How to Pick a Baby Name: 7 Dos & Don'ts

Nov 20th 2014

Stirring Up Baby Names 

Originally appeared on The Stir

When I named my daughter "Indiana," it definitely raised some eyebrows, particularly among my more conservative family members. And yes, I wanted to smack that "What kind of name is that?" expression off their faces. Because let's face it: Choosing a baby's name is a highly personal choice that can cause some friction if it's not received well.

Whether you're discussing your own top picks or another parent's choice, there are some basic rules you need to be following ... or else:

DON'T diss someone's name, no matter how strange. "Once the baby is born, the only acceptable response to the name choice is praise," says Laura Wattenberg, founder of and "If the name totally baffles you, it's fine to ask about it, but couch the question in positive terms: 'What a pretty name! Is there a story behind it?'"

DO practice patience if you choose an unusual name. "There's no way around it; people are going to mangle your child's name," says Wattenberg. "They mean no harm, so correct them graciously -- even if it's the 10th time you've had to correct someone today."

DON'T steal someone's baby name behind her back. Nothing is worse than working hard to come up with a great, original name, then having a friend use it for their own kid without your permission. It's even worse if your kids are the same age, and their kid was born first, because that family will automatically hog all the credit for their creativity. Awk-waaard! All that said, if you do love a friend's baby name, there is an alternative ...

DO ask permission to use someone's name. If a friend chooses a name for her baby that you just adore and can't live without, "don't be afraid to just ask the family involved," says Wattenberg. "And if you're the one being asked, remember that having somebody want to choose the same name you did isn't an insult; it's a compliment to your taste!" Also let's get real: There's no copyright on names, so you really have no right to have dibs. And sooner or later, your kid is bound to run into someone with the same name. So, get over it already, be gracious, and grant that parent's request. 

More from The Stir: 100 Totally Amazing Hipster Baby Names

DO consider keeping your name under wraps. You never know, once you're staring your little nugget in the face, if the name you picked will fit. So, by not telling others the name beforehand, you ward off tons of confusion, as well as long drawn-out arguments about whether your name choice is best, because hey, the decision is done!

DON'T tell some people your name but not others. If you do decide to keep baby's name incognito until she's born, it should be a blanket policy. If your mother-in-law finds out she'd heard the news after your friends, that's just a recipe for hurt feelings. So unless you know for sure it won't get back to her, keep mum until the big day.

DO take into account your child's feelings and future. Remember, your kids are the ones who have to live with their name, and you aren't just naming a baby. You're naming a teenager who'll want to avoid being teased and an adult who may want a professional-sounding name. So keep these things in mind before you name your child something you might regret!

Have you encountered any baby name no no's or annoyances?

Images © Tetra Images/Corbis  

20 “Fiery” Baby Names Inspired by “The Hunger Games”

Nov 17th 2014

 baby name roundups by theme
We give you one word: Katniss.

To say that the feisty heroine of the "Hunger Games" has inspired a following is an understatement, and her reign will likely continue as multitudes of fans line up to see the next installment of her story unfold on the the big screen: Mockingjay Part 1 opens November 21.

Much has been written about the imaginative names that came from The Hunger Games books, but what you might not know about are all of the other fiery names out there for consideration, whether you're expecting a redhead, an astrological fire sign, or simply a tiny firecracker.

Here are twenty bold, flameworthy names inspired by the Girl On Fire herself. These move out of the arena from warm to hot choices with serious spark.

Aidan, Aiden: Few names are as popular as Aiden, an Irish superstar that's currently the 12th most-chosen name for boys (and its varied spellings mean that it's more popular than it sometimes gets credit for). The meaning, "little fiery one", is just as fitting for a Hunger Games fan as for a toddler.

Auburn: Usually reserved for haircolor, auburn is a warm reddish-brown that makes
us think of a flickering flame. Even the sound of this name seems to play with fire, though it's just a coincidence that it contains the word "burn".

Blaze: In an unexpected twist in the world of names, the traditional French Blaise (which likely means "lisping") has been reinvented with a new spelling. Like a Blaise from an alternate universe, Blaze has an unmistakable red-hot image, perfect for a child with a bold personality.

Brantley: A surname turned hotter-than-fire given name, Brantley is a recently popular choice helped along by country artist Brantley Gilbert. It comes from the Old German word for brand, with meanings related to fire or "fiery torch".

Brinley: Across America, the sound of "brin" is catching on like wildfire. Though this irresistible name is partly a new creation, it does have Old English roots connected to the surname Brandley, which means "burnt meadow".

Cayenne: A bold, fiery spice made from ground chili peppers, cayenne is a word with plenty of name appeal. It's for those who love distinctive, rare names, as only 17 girls were born last year bearing this name. It's a small but brave departure from the more timid Cheyenne, with inventive nicknames like Cay and Caya possible.

Cole: Fueled by its catchy sound, this trendy name means "coal" and was traditionally given to boys with dark features. (Though it could have made a perfect District 12 name.) It's also a possible nickname for Nicholas, though Cole itself has lots of spinoffs like Colby, Coleman, Collier, Kole, and Colden. Some famous bearers include composer Cole Porter, child actor Cole Sprouse and country artist Cole Swindell (born Colden).

Enya: Ethereal singer Enya, born with the original Gaelic spelling, Eithne, made the anglicized version of her name accessible to Americans. With the meaning "little fire" or "kernel" we think Enya has a certain spark and fits right in with international favorite Anya.

Ember, Emberly: These names, based on the word for a spark or low flame, sound like a contemporary update to Amber and Kimberly. Between their trendy sounds and beautiful meaning, they're both gaining interest among parents, with Ember climbing more than 300 spots in the past 5 years.

Fia, Fiamma, Fiammetta: This Italian family of names sounds ready for American ears, along the lines of Sofia and Fiona. Fia is showing the most potential, though they are all pretty, and the meaning--"little flame"--warms our hearts.

Flint: An English name that means stream, flint also happens to be a fire-starting quartz. This name feels like a tough, cowboy-ready playmate of names like Clint and Wyatt. It's a very rare choice, with only 57 boys given this name last year.

Ignacio, Ignatius: These saintly names mean "fire", with the same roots as the word ignite. Whether you prefer the Spanish form Ignacio, or the original Latin Ignatius, both allow for the spunky, punk-rock nickname Iggy.

Joash: A young king of Israel mentioned in the Bible, this Hebrew name has debated meanings including "fire of Yahweh". It sounds like a modern mashup name (i.e. Jonah and Ashley), or a twist on Joshua, though its ancient roots claim otherwise. With nicknames like Joe or Ash, this energetic name is ready for more popularity.

Kindle: A rare name unfortunately taken by Amazon's e-reader, kindle is a word that conjures a spark of inspiration. Its similarities to the name Kendall have given this name a little boost, while varied spellings like Kyndal and Kyndle make the two hard to differentiate at first glance.

Pepper: The peppercorn plant gives us this spicy, red-hot name, sometimes used as a nickname. Its distinctive sound gives it a peppy feel, while its spicy associations keep Pepper from sounding too cute. Recently seen in the "Iron Man" movies, Pepper Potts is played by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Phoenix: From the mythological tale of a bird that is consumed by fire and reborn from its ashes, Phoenix is a powerful name. The story of the phoenix may remind Hunger Games fans of Katniss' wedding dress, which burns away to reveal a mockingjay.

Scarlett: A blazing shade of red linked to flames, the color became a surname for those who worked with scarlet fabric, and was made famous by high-spirited heroine Scarlett O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Its pretty sound and fiery features make Scarlett a wonderful choice, for a Hunger Games fan or otherwise.

Sienna: We can't get away from the fiery clay pigment burnt sienna, known for its rustic brown color and as a childhood staple in our first pack of Crayolas. It even feels like a nod to Cinna, Katniss' revolutionary stylist, whose wardrobe creations made her the Girl On Fire to begin with.

Soleil: Pronounced soh-LAY, this blazing French nature name is a rare but beautiful choice meaning "sun." It strikes us as a fitting name for an audacious girl with a globe-trotting family or a love for all things French.

Zayden and Zaiden: These inventive forms of Aiden bring even more zest to your "little fiery one." Parents love these names, making both chart-climbing stars in the past few years, with the Zayden spelling a little more popular. We just can't resist the appeal of exotic consonants, and boys' names that start with Z, along the lines of Zane and Zachary, feel contemporary and spirited.

If you love these fiery names, take a look at 20 Names Perfect for Autumn Babies and The  Troublemaker Trend: Boy Names with a Hint of Mischief.

What is THE Name of the Moment?

Nov 13th 2014

Names are a cultural time capsule. A boy named MacArthur or a girl named Farrah conjures up a moment in America's past. But what name captures this moment? Each year we try to answer that question with the Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year. And right now, I'm asking YOU.

The Name of the Year can be a baby name, like Blue Ivy in 2012 -- the year that celebrity parents not only chose that name for their daugher, but trademarked it. But it can can also be an adult name or moniker, like Pope Francis or "The Situation." It can even be fictional like Renesmee, or non-human like Siri, or conceptual like the American everyman Joe.

These wide-ranging names have two things in common. The first is zeitgeist: they reflect and shape the naming culture around us. The second is this blog post you're reading now. The Name of the Year is chosen from nominations posted by readers, and your votes, seconds and impassioned arguments make a difference.

In the comments section below, please share your Name of the Year nominations and reasoning. As you're thinking about the year in names, keep a lookout for these criteria:

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning
- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends
- The "naminess" of a story or issue. How essential is the name to the story?

And remember that your comments themselves count, too! The number of nominations factors into in the NOTY choice, and compelling arguments in support of your candidate count most of all.