sound or meaning you hadn’t foreseen. It’s likely you will be mentioning or calling your children’s names in pairs a lot, so try saying them in pairs out loud to hear what it sounds like.


Nickname Predictions

A longer name may call for a shorter nickname rather soon, either within the family or at school. You may try to prevent it, but eventually, it will happen.

The most common and likely shortening of your baby’s name could, however, sound funny when combined with your last name. One of our favorite names was Kaylin for our baby girl, but Kay Howard said fast sounds somewhat like “coward,” so we dropped it.

While Elizabeth Fizz sounds perfectly normal, Liz Fizz almost sounds like a nursery rhyme, just as Theodore Head becoming Ted Head. If you’re looking to honor a loved one, you can also consider using their name as a middle name or using the shorter version as the main name to make it sound less traditional.

Your Child, You Choose

Being enthusiastic about names you’ve found is normal, but you can feel discouraged when sharing your favorites with others. Your brother may have had a teacher with that name he hated; your mother may feel the name is too hip and prefer more traditional names.

You can’t please everyone, so best would be to keep the name to yourself until you are absolutely sure or even until the baby is born. Eventually, everyone will get used to it, whether they like it or not.

Famous or Infamous

When I was pregnant with my first child, my partner and I chose the name for our little boy we both loved. Not long before giving birth, a rather infamous politician came to the stage, with the same name. Neither of us could align his ideas with ours so we decided we didn’t want our child to carry that name anymore.

Choosing a name that is famous can also work both ways. Giving your child a name from a book or movie you love or naming it after a famous person may cause you or your child to forever explain where the name came from.

You may also want to check whether the name you chose already exists in that combination, either in the present or in history. You’ll want to avoid naming your baby accidentally after an infamous mass murderer or bank robber.

Go With Your Gut

It may be virtually impossible to pick a name that is completely fail-proof, but keeping these tips in mind will dramatically decrease the chance of ending up with an unforeseen blooper.

If you love your chosen name and you feel confident shouting it across the park, it matches sibling’s names, and doesn’t create weird or embarrassing email addresses, it may not be the end of the world if the initials spell P.E.T. Just go with your gut feeling when naming your baby and see what resonates most.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.