The 6 things you should do before picking a baby name

·5-min read
Photo credit: Catherine Delahaye - Getty Images
Photo credit: Catherine Delahaye - Getty Images

Along with getting a tattoo and picking the person you want to marry, naming a child is pretty much one of the most permanent decisions you'll ever make. So you want it to be right... right? Because, let's face it, there'd be nothing worse than selecting a name and then six months later realising you've accidentally spelled out 'TIT' with Tabitha Ivy Taylor's initials.

But if the pressure of picking a name and a good one at that is all getting too much - relax - because we are here to save you. BabyCentre's baby naming expert Lorna Marsh has thoughtfully and knowledgeably created a number of tests you should run on the names you've got in mind, just to make sure you're not making a boo-boo with your choices.

Here's the scientific* methodology Lorna advises you should follow before signing on the birth certificate's dotted line:


Photo credit: Anastasiia Krivenok - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anastasiia Krivenok - Getty Images

1. Consider the popularity of the name

This one is tricky because it's a bit of a balancing act. It's cool to keep up with the trends, but when those trends mean your child will probably be one of 14 girls called Edie in her class after 14 sets of parents got swept away with the resurgence of vintage baby names, she might struggle to feel like she stands out. "You probably don’t want your child's name to be a passing fad that dates very quickly," says Lorna, highlighting another problem with opting for something very popular at the time.

On the other hand, however, Lorna points out that "having a relatively common name can also be an advantage." Benefits of giving your child a more broadly known name include that they're "less likely to come up against misspellings and mispronunciations, and people like familiarity."

"It’s about finding the right balance for you," the expert concludes. "Parents often like to look at classics that may not be hugely popular at the time, so are unusual in their own way, but have longevity."

2. Think about how it'll sound when they're older

"Talking of longevity, remember that your child’s name has to stand the test of time through adulthood," advises the baby naming expert. And she's got a point. "While a super cutesy name like Bunny will suit your boy while he’s still in baby grows, it may not have the same appeal when he’s a 40-something lawyer." Yup. Noted.

Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

3. Make sure the whole name fits well together

And say it out loud a lot of times before you commit. A lot of times. "First name, middle name or names, and surname should all sound right when said out loud," suggests Lorna. And it's always worth a google, just to make sure you're not inadvertently giving your child the same combination of names as a serial killer, or something equally unfortunate. "Watch out for any potential pitfalls in how the names look too," adds the expert. "Initials can present problems. Phoebe Ophelia Osborne may sound like a beautiful girl’s name but the initials don’t have quite the same ring." No. No, they don't.

4. Consider the nicknames they might be given

"Think about any unwanted nicknames that your choice could easily prompt from other children, or adults. If you’re going to go for something a bit unusual, make sure it doesn’t also clearly rhyme with a body part or function, for example," says Lorna. And that's a fair point. You don't want your poor son being known as 'Kit the shit' forever more, now, do you? "Also think very carefully of how the name may be shortened or changed," adds Lorna. "You may love the name Henry but are you also ok with others calling your child Harry, Hal or Hank?" Just a thought.

5. Sing 'Happy Birthday' and insert the name

Hopefully your child will live a long and happy life, which means you'll be singing 'Happy Birthday' a lot of times. So while you might think a double-barrelled first name is delightfully boujee at the time of birth, when every single one of Gabriella-Marie's party guests struggles to fit the six syllables of her name into a two-syllable slot, things can get problematic.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

6. Choose your spelling wisely

"Spelling variations of names are becoming more common. Just look at how Jaxon is now more popular among UK parents than Jackson for boys," points out Lorna, who adds her advice: "Just make sure though that you don’t give your child a name with a spelling that’s so unusual that going through the phonetic alphabet during every other phone call becomes a lifelong burden. Also, consider if the most obvious pronunciation is going to be the wrong one."

Having said all this, Lorna encourages parents-to-be to remember that "children will bring own meaning to their name, grow into it and make it their own," so it's better to focus on the potential positives of the names rather than simply eliminate them by negatives. "Most important is to ask yourself whether the name fits in with you and your partner’s style. How would you feel calling it across a park? Or would you think it’s a great name if you heard someone else calling it for their child? If you feel good about both these scenarios and you’ve avoided obvious pitfalls, go for it."

And really, that's the only green light you need to select a baby name. Good luck and God speed!

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