What\'s in a Name? When It Comes to Your Baby, Everything!
By Deirdre Wilson

Naming your baby is supposed to be fun and personally meaningful. But just a glance at any of the hundreds of baby-naming books on the market – with thousands of pages of possible boy and girl names – and the process quickly becomes overwhelming.

Even if you head into this with a preference for your baby’s name, you’ll likely start second-guessing yourself. There are so many names to choose from!

Experts in the name game track recent trends, such as renewed interest in Old Testament names like Jacob (the most popular baby boy’s name in the United States in 2007) and Abigail (the sixth most popular baby girl’s name).

Then, there’s the whole movement toward “hip” names. Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, best-selling authors of The Baby Name Bible and numerous other name books, have just put out an updated edition of Cool Names for Babies. And “cool” to these women means unusual, diverse, drawing on popular culture, unconventional and unafraid. Hence, their list of the 100 coolest baby names includes monikers such as Nevaeh, Keira, Gianna and Heaven for girls, and Jaydon, Preston, Malachi and Finn for boys.

Need a Category?

To stimulate thinking about name possibilities, Satran and Rosenkrantz offer plenty of naming categories in The Baby Name Bible. Among these:

• Celtic names – such as Briana, Cyric, Kegan or Imogen;

• Variations on common names – Caitlin, Katarin or Katarzyna instead of Katherine, for example;

• Supermodel names – Gisele, Tyra or Elle; and

• Occupational names – Draper, Fisher, Shepherd, etc.

Bruce Lansky, author of The Very Best Baby Name Book, suggests more than 55,000 names, including 5,000 Hispanic names for this growing minority population in the United States and 5,000 African-American names.

Like fashion designers? Lansky suggests Bill (as in Blass), Ellen (Tracy) and Lilly (Pulitzer) among others. If tycoon names tickle your fancy, think Donald (Trump), Estée (Lauder) or Sam (Walton).

Steps in the Naming Process

With all these categories and outside-the-box naming ideas, how do you choose a name that both you and your baby will like?

Lansky recommends first making a list of the names you like from:

• the most recent Top 100 names list (the Social Security Administration publishes an annual list of the most popular baby names);

• your favorite names from lists of popular names over the past 100 years – you can find these on the U.S. Census Web site and Social Security Administrations site:

• relatives’ names that you like;

• your family’s country of origin;

• names that you believe will reflect your baby’s personality; or

• names inspired by favorite celebrities, musicians, literary figures, athletes, etc.

Then, he counsels, narrow the list down. Consider the difficulty of spelling or pronouncing the name, the nicknames that could result, whether the name makes it clear what gender the child is, the impression it gives, the name’s meaning, popularity, uniqueness, etc.

Satran and Rosenkrantz offer this naming advice in The Baby Name Bible:

• Pick a name you’ll fall in love with – the way you fell in love with your partner.

• Don’t put too much stock into what other people think. It’s ultimately your choice, after all.

• Remember, the name is more for your child than for you. Don’t choose a name that could embarrass
your child or prove puzzling, cumbersome or inappropriate once he becomes an adult.

• Expand your sense of creativity. You don’t have to create some unusual spelling for a common name; you could try an international variation instead.

• Look for a name that means something to you. All names have origin and meaning, and many have particular meaning and importance to other people.

• Don’t get too carried away. Don’t buy into claims that a child’s name could determine her destiny or that a name holds the key to success. It doesn’t.

Deirdre Wilson is the national senior editor of Dominion Parenting Media.