How to Choose the Perfect Baby Name
Go to any parenting website and you will find list after list of potential baby names, including—but not limited to!—lists for families who “like to rock,” top 100 lists, and lists of names that are “rarely used but beautiful.” This is not that. Instead of listing names for you, I’m going to take you on a journey that is sure to result in you arriving at the perfect name for that sweet babe-on-the-way.
Consider the name’s meaning
You might simply want a name you love. Or you might want to dive a little deeper and choose one that has a nice meaning: “Meghan,” for example, means “pearl,” and yes I am a pearl, thank you. You may want to honor a beloved family member, choose a name that has been traditionally used in your family, or one that has a special significance—middle names are great for this.
Choosing a name that is compatible with your language background and your partner’s language background may also be a consideration; this tool can help with that. Think about what is important to you (or not important) in a name to help you start narrowing down your options.
Remember this is a popularity contest you don’t want to win
For a while, my son’s three best friends were Matthew S., Matthew C. and Matt. And, look, Matthew is a very nice name—I have nothing against any Matthews, there are just too many of them, is all. This is where those “popular baby names” lists do come in handy—look up a few and take note of what you don’t want to name your child, lest they be one of four with the same name in their kindergarten class.
Fun story: Even certain syllables can, apparently, become popular. A few years ago, in my son’s first grade class, there was an Aiden, a Jayden, a Jaden, a Hayden, and a Reagan (and Matthew S.). So you might want to consider not just the name itself, but also all the other popular names it might rhyme with.
Be careful, too, about choosing a “unique” name inspired by pop culture. You’re not the only one thinking that “Arya” is a pretty badass name for a little baby girl.
If you already have one (or more) children
If this is a second (or higher) baby, you are not just testing out how one name looks, feels, and sounds—that is a luxury reserved for first-time parents. Now you have to make sure the name is not just lovely on its own, but also coordinates nicely with your other kids’ names.
To test this out, close your eyes and imagine your kids are a bit older—say, 7, 10, and 12 years old. You’re trying to get out the door—in fact, you’re already late!—but where are they and what is taking them so long? You yell up the stairs to their bedrooms: “Riley, Hayley, Bailey, let’s go!” No, no, that won’t do. That is way too sing-songy, a combination you are sure to regret. What about “Samuel, Alexandra, Veronica, we’re late!” Good lord, that took you so long to say, you’re even more late now. The perfect combination will flow and will be a bit snappy, without being too cutesy.
It also has to pair nicely with their last name
The importance of the first name-last name combination cannot be overstated. I will drop this list of very unfortunate names right here as an example of the most egregious of errors, which hopefully you would not make, but again, flow is key. If you’ve got a very long last name, a shorter first name might be the way to go (or vice-versa). You probably don’t want the names to rhyme—Amelia Bedelia is better off remaining fictional. And you’ll want to be careful of alliteration; who wants to introduce themself as “Brad Brown” their whole life? (Say it out loud, it’s no good.)
You’ll also want to consider any potential nicknames. William Schrilley isn’t bad, but “Billy Schrilley”? Don’t do that to him. Imagine your baby as a grown person who is attending a professional networking event, during which they must stick their hand out and introduce themselves multiple times. Have you given them a name combination they can be proud to declare?
Absolutely do not ask for outside opinions
Do you know why you should keep this to yourself until you have decided, for sure, on the name? Because someone will not like it. They will have worked with a Ben who was an asshole or went to middle school with a Carly who picked on them, and it will have left a bad taste in their mouth, and therefore should banished for all time. Once you see someone have a negative reaction to the name of your dreams, it will ruin it a tiny bit for you.
But they will likely only tell you this while the name is still just an option. Once it is written on the birth certificate, they are much more likely to lie and say they love it—although not always, so brace yourself for your mother-in-law’s reaction, just in case.
You should like the name. This is important. Because you’re going to be saying it (and yelling it) for many years to come.