The Best Baby Name Books to Help You Name Your Little One

From old-fashioned to unique names, these books are full of inspiration

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Whether you want to name your baby before they’ve arrived or wait until after birth, choosing a baby name is exciting. Many parents and caregivers turn to baby name books for inspiration or ideas for their new addition. From old-fashioned names to new-age, ethereal names (and everything in between), there are plenty of books out there on the market to give you some ideas.

Reviewed & Approved

The "100,000 + BABY NAMES: The Most Complete Baby Name Book" features tons of name ideas, but begins with advice on how to pick a name that both you and your child will love first. For a book about the name-picking process, we recommend "The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby."

When selecting a baby name book, you will want one that is comprehensive enough to provide you with plenty of ideas and that includes the kinds of names you are looking for. We carefully considered material, comprehensiveness, family significance, and special interests when reviewing products.

Here are the best baby name books whether you need an idea or just inspiration.

Best Overall: 100,000 + BABY NAMES: The Most Complete Baby Name Book

baby-name-books

Courtesy of Amazon

Bruce Lansky’s 100,000+ Baby Names earned our top spot thanks to the book's sheer volume of choices. The biggest book on this list by far, Lansky’s guide is the most popular baby name book in North America for a reason. Regularly updated to reflect the latest naming trends, the book begins with advice on how to pick a name that both you and your child will love.

If you’re a baby name nerd, you’ll especially appreciate Lansky’s dedication to presenting trends over time and how they’ve shifted historically, so you can get an idea of how your baby’s name will be perceived years later when they’re going to school or (gulp!) applying for jobs.

There are also sections on names inspired by literary and historical figures; on “the impressions names make,” which allows you to see how your child’s name might be perceived by others; and on naming siblings and twins or triplets. If you’re interested, you can also browse through the sections on celebrities’ birth names or fun facts about naming practices and trends.

Best Method: The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby

The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby

Courtesy of Amazon

Sometimes the problem isn’t what to name your baby, but how to go about it. There are millions of names out there; how can you ever decide on one (and agree on it with your partner, for that matter)? Laura Wattenberg streamlines the process for you in The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby.

A fun read packed with anecdotes and helpful hints, The Baby Name Wizard uses a computer-generated algorithm to guide new parents methodically through names and their cultural origins, meanings, and related names to help you decide if a name is close but not quite right. Wattenberg also includes information on how to approach a name from a community-based, regional, and family perspective, rather than relying only on your personal taste or preferences.

Readers call this book paradigm-shifting and life-saving in terms of picking out the perfect name, especially in the last weeks of pregnancy when the last thing you want to be doing is combing through dictionaries and baby name forums in a panic.

Best Irish Names: A-Z of Irish Names for Children and Their Meanings

A-Z of Irish Baby Names Book

Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re proud of your Irish heritage or just like names with a Celtic ring to them, Diarmaid O Muirithe’s A-Z of Irish Names for Children and their Meanings is a smart choice. The author defines “Irish” broadly and liberally, drawing from saints’ names, Biblical names, anglicized Viking monikers, and old Welsh and Irish traditions to make her selections.

This book is a good choice if you’re a bit of a history buff, as quirky anecdotes from cultural history round out each name description. Muirithe tells a brief story and provides a cultural narrative about each name, rather than merely providing a lexicon to flip through, making for a much more absorbing read than many baby name books on the market.

Best African-American Names: The African-American Baby Name Book: A Treasury of over 10,000 Unique, Traditional, and Creative Names for the New Millennium

The African-American Baby Name Book: A Treasury of over 10,000 Unique, Traditional, and Creative Names for the New Millennium

Amazon

Teresa Norman breaks down the origins, history, and traditions behind over 10,000 names in this guide to African-American baby names, The African-American Baby Name Book: A Treasury of Over 10,000 Unique, Traditional, and Creative Names for the New Millennium.

The book includes alternative spellings for contemporary takes on biblical names, as well as traditional Muslim names and creative reworkings of the classics. Except for the introduction, which delves into the history of various African and African-American naming traditions, Norman’s baby name book is primarily a straightforward tome, providing a truly massive alphabetical listing of names and (briefly) their meanings and origins.

Best Religious Names: The Name Book: Over 10,000 Names--Their Meanings, Origins, and Spiritual Significance

The Name Book: Over 10,000 Names--Their Meanings, Origins, and Spiritual Significance

Courtesy of Amazon

Dorothy Astoria’s The Name Book: Over 10,000 Names—Their Meanings, Origins, and Spiritual Significance is perfect for families who want their baby’s names to have spiritual heft. Astoria gives particular attention to Biblical names, making this book a favorite for Christian parents, but also delves into the possible spiritual meanings of classic and contemporary names outside of Scripture.

Astoria’s comprehensive directory of Christian names will teach you about the linguistic and cultural origins of each name, along with its spiritual connotation (Adalia, for example, means “honorable one” and has a spiritual connotation of "courageous") and an accompanying Scripture verse. The book also includes a section on birthstone and flower-inspired names, hints on how to approach naming your child, and a section on names with a particular cultural heritage.

Best Global Names: Inspired Baby Names from Around the World: 6,000 International Names and the Meaning Behind Them

Inspired Baby Names from Around the World: 6,000 International Names and the Meaning Behind Them

Amazon

Not looking for traditional North American names? Hoping for something a little different, with a special meaning that reflects your family, ancestors, or cultural heritage? Neala Shane’s Inspired Baby Names from Around the World is one of the best books on the market for international names.

Shane’s descriptions of over 6,000 names from around the world are particularly in-depth, delving into what she calls the “poetry” of each name: that is, its cultural backstory and detailed information about its meaning, steeped within mythical traditions, ethnic and national identity, and geographic origins. Each name is also accompanied by alternative spellings and a pronunciation guide. Each name in Shane’s guide also receives its own spiritual affirmation that draws from its deep-rooted meaning.

Best Unique Names: Baby Names: 7000 Unique Baby Names, Meanings and Origins

Baby Names: 7000 Unique Baby Names, Meanings and Origins

Amazon

If you’re looking for your baby to stand out right from the get-go, a unique name is essential. There are no Robs, Stephanies, Adams, or Susans in Laura Weaver’s Baby Names: The Big Book of 7,000 Unique Baby Names. Whether you’d like a long-lost traditional name that doesn’t fall off the tongue so easily nowadays or a contemporary name with a special flair, you’re likely to find something that suits your fancy here.

Weaver’s ultra-popular book is separated into sections based on origin, with collections devoted to African, Anglo-Saxon, Biblical, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Native American, Spanish, mythological, floral, celebrity, and gender-neutral names. Each name is accompanied by its meaning and regional background. From Augusta to Aisly, from Kosiya to Kokayi, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Weaver’s name almanac whether you want your baby to be known as an “elf ruler” (Avery) or “seacoast” (Ora).

Final Verdixt

Check out our best overall pick, 100,000+ Baby Names (view at barnesandnoble.com), for inspiration from tons of categories. There are sections on names inspired by literary and historical figures, and you can even see how your child’s name might be perceived by others. There’s also Neala Shane’s Inspired Baby Names From Around the World (view at Amazon), which is inspired from names around the globe. Each name in Shane’s guide also receives its own spiritual affirmation that draws from its deep-rooted meaning.

What to Look for in a Baby Name Book

Comprehensiveness

If you are unsure where you want to draw your inspiration from, look for a baby name book with as much information as possible and as many names as possible. Of course, then you need some way to narrow things down. Some baby name books include helpful quizzes and guides to help you do just that.

Family Significance

Many people want to choose a name from their family background. This may be a particular ethnicity or cultural group. You may have grown up with a language and culture that you want to choose a name from, or you may wish to pay homage to your ancestral roots. Either way, choose a baby name book that includes many cultural groups or that specializes in the one you are interested in.

Special Interests

Are you a literature buff? Or maybe you love Roman history? If you have a special interest, look for a baby name book that includes more than just the literal meaning of each name. Many parents want to choose names inspired by categories like mythology, historical figures, the Bible, or more. Baby name books that specialize in these categories or include categorical information can help you find the right name for your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which baby names are most popular?

    The top 5 baby names for girls in the US in 2020 were Olivia, Emma, Ava, Charlotte, and Sophia (the U.S. Social Security Administration reports on the top 1,000 names for girls and boys every year). The top 5 baby names for boys in 2020 were Liam, Noah, Oliver, Elijah, and William.

  • How can I choose a baby name that is meaningful?

    Of course you want to choose a name that you like the sound of, but you may also want your baby's name to have some kind of significance. Look to your own family history first. Is there a relative you want to honor by naming your baby after them? You may also choose a name that gives a nod to your cultural background. Names can be meaningful in other ways too. You may name a child after a special place, a historical person, a literary figure, or even a virtue that you wish for your child to exemplify.

  • Should I choose a unique name or a common name?

    You get to decide what you name your baby. It's entirely up to you. Common names may be easier for others to spell and pronounce, but your child may not appreciate sharing their name with lots of classmates. Rare names can be beautiful and unique, but also inconvenience your child by requiring them to correct others' pronunciation of their name and spell it out letter by letter in the Starbucks line.

    Choose a name that you love and that has meaning for you. Just make sure you take your child's experience into consideration. After all, they are the one who will be living with the name.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Katrina Cossey has been a digital content producer and news and feature writer for more than six years. She has covered topics local and national news as well as writing and researching parenting topics. Katrina is a parent herself and found baby name books to be extremely helpful when picking out a name for her child.

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  1. U.S. Social Security Administration. Top 10 baby names of 2020.