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What's in a Name?

Tips for choosing a baby name you'll always love

February 2014

How many Jacksons, Sophias, Emmas and Aidans have you met this year? BabyCenter.com is out with its annual list of most popular names. What's the trick to picking the name that's perfect for your baby? And how can you avoid choosing a name you may later regret? We've put together a step-by-step guide to making this important decision.

Step 1: Set your criteria

What do you know for sure about the kind of baby name you prefer? Are you into common spellings, or do you like clever variations? What about trendy or unusual names? Would you consider a family name? Will your kids' names all start with the same letter? When deciding what to name your little one, you can start by listing your must-have baby naming criteria and seeing how well your ideas line up with your partner's.

Step 2: Avoid pitfalls

No one wants to grow up introducing themselves with a name they really don't like. To make sure your child doesn't end up cursing you for the name you chose, be aware of a few naming pitfalls. First, run the name through the monogram test. (Aidan Scott Sampson has a nice ring until you picture those initials stitched onto his backpack.) Test possible email handles as well, which often combine the first initial of the first name with the last name. (Just imagine the campus or office jokes that would fly when receiving emails from Sarah Nott.) You may also want to Google your baby's full name and possible nicknames to make sure no unpleasant characters pop up. (Even if you plan to call him Theo instead of Ted, you may want to avoid the name Theodore if your last name is Bundy!)

Step 3: Find inspiration

Now, it's time to get to the fun part – starting a list of all the names you like. Some websites like BabyCenter.com, Babynames.com, Nameberry.com and Parents.com offer not only baby name lists, but also tools that help you search based on factors like ethnic background or suggest similar names that might interest you. You may also want to think of historic figures, family members, personal mentors, authors, athletes or artists who have influenced you.

Step 4: Get historic

If you're looking for a name with a classic ring that's not overused today, try the Social Security Administration website: http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames. Plug in a year and browse through names that were big hits back then. You can also enter your favorite names and see when they peaked in popularity.

Some families also keep family trees, family bibles or genealogy records. These are gold mines of interesting names with family ties! You don't have to limit your search to first names – many surnames (like Davis, Sterling, Jackson, Washington, Calvin, Harper or Harrison) can make distinctive first names. The trick is finding the name that both you and your partner fall in love with.

Step 5: Keep it quiet?

Most of your loved ones will respond kindly to your baby's name, but be prepared for negative reactions. (BabyCenter's survey found that out of people who got a negative reaction to their child's name, their own parents were the naysayers 46% of the time!) If you want to lower the risk of having your favorite name tainted by a nasty comment, keep it secret until the big birth day.

Whenever you reveal your baby's name to the world, stay confident in your choice. Even the toughest critics are likely to soften once your bundle of joy starts melting their hearts.

Top Baby Names of 2013

Source: BabyCenter.com


1. Sophia

2. Emma

3. Olivia

4. Isabella

5. Mia

6. Ava

7. Lily

8. Zoe

9. Emily

10. Chloe

11. Layla

12. Madison

13. Madelyn

14. Abigail

15. Aubrey

16. Charlotte

17. Amelia

18. Ella

19. Kaylee

20. Avery


1. Jackson

2. Aiden

3. Liam

4. Lucas

5. Noah

6. Mason

7. Jayden

8. Ethan

9. Jacob

10. Jack

11. Caden

12. Logan

13. Benjamin

14. Michael

15. Caleb

16. Ryan

17. Alexander

18. Elijah

19. James

20. William

*This list is based on surveys with parents who use the website, and combines spelling variations. See the full top 100 at BabyCenter.com.

Tags: Featured Article, In This Issue, Infant & Baby, Parenting

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