What’s in a name?

I was listening to a popular radio show on my morning commute and an interesting topic was posed: stealing baby names.

It’s one of those things that I’ve always steered clear of — I don’t particularly advertise “my” baby names, I don’t encourage the confession of other people’s baby names — and if our babies end up having the same name, great.

I didn’t realize what a sore subject it was until the calls began to flood in. A woman called and ranted about how her best friend from 8th grade, who knew that her favorite baby name was Lily Elizabeth, named her daughter Lily Elizabeth — just three weeks before her best friend’s daughter was born.

Another called and said that she and her cousins (who all tend to get pregnant at the same time) all claim their name in the first few weeks of pregnancy to avoid any stealage.

Another woman said she went to the courthouse when her daughter was 6th months old to change her name — because she had stolen her sister’s favorite name and felt bad.

And sure, some of these stories are fairly insensitive. But at the same time, there’s a point where you have to let it go.

Women tend to have babies around the same time as their friends — and if all your friends claim all their names as off-limits, that puts some pretty strict parameters around a mama-to-be who hasn’t dreamed of her baby’s name since 8th grade.

Plus – I don’t know about you, moms – but I rarely know if my baby’s name fits until I “wear” it awhile. And with my second born, I wasn’t sure until the day she was born. Names are very personal — and often times, multiple girls in the same circle share meaningful family names or have a fondness for a popular trendy name.

And when it comes to cultural names, names are even more ubiquitous. [Remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding — when almost everyone in the family is named Nick or Nikki?]

So after listening to all the callers, I finally concluded my own thoughts:

I might be taken aback by “name stealing” in certain circumstances — like if I were already pregnant and had already named the child kickin’ in my belly and announced it to the world. But it also would depend on the closeness of the relationship, the uniqueness of the names, etc. For the most part, you have to run your own race — and not worry so much about what other people do.

What’re your thoughts on baby naming etiquette?


  1. Catherine B.

    I come from a large family (and most of my married siblings are having large families) so there is kind of an unspoken rule not to duplicate names. But it’s mostly to avoid confusion. We have a first come first serve policy, no reserving names around here! It does make for some head scratching when it comes time to name a new child tho. I think if a couple has their heart set on a particular name, other family members should (out of love) avoid using it. Unless both couples are ok with sharing :)

  2. Alexis

    ooohhh! Such a hot topic!!! When I was expecting our second, Mary’s sister liz was expecting her first and we were due within three weeks of eachother. I definetly felt the need to “clear” our names with her…We had found out what we were havng and they were waiting to be surprised, so I didn’t want to steal any names from her, so even though she wasn’t telling names she was still able to tell me, “yup, you’re good!” : )

    Now, my sister had a son in August and named him Alexander (after my dad) and made this HUGE DEAL about naming the baby after my dad and the baby being my dads namesake and blah, blah, blah, and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say it got under my skin a bit because we named OUR oldest daughter Alexandra after my dad!! sigh…. : )

  3. My husband’s custom is to name after the living and by us it is the opposite. Luckily my mother in laws name is the same as mine so none of my girls can have it as well. We’ll see what goes down when we have a son one day!

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