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How to Pick the Perfect Baby Name

We hope this little cutie pie's parents picked a name that's just as perfect as he is.
We hope this little cutie pie's parents picked a name that's just as perfect as he is.
©iStockphoto.com/PhotoInc

Ah, the joys of pregnancy. Morning sickness, constant fatigue, bloated ankles, swollen fingers … and the agony of the name hunt.

It's not agony for everyone, of course. Some people have it easy. Throw a "Jr." on the end of dad's name, for example, and boom, it's done. Many couples are in such perfect harmony that they have names picked out before the bun is even in the oven. If you're one of these lucky people, congratulations! You don't need to read this article.

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For others, it can be more of a long haul. And it can get ugly. If you find yourself going into week 39 with nary a name in sight -- or a list of 10 that you can't seem to narrow down -- you might start to think that the "perfect name" is a myth. You might want to just throw a pencil at a random page in a baby-name book and name your son Krikor Tahmelapachme. You might start to fear that the authorities will eventually confiscate your poor, unnamed child.

But don't lose hope: The perfect name is out there. You might not realize its perfection until you have a living, breathing, screaming baby in front of you, but it's out there. And while there is no perfect process for choosing the perfect name, we hope this article will set you on the right path.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you embark on the name hunt. Where do you look first? Do you start on page one of a gigantic baby-name book -- or dive into the black hole of the Internet? Each is a daunting task in its own way, but don't panic. Before you pull out any reference materials, it might be best to do a brain dump.

Sit down and list every name you like, just off the top of your head. Have your partner do the same. Family names, obscure TV character names, names you've loved since seventh grade -- don't hold anything back. Who knows, your partner might like it, too. And then, the moment of truth: Is there any list overlap? If so, great! You're way ahead of the game. If not, don't get discouraged. Study your partner's list -- something there could strike your fancy. At best, you'll come away with a solid master list. At the least, it's a fun exercise, and you're starting a conversation.

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On the next page, we'll give you a list of questions to ask about the names on your list. Before any name becomes THE name, it should pass these tests.

If only choosing your baby's name was as simple as following a sign!
If only choosing your baby's name was as simple as following a sign!
©iStockphoto.com/RTimages

If you have a preliminary list, it's time to narrow it down, so here are a few questions to help you along. You might not find the perfect name this way, but you can definitely weed out imperfect ones. If this process raises a red flag about any potential name, just trash it before you get too attached.

  • How does it sound with your last name? You've zeroed in on Liam … but your last name's Sheehan. Back to the drawing board.
  • What about the initials? Isabella Claire Kennedy is certainly a beautiful name. You've found a winner, then, right? Think again.
  • Does it pass the "CEO test"? Maggie Mae is cute as a button for a baby, but it's not going look so great 20 years down the line on a business card. So think about naming her Margaret -- you can still call her Maggie Mae, of course, but she can put a grown-up name on her résumé.
  • What would a really mean 10-year-old say? If there's any potential fodder for taunting, do your kid a favor and cross it off the list.
  • Will people misspell or mispronounce it? The simple answer for just about any name is: yes. So you're just adding fuel to the fire if you go with Aedynn or Makynzee.
  • Does the baby have siblings? Aedynn probably doesn't need a brother named Braedynn. Or Braden, for that matter. Or Caden. And, unless you're a Duggar or a Kardashian, be mindful of excessive alliteration.

Many names could fall by the wayside during this screening process. That's disappointing, for sure, but now you know the names that survive are solid. But if you and your partner haven't come up with anything yet, it's time to hit the books.

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If you've come up empty after that last exercise, you probably need to attack the reference material. You've done some legwork at this point, so you're not going in totally blind. Whether you fall into the traditional, trendy or the ever-popular "nothing too popular but nothing totally weird" camp, books and Web sites can at least give you some food for thought. They can confirm your interest in a certain name type, but they can also open up a whole world of new possibilities. You might be looking for an Irish name, say, and discover that "New England" names are totally up your alley. (Prudence, anyone? Zenobia?)

Here are some of the more entertaining baby-name Web sites we've found:

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  • Nymbler: Type in a name (or names) you like, and Nymbler will spit out hundreds of other names you might take a shine to.
  • Baby Namescape: Find the most popular names in your state, city or even your hospital.
  • Baby Name Wizard: Its NameVoyager feature graphs name popularity over more than a century.

[sources: Nymbler, Baby Namescape, Baby Name Wizard]

But even with all this sage advice, you could still be sitting there with a blank list. (It happens.) If you're getting down to the wire, remember this: Keep your eyes and ears open. Inspiration can strike anywhere. Ask for suggestions from friends and family. And try to relax. There's no rule that says the name has to be set in stone before the baby arrives. Chances are, when you see your new baby, you'll know. The name will be perfect.

Check out the next page for more information about baby names.

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Sources

  • Coffey, Laura T. "'Glee' Effect? Baby Names of 2010 Reflect Love of TV, Movies." MSNBC. Dec. 2, 2010. (April 21, 2011) http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40461260/ns/today-today_celebrates_2010/
  • Evans, Cleveland Kent. "Baby-Naming Trends." HowStuffWorks.com. June 13, 2006. (April 21, 2011)https://www.howstuffworks.com/baby-name-trends-ga.htm
  • Kashtan, Paula. "6 Steps to the Perfect Baby Name." Parents. April 2011.http://www.parents.com/baby-names/getting-started/steps-to-the-perfect-baby-name/
  • Kassab, Sally Farhat. "India, Willow, Harper and More: The Biggest Naming Trends for 2011." Ivillage. Jan. 5, 2011. (April 21, 2011)http://www.ivillage.com/baby-name-trends-2011/6-b-311360
  • Lack, Evonne. "When to Choose and Announce a Baby Name." Baby Center. January 2010. (April 22, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/0_when-to-choose-and-announce-a-baby-name_10326321.bc
  • Merksamer, Alyssa. "How to Change Your Child's Name." Baby Center. December 2007. (April 22, 2011)http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-change-your-childs-name_3641846.bc
  • Soong, Jennifer. "Choosing a Baby Name." Web MD. Sept. 10, 2010. (April 21, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/choosing-baby-name

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