How To Pick A Baby Name

Note: Any names that appear in the pictures in this post are not actually names that we are considering at this time - you didn't think I'd make it that easy to figure it out, did you?

Derek and I got a chance to really talk about some names on our vacation last week, and we officially have our name list for Baby Girl narrowed down to two possible names!  One that I've liked for a while, and one that came out of nowhere and somehow made it to the top two.  I love both of the names we have.  I'm not sure if we will pick one before she is born or if we'll just wait until the hospital and make the final decision then - most likely the latter.

To commemorate this milestone, I thought I'd write a bit about our name-picking process.  We followed the same route when looking for names for Wyatt, and now for this baby, and it seems to work pretty well for us!

Visit the Social Security Website

First, I just have to say that I've found modern baby-name books to be a waste of time.  Derek and I like old names, ones that have a history, and most modern baby name books (as in, published within the last ten years) are filled with either foreign names that we just wouldn't use, or names that I've never even heard of before reading them in the book.  I swear those "10,000 Baby Names" books are filled with a bunch of names that someone, somewhere, just made up out of their head so they could say they have a book with 10,000 names.  But I digress . . .

Since most baby names nowadays are just not helpful, I like to refer to the Social Security website to come up with a list of names.  If you visit this page you can print up a list of the top 1000 names from any given year, as far back as 1880.   I usually like to print up the list from the most current year (because I like to know what's popular right now), and then I usually print up the list from the year 1900 - mostly because I know I like old names, so it just makes sense.  If you like names from a certain era, pick a year from that era and go from there.

Cross out all the names that just don't do it for you.

I go through and cross out any name that I don't like, or that is just "meh" to me.  By the end of this step I usually have about 40-50 names.

Cross out all names that your husband doesn't like.

I do most of the hard work in narrowing down the list to this point, but then Derek narrows it down further by telling me which names he just doesn't like.  At the end of this step we usually have about 20 names.

Look up name meanings.

For the remaining 20-ish names I'll sit down with a name meaning book or my laptop and look up the meanings to all the names.  Name meanings are important to me because I want to make sure my kids have names that mean something nice - and some names do not have nice meanings.  So I throw out the ones that don't have the greatest meanings, unless it happens to be a name that I really, really like.  More on this in a minute.

Discuss, Discuss, Discuss.

This is where Derek and I sit down and discuss all the names on our list and come up with our top 3-5.  Usually some names just stand out more than others, and the ones that don't stand out as much (but that we still like) are put aside for possible middle names.

Some fun websites that you can also check out while you are discussing are:

-Baby Name Genie - This website will take a first name and match it up with possible middle names, or vice versa.

-Baby Name Wizard - Check out the Name Voyager.  It will tell you the popularity of any given baby name as far back as 1880 using a fun graph.

-Nymbler - This takes your current kids names and gives you possible sibling names.  The names we like didn't happen to pop up when I entered Wyatt, but it's still fun.

-Finally, Nicole wrote a blog post recently about baby names too, and referenced a section in the documentary Freakonomics on baby names - her post was really interesting and worth a read!

Middle-Name Match-up.

It's like a game!  I sit down with our top 3-5 names and match them up with different middle name combinations.  Usually from here 2-3 of the full name possibilities stand out to Derek and me.

Final Decision Time.

This could come at any time, really.  For Wyatt, it came in the hospital when I looked at his little face for the first time and knew that he was a Wyatt.  We were kind of leaning toward Wyatt before then, and when he was born I just knew.  For this baby - it could come before she is born, or we might make that final decision in the hospital again.  We shall see!

There are also a few tips I'd like to add . . .

On Picking A Middle Name

Make sure you like the look of the first and middle name together on paper, and make sure they sound good when you say them aloud. Some of my middle name choices had to be throw out because they were just too hard to say with the first name - for example, if the sound at the end of the first name and the sound at the beginning of the middle name are the same sound, that gets hard to say.  

On Initials

If any of you have seen "You Again" you know what I'm talking about.  Make sure the initials are nice and don't spell out anything unflattering.  Poor Marney and her "M.O.O" initials come to mind.

On Name Meanings

If you really love a name but aren't crazy about the meaning, there are things you can do.  
For one thing, the same name doesn't mean the same thing in all languages.  For example, I knew I loved the name Wyatt, but I kept coming across websites that said it meant "Son of Guy". That's all good and fine, but it wasn't the most meaningful meaning . . . so I kept searching, and I found out that the French meaning for Wyatt is "Little Warrior", which I loved because I hope and pray for him to aspire to be a great spiritual warrior for God's Kingdom!  I also found another website recently that gave the meaning "brave or strong" for Wyatt too.  So if at first you don't like the name meaning, check a different website.

If all websites seem to give the same meaning, this does not mean you can't still make it work.  Are there any Bible verses that fit along the same theme?  Pick a "name meaning verse" for your child.  Kids like to know what their name means, and if it doesn't mean something significant, just make it significant for them in an encouraging way.

On Breaking the Rules

Any "rules" you come across out there are really more like guidelines.  Treat them as such, and go with your gut.  

Speaking as a former kid, I think they just like to know why you chose the name you chose - if you had their name picked out years before they were born because you loved it, tell them that. If you never even considered a name before and then it just felt right when they were on the way, tell them that.  If you couldn't decide, couldn't decide, and then looked at their face and just knew - tell them that too.  
Regardless of the name you picked, it'll make them feel special to know just what you went through to find that perfect name for them.

On Praying About Your Choice

I get a little overwhelmed picking names, because I feel like I'm not just picking a name - I'm picking part of who my child is, who they will become.  My child will have to live with this name for the rest of their life.  That's a big responsibility.  

With a decision as big as choosing the name of another human being, I think it's important to pray about your choice.  After all, there is Someone who already knows their name.  He knew it before you even considered it, and He knew your child before they even existed.  I think He'd like to be in on your decision-making process, even though He already knows.

What process did you go through to pick your children's (or future children's) names?

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Unknown said...

My husband was deployed and we were discussing names over Skype... we had one narrowed down and then out of no where I stumbled upon one and we both LOVED it! So ours came out of nowhere too!

Can't wait to see what you decide! :) So exciting!

Sarah said...

We kind of do the same thing... go through a list we find online and then narrow it down to just a couple. We leave it at that for a while to get a taste for each name and then we imagine different scenarios. Like...when the kids is 20, will the name still fit? How does it match and sound with sibling's names?

With this baby, we had almost decided on another name but I just couldn't see me using that name with my kid in the future. That did it for me! I need to be able to picture it, and I'm relieved for that instinct.

Unknown said...

I just know she'll have a lovely name :)

Rachel said...

J and I couldn't agree on any names so we prayed about it. A few days later I had a dream in which I just heard someone speak the name 'Ivy'. I woke up, rolled over and asked J if he liked the name. It was the only girls name we agreed on!

Melanie said...

Interesting post!! I can't wait to see what your going to name your little girl! For us..before we knew we were having a boy or girl..we tried picking out names for either sex. I was so scared it would be a boy because we had so many options we just couldnt decide at the time, though I know we would have! But lucky for us..we were having a girl and Makayla was ALWAYS #1 on our list of girls names..even before we were thinking of starting a family! The only thing that changed was her middle name. Originally, Damon wanted her to share my middle name (Dawn)..but after we found out we were having a girl..I wanted something different..just because back in the days when I was born..all of my friends and I had similar middle was either Dawn, Jane, Renee, or Lynn! I just LOVE her name though and it rolls off the tounge so easily..Makayla Giuliana!

Helene said...

woah. that seems crazy hard. just naming a dog alone is tough for me. I agree on praying about it. ask and you shall receive!

Rachael said...

I have a list of names I like... I think there's about a dozen or so - boys and girls. *shrug* But I think I'll be the kind of mamma who will fuss over it and then decide when I see my baby. :) In our house right now, though, we're coming up with ideas for baby #10... it's funny to hear the little kids' suggestions! (more often than not, their middle name or the middle name of another family member)

Kate Craig said...

the SS website is a great idea!

LeAnna said...

Great post! We like to use family names, especially from several generations back. With the past two, we had it narrowed down to two names and God sort of gave me a revelation, along with a scripture about one or the other. That has been really neat! I just keep praying for Him to reveal something about #3. I take baby naming pretty seriously, and love for it to have a good strong meaning. The name I'm liking right now has a pretty "meh" meaning, so I'm trying not to be too attached. ;)

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