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How we picked a name for our baby

Posted on 6 min read

M

ax was always going to be a Max.

And when I say always, I don’t just mean, “since before he was born,” I mean, “Since before there was even the slightest possibility of him being born.” Because, yes, even back when we were 100% sure we would never have children, Terry and I used to occasionally have conversations about what we’d name those children we weren’t going to have. Er, please tell me we’re not alone in this? 

OK, I’m going to just pretend you all agreed with me there. Moving on…

So, we’d chat about what we’d call our non-existent children, and, when it came to boys names, there was only ever one real contender: Max. 

Why? 

Well, I’d love to be able to tell you there was some interesting or amusing story connected to this name (My own name, for instance, was inspired by my mum’s friend’s dog. Which, OK, isn’t particularly interesting or amusing either, granted, but it does always make me smile when I introduce myself to someone and they instantly look at my hair and then go, “I bet I know how you got THAT name!” Um, no, I bet you DON’T, actually…),  but honestly, we just liked the sound of it. So, yes, this has been another fascinating and insightful post from me, then, for sure. Bet you’re glad you clicked the link to THIS one!

All joking aside, though, while the main reason we picked Max’s name was just pure instinct – It was just The One for both of us, really – once I got pregnant, and picking a name became an actual Thing We Would Have to Do, as opposed to just a fun game, we figured we should at least consider some other names, so we spent a good few months debating the various merits of every single name we could think of, and actually reading the opening and closing credits on TV shows for once. (Seriously, I think most of our discussions about names were inspired by the names of Key Grips or Production Assistants on the shows we watched. Top tip for you there.)

baby playing with toy car
We still just kept coming back to Max, though: and, honestly, there was never really any other serious contender. (Mostly because Terry outright vetoed ‘Orlando’. GAH.)  So we thought about it some more, and decided that it definitely met the very lose criteria we’d set for choosing our baby’s name. We liked that it was a cute name for a baby, but also a cool name for a teenager or grownup. We liked that it couldn’t be shortened: we did have a brief flirtation with using a longer version, but Terry pointed out that my choice – ‘Maxim’ – is the name of a popular lad’s mag here in the UK (I was thinking of Maxim de Winter, from Rebecca, obviously…), and I pointed out that his choice – Maximus – would probably set the poor child up for a lifetime’s worth of teasing, so Max it was. We liked that it couldn’t easily be mis-spelt, or mis-pronounced, and this was a really important one for Terry: his surname is ‘Miaoulis’, and he’s spent his entire life having to spell and pronounced it for people (Only for them to still always refer to him as “Mr My-oolis’ …), and he was adamant that, if the baby was going to have a difficult second name, the least we could do would be to give him an easy first name. 

So Max it was: from long before I was even pregnant, really. I’ve always thought that picking a name for another person must be one of the hardest jobs EVER, but, for us, it was actually surprisingly easy. Only, however, because we had a boy. Because, the fact is, we might have had a boy’s name lined up forever, but when it came to picking a potential name for a girl, we were absolutely lost. We must have spent absolutely hours discussing this in the first half of my pregnancy, and by the time we headed in for the 20 week scan, at which you can sometimes find out the baby’s sex, we were STILL no closer to having even the slightest idea what we’d call a girl. Nothing seemed right to us: or, actually, that’s not quite true – there were a couple of names we liked, but there was always some kind of issue that made us reluctant to use them. 

For instance, we both absolutely love the name Ava – and, at the risk of sounding like a tragic hipster, we’ve loved it for years now: since long before it became really popular. It DID, however, become really popular: it’s been in the UK’s top 10 most popular baby names for years now, and I can’t seem to leave the house without hearing someone yell, “Ava! Stop doing that!” at their child, which was kind of heartbreaking for me, really. I mean, I know it might sound silly to discount a name purely on the grounds of it being popular, and we weren’t holding out for something totally unique (We obviously realise that ‘Max’ is fairly popular, too, but we don’t hear it too often here, so we were fine with that…), but Ava is just SO popular that we didn’t feel we could do it. 

Which left us with a bit of a problem (Well, I mean, it didn’t really, because I was always 100% sure I’d have a boy, anyway. Didn’t stop me obsessing over girl’s name way, WAY more than was even remotely necessary, though…), because there really weren’t ANY other names we both agreed on. I, for instance, love French names like Elodie or Amélie, both of which Terry instantly vetoed on the grounds that they don’t sound nearly as pretty in a broad Scots accent, and would probably be frequently mispronounced. He, meanwhile, was holding out for a Greek name, like Athena, or… just anything Greek, basically. Honestly, I think if I’d suggested we just call the baby ‘Greece’, he’d probably have been fine with that. I wasn’t keen on any of the names he came up with, though, and he also vetoed ‘Aurelia’, ‘Aurora’ (Which, yes, also very popular right now…) and ‘Arielle’ (Hey, guess which letter I like girl’s names to begin with?). So we ended up with a complete impasse – and there we stayed. 

By the time we headed into hospital for the twenty week scan, at which you can sometimes choose to find out the baby’s sex, we were still no closer to choosing a girl’s name: and, honestly, if Max had been a girl, I’m pretty sure he’d still be known as ‘The Baby Without a Name’ to this day. He was, however, a boy: which, although we genuinely didn’t have a preference, was actually quite a relief, name-wise, at least. 

What I realised from all of this, though, is that there really aren’t many names out there – either male or female – that I really, really LOVE. There are plenty I LIKE, but honestly, while Max’s name ended up being a pretty easy decision for us, if he’d turned out to be twins, I suspect we’d have just had to call them Max I and Max II – THAT’S how indecisive we were about it, and how difficult I think it is to choose something so important for another person. 

How did you do it, I wonder? How did you go about picking a name for your children – and how easy did you find it? 

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19 Comments
  • Becky
    April 11, 2019

    God this was so hard – we had a boys name lined up straight away (Christopher – shortened to Kit as a kid and Chris if he wanted something a little more mature as an adult, although Kit still works for grown men as well obviously!) Girls names were tough – we actually decided on an initial name in the first instance – CJ – and then had to work the rest of the names around those two initials! I wanted something that wasn’t too common at the moment so if you yelled it, half the kids in the playground didn’t come running, that wasn’t too out there, and that they could cut many different ways if they wanted to depending on how they wanted to identify. We chose Catrina Jenevieve in the end – and I know it is a mouthful and that Jenevieve is normally spelt with a ‘g’ but honestly I have always loved it and thought I would bend the rules ever so slightly for the second name! Our LG can go by CJ, Catrina, Cat, Katy, Trina, Kitty, Kit, Jen, Jenny, Nieve; I hope we have given her enough options to work with! The only problem now is, if we do have another child and he is a boy, I can’t use Christopher any more. You really can’t have Kit and Cat in the same family!

  • Arndis
    April 11, 2019

    We had a boys name from the first ever conversation about possibly having kids and when we found out I was pregnant we did the same as you and tried to find a girls name with no luck! The thing is as we are from different countries the name had to be easily pronounced by both families, we didn’t want one side to feel left out with a very British/Icelandic name. So we went for Óskar in the end, the name we had always said we liked

  • Mhairi
    April 11, 2019

    Konrad was easy, we picked it before the 20 week scan and it stuck, Gregor on the other hand was a nightmare. Convinced I was having a girl I lined up about 20girls names on my short list and was filtering them down when we had our scan to find out she was a he. Then it took us until about 5-6 months pregnant to settle on the name. Someone in work brought in her nephew named Gregor and I jut called David and said I have the name

  • Myra
    April 11, 2019

    And here was me thinking it was from our Max that you liked the name. Coincidently, they liked Ava for a girl too, although that was before every other girl was named Ava lol.

  • Alice
    April 11, 2019

    I had known for years what first name we would use for a girl. Then as a second name we chose the name of a little girl we used to know (because she is tough and fun, how we hope our daughter will be). And she has a third name, Emmeline, after Emmeline Pankhurst.

    I also know what name I would choose for a boy – but if I’d had a second girl I have no idea i have used up all the names I like.

  • May
    April 11, 2019

    I’m nowhere near having children and it’s not even something I’m really interested in, but I still have lists and lists of names I like. In multiple languages even- in case I marry a foreigner I guess?

  • OMG the first paragraph IS true Amber – I have 10 kids’ names, even with the right middle names – all worked out for the five boys and five girls we’ve decided never to have. They’re so good I feel I should sell them as a set on eBay or Etsy or something, it seems such a waste of great names!!!! So no, it wasn’t just you, haha 😉

    I love the fact that you chose a simple first name for Max when he has a hard to spell/hard to pronounce surname. Anyway he LOOKS just like a Max!! And I hate it when you’ve had a name picked out for years then it becomes really popular. (I started the list looooooong before the number of children I wanted went from 6 to 0.) Long before Friends I always wanted a little girl called Phoebe, soon gave up on that name otherwise everyone would have said “oh, you must have been named after Phoebe in Friends!”…!

    Catherine x

  • Lila Athanaselis
    April 11, 2019

    We looked up baby names books, before the internet 😂
    Picked short and easy to say/spell forenames, (Also have a long hard to spell Greek surname) and made sure there was a Greek equivalent name.
    We had our girls name chosen right away as we both had very inspirational aunties with the same name, so that wasn’t hard. Boys names took quite a bit longer. 🤔

  • Erin
    April 11, 2019

    I’m not having kids, but you better believe I have names picked for all of my girl non-children (I have a few boys names I like, but I always pictured a girl so I’ve only settled on those): Evan, Ariel, Vida, Ryan, and Allegra (which my husband has vetoed for our never-existing baby because while I think “happy” he thinks “allergy medication”). I’d probably pick Evan or Ryan because I like gender neutral names for girls to help avoid future gender discrimination..at least on paper. A school or workplace would never know she wasn’t a man until she walked into the interview, unless she wanted them to know in which case she could use her girlie middle name on paperwork. I’ve really overthought this. Lol

  • Lise
    April 11, 2019

    We used my father’s first name and my brother in law’s name as a middle name for my son. It was an easy choice, and euphonious at Nathaniel Lindsay. For my daughter, we used all 3 grandmothers, with my stepmother’s name first, because a: she raised me, b: I loved her the most, and c: it was the most beautiful of the names, Genevieve. My daughter has chosen to drop my mother in law’s name, Audrey, which had been placed third, as it is the least lovely of the three. My mother never forgave me for putting Genevieve’s name first, and called my daughter “Bijou” rather than her name until she died. I told her I didn’t want my daughter and me to share the same name, but that wasn’t sufficient explanation for my mother, tho she was the one who divorced my father. After all, she named 2 of her 3 daughters Elizabeth after herself–it’s my older sister’s third name and my first name, which I thought was pretty weird. I never used it as my name except for formal paperwork.

    Restricting the universe of names to family names made it easy for me, tho I had always previously planned to name a daughter Heather or Heath.

  • Stacey
    April 11, 2019

    We were in the exact same position as you. I had always like the name “Matthew” and when we spoke about names before we were even married my ex said “I’ve always really liked the name “Matthew” for a boy”. Well, that’s sorted then and it never veered from Matthew. Like you, I liked the sound of it for a baby, teenager, and adult and I didn’t mind the shortened version “Matt”. For the record though, even though I thought I might call him “Matt” at some point, I have always ever only called him “Matthew”. Since he became a teenager he has introduced himself as “Matt” though and some people call him that from school.
    For a girl… no idea. Best we could ever come to on any kind of agreement was “Madison” and that wasn’t my favourite as it was quite popular around the time my son was born. Thank goodness he was a boy!
    Middle names though…. yeah we didn’t come up with anything until we HAD to at the hospital for the birth certificate. I considered no middle name but as that is so uncommon here I figured that was just asking for a bunch of future conversations of “no I really don’t have a middle name” like my friend has said she deals with. In the end, we did a combination of his father’s middle name (Allen) and my middle name (Lynn) and his middle name is “Allyn” (but we pronounce it like Allen). We did get a bit of grief over that initially as it was “weird” but it saved a lot of headaches of using anyone else in the family’s name.

  • Frida
    April 11, 2019

    To me and my husband it was easy as it was for you, we picked the name long time ago, while we were still young and just imagining the future.. and my son was just a “thought”. And as you, we had no clue on a girl name! There were some we both liked (starting with “A”!) but his name was firmly chosen, and then we discovered he was a boy. That day our thoughts become real, and he was real. A boy named Giulio. He just turned 4 y.o 😊

  • Kate
    April 12, 2019

    You and I are clearly on the same wavelength when it comes to names! Our oldest is a an A name, Anna and the younger one was was quite likely going to be Ava (this is going back 13 years, so not so trendy then!) if he was a girl. Although, I was never completely sold on Anna and Ava as siblings. It seemed like it could become a bit of a tongue twister. Anyways we had a Jack. A classic boys name that couldn’t be shortened and suited every age well, just like you said. 🙂

  • Daphne
    April 12, 2019

    Friends of mine in Germany are called Marc and Helene and when they found out they were having a little girl they called her a mix of both those names – Marlene 🙂

  • Tasha
    April 12, 2019

    Picking a name is so hard, me and my partner hardly agreed on any names! I like names a little bit more original (Rupert, Rex, Chester) where as he preferred something a bit more normal. We didn’t find out the sex of our baby so had to try and pick 2 names, we chose Isla for a girl and possibly Charlie for a boy but I was holding out for Rupert! Our baby turned out to be a little girl and I didn’t think Isla suited her so we chose Lyla the day after she was born!

  • Miss Kitty
    April 12, 2019

    I always loved the name Ethan for a boy, then my sister went and called her baby boy Ethan 🙂 She didn’t know it was on my list of dream names. I wasn’t too mad because at this point I’m fairly sure I don’t want children myself. If I did, I have no idea what I would call a boy, as there’s no other boy’s name I like as much!

    • Amber
      April 12, 2019

      I feel your pain – literally the only other boy’s name I like is the name of my best friend’s son – he’s 10 now, so she had no idea either!

  • Candice
    April 16, 2019

    haha my husband and I have been discussing baby names since we met as well, (although no baby yet), and also chose our boy name pretty much instantly (Benjamin) simply because it sounds classic and strong and will go well with our surname Parker. There is no doubt about it, if we have a boy he will be Benjamin. However as with you guys, we also CANNOT agree on a girl name, and have debated it for nearly 6 years! I too like names that start with an A (Amber actually being one of them – Averie being the other one I really love), and my husband loves elvish names from Lord of the rings, which uhm… just no. haha. But we do love debating through names endlessly and at every opportunity possible. 🙂

  • CiCi Marie
    April 16, 2019

    I genuinely don’t know where Sadie came from, but it’s been the name I’d call my daughter for so long, all my baby girls on The Sims throughout the ages had that name… So when she asks one day who she was named after, THATS going to be a conversation. Sadie became well and truly cemented when on our babymoon we walked past a boat and I only happened to look at it because it was the only one being towed along the sand and it was called the ‘Sadie Mai’… we’d already settled on Sadie Mae and then the boat… but at that point I still thought I was having a boy! The boat knew… I took a picture of it to get framed for her one day 🙂

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Currently inhaling my third coffee of the morning: I’ve been averaging about 6 hours sleep per night this week, thanks to a certain someone deciding that sleep is for the weak, and that he’ll just be getting up two hours earlier than usual 🤦‍♀️ Really hoping it’s just a phase: while it’s going on, I’m not fit to be seen, though, so here’s a photo from our visit to the beautiful Drummond Castle Gardens last week - such a beautiful place! 🏰 .
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AD | So sad to be checking out of @highlandheatherlodges this morning: we’ve had such an amazing time here - it’s a beautiful place, with so much to do nearby, that we’ve really only scratched the surface: although that *could* be something to do with all the time we spent in the hot tub, obviously 😉 Thanks for having us, guys - we’ll definitely be back!
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AD | We’re spending a few days at @highlandheatherlodges in beautiful Perthshire, for what Terry is optimistically referring to as his ‘birthday week’. (I say ‘optimistically’ - we’re only here for three days, and his birthday was yesterday, but don’t stop believing, Terry!)⁣
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There’s a hot tub for us and a playpark for Max, so needless to say, we’re having a fantastic time, and I’m already dreading having to leave. Today’s big question: can I pass as an under-12, so I qualify for a pony ride at the nearby wildlife centre? 🤔 (On second thoughts, don’t answer that one...)⁣
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