Naming a German

Sorry for the long hiatus. We were in the US and just too busy visiting family and friends to post. That, and we forgot a computer (a happy coincidence in any case). But don't fret, we are back today and our regularly scheduled posting!

Almost immediately after Aaron and I first found out that I was pregnant, we started discussing names. I mean, naming a human is kind of a big deal. That name sticks with them for life (well, in most cases it does), so you have to make sure it's the perfect choice. We wanted something classic, but not overused; uncommon enough to make it fairly unique, but nothing that people would have trouble pronouncing or snicker at after an important job interview. I mean, there are definitely some interesting names out there, but how hard is it to take someone serious when they have a name like Abcde (pronounced ab-se-dee), or Xena?


Then one night, we were discussing baby names with some friends of ours (she is American, her husband is German), when they told us that Germany has a list of approved names (called the International Manual of the First Names), that parents may name their child. Wait, what? Hold up. You mean there is a list of names and I can only name my child something from that list? Well, how completely un-American (despite the fact that we live in Germany)! If I want to give my child an outrageous name, I should be able to! But I then realized that this falls in line perfectly with the German's love of order. And even though the baby won't be a German citizen, because that is where he or she will be born, we must follow the rules.

Parents can choose to name their child something not on the list, but they must first fill out an appeal form, pay a fee, and file it with their local registration office. But of course, as with all things German, there are certain rules that must be followed in order to apply for the appeal:

  • The name must indicate the gender of the child. If the first name is more on the gender neutral side, the second name must clearly indicate boy or girl.

  • Foreign names are allowed, but must be a common name in that country. The registration office will even call the embassy to verify!

  • You cannot name the child after a product or a place. No Apple Paris's in Germany!

  • The first name may not be a last name. But this one does have some wiggle room in it.

  • ''Evil'' names are not allowed. No baby Satan's, or Hell's here.

  • Parents may not give their children an excessive number of names. Two is common, but the longest approved is five. However, if the name is hyphenated, it's counts as one (which explains the large number of hyphenated names I have come across).

  • The name may not endanger the well being of the child. While I am not entirely sure what this means, it does leave quite a bit of leeway and is definitely open to interpretation.

Sometimes appeals are approved, sometimes they aren't. It really is a crap shoot, but foreign parents are often given a little bit more leniency on the rules than two German parents. For example, Matti, Lindberg, and Zooey have all been rejected (for various reasons), but Legolas, Nemo, and Winnetou have all been approved (mostly for one gender only). It appears as if the likelihood of a name being approved or rejected strongly relies on how accommodating the local registration office is. We don't have outrageous names (well, outrageous at least for Americans) on our list, but I really hope that whatever name we do choose gets approved!

Oh, and if you happen to have a link to the official name list, could you please share it? I did some googling and couldn't find it. Think your own name would be on the list?