Illegal Baby Names


Sasha Soffer, Writer

Most people plan out what their baby’s name is going to be months in advance, but throughout this tedious process, do people ever think about what baby names they are unable to use?

It’s worth looking into because parents actually might pick a name that will get them arrested! Wait, some names are illegal? Yes, baby names can be illegal.

In some states, the government limits the number of characters that can be used or rejects names with obscenities. Other states don’t allow symbols, combinations of letters, numerals, or names that are illegible.

According to, baby names such as King, Queen, Jesus Christ, III, Santa Claus, Majesty, and Adolf Hitler are all illegal in the US and around the world. Laws vary depending on where you live.

Since the 1950s and 1960s, traditional names have become less common. Pat Riczu of Milltown, NJ, a mother of four and now a great-grandmother, is perplexed by children’s names today.  “You just don’t hear many children named Michael, John, Mary, or Patricia these days,” says Riczu.

Back in her day, children were named after saints or given traditional names that were passed on within families. When Riczu was in school, there would always be at least four or five students named Mary or Susan. She was a preschool teacher in the early 2000s and said, “I was shocked when I saw my class roster. I thought I was looking at a list of places or things rather than children’s names.” She recalls having students named Montana, Wyoming, Star, and even Heaven.

In contrast to the late 1900s, naming children after places and things has become increasingly popular, along with changing the traditional spelling of names. Brielle Opsis, age 33, was named after a small town near where she grew up in central New Jersey. Now living near Charlotte, North Carolina, she contemplated naming her daughter after that southern city. In the end, she opted to use a more current name with a slight variation in the spelling: Madisyn. Her older daughter is Paitynn, another name with emerging popularity, but again with a twist on the usual spelling. “I always knew I wanted to use this name if I had a girl, so I didn’t consider any other names when I was pregnant with her. I spent just a few hours trying to come up with a unique way to spell it so that she would be different,” said Opsis.

Being different isn’t always a good thing. For example, Opsis explains, “Since I chose unique spelling for both girls’ names, I was concerned about people misspelling their names or not pronouncing them correctly, but I realized people do that no matter what, so I decided to stick with what I wanted.” Opsis has no regrets naming her daughter Paitynn, but now they call her “P” for short. Opsis worries that kids might make childish bathroom jokes about Paitynn when she goes to school. They are trying to be more careful with what they call her so that she won’t refer to herself in that way.

Another trend in baby naming is picking distinctive names that have personal importance to the parents. Scott Soffer, age 35, from Long Beach, NY, had much to say about why he and his girlfriend chose to name their 8-month-old son River Waylon Nofi-Soffer. They wanted the first and middle names to start with an R and W to honor family members. They felt River was a good name to represent their connection and love for the outdoors. It symbolizes nature and the idea that something is constantly moving, shifting, and not stagnant. The name Waylon means “land beside the road” and represents their adventurous spirit. Their name choice was also inspired by Waylon Jennings, a country-rock singer whose music they admire. Soffer states, “We had a few choices but these seemed to fit well together. The meaning behind the names was an important part of why they were considered.”

The recent trend of using unusual and sometimes shocking names seems to be correlated with an uptick in society’s focus on self-expression and new ways to convey individuality. If this continues, and name choices become even more outrageous in the future, at least we know there are laws in place to protect children from being given embarrassing or obscene names. Although no law will ever stop the kids on the playground from coming up with silly or hurtful nicknames for kids, maybe the laws will deter parents from doing so.