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Ryan Wong: Can You Mix Ethnicities?

January 27, 2009 Pamela Redmond

Ryan is the Number One name in New York City — for Asian baby boys.  Kevin is a top choice among Asian parents too.

Ethnic names are getting more and more popular, and not only among people from “matching” ethnic backgrounds.  Irish choices like Ryan and Kevin — and Aidan/Aiden, Connor/Conor, Kennedy and Riley — have been favored by parents of all ethnic backgrounds for several years now.

Spanish names are gaining in popularity too.  Americans originally from Spanish-speaking countries are more likely now than they were in the past to choose names with a Spanish flavor, from such classics as Jose and Maria to Angel, Sofia, and Bianca.

The Latin trend has been influential in a more general way, with elaborate feminine forms such as Isabella, Gabriella, and Adrianna gathering steam, along with o-ending boys’ names such as Carlo and Mateo.

Parents whose French, Italian, Russian, or African forebears emigrated generations ago are now more than ever looking back to the old country as a source for names. Choosing something with ethnic significance is a way to infuse your child’s name with personal meaning and to help establish your child’s identity in the larger world.

Sometimes, a name may be a way to assert an ethnic strain that might otherwise not be visible. Because we used my husband’s Czech last name, for example, I wanted our first child’s name to be Irish, the strongest part of my background. We considered Bridget (my grandmother’s name), Siobhan, and Kerry before settling on Rory.

But what if you like French names in the same way you prefer French food and Parisian clothes: for their style value? If you’re attracted to the romance of Italian names like Chiara and Paolo, even though your family is a blend of Jewish and Caribbean, or if your last name is Wong but you, like hundreds of other Wongs, want to name your son Ryan?

Nothing wrong with that, we say. The world of names — thanks to online sources and parents’ adventurousness — is getting wider every day, and the process of choosing the perfect name for your baby is more interesting and more meaningful for it.

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

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