Things to consider when choosing a baby name and what to avoid

Choosing a baby name and what to avoid

How to choose a baby name: Things you need to know

There are many things to consider when choosing a baby name, and you’ll probably start thinking about them soon after you find out you are pregnant (or even before)!

With thousands of baby names to choose from, where do you start? Ranging from trendy, popular, unique and quirky, to sophisticated, classic and elegant. The list seems endless.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission should you choose to sign up for something or make a purchase using links I endorse (at no extra cost to you).

The last thing you want is to name your baby something you will bitterly regret later. Coming up with a name requires a lot of thought, and it’s a bit of a process. Naming your child is a big responsibility; it is a huge part of their identity.

There are lots of things to consider when choosing a baby name. Here are some top tips to help you pick the perfect name, along with what to avoid when choosing a baby name.

Where to find baby names

You may have a name already in mind, perhaps one that you’ve had your heart set on for many years. If not, there are plenty of name lists online, or get yourself a baby names book.

Think about family names. Is there someone living or who has passed on that means/meant a lot to you? Would you love to name your baby after a parent or grandparent? Perhaps even delve deeper and take a look at your family tree for inspiration.

Other sources of inspiration can be cultural, religious, spiritual, historical, or even related to the weather, seasons and nature. You could also consider place names that have sentimental meaning to you. 

Choosing your baby’s middle name

You may be stumped when it comes to choosing a middle name, after all, deciding on a first name is challenging enough. You could have more than one middle name, and it is OK to not give your child a middle name at all, but most people do.

Often the middle name is inspired by a family member, and it is very personal and meaningful to honour them in this way. But this does not have to be the case. You can choose a middle name simply because you love it.

A middle name also gives your child an alternative name to use later in life instead of their first name, if they decide they are not overly keen on their first name (perhaps for work purposes). After all, it is their name!

You could even turn the first and middle names into a double name, making it double barrelled with a hyphen. Short syllable first names and one syllable middle names can work well together. For example Alfie-James, Ella-Rose.

Choosing the first name, middle name and surname

Think about how the first name fits with the middle name and surname. Do they go together well? Do they ‘flow’ nicely together? Or is it a bit of a tongue-twister to say them out loud?

Most importantly, you need to think about how the first name goes with the baby’s surname, as the middle name may end up only be used for official administrative purposes. You might not like the way the first name and surname sound together; they may rhyme, or they just might not have a good ‘ring’ to them.

For example, if you have a short syllable first name and a short syllable surname, putting the names together could sound a bit dull and boring. In this case, a long syllable first name could be a nice balance, and vice versa.

Whose last name does the baby get? What surname does a baby take when parents are not married? Lots of people choose to give their baby the father’s surname, but you can choose the mother’s surname, or any last name for your baby you like.

Do you like your baby’s initials?

Your baby’s initials are not massively important, but this is something easily overlooked. What do the initials look like together? Do you like them? Do they spell out something you don’t like?

Some people even call their children by their initials if they sound good together, for example ‘Amelia Jane’ (AJ), ‘James Patrick’ (JP).

Do your child’s initials spell out something funny or even slightly rude or embarrassing that could cause your child to be mocked by others, especially at school? When considering this, include the initials of potential middle names.

Probably not names you would pick, but for example, the initials of ‘Bella Ursula Morgan’ spell ‘BUM’. ‘Andrew Simon Stewart’ spells ‘ASS’, ‘Benjamin James’, well let’s not go there. Just something to think about. There are some initials to avoid when naming a baby. 

Baby name meanings

The meaning, history and origin of your baby’s name may be important to you. For example, you might be keen to give your child a name with a religious, spiritual, cultural or astrological meaning, such as Gabriel, Trinity, Leo or Venus.

Conversely, some names have strange or negative meanings that you may not want associated with your child. For example, did you know that the name ‘Cecily’ means ‘blind’ and ‘Byron’ means ‘barn for cows’? (According to Nameberry.)

At the end of the day, if you love a name, the ‘meaning’ shouldn’t matter. If the meaning is important to you, look it up in the newly revised 100,000+ Baby Names book by Bruce Lansky.

Browsing lists of trending and popular baby names can be a useful source of inspiration. But it can also be a hindrance. Depending on how popular your potential name is at a given time, you may end up with a name that is chosen by lots of other people.

For example, at the time of writing, the names Olivia, Emma, Noah and Liam are the top baby names of 2023 (according to Babycenter).

Names have a habit of going in and out of fashion, a bit like clothing. Names can even become trendy because of famous people and film characters, such as Elsa, Ariana, and Elvis. What is trending at the current time, may not be in fashion in a few years time.

Or you could decide on a ‘classic’ name that will never go out of style and will always fit in for its time, rather than something currently trendy and popular. For example, James, Elizabeth, George and Henry are all considered classics (although some people may consider them somewhat ‘old-fashioned’).

Creative and unique spellings of common baby names

So you’ve decided on a name, and it occurs to you to give it a unique edge by spelling it slightly differently to how it’s typically spelled, or by giving it some unusual punctuation. Think about this carefully.

If you spell it differently, it may sound the same, but you may be condemning your child to a life of constantly having to correct other people for pronouncing and spelling their name wrong.

You might think you are being creative and unique with your spelling, but is it really worth it? For example, Emmalee (Emily), Izobel (Isabelle), and Rylee (Riley) all sound the same, but this could cause your child a lifetime of misspellings, because most people are used to spelling and pronouncing them a certain way.

Does your chosen baby name sound good?

How does your baby name sound? Do you like the way the name sounds when you say it out loud? After all, this is a name you will be speaking aloud many, many times every day.

Would you be comfortable shouting it down the street while your toddler is running off, or shouting it out while you’re cheering your child on at sports day? Can you imagine your adult child’s name being called out when they graduate from university?

If there are siblings or step siblings, consider how your baby’s potential name fits in with theirs. Do they sound good together or a bit ridiculous e.g. Bill and Ben The Flower Pot Men? Do they rhyme? Are they a mouthful when spoken together? You will frequently be saying their names together.

Will your baby have a cute and funny nickname?

Are there nicknames and shortened versions of the name you don’t like, that could be used by jesting family members or other children? Some nicknames are unfortunate, possibly even rude, that may prove uncomfortable for your child at school or in the workplace.

Or, the opposite may be true. You may choose a name because you love the name and the nickname, and will most likely use the nickname instead of the actual name. In which case you’ve got the best of both worlds. For example, the name Elizabeth has seemingly endless possibilities for nicknames, including Lizzy, Liz, Beth, Betty, Ellie, Eliza and many more.

Even if you plan on using the nickname all of the time, consider registering your baby with the ‘official’ full name so you always have a choice. For example, if you officially name your baby ‘Tommy’, he can never be called ‘Thomas’, whereas ‘Thomas’ can be shortened to ‘Tommy’ or ‘Tom’ whenever you like.

Uncommon, unique and quirky baby names

You may decide you want an unusual, uncommon name, or even make one up yourself to be different. But as with ‘out of the ordinary’ spellings, you should give this serious thought.

Your child will be asked their name in all sorts of different situations, for as long as they live. Imagine having to constantly repeat and explain your name for the rest of your life. It could become somewhat tedious and boring, and your child may not thank you for it in the long run.

You may think an unusual, quirky name makes your child unique and special (which of course they are anyway), but other people may have never heard of it and it will just confuse them. They will always ask how to spell it, how to pronounce it and what it means.

Take your time choosing a baby name if you can’t decide

After your baby is born, you may suddenly feel the name you had in mind doesn’t quite suit them. You can wait to name your baby. At the time of writing, in the UK you get 42 days (6 weeks) to register the birth, so there is no rush to decide on a name.

If you are unsure of the name, just let the name ‘sit’ for a while to give yourself time to think of something else if you want to. Plenty of people don’t actually choose a name for their baby for days, even weeks after he or she is born.

Have a shortlist of names ready, and decide which suits your baby best when you have had a chance to get to know their personality. You may even decide they look like a name you had never even considered!

Should you tell people your baby name or keep it a secret?

Consider keeping your chosen baby name to yourself before your baby is born, in case someone else steals it! Also, it is very disheartening to tell someone the baby name you have your heart set on, only to have them mock your choice or give you a look of disapproval.

You may have firmly decided on a name and if someone gives the impression they don’t like it, it could make you doubt your choice. It shouldn’t. It does not matter if someone else likes or dislikes the name. If it feels right to you, stick with it!

If you do decide to tell someone your chosen name and they don’t like it, don’t take it to heart or change your mind. They will get over it, they will soon get used to it, and quickly forget they ever disliked it.

If you want to keep your baby’s name a secret, then do so. If you want to wait until there is a face to go with the name, then you have every right to do so. Ignore the pestering from excited family members who can’t wait, they will find out soon enough!

A baby name is for life

Keep in mind you are not just choosing a baby name, you are choosing a grown up person’s name as well. A baby’s name is not just for an infant, it is for life. A name that’s scrummy and cute may seem like a good fit for a small cuddly baby, but does it have the same appeal for a teenager or fully grown human being who is trying to find their feet in the workplace?

It is your baby who has to live with the name you choose for the rest of their life – as a school child, teenager, student, adult, work colleague, friend, partner, parent and hopefully well into old age. Will the name still suit them throughout their adult life?

For example, the name ‘Bunny’ may not look that good on a CV and could be overlooked straight away by a potential employer. What if your child wants to become a doctor, lawyer or police officer? Your adult child may find it difficult to get taken seriously in their chosen profession if their name sounds a bit ‘silly’.

Choosing a baby name

Choosing a name is one of the first difficult decisions you have to make on behalf of your child. The last thing you want is to choose a baby name you end up regretting.

So now you know the important things to consider when choosing a baby name, and what to avoid. To make sure you make a good job of choosing a name for your child, think about the following points:

  • Where to find baby names
  • Choosing your baby’s middle name
  • Choosing the first name, middle name and surname
  • Do you like your baby’s initials?
  • Baby name meanings
  • Most popular and top trending baby names
  • Creative and unique spellings of common baby names
  • Does your baby name sound good?
  • Will your baby have a cute and funny nickname?
  • Uncommon, unique and quirky baby names
  • Take your time choosing a baby name if you can’t decide
  • Should you tell people your baby name or keep it a secret?
  • A baby name is for life

Other essentials your baby needs (apart from a name)!

Like this page? Share it with your friends!

Choosing a baby name: pick the perfect name