Naming a tiny human for the rest of their life… it’s a walk in the park, right?
Not only do you need a title that suits them when they’re but a cute tiny hiccupping doughball attached to your hip but you also need a name that takes them right through to adult life and complements all their professional pursuits, whatever they may be. Ever met a lawyer named Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock? We rest our case. It is a high stakes decision and quite frankly, it gives the indecisive amongst us (@me) heart palpitations just thinking about it.
Luckily SJ Strum, founder of Baby Name Envy, the UK’s number one baby name consultancy, is on hand to answer all our baby-naming dilemmas. Naming little ones is in her wheelhouse, so whether you’re after something boho, earthy, minimalist or gender-neutral, SJ’s tips and unmatched expertise will help you make up your mind once and for all.
Get your shortlists and your best ‘veto’ voice ready!
What themes can be used to help identify the style of baby names that resonates with you?
My naming style has definitely evolved the more I’ve had children – most people I consult with get braver as they go along! But I’ve always looked for Vintage names with a free-spirited, outdoorsy vibe that aren’t super popular. But I had a lot vetoed by my minimalist Swedish husband!!! We agreed finally on Freddie David, Finn Barnaby Bo & Evelina Blossom
Has the pandemic affected baby names trends, at all? Nature-inspired names seem to be having a moment!
The “new earth” trend is booming names like Forest, Avani & Wilde inspired by our desire to go back to basicsSJ Strum
Yes, the “new earth” trend is booming names like Forest, Avani & Wilde inspired by our desire to go back to basics, embrace nature and enjoy the freedom & calm associated with the great outdoors that was cut off for so many of us during lockdown. Also “nowstalgia” a shift in mindset during the pandemic to make the most of what we have now in the moment sees parents picking more living relatives and friends names; so we’re hearing John, Richard and Jane on name lists – often with the ask of “upcycling” them; maybe Johan, Richie and Layne will be hugging their beloved grandparents soon.
A lot of parents struggle with finding a name to complement a surname or a sibling name, have you got any dos and don’ts in that department?
Finding a complementary name is my favourite bit! I’ll listen to the sounds and match the emphasis like Tabitha might have a brother Bertie using the B and T sounds. Or meanings for siblings, for Travis meaning ‘bridge over water’ I recently recommended Nixie meaning ‘water sprite’ to the parents: the V & X make cool siblings as well as the linked meaning. Also syllables, we have a lot of blended surnames now that don’t always go together! Gingerich-Donna was a memorable one on the podcast! It makes balancing a first name hard so one-syllable names are on the rise (give them a chance of spelling the full name correctly!) but they don’t need to be boring; I love Sage, Nell, Mack and Blythe. Gingerich-Donna also wanted a whole new family name suggestion so I recommended Dorich – it’s so exciting to be part of their whole new family tree.
How important is it to consider how initials work together, should contemporary uses in the digital age be something to consider when naming little ones?
We thankfully don’t hear many tales of modern bullying due to names, but lots and lots of parents come to me with initials to avoid as they were BJ or HOE and it haunted them. You should 100% consider it and sometimes we even find people embracing it; one family we heard from all have initials of a theme like CAT and ART. Also, consider your sibling names – you don’t want a necklace with initials of your children Vida & Dylan.
How do you feel about non-traditional spellings – Elle rather than Ellie for example – is it making life harder for your child?
I polled teachers for a fun video on my YouTube channel that turned out to be so popular as it uncovered a lot of mistakes with the number one pet peeve being non-traditional spellings. SJ Strum
I polled teachers for a fun video on my YouTube channel that turned out to be so popular as it uncovered a lot of mistakes with the number one pet peeve being non-traditional spellings. It doesn’t achieve the object of making it a more unique name sadly; teachers say to go for a less traditional name spelt correctly like Winter they are happy with but Emma-Leigh or Jaxsyn was constantly being corrected. I personally love the look of eigh at the end of names but have seen a new trend online for things being called Tackeigh after this unique name trend!!! I’d suggest sticking to the traditional but looking outside the top 50.
Does every baby name have to have a significant meaning, or is it enough to like a name simply because you like how it sounds?
Go with what you love the sound of as you’ll always love it. A meaning can help people going from liking to loving a name; or as a tie-breaker. I loved the name Finn because it meant “little blonde soldier” in Sweden which tipped it to the top for me but I already loved it. Some names have negative meanings; this comes from when having a forename was very rare & words were given due to a characteristic; so Calvin means bald head and the lovely name Mallory means unhappy taken from the French Malheure a nickname for an unlucky, miserable person. So if that would put you off; do a quick check!
Would you recommend using celebrity baby names or will they date pretty quickly?
I absolutely love celebrity names. Harper has boomed after the Beckhams used it and Louis has had a big uplift since Kate & William cleared up confusion of how it was pronounced – the silent S had confused some parents to be! That being said rare names being picked up by a celebrity can have the opposite effect as it’s no longer “hipster enough for the hipsters” so Bear became less cool once Cheryl Cole used it, people were gutted that trendy August got snapped up by traditional Princess.
I look to the celebs as the runway of trends then suggest adapting it to your style. True Kardashian made modern virtue names boom and James Reynolds daughter of Blake lively and Ryan Reynolds rocketed the boy name as girl name trend.
We’re all influenced by trends and baby names are no different. Do you have any top tips for knowing if you really like a popular name or if the current baby name trends are swaying your decision?
While you’re falling for Daphne after miss Bridgerton it’s good to remember lots of other people are too!SJ Strum
We all love to Netflix & Name! While you’re falling for Daphne after miss Bridgerton it’s good to remember lots of other people are too and a name can become “fast fashion” which is a trend we’re seeing more than ever. It might be the character Connel you’ve fallen for in Normal People and when the show ends, your baby name might not really be “you”. So keep going back to your original list but trends are fantastic for discovering new names that feel really special to your birth. Especially names like Iris, goddess of the rainbow, which was used to celebrate the NHS throughout the pandemic and is having its moment. It’s nice to ground yourself in history
Your top 3 baby envy names you’d want to pinch for yourself?
At the moment Jericho (city of the moon for boy or girl) Alma (meaning soul is so vintage and stunning) and I recently heard the name Hamlin meaning “little home lover” which is a gentle boy name but the meaning is so perfect for a lockdown baby.
Do you need to consider how aesthetically pleasing a name is when written and how easy it is to spell?
Oh yes!! It needs to be perfect on paper! I’m very aesthetic with names and names even have fonts and pictures in my mind’s eye. If you don’t want to give away your name but want to check it – pop to Starbucks and see how the barista writes and spells your baby name. It’s a good litmus test of how it fares in the real world.
Finding one name is hard enough finding twin or triplet names… send help. Would you recommend sticking to a theme for all babies, sticking to alliteration or going off-piste and just going with whatever you like?
I always gravitate towards individual names but the tough bit is making them equally special. Emily may not pair with Phoenix but Emily and Amelia could feel less of their own identity. I love a theme link that’s special but not obvious like friendship; Winnie, Auden and Dakota all mean friend which is a lovely symbol for siblings.
Is it wise to keep baby names a secret, even from family and close friends, to avoid influencing your decision?
Friends, colleagues and even family members asking your name then shamelessly announcing it. Keep it close or risk losing it!SJ Strum
I’m a total name secret squirrel while my podcast Baby Name Envy cohost my sister Naomi wanted lots of input and was glad to get it! People all have strong associations and therefore opinions on Names and we get so many dilemmas where parents are devastated by a negative reaction – one mother in law got a dog and named it Beau to show her pregnant daughter who planned to use it that it was in fact “a name only for a dog”! Then there are the baby name stealers!!! This is off the scale and the number one dilemma we get at Baby Name Envy the podcast. Friends, colleagues and even family members asking your name then shamelessly announcing it. Keep it close or risk losing it!
How many names do you think every expectant parent needs to have on their shortlist?
I’d aim to go into labour with a top 3-5 maximum. We hope they will look like a name or something will seem right – it did for me which was amazing; Freddie was going to be called Oskar but when I held him I called him Freddie out loud for no reason – and that was it!! But sometimes with babe in arms and so many things to take in and absorb; indecision sets in so I would encourage parents to shortlist before and pick quick. I also find throwing in a brave name right after labour means zero chance of a veto – ha ha – Blossom was agreed after a back to back natural labour on gas and air. I could have thrown anything at her dad then!
Any advice for partners who can’t agree on a baby name they both like?
Write to us! We do daily name ideas on Baby Name Envy the Instagram or personalised name lists on the podcast. Also, you can write a top ten list each, swap lists and tick your top two on each other’s lists…it brings about compromise which we all need to do as parents!
What do you think will be the next big trend for baby names?
Sanskrit Names are popular due to our love of yoga and soul searching during the pandemic, Bodhi is the poster name for this trend and Fierce Animal names; we’re seeing Falcon, Lynx and Griffin take over from Wren & Fox. We want our little ones to take on the world with a kind spirit but who won’t let anyone get in their way!