How to Choose a Baby Name to Set Up a Child for Success

NAMES MATTER

As if picking a name for a new baby isn't hard enough -- you first have to like it and agree on it with your partner. And we mean really like it, enough to say it multiple times a day for the rest of your life. Then you may worry about whether it will fit the child. And have you stopped to consider what the name portends for the child's future? Sure, most names have meaning behind them, but some monikers can actually give your child a leg up in the world.

COMMON NAMES

Getting a job, making decent money, climbing the corporate ladder -- these are all markers of success, right? A study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology found that people with common names, such as William, James, and Mary, are more likely to get hired. Why? These names are more likeable than unique names, the research shows. People are comfortable and familiar with common names.

LENGTH OF A NAME

Long names tend to be hard to spell, pronounce, and remember. A short name is easier for others, not to mention the child, to learn. The optimal name length for both genders seems to be six letters. Names such as Amanda and Thomas fill the bill here.

PRONUNCIATION

Names that are easy to pronounce are definitely likeable. As with common names, people feel comfortable with names that roll off the tongue. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people with easy-to-pronounce names tend to rise to higher-level work positions. There are scores of names that are easily spoken, but a few good ones are Jack, Kate, Beth, and Nick.

GENDER NEUTRALITY

Gender-neutral names such as Ryan, Cameron, Riley, and Avery can give females a head start in life. One working paper working paper found that gender-ambiguous names for women are associated with more success in the legal profession than obviously female names. Apparently, the names have a more assertive, good-old-boy ring to them.

FIRST LETTER EFFECT

In a study published by the Economics of Education Review, Czech students with last names that fall at the beginning of the alphabet were more likely to be accepted to competitive secondary schools and universities. Another study, in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that people with last names near the end of the alphabet are more likely to be impulse spenders. The authors posit that being at the end of the line throughout school spurs people to jump on promotional offers. Although this research pertains to surnames, which families don't often choose, perhaps a similar effect holds for first names. How about Adam or Addison versus Xavier or Zoe?
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NOBLE-SOUNDING NAMES

Some cultures believe that the status associated with a name affects how a person is perceived. Noble names, accordingly, have a certain je ne sais quoi. A recent royal baby boom, in the persons of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will certainly boost the status of those names. Tristan and Audrey also rank high as noble names for boys and girls, respectively.

POWERFUL NAMES

Many parents choose baby names based on their meaning. Some popular boy names that mean "power" are Easton, Emery, Thor, Richard, and Roderick. Popular girl names with a similar meaning include Brigitte, Aubrey, Kendra, and Tully.

SUCCESS FOR A NAME

A few boy names that connote success are Brady (the most popular male name in this category), Cameron/Camran, Clark, Felix, and Orlando. On the girls' side, equivalent names include Amelia, Blanche, Bridget, Lara, Lucy, Polly, and Scarlett. In recent years, Scarlett has edged out others in this group.

PROSPEROUS NAMES

Not one of the boy names that mean "prosperous" is ranked within the top 1,000. That said, some male names with this meaning are Ammar, Chang, and Forbes. Ditto on the girls' side -- the 21 female names that mean "prosperous" do not show on up the popularity meter. The ignored monikers include Aldea and Helga.

OLD-FASHIONED NAMES

Sticking with common names often leads parents to old-fashioned names. Think Jacob or Emma, for example. With a name so popular, easy to spell, and easy to pronounce, the child should be primed for success.