When I wrote the first edition of The Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World back in 1978, there were about 10,000 names on 120 pages. 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 only for names that appealed to you).
The new edition of The Very Best Baby Name Book published by Meadowbrook Press has 50,000 names on 383 pages. I’d like to propose another way to look for names using this book. 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 this 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?
Step Two: Narrowing Down the List
Now that you’ve written down a list of names that you have a strong personal connection to, 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 long list of names to consider. Now it’s time to narrow down this 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: Do you like the image 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 this name likely to be misspelled often?
Pronunciation: Is this name likely to be mispronounced often?
Gender: Does this name clearly indicate your child’s gender?
Initials: Do you like the initials this name forms with the middle and last name?
Meaning: Is the meaning positive? Is it appropriate?
Traditions: Does this name fit your religious or ethnic traditions?
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.
Written by Bruce Lansky. More advice on how to choose a name for your baby, along with a listing of 50,000 baby names and meanings is available in Bruce Lansky’s The Very Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World (Meadowbrook Press, $8.95 at www.meadowbrookpress.com)