Would you use a name from another culture?

This is the nameberry question of the week: Would you  give your child a name from an ethnicity other than your own?

….more specifically, would you choose a name which has not been fully integrated into Anglo-American nomenclature and would be in contrast to your surname?

Sometimes this can make for a felicitous combination–one example  that springs to mind is newscaster Soledad O’Brien.  And there are certainly plenty of Seans and Ryans with non-Gaelic/Celtic surnames.

But how about you?  If your last name was Magee, would you name your son Adriano?

If your surname was Greenberg, would you call your daughter Siobhan?

Or do you feel that a child’s name should reflect his/her own ethnic ancestry?

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48 Responses to “Would you use a name from another culture?”

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Sydnee Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 1:02 am

I’ll be really curious to see the responses to this! Lately, my husband has fallen in love with the turkish name Yigit after watching Top Chef: Just Deserts, but we aren’t turkish and I have never been to Turkey. So, I’m not sure if we should use it/how weird it would be for our child (it has a great meaning though, “brave”). I’m kind of unsure about this at the moment, so other berries, please post away! We could use some thoughts 🙂

CassieCake Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 2:22 am

I think it would be fine to use a name from another culture, especially if there is some sort of connection or fascination with that culture, but if you just like the name it is still fine. If I found a name I loved or wanted to honor a vacation or something I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

Some I like:
Nove (nO-vey)- is nine in Italian.
Sakura- Japanies- means cherry blossum.
Takota- Native American- friend
Tala- Native American- wolf

CassieCake Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 2:24 am

PS: I am of German, Polish and English decent and my last name ends w/ SKI.

LJandRL Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 5:15 am

I think it’s more than ok! In fact I think the way we now borrow from each other’s cultures is a beautiful thing. If you look at the top ten name lists for European countries you get a lot of Spanish names in France and French names in Spain for example. I love how diverse and multicultural the world is becoming and I think if someone finds something they love in a name from another culture they should use it! I love the very Italian Mirabella even though we have the very Welsh last name Morgan and it sounds fine to me 🙂 Even so, I would give the child a Welsh middle name because I’m also very proud of my own culture 🙂 I think it’s a nice blend!

LJandRL Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 5:19 am

P.S. My family name is the equally Welsh Davies and I have cousins called Francesca (Italian), Tonaya (Aboriginal name from an Australian friend of her mother) and Hemi (after a New Zealand rugby player!).

Abby Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 5:28 am

Maybe. One of the names on my short list for a second daughter is Marguerite, after my husband’s aunt Małgorzata. Margaret seems too ordinary, but the Polish spelling is impossible in English.

But I don’t think I’d go as far as borrowing a name from a culture to which I can’t claim a connection … Sakura is lovely, but I think I’d grow weary of explaining how my not-even-vaguely Japanese child ended up with a Japanese name.

Penni Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 6:57 am

Yes. And to me (not intending to offend) there is a faint racism in thinking a culture is ‘too different.’ we used a French name for our first daughter, with no strong connection, and no one mentions it, but one of the names we are considering for our son is Japanese and we’ve had a strange comments about it. And yet Australia has s big Asian population and considering our proximity to Asia, it seems a natural progression to me.

pam Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 7:12 am

By chance, I just ran across this message board discussing names people love but wouldn’t use because of a culture clash: http://nameberry.com/nametalk/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=13920&hilit=SIOBHAN

Madeleine Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 7:32 am

I think for the most part, its fine. Though, I’ll be the first to admit that it definitely irks me some, when non-French speakers use very French names. I’m actually not even sure why it bothers me, it just does.

Tarat3232 Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 7:35 am

I’m also going to add that I think there is a Western bias to naming in Europe and America. A Brit using an Italian name doesn’t seem horribly exotic because they share a common language ancestor. On the other hand, a Brit using a Chinese name would be jarring, because there is no relationship between the two languages.

tarynkay Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 7:43 am

There are two different issues here. There is the pronunciation of foreign names issue, as illustrated by Abby in the comment above about Malgorzata- and Marguerite is a beautiful solution to that problem! I live in America and wouldn’t name a child something that couldn’t be fairly easily pronounced by most Americans. For example, all those of those lovely Irish names like Siobhan and Saiorse are out b/c I wouldn’t want my child to spend her entire life trying to explain the spelling/pronunciation issues. There are also some names that sound lovely in their native tongues and clunky when pronounced by people in the Southeastern US- like Clothilde and Agnes. If we lived in Ireland or France, or maybe even a big coastal city in the US, it would be different. But pronunciation issues aside, I love cross cultural names in general, and think that is a wonderful thing about the modern world. I once met a baby named Diego Horowitz, which I just loved. I agree with Penni also, in that we sometimes consider some cultures *more* foreign than other cultures, which is strange. If you think about it, nearly all of the names we use (at least in America and Austraila) *are* cross cultural. If Sarah (Hebrew) is okay, Sakura (Japanese) ought to be okay, too. They are both lovely names, with lovely meanings.

RocLibrarian Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 7:45 am

I think, as an American that can’t claim to be as much as an 1/8 anything, that choosing a name from my “culture” seems kind of like a moot point. What is my culture? Isn’t it made up of everyone who came to the US from everywhere else? To me, this means that most Americans like myself should feel free to name their kids from any culture they want. Personally, I would probably use names that I felt most people could pronounce in English without too much trouble, but that’s about it.

http://www.legitbabenames.wordpress.com Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 8:41 am

I don’t know, I disagree that Malgorzata is impossible in English, if you lived in a part of the US where names like Agnieszka, Agata, Kasia (Kataryzna) are not unusual (for example in CHicago, burbs of Detroit or New York) you would be surprised with how fast people catch on to pronounce their names. I think there is a gross mispercepetion that Americans are uncultured, which is a false stereotype because the United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world. I have yet to find another country with birth announcements that boast an Agnieszka, Siobhan, Midori and Araceli all on one page.

I say if you love a name, use it, doesn’t matter the origin.

anna Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 9:09 am

We have a very strong Irish last name. Sometimes I’ll find a name I like but will discard it b it doesn’t really “flow” with our last name.

belly Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 9:35 am

As an American with German last name, and mostly German roots with other European countries mixed in, I am considering naming my daughters names that are/would be considered Spanish. This is only because I like their meaning/sound/look. The thing is, though, that these names, while in the Spanish version, have roots in Latin and Greek words, and one in particular was used in English poetry, so I guess I feel like it’s okay, being part of the English language canon. I love the name Esperanza, for example, but I don’t think that I would use it as a third daughter’s name, though, because it seems TOO MUCH like I am posing as something I’m not, where as the other Spanish and Italian names I’d consider using aren’t as well known as any kind of name here in America and have roots into those even older languages, as I said, so I guess I feel if it comes from Greek or Latin, it’s fair game for anyone!

Vanessa Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 9:37 am

Great topic! This used to bother me a lot, I’ve known many many people with Irish/Gaelic first names and very obvious Italian last names. but I figured out that it bothered me so much because there are so many beautiful sounding Italian names. These parents had an opportunity to create a name with cadence and a little bit of an exotic feel and instead they chose an overused name like Kevin, Ryan, Kristen, Brittany and Aidan. Now I think it’s an American sentiment to have a multi-cultural name.
My son’s name is Vincent, which is mostly associated with Italian and secondly with Catholics. My husband and I are neither. He also has his father’s German name as his middle name and a Scottish last name.
As long as it is easy to pronounce in English and the name means something to the parents, cross cultural names are great.

Andrea Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 9:38 am

I will occasionally see people complaining about “cultural appropriation” if a parent wants to use a name from a minority culture they have no relation to. Many Native Americans would probably object to a native language name being used by a white with no tribal connection because so many of the tribal language names have a spiritual/religious/sacred meaning and have been passed down from a dead ancestor. That may be the case with other cultures as well and could be seen as problematic.

On the other hand, I think names are there to be adapted and I see no real reason not to respell a name so it can be easily pronounced or spelled in American culture. If you like the way Niamh or Saoirse or Siobhan sounds and respell it Neev or Seersha or Shavonne, I think those names qualify as American versions. If you fall in love with a character named, say, Kimiko and your kid is blonde, blue eyed and fair skinned and 100 percent of Norwegian descent, you might have some raised brows if you name her Kimiko Oleson and people expect her to be part Japanese. I don’t think it’ll be a huge problem once people get used to the name and know her. I’ve run into white kids named Keesha and Ayeesha, say, and been mildly surprised because those names seem to be more common on black girls. But in the long run it’s about what the parents like, for a variety of reasons, and as long as the name is attractive and pronounceable people aren’t going to give them all that much thought.

Jetty Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 10:35 am

I’ve been worried about this issue lately. My 2nd son is due in a few weeks, and the name at the top of my list is Esai. It goes well with our Italian-but-sounds-French last name and is a good pairing with my 1st son’s extremely unusual name. My only hesitation is that some people may think we have no business giving our child a Spanish name when we have no real ties to Spanish or Latin culture (we’re Irish/Scottish/Italian). I really love the name, but I don’t want to set my child up for a lifetime of explaining that he’s not Latino, especially since our last name already promises a lifetime of explaining that he’s not French!

KAshley Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 10:38 am

Another issue that is then brought up is as follows: I am Italian (American), and my husband’s last name is French (though he is mostly Irish)… not that the two are so dissimilar, but a very Italian first name one could argue doesn’t match the French last name. – Although, I personally am not opposed to having an Italian sounding last name I don’t think I could put Guiseppe or Giovani as a first name with this last name.

pam Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 10:47 am

Jetty, I love Esai and don’t think there’s a problem as it’s not readily identifiable as Spanish or Latino — feels more obscure Hebrew/Biblical!

SJ Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 11:25 am

I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments here, and it makes me feel good to see that so many people are open to using names from other cultures.

But, I feel like I ought to provide an opposing viewpoint, especially since racism was mentioned. As a previous poster said, blond, blue-eyed Kimiko Oleson, with no connection to Japan, would receive a lot of raised eyebrows–not just when her parents first announced her name, but throughout her life. I don’t think it’s worse than the raised eyebrows she’d receive if her name was Butterfly Oleson or some kre8tif spelling, but it’s an added difficulty the parents are obligated to consider before choosing such a name. If the parents love the name and its associations and they want to use it, even though it “clashes” culturally with their last name, okay. But, I don’t think it’s right to assume the only reason someone else might NOT like it is because they’re “racist” in some way. It’s such a loaded word to throw out there when it’s more likely to be a matter of taste.

gracenote Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Hmm, this is one I think on quite a lot. Living in Northern Ireland, I hear typically British names, but I hear Irish/Gaelic names all the time – Niamhs, Caoimhes, Maeves, you name it (not so many Siobhans these days, mind). But if I went overseas – even to England! – and met a Niamh or an Aoibheann or (especially!) a Sadbh who had no Irish connection, I have to admit that I would raise an eyebrow.

But at the same time, an Irish girl named Francesca or Catalina wouldn’t feel strange at all – in fact, I know many a little girl with a name chosen from another culture to which they are unrelated. And after all, the most well-known names in English speaking cultures come from other origins? Katherine, Elizabeth?

As for me, I don’t think I would have a problem using a name from another culture – provided that this name doesn’t cause difficulties for the child through pronunciation, or potential for bullying. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there may be some cultural/political issues surrounding a name – a perfect example would be the lovely name Saoirshe, meaning “freedom”. A beautiful name, but the word ‘saoirshe’ is also the motto of an Irish republican party – and so naming a child Saoirshe in Northern Ireland, with all the country’s political issues, is really just asking for trouble of a particularly nasty kind.

That said though – provided all of this is avoided, I think that using a name from another is totally acceptable. =]

Andrea Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I didn’t use the word “racist” though I think some people might have that reaction to names if they happen to be biased. Others might think a name is beautiful or not care for the way it sounds. Some names do tend to be used more by different cultural or racial groups, though, and if a child who isn’t from that background is given a name that is more typical of another group, she might deal with people expecting certain things about her appearance or family background that aren’t really hers. That’s one thing to take into account when you’re picking a name. I think it’s also fair to take into account the feelings of whatever group you’re borrowing the name from about use of names. Some Native American names are not appropriate for whites to use; others like Winona are so widely used now that they aren’t likely to bother people from the original tribe. Ayeesha or Keesha might be more typical for Arabic speakers or black Americans, but they’re also attractive sounding names that are certainly used by people from different groups. Kimiko is a very Japanese name that will almost certainly make people think a child is part or all Japanese or that her family has a significant connection to Japan. The same is true of other names that are very specific to a culture and haven’t been widely used by other groups.

peach Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

In my very first name pamphlet, from 1974, there is a paragraph about matching the origin of the chosen first name to the last name to create a harmonic set. I know that some people still consider this an important consideration but I think it is more from the side of flow and sound than from a concern about confusing cultural identity. I have a Chinese middle name although I have no Asian heritage. It has been brought up only twice that I can recall: when I went to college in the mid-west (US) and when I went to Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Both times people on the receiving end were curious as to whether I’d be more Asian or more German (last name).

For my future kids, I am open to all names but my husband wants to be sure the first name is easily pronounced and recognized in the US, with more leeway in the middle spot.

Ashley Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I would be comfortable using a name as long as I was certain of the cultural context and correct pronunciation. If I were drawn to a French, Italian, Spanish, or even possibly German name, I would be more likely to use it as I would be fairly certain I could pronounce it correctly, spell it correctly, and research some of the more common cultural association. There are names from other cultures I would be much less comfortable using because I am not as familiar with the language or culture.

I think some names, although tied to certain cultures, have entered the mainstream enough that they would not worry me. Leilani and Sakura are two examples that come to mind.

Trust me, this is not coming from any type of racist view at ALL. It is out of respect for other cultures, languages, and religions that I would try to avoid names that might be truly significant to others that are simply just pretty to me.

Lyndsay Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Hmm, I guess I don’t have very strong feelings on this topic. It doesn’t bother me at all if someone uses names that don’t “match” their surname or ethnicity. Though, I do admit I might find it a bit jarring if someone used a name that was the total opposite of their ethnicity. I’m not against it by any means, though.

As for myself, I have a German last name that seems pretty standard American to me, two-syllables, ends in -er, nothing fancy. I don’t think it really compliments very feminine, frilly, or exotic names all that well. Boy/Girl next door names seem most fitting. But, maybe that’s also because that’s the kind of people we are. A couple names I love are Priya (Sanskrit) and Ichigo (strawberry in Japanese), but I just could never bring myself to use them because not only am I not a drop of either ethnicity, but I have zero connection to them. I do think any culture that I do have in me is fair game, even if the hubs and I are really just American mutts through and through!

Meaghan Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Has anyone ever heard of the name Mohammed/Muhammed used in a non-Muslim family?

Sellons Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Of course I would. The most important thing is that you as the parent love the name!!

memomo Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Without meaning to sound racist, I think it depends on the ethnicities involved and the direction of the transfer. Some names connote higher status than others, and this is in part because of their origins. Most people who have commented seem to be talking about using Italian names instead of German names, or even Japanese…but those names have pretty equal status connotations so swapping them doesn’t raise many eyebrows (even if they are phonetically incongruous). Amongst European names, there is also a high level of cross-cultural appropriateness, by which I mean that Poles, Irishmen, and Italians all bestow and view names in similar ways, which facilitates borrowing between the cultures.

It also doesn’t seem too unusual for someone to “borrow up,” by using a name that connotes a higher status than their family actually occupies at the moment. But when high status individuals want to use lower-status names, I think that’s the dangerous territory, as Andrea suggested in her example of Native American names. Whenever you use a name that doesn’t come from your culture, you risk using it inappropriately. But transgressions are more likely to be over-looked if members of the other culture can feel secure that their culture has high status and is valued by others. In the case of many Native Americans, I don’t think they do feel this way. Personally, I find the names of my Mexican-American students beautiful and compelling, but I would be hesitant to use those names myself. I wouldn’t want to portray myself as someone who understands a culture that is so frequently misunderstood by other people who look and talk like me.

Linelei Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I adore so many names, I would never limit myself to only the cultures I am from. I do feel I should have a very strong connection to the name I am using, so generally the names I like are from cultures that I am fascinated with. But not always, and I may or may not have a genetic connection to those cultures. I think this is another silly rule that needs to be abandoned! Who cares if the first and last name don’t “match” culturally? What is important is that the names flow well and are special to you.

Heather Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

My husband and I have tried to pick names that reflect our cultural heritage, so for our no. 1 boys pick, the middle is Dmitri because my husband is 1/4 Slovak. Our no. 2 girls pick middle name is Reidun because I’m 1/4 Norwegian. And for our no. 3 boys pick, the middle name is Rashid.
The nickname I intend to use for our no. 1 first name, Peter, is Per (PEER), a Norwegian nickname.
Other names we’ve chosen:
Zora (Slovak)
Rhiannon (Welsh)
I think it very important to pick names you like, regardless of origin. That said, I would not name any child something ridiculous, like Oystein Gonzalez. I think that might be child abuse.

Ami Says:

September 29th, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I’m Caucasian, and one of my favorite names is Zella, which is African. I think it’s totally beautiful.

Laura Blackwell Says:

September 30th, 2010 at 1:25 am

I think the important thing is that the parents have an understanding of, and respect for, the culture as well as the name.

CountryLizB Says:

September 30th, 2010 at 6:58 am

I like what RocLibrarian said and would like to echo it.

Sara A. Says:

September 30th, 2010 at 11:00 am

What’s most important to me is that the name sounds familiar and doesn’t elide with our U last name. All -a or -uh ending names are out as are names like Annik which becomes Annie Cutter when said aloud and together. So those requirements basically leave us with Northern European, British Isles, Jewish and Hebrew names which is fine with us as that’s what we are. The one thing I try to stay far, far away from are Christian and New Testament names, because I’m Jewish and my husband is atheistic.

RoseSi)2 Says:

October 5th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

We did just that. My husband and his brother were both given Russian names although they were not of Russian descent. We gave our son a Russian name as well. Our last name is is hyphenated and of British and German heritage.

People have always done this. That is how many of the names we use freely got into rotation. Take Aiden for an example.

I prefer that parents who are looking for a “unique/uncommon” name pick a legitimate name from another culture (that may or may not “fit” their last name) than resort to creative spelling of a rather common name.

Estelle Says:

November 1st, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I am of African and European parents and was given a European name like many Africans for so many years. I have given my children African names.


Whitney Says:

November 3rd, 2010 at 12:58 pm

This is really late but I had to mention my cousin Sven, who, although his mother is part Swedish, looks mostly like his Indian father – he gets some double-takes!

Ruanne Says:

December 4th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Who hails from just one culture these days anyway? It might be nice to hearken back to Irish or Mexican or Cherokee great grandfather, even if you are only 1/8th Irish or Mexican or Cherokee, or to borrow a name from the culture of a sister or brother-in-law. Or a from a place you visited that made a great impression on you. America is a real melting pot. As immigrant groups grow and settle in, their names sometimes make the jump to the wider culture. Maybe the name you got from India will be pretty common in 20 years’ time!

Kiuli Says:

December 27th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I’m Samoan, but I’ve been fascinated with the names Amar’e and Monta. I think it’s fine to use names from other cultures. I believe you’re free to use whatever name you want. Whether it’s just a name you’re fascinated with, passed on through family, or the sake of giving a name (OK, the last one doesn’t sound too good, but I’m not opposed to anyone who has that thought). If there’s a “connection” to you and the name, the stronger the name meaning is. Other than that, even without any “connection”, I still find it OK to use names from other cultures. It wouldn’t hurt to find out the meaning or the “roots” to the name, but yeah. If people raise their eyebrows because of the name choice, so be it. If I want to use a name connected with my culture, I wouldn’t mind using it as a first or middle name. I’d much rather go with the names I like, though.

Elsa Says:

December 31st, 2010 at 8:16 am

I am from Spain and I love names that are not used in my culture. I love the name Mia since I was 11 years old, and I am 22 now. My own name is not a typical Spanish name. I think that taking good parts from others cultures and mixing them with yours can only enrich yourself and show other people that there are more names out there. We are all part of the same world and we can study the culture we are more interested in the same way we can believe in the religion we think is true and we can chose the name that we think would suit our child the best. I think the future is gonna be like that, everybody is going to know something about almost everyculture, that is happening now. I live in Spain and I can find American culture everywhere. Most of the movies we watch are American, in fact my boyfriend is from Oregon. Spain is in Europe so Im very close with many cultures of Europe, specially, Portugal that is next to Spain, Italy which have a very similar culture, Uk, where I have been a couple of times, or France, where I went a month ago to visit my friend. I live in the very south of Spain, in Cadiz, so I am just in front of Africa. You may find that you are closer to more cultures that you thought, maybe you have a neightbour from India or maybe your grandfather was from Denmark. Everyone in any part of the world want his children to have a good name so the meanings of the names are usually similar in one or another culture, you can find the turkish name Aysel that means moonlike, and the Spanish name Luna that means moon plus many of the names that you think are original from your culture actually comes from the latin or greek or even from Egypt, so you should name your baby the way you want, thinking a little bit about if the sociaty where you live in is gonna be ready to accept that name and if you care about that. If you are going to be able to pronounce it correctly or if you have the right information about that name, because in the list of spanish words names you find names that you would never here here in Spain or you wouldnt give to your baby if you were spanish or that the meanings or the genere are just ugly or wrong.

Sorry, I guess I made many mistakes, my English is not that good.

JuliaDrucilla Says:

April 24th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

I have a very clashy name. My first name is vowely, exotic, and GREEK. Both of my last names are REALLY American souding (although I know one of them is Danish). So it’s like island beauty+country bumpkin. I’ve always hated it! (Even though I am a full, legitimate eighth Greek.)

HOWEVER… I usually love multicultural names! (As long as it isn’t really, really weird.) And Soledad O’Brian is officially (according to me, at least) one of the best names ever!

Valkyrie Says:

May 5th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

It could be done, but I personally wouldn’t do it myself. Like what memomo said earlier, “…some names connote higher status than others, and this is in part because of their origins.” I don’t really consider it “cross-cultural” if someone of one European group uses a different European group name. (i.e a Norwegian using a French name) I think it would be in poor taste, for example, if I (being non-Muslim) used the name Fatima. As much as I love the name, I would feel terrible using it. Same with name that are exclusively associated with one culture, such as Naoko or Bahari. (Japanese and African, respectively) Names so exclusive like that would be hard to live up to for a child not of that ethnicity.

Boston Girl Says:

June 29th, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I agree completely with http://www.legitbabenames.wordpress.com that if you like a name enough to use it, then use it, regardless of where it’s from! I’m not even vaguely Japanese either, but I love most Japanese baby names; I think they have a certain elegance to them. I also love most Scandinavian names, primarily through a deep interest in the culture — even though nearly all the ones I’ve seen defined in name books are dismissed as “too hard” or “too ugly” or something like that. I have to disagree with that. You don’t have to stick with only Anna, Ingrid, Anders or Lars just because they’re the only “approved” names that the experts think you can use.

My last name is decidedly English, but I’d have no problem using names like Mireille (French), Agnetha (Swedish), Krysztyna (Polish) or even Michiko (Japanese) with it. Of course, you do have to take into account the “strangeness” of the name as perceived by others; but I also think that people see Americans as too dumb and insular to bother with names that aren’t English or, if from another (European) culture, reasonably familiar. Which is a shame; it seems to cut out a lot of otherwise perfectly usable names that could certainly do with more exposure. Buck the trendy names, I say… 😉

Boston Girl Says:

June 29th, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I would absolutely use a name from another culture–as long as I liked it enough. That to me is the first and most important criterion to using any name, no matter where it comes from. If you like it, use it, even if it’s dismissed as outré or unappealing to others. If you don’t like a name, don’t use it, no matter how trendy it is and how much everyone else insists you should. This rule should go for all names in all cultures.

That said…it’s true that some names do seem to clash. But I think that’s primarily because, at least for English-speaking parents, we’re all used to hearing names applied via a certain system, and anything that bucks the system is looked at as “wrong” somehow. Saying it’s child abuse to give a child a name like Oystein Gonzalez is going a little too far, I think. Sure, it gets raised eyebrows, but that’s because the naming method bucks the system. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a combination like this. What if you really are half Norwegian and half Spanish, and want to reflect that, and Oystein happens to be your favorite boys’ name? I say, go for it!

cissyb Says:

August 13th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I HAVE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN THE WORLD WITH THIS! This is why I like names with Latin origin. Not Latino, like Roman/Latin names, because those work for everyone I think and are classy. My given names are Italian and French, and I am neither of those, so I really want to change my name when I get older. I’m part British and part Chinese, so I would use a Chinese name and a Welsh name. And a Latin name. That’s just me.

LaurieLW Says:

July 27th, 2014 at 9:38 am

Yep- we have already done that- we have given our son a popular Russian name that is not often heard over here. Our last name is a hyphenated (English/German). Also I should add that no one in our family is Russian, it is not our background, but my husband has a Russian name as well.

We have more of an issue that people are unfamiliar with the name than it being a mismatched first and surname combo.

Skittlewiddles Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 5:59 am

I am American with only Polish roots and have been having a hard time finding out whether my favorite names are too ethnic or not.

Is Abel too Hispanic? Is Perla too Latina? Is Nadia only if your Russian or Arabic?

I want unique names because I’ll have common short English last name. At the same time, I don’t want my kids to have to wear a name that they will have to constantly contradict. While names like Eduardo and Sakura are too heavily linked to Spanish and Japanese culture respectively, are “ethnic-lite” names (for lack of a better word) accessible for a different culture? I have yet to find out.

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