You’ve got nine months to nail your dream name, and we’re with you every step of the way. Don’t stress. This is the fun part!F
Congratulations! You’re pregnant during a golden age for baby naming.
“There are just so many more names in use today than there were even a few decades ago,” says Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby NameWizard. That means that, while the top ten names are still popular, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any become as ubiquitous as Jennifer and Michael once were, she says.
And with more resources than ever—books, websites, lists that break names down by every possible factor—there’s no reason why you can’t find a name you (and your child) will absolutely love. To get there, follow this guide that helps you weed out names each trimester.
When You Find Out You’re Pregnant
Go ahead, start now!
Were you doodling potential baby names before you even got a positive pregnancy test? I sure was. Heck, I was playing around with names (Nina, Sasha, and Claire were all early favorites) before I even found Mr. Right! It’s never too soon to start making a list of names you love, says Pamela Redmond Satran, cofounder of Nameberry.com and coauthor of ten books about naming, including The Baby Name Bible.
“In fact, it’s one of the only things about pregnancy and your baby that you can actually control, so daydream to your heart’s content!”
The vast majority of parents want a name that’s unique but also familiar enough that it won’t raise eyebrows. Thankfully, if that’s you, there’s an easy way to reach what Satran calls the Golden Mean.
“On a list of the 1,000 most popular names in the U.S., you’d want something that falls roughly in the middle,” she says, perhaps between 400 and 600. In 2013, the quite-normal names Rory, Mitchell, Gwendolyn, and Evie all fell in that range. You can consider anything below 50 to be fairly popular, Satran adds.
Watch for repetition
When browsing, remember that the Social Security Administration ranks each spelling of a name individually. So while Noah may have been #1 in 2013, it’s quickly toppled by Aiden, Jackson, Jayden, and Jacob when you factor in their various spellings throughout the top 1,000. Why does that matter? Aiden, Aden, and Aydin all sound the same when called across the playground.
Keep an eye on trends
If your ultimate goal is to choose a name that stands out, also be aware of the “brother/sister” names (names that have similar sounds) of the most popular ones on that list. They can also get overused.
For instance, my 4-year-old daughter Mia’s pre-K class has not only two Sophias (the most popular girl’s name three years running) but also two Olivias and another Mia—which I shouldn’t have found surprising, given the current zeal for their melodious ee-ahh sounds. Of course, in some cases using a similar-sounding name that isn’t as popular can give you exactly what you want—a whiff of trendiness, without having to always put an initial after your kid’s name on her backpack. (Think: #316 Gemma or #653 Jemma, versus Emma, #2.)
RELATED: Cool And Unique Girl Names
Know your neighborhood
The name Madison may be in the top ten throughout the country, but that doesn’t mean it’s setting records in your part of the world. Likewise, looking at the rankings for your state (find them at SSA.gov/babynames) and talkingto local nursery school teachers and parents of young kids can help you avoid a surprisingly popular choice. Paisley, for example, was the fifth most popular girl’s name in Wyoming in 2013, but it ranked only 80th nationally.
Look at your social circle, too, and consider the origin and general feeling of the names you find. You might think Ezekiel is unique (it’s borderline, at #186), but if Levis and Ezras fill the Music Together classes in your town, there may be a little Ezekiel running around too. “Just don’t go overboard with the desire to stand out,” says Wattenberg. If you can’t imagine naming your son anything other than Ezekiel, that’s all that matters.
RELATED: Cool and Unique Boy Names
Once You’ve Hit Your Pregnancy Stride
Try names on for size
A lot of parents-to-be prefer not to share their final contenders with friends or relatives. But it’s actually smart to gauge public reaction. To do so privately, use one of your favorite names the next time you order a latte at Starbucks, says Jennifer Moss, founder and CEO of BabyNames.com. (Or have your partner try it with a boy’s name.)
How does the barista react? Can she spell it? When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, Phoebe, I managed to nix both the lovely Penelope and Genevieve this way. It bothered me that both names tangled people’s tongues—and I didn’t want to shorten them to Penny or Ginny for expediency.
Poll your inner circle
Even if you’re keeping a name quiet, it’s worth divulging it to a few key confidantes whose taste you admire. They just might see something you don’t or come up with an association you might not have noticed: “Do you watch Scandal? It’s all I can think about when I hear the name Cyrus.”
Think in the future tense
You’ve probably heard of the senator test: Will a name befit someone of gravitas and success? But that only works if you favor traditional names, says Wattenberg, and even at that, it’s hardly a solid test. Just look at Condoleezza Rice. That said, choosing a name with some flexibility can’t hurt.
“We named our first daughter Charlotte, but we call her Charlie,” says Maggie Shaw, a mom of two girls in San Francisco. “If she decides at some point that she doesn’t want to have that nickname or prefers to go by something more formal, she can go back to Charlotte.”
Let go of your dreams (maybe just a little)
Ready to start browsing? Get started with our free Baby Name Finder