This may be the most general piece of advice I've ever given. It applies to parents who like classic names and to parents who want to get creative. It applies to short names and long, popular names and rarities. It applies whether you're looking for an Irish name to sound good with the surname O'Flanagan, an "R" name to honor your grandpa Rodney, or a cowboy name that's like Colt but not exactly Colt.
No matter what your criteria are, you can start your name search by ignoring them altogether.
Choosing a baby name isn't like shopping for a new refrigerator. A practical checklist of requirements can't pinpoint the right model. That's because the ultimate test of a successful name choice isn't function, but emotion: the feeling in your heart every time you say your child's name, and the emotional response of other people who hear it. If you're looking for a name with right gut impact, why not start your search by listening to your gut?
Try this. Brainstorm a list of names that you're drawn to, even if you can't possibly choose them for your own child. Just focus on your emotional impression -- names that make you smile, or make you feel predisposed to like the person. If you hear a name and instictively go "ooh," it makes the list.
It doesn't matter if Elliott sounds terrible with your last name, or your cousin already named her daughter Piper, or you could never really pull the trigger on Bellatrix. For now, you're just aiming for that warm, happy tingle of name love.
With your "list of love" in hand, you can turn back to the practical criteria you set out with. If a name on the love list actually satisfies the criteria, hurrah, you may be done! If not, let the list be your emotional anchor as you set out to find the perfect name. Look it over: do any common elements or impressions emerge? Perhaps a bunch of the names feel "sparkly" to you, or sound like they're posed for a handsome ancestral portrait. Carry these emotional filters with you as you review lists of Irish saints' names, or names starting with R.
You can also use the "list of love" as your starting point for the Baby Name Wizard name-finding tools. Type your favorites into the Name Matchmaker and tell it what other qualities you're looking for. Or use the sibling name suggestions in the Baby Name Wizard book to find names that capture some of the same elusive magic as the names on your list.
No matter your approach, hang on to the positive feelings and don't let your head override your heart. When it comes to names, first impressions matter.
Most parents look for names that sound strong and confident. Some, though, demand even more. They want their baby names turbo-charged! Enter the Men of Action.
This name style leapt out at me when I analyzed regional name trends for the Baby Name Wizard book. The names were brash and spiky, packed with X's and K's and one-syllable power punches: Ryker, Maddox, Gage, Drake. Together, they sounded ready to storm an action movie or a first-person-shooter game. But in some parts of the U.S., they're more likely to make up a preschool class list.
The Men of Action names are popular throughout the plains states, their lightning-bolt style shining in nurseries from Wyoming and North Dakota down through Oklahoma. Their dominion reaches West into Idaho and East into Tennessee and West Virginia. In Men of Action country, the x-tra dynamic spelling Jaxon is now more popular than the traditional Jackson. If that spirit calls to you, you'll find plenty of options for your own future action hero below.
Originally appeared on The Stir.
It's out with the old and in with the new! Believe it or not, that goes for baby names too. The most popular names of 2014 paved the way for the hot baby naming trends for 2015, and if you're pregnant, or expect to be expecting sometime soon, it's time to listen up.
We've got the biggest baby name trends for 2015 to help you pick the perfect moniker for your little one.
We consulted with naming expert Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabyNameWizard, who weighed in on the biggest upcoming trends, most popular names, and which old-time monikers are coming back.
1. Androgyny: "Parents of girls are seeing a huge advantage," says Wattenberg. Names like Jaelyn, Addison, Dallas, which used to be exclusively boy names, have now crossed over to the unisex category (along with other names like Taylor, Alex, Jordan).
2. New Endings: Wattenberg notes that the "-tt" ending names are very much on the rise, no doubt thanks to celebs Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, who named their daughter Wyatt. That's not all, though. Expect to see more names like Emmett, Elliott, Scarlett, Charlotte around in 2015.
3. 19th Century Americana: Names from the 1800s are officially back. Take Kailyn Lowry, for example, who named her her youngest son Lincoln. But it's not just the 16th president who's inspiring new names. Wattenberg also notes that names like Rhett and Wyatt (again) will be far more popular.
4. Mark It With an 'X':The Jolie-Pitts have ushered in a new trend, but plenty of celebrities have joined in. The letter "x" is more and more pronounced in names (just think Pax and Maddox, both pictured above, and little brother Knox). Earlier this year, Kristin Cavallari welcomed son Jaxon, further solidifying the trend. Get ready for more in the coming year!
5. The 'P' Is Back: While "x" is coming back for boys, "p" is back for girls. "Not since the 1950s, and the days of the Peggys and Patricias, has the letter 'P' been so popular," says Wattenberg. But now? We're welcoming it back. Could it be in part due to the Kardashian's Penelope Disick? There's no doubt about it. And another surprise name that's becoming popular? Piper. Orange Is the New Black, anyone?
6. Get Us to the Greek: More Kardashian inspiration here! Wattenberg notes that Greek names are on the rise. Names like Chloe (or Khloe, a la Ms. Kardashian), Penelope (once again, the 'Dashians), Daphne, and Phoebe will be populating your daycares and classrooms soon.
7. Say Hi to the 'O': When Eva Amurri gave birth to daughter Marlowe, she justifiably started a trend. The popularity of names that end in an "o" sound without actually ending in "o" (very important distinction here) are tops at the moment. Marlowe, Winslow, and Margot will be even more prominent next year, says Wattenberg.
8. New Inventions: Where would we be without some completely new names? Parents are getting all the more inventive, Wattenberg notes. Instead of sticking with standard names like Trent, Levi, and Max, they're inventing brand new long-form versions. Trenton, Leviathan, and Maxton are here, completely expanding your name list options.
There are a lot of letters to look out for -- which one did you use?