How Beautiful Is Your Baby’s Name, According to Science?
Having trouble choosing the perfect name to carry your child through every season of life? Choosing a name for your child is a big deal, and if you need help finding the right one, science might be able to point you in the right direction.
My 1st Years worked with Dr. Bodo Winter, an Associate Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at the University of Birmingham, to do a study on scientific principles that might be able to show how beautiful a name sounds. Although their research only focused on the most popular names in the United States and the United Kingdom, they found that certain principles of linguistics and psychological phenomenons do seem to make certain names sound more appealing to our ears.
The publication and the linguistics expert worked together to rank this year’s most popular baby names in the US and UK according to the linguistic theory of iconicity, or sound symbolism, to find the top 50 boy and girl names that sound the best.
Dr. Winter said, “We started with an interesting study on sound symbolism by Adelman et al. and scored some of the world’s most popular baby names to put them in order.” The names that scored the highest made people feel the best when they heard them, so they are likely to sound the most beautiful to a human ear.
He continued to describe how phonetics influences the naming of a child, saying, “For example, research by Stephanie Shih shows that parents try to avoid choosing first names that would clash with their family names. If your last name starts with an S, like Scott, Smith, Saunders, or Sullivan, it might not be a good idea to have a first name that ends in an S, like Marcus, Charles, or Nicolas, because the two S sounds will blend together.
Dr. Winter talked about another thing that affects how parents choose names. He said, “In another recent paper, Berger and colleagues found that when there are major hurricanes in the US, the next generation of babies are more likely to have names with sounds that are in the name of the hurricane, like Katie after Hurricane Katrina.”
He continued, “This seems surprising at first: nobody would want to name their child after a devastating natural disaster, of course! But when a very dangerous hurricane hits a country and does a lot of damage, the name of the hurricane will be talked about over and over again in the news. This means that we are exposed more to the same sounds, and it is known from psychological research that things that are more familiar to us are generally liked more, a phenomenon known as the ‘mere exposure effect.’ As a result, the speech sounds contained in hurricane names are actually more likely to crop up in names of the next generation.”
So, there you have it. Science can rate how beautiful a name sounds, but there are more things that make a name beautiful than just how it sounds. For example, naming a child after someone you love makes a name beautiful in more ways than just how it sounds. When you give your baby a name that means something to you, it is beautiful. The beauty of a name can come from what it means to people. There are many things that make a name “beautiful,” so don’t let the science of it all stress you out too much. Just pick a name that you think is beautiful.