Naming/How to name a child/Don'ts


Certain names are widely frowned upon or disadvantageous, and should be categorically avoided.

Don't use:

  • an offensive name, like "Hitler" or "Loser".
Similarly, don't use a name that is intended to be offensive but is not commonly understood as such (such as "Loser" in a foreign language).
  • an exceedingly unusual name, like "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" or "Moon Unit".
  • a name of the opposite gender (see: A Boy Named Sue)
  • an exceedingly long name, like "Anna Bertha Cecilia Diana Emily Fanny Gertrude Hypatia Inez Jane Kate Louise Maud Nora Ophelia Prudence Quince Rebecca Starkey Teresa Ulysis Venus Winifred Xenophon Yetty Zeno Pepper"
  • According to Vedic (Hindu) mythology the names similar to Rivers, Mountains and Constellations must be avoided.

These are either impractical or cause grief, and are generally frowned on. These guidelines are encoded in law in some countries, such as Germany.

Instead of a name of the opposite gender, consider a unisex name.

Instead of an exceedingly long name, consider using a single or double middle name, or using further names or epithets informally, as nicknames: one can call a child "chandra ka tukra" (Hindi: piece of the moon) as a hypocoristic (term of endearment) without incorporating it into a legal name.

Don't use:

  • an unusual spelling, like "Ami" rather than "Amy".
  • a nickname rather than a formal name, like "Charlie" rather than "Charles".
  • just initials, like "J. R."

These are unnecessary: neither changes how the person is called, and only changes how they come across in writing, in both cases unfavorably. An unusual spelling draws unwanted attention,[1] while a nickname conveys childishness and lack of seriousness or professionalism. Think of the name appearing on a college or job application.

Instead, use conventional spelling, formal names, and full names. The child can still go by the nickname or initials, but they have a formal name for formal purposes.

In general, don't use:

funny names
Like "Kandi Kane". The joke will grow old. Subtle wit (that is not jarringly obvious) is acceptable, but not encouraged.
brand names
Like "Courvoisier".

In their favorEdit

Names chosen so as not to conform to the above guidelines are generally chosen because they feel individual, special, or clever, or to make a statement. If it is legal in one’s jurisdiction to name one’s child as one wishes, one is within one’s (legal) rights to choose such a name, but one should consider different names that share the advantages (of specialness, say) but not the disadvantages.

In the case of individual names, there are a great variety of existing names in other languages that are unusual without being offensive or perverse, and one can come up with new names that sound idiomatic.

In the case of making a statement through a choice of name, one should consider the morality of using a child as a proxy to make such a statement, and consider that there are alternative ways to make statements other than by names on legal documents.


  1. : (more specifically...)