- Many countries have unique naming customs that parents must follow when they are naming a child.
- Some countries outlaw symbols and numbers, while others outlaw specific names for their meaning.
- From “Monkey” to “4Real,” INSIDER found 20 banned names around the world.
Many countries grant parents the freedom to give their kids whatever name they want, but some have pretty rigid restrictions. In fact, there are some names that are considered illegal throughout certain parts of the world and others that are just cautioned against.Names can be forbidden for a number of reasons. For instance, if they’re offensive, difficult to remember, or downright embarrassing, it makes sense why a country would implement the regulation.INSIDER found out some of the blacklisted names around the world.
In New Zealand, “Queen,” “Duke,” “Justice,” and other rank names like “Princess” are off limits.
Under New Zealand’s Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act section 18, you cannot register a baby name if it’s an official title or rank, like “Queen” or “Duke.” You also can’t register a baby under an offensive or unreasonably long (more than 100 characters) name.
In 2013, New Zealand’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages shared a list of names they have banned in the past and how many times each was rejected – “4real” was one of them.
In the US state of California, “José” needs to be spelled “Jose” with no accent.
In the US, naming laws vary state by state. In the state of California, for example, names cannot include any diacritical marks to distinguish its pronunciation, such as è, ñ, ē, ç. You also cannot use pictographs, emojis, or ideograms.
Many parents find this law to be restrictive, even unconstitutional, and there have been efforts to update it in recent years.
In Iceland, the name Cleopatra wasn’t allowed because the letter “c” isn’t in the Icelandic alphabet.
The country’s naming restrictions are governed by a committee who has to approve any new baby name that hasn’t ever been used previously.
To make matters even more complicated (or simple, depending on how you look at it) all names must adhere to the Icelandic alphabet. For example, because there is no letter “c” in the alphabet, one couple who attempted to name their child Cleopatra was rejected. (By the way, residents refer to it as “Ísland,” in case you were wondering.)
Overall, parents must choose from a list of roughly 1,800 girls’ names and 1,700 boys’ names, according to the BBC.
In Germany, you cannot name your baby “Lord” or “Lucifer.”
German parents are generally unrestricted in their name choice. But, similar to Iceland, all German baby names need to be approved by the courts before they can be considered official. And it turns out there are quite a few restrictions: The Instructions forRegistrars adopted by the Ministry of the Interior state that male children may only have male names and female children only female names.
This isn’t the only restriction, however. The name “Lord,” for example, was deemed unacceptable as its reserved for nobility or as a name for God.
And in 2017, the name “Lucifer” was rejected by the registrar for being problematic.
China banned Islamic names and discourages names with symbols or Latin letters.
In 2017, the Chinese government banned parents from naming their children Islamic names such as “Mohammed,” “Mujahid,” and “Arafat” in an effort to, according to officials, “curb religious fervor.” The ban was criticised by both activists and Human Rights Watch, according to the New York Times, for unfairly targeting Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority group in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has also made headlines for attempting to prohibit names that don’t use traditional Chinese characters, such as one man named “C” as well as a set of parents who tried to name their son “@.” Part of the issue is due to new identity cards in China that are meant to be read by computers that do not understand more obscure characters.
In parts of Mexico, you cannot name your kid “Facebook.”
According to CBS News, in 2014 officials from the Mexican state Sonora published a list of banned baby names that included “Circumcision,” “Facebook,” and “Juan Panties.”
The goal of the law is to prevent children from being bullied and it prohibits parents from giving their kids names that are devoid of meaning.
Israel doesn’t allow anyone to name their child “God.”
Back in 2005, several rabbis issued naming guidelines for new parents. They cautioned parents against naming a child “Ariel” and “Katif,” which have negative connotations.
Some names, however, are not just cautioned against but actually banned. Israel’s Interior Ministry has barred the names “God,” “Hitler,” and “Bin Laden” from being registered in its population files, said Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Census Bureau, according to USA Today.
Otherwise, the country has pretty lax name laws, hence one couple naming their infant “Like” (yes, after the Facebook button) back in 2011, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Spain might not let you name your baby “Judas.”
In 2007, a Colombian couple living Spain ran into trouble when they tried to give their baby the name “Beliza” because officials said the “z” made the name genderless. The basis for the decision was Article 54 of the Civil Registry’s 20/2011 Law which states a person cannot name a child a name that offends their dignity or leads to identity confusion.
In addition to this restriction, like a few other countries, Spain has an explicit ban on naming a child a religious figure – particularly one that’s viewed in a negative light, like “Judas.” However, the country seems to be less strict over the years. For instance, in 2016 a Spanish couple fought to name their child “Lobo,” which translates to “wolf,” and won.
“Russell” is one of many names that Norway refused, as of 1990.
Norway has maintained strict naming laws for its citizens for the past few centuries in order to simplify the naming process and preserve Nordic culture, according to the Los Angeles Times. Like several other countries on this roundup, Norway has a pre-approved list of names parents can choose for their child. Some names, like Scott and Russell, are also banned as first names because they are already registered as surnames.
In 1995, one woman spent two days in jail for attempting to name her child “Gesher,” which was not on the pre-approved name list.
“Akuma” was refused in Japan.
Japan has a certain set of characters known as kanji that are traditionally used in names and regulated so that names can be read and written as well as considered appropriate.
In 1994, the LA Times reported on a couple that tried to name their child “Akumu” which translates to “Devil” in English. The case went so far as to reach the attention of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa’s Cabinet and was refused.
You probably won’t meet anyone named “Monkey” in Denmark.
The country’s approved baby names list has about 7,000 names, and if your name choice doesn’t make the cut, you have to seek permission and have your name choice reviewed at Copenhagen University’s Names Investigation Department and at the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs.
Sweden says you can’t name your baby “”Brfxxccxxmnpcccclll mmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116.”
In Sweden, parents must submit the proposed name of their child within three months of birth to the Swedish Tax Agency and could face fines for failing to register a name.
The name must not offend or cause discomfort when used, according to a 1982 law.
“Stephen” isn’t currently a name in Hungary.
You won’t find this name anywhere on the country’s acceptable baby names list. However,Stefán (aka the Hungarian spelling) is totally allowed.
If a parent wants to name their child a name that’s not on the list, they must apply for consideration by the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. As long as the name isn’t offensive, chances are it will be accepted and the list will be expanded. The Institute does add, however, that it’s important “that you can clearly decide whether the name you are requesting is a female or a male name.”
In Portugal, you cannot be named “Phillip,” but “Filipe” works just fine.
According to the Portuguese Institute of Registries and Notaries, the proper first name of a child must be Portuguese. This means anglicized names are accepted only if they can be adapted into a Portuguese format.
The only time foreign names like the ones we mentioned are allowed is if they belong to foreign-born persons.
In fact, if in doubt, parents can consult an 80-page long list of approved and rejected names at the Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado. The list includes 2,600 rejected names.
In France, you cannot name your child “Nutella.”
Although the country no longer keeps a list of forbidden names like they did before 1993, local birth certificate registrars still must inform their local court if they believe a name does harm to the baby, according to HuffPost. The name “Nutella” was deemed “contrary to the child’s interests.”
“J” didn’t make the cut for acceptable names in Switzerland.
There have been many instances where people in Switzerland were banned from naming their children certain things. In one case over 10 years ago, Swiss musician Christine Lauterburg was told she couldn’t call her daughter Lexikon because it was an object, not a name.
However, nowadays local registries have become less strict and tend to abide by the rule that parents are free to name their child whatever they’d like “as long as it is not likely to damage the interests of the child.”
As recently as 2017, however, a Switzerland court ruled that the name “J” was not acceptable saying, “the choice of a single letter as a forename seems nothing more than a gimmick on the part of the parents,” reported Swiss Info.
Australia doesn’t permit anyone to use the name “Bishop” or “Saint.”
Similar to their New Zeland neighbours, parts of Australia take issue with names that are suggestive of rank and status, like “Bishop” or “Saint.”
Names that are obscene or offensive, can’t be established by repute or usage, or are contrary to the public interest are also considered unacceptable.
Most names, however, can be registered with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
“Woti” Is not an appropriate name in Malaysia because it translates to “sex.”
If a name seems questionable Malaysia’s National Registration Department will be asked to determine whether it is appropriate for the baby.
According to the BBC, Malaysia has a list of pre-determined banned names including names like “Sor Chai,” which means “insane” in English, or “Woti” which means “sex.”
“Cyanide” isn’t a proper name in Wales.
A Welsh woman reportedly tried to name her daughter after the poison, describing it as “pretty.” The courts denied her request stating it might harm the child, according to BBC.
Otherwise, naming laws in Welsh are relatively lenient. Responding to a 2008 post asking about naming laws, the General Register Office stated there is no guidance on what a parent can name their child. They advised, however, that a name not be offensive and be a sequence of letters.
Italy isn’t cool with people naming an infant “Friday.”
It may be your favourite day of the week, but the name was not approved by an Italian court in 2007, according to USA Today. Although the country has no list of approved or banned names, “ridiculous or shameful” names have the possibility of being barred.
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