tips for choosing baby names

5 Tips for Choosing Unique Baby Names

Picking a name for your baby can be an exciting and stressful time. Whatever you choose will identify them for the rest of their life. The prospect of something more unique can initially be enticing but, unfortunately, kids can be cruel, and something that seems exotic and uncommon can become a source of teasing down the road. Additionally, it can be frustrating to have frequent misspellings and wrong pronunciations. Here’s a guide for choosing the perfectly unique name for your newborn. 

1. Rule out the most common names. 

Even if the name “Sophia” wasn’t common during your generation, that doesn’t mean it remains so. Actually, Sophia was the most common name for girls in 2016, jumping up more than 200 spots since the 1980s. Take a look at the most common baby names over the last few years -- or even the past few decades if you want significantly less common names -- to make sure you know the ones you want to avoid.  

2. Look to your heritage. 

Use your family’s origins. For example, you could name your newborn after a country, region, or village your family originated from. You could also look for names based in the culture of origin; if your family is largely Danish, Anja or Walcott could be good options -- and significantly less common in the States. Many new parents also turn to maiden names (i.e. Beckett or Coleman) for a unique alternative that carries on tradition in the family line. 

3. Try alternative spellings of foreign names. 

Baby name websites are a great source of not just names common to or originating in the United States, but all over the world. Some of them can have tricky spellings or strange English pronunciations, but this is where you can make a unique name -- you take something and make it your own. Your own background can be a great place to start, but you can look through names of almost any origin on sites like BabyNames. Celtic names, for example, are beautiful, but pronounced quite differently. To prevent frequent mispronunciations, try changing the spelling to suite a more Americanized culture. For example, Niamh (nee-ahv; “bright flame”) might be changed to Nyav. 

4. Try combining more common names for less common results. 

When you really, really love a name, it can be hard to let go of it. Instead of giving up that name, try combining it with other names to mix it up. While adding a Beth or Anne (i.e. Marybeth or Sueanne) to a girl’s first name is a common trick, there are thousands of names you can use instead. Some parents opt for hyphenation. Additionally, rather than keeping the whole of both names, you can use bits from two different names and smash them together (such as Avrielle, rather than Ava or Gabrielle). 

5. Make sure the name is a blessing, not a burden. 

When you have a few different options, ask friends to try pronouncing and spelling them. Make the suggestion to strangers, and watch their facial expressions carefully. If no one can get it right, or you get a lot of negative responses, your little one will appreciate a return to the drawing board. 
Last Updated: April 03, 2024