What Your Child's Name Says About You

Mom and Baby
Mom and Baby

Babies start off with a clean slate, so what you choose for your little one reveals more about your personality than theirs.

By Linda DiProperzio

Choosing your child's name is a big decision--after all, he'll be walking around with it for the rest of his life. And according to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, when a child is born, the name reflects more on you than him. "The name doesn't belong to you--you're making the decision because your child can't do it for himself--but what you choose does say a lot about your personality."

But as your child gets older, the name will also reflect on him--especially when he's doing things like sending out job resumes. "People do draw conclusions based on someone's name," says Wattenberg. "It sends out such a strong signal before the person even walks into the room."

So how do you make sure you choose wisely? "When deciding on a name, you want to see it from the child's point of view and how she or he will have to live with it throughout their lives," says Jennifer Moss, author of The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book and founder of BabyNames.com. "Try the name out at your local coffee shop. How do you feel giving that as your name? What kind of reaction do you get and how does it make you feel?"

Check out our rundown of what your top picks say about your personality.

If your child has an unusual name, you crave the spotlight.
Celeb Baby Names: Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow), Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee), Kal-El (Nicolas Cage)

Over the past few years, more and more parents (and not just celebrities) are choosing offbeat monikers for their little ones--and don't expect that trend to end anytime soon, says Wattenberg. "There is a revolution going on when it comes to baby names, and for some parents, the more unusual, the better." Wattenberg has seen such names as Zeppelin (as in Led Zeppelin), Anakin (as in Skywalker), Lucifer (as in, you know) and Mystique (like the character from X Men) handed out to babies. "Past generations worried more about their child fitting in, but today's parents want their kids to stand out. And some are in a race to be more distinctive than the next."

For parents who choose such names, it's a possible combination of being a creative person (like actors and musicians) and liking the attention that the name gives not only to their child, but to them for choosing it. "When you tell people your child's name, it will lead to a lot of questions--they'll want to know the back story," says Maryannna Korwitts, founder of TheBabyNamingExperience.com. "So it does put the parents in the spotlight."

In fact, these parents often have ordinary names and probably found themselves being one of four kids with their name in school. They don't want their child to experience the same thing--they want him to be noticed.

If your child has an old-fashioned name, you're on the conservative side.
Celeb baby names: Agnes (Jennifer Connelly), Homer (Richard Gere), Tabitha (Sarah Jessica Parker)

Don't mistake conservative for boring, says Moss. Choosing an old-fashioned name is also on trend right now, so it's a way to be in fashion without going over the top. "The three-generation rule comes into effect here," says Wattenberg. "For parents, their own names sound boring, the baby's grandparents' names are old, but the great-grandparents' names go far enough back that they actually sound fresh again. This is why names like Emma, Amelia, Jacob, and Lillian came back into popularity."

"These names stand apart from the pack, but they're not made up and they don't sound weird to others," says Korwitts. "Although names like Ava and Emily are in the Top 10, most of the old-fashioned names are not used on a regular basis, so the child is standing out. They're trendy, but in a safe way."

If you choose a creative spelling, you dare to be different.
Celeb baby names: Ryder (Kate Hudson), Rocko (Johnny Knoxville), Zowie (David Bowie and Iman)

Many parents are taking a traditional name and putting their own spin on it by changing the spelling. "In an effort to be different and make their kids special from the very beginning, we see a lot of names with a multitude of spellings," says Candace Alper, creator of Name Your Tune, personalized CDs for children that feature the child's name throughout much-loved kids' tunes. "We see extra vowels, silent H's, and Y's where there would traditionally be an "I" or an "E" (think Aayden, Khate, Rhyan).

But this technique can backfire, says Moss. "I've heard parents say they want a unique name, but not something so wild that the kid will be made fun of, so they think this is a good alternative," she explains. "But you're actually burdening your child with having to spell her name for people the rest of her life." When it comes to using a different spelling, it's best to be cautious. It's one thing to decide whether to spell Alison with one L or two, but choosing a spelling like Allysynn will likely just lead to confusion for others and possible embarrassment for your child. "It's a way of bringing attention to the child and her name, but not necessarily in a good way," says Korwitts. "And when you drastically change the spelling of a name, you're interfering with its energy."

If you choose a family name, you're sentimental.
Celeb baby names: Charlie (Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell's daughter is named after his brother), Vivienne Marcheline (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's daughter shares her middle name with her maternal grandmother), Ava (Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe's daughter is named after his grandmother).

"This name has a more personal story behind it, so it's not as flashy as naming your child after your favorite car or rock star," says Wattenberg. "If it's a traditional name, people aren't going to ask you about it, so they won't know it's a family name unless you tell them. That could be why these types of names have lost some steam in recent years."

But she's quick to point out that you can be creative while also honoring a beloved family member. She points to Will and Jada Smith's kids as examples: son Jaden was named for his mom; daughter Willow is a play on her dad's name. "You can easily put a twist on a traditional name and give it a more modern flair, like naming your son Donovan after your grandfather, Donald," says Wattenberg. "People are also using family surnames as first or middle names and that's a great alternative because it allows you to honor a whole branch of a family tree instead of just one person," says Moss. "My daughter's name, Miranda, is her grandmother's maiden name. We were lucky that it was also a beautiful first name."

A pop culture name means you're looking for a confidence boost.
Celeb baby names: Monroe (Mariah Carey), Lennon (Liam Gallagher), Bardot (David Boreanez)

The names Bella and Edward have been moving up the ranks with the success of Twilight, and even celebrities use their child's first name to honor a favorite star: Mariah Carey recently named her daughter Monroe after Marilyn, Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher named his son Lennon after John, and Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell's daughter Dolly is named after mom's favorite singer, Dolly Parton.

"I suspect that many who name their child after a celebrity are speaking to their own desire for optimal fame," says Korwitts. "For instance, Mariah Carey has struggled a great deal during her career with her self-image, etc. No doubt in her mind she has held favorites stars of the past in high esteem, so in naming her daughter Monroe, she is paying homage to that admiration." What's especially interesting, notes Korwitts, is that Mariah didn't opt for the first name--she chose the surname as a first name, which speaks even more to the particular celebrity. "To have chosen Marilyn would have meant very little," she says. "She needed to make a public statement with her children's names."

These are also celebrity watchers who name their babies either after celebrities or after the names that celebrities have given their babies. "We've seen more babies named Shiloh (Angelina Jolie) and Coco (Courteney Cox)," says Alper.

If you name your child after a destination, you're adventurous.
Celeb baby names: Egypt (Alicia Keys), Memphis (Bono), Brooklyn (Victoria and David Beckham)

These names often have a lot of meaning for parents, says Korwitts. "It can be where they met, spent their honeymoon, or even where the child was conceived. And this is their way of making sure their baby is given a bit of that particular place's personality."

These names also send out a signal to others that the parents are worldly travelers. After all, if you name your little one London, people are going to ask (or simply assume) that you've spent some time there. So the name serves as a way to show off some of your personal adventures while also giving your child an exotic and unusual name.

If you go with a unisex name, you focus on success.
Celeb baby names: Harlow (Nicole Ritchie and Joel Madden; girl), Kelley (Holly Marie Combs; boy), Mason (Kourtney Kardashian; boy; and Kelsey Grammar; girl)

A couple recently made headlines when they named their baby Storm, and then decided they weren't going to divulge the child's sex to family and friends after it was born. This is an extreme case, but names like Dakota, Riley, and Avery are choices for parents who want to give their child a strong but gender-neutral name.

"Many parents of girls do this because they think it will give her an advantage later on in life," says Korwitts. "Those names have a more assertive, aggressive quality they feel will make her more successful as she grows up."

But unisex names can have the opposite effect in the technology age. "People are communicating more and more over email and the Internet, and others can't tell whether they're talking to a man or a woman," explains Korwitts. "Many people with unisex names eventually alter it so that it's clear which gender they are."


This article first appeared on Parents.com. Try our new baby names tool to search more than 25,000 names, save and share your favorites, and participate in growing our list of names and adding data about them.