Baby Name Meanings: Why We Chose Henry

When my baby was born, the midwife placed him immediately on my chest. I looked down at my squirming, crying child and waited for my husband to say, "It's a boy!" His announcement wasn't just for show; we had decided to wait to find out our baby's sex until birth.

Waiting was a great decision, but it did add a layer of complexity to picking out a baby name. It seemed so hard to come up with a name when we didn't know the most basic thing about our child. Plus, I have some weird ‘quirks’ about baby names.

I despise unique names, as well as names that are commonly made into nicknames. I also have a rule that baby names should sound great with "Mr. President" (I have high hopes for my kids!).

We eventually picked a girl’s name but couldn’t settle on a boy’s name. Of course, that meant we had a boy!

Our son remained nameless for the first twelve hours of his life. We had a short list of boy names, and prior to birth, we heavily favored Jack. But our baby didn't look like a Jack. Our baby was small and had creamy skin and light hair; I pictured a Jack baby being dark-haired and tough.

So I put out a call on Facebook: "We can't decide what to name the baby! Any ideas?" One friend, Jude, suggested we name him Jude; "Guys named Jude are handsome, smart, and popular!" he joked. My husband looked up from his phone and said, "You know what? I actually really like Jude." I thought it went nicely with our last name, but then, I turned to my son and said, "Hey, Jude..." and promptly nixed the idea for fear he'd never hear the end of the popular Beatles song.

We settled on Henry Boyle. Doesn’t "Henry Boyle, President of the United States" sound nice? His middle name is my husband's name. A year and a half later, my Henry has turned into a spunky, strong fellow that totally could've been a Jack. Although I think Henry suits him quite well, he's the embodiment of everything I thought a Jack would be like.

Oh, well! At least we know what we'll name our next baby if it's a boy!

Photo by Felipe Salgado on Unsplash

What's in a Baby Name?

My husband and I had good intentions when we chose to name our firstborn, Caitlin. At that time, no one on this side of the pond had ever heard of it. And even if they had, they were only familiar with the Gaelic spelling. Years later, Caitlin is one of the most popular girl names, with multiple spellings abound. In a crowded room, more than one head will turn at the sound of our daughter's name. Its overnight popularity is proof that name trends come and go, and public opinion changes quickly.

Three kids later, I reflect on the reasoning behind the naming of my three children. Although I suspect it's not much different from any parent's experience, here's what swayed my decisions.  

Does it sound okay? Saying your baby's name out loud is the true test of compatibility. First, middle and last names should flow as one. In my mind, that means shorter first names should be paired with longer last names, and vice versa. Likewise, first names that end in a vowel don't always sound right with a last name that begins with a vowel. These things mattered to us!

How does it look on paper? One day, your baby’s name will show up on a resume, a driver's license, and a diploma. His signature may even be famous. I like a name that stands out in written form.  

Is it too unusual or overly popular? Many people with common names know what it's like to have three other people with the same name in their third-grade class. These are the Megans and the Matthews of the world, and they vow to name their own child something unique. On the other hand, something too unusual could be difficult to pronounce or bring unwanted attention. It helps to strike a balance.

Can a name be different without being weird? Some celebrities are pushing the limits with baby names like North, Cricket, and Breeze. Different may be good, but weird could open your child up to ridicule and attention she'd rather avoid.

Do you want your child to have a nickname? Some names adapt to nicknames more readily than others. We chose Caitlin as our girl’s name, in part, because it rarely gets shortened, and it seemed equally appropriate as both a teenager and a grandmother.   

Do the initials pass the tease test? Make sure the initials don't spell out something undesirable, and don't forget that the first initial of the last name stands out on a monogram.

All things considered, my daughter still likes her name. Granted, she tires of spelling it out when asked, but I'm fairly certain she wouldn't trade it for anything else. And one day, perhaps, it won't be common anymore!

Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

Baby Name Meanings: Why We Chose Paloma

Even before I was pregnant, my husband and I knew we wanted to give our baby a name that wasn’t super common and didn’t have any personal connotations for us. I went to an all-girls school, so I’ve heard just about every normal girls’ name; I wanted something different for our daughter.

That being said, we wanted a “real” baby name, not something we’d made up or a word that’s not really used as a name. I really liked to the idea of picking a girl name that’s common in other countries, and “Paloma” certainly fit the bill. It’s very popular in most Spanish-speaking countries and in Hungary, too -- there’s even a popular Spanish folk song called “La Paloma.”

Besides being unique and beautiful, I liked the baby name meaning of Paloma. The name means “dove,” a well-recognized symbol of peace. This meaning would give my daughter a “spirit animal” of sorts, even though it turns out she’s very strong and feisty --not very dove-like at all!

It also wasn’t something I had to go searching through baby name books for: As an art history student, I knew that Picasso’s daughter was named Paloma. Although I didn’t want to pay homage to Picasso per se, I was aware of the name and threw it out there when my husband and I were discussing potential baby names. He really loved it -- not only was it unique, but it sounded really nice with our last name.

At first, I was a little concerned that giving our daughter a Spanish name might seem odd, because we are not of Hispanic heritage. My husband and I both look very Irish. Even so, I liked the idea of giving our baby a name that connected her to other cultures -- and it has: She was playing with a Spanish-speaking little boy while we were waiting to board a plane, and his entire family got so excited when they heard our red-headed toddler was named Paloma. 

As much as we loved our baby name, I don’t think our families were crazy about it at first. My husband’s family is a little more traditional, so I wanted to give them time to get used to a more unique girl name. When we told them we’d decided on Paloma, they were definitely taken aback. However, within weeks, everyone was totally on board, even referring to my baby bump as “Paloma.” Now, I don’t think anyone could imagine our daughter with any name but Paloma!

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

Baby Name Meanings: Choosing Margaret

Naming your new baby has got to be one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy and parenthood! Like many women, I had compiled a secret list of baby names before I even became pregnant. Some baby names and meanings were classic, some were trendy, and some were taken from literature, but all struck a chord with me in some way. 

I had never shared my list with anyone -- and then one day my husband and I found out we were expecting! Suddenly, those treasured baby names didn’t seem so significant. There was now an actual person who would be walking around with this name, so we didn’t want to pick just any name. Of course, we paged through the baby name books and marked our favorites -- none of which matched -- and so the conversation continued.

We weren’t finding out the gender of the baby before birth, so we had to decide on not one, but two names!  We agreed on the boy’s name easily, but choosing the girl’s name proved more difficult. To complicate matters, I was teaching at an all-girls school and had so many associations with so many names of former and current students that I was having trouble coming up with a baby name meaning that was perfect for us…and time was running out!

I mean that literally -- we were in the hospital and still hadn’t decided on a name!  All through labor my husband and I couldn’t agree. We said the usual, “We’ll see what the baby looks like before we pick a name." Well, two days after the birth of our daughter -- yes, a girl! -- we still hadn’t picked a name!  I felt bad that after years of adding to and perfecting my baby name list, my precious new daughter was being referred to as “Baby Girl.” We were told we had to have a name before we could leave the hospital. And then my husband suggested the perfect name: Margaret.

Of course! Why hadn’t we thought of that sooner? It is the name of the great-grandmothers on both sides of the family; it is classic; and it has many possibilities for nicknames. Uh-oh, nicknames? Let’s just stick with Margaret for now. We love our choice and our little baby girl, Margaret!

Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash

Most Popular Baby Girl Names By Country

Hundreds of thousands of babies are born each day, and although each is wonderfully unique, many share a common baby name.

Last year, America’s favorite baby girl names included Sophia, Emma, and Isabella. Italians were drawn to a similar top pick -- Sofia -- but also loved Giula and Martina. Aussies adored names like Charlotte, Ruby, and Lilly, and Indians named their baby girls Saanvi, Angel, and Pari.

Internationally popular girl names included Sophia, Olivia, Ava, Emma or Emily, and Mia. If you’re looking for an unusual baby name -- at least in the States -- why not consider Esra? It was the sixth most popular name in Turkey last year!

United States

1.    Sophia

2.    Emma

3.    Isabella

4.    Olivia

5.    Ava

6.    Emily

7.    Abigail

8.    Mia

9.    Madison

10. Elizabeth


1.    Sofia

2.    Giulia

3.    Martina

4.    Giorgia

5.    Sara

6.    Emma

7.    Aurora

8.    Chiara

9.    Alice

10. Alessia

United Kingdom

1.    Amelia

2.    Olivia

3.    Jessia

4.    Emily

5.    Lily

6.    Ava

7.    Mia

8.    Isla

9.    Sophia

10. Isabella


1.    Charlotte

2.    Ruby

3.    Lilly/Lily

4.    Olivia

5.    Chloe

6.    Sophie

7.    Emily

8.    Mia

9.    Amelia

10. Ava


1.    Mia

2.    Emma

3.    Hannah/Hanna

4.    Lea/Leah

5.    Sofia/Sophia

6.    Anna

7.    Lena

8.    Leonie/Leoni

9.    Lina

10. Marie


1.    Saanvi

2.    Angel

3.    Pari

4.    Diya

5.    Ananya

6.    Aadhya

7.    Pihu

8.    Khushi

9.    Kavya

10. Avni


1.    Martina

2.    Sofia

3.    Florence

4.    Valentina

5.    Isidora

6.    Antonella

7.    Antonia

8.    Emilia

9.    Catalina

10. Fernanda


1.    Zeynep

2.    Elif

3.    Merve

4.    Busra

5.    Fatma

6.    Esra

7.    Irem

8.    Ayse

9.    Kubra

10. Emine


1.    Lucia

2.    Maria

3.    Paula

4.    Daniela

5.    Sara

6.    Carla

7.    Martina

8.    Sofia

9.    Julia

10.    Alba

Photo by Cristina Anne Costello on Unsplash