Some parents-to-be know the perfect name when they hear it. Others spend hours scouring books and websites, sounding out first and middle names and gaming out every possible burden each combination could bring. And others are guided by the family tree, naming every firstborn girl Margaret or every firstborn boy Junior.
But sometimes, no matter how carefully or confidently that name was selected, parents look at their bundle of joy and realize it just doesn’t fit.
It happened to Kylie Jenner, who announced on social media last month that she and Travis Scott had changed their child’s name. Born in February, the baby was initially named Wolf. However, Jenner said, “we just didn’t really feel like it was him.” The baby’s new name has not been publicly shared.
The celebrity couple is hardly the first to realize that they chose wrong. The Social Security Administration recorded nearly 30,000 baby name changes in the past five years, according to data shared with The Post, including both spelling corrections and outright reversals. We heard from dozens of Washington Post readers who fell into the latter camp. Their responses, below, have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
We were going to name our daughter Amethyst and call her Amy. On her second day, on March 9, 1980, in Anchorage, the low sun reflecting on the snow outside created a pink glow everywhere, and her lips were like a tiny rosebud. Without any discussion whatsoever, my husband and I turned to each other and said her name must be Rose, and we called all of the relatives and changed it.
— Rita Eagle, 69, Anchorage
We named our baby Mark. But we live in Boston, so people called him “Maaak.” When his uncles started calling him “Maaakie,” I couldn’t take it. When he was two months old, he became David. Of course Rhode Islanders call him “Davit,” but it’s better than “Maaakie.”
— Barbara Fournier, 75, Milton, Mass.
My youngest son was born March 12, 1991, about 1 a.m., a perfectly normal delivery. We had decided on the name Sean if we had a boy, and off I went with baby Sean to our hospital room, and off my husband Bob went to get some sleep and spread the news.
I distinctly remember holding this little person in the morning, looking at his face, and realizing his name was most definitely not Sean. The only way I can describe it is that it felt too “soft” and “vowely” for him. He needed a name that was firm and had hard consonants. He just looked like Kevin. So when my husband arrived later in the day, having told the known world that Sean had been born, I had to inform him that he “doesn’t look like a Sean, he looks like his name is Kevin.”
The aftermath? Bob had a bunch of phone calls to make, family and friends sent “Welcome Sean!” cards, and for years, Bob’s best friend introduced our youngest as “Kevin, not Sean.” When Kevin, now 31, wants to give me a hard time about something, he reminds me that “this wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t switched my name.”
— Mary Ellen Maher Harkins, 66, Pennsylvania
Gregory James to David Benjamin
He was born, and I remember being stunned, looking at my wife and saying, “I don’t think that’s his name,” and she agreed with me. The thing that really surprised us is we didn’t know that the kid got a vote or that they had personalities that quick. It was a really great way to start my parenting, realizing that this was not just a blank extension of my wife and myself. This was a human in his own right.
— Braden Bell, 50, Nashville
She is 33 now. When she was born, my husband vetoed every name I came up with. We ended up naming her Eleanor, after Eleanor Roosevelt, just to piss my in-laws off. When we got home, I switched on the TV and saw Glynnis Johns. Glynnis, that is an interesting name. So we changed it when she was two days old.
— Laura Cary, 67, Denver
Joyce was the first name we picked for our daughter in 1992. A day later, we both looked at each other and said she wasn’t a Joyce, so we changed it to Grace. It has been the perfect name for her.”
— Steve Buchele, 62, Georgetown, Texas
Elizabeth Erin to Erin Elizabeth
My daughter was Elizabeth Erin when we brought her home from the hospital. We tried “Elizabeth” and “Beth” (and still have the Christmas stockings with those names), but after about six months, we decided she just wasn’t an Elizabeth and reversed the names on her birth certificate. She is now Erin, as in Erin Elizabeth. When her daughter was born, she and her husband waited until the last possible minute to announce the new baby’s name to “be sure it fit.” They chose Olivia.
— Susan Kannel, 73, Denver
We named our second daughter Francisca. We called to tell my parents. My mother, who sounded disappointed, asked, “What was your second choice?” We told her Amelia. Mom told us that Amelia was her mother’s sister’s name. We said that was nice and moved on to calling other relatives. When we called my sister in law and told her we named our daughter Francisca, she said, “That’s funny, I had a dream you named the baby Amelia.” So right then the baby’s name was changed to Amelia.
— Melanie McMurtry, 60, Manchaca, Texas
In 1979, we didn’t know if it would be a boy or girl, but we chose the name Joshua if it was a boy. He was born at home, so we had time to make a decision before we filed the birth certificate. For several days, we called him Joshua. One day my husband and I looked at each other and said, “He is not a Joshua.”
We talked and named him after my father, Bryant, and we already had a son who was named after his father and his paternal grandfather. He is a Bryant. He looks like my side of the family and my father. He has mannerisms that are like that of the members of my side. I can’t imagine any other way.
Recently the same thing happened to my daughter and husband. They had two names picked out and tried both of them on their daughter. Neither worked so they chose a third name.
— Joy Grubb, 67, Lake Mary, Fla.
When my middle son was born, I was in the hospital for four days. We had a hard time coming up with a name for him as we had already used our preferred boy name on our first son. The administrators came by every day asking me for his name, and I kept sending them away. On the final day, they let me know if I didn’t provide a name I’d have to go down to the records office myself, and it would be a bigger hassle than if I just did it in the hospital. So, finally, my husband and I agreed on the name Tanner.
My husband left the hospital, and I stared at our new baby boy Tanner. Something wasn’t right. I called my husband who was no more than five minutes out the door. “His name isn’t Tanner,” I said. “It’s not? What is it?” he asked. “It’s Collin,” I said. He paused for a minute. “Okay,” he said finally, “But with two l’s, not one.” “Fine,” I said. And that was how Tanner became Collin. The irony? We named our third son Tanner. It stuck.
— Kimberly Coerr, 52, Falls Church, Va.
When we named our second kid, we couldn’t decide between calling him Samuel or Wendell. Why choose? We named him Samuel Wendell. My husband, Cliff, is actually John Clifford. His parents planned to call him John but, as they tell it, once he was born, they realized he was actually Cliff, so we had family precedent for using the middle name as a backup in case the first didn’t fit.
There was nothing wrong with Sam. We called him Sam until he was six months old, but then we took a trip to our local children’s museum on a busy Saturday morning. At one point, we overheard a parent say, “Sam, don’t do that!” followed by another parent saying, “Look, Sam, there’s another Sam!” We looked at each other and thought, “Oh what have we done?”
Since our 6 month old still didn’t know his name, we started calling him Wendell from that point on. He’s four and a half now and very much Wendell. Though it’s funny, when I think back to those first few months with him, he’s still Sam in my memories.
— Jayme Dyer, 38, Durham, N.C.
We had selected Nicholas for our second child. After an easy labor, my healthy, 10 pound baby was wrapped up and in my arms. I remember my husband looking down at me and saying very sweetly, “He looks like a Riley.” Thirty years later, our 6’6” University of Michigan graduate, married, Viking god of a son Riley is building bridges in Hawaii. He really does live the life of Riley. Would he have had such a charmed life if we had named him Nicholas? I will never know.
— Sara Moran, 57, Dunkirk, Md.
We changed our daughter’s name from Millie to Elodie at four months. We changed it because Millie was the compromise name my husband and I landed on after struggling to come to an agreement on a name. I started experiencing deep name regret when she was two months old. I grew insecure that her name was too much of a nickname and not full and beautiful enough for her. I obsessed over whether we had made the right decision. Cried over it. It affected my daily life and ability to focus on caring for my two other children.
My husband was mortified with the idea of changing her name and having to break the news to everyone, but after seeing how upset I was, he surprised me one day and told me we should change her name to my original favorite name, Elodie, the name he had previously vetoed because he thought the spelling was weird. Now that we’re over the hump of telling friends and family, we are both so relieved and happy we made the change. The name fits her so much better. A lesson to all husbands!
— Elise Daniel, 32, Purcellville, Va.
I spent countless hours thinking about what to name my first child, a daughter, and was still debating the day after she was born. Finally, a decision was made, and she was Ava … for five days. But the name just didn’t feel “right” or fit her, and so I called the hospital and asked if it was too late to change. They said it had to be done by the end of the week. Cue further agonizing, and somehow she ended up Cecily. To this day, 19 years later, I still sometimes stare at her and think “Catherine?” “Madeline?”
— Sydney Axt, Flagstaff, Ariz.
Jennifer changed to Maysa. So many Jennifers at that time in 1988. Not many Maysas.
— George Miller, 63, Annapolis, Md.
My daughter’s original name was Juliette, but it was officially changed to Luna shortly before her first birthday. While Juliette was always my favorite girl’s name, I started getting the feeling it was not her name in the later stages of pregnancy. When she was born, it was clear to me that she wasn’t Juliette. It took me a while to feel brave enough to change it because I felt like I looked crazy and hormonal.
The definitive moment for me was a conversation with my mom. She told me to save the name Luna and use it if I had another daughter, but it was obvious to me that wasn’t an option. Motioning to my daughter I responded, “If I have another daughter I could name them Juliette. I couldn’t name them Luna. That’s her name!”
— Megan Christianson, 30, Broomfield, Colo.
We named our daughter Joan because we imagined that she would be serious and studious, and this name seemed to encapsulate the proverbial bookworm. Both my husband and I are academicians, so a bookworm daughter didn’t seem a stretch. My first hint that the name Joan wasn’t a good fit happened when we were still in the hospital and I read the night nurse’s report about my daughter’s first night in the newborn nursery: “This baby is a lusty eater,” was all she wrote.
At home, I tried soothing her with a pacifier. She took a few tentative sucks and then spit it out, obviously realizing the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. Within the first six weeks, Joan proved not only to be a lusty eater but a very social and cuddly baby who loved long warm baths, in other words, a hedonist in the making.
One night, the credits for Masterpiece Theater were playing and the name of Aubrey rolled across the screen, which happened to be the title of one of our favorite songs from high school. My husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “She’s an Aubrey.” We submitted the paperwork for her name change the next day.
— Nancy Murray, 60, St. Louis
Originally we named our daughter Stella Magnolia. We imagined a rambunctious big personality running around the house with us shouting after her “Stella!” But after she was born, she seemed so sweet and quiet and calm that we changed her name to Genevieve Aurelia. Genevieve is also my paternal grandmother’s name, which made my mother upset. But I have always loved the name.
Stella never made it on to any official paperwork, but I did have a letter from my mom that she sent in her initial excitement addressed to Stella Magnolia. It turned out, though, that baby Genevieve had jaundice those first five days of her life, which made her sleepy and lethargic. By the time that resolved, she was indeed a rambunctious big personality. Now we chase her around the house yelling “Gigi!” And it suits her just fine.
— Jessica Hill, 42, St. Gallen, Switzerland
I met my husband in an ashram, and were both reading the poems of Mirabai, an Indian poet devotee of Krishna. We wanted to call our daughter Mirabai, but my mother’s sister Lily had died of cancer at a young age. We named her Lily Mirabai Aroha Pease. However, she was such a vivacious, creative child that she seemed to illustrate a poetic life. We legally changed her name to Mirabai Lily Aroha Pease when she was 4. She is 25 now and it has been a name that has suited her beautifully. Mirabai is an actress and living like her namesake, in the heart of her art.
— Tanya Meek, 60, Auckland, New Zealand
When my mother was born, my grandmother named her Martha. My grandfather hated the name so much that a week later they changed her name to Barbara. Over 30 years later, when I was born, my parents named me Martha. My grandmother was thrilled. My grandfather was already dead.
— Martha Martin, 63, St. Louis
We had planned to name our baby girl Kira. I’d loved the name since I’d first heard it in my teens. But a couple of days after she was born, I turned to my husband and blurted, “She doesn’t look like a Kira!” He immediately responded, “Oh thank God, I thought it was just me.” So from there we changed to Catherine, which I hadn’t wanted because it’s too close to my own name, but which somehow settled on her and fit, right from the get-go.
Despite my mother thinking it ridiculous, we never chose baby names before the baby was born. We had to see if a name fit the baby. We named our second daughter Erin, but after only 24 hours, we realized, “She just doesn’t feel like Erin.” So we changed her name to Sarah. Now our fourth daughter, born 11 years after the second, is Erin, and we love to tell her about how we almost gave her name to her older sister by mistake.
— Carol Lee Duffin, 53, DeKalb, Ill.
We named our son Xander for about seven hours then decided to change his name to Griffin. Holding him and calling him Xander just felt wrong. Calling him Griffin immediately felt right.
— Rebecca Baines, 45, Trumansburg, N.Y.
We originally named our son Dylan. We had left the hospital with both our daughters as “Baby Girl (Last Name)” on the birth certificate, but for some reason we felt more pressure to name our son. It may be because the registrar kept calling us and telling us the paperwork was being submitted, whereas they had only done one follow up with the girls. Almost as soon as the paperwork was filed, we realized he was not a Dylan.
We ended up changing it to Brennan, unofficially for a few years, since the change required us both to wait at the D.C. Department of Vital Records. It caused some confusion as the passport he got at 9 months old has Dylan as his legal name, which his sisters found hysterical. He is definitely a Brennan, and we don’t regret the change.
It helps that there’s a lot less Brennans out there than there are Dylans. In a strange coincidence, on his first day of kindergarten, the boy who sat next to him happened to have the last name Brennan. They became instant buddies and have been inseparable since.
— Ainsley Stapleton, 44, Arlington, Va.
When my son was born, we were immediately asked for a name and gave Wyatt. The name fit our “recipe” for names and had been under consideration. A few days later, we were home from the hospital and settling in. In the middle of the night, I couldn’t remember the baby’s name. I woke my husband and he reminded me it was Wyatt, but by morning I was convinced, if it was the right name, I’d remember.
We changed his name to Emmett, inspired by my husband’s grandfather, and to this day when photos of the hospital pop up, my older daughter says, “Look! There’s baby Wyatt!” She calls it his “first name.” Emmett is an old soul. The new name truly fit.
— Natalie Gillespie, 54, Pittsburgh