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What’s in a (Baby) Name?

From trendy to classic, choose the right style for your family.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Debating about what to name your baby? Put yourself in the child's shoes. Picture your child not as a cute baby but as a grown-up bearing the name you picked.

"My No. 1 tip is to stop and pretend you're naming yourself," Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, says. "If you're starting out in your life today, is this what you would want to represent you?"

If the answer is yes, you're on the right track. If not, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Beware of Trendy Names

Apple. Zuma. Blue Ivy. Would these work for your baby?

And trendy names aren’t just celebrities. "More than ever before," Wattenberg says, "parents seem focused on finding a name that is distinctive -- a name that everybody likes and nobody uses."

But what's in vogue one year and out the next is impossible to predict. Here are just a few of the trends:

  • City names, such as Austin and Brooklyn
  • Last names as first names, such as Parker and Coleman
  • Vintage names like Pearl and Ruby
  • Nature names like River, Reed, and Skye

There’s also the long-standing tradition of naming a baby for a relative or someone you admire.

"When people choose a name, we don't realize how much we are influenced by the world around us," Wattenberg says.

Obsessing Over the Options

As due dates approach, many parents-to-be comb through name books and websites.

"Parents have become much more conscious about the power of a name," Pamela Redmond Satran, coauthor of The Baby Name Bible, says. .

She chalks that up to society's heightened awareness of branding and image, but there’s little research to back up the claim. Names that roll off the tongue tend to make more favorable impressions. In one study of 500 lawyers, those with easy-to-pronounce names advanced faster and held more senior positions.

Another survey looking at LinkedIn profiles found that male CEOs commonly have one syllable nicknames (for example, Jack or Bill), whereas female CEOs use full names with two or three syllables (for example, Deborah or Carolyn).

When Inspiration Strikes

April Groom, a music teacher in Atlanta, was using a highlighter to mark top contenders in name books when something caught her eye -- the CD collection of her partner Victor, also a music teacher.

She had heard of other parents using Miles (after Miles Davis) but wanted to be original, picking Coltrane to honor another jazz great (John Coltrane).

"Good thing [he was a boy] because it was the only name we agreed on!" she says.

Melanie Davis and her husband Brian looked to their family tree. While visiting Brian's parents one weekend, Brian's father mentioned Preston, his grandfather's name. Melanie and Brian looked at each other and smiled -- they had found their son's name.

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