Newborn Names to Avoid

Naming your baby is a big responsibility. The name you choose is personal, but there are some newborn names to avoid for the sake of all the other people who have to live with your selection.

As with many cultural markers, baby name popularity is cyclical: each name rises and falls in the hearts and minds of the public, and trends are often driven by celebrity culture. For some reason, though, parents tend to fall into some big traps when it comes to assigning monikers to the new wee ones of the world. In the quest to be different, or to fit in, history has proven that theoretically well-meaning parents cannot be left to choose names all on their own. I will never understand why parents who want the best for their children, who cuddle them as babies and save for their educations, would turn around and give them stupid, funny, or otherwise inappropriate names.

Most of us have had direct contact with the unfortunate consequences of being careless or showing lack of judgement in name selection. We all have stories about the kid at our school named Brick Wall or Rock Hard.

While it is possible to legally change your own name when you turn eighteen, I posit that by the time you reach that age, the worst damage is done. Associations with other people or things can change the way a kid views herself, and if it doesn’t, relentless teasing will do the job. At the risk of harming your child, please exercise caution when picking a name.

7 Famous Killers' Names

When you’re naming your baby, it is really important that you check out the historical significance of your top choices. It would be tragic to be surprised by the famous or troubled past that certain names have enjoyed. In particular, you likely want to avoid names of famous killers. There are a few ways you may wander into the trap of using a name with a bit of a history.

Serial killers are people, too and some of them have pretty ordinary names. So when it comes to choosing baby names you have some big questions: can I name the baby the same first name as a famous killer? Really, Jeffrey, Paul, and Karla are all pretty nice names. Or is giving my child this shared moniker tantamount to cursing him, like it would be if I named a boat Titanic?

I have to assume that naming a child the same first and last name as a famous killer is either really accidental or very much on purpose.

There is a chance that, despite the notoriety of these villains, you have not heard of them. To mitigate the risk of this possibility, I recommend doing your research before assigning a title to your infant. It will save tremendous heartache after you’ve received baby’s legal documents in the mail. If you don’t like doing research on something as nasty as murder, simply poll your chosen titles among family and friends and family, and gauge the response.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve done it on purpose. Crazy as they may be, I’ve heard sometimes killers are pretty social folks, so maybe you’re hoping that trait will carry on to your wee one. Or if you really had your heart set on the name Ed, but then your surname happens to be Gein, and you decide to run with it anyway.

In any case, the argument about naming babies after notorious (and just bad) people is the same as choosing other awful names: your child is going to have plenty of struggles along the way that will help form her character. You don’t have to make life harder for her by associating her with unsavoury characters. 

6 Junior

Junior is more often used as a nickname than a legal name, but it's so unfair as to warrant a spot on this list.

For many people, having a child is a method of extending a family tree, of keeping the family name going, and feeling immortal. You're allowed to have kids for any reason you want (or no reason at all, really), but to use your inflated sense of self-importance to honour yourself is a touch proud.

First, giving a child the name of a living person is against certain Jewish faith rules because it's disrespectful to the living person. Even if these rules don't apply to you, sharing a name with somebody living is just confusing, particularly if you live with your namesake. However, if you insist, if you absolutely must give your child your exact name for the purpose of self-aggrandizing, please do not saddle the poor thing with the nickname Junior.

Kids inherit so much of themselves from their parents. Habits, mannerisms and basic worldviews often seep from one generation to the next with reckless abandon, so your kids already have the onerous task of separating themselves. If you go and name your kid with the same name you have, there is no escaping his heritage. He is forever linked to you and your family, and placed firmly in the elder version's shadow with 'Junior' tacked on the end as a qualification. Though it seems innocent enough, the “Jr.” suffix on his name means he will always be saddled by the knowledge that he is secondary, the younger version of the real thing, not one and his own.

Aside from all other considerations, think about the fallout from naming your kid something so diminuative, so un-grown-up as Junior. While you rear a child, you strive to foster maturity, responsibility, and as time goes on, adult behaviours. By contrast the connotations of the word Junior are young, small, and babyish.

It's far better to honour your family and your child's heritage with another family name that's important to you.

5 Gods' names

It's pretty popular to name babies after Greek, Roman, or Norse Gods. Nonetheless, you should avoid naming your babies after these deities. Isis, Thor, Zeus, and Odin might be really appealing names to you, but just try to imagine poor, awkward, zitty thirteen-year-old Zeus entering junior high. See what I mean? He’s going to have to be one tough hombre to come through that one unscathed. What about when he tries to land a position at a top law firm? If he's got the gumption to back up the name of the god of gods, maybe he'll be okay.

Bucking the trend and choosing not to name your baby after a god might be tough for you, especially if you think having the same name as the Greek God of War (which is Ares) is so cool. Gods are, well gods – the beautiful artistic depictions of Greek gods is enough reason to want to associate with them, not to mention their awesome powers. But remember, most of them had a weakness. Most of them suffered the wrath of Zeus, or went through some terrible trials.

Maybe you’ve never read the mythology behind your chosen name. If that’s the case, then consider that naming a child after a religious figure when you don't espouse the beliefs of that religion can be construed as disrespectful.

While you're giving thought to the appropriateness of your choices of identification, it's also worth considering how it fits the sound of your name. The cultural background of surnames gives away information about your heritage – often times names have obvious origins. Does your surname blend well with the title you're thinking about for your baby? How well does your last name stand next to some of the multi-syllabic names of Ancient Greece? While Aphrodite might stand as your favourite name of all-time, if your last name is Jones, the combo might be a bit jarring. It could be worse yet if your last name is Finnigan.

Overall, the main beef I have is that this is a big fad, and even when the trend is long gone, your kiddo will have to live with your choice.

4 Inanimate objects

I might get some backlash on this list item. I know, I know, some people really love naming their kids after things. I mean, famous people do it, so it's probably a good idea. Okay, naming your kid Apple, or for that matter Parka or Shoebox, is harmless. Everybody knows how to spell those words, and the name won't be overused.

But here's why it is still a bad idea: it associates your child with something unthinking and unfeeling. If the parents have intentions of invoking the characteristics of the object in the child, they might be careful about what, specifically, is coming to mind. Names are always pretty personal, but objects can mean different things to different people – or worse, can mean absolutely nothing at all.

Conceptually speaking, naming babies after things is not new. Who can forget the hippy tradition of naming kids after things in nature that exuded a presence that would be pleasing in a child – Meadow, River, Ocean, Wolf. While the name Moon doesn't do it for everybody, at least objects and concepts found in nature hold a deeper meaning. The association with nature is making a claim about the person named. For me, baby North West follows this line of thinking.

By contrast, any association with inanimate objects is at best an inside joke and at worst just insulting. I can’t guess any characteristics about apples that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were trying to imbue in their kid when they named her. Were they claiming that she’s healthy? Delicious? Or… round?

Still, parents pick these names because they like the sound of them. Like the kiddo called Denim. As a word, it just sounds cool. Denim is a cool, versatile, blue-collar fabric. Even though it’s a really rad fabric, to be named after it must be very difficult. Any hope of that guy fitting in at school has been shot to hell before he even learned to tie his shoes. Thanks, mom and dad.

Just don't do it, please.

3 Any first name you don't intend to use

People have mystery or even secrecy around their own middle names. When you get to know somebody new, one of the relationship tests is whether you know her middle name. Often, if your friend's parents chose the name to honour a family member from the best, the name could be dated or strange, and she might wish to keep it secret.

Now what if all our middle names got stuck out in front as our first names. I mean, what if we all used our middle names day-to-day, and our first names were only used in the full, legal version of our identification? For example, your name is George Lucas, but your parents decided to call you Luke. Suddenly, that embarrassing, out of date, tradition-ridden extra name would be out there in front, for all to see. On the first day of school your new teacher would call it out for your classmates to hear, giving them a reason to taunt you at recess.

Some families seem to fall prey to this practice, while others steer clear. It seems as much a matter of tradition as the names themselves. No matter how it starts, it always ends with a whole lot of confusion.

Legal documents use your names in the official order, not as you use them. Because your I.D. and SIN will use the first name, not your familiar name, your bank info will follow the same pattern. The bank will lose your paperwork or waste time looking for the wrong application under a totally different name. Your mail will come, mysteriously addressed to an unknown person, and confused postal workers will misdirect your mail. You will face added suspicion and confusion at the border, or in the case of a run-in with the police, when your proof of identification and your common name are not the same.

Over and over again, you have to prove yourself to officials in order to get what is rightfully yours. It's a mess!

Whatever reasons you're considering for naming your baby in reverse order, don't do it. It causes too much trouble.

It'll plague him all his life.

2 By opposite Gender

Some names are traditionally given to boys. Other names are traditionally given to girls. An unfortunate number were always ambiguous, and still are – and maybe that's the best way for everyone to go. Because nothing is more awkward for strangers than to assume a child is one gender only to discover that the opposite is the case. It’s better to avoid the whole embarrassing exchange, and assign babies predetermined gender-appropriate names.

For that reason, we need to set some ground rules: No girls named Danny. No boys named Sherry.

Even if they're short forms for other names, they only confuse the rest of us.

Picture your little boy's sixth birthday party. For the first time, he's inviting kids from school to his celebration, and how it goes will make a mark for his social life for the rest of the school year. It will be very awkward for your boy, called Shannon after his Irish great-uncle, to receive a bunch of cards and gifts that are wholly inappropriate for his interests, but were given to him because of his name.

The issue is confusing, because some cultures use names differently. Shannon is popularly a male name in Ireland, and mostly a female name in North America. The most straightforward route is to use the name as per the custom where you live.

Some folks seem to think it’s cute to name little girls a very effeminate first name, while using a tomboy short form, like calling a girl Alexandria, and Alex for short. What this really does is to alienate both tomboys and girly girls. Each has a name in the wings that doesn’t express their personalities, that they are ashamed to recognize, or that they hope will never come to light.

Culturally speaking, we still live in a two-gender world, and we make assumptions about others based on name cues. To save your little one confusion at every turn, it's best to go with a name that correctly identifies his gender.

1 Evil Names

This is a tough category for baby-namers, because the titles in it can be popular, and are otherwise attractive. Still, it’s safe to say that there are some genuinely evil-sounding names out there. Best to avoid them to save yourself from a horror-movie scenario involving a creepy, non-blinking child at your bedside in the middle of the night.

One really great way of researching this topic is to rent some old horror movies with exorcisms, mansions with unexplained deaths, or unfriendly foster children featured in them. Actually, any movie with a child as the main character stars a weird kid, so avoid those characters’ names altogether. Take note of the kids’ names in those films and cross them off the list of potential candidates. You can make use of the ‘notes’ section of your baby-naming book for this purpose.

Otherwise you tell if a name is evil by its meaning (like Thorn, for example) or if evil famous people that had it (like Adolf).

Other names just sound creepy. A good example of a demonic-sounding name is Damien. It’s Greek in origin, and means, “to tame”. However, any viewer of ‘70’s cult-classic movies will tell you that Damien is a name for a child who will eat your soul. Now the name is being used in a TV show. The character named Damien is the antichrist. I rest my case.

Along this creepy vibe are Ash, Amaranthus, Salem, and Umbra. If you are hoping your child will grow up with a healthy dose of creepy, these names might top your list. If, however, you are planning on having the chubby, gliggling type of child, you might want to avoid any spooky names.

Obviously, not every child with a villainous name will necessarily be evil. On the contrary, some may be very sweet. In fact, it might be even worse for the nice kids with nefarious names, as they go through life trying to convince people that they can’t (or won’t) conjure demons, they just want to be friends.

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