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Friday, December 17, 2010

Our Favorite Baby Naming Resources

Bethany writes:
Is there an updated Baby Name Wizard book, or one that is so much like it but made more currently? I bought my copy (well loved, well used, excellent hemming and hawing resource!) four years ago before Ava was popular in that book's opinion, and that is what we named our first child/pregnancy experience. I love that the name is short and sweet and its perfect to describe our little girl who died prematurely. BUT... to me it is evidence that the book is a little dated in opinion and cultural stuff.

I looked online and kind of like Nymbler and What a Lovely Name!, but they aren't as good as Baby Name Wizard. The SSA site is not too helpful either, because I am looking more for inspiration and for the styles/families of names like the book has.

Thanks in advance for your help finding a resource. I hope I have the opportunity to select a few naming options and have your readers give feedback or suggestions!

Oh, I KNOW people are going to want to chime in on this one!

My 2005 edition of The Baby Name Wizard says the name Ava is "suddenly soaring"---and that's the first edition of the book. There's a second edition that came out in 2009; I had to buy mine from an actual physical book store because STILL claims to have the first edition and not the second. The covers look the same except that the 2009 version has a hot-pink circle that says "Fully revised and updated with new names." That's definitely what I'd recommend, above all other baby name books: it's even better than the 2005 and continues to be my favorite baby-name resource of all. I think of her as the absolute expert on style families and sibling names.

This won't help with your question, but since we're on the topic of favorite baby name resources, I also enjoy having a few name dictionaries on hand: I find them useful when I'm looking for a name starting with a certain letter, or names that begin with certain sound, or when I want to find the meaning of a name. The two I use most are The Baby Name Bible (I see it's on Amazon's bargain table for $4.78), even though I get very sick of the snarky tone and the many, many entries that are clearly there only to allow them to put "50,000+ Baby Names!" on the cover; and 100,000+ Baby Names (goodness, that one also is on the bargain table; perhaps this is an indication that it is time for me to update my reference section). For origins and to resolve disputes about meanings, I use The Oxford Dictionary of First Names.

I also buy a lot of other baby name books, just because they're fun and I'm interested. I recently added Baby Names Made Easy, which sorts name into lists by meaning; and The Complete Book of Baby Names, which is basically a name dictionary but with a small section in the front where names are grouped into lists such as "Most Popular in New York" and "Surfers."

I occasionally look up a name online, but it's rare. I find most online baby name sources to be cluttered with ads and misinformation (incorrect origins, incorrect meanings), and if I get a list of search results I have to click to a new ad-filled page every 10 names. However, I know many readers of this blog find information online, so I know they'll have found the good ones and can tell you more about them.

Oh, wait, I have told a lie, because there IS one online baby name source I use, probably more even than I use The Baby Name Wizard: The Social Security Administration baby name site. I know you said you don't find it helpful because you're looking more for style families, but one of the huge advantages of the SSA is that it's where, for example, you can go before you've ever met a single baby named Ava and see information like this (which is how The Baby Name Wizard knew as she was writing her 2005-publication book that the name Ava was soaring, even though she only had access to 2003-and-earlier data):

(screenshot taken from The Social Security Administration baby name site)
(click it to see it larger)

The SSA site doesn't give style information, but if you have name candidates in mind you can find out if the name is rapidly increasing in popularity or not. You can also look in the same popularity range as a sibling name, or look for inspiration in a certain popularity level (for example, names that aren't in the Top 100 but aren't too far away from it either).

Now I hope others will be able to answer the specific question about resources for name styles and inspiration---but also comment on the broader topic of favorite baby name resources.


Mairzy said...

It's easy for name resources to become dated, because names follow such fashion trends.

Still, I love "Cool Names for Babies" by Satran and Rosencratz. (They also wrote "Beyond Jennifer and Jason" and "Beyond Madison and Montana.") I'd have to look at it again, but I'll bet that some of their "cool" names are becoming mainstream now. It's a fun read, though. often has valuable definition and derivation information, and I wish I could think of one more -tion word just to make this sentence an overkill.

-- Mairzy

Sara said...

I used to have a website bookmarked that added all the variations of a name, like Caitlin, Katelyn, Kaitlynn, etc., and then ranked the names for popularity. I lost the bookmark, but that website was really helpful to me. It gives a clearer picture of popular names.

Carolyn said...

The authors of Beyond Jennifer and Jason have a website,, that is helpful for any name inspiration you might want.

Jess said...

I will say that the SSA website is helpful for looking for a couple styles: classic and antique. I found it SO HELPFUL to look at the top names for 1900, for example. Obviously that won't help you with stuff like short and sweet, etc., but perusing name popularity lists from many years ago was very inspirational and also helped give an idea of which names are less common but still not brand-new. I LOVE it for that.

Of course, that was mostly for girl names, before we knew what we were having... but still.

Giselle said...

My favorite baby name book of all time is called Don't Name Your Baby: What's Wrong with Every Name in the Book, by David Narter.

It is, of course, not a serious baby naming book, but it is so daggone funny. And a nice one to turn to when you are going cross-eyed looking at all the other naming sites.

It basically tells you every school-yard taunt for any name, etc etc. Like I remember the entry for Alison was, "wait. doesn't this mean 'son of Alice'? Shouldn't this be a boy name?"

Okay, maybe not the best example...but still I remember laughing all the way through it.

Patricia said...

I find dictionaries of first names reliable and interesting references:

1. Oxford Dictionary of First Names
2. Dictionary of First Names, Penguin Reference

The Great Big Book of Baby Names by Cleveland Kent Evans, PhD, President, American Name Society

For inspiration:
1. The Baby Name Wizard, Revised edition
2. A is for Atticus: Baby Names from Great Books

Catherine said...

I've found the Baby Name Wizard website quite interesting and helpful, especially alongside the book. They do have a new subscription feature that I know has a lot more than the old site, but I haven't tried it yet. Anyone try it yet?

Patricia said...

Some of the online resources I use frequently -- reference:
1. SSA baby name data --

2. Name popularity lists grouped by pronunciation (eg. Aiden, Aidan, Ayden, etc.) -- [I think this was the website Sara was referring to.]


For inspiration:
1. -- "expert" has some super tools for finding the right name -- BNW's expert Name MatchMaker is similar to Nymbler but much better; NameFinder is helpful too.

2. -- eg., the recent series where readers chose their favorite names from each group of 100 names in the SSA Top 1000; you could start with this: (Reading through You Can't Call It It could provide lots of naming ideas.)
3. Swistle Baby Names -- the best deal on the internet: thoughtful, informed name suggestions and advice (for free!)

For name ideas from other English-speaking countries:
1. England/Wales:
2. London Telegraph birth announcements:

(I also have websites bookmarked for names popularity in Scotland, Ireland and Australia.)

If you're looking for fairly unique names, nameberry has gone through SSA's new Beyond the Top 1000 Names data ( and picked out names they find exceptional. Here are URLs for girls' names (similar lists for boys' names appeared at about the same time):

Hope this helps.

Patricia said...

Catherine, I have Baby Name Wizard Expert and think it could be very helpful for parents looking for just the right name for their baby. Here are a few examples:

Expert Name Matchmaker:
Hypothetical family with Davis - boy and Harper - girl, looking for a boys name. The first 5 names that came up:
Looking for a girls name, first 5:

Or first child, love the name Aidan, but too popular so type in Aidan as a name that appeals to these parents -- first 5 suggestions:

Now similar to Sophie -- first 5:

Given for each name: popularity rank; popularity graph; trend up or down or non-trendy' celebs with the name; can mark it a fave.

There are many pages of results for each search. And a search can also be refined by popularity level, length in letters, style and culture.

An expert subscription also includes Name Voyager Expert and Expert Name Finder. A subscription averages only about $3/month with one trimester, full term, or annual supporting memberships available.

Carolyn said...

Another site I like is
It is pretty basic as far as listing names alphabetically or you can search, but the reason I like the feature is it has a mini quicktime player that plays a pronunciation of most of the names. That is my biggest issue with name sites/books. I think most people want to know what the "correct"or at least common pronunciation of a name is, just as much (if not more so) than the meaning of the name.

Mrs. Haid said...

Thank you Swistle and readers! I am anxious to find the 2009 edition now. I am also more interested in paying for the BNW online features.

I hope that in a month I'll be back with a list of top five girl names and seek some advice from these lovely readers again! It is tricky for me to name a girl to match our last name!

Emily R said...

THANK YOU, Swistle. I just made a little amazon order. This fetus will have me emailing you soon enough, but I think we need a decent list before I approach you, and we're still many months off.