February 10, 2009

8 Ways to Spark Ideas for Picking the Perfect Baby Name

For some parents, naming their baby is a no-brainer. Maybe they have a name they’ve always loved, a family tradition to pass on, or a relative to honor. Some women dream about their babies’ names in the same way they dreamed about their wedding day. When the time comes, it’s simply a matter of making the dream a reality—and hopefully no overbearing mother-in-laws are involved.

But if choosing a name is difficult, overwhelming, or even conflict-ridden, you might need a little inspiration. Here are a few tips to get the names flowing:

  1. Buy a baby name book. Visiting your bookstore or library will provide you with a ton of name inspiration! If you are already overwhelmed with options, it might be best to pick up something small, but with lots of details or category lists. (In fact, I've written a little name book designed to help you enjoy the process.) Spend a few relaxing evenings turning the pages and jotting down names that grab your interest. Keep it low-pressure and enjoy yourself.
  2. Get inspiration from your surroundings. You can sometimes discover that the perfect name choice for you was near you all along. To spark ideas, think about where you met your partner, your favorite date spot, the place you conceived the baby, the season and month of your due date, the street you live on, your beloved childhood campgrounds, or your favorite vacationing spot. Names like Pearl, Aspen, June, Primrose, Dakota, Franklin, and Paris might come to mind. Keep looking around your community as well as thinking of places that are particularly special to you. The name of the park where you like to walk may end up being your perfect choice.
  3. Think about your personal taste. It might seem obvious to consider your personal style, but sometimes the influence of others can get you off-track. Remember to pick a name that speaks to your soul. Think about whether you like traditional decor or contemporary. Do you listen to indie rock or inspirational ballads? Maybe traditional names like Elizabeth or William fit your family better than Maddox or Keira.
  4. Think about your values. What you value in life is another factor that will play into the name you give your child. The most common way this takes place is through names that have significant meanings for you. You can search for a particular meaning by visiting the BabyNames.com advanced search page. (For example, try typing in “gracious” in the meaning search box.)
    Another way to look at this is to ask yourself a few questions. Would you like names from the Bible, like Abigail or Noah? Maybe you’d like names that honor nature, like Autumn or River. There are also plenty of virtue names that might reflect your ideals, like Grace or Justice. Once you start looking for these kinds of names, you’ll definitely have a few more choices.
  5. Comb through your family tree. It's a perfect way to find a meaningful name. Look at the first, middle, and last names of your ancestors for inspiration. Talk to your grandparents or other relatives to get the scoop on their favorite family members and the kind of qualities they had. If you can’t find a specific name you like, you can always try to choose a name that reflects your family’s nationality and cultural heritage by looking according to origin.
  6. Play name games with your partner.
    • Create a list of your top 10-20 favorites, without revealing it your partner, while they do the same. Then look at it together and see if your lists share any names. This is how my parents named me!
    • Play with combining names. Try creating names by combining yours and your husband’s middle names, your grandmothers’ names, or any other combinations you can dream up. My husband and I discovered that by combining our two fathers’ names, Bruce and Dave, we created names like Brave and Deuce! It’s not exactly our style, but it was a fun exercise.
    • Create a list of your top ten heroes in life, or those who inspire you. Don’t think about their names as you do this! You might list a relative, actor, inventor, philanthropist, author, or your 2nd grade teacher...there are no limits. Then delve a little deeper and research their full name. You just might find a choice that you love and already has meaning for you.
  7. Keep your eyes & ears open. You can find inspiration almost anywhere. The key is having an open mind and listening or watching for a great idea. You might find a name you love in a novel you’re reading, or in the credits of a movie you’ve watched. Maybe you’ll hear a name you love at a visit to the supermarket or the coffee shop. Or you may have a favorite t.v. character or singer with a name you admire. And yes, there’s a difference between being inspired by a name you come across and naming your child “after” that person. Don’t be afraid to use a name you like, even if your inspiration was Captain Jack Sparrow.
  8. Read Nameisms. Ok, enter the shameless plug. This blog is designed to be a fun and free way to get ideas for naming your baby! Here you can find posts including the history and meaning of a specific name, name lists in different categories, and articles on the naming process. After reading a few posts, you’ll see the value in knowing more about a name than a one-word definition. Read more about Nameisms here.

When you and your partner find the perfect name, it’ll just feel right. I wish you the best of luck in making your choice!

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