Naming Traditions Around the World

Naming traditions around the world

Do you know how your parents chose your name? If you don’t, you may be surprised when you ask them! Some people have a selection of perfect baby names prepared in advance. Others want to see their baby first to see what name fits them more. In some cases, children are named after beloved relatives, important historical figures, or famous places. 

There are a lot of individual preferences in how people name their children, but there are also quite a few national naming traditions, and in some countries, there are even strict naming laws!

Naming laws

Quite a few countries of the world regulate how their citizens can name their babies. Some countries forbid offensive names that can be harmful or embarrassing to children in the future. However, others go as far as to restrict the allowed names to a certain selection. 

For instance, in France, you are generally free to choose your baby’s name. However, names that are deemed inappropriate can be prohibited. In 2015, a French couple wanted to call their daughter ‘Nutella’, but a judge decided that it could lead to mockery, and the name was banned.

In Iceland, you can only choose a name for your child from the Personal Names Register, which is a list of about 1800 names for each gender. If you want to use a name that is not on the list, you need to submit it for approval to the Icelandic Naming Committee. Similarly, in Denmark, there is a list of prescribed names, with 18,000 female names and 15,000 male names.

Naming traditions 

Naturally, naming traditions are not as strict as laws, although many people follow them meticulously and at all times. Here are a few examples.

In Indonesia, birth order determines the names of many babies. There are names typically used for first-borns, second-borns, and so on, with the names increasing in rarity. A similar tradition exists in Ireland, with children being named after grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles depending on their birth order. 

In India, it is believed that each child’s life is influenced by their birth star constellation. Many parents choose to use the first letter of the constellation to name their child or a few syllables. Some even use the whole name of the constellation as their child’s name.

In Spanish-speaking countries, names can get quite long. The child usually gets a given name consisting of two parts and two surnames: the father’s family name and the mother’s one. 

Religion often plays a great role in naming children, as well, with people turning to various religious texts for name inspiration. 

Baby names in intercultural families

Naming your child can be a tough decision as it is. But what happens if the parents come from two different cultures? There are a few ways one can go about it:

  • Choose an international name. Names like ‘Alexander’ or ‘Sophia’ are used in many languages and cultures, and can be a good choice no matter where the parents come from. 
  • Find a name that exists in and reflects both cultures. For instance, the name ‘Lulu’ is used as a cute diminutive of ‘Louisa’ in German, and it is also an Arabic name that means ‘pearl’. It can be hard to come up with such a name by yourself, but the internet is there to help. 
  • Go for a double name. If the parents can’t agree on one name that reflects both cultures, they can each choose one that they like to form a double name.
  • Just choose a nice name both parents like, no matter what culture it comes from!