Fr. Ernesto recent ran a series which included this piece on how we name our babies.  I thought it was interesting, especially since I come from traditions which go more for using family and ancestor names. Enjoy what he has to say on the subject.  His site in on my blogroll if you want more info.

Fr. Orthohippo

Orthodox are supposed to name their child after a saint or a godly concept (Sophia, Agapos, etc.). That saint can be an Old Testament or a New Testament saint. Obviously a New Testament saint means anyone in Church history from any culture. It may include reasonable derivations of the saint’s name into another language. For instance, whether you name your child Iohannes, John, Juan, Johann, Yohanan, Yochanan, it is all the same saint’s name, and it should not matter which variation you use.

In some jurisdictions in the USA that still have a strong ethnic tie, there is a strong push to name the child with a name that preserves the ethnic heritage, but it is not mandatory. Because people are always converting, and some of them are named saints, there are always new names entering the list of saints. Also, as languages change, or as people migrate to new countries, names tend to slowly change in pronunciation or spelling, as shown in the different variations of the name Yohanan that I listed above (yes, that would actually have been the “real” name of the Apostle we call John in the English language.

The use of saints’ names also tends to prevent some unfortunate naming mistakes. I think we have all seen some people with unfortunate name combinations, or people whose given name will subject them to ridicule for years. For instance, which of you can remember Moon Unit Zappa? Mind you, she has grown up to be an actress and a singer, but that is not the point.

But some countries are more pro-active in trying to prevent the embarrassment of children. In every continent, there is at least one country that limits what a child can be named, as part of their child-protection statutes. For instance:

But some countries are more pro-active in trying to prevent the embarrassment of children. In every continent, there is at least one country that limits what a child can be named, as part of their child-protection statutes. For instance:


The part of the law referencing first names reads: “First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name.”

If you later change your name, you must keep at least one of the names that you were originally given, and you can only change your name once.

Among the names rejected have been “A” and “Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb111163.”


Most new babies in China are now basically required to be named based on the ability of computer scanners to read those names on national identification cards. The government recommends giving children names that are easily readable, and encourages Simplified characters over Traditional Chinese ones.

Parents can technically choose the given name, but numbers and non-Chinese symbols and characters are not allowed.

Among the names rejected have been “@.” Yes, that it the symbol traditionally used in internet addresses.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1995 doesn’t allow people to name their children anything that “might cause offence to a reasonable person; or […] is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, […] is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank.” Officials at the registrar of births have successfully talked parents out of some more embarrassing names.

Among the names rejected have been “Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy, Sex Fruit, Satan and Adolf Hitler.”

When I read some of the rejected names, it makes me glad that we expect our children to be named after a saint or godly concept. But, here is a question, do you think the USA should have laws that allow a state or county to reject a given name on the basis of some of the reasons listed above by other countries? I do not have a settled opinion on the issue. But, I would certainly try to make sure that once a child becomes an adult, a legal name change is easily and cheaply available to them with less paperwork than it now takes.

About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
This entry was posted in baby names, culture differences, general, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


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