What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually. After all, it is often the very first piece of information people learn about us. It is both a link to our familial roots and an expression of self. It is our professional calling card. And omnipresent throughout our lives. So yes, a name is very important.

Think about your own. Do you like it? Or do you wish that perhaps your parents had bestowed a cooler moniker upon you? Expecting a baby is wonderful and scary all at once. Wrapped up in all that trepidation and joy is the knowledge that in nine months’ time you will have a bundle of new responsibilities. The first one being to pick an amazing name for your child.

In the past, people prized continuity and tradition. If all the boys in the family were named John in reverence to some ancient ancestor, then the son would be called John – no questions asked. Nowadays, however, the focus has shifted away from tradition and towards originality. The influence of celebrity culture is partly to blame for this. With names like Apple, Buddy, Suri, Blue Ivy and Sage Moonblood in the media, it’s no wonder the appetite for wacky names has increased. But before you rush to give your baby the most unusual name known to man, pause and consider the following:

 

1. Is it meaningful?

Some day in the future, your child might ask you how they came to be called what they are called. Rather than saying you picked the craziest name you could think of to baffle the entire parent and toddler group, it might be nice to have real meaning attached to the name. The inspiration could be your favourite character in a book or film, a wondrous inventor, a Nobel prize winner or a family member. Imbuing the name with history and gravitas will give your child something to strive for.

 

2. Is it gender neutral?

Women may have made a lot of progress in the workplace but the wage gap is far from closed and the glass ceiling remains unshattered. Depressingly, there is evidence to suggest that gender-neutral names are more likely to be called for interview. Why not consider names like Tobi, Alex, Bobbi, Jamie or Andy for your little girl? When you think about it, the very idea that a collection of letters can have a gender is ludicrous to begin with.

 

3. Is it easy to pronounce?

You may be extremely proud of your Irish heritage and wish to call your child Aoibheann. But if they live outside of Ireland, are you just sentencing them to a lifetime of mispronunciation and spelling confusion? Every time they book a restaurant or make a business call, will they be forced to iterate their name letter by letter? You could spare them this frustration by picking something a little easier to pronounce (but no less patriotic) like Aisling.

 

4. Does it work well with the surname?

You adore the name Ama. But your surname is Lester. Think about how this sounds together. Ama Lester. A-MA-Lester. A Molester. Oh. You don’t want your child to be the target of ridicule because their first and last name sound like something else or form a pun. Say it out loud a few times before you let it stick.

 

5. What will the shortened version be?

Sebastian may become Sebb. Katherine may become Kitty. And Richard could turn into Dick. It’s important to think about the shortened name and any possible nicknames when you are deciding on a name. Run through every possible variation you can. And if you are happy with them (and you think your child will be too) then go for it!