What’s in a baby name?

Quirky or quaint? Trendy or traditional? There's a lot to consider when making the choice.

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Naming your baby is great fun but it can be a potential minefield. It’s often hard enough finding a name that you and your partner agree on – let alone one your family likes! Once you’re over that hurdle, there are a few more things to consider before you choose.

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Check the meaning
Finding out what your favourite name means can sometimes be a shock. How will little Cameron feel when he discovers his name means ‘bent nose’? And what about baby Callum – does ‘bald dove’ really do him justice? Use our on-site babynamer to check it out.

See if it’s in the top ten
If your favourite choice is Jack or Jessica, you’re not alone – Jack has topped the boys’ list for the past 11 years. The problem with a popular name is you may find your child’s class includes half a dozen namesakes. But don’t just dismiss the idea.

‘Children like familiar things,’ says Dr Nadja Reissland, an expert in pre-school psychology from Durham University, ‘and they’re more likely to want to be friends with a child who has a name that they’re familiar with’.

Consider unusual names carefully
If you want your child’s name to stand out from the crowd, celebs offer inspiration – from Geri Halliwell’s Bluebell Madonna to Jessie Wallace’s Tallulah Lilac.
But remember, an exotic name can cause problems. ‘Children with unusual names often have a difficult time – they’re teased and sometimes bullied,’ says Professor Helen Petrie, an expert on the effects of names from the University of York.
‘However, my research shows that people generally grow into their names and realise that an unusual name can be an advantage – it stands out at job interviews and can be an ice-breaker socially.’

Spell it out
Siobhan’s a lovely name, but will it drive your daughter bananas when her friends and classmates always misspell and mispronounce it? And will your ‘creative’ spelling of Mikkayla lead to a lifetime of correcting people?
‘Pre-school children who can write their own name might come across to the teacher as more intelligent,’ comments Dr Reissland. ‘Writing your name is much easier if it’s simple. Therefore, a teacher may rate a child with an easier name more highly, which could give them a headstart at school.’

Beware of trends
Fashionable names can also be a no-no. Keira and Scarlett both moved into the top 50 girls’ names in 2005 – probably thanks to Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson. But there’s always the danger your baby’s name could soon sound quite dated – especially if her famous namesake isn’t quite so A-list five years down the line.

Check the initials
A dodgy set of initials can be another minefield. Chloe Olivia Williams will be in for a lifetime of mooing noises. And let’s just hope Freddie Arthur Thompson steers clear of all the pies.

Watch out for teasing opportunities
Look out for any horrible rhymes, as you can guarantee other children will spot them. Jane may not be plain, but it’s traditional to tease her about it. And beware of your choice creating funny words or phrases: Ben Dover, Nat West, Warren Peace… the list is endless.

Think twice about sound-a-likes
If you’re blessed with twins it might seem cute to give them similar-sounding names – but are Millie and Mimi really going to enjoy being muddled up all the time? Strangely, boxer George Foreman didn’t think this was a problem – he named all his five sons after himself: George Edward Foreman.

Will it always suit them?
Minnie may be an adorable name for a tiny newborn, but will it still be appropriate when she’s trying to hold her own in the workplace? And if you name your son Brutus, he may have to cope with people assuming he’s a little tyrant.
‘Your choice of name often affects how people treat your child,’ says Prof Petrie. ‘If you give a girl a particularly feminine name, for example, people may buy her very girly presents – and it can be difficult for a child to break out of this kind of stereotyping.’

Avoid embarrassing them later!
Finally, if you’re tempted to name your child after the place she was conceived, think carefully. Little Paris or Egypt (or Torquay!) may not find the story quite so romantic when she’s an angsty teenager who doesn’t want to be reminded – ever! – that her parents actually had sex…

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