Baby-Naming - an underrated art form

Thrilling yet overwhelming, baby naming can be rife with potential blunders – particularly if you’re a high profile couple like Harry and Meghan who have invited much argument about their choice of name for their recently born daughter, Lilibet Diana. 

Favouring the name of one family member over another or choosing not to honour the family name at all can even go so far as to cause a family rift when it comes to baby naming. 

To get what you want without upsetting the apple cart, Maisie Clarke, Hippychick’s resident blogger, shows you how to navigate the complex world of baby naming. 

Looking at your family tree is often the first port of call for new parents. My family certainly didn’t shy away from ‘keeping it in the family’ and I find myself writing birthday cards to Joe snr, Joe jnr and Joe jnr jnr. As lovely and traditional as it is to pass names down from one generation to the next (… and to the next), it can create quite some confusion, especially at family gatherings. Here’s where considering the importance of middle names comes into play. Maintaining a family tradition through a middle as opposed to a first name may help allay confusion.

Investigating the etymology of names is also a must. Seasonal names such as the Yuletide ‘Holly,’ ‘Angelica’ or ‘Carol’ have slightly more obvious etymologies but not as many people would know that ‘Avery’ means ‘Christmas elf’ or that ‘Natasha’ means ‘Jesus’ birth.’ 

All names have meanings, and onomastics (the study of names) is a field which touches on linguistics, history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philology and much more. Many parents claim that their child ‘just came out looking like a Hannah’ or a ‘Benjamin,’ and certain names often do just dawn on parents, but it may be worth questioning whether the etymology of the name also suits the baby. 

When it comes to names, etymology often coincides with culture. Honouring your culture and that of others is another essential consideration. For instance, my family has a Scottish heritage and ‘Maisie’ comes from the Scottish name ‘Margaret’ meaning ‘Pearl’… I had a great aunt named Pearl. My friend Maya is named after the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and I have a friend called Ansgar who’s Nordic name means ‘God and spear’. Your culture will of course form a significant part of your child’s identity, so choosing a name that reflects your cultural heritage is often a go to for parents. 

Although family tradition, culture and etymology are rightfully prominent concerns, there are others which may seem more trivial but are nonetheless important to note. Contemplating all possible nicknames is one such point and let’s not forget the potential for an unfortunate combination of initials. 

No matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, dictating your child’s nickname will be out of your control as soon as they start school or join a sports club, so make sure you’re comfortable with all possibilities. It won’t matter how short you make their name, kids will always find a way to abbreviate… I know an Ian whose nickname is ‘I’. 

Many people will urge you to avoid passing trends and the top names on the baby lists but it’s also good to remember that classic names don’t have to be boring. After all, they’re popular for a reason.

Whether you’ve always known the name you’ll give to your baby, or change your mind daily in the run up to and even immediately after they are born, remember that a name won’t define them. They may initially suit it or not, it could be a name tied to family or culture, or something entirely new. Regardless, you should be assured that as they grow up, your baby will make their name their own, to the point where you couldn’t imagine them being called anything else!

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