What’s in a Name, Anyway?

Archive, Pregnancy

Unless you’re one of those annoying people who’ve had their child’s name decided since they were twelve, chances are this may look familiar:



Gray (middle?)


Jules (maybe)

Sofia (too popular)


And on and on. Names written on scraps of paper. Names on your phone and laptop. Dogeared baby name books on the table and websites bookmarked on your browser. It can get borderline obsessive. Obviously, it’s for good reason. Your name at birth is a blank slate. You go your whole life writing its definition. It’s the title of the story of your life.

No pressure, right?

It’s fun, though, the whole naming thing. You dream the perfect one up, thinking for sure it’s the one. At this point, you become a salesman. You present it to your spouse, often with a backstory, and you reveal the name with the most endearing, eloquent, oscar-worthy articulation.

We all know what happens next.


And just like that, the gavel hits the block and your perfectly crafted name is gone. Poof.

The extreme subjectivity of names is actually very telling. Our personal experiences give unavoidable potency to certain names. Maybe you had an ex with that name. A bully in school. A high school crush. There’s a million inescapable reasons why we love or hate a name. But the name itself? Just a word.


Before I get too far, I just want to say this is not a name reveal post. We’ve chosen a name, but we’ve realized that discussing it before the birth can be troublesome. That’s because a name without the presence of a beautiful newborn baby is just an idea. People love babies, people debate ideas. The natural tendency for some is to tell you why they don’t like it and then offer suggestions of names they like. Trust me, it’s hard enough to find a name you and your partner both agree on. Involving anyone else in the matter is an unnecessary complication.

That complication is again due to the potent subjectivity of names. And so the naming of children ultimately and unavoidably reflects the namers, not the named. Consciously or unconsciously, we endow our children with monikers that reflect who we are.

This is especially true of first-timers. It’s incredibly hard to imagine what it really means to have a child. Giving this imaginary thing a name then becomes the summation of you and your partner’s mutually agreed upon world views and cultural beliefs. It’s the manifestation of a decision made in the face of the ultimate, ongoing question: How do I best prepare my child to successfully maneuver through the world?

But a person’s name doesn’t affect a child anymore than the parents that named them. Even if given the strangest name in the world, we can safely assume the strange parents that chose it have far more influence on the child than the name itself.

This revelation is at once comforting and frightening. Comforting because it relieves some of the stress in finding the “perfect” name. It’s just a word, and the definition of that word is unique and ongoing. It’s frightening because, more than a name, your every move as parents has lasting influence over your child. Your every word, every action, every decision has a lifelong impact toward the outcome of their life.

No pressure, right?

So keep the naming part fun. Review your lists and make your case to the grand jury that is your spouse. Because after you sign the birth certificate containing that perfectly alliterate, carefully crafted name, there’s eighteen years of the hard, truly influential stuff waiting for you.

How did you decide on the name of your child? What was the process like? Share your story in the comments below.


18 thoughts on “What’s in a Name, Anyway?

  1. Well, like you, there were a lot of “no'” along the way and lots of pleading our case. Hayden Michelle was named long before Fred and I were even married or thinking of having kids. We saw a little 4 year old on Maury Povich and her name was Hayden Panitiere. Yep, the Hayden who then grew up to become a big star. We always thought of it as a girls name because that’s all we knew it as, a blonde ringlet little girl. Her middle name is my middle name. Not much back story behind Owen- Fred picked it, since I won the Hayden battle. Owen’s middle name is Fred’s middle name. And lastly, baby Tenley Michelle. Her name came from someone else I saw on TV years ago- someone with a sweet, kind personality. And again, she has my middle name. We chose names NOT on the top 200 list at the time- we didn’t want our kids to be in a classroom with another child with the same all too popular name. Owen has since become popular today but wasn’t even on the radar when we named him. Have fun, good luck, and enjoy the process. No pressure, right?! 😉

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  2. So strange, I am expecting my second baby girl this may and I started reflecting on the process of choosing a name this morning. I always feel that if we are going to be the one to choose a name it’s going to have a special meaning to us to pass onto this little person. My husband is Irish, and I am Scots-Irish so I like to keep the names in the Gaelic realm to begin with. Aislyn was a name my husband had loved for a long time, and Lynn was a family name amongst girls on my maternal side, so we decided that would do for a first name. Then we moved onto the middle, it kept me up at nights. ***THIS IS GOING TO SOUND CRAZY*** One night I literally heard a woman’s voice as I was debating names in my grandmother’s dark guest room. “Aislyn Kay”, the woman’s voice was so clear and so somber. I didn’t hesitate to question the voice I instead mulled it over, that’s terrific my mom’s first name is Kayla, but then I felt so selfish! My husband’s mom died when we were in high school, and I turned to awake him, “Quick what was your mom’s full name?! ” He was groggy, he was unpleased, and as he rolled over he let out a “Martha Kay.”

    For our second daughter I have had no voices from the past to phone in this one. My husband and I met in junior high in the play The Hobbit. I shared the role of Bilbo Baggins with my best friend, so when I was not Bilbo I was the dwarf Kili. My step grandfather who I was incredibly close to died just a month before we had knowledge of our new precious expectancy and his last name was McKenzie, so this girl will be Keely Mackenzie I do believe. Anything could happen in three months time. 😉


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  3. i actually happen to be editing my name list as i read this! we had a name chosen. book closed. then we found out it was for sure a girl and my husband started looking at names again. i thought this was crazy because i had already given him the first name he wanted and i had chosen the middle name. he came home one night and told me that he had been narrowed minded and hadn’t given me a chance at a first name because he’s so stubborn. he told me that after seeing me go through all the ups and downs of infertility, TTC, and a very rough start to pregnancy, it was clearly my choice to name her whatever i wanted and he would not question or disagree. this is so sweet but also such a challenge! my list has changed so many times and it never gets shorter, i just keep added new names on. i have decided to just have my list of way too many names and when she is born i will see her and hopefully one of them will just stand out as the “one”. can’t wait to see what your final choice is.

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    1. Thanks for sharing. I think maybe sharing with your husband the list and letting him back into the process might help you out. It’s a great way to bond during pregnancy. At least it was for us. And I think he’d appreciate it.


      1. we talk about the names all the time and i tell him new names i add on. i think you’re right, when she’s here and we have to make a choice, we’ll do it together. however, if there is a name i like best i know he’ll let me choose it 😉

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  4. When I got pregnant I was convinced we were having a boy so we first talked about boy names. We had one picked out only to find out my husband’s cousin was using the same first name for their boy that was due 6 months before us. I ended up finding out we were having a girl so we first looked at the name Sophia and had actually decided on that for a few weeks but then my husband was concerned with how popular it was. For a few more weeks we shared ideas but couldn’t agree on anything. One night he was out of town for work and I had come up with the name Mackenzie but didn’t think he’d go for it so I didn’t say anything. Ten minutes later he texted me “Mackenzie” so we knew we had to go with it. Her middle name is Ruth after my grandma.

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  5. With my first, I actually had a dream that I had a little boy with. his name. Since he was my dream come true, it fit.

    My daughter was due on Easter and was my third since adopting my step son, so I chose Trinity, blessed three..

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  6. Name, what is in a name……you are so right. So many lists , many ideas to consider and when you think you got it , back to the start. I didn’t have a particular system or a special list I just had many “likes” special memories that I wanted to keep with the name . No matter how much thinking it is just that one that clicks and just feels right!

    Hey the middle name is important deal too , my youngsters recent me because she doesn’t have one and some of her siblings do! I didn’t think the middle name will be soar point too.

    One more think …..spelling ,make sure you agree. After years of spelling my name a certain way my dad ended writing it differently on my birth certificate and I just discovered as an adult .

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  7. My mother in law told me a story once about how my husband was supposed to be named Timothy, but once he was born she and my father in law realized he was not a Timothy. Another friend knew a woman who was going to name her daughter River, but then changed it to Skye at the last moment. So with those two stories in mind, we chose a couple of names just in case and refused to decide till my son was born.

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  8. Deciding on that perfect name is hard work and for both parents to agree is another story. I am a big Keanu Reeves fan so it was a no-brainer. Yes, don’t laugh. His name is Hawaiian. Thankfully, my husband liked the feminine version of that name. Our first child is named after him. And our second child has an Italian name since my husband is Italian. So I guess we both took turns in picking out the names. Worked for us. 😄

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  9. Naming our second was the toughest and we sort of left it to the last minute. It was especially hard because we were trying to find something to go with our first, “Celeste” which means heavenly, and in looking up “heavenly” names, some odd options came up. Then we thought, we could always give our second the runner up choice for our first born Haha. That seemed rather lazy though. My husband really liked the name Lux but I just couldn’t get past the fact it sounded more like a guys name. I liked it – but for a boy, not a girl. The day before I went into labor I found the name “Elise” in a baby name book and that one sort of stuck. My husband found alternate ways to spell it and we ultimately decided on “Elysse”.

    That’s good you aren’t sharing your baby’s name with family or friends yet. We did the same thing and that way once we announced her name all everyone could do was say how pretty that was. Made life easier!

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  10. I named my daughter her first name because I never knew a Nina in all my years of working in childcare, or otherwise.

    Her middle name is her great-grandmother’s name on her father’s side, Gisela, who was an acclaimed painter and teacher at a California university.

    I didn’t have a middle name for her at birth. I talk about this briefly in a recent post on my blog, titled ‘A Birth Story’.

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  11. My husband used to say I named our children, but in fact we put together a list of 5 to 10 names that we both agreed upon. We would discuss it during pregnancy, but I refused to choose a name until I met the child. How could i give them a name until I held the child in my arms and saw their facial expressions. I looked into their eyes and then I’d know their names.

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  12. For baby #3 my husband spent entirely too much time in the P’s. He was hung up on Paige, Pandora, Piper, Pearl, Prudence. We chose an R name, FINALLY. For baby #4, I said I like the consonance of our son’s name, and we should choose another M name. He liked the second one I offered, so that was nice and easy.
    You’re quite right about not telling the name until the baby’s born. I think I may offer this when asked for new parent advice. Everyone has an opinion about names and seldom a good one!

    Liked by 1 person

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