How We Chose Our Son’s Name

Names not to be forgotten

Names not to be forgotten

We had a number of criteria when choosing our son’s name.  To make it slightly more complicated we chose not to know his sex until he was born.  Here in Brazil this is almost unheard of and actually led to a couple of barbed comments from certain people.

We spent a long time discussing various names, and most of the ones we came up with we discarded for some of the reasons below.

Two languages, one name

We wanted a name that would work in both English and Portuguese.  It didn’t have to have exactly the same pronunciation, but we wanted people in either culture to read the name and recognise it.  This meant that a lot of traditional Irish names were out of the running because Brazilians would have no idea how to pronounce it.  I can remember what it was like at school for other kids who had exotic names and some of the teachers would make a right meal out of saying them, to giggles from all of the other students.  I didn’t particularly want anything like this to happen to my son.

Not overtly-religious

We live in a very Christian country but my wife is not particularly religous and I am positivly anti-religion.  I didn’t want to have a name that would always be asociated with the Bible, so names like Christian or Pedro/Peter were out.


There are some names that just sound wrong.  Here in Brazil Arthur is quite a common name, but whenever I hear it I just imagine it being said in Cockney accent on Eastenders (recently this image has been waning a bit).  I like the name Douglas, after Douglas Adams, but even I have to admit that it sounds really bad in Portuguese.

No family and friends

Neither of us wanted a name that was already taken by somebody else in our close families, or that one of our friends had given to their kids.  It shows a lack of imagination and can get very confusing, nevermind the fact that our son might have to live up (or down) to the original person.  I like the name Alex, but that is my father-in-law’s name.  We both like the name Jack, but I have a friend with a son of the same name, and a cousin.

In the end, about the only name we could agree on was Thomas, but we still waited until he was born to decide for sure.  It is a religous name, as Thomas was one of the 12 disciples, but at least he had the good sense to ask for evidence.  The name works in both languages, with only a slight difference in word stress.  There are a number of positive connotations for me when I hear the name; Thomas Beckett, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Payne (my favourite) and Thomas Morem, although I hate Tom Cruise and I am not sure about Thomas Aquinas, which is the name of my old school.  And finally, I can’t think of any close relatives or friends’ kids who have the same name.

If we had had a girl then it would have been a lot more complicated as we couldn’t really decide on anything.  If we have another child (and that is a big if at the moment) the name choosing will be even more problematic as we don’t have anything that we agree on anymore.

Related articles

That’s Not My Name:

Naming Our (Future) Bilingual Baby:

How To Name A Child When You’re An Expat: The European Mama


10 thoughts on “How We Chose Our Son’s Name

  1. Hi, thanks for the link and when we were considering the names for our daughters (Klara and Julia), we considered pretty much the same criteria you did. When our sone was born a month ago, we found a slighlty different name- Markian. It is Latin, sounds great, the spelling is German but works in both languages, it has an “R” (which I love to pronounce in the Polish way, with a rolled R) the way Klara does and the soft -ia Julia has.Luckily my husband came up with this name and I love it!

    • Wow! It sounds like the perfect name.

      I lived in Poland for a year when I first started teaching and I absolutely adored the sound of the language. I find the grammar a lot more difficult, though 😉

    • It was my first attempt at learning a language from scratch so, because I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for or how to learn a language, it seemed even harder than it probably was.

      I lived in a small town in the south-west called Olesno, between Opole and Czestochowa. I loved living in Poland, but the best thing about the town I was living in was the train station which meant I could travel around the country.

  2. Names are so hard, aren’t they? Thankfully my husband and I both agreed on both of our kids’ names very quickly and easily. If we’d had a third, I’m not so sure.

  3. Picking a name for your child is very difficult but when you have to consider more than one culture it must be very hard. I didn’t want to name either of you after anyone else but as you know that didn’t work out as planned and it is impossible to account for people who may come into the family at a later date hence we have 2 Noels!!

  4. We both liked the name Olivia for our daughter (were also looking for a name that can be pronounced in both cultures), but my Mother-in-Law vetoed it as here in Brazil she said it was the name of Popeye’s girlfriend (Olivia Palito – or Olive Oyl in English). Personally, I think Popeye is far enough out of the mainstream culture now, that it would have been OK, but we finally decided on Julia, which we both love (and so do the parents).

    I also liked Fiona, but Fiona Ford just was too much – and now there is Shrek to consider.

    • We both like the name Fiona and it would have been high on the list had we had a girl. As you say, though, the association with Shrek was a problem.

      I think you did the right thing listening to your mother-in-law 😉


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