Having a baby is serious undertaking that requires plenty of preparation. Nurseries have to be prepared, equipment such as cribs and car seats must be bought, and the baby and the expecting mother’s health must be monitored regularly. Most important, the expecting parents must pick the baby’s name. Choosing a baby’s name may not seem as important as the other preparations and responsibilities of new parents, but it does require some serious thought. After all, a baby will carry his or her name all throughout life.
It’s not surprising that many cultures place significant importance on the selection of names for babies. Many cultures and religions all over the world consider the name selection process as a ritual, with holy men or village elders – not the expecting parents – holding the responsibility.
In Chinese cultures, for instance, babies don’t get their name upon birth. Instead, newborns are given a “false name” to trick and scare away evil spirits. A Chinese child will traditionally have several names as it grows up – one as a baby, one name for school, and one name after graduation from school. The zodiac also plays a significant role in Chinese culture; as such, this factors into the selection of a name for a baby.
Generational names are also widely used in Chinese culture. ‘Han’, the generation name for a child, may be used as a prefix for a given name. For instance, a child with the given name ‘Li’ and the family name of ‘Xia’ may have the full name of ‘Xia Hanli’.
In the Hindu culture, the process of selecting a name for a baby is a ritual called ‘Namkaran’, which translates into “to make a name”. The Namkaran ritual takes place at home or at a Hindu temple two to three weeks after the birth of a baby. The ritual is considered a highly solemn undertaking as there are several rules that govern the selection process. These rules often involve the caste of the family and the gender of the child, among other factors. Once a name is successfully selected, the baby’s father whispers the chosen name into the baby’s right ear.
For Muslims, the name selection process is also governed by laws and rules of Islam. Names that are reserved for Allah, the Prophets, and the angels can’t be used for a child. There are also separate rules and laws for each sex. The chosen name should not encourage ridicule and mockery for the child. According to Muslim culture, girls should also not be given names that are too soft or provocative. In Islamic tradition, the responsibility of choosing a baby name is reserved entirely for the parents.
In Western culture, a common practice is to name boys after their fathers, hence the common use of suffixes as ‘junior’ and ‘senior’. Many feel that this is not a good way to choose a name for a baby, as it’s unoriginal and may cause some confusion for the child as he or she grows up. Some think, though, that this is a good way to carry on family traditions to newer generations.
Expecting parents should also consider the way a full name will sound when spoken. Names that use alliteration like Peter Parker or Jessica Johnson tend to have a nice ring to them so many parents opt for these names. You can also consider the number of syllables in both first and last names so your baby’s name will fall nicely from the tongue. First and last names that end in the same sound, like Marie Curie, tend to be memorable.
Many expecting parents base their choices for baby names on the era or time period the baby is born in. The popularity of names for baby boys and baby girls tends to change over the years. For instance, the three most common names for girls of the 2000s are Emily, Madison, and Emma. Back in the 1930s, the top spots for baby girl names went to Mary, Betty, and Barbara.
The good news is that there are many resources and tools you can use to look for the perfect name for your baby. You can go for baby name books or the hundreds of baby name websites available online today. Family members and friends may also have valuable input on the right name for your baby.