When you’re awaiting the birth of a new child, life may suddenly seem to move in fast-forward. As you purchase the infant supplies you’ll need, you may be wondering what to name your little one. There are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of baby names, and choosing the perfect one can be a challenge.
Choosing the perfect baby name may involve keeping a name notebook, asking loved ones for suggestions, or researching name meanings. When picking a baby name, you’ll want to avoid offensive or embarrassing first names. Names like William or Sara may be better than names like Moo, Arson, or Stalin.
Today, we’ll discuss the step-by-step process for choosing the perfect baby name. We’ll also discuss some of the most crucial don’ts when naming a newborn, as well as the most prevalent naming trends of the last century. We’ll then reveal some of the weirdest baby names, and finally, we’ll examine the most popular and common baby girl and baby boy names in the US and the world.
How to Pick the Perfect Baby Name
Choosing the right baby name can be a massive responsibility. After all, chances are, the name you choose is going to be the one your child sticks with for most of their life. To make matters slightly more complicated, a person’s name may influence the development of their personality.
Pick a bad name, and you may end up with a mischievously devious little child. Choose a good name, and you might count your blessings as your tiny angel studies and snoozes calmly.
Still, there are quite a few factors that influence a person’s personality, but a name seems to be one of the first things that help us define ourselves and our roles in the world.
Selecting the best possible first name for your little one can feel like an overwhelming task. Still, by following a specific series of steps, you can lessen the load and get closer to finding that perfect name.
To pick the perfect baby name, you may want to:
- Keep a baby names notebook.
- Ask friends and family.
- Do your research.
- Shout out the name.
- Think like a kid.
- Think like an adult.
- Consider your spouse’s feelings.
Keeping a spiral notebook for notes and ideas can help you keep your thoughts organized, and asking your friends and family about baby name suggestions could be incredibly helpful. Let’s explore these steps in greater detail to discover how they might aid you on your quest for the perfect baby name.
Keep a Baby Names Notebook
While you don’t necessarily need to keep a physical spiral bound or composition notebook for writing down baby name ideas, many parents find it helpful to have such stationary handy. Naturally, if you’re more comfortable writing down your naming ideas on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, then go ahead and do that.
The most crucial thing is that you have a way to keep track of all your potential names. Blank space to muse about naming ideas or doodle is also a huge plus. For these reasons, a notebook could come in handy.
If you’re someone who enjoys staying organized and connected to electronic devices, you might also consider registering with an online baby name database. Many such databases or sites allow registered users to ‘save’ names to a virtual master list.
As a registered user, you could sort your favorites list alphabetically with a simple click. Users may also be able to filter and sort them by gender, meaning, or origin. Keeping a virtual list in this way is often easier than writing everything out by hand or typing it out.
Ask Friends and Family
Have you considered any input from your friends or family members? What about your coworkers or your partner? Have you asked them what baby names they like? If you haven’t dipped into this resource, you may want to try your luck.
While your friends and loved ones might not offer up the perfect name (or at least, maybe not right away), they can help your mind move in novel directions. For example, your sibling might suggest the name Bart if you’re having a boy.
If that name doesn’t appeal to you but hearing it reminds you of the name Bartholomew, and you like that name, then you might indirectly owe your new child’s name to a conversation with your sibling. Don’t worry. The inspiration process isn’t nearly complicated as it may seem, though it can be quite mysterious.
Should you fail to reap any golden baby-name nuggets from your partner, family members, coworkers, or friends, then you may want to try your hand at some research. Every name has a specific meaning and connotation (or association).
Sometimes, choosing the right baby name could come down to selecting the one with the most positive meaning.
Do Your Research
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the latter character remarks, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” By this, she means to say that names have little bearing on the things they describe.
Their only power lies with direct associations. That’s why you’d feel confused if someone asked you for a cup of sugar, but instead of saying “cup of sugar,” said “bag of sand.” You likely associate cups with ceramic or metal containers, just as you associate bags with fabric.
Likewise, you probably don’t interchange the terms “sand” and “sugar,” as they are very different things when it comes to eating, enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, and enjoying a day at the beach. While Juliet might have felt that a name’s meaning and association were pointless or powerless, we beg to differ.
A child named Julius, for example, might not become a tyrant of literary proportions, but they’ll likely hear references to Gaius Julius Caesar for the whole of their lives. They’ll know that their first name has multiple meanings and one very prevalent association, and these aspects may influence their personality and the way they perceive themselves.
When you do your research, you can discover precise name meanings and origins. This discovery ensures that you can avoid names that have awkward or embarrassing meanings. Let’s face it. Your child is going to ask what their name means at some point during their childhood.
Typically, “I just liked it” isn’t a sufficient enough answer. Be prepared with the best-possible name meaning by doing your research sooner rather than later.
Shout Out the Name
After making a list, compiling some favorites, asking for suggestions, and doing some research into name meanings, you may be ready to select a top ten. Wheedling down your massive amount of potentials to a top ten can be tricky, but there are several ways to go about it.
One of the most exciting ways to narrow down your name list is to treat each name as a competition participant. Put your names against one another and have a showdown until you’ve got your final list of the ten best options.
For example, you could create a roster that looks something like this:
- Cody vs. Brian
- Roger vs. Elroy
- Rebekah vs. Samantha
- Skip vs. Jack
Deciding the winner between each name is entirely up to you. Still, there are a few standard criteria parents use to help them judge potential baby names. You may want to choose the first name with better meaning, more painless spelling, more straightforward pronunciation, or more positive association.
When these aspects aren’t helping you make a final decision between two names, try shouting them out. Yes, shout aloud the two names you’re choosing between. Think about it this way: when your child is born, you’ll eventually need to call out their name to let them know that it’s lunchtime or that it’s time to leave the playground.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the way a name feels in your mouth or feels while leaving your mouth, or just the way it sounds hitting the air in your voice, then it’s not a winner. Try opening your patio or porch door and yelling your two competing names.
Which feels better? That one moves on to the next round.
Think Like a Kid
Bullies are challenging to handle, and they come in many sizes and ages. While parents may be able to protect their kids from many of life’s worst bullies, they can’t protect their children from all of the world’s meanest individuals. As such, you may want to take your top ten list and expose it to a child’s perception.
The name Elizabeth seems like a relatively harmless feminine name, but in the mind of a naughty child, that first name could turn into the less-harmless ‘Lizard Breath.’ Still, this is a very mild example. Some of the most prevalently bullied names include Dick, Egbert, Seymour, and Enis.
To avoid unintentionally making your child the target of every elementary-aged and middle school bully, take a moment to think like a child and see how many mean, teasing statements you can come up with for each of your top ten baby names. This exercise may help you avoid permanently (though accidentally) scarring your child for life.
Think Like an Adult
After thinking like a kid, go ahead and resume your adult way of thinking. Are any of your top ten names shortened versions of longer, more traditional names?
First names like Willy, Benji, Codi, and Lulu might sound cute now, but they might not be the most impressive or functional adult names. If you’re stuck between naming your baby daughter Tori and Victoria, it could be a better idea to opt for the more extended, traditional version.
Nicknames can be chosen, kept, or forgotten. Your birth name is often more challenging to ignore or change (especially when you’re still a kid). Finally, it’s crucial to consider your partner’s take on all this.
Consider Your Spouse’s Feelings
After doing all of the above, you may feel as though you’ve found the perfect baby name. However, if you haven’t presented it to your spouse and heard their thoughts and feelings on the matter, you might not be in the clear quite yet.
It’s essential to respect and value your partner’s feelings, especially if they’re going to be helping you raise your new baby. If you want to name your little boy Pluto, but your spouse isn’t into it, it could be worthwhile to reach a compromise (Oberon, anyone?).
Read more: How to Pick Baby Names?
10 Don’ts When Picking Baby Name
Now that you’re familiar with some of the steps you can take to find the perfect baby name, it’s time to address the don’ts when picking a baby name. After all, you could adhere to all of the above suggestions and steps but still end up with a terrible baby name if you’re not aware of the many faux pas and slip-ups past parents have committed.
When you’re thinking of a name for your baby:
- Don’t choose something you can’t shout.
- Don’t choose something difficult to pronounce.
- Don’t choose a name without a positive meaning.
- Don’t choose a hard-to-spell name.
- Don’t choose a name that attracts bullies.
- Don’t be afraid to use gender-neutral names.
- Don’t stick with your first choice.
- Don’t allow others to make the decision on your behalf.
- Don’t make the baby’s given name a nickname.
- Don’t use offensive names.
Does this seem like a lot of rules? Each one has a specific purpose meant to protect your child or help them live the best possible life. A few of the above don’ts may even be for your protection.
To summarize, you don’t want to choose a name that you don’t feel comfortable shouting aloud. You also don’t want to choose a name that your child (or their peers) will struggle to pronounce. Aloysius comes to mind here.
To help your child feel proud of their name, you may want to choose a first name with a positive meaning or origin story. Additionally, it’s often better to choose a name that’s easy to spell. That way, your little one can learn their name more quickly and teach other children how to spell it.
Embarrassing names can attract bullies and should be avoided at all costs. Gender-neutral names are becoming extremely popular, so don’t be afraid to try out a few of those. Finally, don’t stick with your first choice and don’t allow loved ones to pick a name for you.
Though we likely don’t need to mention this, offensive names like Hitler or Stalin are an absolute no-no. Also, names like Skip, Jacky, or Bob might initially sound like fun, but these nickname-esque given names can become a real pain in the future. So, are you ready for more?
Read more: 38 Forbidden Names and Reasons
Baby Names Trends
As you can imagine, baby naming trends haven’t remained entirely consistent over the last century. Trends change with the passing years, and one of the most reliable ways to observe these trends is to examine full decades.
As such, let’s explore some of the most popular baby names of the last one hundred years. Because it would take ages to go through each decade, we’ll be skipping around just a little bit. To kick things off, we’ll start with the tumultuous 1920s.
The 1920s – Baby Names Trends
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) records, the most popular given names for US children of the 1920s included first names such as:
Many of these names have Germanic, Latin, French, and English origins. Somewhat surprisingly, many of these first names are still in heavy usage today among the general US population.
While the top three (Robert, Mary, and John) may not be quite as popular, the names James, William, and Charles remain quite trendy boys’ names.
How does the wild nature of the 1960s compare to the style and charisma of the 1920s? Let’s find out!
The 1960s – Baby Names Trends
By the time the 1960s arrived, Robert and Mary’s positions as the two most popular baby names in the United States had been usurped by Michael and Lisa. These names were followed by other well-known given names, including:
As you can see, there are some returning champions. Robert, Mary, John, and James all managed to survive forty years of societal and economic change, but did they manage to make it into the 2000s? You may already have an excellent guess.
The 2000s – Baby Names Trends
If you thought that Michael and Lisa would hold onto those number-one spots, you’d need to think again. By the arrival of the new millennium, folks had moved on from those antiquated first names. Instead, the top baby names of the 2000s were Jacob and Emily.
Michael wasn’t far behind, and that name only slipped to second-place for baby boy names. Lisa didn’t make it onto the top 100 list. Other names took their place, including the titles:
Except for the name Michael, all of the most famous names of the 2000s were complete newcomers compared to the previous several decades. This trend should be an excellent indicator of future trends to come.
Most notably, every upcoming decade may feature unique popular names that weren’t around the previous year. To test this theory, let’s examine the most famous names of 2020.
The 2020s – Baby Names Trends
For most, 2020 was a wild year. Those who managed to make it through and give birth to a child should be awarded a medal and a large helping of their favorite meal.
However, it seems that those brace and hard-working parents picked some repeats from the 2000s. We can’t blame you. 2020 was a challenging year.
Some of the most popular baby names of 2020 are:
Emma and Isabella are our two repeats, with many other names being somewhat new to the top 100 US baby names list. Interestingly, many of these names lack specific gender associations or connotations. For example, the name Riley is appropriate for girls and boys.
Try this: Baby Name Generator
Weird Baby Names
While you’re likely pretty familiar with many of the most common baby names of the past one hundred years, there are quite a few new names that seem to strike confusion into the hearts of the general public.
Some of the weirdest baby names of the past several decades include first names like:
- Moon Unit
Now, we probably don’t need to explain why most of these names are considered weird. Still, we can’t resist discussing the fact that real-life parents have made the adult decision to name their children after soda brands, makeup products, felony crimes, and infamous dictators within the last five years.
How could we forget ‘Moo,’ the sound that cows make? If you’re reading this and preparing to name a child, please refrain from selecting the above options. In fact, it might be better to consider them non-options.
Read More: 38 Worst Baby Names
Common Baby Girl Names
Congratulations! You’re now familiar with how to choose a baby name, what not to do when choosing a baby name, and the most prevalent baby naming trends of the last century.
You’ve also experienced a brief taste of weird baby names. Now, it’s time to reveal some of the most common baby girl names in the United States.
Most Popular Baby Girl Names
In 2022, the most popular baby girl names in the United States were:
These names have diverse origins and meanings. However, the majority seem to originate from Old Norse, Latin, Greek, Italian, French, and Hebrew languages. There are also some Old English names mixed in there.
Amelia derives from the Latin aemulus, meaning “rival.” As such, it might be one of the most contentious names on the top ten baby girl’s name list. Evelyn and Ava nearly mean the same thing, which is, “the child who was prayed/wished for.” That’s a pretty excellent meaning.
Most Prevalent Baby Girl Names
Just because something was popular within the last few years doesn’t mean that it’s the most common. Some of the most prevalent girls’ names in the United States (over the previous several decades) include names such as:
There’s an excellent chance that you know at least one person whose first name is one of the above most common given names for females in the US. However, thanks to rapid societal and technological changes (as well as an aging baby boomer population), these traditional baby names could become increasingly rare over the next decade or so.
Common Baby Girl Names Around the World
While the US is a relatively large country, it is not the world. If you’re curious about some of the most popular and prevalent baby girl names from around the world, then we’ve got your back.
For example, some of the most common baby girl names from around the globe include first names like:
- Fatemeh – Iran
- Maryam – Israel
- María – Peru
- Anna – Austria
- Aria – New Zealand
- Sakura – Japan
- Qian – China
As with most names, the meanings of these names are highly diverse. Still, it’s worthwhile to note that many of the most popular US baby girl names can also be found in various iterations throughout the rest of the world’s top girl’s names lists.
Sofia, Maria, Anna, Emma, and Olivia seem to be the most famous names (globally) of the last decade for girls.
Common Baby Boy Names
The dinosaurs in the original Jurassic Park might have all started life as females, but human beings are a little more evenly dispersed when it comes to gender. If you’re anticipating a bouncing baby boy instead of a blushing baby girl, you’re likely more interested in learning about some masculine or boy-appropriate genderfluid names.
Without further ado, let’s explore the most popular and prevalent baby boy names of the last year and the previous five decades. We’ll also take a brief trip around the world to discover the most common and trendy international baby boy names.
Popular Baby Boy Names
Some of the most popular baby boy names of the past few years include names like:
Generally, all of these names are ridiculously traditional. Had you told someone living in the 1920s that the children of the 2020s would be named William, James, and Benjamin, they might have laughed in your face.
It’s not uncommon for vintage, antiquated, or ‘old-timey’ first names to have a comeback period. Perhaps we’re currently living through the comeback of the 1920s!
Most Popular Baby Boy Names Today
In 2022, the most popular baby boy names in the United States were:
Most Prevalent Baby Boy Names
Though the above names might be most popular among toddling boys and infants under three, they’re not fully representative of the entire US male population. So, what are the most common masculine names in the United States? Well, they seem to be:
If there’s any baby boy name that consistently wins the popularity game, it might be the name James. Of course, Michael, John, and William are also excellent contenders. As with the most popular baby girl names, these first names primarily have Latin, Germanic, French, and Old English origins.
Common Baby Boy Names Around the World
While you might be quite familiar with many of the most popular US baby names, you might not be so familiar with the most commonly used masculine names around the world. Let’s remedy this. To start you off, there’s:
- Wei – China
- Mohammad – Iran
- Agustín – Chile
- Sebastián – Puerto Rico
- Aron – Iceland
- David – Moldova
When it comes to choosing the perfect baby name for your little one, it can feel like you’re balancing the weight of the world on your shoulders. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and relax for a moment.
Now, open your eyes again, because otherwise, you’ll never read the essential part: everything is going to be okay. You have the information you need to kick butt and choose the best possible name for your kid. You have the resources to get it done. So long as you have the resolve, you’re golden!