Who knew there would be so many laws, in dozens of countries banning baby girl names? After all, shouldn't the name you decide to give your child be a personal choice, taking into consideration, family tradition, culture and perhaps religion? Maybe a parent decides to give their baby girl a name because it is trendy, or a friend suggests it.
Why would the country the baby is born in ban a name, or go as far as jailing a parent, for choosing a name the government considers to be inappropriate?
From rules banning names of foreign leaders to those banning names of fruits...unusual monickers are generally banned to protect the child, and in some cases, not to highlight the name of a foreign enemy.
Apparently, almost every country in the world has naming laws regulating this very personal choice, and there can be consequences if a parent does not comply.
20 Cinderella Beauty Blossom In New Zealand
A very creative mom in New Zealand decided that names like Mary, Emma, or Judith were not enough to describe the beauty of her little new born princess.
Finally, she thinks of a name that will perfectly describe how she sees her precious baby... but the judge does not agree. Cinderella Beauty Blossom is simply not considered to be a name a child should be given in New Zealand.
In fact, New Zealand does not deem acceptable names that can be offensive, those that are unreasonably long, and names that resemble an official title and rank. So if you plan to live here, forget about naming your child General or King!
The country's Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, already strict with a list of approved names for babies, has more recently had to update its list, banning other names like Fish and Chips (for twins) and Talula Does The Hula In Hawaii....really?
19 #Mary In Canada
The reality is that Canada is extremely lenient when it comes to approving baby names. Being a melting pot of dozens of ethnicities, it would be extremely difficult to regulate which names are deemed acceptable or not for every culture.
Canada is also a Federal country which gives each of its Provinces much leeway in regulating aspects of daily life. So it becomes an almost personal matter when a judge decides a name is inappropriate for a baby girl.
The only limitation Canada imposes is that names can't contain numerals or symbols. Only two Canadian provinces ban baby names on the grounds they might embarrass the child, Quebec and British Columbia.
In Quebec, the Registrar of Civil Status can ask parents to change a child’s name if they fear it might invite ridicule. If a parent disagrees then the matter can be taken to court.
Likewise, in B.C., the Vital Statistics Act allows courts to intervene if names may cause embarrassment or confusion, but the court rarely objects.
18 Angela Merkel In Iran
The Iranian government wants to ensure baby girls do not carry names that can inspire a revolution. The Islamic Republic's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance not only bans all foreign names and names of leaders of other countries to be given to children, but also bans the mention of foreign leaders in national newspapers.
Iran goes so far as to ban other words as well, for example, the word "wine" was recently banned, and any animal names that are considered "foreign" are not allowed to be used in children's books.
So if you have a baby girl in Iran and are inspired to name her after a successful female world leader you will have to change your mind. In fact, there is no court or office parents can appeal to should they disagree with Iranian law.
17 Alissia In Algeria
You would think a name like Alissia, simple and sweet, would be approved in a country that has seen some political progress over the past decades. The truth of the matter is, Algeria has a list of approved names parents can name their girls. If the chosen name is not among these, then it will simply not be approved.
So, whereas countries like Saudi Arabia (see below) have a list of banned names, others like Morocco or Algeria have a list of approved names, which makes decisions limited for many new parents
When a new mom made her way to City Hall to register Alissia as her baby's chosen name, she was told it was not on the "approved list of names", and despite much objection, there was little she could do.
16 Apple In Malaysia
Dear Gwyneth, had your little girl been born in Malaysia you would not have been allowed to choose a fruit as her name.
As a matter of fact, Malaysia has a list of "undesirable names" that include food, animals, numbers, insults, honorary names and initials.
Baby names in Malaysia are regulated by the national registration department, particularly since the introduction of the National Registration Identity Card. Since 2006, the Malaysian government has added to an already long list of unwanted names deemed unsuitable for a person.
As Malaysia has 3 main ethnic groups, the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians, the "undesirable list"includes names for the three main groups.
Other names on the list include: Ah Chwar (snake) for Malays, Ar Loo (donkey) for the Chinese, and Pitchaikaran (beggar) for the Indian population.
The Malay people do not use surnames as such either, but rather use what is called a patronymic name, where the last name is the father's name preceded by a prefix, "bin", meaning "son of" for boys, or "binti", meaning "daughter of" for girls.
15 Jessica In Egypt
The Egyptian Government is in the process of passing a law whereby babies will not be allowed to have Western sounding names like Jessica, Laura, or Mary. This is because, according to Egyptian officials, "abandoning Arabic names will drastically change society." The proposal goes as far as stating that the punishment for disobeying the law may be a fine between about 270$ or maximum jail sentence of six months.
It's understandable that any given country has a vested interest in maintaining their culture and traditions; but surely, limiting the kinds of names families can choose from is not the only means of achieving such ends?
Moreover, the government continues to say that most Western names are difficult for Arabs to pronounce and that children will be ridiculed growing up.
14 Linda In Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is geographically one of the larger countries in the Middle East. As such it also carries much political and religious clout in the region.
Traditionally known as being one of the strictest Islamic states, it is no surprise that, for similar reasons as the Egyptians, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry has banned 50 names they believe "contradict the culture or religion of the Kingdom".
Although these also include first names of foreign leaders, parents will no longer be able to name their baby girls Linda, Sandy, Elaine or Lauren.
While the government can prevent families from legally naming their children anything "that would contradict their culture", there is nothing stopping these families from calling their children by these names in the privacy of their own homes.
13 Nutella In France
How sweet is this name? :)
In truth, France's naming law is not particularly stringent. It basically dictates that although parents can select the names of their children, some known foreign names and certain diminutives must be presented to a judge in case they are "contrary to the interests of the child."
The judge in this case stated, "it is contrary to the child's interest to have a name that can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts." As the parents did not attend the hearing, the judge took it upon himself to bestow the name "Ella" onto the baby girl. Other names banned in France for girls are "Fraise" (Strawberry), Manhattan, Mégane Renault (a car brand).
As mentioned above, while her legal name is now "Ella", there is nothing stopping these parents from calling their daughter "Nutella" as a nickname or term of endearment (after all, who doesn't love Nutella?) in the privacy of their own home.
12 Sarah In Morocco
As in Algeria, rather than having a list of banned names, Morocco has a list of approved baby names. The registry is based on culturally relevant names that appropriately reflect “Moroccan identity.”
I can see this making the name selection process so much simpler, but it's also unsettling that if you choose a name you love and feel best represents your daughter, it can so easily be "denied". After all, how do these countries decide which names are fit to make it onto the "approved" lists?
Here's where it can get complicated: You can call your baby girl Sara, but it better not have an "h" at the end. According to the Moroccan naming law, Sarah with an "h" is the Hebrew version of the name. While Sara without the "h" is the Arabic version.
Other names banned in Morocco include names of Amazigh origin (a minority ethnic group in the country) like, Yelli, as they do not "identify" with the local culture.
11 Catherine In Portugal
Portuguese naming laws are strict in that you may name your baby girl Caterina, but please, no Catherine, Cat, or Cate. If the name is not considered to be "traditionally Portuguese", you can forget about getting it registered at City Hall. Abiding to tradition is paramount according to the Portuguese government, and naming one's child is not a right but a responsibility.
In fact, a name is also required to identify gender, and it cannot be a nickname or a shortened version of a traditional name. Naming a child with a nickname or diminutive is also not allowed. For instance, a baby girl may be named “Joana” but not “Joaninha”, or “Rita” but not “Ritinha.”
There are exceptions for foreigners who are allowed to name their children with foreign names.
10 Harriet In Iceland
Iceland is one of the few countries that has a special office for approving names. The Icelandic Naming Committee has the principal responsibility to determine whether new given names, deriving from foreign influence and the media, and not previously used in Iceland, are suitable for integration into the country's language and culture.
Key points in this country's naming law is that names must be compatible with the Icelandic alphabet and grammar, and contain only letters. For baby girls born in Iceland of Icelandic parents, names must be chosen from a list of 1,853 female names. Parents can appeal to the Committee, but approval is only given in exceptional circumstances.
Unfortunately, names containing letters that do not officially exist in Iceland's 32-letter alphabet, such as "c", are not on the list. As well, if a name can not be conjugated in Icelandic, like is the case of Harriet, it will not be approved.
9 Hermione In Mexico
Due to incredibly creative names, mainly influenced by the media and Hollywood movies, the State of Sonora, in Mexico had no choice but to put its foot down, by publishing a list of baby names parents can no longer use. Hermione, and other names from the Harry Potter series have also been banned.
The Mexican Civil Registry has had to take this extreme measure to “protect children from being bullied because of their name.”
In fact, it prohibits minors to be registered under names that are "pejorative, discriminatory, shameful, degrading, lacking significance or constituting of signs or initials." Baby girl names on the list include, Christmas Day, Lady Di, Facebook, Twitter, Email, and Yahoo, as well as Delgadina, that suggests being slim, or Gordonia, that suggests being fat.
8 Maima In Kenya
The Kenyan Regulatory Board, has had somethings to say about "chosen" names, and in particular about names legally chosen and used in the Kenyan entertainment industry.
Although there is no particular law in this country banning specific baby names, a decree has recently been passed forbidding names that have multiple meanings from being used in the country.
According to the board, the name Maima, also meaning "holes" in the local language, can be offensive and negatively influence the moral character of the country.
Other derogatory names like, 'Vuusya uungu' which means 'touch bottom' or Wakatimba, means "butt", will be banned from being mentioned or used as official names.
7 Queen In The USA
The United States is among the most lenient countries when it comes to naming babies. Unfortunately this is the reason why there are today children in the US with names like "Adolf Hitler" or "Nazi".
In fact, cultural diversity in the US has led to variations in names and naming traditions, with names being used to express creativity, personality, cultural identity, and values.
In practice however, there are some restrictions set by the individual States that take into consideration practicality, and limit parents from using numbers, pictograms, and obscene words. For instance, a name like "100" would be banned, but spelled out , "One-hundred" would not.
There is one other restriction however, a name cannot identify a rank or a title. So girl names like Queen, Majesty, or Princess would not be approved in certain States. Kentucky is the only state without any naming laws.
6 Spinach In Australia
Australia is another country that has had to put its foot down on baby names due to the numerous requests of unusual ones at its Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Names in this country are banned if they are considered to be offensive or obscene, if they are deemed to cause a child distress (like Spinach), or identify a rank (like Princess, Queen, Empress, Mother, Lady, Saint etc.). Names may also be refused for being too long, or for if they contain a symbol.
While banning names in general seems kind of harsh, in this circumstance, it makes sense. I mean, some parents out there really want their kid to stand out - which is perfectly normal. But sometimes it takes a neutral third party to just tell you how bad of an idea something is. And naming a child Spinach would be one of those moments.
5 Metallica In Sweden
Swedish law plainly states, "First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name."
Obviously this last part leaves the law open to interpretation because what may seem obvious to one person may not be as obvious for another.
This was the case when parents attempted to register their baby, Metallica's birth. In this case, Michael and Karolina Tomaro fought to have their daughter named "Metallica," after the heavy metal rock band. The government however deemed the name "inappropriate," denying the parents a passport for their child.
Sweden's naming law has stirred up much internal controversy. The regulation has lead some parents to purposely give their children unusual names, one most famously covered by the international media, "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116". We're serious.
4 Cyanide In England
We surely want our baby girl's name to be original, but do we want her name to be reminiscent of a deadly chemical?
This is the case of a woman from Powys Wales when the Court of Appeals ruled that her "unusual choice" might harm the child. The judge continued by saying, “It is hard to see how... the twin girl could regard being named after this deadly poison as other than a complete rejection of her by her birth mother.”
Some other restrictions for choosing a baby name in Wales include: names that are difficult to pronounce, considered blasphemous, are obscene or that promote hatred, exceed a maximum number of letters, or that may cause confusion in titles (ie Queen, Princess, Duchess etc.).
3 Monkey In Denmark
As with other Nordic nations, Denmark too has strict laws when it comes to baby names. Parents can choose from a pre-approved list of girl names as a guarantee that the name they choose will not be rejected at registration. A parent may appeal a decision but it is still not a guarantee.
The 2 key components of the naming law are: the chosen name must identify the baby's gender, and be recognized as a first name. Denmark is so strict with its naming law that it refuses approximately 15-20% of all names.
There is actually a book entitled, The Book of Approved Names, commonly found in maternity wards and doctors' offices throughout Denmark, and which includes over 7000 approved names parents can choose from.
The good news is that anyone who wishes to add a new name can apply to the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, through the registrar in their local Lutheran church.
2 @ In China
With over a billion people living in China, of which 667 million are women, choosing a unique name for baby girl can be quite a challenge.
So when parents of a new born baby decided to name their child @ "at", pronounced "ai-ta" in Chinese, their request was denied. Their reasoning was that the pronunciation of the @ symbol sounds like the words "love him", and liked how it sounded.
Recent laws prohibiting Muslim names in China have been approved, but there are no specific laws for naming your child. It is really based on the ability of technology to scan the names on the identification card. This means that Chinese characters that can't be read by a computer are not allowed. Unfortunately, there are over 70,000 Chinese characters, but only about 13,000 can be identifies on the computer. Due to this, some Chinese citizens have been forced to change their names as shown on their id cards.
1 Miatt In Germany
Miatt was refused by the German officials simply because it is a name that does not indicate gender, an essential point in the naming laws of the country. The only exception is giving the name "Maria" as a middle name for a boy.
Germany, along with Iceland, is one of the few countries that has a department solely dedicated to baby naming laws. The Standesamt will ultimately decide if a name is suitable or not. The department has to ensure the name is not absurd or degrading, nor can you name your child after a product.
Other girl names that were not approved in Germany are Jazz and Lafayette.
Sources: Huffingtonpost.ca, Cnn.com, Theguardian.com, Firstnamesgermany.com , Momjunction.com