For our first child, a boy, a name had been decided on from day one. Thomas, the name of my tenacious little boy, was also the name of his uncle who passed on the same day we found out I was pregnant. It is also the name of his great grandfather and many other great men throughout history. I like the name because it is meaningful, substantial, and it is a classic. Pretty much everyone knows how to spell it, yet it’s not at all popular these days.
But when it came time to name our second child, a baby girl, we had no name in mind. Sure, I had thought of a few names over the years and stored them away, but few remained viable candidates. So, I made a list of top contenders on babycenter.com, a website which provides a “My Baby Names List” along with thousands of names, their origins, and their rank in the population.
So, what name did we choose? Elsa! Elsa Lorelei.
To settle on the perfect name for us and for our daughter, I went through a rigorous elimination process based on the following important considerations.
My husband’s only request for the name was that it reflected our heritage. For him, that would be German and for me Scandinavian. This was by far the most limiting factor in my selection because…have you ever looked at a list of German or Scandinavian girl names?? Let me put it this way, they are not feminine. They do not sound like a gentle breeze or a sweet flower when spoken. Think Helga and Hedwig (sorry Aunt Hedy!). So, if using a name that reflects your ancestry is important to you, I would suggest starting here and selecting a handful of names you like, and then working your way down the other deciding factors.
Some parents want to choose a name that means something specific or special to them. Like a name that means “warrior” or “full of grace”. Personally, I wasn’t too concerned with the meaning of the name we chose, as long as it didn’t mean “bad omen”. Ironically though, I think Elsa’s middle name, Lorelei, roughly translates to a bad omen. It’s a German name that means Siren on the Rock. Legend has it this siren would lure sailors to their death (from her rock in the sea I suppose). Bad news for potential boyfriends, good news for Mom and Dad, right?
Many people like to incorporate family names into their baby’s name, if not as a first name, then as a nickname, or middle name. One of the names I have always loved is my grandma’s name Eleanor. She goes by Ellie which is so cute, right? But why stop there? There is also Elle, Ella, and Nora. The name is rife with adorable nicknames and for a long time this was my front runner name. But when I came across Elsa, a name which first appeared in Swedish texts in the 1400s, it really spoke to me. Elsa, as it happens, is the diminutive of Elisabeth (spelled with an ‘s’) which is my middle name (yes, the one spelled with an ‘s’). I was told it was a family name. Plus, with Elsa, we can still use Elle, Ellie, and Ella as nicknames if we like.
If you have an idea for the feeling you want the name to evoke then try looking up those key words in a search engine and I can almost guarantee a list or two will pop up. For example, you could look up “nature names for boys” or “sci-fi names for girls”. The sky is the limit here. Some lists I have seen feature Elvish names, futuristic names, royal names, unique names, color names, futuristic names, sweet names, etc., etc., etc.
Pop culture, celebrities, that snot-nosed brat in the 4th grade. Names can get stuck to a face in your head and for some of us they are really hard to erase. Take Chloe for example. That has been one of my favorite names for eons. Then comes Khloe Kardashian. I have nothing against Khloe Kardashian. In fact, I know nothing about her except that people roll their eyes every time they talk about that family, so I feel like Chloe is not a sound choice at this point. The same fear can apply even to a well-liked personality. Take the name we picked: Elsa. Obviously, anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past 5 years will think of the Disney Snow Queen. This was a major deterrent in my decision, but I decided to push past it when it was so perfect for us in every other way.
Ava is the new Ashley. There, I said it. If you were one of the 13 Ashleys in my high school graduation ceremony, then you know what I’m talking about. Just be prepared to use your last name a lot. And by a lot I mean, every time you say Ava in public expect to say, “Ava McDougal”. Now, I’m not picking on the name Ava. It has actually been on my “To Name Baby” list for 12 years now, ever since I came across a character named Ava Fontaine in a movie. But alas, several people in my world have already named their daughter Ava.
Now some people would prefer a popular name. Their child won’t be picked on (kids are mean!), everyone will know how to pronounce it, everyone will know how to spell it, and there will be no odd looks or conversations to have about why you chose that name.
Conversely, there are people who would prefer to stay out of the Top 100 List so that their kid will be the only Luna in the region. Side note, Luna is now in the Top 100 list, so you may have to get even more creative than you think.
SUITABILITY FOR ALL STAGES OF LIFE
Is the name you are considering really cute? I mean really, really cute? Like Peaches? Oh, poor Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof. It’s a good thing she was a celebrity, because can you image that name on a resume in the corporate world? Cutesy names are nice when kids are little, but will they resent the name when they are teenagers (kids are mean!!) or adults (life is hard enough already!).
Does the name sound good? The name in question might have gotten past all the above gauges, but if it doesn’t sound good to you, what’s the point? Or maybe the situation is flipped and the name you love the sound of is too popular or too out-there. I came across a very wise bit of advice from a random commenter on the baby name site. She had named her daughter Chloe years ago, and now with that Kardashian and the surge in popularity of the name, she was asked if she regretted it. Her reply was “not for a moment”. She got pleasure every time she said her daughter’s name and that was what was important to her. Try saying the name out loud when you are alone or talking to your spouse, or better yet, bring it up to a complete stranger. If you are not comfortable saying the name or you don’t like forming the name in your mouth as you speak, move on. There are plenty of names in the sea and eventually you will find one that is perfect for your little one and that brings pleasure to you.
If you were having trouble deciding on a baby name or just didn’t know where to start, I hope this run-down of my considerations was helpful to you. Sometimes you just need a little advice from an outsider to point you in the right direction.