Baby Name Traditions

Ah, the perfect baby name. There ought to be some kind of formula, a goof-proof recipe for naming success. Here was ours: We coupled my husband’s Irish/English last name  with a Jewish-sounding first name that reflects my cultural identity and isn’t too hard for Americans to pronounce. Then, we added a middle name honoring my  recently deceased grandmother. It was a crowd-pleaser, because everyone had some say.

It seems like we came up with it pretty simply now, but the truth is, there are so many different places to take inspiration from when choosing a baby name. Many naming traditions take cues from family trees, national history, and even popular culture.

A time-honored way to find baby name meaning inspiration: Honor a relative. Many cultures follow this baby name standard, but it can be executed in different ways —using  the same first initial or the exact name of a beloved grandmother or grandfather, or using a family maiden name. This can make the naming challenge easier—though it could also make it harder, if the name is odd (Wellford, for a girl name), or if the name is already in use by four cousins.

Other parents have been inspired by rock stars (Dylan), book or movie characters (Katniss), historical figures (Columbus), famous writers (Emily), saints (Sebastian), Biblical figures (Noah), cultural heritage (Seamus), star formations (Orion), favorite foods (Apple), aspirations (Joy), cities (London), flowers (Dahlia) and even bugs (Cricket). Some parents simply make up their own baby names, like Mareau and Thaura, who live down the street. Or Janicxa and Camajerie, in my daughters’ school. 

For more ideas, there are umpteen books, websites, and even name-generator websites – which make suggestions based on your taste. When you’ve got your list of top contenders, imagine yourself leaning out the back door and calling this child to dinner. If it doesn’t roll off the tongue, go back to your muses and try again.