7 Baby Naming Laws from Around the World

Choosing your baby's name is one of the most exciting parts of parenthood. And while it's expected that your friends and family (ahem...your mother-in-law) will put in their two cents regarding what you should name your little one, did you ever think the government would step in? Well they have ... and they will. We rounded up 7 interesting baby naming rules from around the world.


1. Denmark

This Scandinavian country has several laws in place in order to protect children from parents trying to be funny or unique in their naming choices. A New York Times article attributes this to the country's philosophy of "sameness, not uniqueness." Strict laws require parents seeking to name their child something other than one of the 7,000 government-approved names must get their choice officially approved by Copenhagen University's Names Investigation Department. And you thought getting your mother-in-law's approval was tough!

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2. France

If you're wondering why so many Americans associate names like Jacques or Pierre with the cheese-and-croissant crowd across the Atlantic, perhaps a law put in place towards the end of the 18th century has something to do with it - the French were restricted to naming their children after a small number of popular saints. Although a 1966 law permitted alternative spellings, foreign names, and diminutives, it wasn't until 1993 that parents were given free reign of what to name their children.

New Zealand

3. New Zealand

This country has a running list of names banned from the official registrar - in 2011, they banned Lucifer after three sets of parents tried to register this name. Also on the list? Messiah, Mr., 89, and C. Additionally, names such as King, Duke, and Judge have been shot down on the basis that they sound too much like titles.

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4. Germany

Germany's government also reserves the right to reject an odd baby name. Among the rules: One must be able to tell if your child is a boy or a girl based on their first name (what would we do with all those Taylors, Jaimes, and Jordans?), the name may not be the name of a product or brand, and it is not allowed to "negatively affect the well-being of the child."


5. Norway

Norwegian officials jailed a mother for two days in 1998 for failing to pay a fine imposed for naming her son Gesher ("bridge" in Hebrew). Today, the country has dropped a list of pre-approved government names for a more general ban on ones that include "swearing, sex, and illnesses."

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6. Japan

In Japan, the government maintains a list of a few thousand "name kanji" - which are characters of Chinese origin but used with Japanese pronunciation and are commonly used to spell given names - that parents must use when naming their children. This rule serves a practical purpose - so any new names can be easily read and written in Japanese.


7. Sweden

In 1982, Sweden enacted a naming law to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names. Names are also up on the chopping block if "they can cause offense … or discomfort." In 1991, a Swedish couple tried to give their child a notable moniker in protest of the strict naming laws: Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, pronounced … Albin. We're guessing he won't find any keychains with that name on it.

- By Jillian Capewell

For 3 more baby naming laws from around the world, visit Babble!


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