Zoe is Banned in Iceland, Monkey in Denmark, Jimmy in Portugal. And you’ll never meet a ‘Talula-Does-The-Hula-From-Hawaii’ in New Zealand. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of baby naming rules and habits around the globe.
Naming your child is a big decision. Your name stays with you for life. There are the usual emotional and practical pitfalls of deciding which name to go for, including the avoidance of dodgy initials, weird spellings and mispronunciations. Then, on top of that, many countries have set rules and regulations, including lists of banned names. There was an article in Time featuring a German couple who wanted to name their child Lucifer. Courts intervened and the child was called Lucian. Some people have very creative ideas when it comes to naming their offspring!
Welocalize works with over 175+ languages and many cultures and we thought it would be fun and interesting to dig a bit deeper to see how naming varies in countries around the world. We found out some surprising rules and regulations when it comes to naming babies.
US + UK: No to ‘Number 16 Bus Shelter’
The US and UK are quite liberal about this subject and children can be named pretty much anything that their parents desire. The only restrictions within the UK is the length of the child’s name and that it must fit within the space provided on the registration page and must not be deemed offensive. However, there are countries that have allowed children to be named ‘Number 16 Bus Shelter’, and ‘Legolas’ and let’s not forget about the child, ‘Post Office’ (Source: BBC News).
DENMARK: Monkey is a No-Go
In Denmark, there is an official list of 7,000 approved baby names that a parent can choose from when naming their child; the names must be gender-specific. If a parent wishes to have a name that is not on the list, permission must be reviewed and granted at Copenhagen University’s Names Investigation Department and at the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs.
Banned names in Denmark include Pluto, Monkey and Jakobp. (Source: Business Insider)
FRANCE: No Chocolate Spread or Car Names!
The nation of France once had to choose from a list of acceptable first names, but this list was removed in 1993 when a new President came into power. A new law states that the courts can still ban a child’s name if they believe it is against the child’s best interests (Source: Business Insider).
A Mr. and Mrs. Renault once tried to name their daughter ‘Mégane’. This was declined by authorities as the daughter’s full name would then resemble the full name of the French car, the Mégane Renault Sport.
As well as children’s names being banned, there have been cases where owners of dogs have been forced to change their pets’ names, as they were deemed offensive. (Source: The Local, FR).
Banned names in France include Nutella, Strawberry, Manhattan, Mini Cooper and Prince William. (Source: Business Insider). Imagine attending the christening of little Nutella?!
GERMANY: Nein Matti
In Germany, a child’s gender must be able to be determined by their first name, meaning that a child cannot have a gender-neutral name. Surnames, product names or names of objects are also prohibited as being a child’s first name (Source: First Names Germany).
If a parent wishes to name their child an unusual name, they must contact the registry office in advance of the child’s birth, to gain permission for this to be allowed. The registry office has the final say in this matter.
Banned names in Germany include Stompie, Kohl and Matti. (Source: Business Insider)
ICELAND: No ‘C’, ‘Q’ or ‘W’
Iceland has quite a strict naming process. Around half of the potential first names submitted get rejected. Iceland has a list of approved baby names, in which the child’s name must come from, unless both of the parents are foreign (Source: Nordic Names).
If the name is not on the approved list, parents must go to the Icelandic Naming Committee for approval. For example, in the UK many girls are called Zoe, Harriet and Abigail; many boys are called Alex and Chris, but these names are banned in Iceland. Names that include the letters ‘C’, ‘Q’ and ‘W’ are also all banned.
There was a case in Iceland where a son and daughter were named Duncan Cardew and Harriet Cardew, both of which are not approved by the Naming Committee. Therefore, their passports said ‘Drengur’ and ‘Stúlka’ Cardew, meaning Boy and Girl Cardew, instead of the first-names that their parents hoped for (Source: The Guardian).
Did You Know? In Iceland, there is not just a strict naming process for children’s first-names, but also for horses. The International Federation of Icelandic Horse Association (FIEF) has recently created a rule that a horse’s name must be of Icelandic Heritage for it to be listed on the official database to be sold or for breeding purposes. Otherwise, the owners can choose to names their horses how they wish (Source: BBC News)
MEXICO: Not surprisingly, no Robocops, Emails or Burger Kings
Mexico has a history of parents naming their children with odd first-names. Therefore, the country has a list of banned names that are lacking in meaning and are derogatory or mockable. This list is adapted monthly, as parents try to adjust the already-banned names into ones with similar meaning (Source: The Guardian).
Mexican parents have tried, and failed, at naming their child ‘Burger King’, ‘Robocop’, ‘Email’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Hermione’ and ‘Christmas Day’ (Source: Latin Times)
NEW ZEALAND: Super-long names are banned
New Zealand have prohibited parents from naming their child anything offensive, anything that resembles an official title or rank, or a name that is more than 100 characters. Nearly 500 first-names have been declined since 1995.
Banned names in New Zealand include Talula-Does-The-Hula-From-Hawaii, Lucifer, Queen Victoria and Fat Boy. (Source: NZ Herald)
PORTUGAL: Ban on Vikings
In Portugal, names must be gender-specific, traditionally Portuguese and not a nick-name. Parents can get inspiration for naming their child from an official 82-page document of names. Some unacceptable names consist of Aaron, Mel and Robin (Source: Institute of Registries and Notaries Portugal).
Banned names in Portugal include Nirvana, Jimmy, Viking and Sayonara. (Source: Business Insider)
SWEDEN: Say hi to little Lego Google….
There is a ban on first names that could cause offence to others or the child themselves. Therefore, parents must submit their proposed name of the child within three months of birth, to the Swedish Tax Agency.
‘Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116’ was a name that was rejected in 1996 (Source: Telegraph). This was a name that tried to get approved in Sweden, claiming that their child’s name was pronounced as ‘Albin’. Albin’s parents were not a fan of the naming law that came into force and wanted to name their child Albin, but with the spelling of the B-1116. The parents were fined and carried on to have multiple failed attempts at naming their child with other (unsuitable) first names. The name of the child is currently unknown.
In Sweden, Lego is an approved first name and ‘Google’ is an approved middle name.
Banned names in Sweden include Metallica, Superman and Ikea. (Source: Business Insider)
The overall objective of banning names is, understandably, to protect the country’s heritage and the child’s wellbeing and future. What is most interesting are some of the unusual naming ideas that parents and guardians have for their charges! Would you thank you parents if they named you ‘Fat Boy’ or ‘Post Office’?? It is certainly interesting to read about the some of the weird and wonderful stories of baby naming around the world, whether banned or otherwise!
Based in the UK, Lauren Verdon is a member of the Welocalize Global Marketing Team.