How Babies Are Traditionally Named in 8 Countries, from India to Iceland

“How Babies Are Traditionally Named in 8 Countries, from India to Iceland” originally appeared on Fatherly, and was reprinted with permission.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

You have to name the kid something, but how people accomplish this momentous feat largely depends on where in the world their little Carmen Sandiego is born (best guess on that one: San Diego?). If you’re looking for baby name inspiration, here’s a breakdown of how babies get named around the world, some of which might make you say, “Well, for Pete’s sake!”

1. Bali: Where birth order matters.

These Indonesians have a pretty laid back attitude when it comes to naming. Birth order determines the name of many babies. Firstborns will usually be either Wayan, Putu, Gede or Nengah. The second born will score Made, or Kadek. The third will be Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth will just be Ketut. The rareness of these names increases accordingly. Having the first name of Wayan in Bali is like having the last name of Wayans in the US: there are many of you, which can totally result in a Major Payne.

2. Ireland: Where birth order also matters.

Instead of having a slate of pre-selected names, Irish kids receive the name of a family member based on how many brothers and sisters they have. The first born boy, for instance, will receive the name of their grandfather on their father’s side. The next brother will get the name of their mother’s father. The third brother will get the father’s name, and the fourth will get their eldest uncle’s name. It’s the same order with daughters, but starting with the grandmother on their mother’s side. So if you’re Irish and have a brother named Niamh, maybe just stop at three or resign yourself to the fact that a barista will never spell your kid’s name right on a coffee cup.

3. Nigeria: Where you have to wait until the day of.

The ethnic Yoruba, who make up about 21 percent of the population of Nigeria, name their babies based on the circumstances of their birth, of which there are many. Consider Aina — a girl born with the umbilical cord around her neck. Or Ajayi — a boy born with his head facing downwards. Places also matter, as is the case with Tokunbo — a boy or girl born overseas. If this was a U.S. tradition, at least a handful of kids would be named Drivethru.

4. Iceland: Where your dad gets his due.

Iceland might be one of the most gender-equal countries on earth, but names are still based on the father’s given name, making them “patronymic.” They aren’t passed down through generations. These names combine the father’s first name with the ending -son or -dóttir, which means it’s possible for multiple generations of the same family to have different surnames. So, Dr. Saxton from Dexter is literally Derri Ingólfsson and Bjork is literally Björk Guðmundsdóttir, which makes going by just Bjork seem much more sensible.

5. Mongolia: Where kids hope their siblings are there to greet them.

Prior to Mongolians adopting surnames around 2000, they used just a single name, many of which might seem cruel or odd. That’s because Mongolian parents who have lost a child tend to give their next born a name meant to keep the devil away. So meeting someone from Mongolia named Muunokhoi (Vicious Dog) or Khünbish (Not A Human Being) is not that uncommon. And, considering the number of Mongolians named Genghis, it might even be preferable.

6. Spain: Where they’re way ahead on gender fluidity.

Parents in Spain don’t have to bicker about whether the kid will take the mother’s or father’s last name — they get both. Additionally, they often receive 2 first names. The first is usually religious in nature and dictated by the kid’s gender, but the second first name is dedicated to a family member or close friend, regardless of that person’s gender. So, Jose Maria’s are not uncommon. Johnny Cash would probably still frown on Jose Sue, though.

7. India: Where everyone’s born under a good sign.

The influence of the horoscope on Indian culture is tremendous. Here, a child often receives the name of the constellation they were born under. In the Northern part of India they will take a name that begins with the first letter of the constellation. In Southern regions a child will take the name of the entire constellation. There’s someone out there who should feel extraordinarily lucky he wasn’t named Scorpio DiCaprio.

8. Turkey: Where the last kid gets screwed.

Turkish given names often reflect religious faith (see Muhamed and Isa). Others names, based on pre-Islamic Ottoman traditions, borrow from the handles of storied Sultans. Among families in the countryside who’ve had as many children as they can handle, there is a less lofty tradition. With these families you can commonly find children with names like Dursun, which literally translates to “make it stop.” It makes one wonder if Jim Gaffigan is ever going to have a kid named Done-zo.

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