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The Short Version: Naming a child is no small task for expecting parents. After all, we carry our names with us our entire lives, and sometimes even pass them on to our own children, so it’s important to pick a name that fits. With over 20,000 names from which to choose, BabyNames.com offers a plethora of options, ranging from traditional to trendy and everything in between. Not only is the site a fantastic resource for expecting parents, but it’s simply a fun place to explore and learn exactly “What’s in a name?”
Most kids probably don’t choose to read the phonebook for fun, but not everyone is as fascinated by names as is Jennifer Moss. The Founder and CEO of BabyNames.com said that ever since she was a little girl, she’s loved to learn new names. In fact, her favorite childhood pastime was sitting down with a phonebook to explore the possibilities.
“It’s always been a weird passion of mine. Maybe because my name is Jennifer, which is such a common name — I was fascinated by it,” she said.
As an adult, Jennifer combined her professional skills as a computer programmer with her passion for names, developing the first baby name database on the newly public internet in 1996.
“I put it online, and even without registering the name BabyNames.com, tons of people started coming to the site because it was the first site that had names and meanings,” she said. “I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe this is a thing,’ so I registered the name — and the rest is history.”
Today, BabyNames.com features message boards, user-submitted name lists, parenting advice, an interactive pregnancy tracker, and blog posts. Most recently, Jennifer launched a podcast — the only one of its kind — where she and her sister, Mallory, dish about name trends and celebrity baby news as well as answer listener questions.
When Jennifer first launched BabyNames.com in 1996, she had no idea so many people would be intrigued by it or that the site would one day be a global community. However, the immediate influx of traffic gave her pause to consider the possibilities, so she reached out to her own family for a helping hand.
“That was back before anyone made money with websites,” she said. “I was actually working full time then, but I have three sisters, and at the time, my mom was still alive. I was like, ‘Can you guys help me with this?’ From its inception, it was a family business.”
Launching an advice blog on parenting and childcare was a natural next step for the website, Jennifer said, because her mom, Peggy, was a childhood education expert. Writing under the pseudonym Grandma Maggie, Peggy penned the site’s parenting column for nearly two decades. Although Peggy passed away in 2014, a blog full of Grandma Maggie’s advice, as well as a selection of ebooks she wrote, remain on the site today.
“We take a lot of pride in the site and what we do, and it really has brought us closer,” Jennifer said. “We all live in different places, but we have to deal with each other every day because we have business things to talk about. I’m not sure if we would have been as close as a family if we didn’t have the business. It ties us together.”
Today, the BabyNames.com community is a global family.
“We have members who have been on the site for 20 years who have actually grown up, gotten married, and had kids after joining as teenagers. That’s really cool,” Jennifer said.
“Choosing the right name is important because it’s your child and they have to live with it — and yet it has to be something that reflects your personality as a parent,” Jennifer said.
Today’s parents are increasingly concerned with helping their child stand out with a one-of-a-kind name: a departure from the tendency among earlier generation of parents generations who preferred to seek out popular common names for their children.
“Parents are more likely now to choose a unique name than ever before. They’re trying to stay away from the top-10 list, which is kind of a newer trend. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, parents wanted to conform more, so they chose popular names for their kids to fit in,” Jennifer told us.
“I think a lot of parents get really stressed over it because they feel like this is going to be something they have to live with for the rest of their lives, and that it’s their brand,” she continued. “It’s become really big nowadays to have a personal brand.”
BabyNames.com features over 20,000 names to explore and a variety of discovery options as parents embark on their naming journey.
One fun way to seek name inspiration is to peruse lists such as Shakespeare Names, Names From Harry Potter, or Nature Names. A message board on the site also gives folks a chance to reach out to the community and ask for input and advice as they narrow down their naming choices.
“We really care about our users. We try not to have the advertising get in the way of the experience,” Jennifer said. “If they want to make a name list, they’re welcome to send one in, and we’ll publish it for them. I think that comes with being a family-owned business… it’s more personal.”
Although naming a child is a decision that ultimately relies on parents’ intuition, it certainly helps to receive expert advice during the process. Jennifer calls in the pros, known as onomastics, to provide expecting parents with the best information available about name origins and meanings.
“We have a couple name experts who are actually scholared in onomastics, the study of names. If I can’t find the info on a name, I’ll call up one of the experts and ask them what the background is,” she said.
Calling in the experts can lead to some enlightening surprises. For example, Jennifer said, the name “Kennedy” actually means misshapen head — something, perhaps, to consider before naming a child after the handsome, charismatic American president typically associated with the name.
Additionally, BabyNames.com has released two books. One is a traditional encyclopedia of names, and the other is a more interactive workbook that helps parents get their creative juices flowing.
“You actually write in it, and it helps you narrow down name choices and maybe put down names you wouldn’t have thought of — people who have influenced you, teachers, street names,” Jennifer explained.
The newest feature on the website is a podcast hosted by Jennifer and her sister, Mallory. The sisters discuss baby name trends, the latest celebrity baby names, and answer listener questions about names and naming. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to catch the latest from the Moss sisters.
BabyNames.com offers a wide-ranging selection of advice, search engines, and fun ways to welcome your bundle of joy. Explore the site today to learn more!