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  • Writer's pictureLeah Mottishaw

Advice for picking a baby name

Choosing the name you will call your child is no small decision. There are many factors to consider and I wanted to share a small selection of the advice that I found useful or would later wish I had for when I was considering names. This is not a comprehensive guide to selecting a name but hopefully spurs some thought and conversation as you think about baby names.

What is important to you? Answer this before you reach for the "1001 baby names" book or start furiously bookmarking internet lists of "modern baby names." Do you care about the meaning of a name? Do you care if the name has some nod to family ties? Do you care about the sound or the syllables? For instance:

  1. I wanted to use a "virtue" name and this was a primary factor for me, so it made the list very short (Grace, Joy, Justice, Earnest, Patience, Harmony etc.)

  2. I wanted to use middle names that connected with the baby's ancestry so we looked at our family trees for great-grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles who had names that we liked.

  3. The last name "Mottishaw" ends in "aw." I don't like the sound of my first name, Leah, ending in "ah," combined with "aw." So when it came to naming a baby (who would have the last name Mottishaw) I refused to consider names ending in an "ah" sound.


Think about the initials. The initials can be a tool or a pitfall. Even if you weren't actively considering this during your name selection process, at least check the initials (and monogram) before finalizing your choice! Initials are "First Name Initial, Middle Name Initial(s), Last Name Initials." The monogram is less common but maybe worth considering. It reads "First Name Initial, Last Name Initial, Middle Name Initial."

  1. I know of one family who gave their daughter a name where the first letter of each of her names corresponded to the first letter of each Aunt's name – a lovely and subtle nod to family ties.

  2. I know of another family who gave their child a full name that would spell a positive word when the initials were used. Examples: GOOD, SONG, JOY. How awesome will this be when the kid hits school age and needs to label all of their belongings?!


How does the first name sound in combination with sibling names? If this baby has any older siblings, think about how the sibling names sound in combination. You are going to be saying "Julie and Joey" for the rest of your life, so you had better like the combination and not trip over your tongue every time you utter it! Depending on your situation, you may want to think about how the baby name sounds in combination with your name, the other parent's name, step-siblings' names, cousins' names etc.


How does the name sound in other languages or other accents? For those of us living in a multicultural city like Vancouver, BC, it is well worth considering how the name will sound through different accents.

  1. I belatedly learned that my child's nickname sounds like the word for "animal rump" or "cute animal butt" in Polish (oops!)

  2. Certain sounds are difficult or at least come out differently when expressed by non-native speakers. In Canadian (American) English, we don't roll our r's the way they do in Spanish. But the Japanese have an entirely different way of pronouncing r's. So before you settle on the name "Rory," think about how your baby name candidate will sound in the voice of non-native speakers!


Books are more fun than internet lists. This is just my humble opinion but a book in hand was far more satisfying than staring at a screen. Go to the library and borrow a bunch of books. If one isn't really working for you, drop it and grab another! One book I fell in love with was: First Name Reverse Dictionary. Given Names Listed by Meaning. By Yvonne Navarro. For those of you in Vancouver, you can borrow it from the Vancouver Public Library!


Trust yourself, your partner, the process. If you take on this decision with the attitude that you will eventually find a wonderful name that you both love, I believe you will. There is a ton of room for negotiation in a baby's name so lean into the flexibility and enjoy the journey.

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