10 Fascinating Baby Name Traditions From Around The World

Updated: October 15, 2019
If you're looking for baby name inspiration, look to the baby name traditions of different cultures around the world.
baby name traditions from around the world

Naming your baby is a huge decision, and one you’ll likely put a great deal of thought into. If nothing is sounding just right and you’re on the hunt for inspiration, turn to these baby name traditions and practices from cultures around the world.

More: Using Baby Books as a Genealogy Tool

Greek Name Traditions

In Greece, some families traditionally wait until the seventh or tenth day after the baby’s birth to name them. But traditionally, the eldest boy or girl in the family will be named after their paternal grandfather or grandmother, respectively. For second children and later, parents often look to other relatives for naming inspiration.

Kenya’s Birth vs. Adult Names

Babies born to Swahili speakers in Kenya are given a first (birth) name, the jina la utotoni, which is typically given by an older relative and refers to the baby’s appearance. Up to 40 days after the birth, the baby’s parents or paternal grandparents choose the adult name, the jina la ukubwani.

German Baby Name Restrictions

In Germany, there are some restrictions placed when naming a child in the interest of protecting the well-being of the children. Traditionally, German first names must be officially approved by the local office of the population register, and have to follow a few conditions:

  • Not associate with evil or be insensitive to religion
  • Not be an object, location, brand, or surname
  • Indicate gender -- If a neutral name is chosen, a second gender specific name must be added. Similarly, a boy’s name cannot be chosen for a girl or vice versa. 

India’s Birth Star Constellation Inspiration

In India, it is believed that each child’s birth is ruled by a nakshatra (birth star constellation). Much like a traditional horoscope, it is believed the nakshatra plays a significant role in determining the characteristics of your little one and is calculated with information about the birth date. Many parents choose to follow certain suggested phonetic sounds or syllables based on the nakshatras, which are determined after the child is born.

Chinese Fortune Tellers

Some parents in China seek out the help or guidance of fortune tellers to help name their children instead of relying on conventional baby name traditions. Some believe depending on when the child is set to be born, their body may lack one of the main four elements, which can lead parents to choosing a name which incorporates the one they could be deficient in.

Biblical Influence

It’s no surprise that religion can play a huge role in naming a child. Many Latin, Hispanic, and Italian families turn to the Bible and their Catholic faith for divine inspiration.

Japanese Naming Ceremony

Many Japanese families have a shichiya ceremony where the baby is officially named and a special poster (meimeisho) is created with the baby’s name on it. Traditionally, the poster is displayed in a shrine, over the baby’s crib, or given as a present to the person who chose the name for the child.

Iceland Baby Name Restrictions and Fees

Like Germany, Iceland has some regulations in place surrounding baby names. It is up to the Iceland Naming Committee to decide whether or not the name you have chosen is acceptable. If the name the parents have decided on is not on the National Register of Persons, they can pay to apply for approval, and the name must pass a few tests:

  • Fit grammatically within the Icelandic language
  • Must align with Icelancid traditions
  • Be gender specific
  • Only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet

West African Day Names

In West Africa, it is common for newborns to be given special names based on the day on which they were born. Different ethnicities in Ghana and surrounding areas have different traditional names which are given to the baby based on the day they are born, with some flexibility.

Irish Naming Patterns

In Ireland, a traditional naming pattern has been followed in many families across all classes for generations, which goes as follows:

  • First son for father’s father
  • First daughter for mother’s mother
  • Second son for mother’s father
  • Second daughter for father’s mother
  • Third son for father
  • Third daughter for mother

For fourth and fifth children, the pattern rotates again between father and mother, starting with their siblings. It’s not uncommon for multiple children within the same generation of one family to share a name!

Looking for a baby name inspired by your family history or culture? Here’s How to Choose a Baby Name Inspired By Your Family Tree.

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