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I live in Germany where there are laws around how to name your child. Kids can't be named after titles, places, or brands.

Naomi Kaye Honova   

I live in Germany where there are laws around how to name your child. Kids can't be named after titles, places, or brands.
  • I'm American and have lived in Germany for over a decade.
  • I gave birth to my three children here and had to name them under German laws.

Most Americans don't think twice before picking out a baby name. While the US does have certain naming laws in place, they are quite minimal in nature.

A few states ban the use of obscenities as a first name, and some restrict the use of diacritical marks or ultra-lengthy names, but for the most part, you can name your child whatever you please in the United States. As a result, kids in the US can legally end up with monikers ranging from Frank Zappa's children Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's children North, Saint, Chicago, and Psalm.

But that's different in many European countries, including Germany, where our family lives. Naming laws in Germany are much stricter than in the US, so when we were thinking about names for our children, we had to keep certain things in mind.

Gender can play a role in having a name approved

Until 2008, if German families wanted to use a gender-neutral name for a child's first name, then a middle name that was considered male or female would have to be added on as a second name. Right now, a few gender-neutral names have become more common but nowhere near as popular as in the United States.

Among my kids' classmates and friends, I can't name a single child born in recent years whose name falls into this category. For example, the wildly popular name Luca is a top 10 name for boys in Germany right now, and I know dozens of little Luca's. While theoretically, "Luca" is allowed to be used for girls as well, I have yet to meet a single female Luca.

One of my kids technically has a gender-neutral name, but admittedly, it wasn't an issue when we named him in Germany. That might be because the name is still predominantly used by males, similar to the "Luca" situation. It's also possible that since it is a very unknown name in Germany, the naming authorities didn't even consider this possibility.

No brand names, titles, last names, or place names

American kids sometimes sport unusual names like Beyoncé's son Sir, or you can sometimes meet young children with luxury brands or car names like Prada, Chanel, Bentley, or even Porsche.

None of this would be possible in Germany, where it is illegal to use a proper title or a well-known brand name for your child. Well-known city or country monikers like London or Ireland are also not permitted for German babies.

Sometimes, my German friends are surprised to hear of Americans being given names like Brooklyn or Memphis, as Germans definitely don't name their kids things like Berlin, Oslo, or Dublin due to the national naming laws.

Another interesting fact is that common German last names, like Schroeder or Fischer, can't be given as first names in Germany. This may come as a surprise to many Americans, where the "surname as first name" trend is big these days: Parker, Sawyer, and Carter, for instance.

Kids can't be given names deemed to be cruel in Germany

Americans might be familiar with some admittedly rather shocking cases of names that children have received in the US, such as the neo-Nazi couple who named a child Adolf Hitler and were upset that a bakery refused to write his name on the cake.

Such situations simply wouldn't occur in Germany, as a name like that would be rejected. The reason for these names being rejected is due to child protection grounds, as they are seen by German law as acts of child cruelty.

Other names that have been rejected in Germany for being perceived as too cruel to give a child include Satan, Pepsi-Carola, Schokominza (which means "chocolate mint"), Superman, and Lenin.

Fortunately, this particular law was never an issue for us — we certainly never intended to give our children names like Stalin or Captain Marvel.




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