If you’re on the hunt for the perfect name, here are 7 expert tips to choose a baby name you’ll love ~ now and forever.
1. Start Your Baby Name Search Early
Name choices are subjective. Some name loves are fleeting, while others will stay with you. Once you’ve made a preliminary choice, give yourself enough time to let it sink in. Your baby will be wearing their name for life, so picking it early gives you enough time to make sure you still like it a month or two, and know it’s truly a lasting love.
2. Be Open to Compromise with Your Partner
Sometimes parents aren’t on the same page when it comes to baby names. If this is the case with your partner, then try to be open to compromise.
Start by making concessions about which names are absolutely off limits. Obvious choices would be names with which each of you has a negative association: people who you didn’t get along with in school, exes, mean bosses, and any other name with an overly negative association.
Sometimes people come into a relationship with a list of names they’ve loved for many years, long before they knew the person they would be raising children with. It can be difficult if one of these cherished names gets vetoed by your partner. It can feel like a chunk of your dream being cut away. However, it’s important to remember that you are building a family together and that both parents need to love and agree upon the final choice.
You may have a little more wiggle room in the middle name (maybe this is where you can resurface that cherished name), but the first name is pretty cut and dry. Parents will either love the name, or they won’t, and if one of them doesn’t, it won’t be a good choice.
If you have your heart set on a particular name that your partner doesn’t like, don’t push too hard. Keep searching and have the confidence that there’s a perfect name out there that you will both love. There are plenty of options, and you just haven’t found the right one yet.
3. Set the Direction of your Search
As you and your partner start to make this important decision, it can be helpful to set some parameters around the search. Discuss what names you like to help find common ground. Maybe there are certain qualities in length or style that appeal to you both. Maybe you’ve found a letter that you both agree will make an excellent first initial.
As you have this discussion, here are some important points to consider:
i) Is Personal Significance Important to You?
Discuss whether you or your partner has a family tradition to honor. Do you want to name your baby after a loved one from the past? Are you hoping to choose a name based on a particular meaning or a quality you are hoping to see embodied in your child? Is a name that reflects your family’s ethnic or cultural background important to you?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help narrow down your search later, when you start to look at specific lists and types of names.
ii) What Types of Baby Names do you Like?
This can be a tough question to answer. After all, it’s not every day that we categorize names. We just know what we like because we like it!
However, if you start to think about the names you like the best, you will likely find some connections between them. Do you tend to be attracted to names that are unique or more popular? Unusual names or traditional ones? Long, flowing names or short, simple ones? There are so many names to choose from, and knowing what qualities you like will help you find the best choices as you move forward.
Often, you’ll have an immediate reaction to certain trends in names. For example, there’s a growing trend in the United States of people choosing unisex names. When you hear these names, you are likely to have an immediate reaction. You’ll either love them or hate them. There’s usually not much gray area.
If either you or your partner is opposed to a particular type of name, don’t waste your time arguing about it. Turn your attention to the types of names you both like. This will minimize frustration and keep your search moving forward.
iii) Spelling and Pronunciation of a Name
One way to narrow down the types of baby names you’d like to consider is by thinking about the practical elements of the name. Spelling and pronunciation are major qualities of a name, and they are worth considering carefully.
Some people are looking for a baby name that is easy to spell and straightforward to pronounce. Other people search for a baby name that is more unique, or has a variation of a common spelling.
4. Don’t Ask the Advice of Family and Friends
Contrary to popular belief, don’t ask the advice of family and friends!
It can be really tempting to search out the advice of family and friends. After all, this is an important decision, and important decisions are usually made easier through input and guidance.
However, naming choices are personal and subjective. Each person you talk to is going to have their own list of negative associations based on personal experiences that may have little to do with you. If you enlist the help of others, it can feel like everyone is trying to change your mind. Getting negative feedback could leave you feeling doubtful about an excellent choice.
You may worry that the people who are closest to your baby should all love the name, but if a loved one dislikes it, once they get to know your bundle of joy they’ll eventually grow to love their name.
If you suspect that there will be debate and efforts to influence your choice, then you can wait until after the baby is born to announce the name. Once the birth certificate has been completed, very few people will criticize the choice. Even if they don’t like it, they’ll often bite their tongue out of respect and recognition that the choice was not theirs to make.
Names are incredibly personal, and it’s important to remember that this decision is ultimately up to you and your partner.
5. Search as many Baby Names as Possible
Just because you shouldn’t solicit the feedback of family and friends doesn’t mean you have to do your naming in a vacuum. Spend your time searching as many baby names as possible. Casting a wide net is the best way to ensure you find names you love, and get a sense of what fits your family.
In these early stages of name gathering, it’s best to NOT collaborate with your partner. If you both research names independently from one another, you will each develop a strong sense of what kinds of names you personally like.
Ideally, each parent should aim to create a shortlist of names that appeal to them. This can be a “Top 10” or “Top 20” list that you will bring to your partner.
6. Take Turns Reading your Shortlists to each other
You’ve each got your shortlists created. Congratulations! That was a big step. Now it’s time for the fun part!
Set aside some uninterrupted time. Better yet, make a date night out of it! It’s time to sit down and discuss your choices.
Take turns and read your list of baby names to each other. Be sure to read the names out loud. There’s something special about hearing your partner say the potential future name of your baby. You can better imagine them saying it in just a few short months when you meet your baby for the first time.
A word of warning: You’re probably not going to like all your partner’s choices. It’s just the nature of this process. It’s okay if you bristle at some of their choices and wonder what they’re thinking.
Remember ~ you only have to agree on ONE name!
While reading aloud your shortlists, compare and discuss the overlap and differences in your naming choices.
During this process you will naturally narrow down your selection even further. Combine your top selections into a joint shortlist of potential baby names.
Once the list has been developed, test each baby name option using the following tools:
7. Test your Baby Names
i) How does the Name Sound when Spoken Out Loud?
Say the name out loud. Several times. Imagine calling this name out across a crowded playground to get the attention of your rambunctious toddler. Imagine the name being called by your kid’s friends. Think about how the name will sound when your child introduces themselves in years to come. The name will need to fit all these situations.
Say the first name on its own. Then say the full name. Do the first and last names sound good together? Consider how they flow. You cannot judge the first name in isolation of the last name because your child is going to encounter many situations where both names appear together. Make sure you like the sound of the full name.
ii) How does the Name Look when Written Down?
A name will appear very often (and more permanently) in writing. From homework to resumes to wedding invitations to contracts, your child will be associated with their printed name over and over again. Be sure to test out how it looks.
Write the first name on its own, and then write it down with the last name, and finally the full name. Make sure that you like the way the name appears in written form.
iii) Is the Name Joke-Worthy?
For just a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a 9-year-old. This is prime ‘silly joke’ age. Think about ridiculous nicknames, unfortunate rhymes, possible puns, and ways the name could be shortened.
Of course, there’s no name in the world that’s completely joke-proof. Kids can be mean over just about anything. However, take a few moments to consider the joke factor of your chosen name. This can help you avoid an obvious problem in the future.
iv) Check the Initials and Shortened Abbreviations
Another factor to consider is the initials of the name. See if the initials spell something out. There are some unfortunate three-letter combinations that you’ll want to avoid because of their negative associations.
In addition, you’ll need to consider the common abbreviations of a name. Even if you insist on using your child’s full given name, the name is almost certainly going to be shortened at some point in the future.
James is a good, solid, traditional name, but its nicknames include “Jimmy,” “Jim,” and “Jimbo,”. Isabella is a strong, regal name, but “Izzy” and “Bella” take on different feels. Katherine will likely be known as “Katie” or “Kat” at some point, and Charlotte may have to accept “Lottie”.
Be sure that you have considered these likely nicknames from the beginning to avoid frustration with them later.
v) How Will the Name Age?
You are giving this name to a teeny-tiny baby, but you are also giving it to the child and adult that baby will become. Make sure you pick a name that will grow with your child.
Many names are cute for infants and toddlers but start to sound too cutesy or juvenile as the child gets older. Try to picture your child going by this name as a teenager. Will this name set your child up for success when they graduate college and apply for jobs?
How will the name look at the top of their resume or CV? How will it sound in a busy Starbucks when the barista calls the name out in front of 50 people?
vi) Check the Meaning of the Name
As Wikihow wisely points out, all names have a meaning. For example, the Latin translation of “Portia,” an exotic and beautiful sounding girl’s name, is actually the less-than-graceful “pig”.
Make sure you research the full meaning behind the names on your shortlist. The internet is an excellent resource that can give you the historical and linguistic context behind your chosen name.
You don’t have to necessarily love the meaning behind a name, but once you’ve chosen a baby name, it’s wise to check the formal meaning of the name to make sure it’s not a deal breaker.
vii) How will the Name Fit with Siblings?
If you already have children, will this new name fit into your existing family dynamic? Many people like to choose sibling names that are similar in style or even sound. Say the names out loud, and make sure they sound good together.
viii) Check existing Name Associations
There’s still one more step. You need to Google it.
That’s right. Type your baby’s potential name into Google and see what the search results reveal.
Try just the first name, but also try your baby’s full name. Check to see if there is anyone famous with the same name, or if there are negative associations unknown to you. Searching for the name will help you make sure it isn’t associated with some infamous dictator, adult movie star, or serial killer!
If your baby names pass these tests, check to find out if you’ve chosen the perfect name:
How you know you’ve found the Perfect Baby Name?
The ideal baby name should jump out at you. It might not be instant, but it should definitely send an ‘a-ha’ feeling through the air. Most importantly, you should both love it. That’s how you will know that you have found the truly perfect name.
If you go through both lists and don’t find a name that you both love, don’t despair! That’s just a sign that you need to go back to the drawing board and start the fun all over again. (See why we said you should start this process early?).
After you’ve gone through both lists, you’ve probably found some overlap in styles that you both like. Maybe you are both drawn to a starting letter, or a certain category of name. This can help you create a new shortlist with a better chance of finding the lucky name.
All that time isn’t necessarily wasted, either. You may be able to find your child’s middle name on this list.
Most of all good luck, and happy baby name hunting!
Let us know in the comments below how you found the perfect baby name!