Finding a name for my baby-to-be

Dear Alice,

I'm currently pregnant, and trying to find the right name for the baby. What source should I use?


Dear Reader,

Searching for the perfect name for your progeny can be a daunting and challenging task — there are thousands of names to choose from, and you only have about nine months. Common or not-so-common, picking a name for your soon-to-be-delivered bundle of joy will likely involve a bit of memory recollection on the part of the parent(s), some research, and plenty of discussion. To help narrow the search, some parents have criteria when it comes to deciding on a name for their lil' one, including:

  • Honoring familial or cultural traditions or expectations. For example, as a tribute, some people contemplate selecting the name of an ancestor, a family member who is living or has recently passed away, or something from their family background or heritage.
  • Considering the names of people whom they admire or respect, or who have had a positive influence upon them
  • The meaning or origin of the name
  • Simply liking how the name sounds, including using words that are not usually reserved for names, such as colors, foods, natural elements, and so on. However, Chlamydia, for instance, sounds beautiful, but it's not anything parents would want to call their daughter.
  • The potential way(s) the name will affect their child's development, personality, experiences, and relationships
  • Avoiding common or trendy names, unless they want their child to be one of the twelve Rickys or Britneys in kindergarten
  • If the name is extremely unusual, or difficult to spell or pronounce. Even Agamemnon's Classical Literature professor will stumble over his name.
  • Intentionally opting for longer names and/or including a middle name that offer more room for tinkering if a child wants to adopt a new name or identity. Elizabeth can give birth to Liz, Beth, Liza, Elisa, Bette, Lisa, or Betty at the drop of a syllable or two.
  • Using the mother's maiden name as the first or middle name

Fortunately for expectant parents, in addition to the plethora of books on the subject available at your local library or bookstore (often in the pregnancy section), baby name web sites have bounced up all along the Internet. These sources not only give name meaning and derivation, but often rank names by popularity and reader opinion polls, too. Some sites also specialize in baby names from different countries (e.g., Indian and Spanish names for boys and girls).

Many people also turn to their families and friends to help generate more potential ideas. For some, the Bible has been an important source for names. Names can also be gathered from the people, famous or not, known or heard about at:

  • Schools
  • Religious organizations
  • Community groups
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Movies, music, and literature
  • Comic books
  • History
  • Science
  • The arts
  • Pop culture
  • Design

Best wishes on finding a name for your newborn. Of course, if it's a girl, there is always... Alice.

Happy hunting,

Last updated Jul 08, 2015
Originally published May 25, 2001

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