One in Five British Mothers Regrets Her Child’s Name

When I read the title and reading line for the article Amelia Hill wrote in The Guardian: I guessed that the leading cause of “baby-name regret” was caused by picking a popular (e.g., top-20) name and then realizing how many other parents had made precisely the same choices.

Here are two fragments from the article that explain when and why parents begin regretting the names they have chosen:

-“The main reason for regretting the name was that it was too commonly used (25%).”
-“23% began to regret their choice when their children first started nursery or school.”

Why do so many parents fall into the trap of picking highly popular names for their children, (even though naming experts strongly recommend against that)?

Once you are pregnant, you start reading articles and books about baby names (which contain lists of the most popular names); and you also may start reading the birth announcement section of your local newspaper. Your ears are likely to perk up when friends and relatives start talking about their new babies. And when you notice new parents pushing baby strollers or carrying babies in slings, you go over to have a closer look. If you’re lucky, you might even be invited to hold the baby. Naturally, you ask the baby’s name, and say something nice about the baby and its name.

Pretty soon you realize that your interest in anything related to babies is giving you a “good feel” for names and which ones you like. Every time you meet a cute baby and “like” the name you are adding “data” to your very own baby-name “research project”—which includes your feelings about the names of cute babies you’ve cooed over or bounced; the names of babies your friends, relatives and neighbors have just announced; and the cute celebrity babies photographed in “People” and “Us.”

At some point it may dawn on you that the short list of names you are actively considering for your baby includes half of the top-10 list published every year by the Social Security Administration (or the agency in your country that publishes official name statistics).

How can newly pregnant parents avoid picking names they may wind up regretting, when they find out how popular they are? It helps to start your name search by making a list of names you like. They could be names of famous people you admire (e.g., Lincoln and Eleanor) names of characters in books or movies you love (e.g., Scout and Starbuck); names of your favorite actors or Olympic heroes (e.g., Simone and Bolt); names common in the language you studied in high school (e.g., Natasha and Ivan); names of your favorite foods or wines (e.g., Brie and Kale); names of your favorite places to vacation (e.g., Kauai and Siena); or names of relatives you want to honor.

By picking names that have meaning for you, you won’t be sidetracked by falling-in-like with names currently used by your friends, relatives and acquaintances and by the popular names in announcement lists and the media.

Consider the Alternate Meanings of These Eight Common Girls’ Names Before Choosing One

Bunny is a familiar form of Bernice, a Greek name that means bringer of victory. However, Bunny also means little rabbit, and a common impression about bunnies is that they are well known for their prolific “mating” behavior. (Hence the impression that a girl or woman named Bunny is likely to be a hot date.)

Cecilia is a Latin name that means blind. However, “Cecilia” is also the name of a calypso song that was originally popularized by Harry Belafonte. The lyrics go like this: “Cecilia/ you’re breaking my heart/ you’re shaking my confidence daily. Oh Cecilia/ I’m down on my knees/ I’m begging you please/ to come home.” The lyrics describe Cecelia as a difficult spouse or mate to keep or live with.

Dolly is an American name that is short for Dolores, a Spanish name that means sorrowful. However a doll is an inanimate object, often a girl, which can be dressed and undressed but doesn’t have feelings. ‘Nuff said.

Dotty is a nickname for Dorothy, a Greek name that means gift of god. However Dotty is a slang term that means crazy, insane or unbalanced.

Fifi is a familiar form of Josephine, a French, female form of Joseph. However Fifi is most commonly thought of as an appropriate name for a French poodle, which is the first impression people are likely  to think of when they hear the name.

Prissy and Priss are nicknames for Priscilla, a Latin name that means ancient. However, Prissy is an adjective that describes someone as priggish or prudish; and priss is a noun that means prig or prude. These impressions would be particularly difficult for a teenaged girl in high school who is beginning to enter the dating arena.

Sissy is a nickname for Cecilia a Latin name that means blind. However, sissy is a word that means scared, yellow or chicken.

Stormy is a name that refers to tempestuous weather, characterized by windy and wet or snowy weather which may be accompanied by thunder and lightning. However, Stormy also refers to tempestuous, impetuous or angry behavior.

5-Star Baby Name AdvisorReading this brief list of names with secondary meanings or associations is meant prompt you to brainstorm alternative meanings or associations for any name you like and think is worth serious consideration.  After “falling in like” with an name, the next step might be to look up the literal meaning as well as any secondary meaning or common impression that the name makes when you read it, hear it or think about it. Most baby name books don’t discuss this issue, which is why you might want to consult my book, 5 Star Baby Name Advisor, which discusses the literal meaning names as well as the impressions that names make.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Recently Popular Names

Every year we add the latest newly popular names to 100,000+ Baby Names, so people considering them for use can look them up and learn about their meaning and origin. Specifically, we add names which have gained enough popularity to be added to the Social Security Administration’s lists of the 1,000 most popular boys’ and girls’ names.

Many of the newly popular names are new variations of names already on the list, such as Lorelai, a variation of Lorelei. Some are familiar only to people who watch  certain TV shows, like Khaleesi, a name popularized by “Game of  Thrones”. (Needless to say, the problem with names like Lorelai and Khaleesi is that they are often difficult to spell and/or pronounce.)

Some newly popular names are place names, like Maylasia and Ireland. Some are the last names of celebrities and athletes, like Anniston, Lennon and Beckham. And some are combinations of two names that just sound good together, like Lillyana.

Just for fun, I thought you might enjoy a quick look at some of the most appealing newly popular names I’ve come across over the last few years. However, instead of giving you the precise origins and meanings I use in my book, I’ll just mention the reason I think some of these names might be of interest.

Newly Popular Boys’ Names Over the Past Few Years:

Baylor (the name of a great, Texas university)
Beckham (the last name of an English soccer star)
Dash (a name that implies speed and energy)
Nash (the name an old car brand and a game-theory expert featured in “A Beautiful Mind.”)
Ronin (a feudal Japanese samurai)
Rylee (a fun new spelling for Riley)
Tiago and Thiago (a Brazilian basketball star who plays in the NBA)
Xavi (a nickname for Xavier and the name a Spanish soccer star)

Newly Popular Girls’ Names Over the Past Few Years:

Anniston (the last name of the actress who played Rachael  in “Friends”)
Elliot (a boys’ name that’s now being used for  girls)
Everly (the last name of two famous brothers who made music in the ‘50s and ‘60s)
Henley (the location—on the Thames river—of a rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge)
Journee (the French word for day)
Juniper (an evergreen shrub whose aroma can be found in gin)
Lennon (the last name of one of the most famous Beatles)
Lillyana (a combination of two names that sound great together)
Malaysia (a country that has become a name for girls)
Oakley (a sporty and cool brand of sunglasses)
Sutton (an upscale street on Manhattan’s chic east side)

9780684039992 100,000+ Baby Names is available in stores and online.


Dear Bruce: What is “baby name regret” and what causes it?

Dear Bruce,

What is “baby name regret” and what causes it?

Bruce: Parents who receive negative feedback when they announce their baby’s name may regret the choice soon after making it. However, sometimes it takes a couple of years (or perhaps a decade or two) before a parent discovers that the name they selected was a mistake. You may have selected a very formal name (like Honor) but discovered how awkward it sounds to calm a crying baby Honor because there are no endearing nicknames for that name. You may love the name Elizabeth, but hate it when your daughter is called Beth. Conversely, a name like Missy may work beautifully when she is young, but she may wish for a more “adult” name to put on her college application. Dick may work well—until your son finds out how mean his friends can be when they use that name for teasing. The best way to prevent baby name regret is to consider the practical consequences of selecting the names you like best.

If you’d like to submit a question, please leave it in the comments section here.  

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

Dear Bruce: What is “birth announcement letdown” and what causes it?

Dear Bruce,

What is “birth announcement letdown” and what causes it?

Bruce: Birth announcement letdown is a term I coined to describe what you feel when the name you’ve selected produces disappointing feedback when you announce it to friends and relatives or to people you’ve just met. You’re in big trouble if people groan or say, “You’ve got to be kidding.” You’ve made a strange choice if people ask, “What?” or “Come again?” You know people are being polite if they remark, “Oh… that’s a nice name.” And you know the name you’ve chosen may one day irritate your child if (after receiving a printed birth announcement) people ask you, “How do you pronounce that?” or if (after being told the name of your baby) they ask you, “Is it a boy or a girl?” or “How do you spell that?” Imagining how people may respond to your child’s birth announcement should motivate you to do your homework to avoid making a disappointing choice.

If you’d like to submit a question, please leave it in the comments section here.  

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

How to Pick a Name That You and Your Child Will Enjoy

When I wrote the first edition of “The Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World” back in 1978, there were about 120 pages in the book. In a couple of hours, you could read the introductory material about what to consider when naming your baby, and then browse all the main listings (pausing to read the derivations, meanings and variations for names that appealed to you).

Now I have written “100,000+ Baby Names,” which contains ten times as many names plus more than 600 lists of names to help you generate interesting new ideas. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone should “read the entire book, page by page.” The method I suggest involves generating a list of names you love, and then narrowing down the list based on how well the names might work for your baby. Instead of reading the book from cover to cover, you can use it to create a list of names based on your preferences. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t browse all the main listings too.

Step One: Making a List of Names
Make a list of names to consider by writing down your answers to the following questions.

What country are your parents or grandparents from?
What holidays, rituals and traditions are most important to you?
What might your baby’s personality be like?
What might your baby be like physically?
What will be your baby’s astrological sign?
Where did you conceive?
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Where do you like to vacation?
Where will your baby be born?
Who are your heroes?
Who are your favorite artists?
Who are your favorite athletes?
Who are your favorite authors?
Who are your favorite biblical characters?
Who are your favorite celebrities?
What are the names of your favorite celebrities’ babies?
What are your favorite flowers?
What are your favorite gender-neutral names?
What are your favorite places to visit?
Who are your favorite military leaders?
Who are your favorite mythological characters?
What are your favorite boys’ and girls’ names from the list of most popular names over the past 100 years?
What are your favorite boys’ and girls’ names from the most recent list of popular names?
Who are your favorite opera composers and stars?
Who are your favorite relatives?
What are your favorite rocks, gems and minerals?
Who are your favorite singers?
Who are your favorite presidents?

Then check the lists we’ve created which offer appropriate names in each of the categories that are important to you, to find even more names based on themes that interest you.

Now that you’ve written down a list of names to which you have a strong personal connection, it’s time to consider other factors. Write down the spellings or variations of the names that appeal to you the most. That will give you a longer list of names to consider.

Step Two: Narrowing Down the List

Now it’s time to narrow down your list based on practical considerations, so you can decide what names are most likely to work well for your baby. Ask yourself the following questions, and rate each name based on the answers.

Popularity: Is the name so popular there will be many kids in your child’s class with the same name?
Uniqueness: Is the name so distinct it will come across as weird?
Sound: Does the name sound good alone?
Fit Last Name: Does the name work well with your last name?
Nicknames: Do you like the nicknames or variations your child is likely to be called?
Image or Impression: Do you like the image or impression this name conveys? Will it be positive or negative?
Famous Namesakes: Do you have a positive or negative impression of the most famous namesakes?
Spelling: Is the name likely to be misspelled often?
Pronunciation: Is the name likely to be mispronounced often?
Gender: Does the name clearly indicate your child’s gender?
Initials: Do you like the initials the name forms with the middle and last name?
Meaning: Is the meaning positive? Is it appropriate?
Traditions: Does the name fit your religious or ethnic traditions?
Versatility: Are there a variety of formal and informal versions of this name available for use?

Don’t be surprised that the list of names you initially created has shrunken greatly when you started to imagine the practical issues that would confront a child with each name on the list.

Step Three: Making the Final Choice

Now list your top five boys’ and girls’ names on a piece of paper. With your partner, rate each other’s top five names based on the above questions. Through informed reasoning, you now have the top possibilities. Now all you have to do is make the final decision.

More advice on how to choose a name for your baby, along with a listing of more than 100,000 baby names, complete with origins and meanings is available in Bruce Lansky’s “100,000+ Baby Names” (Meadowbrook Press, $12.95 where you buy books).

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

Dear Bruce: How does “branding” affect the selection of a name for your baby?

Dear Bruce, 

You’ve been quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: “We live in a marketing-oriented society. People who understand branding know that when you pick the right name, you’re giving your child a head start.” How does “branding” affect the selection of a name for your baby?


Bruce: Some names identify your child to people in a positive way; some names identify your child to people in a negative way. Mention the name Bertha, and many people instantly think “Big Bertha”—to some extent because of Callaway’s Big Bertha drivers. Mention Tiffany, and many people instantly think of elegance and good taste—to a large extent due to the image and reputation of Tiffany & Co. From these two examples, you can see that a product name and/or corporate name may or may not produce a strong name for babies.

For example, most people would agree that selecting a name like iPod, ESPN, IBM, General Electric, or FedEx would not be a good choice for either a boy or girl. On the other hand, Lauren may remind people of Ralph Lauren, which projects the image of an attractive, well dressed person with good (and expensive) taste. Ditto for Ashley, which projects a similar image based on the Laura Ashley brand of clothing.

But there’s more to “branding” than associating your child with a commercial product or company name. When you select a name for your child, you are associating your child with the current image of that name—an image that often is influenced by a famous celebrity or newsmaker or historical figure. For example, the name Bridget may call to mind fictional character Bridget Jones, a lovable, if neurotic, “singleton.” Elvis may call to mind Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll who was also known for excesses toward the end of his life. Same goes for Britney, a name that’s strongly associated with Britney Spears, whose image has gone downhill in recent years, thanks to her well-publicized lack of self-control.

In other words, you can choose a name that’s associated with a commercial product or corporation, a name that’s associated with a famous individual, a name that’s associated with a place (e.g., the name Paris is associated both with a charming city in France and yet another out-of-control celebrity whose adventures have landed her in jail), a name that’s associated with nature (e.g., Crystal), or a name associated with a value (e.g., Grace or Joy).When people learn the name of your child, the first thing they’ll think about are their own associations, thoughts, and/or feelings about that name.

Of course, there are lots of other factors parents need to consider when naming their child: how the name fits with their last name, what nicknames are likely to be used, what the initials will be, whether the name can be easily spelled and pronounced, whether the name’s gender association is clear or confusing, and so on. But after considering these and other factors, the ultimate choice should be based on the best interest of the child.

To find a name for your child that will give him or her a head start in life, parents need to know how the names they’re considering come across to others. Marketing people depend on this knowledge when they select names for new products and new companies they’re launching—and so should parents.

If you’d like to submit a question, please leave it in the comments section here.  

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.