Parents often find that the most challenging aspect of choosing a name is knowing where to begin. Let’s face it: your kid has to live with the name you choose forever. (Or at least until he’s old enough to legally change it himself.) To get going on your list, write down names you have always liked. Was there someone in school whose name you secretly wished you had? Did your favorite soap opera or sitcom have a character with a cool, trendy name? Browse the names chapters of this book and use the journaling prompts to jot down any that stand out (or names you think of along the way). Perhaps you are already receiving suggestions from friends and family. Are there any that appeal to you? List all the names you can think of that have caught your attention (in a good way) and list any family names you’d consider using. Once you have a few (or maybe a few sheets’ worth), consider the following attributes and see how each measures up.

Popularity: Past, Present, and Future

Every year yields a new crop of trendy names that makes last year’s list, well, outdated. While these fresh, fun names are fabulous and exciting, they also face the threat of being “so five minutes ago.” Of course, there are those names that have always been and always will be popular; they’re classic and chic, and they always make top-ten lists. They’re the names that are trendy one minute, but still sound good thirty years from now. The key to giving your child a popular name that he or she can be proud of is to avoid trend traps altogether, such as movie-character names or TV-icon names that have a popularity shelf life of about six months. Often, a child named after a memorable television personality will always be linked with that person’s TV character or personality traits. One factor that makes a name popular is variation of spelling on a familiar or common name. While the new look might be pleasing to the eye, it might become a nuisance when you (and eventually your child) have to constantly correct others, telling them that Kristopher is spelled with a K, not a C. Similarly, if you’re looking for an exceptionally rare name, you’ll constantly be correcting both the spelling and the pronunciation.

At best, name trends give your child individualism. At worst, they ostracize him from a society of “regular” names. However, more and more parents are creating their own names or choosing from a more eclectic list of foreign names, vintage names, surnames, and place names. And since the unique-name pool is rapidly growing, chances are that your child’s classmates will have unique names too. The increasing popularity of foreign names allows parents to honor their families’ cultures and give their children a sense of heritage. Irish, Scottish, and Welsh names are on the rise. Greek, Russian, and Italian names have more presence than they did years ago, as names like Nikos, Logan, Matteo, and Giovanni become more visible.

A recent revival of names like Charles, Willie, and George give a new perspective on some old favorites. While these names might seem classic or old-fashioned to us now, most of them were the trendy names of their time. During a period when a respectful tip of the hat was greeted by a graceful curtsy, these names reflected the chivalry and gentlemanly charm that made up society back then. The use of surnames is another trend that seems to appear in cycles. Names like Carter, Sullivan, Kennedy, Taylor, Jackson, and Spencer can all be used for little boys. What’s more, surnames can prove to be a convenient alternative to using the first name of a family member you’d like to honor.

And don’t discount the nickname-as-name trend. Nowadays shorter nicknames like Finn and Dax are almost as popular as their longer counterparts, Finnegan and Daxton. So don’t be shy if you want your boy’s name to be short and sweet.

Meaning

A fun, creative, and often unique way to choose your child’s name is to look for positive associations that come with the name. It also makes the naming process intentional and more special. If one of your favorite places is a wooded area where your family vacations once a year, look for names that have “trees” or “earthy” in their meanings. You can also look for names that reflect your favorite color, time of year, season, animal, art, character trait, and flower. If your favorite relative loves to visit Ireland every year, and you wish to honor him or her, choose an Irish name for your baby and use your relative’s name for the middle name. It’s a good idea to look up the meaning of the names you’ve put on your list because the last thing you want is to frighten your child if he finds out his name means “unlucky in life.” A name should evoke good feelings, positive thoughts, and pride. It should also be significant to you and your partner. Meanings are a way for your child to feel connected to you, to your family, and to life. Of course, if you like a name just because, that’s okay too.

Family Names

Using family names to create your child’s name is a wonderful way to pay tribute to loved ones. Additionally, if after five hours you’re still staring at a blank piece of paper, jot down all the names of your family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, close cousins, or even close friends of the family. What do you do if your late grandfather’s name, Jerome, just isn’t appealing to you, but you still want to include his name in your little boys’? The way around that is to us a variation instead, like Romey or Jerry. And if you’d love to honor your father, but Lawrence feels a bit too old-fashioned for your son’s first name, how about adding it as his middle name or using a variation like Lars or Ren? The intent