Our Process For Picking Baby Names

One of favorite conversation starters is to ask someone how they got their name or how they chose the names for their children. Sometimes people really don’t know, but often, there’s a decent story behind the name.

It’s taboo to ask expecting parents what the baby name is, but it’s certainly fair game to ask whether they have picked one or not. And that question often leads to further discussion about the process, which varies tremendously.

So here’s how we picked.

Our constraints

We didn’t have any names in mind to start the process. We didn’t have family names to honor. So we discussed a few things we wanted out of a name.

We wanted an easy name that wouldn’t be an obstacle in life. We broke that into a few more rules.

First, it shouldn’t be a name with obvious nicknames, like Chris and Christopher or Ben and Benjamin. That would seem to create some unnecessary ambiguity in introductions, filling out documents, and the like.

Second, it should be a reasonably common name. It helps if other people can usually be expected to be familiar with it.

Third, it should should have one common spelling. Of course someone has come up with an alternate spelling for every name, but the first one should be the correct one.

And that was mainly it. We would figure out the rest of the details when we had narrowed in.

Picking the names

We started by going to the Social Security Administration page for Baby Names. To pick out a reasonably popular name, we pulled down the list of the 1000 most popular names from the previous year. We put all of those into a spreadsheet and copied it so both Julie and I had separate lists.

Independently, we marked all of the names that we liked, and then combined it into a single list. We figured we would just use the name that we both liked. Unfortunately the first time we did it, we had exactly one name overlap, so we had to keep digging.

From there, we took all of the names that either of us liked and put it into another sheet. We added a bunch of details like what the names meant, then talked through them to work down to a list of approximately ten names.

Then we worked through all of the first and middle name combinations to see what worked.

A few more considerations

From there, we had a few last checks.

First, we had to make sure that the name we picked wasn’t already taken by someone famous. We couldn’t go for unique since we wanted a common first name, and my last name is pretty common. However, we wanted to avoid serial killers.

Second, we actually tried the name out a bit. When it was just Julie and me, we used the name when referring to the expected baby to see if it sounded alright.

Finally, we kept a backup name in case we changed our mind when we saw the baby for the first time.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of good ways to pick a good baby name, and that probably just depends on what the requirements are. At some point, we will explain it to our daughter, and I’m sure it will make a good story for her.

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