5 Unbelievable Baby Naming Traditions From Around the Globe

Across the globe, naming a child transcends mere tradition, embodying deep cultural and societal roots. From India’s astrological selections like Aarav and Ananya to Iceland’s regulated names such as Björk and Finnur, baby naming customs reveal the diversity of global cultures. This listicle spotlights five of the most unbelievable baby naming traditions worldwide, showcasing practices that intertwine identity with cultural heritage. Through this exploration, we’ll see how names reflect community values and histories, providing a window into the ways different societies welcome their newest members.


India: Astrological Influence

  • Astrological Charts: In India, an individual’s destiny is believed to be intertwined with celestial forces. Astrologers use the ‘janam kundali’, a chart of the planets and stars at the time of birth, to determine the initial letter of the baby’s name.
  • Cosmic Significance: The chosen name often reflects the qualities of the ruling planet at the time of birth. For example, ‘Chandra‘ for a calm and serene influence under the moon, or ‘Veera‘ for courage under Mars’s fiery presence.
  • Popular Names: Names like ‘Aarav’ (meaning peaceful), ‘Ved‘ (sacred knowledge), and ‘Aditi‘ (freedom, limitless potential) are popular, embodying the spiritual and cultural values of Indian society.
  • Namkaran Ceremony: The naming ceremony, known as ‘Namkaran’, is held on the eleventh day after birth, marking the official naming in a festive gathering of family and friends.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Values: The naming process is a deeply spiritual act, with the belief that the name’s vibration can influence the child’s personality and life path, reflecting the ancestral wisdom and celestial observance that are pillars of Indian cultural identity.


Iceland: The Naming Committee

In Iceland, the act of naming a baby is a matter of national interest, governed by the unique institution known as the Naming Committee or ‘Mannanafnanefnd’. Established to preserve the Icelandic language and culture, this committee oversees the approval of first names that align with linguistic and historical norms.

  • Naming Laws: Icelandic naming laws ensure that names fit grammatically and phonetically into the language, maintaining cultural integrity. Names must conform to Icelandic orthography and gender associations.
  • Committee’s Role: The Naming Committee reviews name submissions for compatibility with Icelandic traditions, including whether they can be declined according to Icelandic grammar, ensuring linguistic consistency.
  • Approved Names: Names like ‘Ólafur’, ‘Einar‘, and ‘Guðrún’ are examples of traditional Icelandic names that have passed the committee’s scrutiny, blending seamlessly into the country’s linguistic heritage.
  • Rejections and Controversies: Not all proposed names make the cut. Those like ‘Harriet‘ and ‘Duncan‘ have been rejected because they don’t conform to Icelandic naming rules, sparking debates about cultural preservation versus individual choice.
  • Cultural Significance: This rigorous naming process highlights Iceland’s commitment to protecting its linguistic heritage and ensuring that the namesakes of its citizens reflect the nation’s history and values.

Through the meticulous work of the Naming Committee, Iceland not only preserves its language and customs but also instills a sense of shared identity and continuity among its people, making the naming tradition a pivotal part of its cultural legacy.


Native American: Earned Names

In many Native American cultures, the tradition of naming is a dynamic and deeply personal journey, with names often earned based on life experiences, actions, or characteristics. This fluid naming system reflects the individual’s life path and personal growth, illustrating a profound connection between identity and community.

  • Dynamic Naming: Unlike the static naming conventions in many other cultures, Native American names can change throughout a person’s life, symbolizing different achievements, experiences, or qualities.
  • Ceremonial Significance: Names are often given during special ceremonies, reflecting significant life events or accomplishments. These ceremonies are vital community events, marking important stages in an individual’s life.
  • Examples of Earned Names: Historical figures like Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake), which translates to “Bull Who Sits Down,” and Crazy Horse (Tashunka Witko), meaning “His Horse is Spirited,” are examples of names that illustrate personal attributes or deeds.
  • Spiritual Connection: Many names are derived from nature or animals, signifying a spiritual connection or desired characteristic, such as ‘Running Wolf’ or ‘Soaring Eagle.’
  • Community and Identity: The naming process is deeply embedded in the social fabric, with elders and community leaders often playing a key role in the naming, ensuring the names align with cultural values and community history.

This naming tradition underscores the dynamic and interconnected nature of individual and community identity within Native American cultures, with names serving as a living record of personal and collective heritage.


Jewish Tradition: Naming After Ancestors

In Jewish culture, naming a baby after deceased relatives is a revered tradition that honors the memory of loved ones and connects the newborn to their family’s past. This practice, deeply rooted in respect and remembrance, serves as a bridge between generations.

  • Heritage and Memory: The custom of naming children after deceased family members, particularly grandparents, is a way to perpetuate the legacy and keep the memory of the deceased alive.
  • Cultural Significance: It’s a common practice in Ashkenazi Jewish communities to name babies after relatives who have passed away, while Sephardic Jews often name children after living relatives, celebrating lineage and heritage in both cases.
  • Examples of Names: Names like ‘Sarah‘ or ‘David‘ might be chosen to honor late family members, thereby maintaining a familial connection and continuity.
  • Variations in Practice: Some families may choose a name with the same initial letter as the deceased relative’s name, rather than the exact name, especially if the original name is old-fashioned or culturally mismatched.
  • Spiritual Connection: The naming ceremony, often conducted during a synagogue service on the first Sabbath after the birth, is a moment of communal recognition and integration of the child into the wider Jewish community.

This tradition illustrates the Jewish community’s deep-seated value of family, memory, and the continuity of heritage, with each name carrying stories and legacies from the past into the future.


Hawaii: ‘Inoa’ and the Spiritual Connection

In Hawaiian culture, the naming of a child, known as ‘inoa’, is a sacred act with profound spiritual and cultural significance. The process is deeply entwined with the family’s ancestral and spiritual connections, often involving signs from nature or dreams.

  • Spiritual and Ancestral Guidance: Hawaiian names, or ‘inoa’, are often received through spiritual dreams (‘moʻoʻōlelo’) or signs in nature, believed to be messages from ancestors or the divine.
  • Naming Ceremonies: The ‘inoa’ is traditionally bestowed in a naming ceremony that connects the child to their ancestral past and the surrounding natural world.
  • Examples of ‘Inoa’: Names like ‘Kai’ (sea), ‘Lani’ (heaven), and ‘Koa’ (warrior) reflect the child’s connection to the elements of nature and cultural heritage.
  • Cultural Legacy: These names are more than identifiers; they carry personal and collective histories, embodying the traits or destinies that parents or community elders foresee in the child.
  • Preservation of Heritage: Through the ‘inoa’, Hawaiians preserve their language and cultural identity, linking each generation to the land, the ancestors, and the broader cosmos.

The ‘inoa’ encapsulates the essence of the Hawaiian worldview, where naming is a crucial rite of passage, embedding each individual within the continuum of family, community, and the natural world, ensuring that the cultural and spiritual heritage is carried forward with each new generation.


Our global journey through baby naming traditions underscores the profound cultural significance these customs hold. From India’s astrological influences to Hawaii’s spiritual connections, each tradition reflects a society’s values and history. These practices do more than assign a name; they forge a bond between individuals, their heritage, and community, ensuring that cultural legacies endure. This exploration into the world’s diverse naming customs reveals the depth of meaning and identity that names carry, highlighting the intricate ways cultures celebrate the arrival of new life.