Recently as I was scrolling through Facebook, I ran across a post by someone asking for suggestions for unique baby names.

The suggestions ranged from the odd to the ridiculous to the just plain weird, but one thing that all the names had in common was that they were not actually unique. 

In the last couple of decades giving a baby a unique name has become extremely trendy. See the irony there? It has become commonplace to choose names that are either made up (Daxton), weirdly spelled (Kouper), or pulled from pop culture (Hazel – thank you, John Green). So, in the end, the very act of trying to be different is actually quite unoriginal.

The problem with choosing a child’s name based solely on uniqueness is that this rarely works. The name Kellan (or Kellon or Kellyn or Kellen) might be your very own creation, but next month when your neighbor gives birth to little Paiden (or Paydon or Paidyn or Payden), your child will just be another kid with a weird name that no one can spell. 

Not only are unique names confusing, often they don’t even stay unique. Ask any one of the countless Brandies born in 1978.

Full disclosure, my children all have very, very traditional names. But of course that isn’t for everyone either. Instead, when naming a baby, perhaps parents should consider a name inspired not merely by a desire to be different, but by something greater.

Here are five things, besides uniqueness, to consider when choosing a baby’s name:

1 | Family names 

So your dad is Earl and your mom is Sue. Maybe those aren’t your first choices for your precious bundle. Okay, dig a little deeper. Talk about some unique names! Most family trees have a them. I have a great-great-great uncle whose name was Welcome. I always thought that would’ve been a perfect name for our fifth baby – if we’d had one.

What was your great great great grandmother’s name? What was her maiden name? The point is, whether it’s unique or not, a family name has significance and meaning. Family names honor another person without whom you and your baby would not even exist.

2 | Religion and literature

This, of course, makes much more sense if you happen to be religious. My kids all have saints’ names. But even if you aren’t, there are countless stories of saints and sages in religious literature that offer an inspiring story and a name to go with it.

Or if religious literature isn’t your thing, there are certainly plenty of inspiring characters from other genres. Just be sure to read the story. Gatsby or Cressida might be cool names, but their stories aren’t exactly up lifting.

3 | Family origin or ethnicity

Even if you don’t identify strongly with a specific ethnic group, choosing an ethnic or regional name can be a cool way to acknowledge and honor your family’s heritage.

4 | A favorite place 

I’m not suggesting you name your baby Four Seasons or Smoothie King, but a meaningful place name can be a cool option with a great story to go with it. Did you meet your husband in Denver? Did you grow up vacationing at Avila Beach, California or Bryson City, North Carolina?

A place name is a special way to pass down a special memory. 

5 | Meaning

Think first of what you want your child’s name to mean, and then look up the corresponding name. Do you want your daughter to associate herself with strength? Consider Audrey, Jaiyana or Valerie. Do you consider your son a gift? Name him Jonah, Mateo or Kendrick. 

A name is no guarantee of passing on a specific value or characteristic, but it can be a great reminder to your child of what’s important to your family. But the whole point is that a child’s name should be about more than just what sounds cool.

A name should mean something. We are Christians or Muslims. Our family is Jewish or Chinese, Scandinavian or Scottish. We come from these people, or from this place. This is what matters to us. This is what we value. 

That’s not to say a name can’t just be unique. But a person’s name is important. It matters what we’re called. That’s why any name – unique or not – that carries meaning and significance is beautiful gift to give to a brand new person.