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Ask the Name Guru: How to Have More Fun Naming Your Baby

Ask the Name Guru: How to Have More Fun Naming Your Baby

Allison writes:

I'm expecting my first child early next year, and my partner and I are having trouble thinking about names. I always thought it would come so easy. I would spend hours as a teenager making lists and talking about names with my friends! I've been looking forward to this for so long, but now that I'm pregnant, it's like all the fun has been zapped out.

Our recent name discussions have been stressful and tedious. I wish I could get that teenage-level of enjoyment back! How do we make this fun again?

The Name Guru replies:

Choosing names for hypothetical babies is always fun (why do you think I got into this business?) but when you’re actually expecting, the pressure is on. Suddenly you’re faced with the very big task of naming an actual human being, which (often) requires you to collaborate with your partner and pick a name that your child will be called forever. Stressed much? No kidding!

Let’s bring the fun back to baby naming. If you’re overwhelmed by the baby name process, try one (or more) of our top seven tips for how to have more fun naming your baby:

Map Your Family Tree

Whether you’re searching for an honor name or not, your family tree is a great place to get the ball rolling on the baby name conversation. Even if you only find outrageous ancestral names that make you laugh, it can be a good way to air deeper feelings about family, history, and cultural origins that can underpin your choice of a name.

Don’t feel confined to first names. Look in unexpected places for cool and interesting options. You probably know the first names of your grandparents and great-grandparents, but what was your great-grandmother’s maiden name? Your great-uncle’s middle name?

Spend an evening on Ancestry or ask your relatives to help you fill in the names of their ancestors. You just might find a hidden family heirloom.

Analyze Your Baby Name DNA

If the task of curating your own list of names is too overwhelming, outsource it to us. Our tool, Baby Name DNA, analyzes your baby name style and gives you a curated list of names specifically suited to your taste.

You and your partner should take the quiz individually and review your suggestions. Heart any recommendations you particularly like. Our newest feature of Baby Name DNA allows you to merge profiles with a partner's to get a new set of recommendations tailored to both of your styles. Discuss your favorite choices and build your list from there.

You might discover you are mostly on the same page or learn that you’re drawn to totally different styles of names. In either case, it can lead to a broader discussion about the kind of names you like and what you value in a name for your baby.

Baby Name Date Night

So much of the baby name discussion happens in the home, so a change of scenery can help shake things up. The idea here is to break away from the casual, in-between everything-else name talk and dedicate night to baby name — and only baby name — discussion.

Book a reservation at your favorite dinner spot — we recommend restaurants with paper tablecloths so you can weigh your options right on the table (ask for the kids’ crayons!). You can always make lists in your phone, but having a place where you can both write names down (and cross names off) can be helpful.

When the night comes, stick to the rules. Nothing but baby names! This is your time to bring names forward, (respectfully) debate your choices, and get serious about naming this child.

Don’t Talk About Names — The One Off, One On Game

If there’s a little too much debate going on, try going silent. In the One Off, One On Game there’s absolutely no talking!

Each partner puts down five names on the same piece of paper, which is then hung in a highly visible, frequented space — the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror is usually a good spot for this. Each partner is allowed to cross a name off the list, but when they do, they must add one in its place.

Play this game for a week or two with no other baby name talk during that time, then grab the list and discuss. Which names are left, and why are they there? Names that stayed up the longest might deserve a spot on your shortlist.

Baby Name Dinner Party

Next Saturday, dinner at your place. The theme of the night: baby names.

Gather your friends for a night of informal talk about baby names. There’s no need to get into the specifics of your shortlist (if you do, be prepared for opinions!).

See where the conversation takes you, or prompt your guests with one of the following:

- Ask everyone to predict what your baby’s name will be

- Have each guest share a name they love but can’t or won’t use for a child

- Print out a list of 10-20 names connected to a theme (such as nature names, names that start with A, or vintage nicknames) and discuss the choices as a group

This can also be a great way to get opinions on outsider recommendations. Influencer Halleigh Hill hosted a dinner party where she revealed the ten names we suggested for her after a consultation. She and her guests discussed each of the recommendations and then voted on their favorites.

Whether you serve your guests pizza and pop or a home-cooked meal doesn’t matter as long as you have everyone around the table chitchatting about baby names.

Talk Names Up, Not Down

When you have a great list of finalists, but a clear winner hasn’t yet emerged, it’s time to reframe. Much of the baby name conversation is about paring down the list — eliminating options until The One presents itself. But focusing on the potential pitfalls can leave you feeling flat towards all of the names on your list.

Instead of thinking about what’s wrong with each name (it’s not a perfect fit with your surname, the neighbors have a cat with the name, it’s so popular…) focus on what you love about them. Remind yourself why each name got a spot on your list to begin with, whether that’s because it has special significance or just makes your heart sing.

A good question to ask yourself is, which name would I regret not using the most? Imagine your baby with each of the names on your list and pay attention to any pangs of disappointment or sparks of delight — that will clue you in on which name should rise to the top.

Revisit Good References

Unless you are making up a brand-new name for your baby, there’s most likely a positive reference to it out in the world. If you can’t think of any off the top of your head, search the web or our database (we list famous people and pop culture associations on our name pages) for your favorite names and see what comes up.

Read books (novels or children’s books — anything goes!) featuring characters with your top names. Watch movies or television shows where your favorites are highlighted. Listen to any songs that mention the names you are considering. One day you'll be able to share these references with your child.

Even if the reference wasn’t the reason why you put the name on your list in the first place, this can be a helpful exercise for strengthening your emotional connection to the name.

About the Author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top baby name trends of 2021, baby name synesthesia, and the top names in each state. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at sophie@nameberry.com. Sophie lives in Chicago.