While the United States does not have strict laws about what you can name your baby, there are still rules.
For instance, you can't name your child using numerals in most states.
But in other countries, such as New Zealand, Sweden, and Germany, there are strict laws about what you can and cannot name your child. In many of these cases, the same rules apply for people wanting a name change too.
Most of the names below were ruled illegal by various courts after parents tried to name their child. Other names are from government lists.
- José - Yes, in a state with thousands of people named Jose, spelling it "José," with the accent above the "é" is illegal. That's because California does not allow any names with diacritical marks on its vital records. There are efforts to change California's law.
- They - Andrew Wilson wanted petitioned a judge to change his name to "They" with no last name... just They. Why, "They" explained: "'They do this,’ or ‘They’re to blame for that.’ Who is this ‘they’ everyone talks about? ‘They’ accomplish such great things. Somebody had to take responsibility.”
- 1069 - Most U.S. states do not allow numbers to be names. A North Dakota man wanted to change his name to 1069, but the state's supreme court ruled against it.
Santa Clause - A man who wanted to become "Santa Robert Clause" was rejected. But in Utah, the state's supreme court allowed an adult man to change his name to Santa Claus.
- Duke - Sounds too much like a title, Australian courts say.
New Zealand has a list of banned baby names. Somehow, "Number 16 Bus Shelter" and "Violence" were approved as first names, while these below were rejected
- . - Pronounced "full stop" parents in New Zealand were rejected after trying to use a single period (.) as a name.
- III - Pronounced "three." Parents who wanted to name their child after a Roman numeral for three were rejected
- Burger King
- Chow Tow (means "smelly head")
- Fish and Chips
- Mafia No Fear
- Sex Fruit
- Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii - Yep, that was her first name. When she was 9, Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii complained in a family court hearing about her name. The judge actually took Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii away from her parents citing "very poor judgment" in naming her. She was made a ward of the state so she could legally change her name, presumably to something a bit shorter.
New Zealand also does not allow names that "resemble official titles," such as:
Danish parents must choose their child's name from a pre-approved list of 7,000, or get permission for any names not on the list.
- Fraise - Fraise means "strawberry" in French, but French courts said it could be viewedd as a slang word for "ass." The couple named their daughter Fraisine instead.
- Minnie Cooper - French courts rejected the name saying the child would be mocked.
- Prince William - The same couple that tried to name their child "Minnie Cooper" originally wanted Prince William, which French courts rejected, saying the the child would be mocked.
- Borussia - Rejected because it is associated with soccer club Borussia Dortmund.
- Schmitz - Germany bans using popular last names as first names. That's a much different view than in the United States where names that were traditionally last names, such as Madison, Jackson, and Cooper, are now popular first names.
- Pfefferminze (means “Peppermint”) - rejected because "it might cause ridicule."
- Stone - rejected because “a child cannot identify with it, because it is an object and not a first name.”
- Osama Bin Laden - Just after Sept. 11, 2001, a Turkish couple living in Germany wanted to name their child after the infamous terrorist, but courts rejected the name, citing guidelines that all names "must not likely lead to humiliation."
Iceland requires names to be spelled and conjugated in Icelandic.
- Camilla - A former mayor of Iceland's capital of Reykjavik wanted to name his daughter Camilla. But Iceland's alphabet does not have the letter "C." The former mayor said it was an "unfair, stupid law against creativity”
- Harriet - When a 10-year-old girl (with a British father) applied for an Icelandic passport, she was denied because her English name didn't work in Icelandic. She became registered as "Stúlka" which means "girl."
- Venerdi (means "Friday) - Italian courts ruled the name was in the category of "ridiculous or shameful."
- Gesher (Hebrew for "bridge") - Norwegian officials told a woman she could not name her son Gesher, which she says came to her in a dream. She was given the option to change the name, pay a fine, or spend two days in jail. She chose jail and kept the name.
Portugal does not allow non-Portuguese names.
- Tom - Nicknames are banned in Portugal, meaning you're allowed to be named Tomas, but not Tom
- Mona Lisa
- Lobo (means "wolf") - Spainsh officials deemed the word "offensive" but Lobo's parents started a petition and after gathering 25,000 signatures, officials allowed the name.
- Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 - Pronounced "Albin," Swedish parents tried to name their child this to protest baby-naming laws in 1991. Sweden has strict naming laws and the couple submitted the name in protest over the naming requirements, which also say you must register a baby name for your child by their fifth birthday.
Also in Sweden, parents took the names Elvis, Lego, and Metallica to court -- and were allowed to name their children those names.
- J - Switzerland law says names must have at least two letters.
Brand names are banned in Switzerland:
Religious names which can "cause harm" are also banned:
- Cyanide - A woman who named one of her twins Cyanide, said it was a "lovely, pretty name" that had a positive aura, because it was the poison that Hitler took to kill himself. Instead, the court took some pretty drastic measures. Officials took away the woman's twins, and ordered that the twins' older siblings rename BOTH twins. The twin boy was named Preacher. The mother was said to have a history of drug abuse.
- @ - China does not allow symbols. Parents wanted to use it because "@" in Chinese is pronounced "ai-ta" which sounds similar to the Chinese phrase meaning "love him."
China's crackdown on Muslim names has been called a restriction on religious freedom.
- Akuma (means "devil")
- A couple wanted to use two Japanese characters (known as kanjis) together, one for "water" the other for "child." However, the couple voluntarily changed their child's name after someone pointed out that previous Japanese generations had used this combination to mean "a baby that has died in the womb, either through abortion or miscarriage."
Animal names and natural names (plants, fruits) are frowned upon in Malaysia
- Chow Tow (means "smelly head")
- Hokkien Chinese Ah Chwar (means "snake")
- Sor Chai (Insane)
Ivory - Canadian courts asked parents to change their baby's name because it was too similar to Ivory Soap. The parents were allowed to keep the name upon appeal.
In Sonora, Mexico, officials issued a list of banned names, saying they could lead to bullying. Those names include:
- The Terminator
- US Navy
- Harry Potter
- James Bond
- Lady Di
- Rolling Stone
Some names in Saudi Arabia are banned because they conflict with social traditions. Those include:
- Abdul Ati
- Abdul Nasser
- Abdul Mosleh
- Abdul Nabi
- Abdul Rasool
- Abdul Mo’een
Sarah - In Morocco, you'll need to spell it "Sara" because "Sarah" is deemed "too Hebrew" in the Islamic country.