How to Pick a Baby Name in 2018 (And Not Screw It Up)

Figuring out how to pick a baby name is highly subjective process.  You might like one name…that your spouse absolutely hates.

In fact, it’s very likely that this is the case.

You go through the baby name lists online, each of you striking names from the list that you don’t like.

Your wife loves “Emma,” but Emma was the name of your 5th grade teacher who you despised.

You like “Carrie,” but your wife fears the name will inspire a telekinetic power used for evil massacres (+1 if you get the movie reference).

So how do you actually pick a baby name that you both can agree on?

Or what if you find yourself at the point where you can’t seem to agree on any name?

Let’s figure this one out…

How to Pick a Baby Name the Right Way in 2018

There are a number of strategies for how to pick a baby name in 2018, and depending on how difficult you and your spouse are, you may need to consider all of them.

Here are some ideas you can try; as you’ll notice, some of these strategies are defensive and simply rely on the process of elimination.

(I’ll also add: the process becomes a bit more difficult if you haven’t found out the baby’s gender yet.)

1) Independently make a list of possible names; search for names that you have in common.

It’s simple: you make a list of the names you like.  Your spouse does the same.  Compare the lists and see if you have any in common.

This is probably the most basic and least likely to work.  In the off chance it does work, you’ll be really happy because you’ll each get a name you want without spending any time debating.

(You can also passive-aggressively write down a name that you know your spouse likes – one you don’t like – and then draw a line through it.)

2) Use the art of negotiation.

Most things in life are negotiable – including name selection.

If you’re fighting a losing battle with your spouse (i.e. you are likely stuck with a name they really like), it’s a good time to negotiate and try to get something out of it.

If you’re planning on having another child, offer your spouse the ability to pick this name (assuming you don’t hate the name) giving you the entitlement to choose the next.  It’s only fair, right?

Or, if your spouse really wants a first name you’re not crazy about, express your displeasure and use it as leverage to pick the middle name.  Better than nothing.

3) Use specific reasoning as you look at each name.

If your spouse really likes a name, nothing will be more frustrating than you not liking it for “no reason.”

Don’t simply say “I don’t like it.”  If there’s a real reason (such as, “It was the name of a teacher I hated in high school”), you’re more likely to get it knocked off the list.

You can use this to your advantage as well by bringing up someone who your spouse doesn’t like that may share the same name as the one he or she likes.

It doesn’t have to be all negative either.

If you’re fighting really hard for a name, find a good sentimental reason to back it up (for example: you want to honor your favorite grandfather who recently passed, by using his name).

Names are emotional, so associating it with a positive or negative emotion can help influence the decision.

4) When considering a name, be sure to consider possible nicknames.

This is a tip from my dad, who named my brother, sister, and me in such a way that we didn’t have any easily identifiable nicknames.

Nicknames aren’t a bad thing, and in some cases, they can’t be controlled.

However, some nicknames come natural with your given name – these can be controlled.

For example, you might like “Robert” but absolutely hate “Bobby” or “Bob.”  “William” might seem like an elegant choice to you, but you can’t sand the name “Bill.”

Keep in mind though – you may get to pick what’s written on the birth certificate, but you might not be able to control what your child is actually called by his peers and others outside of the house.

It works the other way too – you may really like a certain nickname, like “Ollie,” so you name your son “Oliver.” (Full disclosure: this is the name of my dog.)

5) Find common ground with your spouse through pop culture.

This isn’t necessarily an idea that resonates with me, but I can see it working for some people.

Maybe there’s a character name from a TV show or movie you both love that would work well for your child.  Or perhaps an actor/actress that you really like.

If you can find some positive common ground with your spouse through this route, you might also find the path to an agreeable name.

It’s also nice to have a story behind a name, even if it’s fairly superficial (like being named after a TV character).  Not every kid will ask the origins of his or her name (I know I never asked my parents), but for those who do, it’s nice to have an answer.

6) Decide on whether or not you want a popular name (and then check out the latest baby boy names or latest baby girl names)

One objective many parents have is to not give their son or daughter a name that “everyone else has.” They’d like something unique, but not crazy.

Others may prefer a trendy name.

If you’re not sure whether or not a name is in vogue, there are plenty of resources online that can help you – such as this one or this one (both can help you find the latest baby boy names or latest baby girl names).

7) Get creative at your own risk.

Children are essentially born with a clean slate, and they have their entire lives to put meaning behind the name that they are given.

However, the one thing they tend to be stuck with is name itself.  (Put aside the fact that people can change their first name or decide to be known by some name other than their legal name – most don’t do this, however).

On day one, the name you give your child may seem fairly innocuous, but you have to be careful if you plan to get creative.  An uncommon spelling may seem like a cute idea, but you’re not the one who has to go through an entire life of having other people misspell your name.

For example – if you like the name Melissa, spell it MELISSA! If you spell it Melysah, I guarantee no one will ever spell it correctly.  And no, I didn’t check to see if that’s someone’s actual spelling of “Melissa.”

You don’t win style points for tinkering with a name that has a common spelling.  And it’s your son or daughter that ultimately pays the price.

Here’s My View…

In my opinion (read: you may easily disagree with this), I don’t like the idea of consulting “popular name” lists.  Picking a name off that list virtually guarantees that your kid will grow up with many peers who have the same name.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it’s an important consideration to me.  I prefer a name that is timeless – a name where you can’t pinpoint the year or decade when it was popular.

At the end of the day, it’s difficult to make a bad choice.* Ultimately, you’ll have a child who you love, and the name will eventually feel natural.

*(I said it was difficult, not impossible. There have been plenty of bad name choices made by celebrities… such as Beyonce and Jay-Z’s “Blue Ivy,” Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “Apple”, or…naming all of your kids “George” like George Foreman did.)

What are your thoughts on how to pick a baby name? Are there any good strategies or tips that we missed here? Leave a comment below! 🙂

About Eric and Tiffany Matthews

We're Eric and Tiffany, the parents behind Cynical Parent. We're just normal parents who are navigating parenthood with both eyes wide open (probably because there's a kid yelling nearby). And of course, we're pretty cynical. Don't believe everything you read or hear, whether it's on the internet, or from a close family or friend (or even from us!). Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Sometimes you just need to try and see for yourself. :)

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