These Illegal Baby Names That Have Been Banned Around the World
In the United States, almost anything goes when it come to baby names. While parents have to deal with the joy and drama of choosing a baby name, taking into account the most popular baby names along with whether or not the rest of the family will hate it, very few names are actually forbidden. Naming laws are actually set by the state, and some states have more requirements than others. There are some commonalities: In most states, you can’t put a numeral in your name, for example, and there are often character limits to how long you can make a name. (In Minnesota, you’re limited to “only” 150 characters.) But if you want to name your kid something that’ll get them teased for the rest of their life, it’s your American right.
In other countries, though, that isn’t always the case, and there are much stricter naming laws. Some require parents to choose from a pre-approved list of names, or petition the government to add a name to the list. Others have laws protecting kids from the ridicule that would result from parents who choose terrible names for them. Here are more than 50 “illegal” names that have been banned or almost-banned — see if you think the governing bodies were right to strike them down, or if you think they were overstepping.
According to the Telegraph, a judge in France ruled that this name was not allowed — not because of copyright laws, but because it would “make her the target of derision.” The baby was renamed Ella.
Also in France, a court ruled that a baby girl could not be named Fraise, which means “strawberry.” (Strawberries go well with Nutella – is this a conspiracy?) They said it could be construed as the slang word for a**. The parents went with Fraisine instead.
Uh, that one was taken already. Another set of French parents tried to pass Prince William off as a first name, but were rejected because it would “lead to a childhood of mockery,” The Local reports. The parents’ second choice — Minnie Cooper — was also rejected on the same grounds
Parents in Sweden, which has strict naming laws, submitted this baby name in 1991 to protest a fine they received for failing to register a baby name by the child’s fifth birthday. Supposedly, it was to be pronounced “Albin.”
Metallica, Lego and Elvis
Also in Sweden, parents had to go to court for the rights to use the names Metallica, Lego and Elvis. They all won!
Other Swedish parents were not so lucky. The ones who wanted to name their baby IKEA found out Sweden won’t let you name your baby after the company — and that ruling stands.
The name that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West chose for their second child may fly in the U.S., but, in New Zealand, where you can’t give your kids names that resemble official titles, disappointed parents had this name rejected by the government in 2019.
Also in new Zealand, this roman-numeral name didn’t fly. “There’s no problem if you want to give your child a spelled-out number or even silly name, but remember your child has to live with it!” says Jeff Montgomery, Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
Prince, King and Royal
But, by far, the most disappointed parents in New Zealand are the ones who tried to give their children regal-sounding names: Prince, King, and Royal were the most commonly rejected names in 2018.
New Zealand’s restrictions on putting punctuation in names didn’t prevent one set of parents from trying to name their child a single period, which they would have pronounced “full stop.”
Parents in Japan wanted to name their child Akuma, which means “Devil,” and the case received so much attention that a member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet issued a statement guiding parents against the name.
Also in Japan, a couple tried to using the kanji for “water” and “child” together for their child’s name. A government employee pointed out that previous generations used this combination (chishi/mizuko) to mean “a baby that has died in the womb either through abortion or miscarriage,” Japan Today reports. The parents changed the name voluntarily.
Robocop, Scrotum and Facebook
Officials in Sonora, Mexico released a list of names that were rejected by the government because they could lead to bullying, and these three were on it. (But who would have the guts to bully Robocop?)
What was once the most popular name in the United States is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. In that country, certain names are “banned because they were not in line with ‘social traditions,” The Washington Post reports. Maya, Emir, Yara, and Laureen were also on the list.
Portugal also has rigid regulations about what it allows in names — and one of those rules is that you can’t use nicknames or alternate spellings. If you want to call your kid Tom, you have to name him Tomás.
Portugal also forbids non-Portuguese names, and it has an 82-page list of names that have been banned. Thor, Nirvana and Paris are included on the list.
In 2006, Malaysia tightened restrictions on what names would be allowed in that country, and Hokkien Chinese Ah Chwar, which means “Snake,” made the list. So did 007, Chow Tow (“Smelly Head”) and Sor Chai (“Insane”).
Apple and Violet
Also in Malaysia, in addition to animal names, they frown upon other natural names, like names that come from fruits or flowers — something that’s actually a huge trend in the United States. (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Garner would’ve had to think up some new monikers for their kids if they lived there.)
Iceland’s Naming Committee requires names to be spelled and conjugated in Icelandic, so when a girl named Harriet Cardew (whose father was from the U.K.) applied for a passport, she was told she couldn’t get one because her name didn’t work with the language. She’s officially registered as Stúlka Cardew (“Girl” Cardew).
You know what letter isn’t in the Icelandic alphabet? “C.” So any C-names are a nonstarter in that country. Jón Gnarr, the former mayor of Reykjavík, called it an “unfair, stupid law against creativity” when he wanted to name his daughter Camilla.
Who doesn’t love Friday? Italians, in fact. When parents in the country named their son Venerdi, the Italian word for “Friday,” the courts ruled that it fell into the “ridiculous or shameful” category of names and ordered it changed. According to NBC news, “they ordered the boy to be named Gregorio after the saint on whose day he was born.”
Molli and Monkey
In Denmark, parents get a choice from a list of about 7,000 pre-approved names, or else they have to request permission. Molli was initially rejected because of its unusual spelling, Monkey because I was an animal and not a name. The country also rejected Anus, for obvious reasons.
Islam, Quran and Mecca
Officials in Western China cracked down on Muslim names in a move that was widely criticized as a restriction on religious freedom.
According to Mental Floss, this name was also rejected in China because symbols are not allowed in names. The parents initially chose it because “@ in Chinese is pronounced ‘ai-ta’ which is very similar to a phrase that means ‘love him,’” Mental Floss notes.
Mercedes and Chanel
Brand names are also not allowed in Switzerland, so no matter how luxurious you find a name, if it’s already a car or a handbag, you have to find something else.
Switzerland also puts a stop to religious names that cause kids “undue harm,” which is why Judas gets rejected.
Similarly, parents in Germany tried this one, arguing that the word was Latin for “light-bringing,” but the Association for the German Language called it in appropriate.
Germany also rejects last names as first names, especially if they’re as popular as Schmitz. That runs counter to the trend in the United States, where names that were once traditionally only last names (Cooper, Jackson) are popular.
Peppermint and Stone
Germany vetoes names on a few other grounds, too. Pfefferminze (“Peppermint”) was rejected because it might cause ridicule, and Stone because “a child cannot identify with it, because it is an object and not a first name.”
The current trend in baby names here is to have fewer and fewer letters, but how short is too short? In Switzerland, one letter is not enough. When parents tried to honor two grandparents, Johanna and Josef, with the name J, a Swiss court suggested Jo instead.
Parents in Spain were so riled up when the name they picked for their son, Lobo, meaning “Wolf,” was considered offensive that they started an online petition in their defense. After receiving more than 25,000 signatures, the Spanish officials relented.
A mother in Norway was told she was not allowed to name her son Gesher, which means “Bridge” in Hebrew. She felt so strongly about the name that, when she was given the option of changing the name, paying a $210 fine, or going to jail for two days, she chose jail. The mother was set on the name, she said, because it came to her in a dream.
Here, we barely notice the difference between Sarah and Sara, but in Morocco, one letter makes all the difference. ”Sarah” is banned because the spelling is too Hebrew — parents would have to opt for “Sara,” the more Arabic version.
A mother in Wales thought Cyanide would be a good choice for a name because it had a positive aura around it, since Cyanide was the poison that killed Hitler. The courts disagreed. In a very unusual ruling, the judge decided that the baby girl — and her twin brother, who was given the less-poisonous name Preacher — would get to be re-named by the twins’ older half-siblings.
When you think of the name Duke, people like Duke Ellington or Winston Duke may come to mind, but in Australia, that name is a no-no. It sounds too much like a title.
Diamond and Jinx
Hungary also maintains a list of approved names, and each month receives request for between 30 and 40 new names, of which 10 to 15 are accepted. The Hungarian word for “Diamond” (“Gyémi”) and Jinx were requested, but didn’t make the cut. Names that were accepted in recent years include Lotta, Bentli and Zev.
In the late ’90s, parents in Quebec were asked to change their baby’s name because it was too similar to Ivory soap. The parents appealed, and they won.
Guess where this name is banned? Technically, California! California does not allow accent or diacritical marks on its vital records. José would officially be Jose. Legislation has been introduced to change this law.
As previously mentioned, most states in the U.S. don’t allow numerals in names. When a North Dakota man wanted to legally change his name to 1069, “The North Dakota Supreme Court (1976) and Minnesota Supreme Court (1979) both say: Names can’t be numbers,” Slate reports.