Laura Anderson Kirby, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist at a private practice in Chapel Hill, N.C., with years of experience providing evaluations and therapy for children and adolescents. She has broad training in child clinical psychology.
Marley Hall is a writer and fact-checker who is certified in clinical and translational research. Her work has been published in medical journals in the field of surgery, and she has received numerous awards for publication in education.
When you find out that you're going to have a baby, choosing a name may be one of the first things you think about. It is a big decision, after all! Getting started with the initial name brainstorm can feel overwhelming, and narrowing down your list may prove difficult. It's important to choose a name that you love and will be happy calling your child for years to come. Reading about the meaning, origins, and popularity of different baby names is a good way to get started on your quest to choose the best name for your little one.
You can name your baby anything you'd like, but there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the perfect name. First, you may want your baby's name to have some kind of significance to you. Consider names from your family's cultural heritage or name your baby after a historical figure you look up to. You may choose a name based on meaning or because you like the way it rolls of your tongue. You might also consider what your baby's full initials will be and what possible not-so-nice nicknames might be associated with their name (and avoid them!).
The name you choose for your baby may shape parts of their personality, though it's hard to say how much. Outside perception of a name can have an impact on how a child develops. For example, research indicates that people with names that are easier to pronounce confer truthiness, or are assumed to be more credible than those with harder to pronounce names. Additionally, how teachers pronounce students' names can have a negative effect on that student's identity. Whether the mispronunciation was accidental or not, kids might feel embarrassed or shame surrounding their language or culture. These experiences can in turn influence your child's character.
Choosing a baby name can take plenty of time and thought, so it may be a good idea to start brainstorming as soon as you find out you are going to have a baby. Some parents may want to wait until they learn the baby's sex to come up with names. Others go with gender-neutral names. You may want to narrow down your list sometime during the third trimester, or as you get within a few months of finalizing an adoption. You can wait until you see your child's face for the first time if you'd like, but it's a good idea to have a few ideas listed out before that point.
When choosing a baby name, think forward into the future. A name that sounds cute for a child but wouldn't be so cute for an adult may not be the best choice, for example. You may want to avoid names that put an unnecessary burden on your child. Depending on where you live, there may be laws forbidding certain name aspects, like profanities or the use of numbers of symbols in a name's spelling. Use your judgment to decide whether a baby name is appropriate for your child.
Nicknames aren't necessarily bad, but it's important to pay attention to how your child responds to their nickname. If they respond positively, it's likely fine to continue calling them that. But if they respond negatively when called by their nickname or ask you to stop, it's important to respect their decision. As they grow, nicknames do have the possibility to negatively affect a child's self-image.
If your child's nickname is a shortened version of their full name, such as Nick for Nicholas or Ellie for Eleanor, it's unlikely to do any harm. But, pet names like Cookie or Smalls may not carry over as well into middle childhood, when your child needs to create a more grown-up self-image.
If you want to wait until you have looked into your new baby's eyes to name them, you can. You can even wait a little longer until you have gotten to know them a bit. But, before you leave the hospital, you will most likely have to submit the paperwork for your child's birth certificate. At that point, you'll need something to write on the line.
You don't need to come into the labor and delivery unit with a name ready, but you should have a few ideas prepared. Brainstorming names that you like or that have significance to you and weeding out names that just don't sound right may take the pressure off when it's time to make the final decision.
A name's origin describes the region of the world that it first came from. Many common names have Greek, Hebrew, or Latin origins, though names can originate from anywhere. Some parents may opt to give their child a name that has a specific or meaningful origin, while others may focus on the name itself rather than where it originated.
Vintage names are names that were popular about 40 to 50 years in the past. You may like vintage names for their historic charm or you may want to name your child after an ancestor you admire. Vintage names often make a comeback and become popular again after a couple of generations. Vintage names that we are starting to see again include Arthur, Everett, Nora, and Ophelia.
Winter names draw their inspiration from—you guessed it—the season of winter. You may choose a winter name if your baby is born in December, January, or February, or maybe you love everything about snow and winter. Winter-inspired name ideas include Christian, Forrest, Gloria, and Jack.
You might want to choose a fall-inspired name for your baby if you enjoy watching the leaves change colors and feeling that slight chill in the air that tells you Autumn has arrived. Fall is one of the most distinctive seasons, defined by pumpkins, cozy scarves, and mugs of hot cocoa. Popular fall baby names include Amber, Hazel, Rowan, and of course, Autumn.
Spring baby names can be the names of flowers, like Daisy; small animals, like Fawn; or anything that celebrates the newness and the greenness of a perfect spring day. These happy and bright names tend to be loved by many parents, no matter which season their baby is born in. Popular spring baby names include April, Freya, Hunter, and River.
Summer baby names evoke the languorous feelings of the hottest season. Their meanings may relate to the sun, the heat, or the sea. Popular summer baby names include Dayton, Eden, Leo, and of course, Summer.
Newman EJ, Sanson M, Miller EK, Quigley-McBride A, Foster JL, Bernstein DM, Garry M. People with easier to pronounce names promote truthiness of claims. PloS one. 2014;9(2):e88671. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088671
National Education Association. The lasting impact of mispronouncing students' names.
US Birth Certificates. US naming laws by state.
Child Research Net. The social effects of nicknames - papers & essays.
Social Security Administration. Popular baby names.