There are many reasons a name just doesn't work out. Maybe mom and dad kept it under wraps and when they announced it after the baby was born, it just didn't get the reaction they were hoping for. Perhaps people have a hard time pronouncing it and constantly correcting them is getting irksome.
If it's a particularly unusual name or spelling, parents may get tired of constantly explaining its origins or defending their decision to use it. Maybe there's a felon that escaped from jail that just happens to have the exact same name as their precious newborn son.
Naming remorse is a real thing. And while parents can't change their birth experience, baby's innate temperament or the fact that they allowed their father-in-law in the birthing suite, parents can change the name they filled out on the birth certificate.
Parents can legally change their child's name, use a middle name instead, or come up with an acceptable nickname, or use initials. It is best to do it sooner rather than later, before people get to accustomed to the chosen name and before the child begins to identify with it, though.
Parents shouldn't feel too bad if they do end up opting for another name. They'll be in good company. But if their bun is still in the oven, and they've got time on their side, here are some names that they may end up regretting.
Say the name Katrina and you most likely think of the hurricane. Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the American Gulf Coast in 2005. It was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history and one of the top five deadliest.
The city of New Orleans, was particularly hard-hit by flooding, and its residents suffered hardship with not only loss of life of loved ones, but staggering property loss and difficult living conditions in temporary shelters. You'll understand if the mere utterance of the name "Katrina" can cause a New Orleans resident who survived the catastrophe to shudder.
In fact, Katrina was officially retired as a name by the World Meteorological Organization due to its massive destruction (other hurricane names that have been retired include Allison, Mitch, Andrew and Sandy).
Katrina is indeed a beautiful name, and we pity any girl with the name growing up in the U.S. who has to endure jokes (in poor taste) comparing her personality to that of a hurricane's force. Luckily, there are plenty of nice nicknames that can work (Kat, Trina, Katia, Trini) if that is an issue. Katrina fell drastically in popularity after the hurricane, to where it is now languishing in the top 1000 (pre Katrina, it was in the top 200).
Want to avoid naming your child after a potential hurricane? The National Hurricane's website lists names up until 2021. If you have Gabrielle, Nicholas, Grace, Laura or Julian on your shortlist, you may want to scratch them.
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s like me, you probably read the book series the Babysitters Club and are familiar with this name. Claudia Kishi was the series' resident flamboyant, Japanese-American artist. She was also a junk food fanatic yet managed to stay slim and blemish free, according to the book's narrator (I rolled my eyes every time I read that).
Claudia is French in origin, deriving from the male name Claude (or Claudius in Latin). It has a certain musical quality when the name is said in full, though the shortened "Claud" tends to fall flat. Claudia's popularity in the U.S. peaked in the mid 90's (perhaps supermodel Claudia Schiffer had something to do with it?) though it has steadily dropped in the past decade or so.
Parents naming their baby Claudia may bask in the glow of compliments their choice receives, until the first person tells them that the name is "lame". Perplexed and affronted, they will accuse that person of being rude, until they find out that the name actually means lame. Oh.
You've likely heard this one before. Oprah Winfrey, talk-show host extraordinaire, is actually Orpah Winfrey. According to the story Oprah shared at an awards ceremony in 1991, her Aunt Ida chose the name Orpah as a nod to her family's Christian beliefs (Orpah is a name that appeared in the Old Testament).
As it happens, there were errors with the paperwork (turns out that it was such an unusual name that the r and p got mixed up on various forms filled out by nursing staff) and Orpah inadvertently became Oprah. The paperwork was already filed and Oprah stuck.
Oprah's mother may have regretted the error, but this may be an example of a happy accident. Who knows how famous Oprah Winfrey would have become had she gone through her career as Orpah. It just doesn't have the same ring as Oprah.
Winfrey herself has said that she's happy with her name, so much so that she named her production company Harpo (Oprah spelled backwards). Harpo is also the name of a character in the movie The Colour Purple, who was married to Oprah's character. Oprah has indeed been a solid name choice for this strong, successful woman....but, there can really only be one Oprah of her calibre in the world.
What's wrong with Peter? Nothing, really. It's been popular since Biblical times and regularly has enjoyed top 100 status in countries and cultures around the world. A Latin name derived from the word petra, for stone or rock, Peter is clearly a solid choice. Easy to say, easy to spell.
Unless you're a French (particularly Quebecois) speaker who is accustomed to the French version Pierre. If you look at the name Peter on paper, you might raise an eyebrow and wonder why someone would name their kid after the French word for 'fart' ( péter is a verb meaning literally, to fart).
Now, I know that the name Peter is so common that people know how to pronounce it but that doesn't stop kids from being cruel and making fun of poor Peter. I went to a francophone school in a Southern Ontario town where many students had common English names and spoke English at home. That didn't deter kids from making fart noises around poor Peter at recess.
Word of advice: Google your chosen name and add in "ways to make fun of" in front of it.
How many Bailey's do you know? Probably a few. How many are of the two-legged variety though? As it turns out, Bailey regularly graces the top spot in popular dog names.
Bailey, an English name derived from the word "bailiff" (a legal officer occupation) is considered to be a unisex name, though it is far more popular as a girl's name in North America (trending in the top 100 in the first half of the millenium) versus a boy name. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, it is fairly even in popularity.
Check out any baby name website and you will see almost unanimous comments from Bailey's that they are irked when others tell them they have dogs with the same name. Regardless, it is a sweet name that could be worse. Dogs are lovable creatures aren't they? In case you were wondering, according to a dog owner website, the other most popular names for dogs include: Max, Charlie, Buddy, Bella, Lucy, Molly and Daisy.
The most famous Hillary in the world right now is undoubtedly Hillary Clinton. As America's first woman to run for President, she is a powerful symbol of female strength and hope to many in her country and around the world. On the flip side, she is also a polarizing figure who stirs up strong negative opinions.
Hillary is an old English name that derives from Hilaria or Hilarius. Meaning "cheerful" or "mirthful", it hasn't really been on the baby name charts since the early 1990's, when it ranked 655th as a girl's name.
Hillary was actually a name that was on our shortlist when my husband and I were expecting our first child in 2011. We liked the way it sounded and thought it was a solid name. We eventually vetoed it not because of any connection to the politician but because it sounded too close to "celery" (we are quite picky when it comes to names, clearly).
If you are raising a strong girl and are ok with getting into political discussions with strangers meeting your baby for the first time, then Hillary might be for you. If not, it may be another example of a great name being "ruined" by being too closely associated with a particular person.
Which reminds me, another name we vetoed was Keira. Hubby thought people would assume we named our daughter after actress Keira Knightly (he wasn't a fan of her acting).
Molly is an adorable nickname for a plethora of female names, including Maureen, Mary and Margaret. It also, unfortunately, happens to be the street name for an illicit drug called MDMA, the active chemical found in Ecstasy.
Why is it called Molly? Apparently because its short for 'molecule' (alluding to the fact MDMA is a 'pure' drug - though the purity of any street drug is doubtful). Calling it a cute name like Molly is more marketing than anything else - partygoers looking for a high are inclined to think a drug is harmless if it has an innocuous name.
Much like the name Mary-Jane (or MJ) has fallen out of favour once it became slang for marijuana, unfortunately it seems like Molly is a victim of this too. In 2012, Madonna was chastised for asking the crowd at an electronic dance music festival if they had "seen molly".
While it's true that ecstasy and related drugs have been associated with the EDM culture, she was accused of glorifying and condoning its use among young people. Not that that would ever be the intention of any parent wanting to give their child the name Molly, but it's best to be aware.
Aurelie is a beautiful French female name derived from the Latin word Aurelius (gold). It is quite common in France, regularly ranking in the top 400. Pronounced Oh-ray-LEE (the r is rolled in the back of the throat), it is a pleasant name that is not commonly used in North America, though the similar French names Amelie (or Amelia) has taken off in popularity.
Other French names such as Chloe, Juliette, Adele and Eloise continue to be given to baby girls in droves in North America, so what's the deal with Aurelie?
Well, probably the way its pronounced. Oh-ray-LEE, said by a native English speaker, sounds very close to "Orally". Maybe not the best word you want associated with your sweet baby girl. It's the same reason Annaliese might get the veto (for the record, this gorgeous name is pronounced Anna-leese, not Anal-ease).
if your heart is set on Aurelie you may want to go with Aurelia, equally as pretty but with enough of a difference in pronunciation that an associated word isn't an issue. Plus, you can go with Lia as a cute nickname.
You probably know at least a handful of males with the name Jeremy. It seems normal enough. Jeremy the mechanic. Jeremy the veterinarian. Jeremy the criminal. Yes, apparently this is one of the more common names for jailbirds in the U.S. In fact, Jeremy Meeks, a felon convicted of gang activity, illegal possession of a firearm and ammo, among other charges, is probably the most infamous bearer of the name.
In 2016, his mug shot went viral and he was dubbed "world's hottest felon" and offered modeling gigs upon his release from jail. A quick search of his social media pages recently reveal he is happily living with his wife and kids, driving a Maserati and living in a mansion. Why, it's almost criminal to be that good-looking (or that lucky).
A Hebrew name meaning "appointed by God", Jeremy enjoyed incredible popularity in the 70s and 80s when it was regularly in the top 50. It stands to reason, then, that as a common name, it is well represented by not only criminals but men in general in their 30s and 40s. Well, yes, except its actually overrepresented by criminals.
A study by a home security company looked at the mugshot profiles on a popular website and compared it to the Social Security database of first names over the last century. They found that in seven states, the name Jeremy was the most common name of criminals. Other common names borne by orange-jumpsuit clad men? Jesse, Johnny and Randy also appear in three states each.
It's hard to say exactly what it is about Jeremy, but alas, you may want to rethink this one.
Ellen. You can't help but think of Ellen DeGeneres, the much beloved comedian and talk show host. You probably also know quite a few of your mother and grandmother's friends with this name, as it was more popular in the 40's and 50s than it has been in modern times (though it has never reached anywhere near the popularity of Brenda, Karen or Nancy).
Ellen is a form of the (much more popular) Eleanor, meaning light. The reason it may never have taken off quite the same way as Eleanor (currently ranked in the top 100 in the U.S.) may unfortunately have to do with the fact it is quite easy to make fun of through rhymes.
I knew a lovely girl in elementary school named Ellen, and she had to endure cruel taunts of "Smellin' Ellen" and "Ellen has melons". Now, kids will always find ways to make fun of someone, but I am of the mindset that as parents we shouldn't give them a head start.
If you like the name Ellen but want to get away from the tease factor, similar names to consider include Elliana, Elena and Elaine.
Isis is a Greek name which has a beautiful, ancient history. In Greek mythology, Isis was the most powerful goddess, of the sky and nature, and was sister to Osiris. In modern times, Isis was favoured by parents wanting to give their baby girls a bit of an unusual, magical name that honoured a strong female. Given its uniqueness, it has never been everyone's cup of tea but it has kept a respectable ranking in popularity.
That is, until the terrorist group that calls itself ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) came to prominence in the last decade. Can you imagine a worse association? Not only did this soft and beautiful name get scratched off the baby name list by expectant parents with thick black marker, parents of babies already born and officially named Isis were left with a dilemma.
It can safely be assumed that many parents of baby Isis did indeed legally change their names. I remember in my pregnancy online group, there had been a mom with a baby girl named Isis (this was in 2013, so I am not sure how she wasn't aware that ISIS was already a pretty well-known organization) who expressed concern with her name choice.
Pretty much the consensus of the group was that she needed to change it, lest she wanted her daughter to face a lifetime of comments and ridicule about her name.
If you ask any parent of a boy named Atticus why they chose that name, most of them are likely to tell you it was inspired by the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In that book, Atticus Finch was portrayed as a fair, compassionate lawyer whose views on the injustice of racial discrimination in the Deep South resonated with likeminded readers.
Parents choosing the name Atticus explained that they wanted those values of fairness and morality to be instilled in their sons.
That was all fine and well, until Lee's novel Go Set a Watchman came out in 2015. The novel, drafted decades earlier by Lee and thought to be an early draft of Mockingbird, portrays Atticus as a racist who once attended a Klan meeting. Parents who had recently named their son Atticus were horrified, with at least one couple, Christen and David Epstein of Colorado, opting to legally change their toddler son's name to Lucas.
As they explained in a People magazine interview "“When the new book came out, we just felt like, this does not at all encompass the values that we want for our son to have and know. And we felt like our son was young enough that we could change his name.”
Cohen is a highly esteemed Jewish surname of Biblical origins. Let us repeat that: a surname. According to Jewish tradition, you are either born a Cohen or you aren't - it is a birthright. The issue is that Cohen has taken off in popularity among non-Jews. In the past 5 years, it has shot up the charts to the top 100 status depending on which region you're looking at.
I can certainly attest that in mommy circles where I live, it is quite a common name. Some name experts point to the popularity of the teen drama the O.C. in the 2000s, where a character named Seth Cohen was usually referred to by his last name.
Parents may be drawn to its fresh feel and modern sound, but may be unaware of the controversy of naming their child a "forbidden" name. It is considered religious or cultural appropriation by devout Jews to give a child the first name Cohen.
According to an article that explains the controversy in the online magazine the Daily Beast, "Cohen [is] the most common Jewish surname in the United States. But the problem is it’s not just any Jewish surname. Call your sons Greenblatt or Rosenberg, the objectors say. But the name Cohen is reserved for the priestly caste descended directly from the biblical Aaron."
You won't actually be forbidden from using this name if you really want to, but in a multicultural world where we should be striving for open peace and harmony, it makes sense to try to avoid names that can be considered offensive to other races, cultures and religions. You don't want your future son's resume to be discarded 25 years from now because a Mr. Cohen disapproves of his first name.
I have actually come across this name in public once, when a mom called out for her preschool-age daughter in the store. I did a double take, because while Monet is certainly a name I am familiar with, I always thought of the famous painter, not a pint-size child with unruly red curls and overalls.
While the parents may have been big fans of the artist and perhaps were artists themselves, it seemed to be quite an "aspirational" name for a young child to fulfill. What if she wanted to become a basketball player or future engineer? Would she be steered more into the arts instead?
We're not picking on Monet in particular, but any similar name such as Lord, Reign, Astro or Lyric. Giving a child an overly aspirational name (that is, a name that is loaded with meaning and association) can cause harm to children if it is too much baggage to bear.
A child that veers off in a different direction from the traits ascribed to her name may feel that she is not meeting the expectations laid out by her parents. It'll be interesting to hear what Saint West (son of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West) has to say on this subject in about 18 years.
1 Dana (For A Boy)
We're not picking on the name Dana per se, but rather, using it as an example of a name commonly used as a girl's name in modern times. Ashley, Kelly, Allison, Darcy and Madison are other examples. Apparently, studies have shown that males given "female" names (even if the name originated as a boy's name long ago) have a higher propensity towards criminality and anti-social behavior.
Now, there are certainly a million factors that affect whether or not a person ends up a criminal (among them, socio-economic advantages, education level, home life, etc.) but studies indicate that unfavourable names tend to produce unfavourable reactions in others, which lead to unfavourable actions in people with those names. Sad but true.
When unisex names for girls began to take off in popularity in the 1990s as a means of promoting equality, it eventually turned into traditionally male names being taken over by the girls at a dizzying rate. Taylor might be unisex but there are now female James, Maxwells and Russells out on the playground, while you'll be hard pressed to find a male Tracy or Lindsey.
You may want to honour a loved one with a traditionally male name that is now "female" for your son, but unless you are willing to be prepared for the inevitable teasing, it may be best to use it as a middle name. Or hey, Dana could always be Dan.
Sources: Behindthename.com, Time.com, Dogtime.com, People.com, TheDailyBeast.com