The Crazy Rules for Naming Your Baby
Thought as parents you could give your baby any name under the sun? Well, it depends. Photo: Getty Images
Believe it or not, there are rules in place that restrict what names can be given, and it all depends on where you live.
In Alabama, you can name baby anything you want -- last name included. (Some states require baby’s last name be the same as the mother or father, but not Alabama.) Only the English alphabet is allowed. While apostrophes and hyphens are okay, numbers and symbols aren’t.
Chloë and Beyoncé aren’t a problem in Alaska! The state’s computer system handles umlauts, tildes and many other (but not all) foreign characters.
In Arizona, there’s a 141 character limit -- 45 for the first name, 45 for middle, 45 for last and 6 for a suffix. Apostrophes, hyphens, periods and spaces are okay.
You can have apostrophes, hyphens and spaces in a name, but they can’t be consecutive. Also, Baby, Babyboy, Babygirl, Baby Boy, Baby Girl, Infant, Test, Unk and Void are invalid entries in the data entry system.
Derogatory or obscene names are banned in California. Only the 26 characters of the English alphabet are allowed, which rules out umlauts and others. Pictographs such as smiley faces or ideograms such as a “thumbs-up” sign are specifically banned.
Colorado has no limit on the length of a name, but you need to be able to spell it using a standard keyboard, so no graphic symbols or foreign characters.
You may choose any name in CT, so long as it’s “not for fraudulent or nefarious purposes and does not infringe on the rights of another person,” and it uses English characters.
If parents can’t agree on a first name, none can be listed on the birth certificate until both parents sign an agreement or a court selects a name.
Symbols are off-limits in Georgia, and yes, that includes accent marks.
There are no limitations. Even symbols are allowed, but the state’s computer software does require each symbol be accompanied by at least one letter.
In Idaho, only letters are allowed. Special characters such as asterisks are banned.
There are no restrictions on what a parent may name a child. Recent updates to the state’s computer networks even allow for quirky names such as “1Der” or “2-Riffic.” So far, no parent has taken advantage of this with their baby’s first name, but there’s a child whose middle name is “7.”
No rules regarding first names in Indiana! But if mom is unmarried at birth, baby can only be given her mother’s surname, unless there’s an affidavit proving paternity.
Kansas explicitly requires that babies be given a last name and bans the use of symbols. Accent marks are allowed though.
You can’t name your child an obscenity in Louisiana, or use diacritical marks (so, André isn’t allowed). As for the last name, if mom wasn’t married within 300 days of the birth, baby’s surname must match his mother’s name. If mom is married, baby’s surname must be the same as her husband, unless the parents agree to change it.
Only letters found on the standard English keyboard may be used in baby names in Massachusetts. So sorry, no æ, ë or ñ.
Michigan also requires only English letters.
Numbers and all special characters are banned in Minnesota. Apostrophes and hyphens are the only punctuation allowed. Each name -- first, middle and last -- is limited to 50 letters each, for a maximum length of 150 characters.
If mom is married at the time of birth, the baby’s surname is automatically that of her husband. If the parents would like a different surname, the request must be verified and witnessed by a hospital rep.
Montana has no rules on baby names, but its data system doesn’t allow for special symbols. If a parent wants to use a symbol, once they receive the birth certificate, they can write it in and send it back to the vital records office for approval.
No names that imply objectionable or obscene words or abbreviations.
First, middle and last names must be within 100 characters total.
New Jersey bans parents from naming their child an obscenity. Numbers and symbols are also prohibited.
Diacritical marks, special characters, and Baby Boy, Baby Girl, Male and Female are banned names.
First and middle names can’t be more than 30 characters each. Last can’t be more than 40. Numbers and symbols are no-nos.
Accent marks, hyphens and tildes (ñ) may be used in North Carolina.
Name your child anything, but the data system doesn’t allow special characters. And the last name must match a parent’s.
The only punctuation allowed in Ohio is hyphens, apostrophes and spaces. Only letters are allowed, no numbers.
Oklahoma has no name laws, but its system limits names to the English alphabet.
Oregon’s computer system can handle 40 special characters, including â, é, î, õ and ü.
Diacritical marks can’t be used on a birth certificate. But the state allows parents to use Aña or Zoë on other documents.
Want to name your baby K8? In South Carolina you can. Numbers and symbols (think: M!ke) are both allowed.
Spaces, hyphens and apostrophes are the only acceptable punctuation.
Tennessee law is silent on first names, but there are a few complex last name rules.
In Texas, you’ve got to stay under 100 letters total for first, middle and last name. Special characters, numbers and diacritical marks -- like accents, tildes (ñ) or umlauts (ö) -- may not be used. So you may name baby John Smith III, but not John Smith the 3rd -- and no way, José!
Utah says that using marks not found a keyboard “would make applying for and receiving a birth certificate more laborious.”
VT says, “You may use trademarked names (IBM), diseases (Anthrax), and obscenities, but we highly recommend against it.”
The only guideline is on length -- 30 characters for first names; 50 for middle and last.
Only letters from the English alphabet are acceptable. This rules out umlauts and tildes. Numbers and symbols are banned too.
When one Wisconsin mom wanted to name her child a numeral, the state required that the number be spelled out.
The official record cannot reflect foreign characters (sorry Esmé and Björn).
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