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There's a story behind every baby name. Here are yours

"We couldn't agree on a name for the full 41 weeks of my pregnancy," says Diana Opong, host of the Life Kit episode on choosing a baby name, "and so we waited until she was born to look at her face and decide. A day after she entered the world we chose the name Vivica."
Photograph by Jessica Peterson; Collage by Becky Harlan/NPR
"We couldn't agree on a name for the full 41 weeks of my pregnancy," says Diana Opong, host of the Life Kit episode on choosing a baby name, "and so we waited until she was born to look at her face and decide. A day after she entered the world we chose the name Vivica."

Naming a child is an art form. It can also feel overwhelming.

The circle of influence can be vast — maybe you looked back into your family tree for inspiration, scoured the Social Security website to avoid any impending trends or fended off input from relatives. It's a lot to wade through. That's why Life Kit published an episode earlier this week with a helpful framework for baby naming.

We also asked the Life Kit audience to share what inspired their children's names. Some had a name picked out as soon as they knew a baby was coming, others had their baby earth side for a whole month before deciding. One parent shared a list of 10 criteria their children's names had to meet. No matter the selection story, kids have a way of making their names their own.

Here are a few of your stories:

"I remember not being able to decide between Will and Forrest while in labor. I told the doctor and she said she delivered three Wills in the last few days. So it was easily decided ... Forrest" — Michele Englehart

"It took us all nine months to come up with a name for our daughter. There's so much feedback when it comes to naming a human — friends, family and my silly brain. We wanted something short and sweet and gender-fluid as our times are a changin'. Her name is Leo Nova Shear, and she is a Cancer. We love her so much and can't wait to see her grow." — Emerson Aalto

"Nearing the middle of my wife's second pregnancy we were discussing, even arguing, about potential names for our new daughter. The two we were reviewing were Caitlyn and Colleen. It went back and forth a few times, and in the heat of the moment, I put the beginning of one name and the end of the other together – without consciously realizing it.

The new word my brain had formed was our daughter's name: Caileen. She is now 22 and has never known the joy of looking for and finding her name on a bicycle license plate in the Disney Store, but today's children are being named by Bills and Marys and Johns and Lisas. We are choosing names to help signify and honor our children's uniqueness." — David

"Our third daughter, Eden Bea, was born in 2020. We chose Eden, meaning delight, as a reminder of the delight she would be after a difficult year for our family. Bea was chosen after her great grandmother Beatrice, who is her last living great grandparent." — Emily Anderson

"For our daughter, we scoured maps of countries we have never visited. Mariel, Cuba had a nice ring to it and we chose that for her name. Ernest Hemmingway thought so too! His daughter is Mariel Hemmingway.

For baby number three, I turned to a mom's group online, and a woman in Wisconsin proposed the name Lucius Augusto. I said it out loud and my husband looked up. It was perfect! An internet stranger named our son." — Sarah Soriano

"There's so much that goes into a name, so when I selected my three children's names, I stuck to the following rules:

  • Can't be in the top 100 most popular names for babies.
  • No intentionally unusual spellings.
  • Girl names can't end with an "a" or an "ee" sound, because all girls end with names like that down here in Texas.
  • No geographical locations. 
  • Boy names can't end with a hard "n" sound, for the same reasons listed above for the girls.
  • Family names are preferred.
  • No overtly religious names.
  • If a friend names their baby that name, it's dead to me.
  • We never know the sex of the baby before having the baby, so we go into the birth with two names for each sex, then try on the name with the baby for the first 24 hours.
  • No nicknames or truncated versions. 
  • So what did we name our kids?

    Dante Angel (Dante after the classic literature piece. And I know! It's overtly religious, but Angel is my husband's middle name.); Maxine Margaret (the names of my paternal and maternal grandmothers); Oscar Drexel (two saints — St. Oscar Romero and St. Katharine Drexel)" — Amanda Ingersoll Villanueva

    We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at

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    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

    Becky Harlan is a visual and engagement editor for NPR's Life Kit.
    Diana Opong
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