Naming regret

I’ve heard from some of you about using or not using a name you wished you hadn’t/had for one of your children (and I posted a little about it here), but I’ve been thinking about naming regret recently — specifically, how do you move on from it? Does the less-than-perfect name you chose become a name you like because it’s associated with your beloved baby? Does the beloved name you didn’t choose fade into the background as you fall in love with the name you gave your baby?

Would you/have you ever considered changing the baby’s name after having already named him/her?

If any of you have experienced this, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and whether there’s any advice you might offer someone who’s having a hard time with their child’s name, whether soon after birth or even years later.

57 thoughts on “Naming regret

  1. Name regret is a huge fear of mine! But honestly, I think I’ll just have to remind myself if I find a “better name” after I had already named my baby that I chose the name for a reason and the name that I found isn’t necessarily better, just different.

    Maybe this is mean, but I know someone who has had huge name regret, and part of me just wanted to be like “Stop thinking about it! If you’re constantly talking and thinking about how much you dislike your daughters name, then of course you can’t come to love it.” Part of me feel like loving something is a choice. Also, maybe try and list all the awesome good things about the name you’re regretting, because all names have good things behind them (basically, I’m sure there are some names out there that there’s nothing good).

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    • You have a lot of good thoughts here! I’m intrigued by this: “Part of me feels like loving something is a choice” — I often think that about marriage; also being grateful for what I have; I’ve never thought about names that way …

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    • Yes! Exactly! I discussed my son’s name down below, but it is honestly something I maybe think about twice a year and not anything I’d ever discuss. His name is still his name and I love it and him, even if its not the name I would choose today. We grow and our tastes change and there’s beauty in it all 🙂

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  2. Funny you should mention it… a middle name choice. My youngest son was named Joseph Anthony E… (last name) An older brother (of five crazy brothers) said if I gave him Owen as a middle name, his initials would be J.O.E. Not wanting to use him name for a punchline, I resisted the temptation. However, said son, who goes by Joe, always says he thinks the name Owen is cool and a cool Irish Saint and would have loved it if his initials were J.O.E. Perhaps I should have gone with God’s sense of humor.

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    • That’s a great example!! It reminds me of an experience I had that was sort of the opposite — we had decided on Oliver Joseph for one of our boys and one of my brothers was like, “You’re not going to stick him with the initials OJ are you?” I hadn’t worried about it at all until then, but I admit it stuck with me … we ended up changing our minds on his whole name, but if we hadn’t we would have gone with the OJ initials and I wonder if I would have come to regret it?

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    • I actually really love this. And I have a son Joe that would love this…if our last name started with an “E”. It is funny because we seriously considered something like this with our last – who is the Joe/Joseph. We have a last name beginning with “M” and one of the top contender names was Samuel Anthony M. – so initials would have been S.A.M. We thought is was fun and clever and were fairly serious, but in the long run Samuel just wasn’t the one we decided on. This particular son thinks it would have been fun to have a name like that and he says he is going to do it for his kids. So we have spent some time figuring out possible names (“M” is a good one to work with, and have (with other variations):
      Timothy Ignatius (T.I.M)
      James Isaac (J.I.M.)
      Thomas Owen (T.O.M.)
      Dominic Oliver (D.O.M.)
      Pamela Anne (P.A.M.)
      Gemma Elizabeth (G.E.M.)
      Tamara Abigail (T.A.M.)

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  3. I have the opposite of name regret. My husband and I had a girl’s name picked out for years…and then when we found out it was a girl, we realized it wasn’t right. We had NO back-up, and spent the next 4.5 months not really feeling anything, other than the nickname Gwen. My husband was the one who pushed for Gwendolyn — a name I’ve always hated for a wide variety of reasons. But we didn’t have any other options, and then there we were in the hospital with a baby, and I really did want her to be called Gwen, and I sort of liked the idea that DAD named her (rather than mom the professional onomast) (and later I found out that my name was also chosen by my dad!), so I capitulated.

    Now I cannot imagine her being anything other: The name is so totally the right name.

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  4. I never really liked my own name of Susanne-Maximiliane for various reasons: My father had wanted a son, but obviously, that did not work out. Additionally, I was always told that I had to use my full name answering the phone, etc. Imagine my delight when I found out that my father misspelled my name on my birth certificate and instead of a hyphenated name, I only had to deal with it as a middle name!

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    • Oh wow! That’s an interesting question too — how we feel about our own names … also, “mistakes” on the birth certificate that turn out well (or not well, in other cases) … (for what it’s worth, Susanne-Maximiliane is stunning!)

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  5. Well, we’ve discussed my naming regret at length, lol. But for me, it was never that I regretted the name Fiona, only the discovery that it didn’t have this authentic provenance that I’d assumed. Actually—I don’t think I’ve said this to you—now, years on, that actually is kind of an endearing quirk about the name to me. Its invented provenance is kind of more suited to my overall aesthetic and the sibset we have than if it really HAD been this super authentic Irish name, since we aren’t more than a little Irish, since “being Irish” is not an important identity for me (which is possibly surprising considering my red hair?), but “being English” is DEFINITELY an important part of my identity. So I actually kind of appreciate thinking of Fiona as this sort of British Isles name of murky, modern provenance, now. It makes it seem less like we were trying to be “authentically Irish”, which we weren’t/aren’t, and which doesn’t go with everyone else near as well. Plus I keep hearing of so many English women named Fiona (as opposed to Irish), so it just seems to fit.

    All that said, I DO know someone who changed her baby’s name within a few months of birth. They named her M@rgot, but it didn’t seem to fit…and then shortly after she was born, they encountered people named Margo(t) being accidentally called “mango”—not as a teasing thing, like the person misread the name—so that cemented it for them. They changed her name to K@te, and like it much better! She’s seven now. 😊

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    • I guess what I’m saying is, I 1000% like the name Fiona, completely separate of it being any kind of “authentic” name—which it isn’t! At first, I was like, “Wait, what?! I named my child a MADE UP name?!” And I was surprised by the information, like, how was this not widely known? But now that element doesn’t bother me at all because it actually makes the name a better fit for our family. I DID regret it, mainly out of shock, but after thinking about it, it’s actually better! Lol!

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    • Yes! I love this so much: “[Fiona] didn’t have this authentic provenance that I’d assumed … now, years on, that actually is kind of an endearing quirk about the name to me. Its invented provenance is kind of more suited to my overall aesthetic and the sibset we have than if it really HAD been this super authentic Irish name.”

      Also, I love your friend’s story!

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  6. I don’t know that I’d call it full regret, but my eldest has a name that I don’t love now. I’m a Catholic convert, and didn’t know anything about Catholicism until after he was born. It wasn’t on my radar. We named him Wyatt. It’s a name that my husband loved and both our dads had fond memories of their fathers’ reading them bedtime stories about Wyatt Earp. Our Wyatt does, by chance, have a saint middle name. Anyway, now all our other kids do have Saint names, that also fall into the classic category. I have also read more about Wyatt Earp and he was not necessarily a positive character. Of course, every name has been worn by a “bad” person at some point, and we need new names to have new Saint names. Also, interestingly, when I was pregnant with him, I had a very clear dream that I should name him Samuel, but we didn’t. I do like Samuel better. It’s not anything I dwell on or have ever even mentioned aloud (and I never will), but I know you like name stories and tidbits and it’s been nice to get it off my chest. ;)…

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  7. I don’t have any name regret for our children… but sometimes after reading posts here, with such awesome saint/Marian names, I wish we had given our children second middle names just to use more names up!! 😀

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    • Haha Vanessa! I was just thinking that the other day — I love each of my boys’ names, I think they’re just perfect for them, but reading all the gorgeous combos through the blog with all the names makes me think!

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  8. I don’t have full-on regret but for a little nagging feeling for the child to whom we gave just the nickname instead of the full name. When we had a daughter, didn’t give her Mary ________ as her first name (in our top 2 with the name we did pick), then had 2 boys in a row, I worried we’d blown our chance to use it!

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  9. I know this is silly compared to the REAL world, but I know I’ve mentioned that I’m writing a book before. The reason I can’t seem to lock in the names is that I have this fear that I’ll go ahead and use my favorite names and then… what happens when I have to name actual human children?! WHAT IF THERE ARE NO NAMES I LOVE LEFT? I think about this too often!

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    • Haha yes!! I have the same worry!! I don’t dabble in fiction too much (hopefully more so in the future!) but when I do I’m always trying to balance “names I like” with “names that are safe because I know for 100% sure I’ll never use them.” That’s hard!

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  10. I’ve been thinking of letting my husband have his first choice with this little ones name, but I do worry that this is a pregnancy fatigue and hormone driven decision and that I’ll regret doing so. I’m keeping a list of all the things I do like about the name in case post-pardum name doubt sets in.

    I have sometimes regretted that my daughters Katharine’s name is so long and has so many nicknames and sticks out with our other kids short names. At the time, I thought choosing a multisyllable name would prevent me from feeling limited to only using one syllable names. Instead I’ve felt like I shouldn’t add more short names. In general, I try not to dwell on this because I know that it is so not a big deal.

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    • Fwiw, I do think these kinds of things aren’t even noticeable (usually) to the rest of the world … like with your Katharine and Hollyce’s children mentioned above — I think you both did an amazing job! I never once though, “Huh. A nickname?” about Hollyce’s, nor did I ever think, “Wow, Katharine really sticks out,” for you.

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  11. I had some pretty big name regret after our first was born. Middle name regret that is.
    Her name is Ava Marie E…
    I’ve always loved the name “Ava” which is her first name and decided to stick with it even though it’s become terribly popular (which would normally make me avoid it. But I liked it even BEFORE then so I stuck with it :)). I really wanted her to have a Marian name so made her middle name “Marie” as a not-so-subtle nod to “Ave Maria”. I went back and forth on that middle name a billion times and when she was born I STILL wasn’t sure but just went with it trying to trust my “initial gut instinct”. What I don’t like about it is actually the obviousness of how close it is to Ave Maria. Almost cheesy you know? But I do love that it’s Marian still. The other reason I was regretting it is because I wish I had gone with a Hispanic middle name to counter the first name not being Hispanic. (My husband is Hispanic, I’m white, so Hispanic last name). His mom doesn’t even call her “Ava” but nicknamed her “Evita” which used to bug me– just that she dropped the “a” altogether which I love but I understand that when pronounced the e in Spanish sounds like what the first a in Ava does so that’s why.
    Aaaanyway. I thought of using Maria as the middle name since we have the Hispanic last name but then I thought it was TOO close. But I’m already super close so it’s not like Marie is subtle maybe it would’ve made more sense to just commit to it and go full-on Maria. Now she has a French middle name..
    Whatever. It’s a pretty name.
    In hindsight I would’ve named her Ava Virginia E..
    Ava cuz I love it
    Virginia is DH’s moms name but she goes by a nickname and Virginia is also Marian
    Initials are “AVE” which I’d love.
    Doesn’t help that she looks so much like DH’s mom too!

    Sigh… Too late now.

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  12. I think it is always hard when you may have wished you had handled something differently than you did. Looking back, I think, can sometimes tend to lead you to not always remember that you are looking through the lens of more life experience and hopefully lessons learned. I don’t think, though, that it should take away from the merit of good effort or intention. Seems to me most commenters on this wonderful blog are such good folks…I hope that any of you who have “naming regret” can be relieved of the burden…know that you love your children and put anything else in God’s Hands that takes away from your Peace.
    Sacred Heart of Jesus, please bless each of us and all for whom we pray!

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  13. No regrets here, as we really let the Spirit lead our naming process. But we never considered name trends/popularity with our first, so you can imagine our surprise when we realized our carefully discerned and chosen name is mostly worn by 60 year old men, lol. It’s Mark, btw. But we’re cool with it, and we love his namesakes St Mark and Grandpa Mark.

    I have noticed that each name has a “break-in” period, no matter how perfect it is. It just takes a couple days/weeks of introducing him–and hearing people use the new name–to make it sink in!

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  14. I don’t think I have regret so much as some sadness that I didn’t get to use some names I really loved and for a couple went with other names for family honoring and saint patronage over real preference for the names themselves. But all is well and the names fit who they are. My closest to actual regret is probably the youngest who is Joseph Dominic. I really like Dominic more and wanted Dominic Joseph…but my sister wanted to use Dominic and I didn’t want to have them duplicate as cousins, so we switched (although she didn’t care and said to use it). And…my sister never ended up using it herself – but they have only had one boy after that. Oh well. My son is adamant about the fact that he thinks Dominic is okay for a middle name but he WOULD NOT want it for his first name. Because what you are named is how you identify. So he likes his name and that is good.

    And speaking of duplicating cousin names- funny addition to this is our oldest is named after my dad (David) because we wanted to honor him and he was first grandchild. A few years ago my youngest brother had first child, a son. It was 2 years after my dad had died. And they named him David also and since my brother has our family last name (where I do not) this little guy really has my dad’s name. I don’t mind that there are 2 David cousins – they are really a generation apart – 23 years difference. But it does entail some Little David, Big David distinctions on occasion.

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  15. I will add something I think is interesting or funny. I have “regret” for names I never even seriously considered – because at the time I would not have used them , but now 16-28 years later have different ideas and likes. That is something that maybe those of you who still are in the naming stage of life might not think about as a possibility. Regret for not using/considering names you don’t even like right now. : )

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  16. My poor MIL suffered from naming regret (until DH changed his name at age 23– not to please her, don’t worry). She wanted to name a child after her father, whose given name was Donald, but he was always called Donnell. When my husband was born, they didn’t want to give him a “weird” name, so they formally named him Donald, but he always only went by Donal. (Not sure how a name that was 2 generations off was “less weird” than a Scottish/Irish name, but whatever….) So all his life he wrote Donal on everything, but his ID always had the -d at the end. One of the first family stories I heard from my now-MIL was of the agonizing about whether to -d or not to -d. When we were married he went with me to change my name, and he was like, “Hey, I should fill out one of those and get rid of the -d once and for all!” So he did. The End.

    Oh wait, another funny (to me) tidbit: all his life he has written his name DonaL. I tease him about it because it’s a silly habit (and sometimes people think his name is Donna L. Lastname). But the way I finally got him on board with our son Abel’s name was the suggestion that maybe our little boy would one day write his name “AbeL,” lol.

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  17. huh. The closest I’ve come to naming regret was pushing against my husband’s top pick for our daughter. What was so frustrating about it was that it was a top pick for me too. I have *always* loved this name. But paired with our very-common last name and the fact that it has risen in popularity and I know several babies with the name and it is one syllable with almost non-existent nickname potential, it all felt wrong to me. It just wasn’t my first choice for my first daughter. But I still look back and wonder how satisfying it would be to have a let my husband pick that name he LOVES. Making it more complicated, I adored it as a middle name and pushed for that. But that doesn’t satisfy Dh, so if we ever have anpther girl, dh wants to revisit as a first name. How complicated is that?!

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