5 Easy Ways to Judge a Baby Name

November 9, 2010 Linda Rosenkrantz

Many of us spend an entire nine months – or even longer – weighing the relative merits of names for our babies.

But it’s possible to judge most names much more quickly than that, at least accurately enough to tell whether they belong on your short list.

Here, nameberry’s top quick and easy tips for judging a baby’s name.


The book Blink theorized that the reaction we have to something in the first few seconds has important long-term meaning, and that counts for a name.  Perhaps you can learn to love a name that at first seems weird and old-fashioned like Leopold or get over your image of Ruth as the kid you knew who had green teeth, but better to choose a name that, the minute you hear it, makes you feel positive and full of anticipation for meeting the person who owns it.


The most compatible first names will have a different number of syllables than your surname…and a different number from the middle name too.  So a syllable combination of 2-3-1 – Rufus Barnaby Flynn, for instance – or 3-1-2 or 1-3-4 is best.

Of course, my three children all have two-syllable names paired with our two-syllable last name and I didn’t even realize it for about 20 years.  But if I had, I would have picked names with uneven numbers of syllables as I think that rhythm is most pleasing to the ear.


We’ve always made fun of those dumb rulebooks that advise you not to give your child initials that spell out P.I.G. or A.S.S.   Duh.  Of course you wouldn’t do that.

But what about something like S.T.D.?   Writing out the potential initials and checking them twice can be worthwhile.  Studies show that people with initials that spell out positive things – A.C.E. or V.I.P. – live nearly five years longer than those with negative ones.


No reason to invent an algorithm for divining the future population of every name on the Social Security’s Top 1000.  Instead, simply check out the popularity chart we include for every name on the SS list.  You can tell at a glance how quickly a name is motoring upward, as Leila is here, and how consistent its use has been over time.  At least in terms of popularity, this can give you all the information you really need.


Take it on a test drive, trying it out on, say, half a dozen people.  You don’t have to tell them it’s a name you’re considering for your baby; that may skew the results.  Instead, say you’d just met someone named Dashiell, for instance, and ask whether they’ve ever hear of the name.

If the overall response is confusion, repeated requests for spelling and pronunciation, and misunderstanding the name as everything from Daniel to Cashel, you can be pretty sure that will be the response throughout your child’s life.  You may decide you love the name enough to put up with it, but at least you’ll know what you’re getting yourself and your child into.


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