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Giving your child an ethnic name

Paul Banas
Author Paul Banas
Submitted 02-07-2007

While naming their children, parents often choose unusual baby names with an ethnic origin. This trend has gained popularity also in the US, a melting pot of people from various ethnicities living together. Unusual baby names such as Rosalie, Maxime, Kamal, or Galina no longer raise eyebrows.

Not all parents necessarily choose unusual baby names from their own culture. They often opt for a name because they like the “ring of its sound,” or because of the exotic flavor that it conveys. While this is quite okay, it is important for parents to be aware of some of the larger issues surrounding ethnic names.

Ethnic names are integral to the land, language, and culture from which one is drawn. Choosing a name from your own culture is a way to acknowledge and honor your roots. It identifies your child as belonging to your specific ethnic group.

On the other hand, selecting an unusual baby name that is not from your culture, may pose some problems for your child. These could include:

  • Difficulty in usage: Many non-English names may require a special pronunciation. Besides, their spellings may be awkward or difficult to remember. For instance, the Irish name Siobhan, is pronounced “Shiv-ahn.” Similarly, the Polish name Andrzej is correctly pronounced, “Ahn-drzhey.” Unusual baby names such as these are likely to lead to incorrect spellings and pronunciation.
  • Could attract ridicule: Names that sound distinctly odd or different may put your child at risk of teasing by peers and friends. This may discourage your child from socializing normally. In extreme cases, unusual baby names could even lead to shyness or introversion.
  • May lack significance: While you may find the sound of an unusual baby name, or its exotic meaning, appealing, your child may not share your enthusiasm. It might be better to have a name your child can identify with.

While none of these issues should prevent you from choosing the name of your dreams, as with all names, you should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of any chosen name.

Also, remember, especially if it is your first baby, that a choice of a name is less about you than it is about your baby and his or her future and identity. Your new child will have to wear an unusual name for a lot longer than you’ll introducing him with it.