Whether you want to go trendy, traditional, or totally unique, we've gathered great ideas on how to select the ideal name for your newborn.

By Heather Moors Johnson
August 05, 2015

Expect the Unexpected

There's a lot of pressure in choosing a baby name. It'll be one of the first things people learn about your child and will be a part of her for the rest of her life. But though naming your newborn is a daunting process, it can also be fun. Some couples discuss and research -- and argue about the name until hospital staff make them sign the birth certificate. Other parents-to-be just hear a name and find they both love the sound. There are about as many ways to pick a name as there are names themselves. For inspired stories of how parents chose the perfect moniker for their child -- and ideas for how to come up with your own -- read on.

Slip of the Tongue

When we got together with some friends who had just named their baby boy Justin, I told the new mom that I really liked the name. Her mother-in-law, who was also there, added, "Thank goodness they decided to go with Justin--their other choice was Aidan. Can you believe it? What an awful name!" My husband and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows--and later agreed that Aidan was exactly the name we wanted. I'm sure my friend's mother-in-law was appalled when she got the baby announcement!Jennifer, Buffalo, N.Y.

Keep on Truckin'

My husband named our daughter Kalyn. He is a shipping manager at a lumberyard, and Kalyn Siebert is the name of a brand of flatbed trailers. We like to joke that our daughter's name was found on the mud flap on the back of a trailer!Kim, Albemarle, N.C.

By the Book

I was six months pregnant during a trip to California for a wedding, and there was a large span of time when I couldn't feel the baby move. My doctor kept reassuring me I was walking so much that I was rocking the baby to sleep. On the flight home, still nervous, I decided to try to relax by finishing my Danielle Steel novel. Just as I started reading, the baby kicked! The main character in the book is Cassandra, which is now our daughter's name.Rhonda, Haverhill, Mass.

Childhood Crush

I've always had a huge crush on musician and actor Rick Springfield. My first son was named after my father, but my second son, Noah James, was named after two of Rick's screen characters. (My husband would not let me name him Rick, so I got creative!)Kathryn, Rockford, Mich.

Saintly Inspiration

We named our daughter Brigid after Ireland's Saint Brigid, a very cool saint who started a coed monastery and taught nuns to read and make art. We also used it because it suited both my husband's background (Scots-Irish) and mine (Scandinavian).Rebecca, Indianapolis, Ind.

Just a Joke

When I was pregnant, my husband, Bill, and I were getting sick of everyone asking us what names we had in mind. So Bill made up names as a joke: XTC for a girl and Zamfir for a boy. I was so sure we were having a boy that I started calling the baby Zammie. When my doctor confirmed that it was a boy, Zam stuck. Of course, we didn't want our son going through life having all that to explain, so Sam was the next best thing.Debbie, Glen Rock, Pa.

Ice Ice Baby

When we discovered we were having a boy, we bought a name book, only to find it wasn't as helpful as we had thought it would be. Since we're huge hockey fans, we decided to read through all the team rosters in the preseason yearbook to see if we might have better luck. We chose Luc, after left-winger Luc Robitaille, a French-Canadian hockey player.Steven & Nicole, Olathe, Kans.

Blast From the Past

My husband and I named our third child Kammin Daphne. Kammin is my mother's maiden name, and Daphne is one of the characters on the Scooby-Doo cartoon. (Our 4-year-old, Madison, really liked to watch Scooby-Doo while I was pregnant!)Tara, Oakwood, Ill.

Dramatic Moment

Both our boys got their names from visits to a movie theater. My husband and I picked the name Liam for our first son after seeing Rob Roy when I was pregnant. Our second son, Declan, was named after Richard Gere's character in The Jackal.Brandy, Lakeland, Fla.

Comic Belief

When we were first married, I gave my husband a Calvin and Hobbes book every Christmas, and we always said we'd like to have a little Calvin of our own someday. After I got pregnant, the only name that we could agree on was Calvin. Our son may still be too young to understand who his namesake is, but he's certainly living up to his cartoon counterpart's reputation!Erin, Plover, Wis.

Literary Tradition

Our daughter, Emma Lindsay, was named early in my pregnancy. Jane Austen is my favorite author, and Emma is my favorite book. Lindsay is my husband's middle name and his grandfather's first name. Since it's no longer common as a male name, we gave it to Emma.Leanne, Calgary, Alta., Canada

Great Grandparents

We named our baby girl Lawren Zada after my grandfather Lawrence and my husband's grandmother ElZada. We have a lot of trouble with people who try to spell her name L-A-U-R-E-N, but I wanted the spelling to be like my grandfather's.Andrea, Enid, Okla.


For some parents, the perfect name is as close as their TV set or movie theater. Prime-time shows, for example, are rife with characters whose monikers might strike a chord: Chandler, Monica, Dawson, Grace, and others. And there are lots of good names among actors themselves: Why not go with Gwyneth, Heath, or Halle?


Many parents are poring over maps in search of the perfect name. Dakota, Cheyenne, Asia, India, Savannah, and China are all popular right now.


The vast majority of babies who receive a gender-neutral name are girls. The trouble is, most names don't stay gender-neutral for long, and soon after a name like Sydney or Lindsey becomes big for girls, it's considered a girl's name.

Last Names as First Names

Females with names like Bentley, Coleman, and Ridgely and males with names like Knox and Blake could all have graduated from well-heeled Southern high schools 20 years ago. Today that trend is definitely expanding across the country.

The Next Big Thing

Madison and Alexis, both currently on the top-10 list, will stay popular for girls, says name expert Cleveland Evans, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Bellevue University, in Bellevue, Nebraska. But they'll be joined by lots of Olivias, Emmas, and Sydneys. Haley (with many different spellings), Chloe;, Sophia, Faith, Trinity, and Jada will also be big. For boys, Joseph is moving up the list, and Christian is on the rise as well. You'll also hear about many Isaiahs, Logans, and Isaacs. Trendy names of the recent past such as Taylor, Justin, and Jason are starting to wane in popularity.

Searching Your Ethnic Roots


African: Adio (righteous), Daudi (beloved), Zuberi (strong)

Irish: Aidan (warm), Connor (much desire), Riordan (minstrel)

Greek: Cyril (lord), Demetrius (lover of earth)

Hindu: Dlnendra (god of sky), Firoz (winner)

Native American: Elsu (falcon in flight), Hula (eagle), Nigan (in the lead)

Chinese: Chen (great), Jun (truth), Li (strength)


African: Jaha (dignity), Kasinda (born after twins)

Irish: Deirdre (sorrowful), Maeve (delicate), Kelly (female soldier)

Greek: Althea (healer), Sophia (wisdom), Zoí« (life)

Hispanic: Lareina (the queen), Alva (pure)

Japanese: Akahana (red flower), Kazu (obedient)

Native American: Kaya (older sister), Hialeah (beautiful pasture)

Chinese: An (peace), Lin Lin (cheerful), Hua (flower)

Source: Social Security Administration.

Copyright © 2002 Heather Moors Johnson. Reprinted with permission from the August 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

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