Friday, July 16, 2010

Naming Traditions in World Cultures

Naming Traditions in Different World Cultures

Though a popular tradition among Americans and Europeans, naming a baby after a parent or grandparent almost never happens in Asian cultures. To call out a parent's first name is considered a sign of disrespect, which is why naming a child after an elder is considered inappropriate. Unlike other cultures, Asian traditions tend to be more low-key. For instance, the Japanese hold baby-naming ceremonies on the seventh day after a baby's birth. The simple tradition includes giving baby a first and last - but no middle - name. 

Jewish names often are given to honor family members. Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Eastern European and German descent) traditionally name children after deceased relatives, while Sephardi Jews (Jews descended from the Iberian Peninsula) traditionally name children after their grandparents or other relatives, whether they are living or dead.
In America, Native American's traditionally have named their babies by something that has inspired them in nature. Many modern Native American's still follow this practice. Each tribal tradition varies, but the theme of nature is common to all.

In Japan girls are often named after virtues, such as purity, morality, dignity and so on. Boys have more inventive names or are named by the position they hold in the family. For example, Ichiro means "first son." 
In Greek families the children are named on the seventh or tenth day of birth. They have traditions of naming their children after relatives. The first born of either sex usually takes on the paternal grandfather's or grandmother's name.
For Hindus who practice the Namkaran or Hindu naming ceremony, the first letter of a baby's name is based on the time and place of the baby's birth. 
For the Gikuyu people in Kenya, the first-born boy is named after the paternal grandfather. The second-born boy is named after the maternal grandfather. Girls are named similarly, after grandmothers.

In Switzerland, many people believe it's bad luck to tell anyone the name you choose for your child before the birth.

A current trend in China is to take the five elements (gold, wood, fire, water, and earth) into account when choosing a name. According to the Chinese classic The Yi Jin, or I Chin, depending on exactly when a child is born, he'll be strong in certain elements, and this will shape his destiny.
Chinese characters, or letters, also bear characteristics of the five elements — a character may have the quality of wood, for example. Many parents believe that the characters in a name can compensate for elements that are lacking. If a baby "lacks water" because of his birth date, a character representing water in his name would make up for that shortcoming. Parents commonly pay an expert to help them identify the appropriate name for their baby.

People in Spain and other Latin countries have historically named their children according to Catholic tradition — "Maria" has always been a common name, for example. Boys are traditionally given their father's or grandfather's name.

Traditionally, Italian parents have chosen their children's names based on the name of a grandparents, choosing names from the father's side of the family first and then from the mother's side. 

What traditions inspired your baby naming choices? Did you/Would you follow any of the customs above?


  1. I was raised Jewish and we were supposed to name my son with the first letter of my deceased uncle, Jeff. We got a lot of crap because we didn't. My son is Diego which means James. So I don't know why they got so mad. I dont follow any traditions anyways lol

  2. For centuries, the French law was illustrated by its rigidity on the choice of names. A strict law allowed no fantasy. Only the first names inscribed on the calendar or referring to an historical characters were accepted by the officer of civil status. Outside this context, it could refuse the name that parents wanted to give their child.
    Since 1993 the law has undergone some changes and the fantasy is permitted.

  3. How interesting! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  4. Yeah actually I remember a conversation about this at a Shabbat dinner with one of my brother's rabbis in Israel. Actually, Orthodox Jews (Ashkenazi) think that if you name a baby after someone who is living, it's bad luck. And that it's important to choose a Jewish-sounding name because it's important to be proud of being Jewish.

  5. Neat! Well, I have no Jewish-sounding names in mind, haha. Do you, Ren?


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