Oh Baby! Names


Oh Baby! Names



Those of us who have named a child or children have likely spent painstaking hours deciding on what that name should be. Perhaps we’ve scoured baby naming books or websites, or maybe had long conversations with our partners, or possibly even dug deep into our ancestry to find a name that honors our baby’s lineage. (Maybe some of us even flipped through a name book and chose the first name we pointed to and thereby christened our unlucky kid “Nostradamus Jehoshaphat.”)

However we arrived at those names, we’ve likely attached some significance to the naming process.

Birthing Beautiful Ideas sponsor, Oh Baby! Names, is dedicated to providing a comprehensive account of individual baby names. Besides being very user-friendly, the site also has tons of fun details for each name. (This rock n’ roll and literature-loving mama especially adores the fact that they list any songs and works of fiction in which each name appears.) The website even taught me that my children’s names mean “soldier,” “defender of men,” and “eternal ruler.” Yay for my army of overlords!

With that being said, please enjoy (and I’m serious, it’s totally enjoyable, even laugh-out-loud funny at times) my interview with Julie Hackett, owner and author at ohbabynames.com.


1. What inspired you to create Oh Baby! Names?

For the same reasons people start any kind of project: I was passionate about the subject matter and I saw a need for something better. I was disappointed by the availability and accuracy of the information provided by the vast majority of baby naming websites. I wanted something more comprehensive, more detailed, more interesting, more trustworthy (in terms of its accuracy) and all-around more helpful in the “baby naming” decision making process.  Every name has its own personal story: When did it develop (ancient, medieval or modern)? What was the source (etymologically) and what is its meaning? Where did it develop (e.g., the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Anglo-Saxons)? Who had it (e.g., an important Biblical figure, an important saint, a famous monarch, a popular pope, a modern celebrity)? Why did it endure (usually owing to the “who” influence)? And, finally, How has it been used (in literature, songs, children’s books, etc)? I wanted to tell these stories. It’s as simple as that.


2. What do you think best distinguishes Oh Baby! from other baby naming websites?

Primarily three things: 1.) Our database of names is not a “data-dump” of purchased information uploaded onto a server somewhere. Every single name on our website is manually uploaded; 2.) The accuracy of our research: each and every name is painstakingly researched and cross-checked against a minimum of three reliable sources; and 3.) The scope and detail of information we provide on each individual name is unlike anything available on the web today.


3. What resources do you use to collect all of the wonderful details that your site provides for each name?

Western naming practices (which is our primary focus) have historically sourced given names from very few places: the Bible (Hebrew/Greek), Latin names thanks to the expansion of the Roman Empire in the first centuries A.D., names of early saints around whom cults developed in the Middle Ages, important medieval regional saints, names derived from ancient Germanic and Celtic cultures and a few other places (only in modern times we have extended our pool of names to surnames, made-up names, radical respellings, vocabulary word names, names from non-Western cultures and languages, etc.). But by and large, we are still using the same names that were in circulation over in Europe long before the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock. In order to explain the “when-what-where-who-why-and-how” of a name, I find myself using the following resources constantly: The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, Pokorny Master Proto-Indo-European Etyma and the Bible. I have a strong basis of knowledge thanks to my early Catholic-schooling (I know all the saints), my degree in English Literature (I have read all the classics) and my voracious appetite for reading (mainly history books and biographies). I need to put each name in the context of its time and place, as well as what was the impetus behind its initial success and movement through Western Culture, which requires me to read-learn-know a lot. I also use Google, Amazon and Wikipedia as resources.  I’ve been working on this website for over four years and have read/re-read well over 100 meaty books. My bookshelves overfloweth. I am also looking up trend data at the Social Security Dept.’s website constantly. Like every day constantly. My tax dollars working for me.


4. What about some inside scoop: are there any particular names that lots and lots of parents are searching for these days? What are some of the most popular Oh Baby! names?

The usual suspects: Olivia, Emma, Elizabeth, Emily, Hannah, Mia, Aaliyah, Jessica, Isabella and Sarah for girls. David, Michael, James, Ethan, Daniel, Jacob, Liam, Matthew, Andrew and Caleb for boys. At least those are the name pages with the most views at OhBabyNames (in that order). But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Name trends emerge over a period of a generation (every 20 years or so). Practically nothing significant or meaningful changes from year-to-year. You’d be surprised. What was popular last year will be popular next year with very few exceptions (and such exceptions barely put a dent into the overall picture).  For instance, if you look at the Top 10 female names in 2011, the exact same 10 names are the Top 10 in 2012 (they only shifted around slightly in position). Out of the Top 20 names between 2011 and 2012, only Grace and Samantha dropped off to make room for Charlotte and Zoey. 90% of the names stayed the same in terms of popular usage. Now, when we look at that list in 2027, it will look radically different. But it won’t look any different in 2013.


More than 35% of all babies born in 2013 will be given one of the Top 100 names for each gender. That’s 200 names spread across something like 1.3 million babies. More than 75% will share the Top 1000 names for each gender (2000 names distributed among 2.8 million babies). That’s why we focus on the Top 2000 – it’s a manageable number so we’re able to provide a surplus of information on each name. And we’re serving the vast majority of expectant parents in a comprehensive way. We don’t necessarily cater to the eight sets of parents who will name their son Drin or daughter Jalexa – names that are essentially made-up with zero etymological or historical significance. There’s simply nothing to say about certain names except that some people find their sound and appearance appealing and care less about meaning.


Having put all this in perspective, I will tell you this. The five trends I’m seeing with baby boy names right now are: Old Testament Names (Jacob, Noah, Ethan), Surnames (Logan, Mason, Jackson), Traditional English Names (William, James, Henry), Celtic/Irish names (Aiden, Liam, Ryan) and Old World names (Alexander, Julian, Adrian). For girl’s we’re seeing Sweet Old-fashioned (Sophia, Emma, Chloe), Traditional English (Emily, Victoria, Charlotte), Surnames (Madison, Addison, Kennedy), Vocabulary Word Names (Serenity, Destiny, Trinity) and Place Names (Brooklyn, Savannah, London).


Staying with the trends is the safest thing to do; the way to be different is to find some underused names that fit into these categories. For instance, Beatrice and Cordelia are sweetly old-fashioned yet currently underused. India and Asia are pretty Place Name choices yet not as trendy as Brooklyn.


5. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with BBI?

Given my lack of brevity, would you like to re-think that question? J


I will leave you with this: I believe wholeheartedly in what Sigmund Freud once said: “A human being’s name is a principal component in his person, perhaps a piece of his soul.” I believe all parents have an obligation to carefully select a meaningful name for their children – to put the time, thought and research into the decision making process. Not to be arbitrary or selfish. Otherwise we do a great disservice to our children. It will be their name to carry, not ours.

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  1. Elita

    I love this! There is a lot of significance behind my kids’ names and I agree how important it is to choose wisely. Funny, I thought I was being super unique with Miles, but while we have only encountered a few in our day-to-day lives, so many of my online friends also have sons named Miles around the same age. In 2007, it wasn’t even in the top 100. Wonder if that will change any time soon!

  2. Dana

    What a great website! I am amazed at all the content you have on there. I wish that this had been around when we were trying to decide on a name for our son. I agree with BBI- i love the music and especially the literature references

  3. Sarah Vernon-Scott
    Sarah Vernon-Scott12-13-2013

    Thanks for this interview. This subject is very timely for me right now, as my daughter will be here in a few more weeks. Sadly, DH and I cannot agree on a name and I don't know how we'll resolve it. I think researching meanings etc. on this site may help so I'll be on there like crazy tonight!!

  4. Life Breath Present
    Life Breath Present12-13-2013

    Names, oh names. We had a very difficult time. In the end, our son has a made-up name. It’s one that Hun just came up with in a dream. The name came to him in the nick of time too, about 2 weeks before Baby was born if I recall correctly. Otherwise, Baby’s name would have been “Child 1 [last name here]” :)

    It’s unique, falls into the no one has this name category and you won’t find it anywhere, but somehow has a hint of Hun’s name, as well as some spanish lol
    Life Breath Present´s last blog post ..Reverb 2013 – Day 13

  5. Sapphie

    Baby names.. man that took us a lot of going back and forth trying to figure just the right one for our first baby daughter. Making matters worst, I wanted to give her three names, everyone in my family has three names. I wish Oh Baby! Names was on my radar during the selection process, I am sure it would make life easier :) .. But in the end we just took the top three and my partner arrange them in a nice sounding order. .. Nice post.. will share …
    Sapphie´s last blog post ..The Best Baby Travel System Will Not Be…

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