2 Baby Naming Tips for Minimalists

We’ve all heard the word minimalism used to describe things like literature, art, music, fashion, architecture and interior design. But did you know that minimalism is also a lifestyle?

It’s simple living, basically. Modern minimalists aim to simplify their lives by retaining only what is essential/important, then getting rid of the rest.

Why am I talking about minimalism here?

I’ve noticed a few discussions online about “minimalist baby names.” I’ve also noticed that these discussions are often focused on very short first names.

I had three thoughts about this.

First, isn’t applying minimalism to baby-naming a bit…silly? Maybe it’s just me. If you want a short name, why not just say you want a short name? No need to bring minimalism into it.

Second, the “very short first name” interpretation misses the point of minimalism (the lifestyle). Minimalism isn’t about absolute minimums, but about minimizing complexity.

Third, the interpretation is also needlessly restrictive. There aren’t many super-short names out there, but there are plenty of longer names that fit the bill just fine. Why overlook them?

Here’s what I would suggest to expectant minimalists:

Skip the Middle Name

Everyone ought to have a first name and a last name nowadays. Life gets complicated if you’re lacking either one or the other. But a middle name? Very few people need a middle name. Middle names are non-essential.

So, instead of giving your baby a first name and a middle name–or, worse, multiple middle names–just stick to a first name. Anything more isn’t really necessary. [Bonus: This should also simplify the process of naming your baby appreciably.]

Think Utilization, Not Length

Knox, Hugh, Anne, Emma. They’re short names, but they contain superfluous letters. They’re more complex than they need to be. You could spell them Nox, Hu, An and Ema and arrive at the same pronunciations. Not great examples of minimalism.

Now take Alexander, Benjamin, Penelope, Victoria. They’re long names, but they don’t contain silent letters or redundancy. Each letter in these names has a purpose, and the names are just as long as they need to be, no longer. Much better examples of minimalism.


What thoughts do you have on this topic? (Any minimalists out there with an opinion?)

12 thoughts on “2 Baby Naming Tips for Minimalists

  1. Interesting question. I suspect that it isn’t just about short – it is also about names that have a modern, edgy vibe – the iPad of baby names. Or, well, not the iPad anymore since they’ve gone mainstream. Io and Mai are minimalist, but Jane is too obvious …

    I follow your argument – Margaret is more straightforward than Jai. And yet, I think if you’re going to seek a “minimalist” baby name, you’re probably not going to embrace Margaret.

    I’d think of names like Finn, Kai, Cleo, Lux, Rex, Len, Ever, Bay, West, Tate, Bix, Bell … simplified, but not really simple, with a certain nouveau edge, even if they have history. Though I can see some names that are determinedly off-beat fitting some minimalist lifestyles, too – Fern, Maud, Jed …

  2. Very good point about vibe/style.

    I guess it comes down to what one means by minimalist — whether it’s name style or lifestyle.

  3. Interesting. I guess my boys’ names, Adam and John, are minimalist in the name style sense. And they, like my husband, have no middle name. Our last name only has 3 letters so each of them only has 7 letters, in their name. My daughter’s name is more complicated. Her first name is family name, which DH didn’t love, so she also has a middle name and she goes by that. Far from minimalist, I suppose.

  4. Such an interesting topic Nancy! I’ve never quite framed names in terms of minimalism exactly.

    I once knew a boy from germany named ENO. He said that his parents were graphic designers, and it’s the one name that they could come up with that encompassed all three graphic tools: square, diagonal, and circle. If that’s not minimalist, I don’t know what is.

  5. Abbie’s examples are spot on- I think names like Alexander or Victoria have so many associations and nickname possibilities that they become quite complicated. The same goes for nickname-as-names, there’s always going to be the question of whether Ben is actually Benjamin or Nel is Penelope, Eleanor or Helen. I think Zoe or Noa are also good examples; although they have a long histories, their meanings and origins are clear, they stand alone, the pronunciation is intuitive and they are easy to say. Also, unsurprisingly, many Japanese names fit the minimalist principals mentioned here, although they are not necessarily only one syllable. For example, Akiko, Shiori, Yuri, Hikari or Ryo.

  6. @Elisabeth – I love that story.

    Another minimalist connection is Brian Eno, well-known for his minimalist/ambient music.

    @nieke – I think Zoe is a great example of a name that fits well with both ideas of minimalism. It’s stand-alone and contains nothing superfluous — about as simple as it gets — but it’s also short and modern-sounding.

    Also agree with you on the Japanese names.

  7. Great post. I think of interior designer Philippe Starck. I’m not sure whether his design style is considered minimalist, but his children’s names most certainly are. The oldest, a daughter, is named Ara (3 letters). The next, a son, is Oa (down to 2). And then he had a daughter named simply K. According to Wikipedia, he’s since had a daughter named Lago (guess there was nowhere to go but up?), and another child named Justice–which totally throws the whole pattern. But the existence of Justice is unconfirmed (haha)–it could just be some Wikipedia fancy.

  8. Awesome post! I’m totally intrigued by ideas like this. Perhaps some people are missing the mark a bit, as you suggest, but I think examining how various stylistic or lifestyle movements influence the names we select is super interesting.

    I totally agree with Abby on it being a style thing, too. Lux, Nao, and Mim are some of my favorite examples, though even Lux seems a bit indulgent.

    Love Eno, Elisabeth! Yes, so many connections to minimalism!

    @nieke– I just did a post last week on Japanese names, sort of arguing that they match up with the visual aesthetic of some Japanese arts, which to me are all a sort of minimalism, from the music I profiled, to the photographs, to the architecture. The same is true of some Scandinavian styles and names. Again, both are sort of matched more with the *style* of minimalism in interior design, clothing (japanese craft/sewing books are full of great examples), as well as often being straightforward in sound and spelling (well, most.) The Ikea of baby names? That’s also one element of the Zakka movement, no? Which is sort of a love of Scandinavian through Japanese tastes, a good blend of the two, and again … minimalistic in taste and flavor.

    Fantastic post! and I’m so happy to have discovered this blog!

  9. Somewhere around middle school I started calling myself Chuck instead of Charles or Charlie. The school I was attending required us to start every class period by writing our name and date at the top of new sheet of paper. I considered this to be administrative horse shit, so if I have to do it, I can at least use a name with fewer letters, so I started using Chuck, which has two fewer letters than Charles. Figure 180 days times 7 periods times 3 years adds up to a saving 7560 letters. Letters are not going extinct because of me!

  10. i like the idea of no middle name, but wonder if there is a need for them now, since i read an article suggesting that double middle names may become necessary because of population. personally, i cringe at the new faavorite of parents on polling websites offering up double middle names on quite a frequent basis. if i had not caved and conformed basically, lol, my daughter would have just had a first name and i think it would have really eased the stress of ‘finding a middle name’. felt like we were trying to make something fit with a first name we already loved. it was difficult to find a middle name, but some people in the family were aghast at the idea of minimizing a full name to just one first name with a last name. the subject of minimalism in naming is quite interesting.

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