Baby Naming: A Global Tradition

Naming a baby is one of the most important, and public, decisions a new parent makes. All new parents worry about choosing just the right name for their new arrival, and most believe that a child's name contributes to his or her success in life. At BabyCenter, we've been tracking global baby naming trends for over a decade, and we've found fascinating differences from country to country. Here's a quick tour of baby naming traditions around the world.

In the United Kingdom, many parents still lean toward traditional names. This year royal names are all the rage, particularly for boys. Harry and William are both in the top 10 in Britain and climbing the charts. With a baby (and heir) on the way for William and Kate, BabyCentre UK predicts the child will be a girl and suggests Victoria Elizabeth as the perfect name to honor royal family traditions.

In China, fathers have the final say on the baby's name. Finding the right name is extremely important and complicated. Parents consider family tradition, the five elements, and the child's birth date when choosing a name. The final decision on a name happens after the baby is born because the birth date is so important. Traditionally, a Chinese newborn gets three names: a surname, a generation name (which is shared by siblings and cousins), and a given name.

In Arab countries, religious traditions are an important factor in baby naming. Muslim parents look for names that are virtuous and honor the prophets, such as Mohammed, Ali, and Ibrahim. Similar to Asian naming practices, siblings often share a name. Mohammed is a popular shared name for brothers; Noor and Nurul for sisters.

Religion plays a role in baby naming in Latin American countries, too. Many Hispanic families choose names from the Bible and their Catholic faith. Family traditions are a strong influence as well, and boys are often named after their father or grandfather. But times are changing and an increasing number of Latin parents are inspired by celebrities and pop culture.

In Germany, baby naming is fairly regulated and parents must choose "approved" names. The registrar's office decides whether a name is legal and will deny any names that violate a child's rights. German parents are required to follow naming guidelines including: Choosing a first name that indicates the child's sex, avoiding names that are seen as offensive or ridiculous, limiting the child's name to no more than five names, and skipping unconventional spellings.

In India, many parents choose a baby's name according to his or her birth star. There are 27 birth stars, each with associated letters to start the baby's name. BabyCenter India has a naming tool to help parents find names starting with the right letter for their child.

African naming traditions can vary by country and culture, but many parents throughout the continent believe a baby's name should reflect their hopes for the child, as well as current events. Parents believe that a child's name can influence the child's life as well as the life of the entire family. Many African babies are given two names: One at birth and another at a later date to celebrate an important event.

In the United States, mothers and fathers work together to find the perfect name for their baby and 75 percent settle on a final name before the baby is born. American parents find name inspiration everywhere from family traditions to pop culture to the dictionary. No name is off limits in the U.S. See BabyCenter's Most Popular Names of 2012, for the latest on top names in the U.S.

Although naming traditions vary from country to country and culture to culture, we're all united in our quest to find the right names for our children. A baby name has to last a lifetime, so it's important to get a perfect fit.

To find out more about baby naming traditions around the world, learn the most popular baby names around the globe, or find name inspiration, visit BabyCenter. BabyCenter is a proud member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.