There are so many things to consider when choosing a name for your baby. You might be interested in giving your child a name that is roundly approachable and so it is smart to think about its global appeal. Many common names that sound generic to Americans and English-speakers sound completely different to foreign ears.
If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you understand the gaps in customs and culture that exist. Generally, these are discovered through small missteps in how a phrase is spoken. As a public service to American parents, here are some names that your little one might not be so proud of when they travel outside the US. Here are 25 baby names that have strange meanings and connotations in other languages that you should probably know about before cursing your child with one of them.
Chloe ranks in the top 50 names for girls in the United States. The Greek name means “young green shoot” and refers to the goddess Demeter who was called Chloe during Spring. This beautiful name is popular throughout Europe except for Germany where the name sounds painfully similar to the German slang klo which refers to a toilet. Don’t give your daughter a flushing!
The name Randy for a boy is questionable from the start. It’s a common nickname for those named Randall or Randolph. The name which already has a connotation of “sexual arousal” has an even more unsavory meaning in Hindi. The word, randi means “prostitute.” Save your son from a life of vice and choose a better name.
We don’t know who needs to hear this, but Fanny is a horrible name and nickname. Just don’t. In the US, we often refer to the buttocks as a “fanny.” Outside of the US, the word is slang for lady bits. While the name is considered old-fashioned in most places, let’s make sure it stays that way.
In the UK and US, the names Cara or Kara are widely beloved. It’s no coincidence that the name’s Latin origins mean “friend.” For Arabic speakers, the name conjures a completely opposite connotation to whom the name sounds like khara which means “sh*t.”
If your iPhone hasn’t scared you away from the name Siri, this certainly will. Siri is a popular Scandinavian name for girls that is very common in Sweden. However, in Japan, the name sounds achingly close to the word shiri which means “a**.” Just don’t.
Everyone knows a Pete in the US. It’s an extremely common name and nickname for Peter here. The name can be traced back to the Greek word Petros which means “stone.” But, in Argentina, the name is a slang term that’s absolutely thrilling. There, it means “fellatio.”
In the 1970s, the name Lisa was all the rage for newborn American girls. Today, the name has fallen out of fashion. It is considered a shortened form of Elizabeth with Hebrew origins that means “pledged to God.” Which sounds sweet unless you’re from Greece where the name means “rabies.” No one wants a rabid baby.
Vaughn is a common Welsh surname that crossed over to given name territory in the early 20th Century. In Welsh, the name means “little.” This is somewhat unfortunate, but it gets worse if you take the name to Russia. In Russian, the term von means “stench.” To Russian ears, this name just stinks.
Mallory’s German meaning is “war counselor.” Which is okay, we suppose, but it gets direr when you look to its Latin root which means “ill-fated.” Still not so bad, but the French have gone full Gaul with it and for francophones, the name means “unfortunate.” So sad.
Thanks to Cool Hand Luke and Luke Skywalker the name Luke has enjoyed broad popularity as a stylish name for boys. But, it turns out the name doesn’t travel well to Russia where it means “manhole.” We’re not even going to touch that.
Bobby is a warm nickname often associated with the name Robert. While Robert means “bright” to many Europeans and English speakers, it doesn’t enjoy the same reputation in Indonesia. Indonesian speakers are likely to hear babi which means “pig.”
The coinage of the name Kayla is disputed and it might have originated in Hebrew or Arabic. Honestly, who cares when in Urdu the name has a superior meaning: “banana.”
Kennedy is a trending gender-neutral name that parents are recklessly giving their children. The Celtic meaning of the name is “deformed head.”
Good old Bill. Bill is commonly used as a nickname for William. The German name means “resolute protector.” Is Bill a resolute protector of the booty? Because bil means “buttock” in Dutch.
Like Fanny, Kiki also can be taken to mean “vagina.” But, that’s only the case in the Philippines. In Japan, the name takes on a more sinister meaning: “crisis.” No one needs any vagina crises, thank you.
Gary is a popular English name that means “spearman.” That’s fine, but in Japan, the name has a much more exciting meaning. There, the name is associated with “the runs” as in diarrhea. There, Gary is scary.
Cal is often used as a nickname for boys named Calvin. Calvin has origins in Latin and means “bald.” While that is unfortunate, it sounds much worse in Russia where it is mistaken for the word, кал, which means “feces.”
Dom is a common nickname for boys named Dominick and girls named Dominique. Both are smart names, but when shortened, they translate to “stupid” in Dutch.
Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa helped to reenergize parents’ love of this peppy name for girls. Perhaps, this name could undergo more scrutiny because it has negative meanings in a couple of languages. In Greek, the name sounds like a slang term for oral sex. In Italy, it’s slang for masturbation. And finally, in Sweden, the name sounds like a crude term for sex. If you name your daughter Pippa, she’ll have to avoid much of the European continent.
We don’t know who is still naming their child Mona these days, but they must be stopped. Not only does the name belong to octagenarians, but it also is an Italian slang term for female genitalia. In Spanish, the name means “female monkey.” Not great.
Short for Gilbert, the English pronunciation of Gil sounds a lot like the Polish word for snot. Which you might find funny, but it’s snot.
Denmark has strict naming rules for babies. Names must be approved by the government before they’re registered. Recently, the country added the name Tessa to the list. Before the name was banned because it sounded too much like tisse the Danish word for “urinate.”
You thought Nick was safe, didn’t you? Oh, no. Nick sounds to the French like the word niquer which roughly translates to “f*ck.”
Lou is a popular nickname for Louis, Louise, or Louisa. Luckily, the name has been trending down since the 1960s. In Europe and in the UK, specifically, loo is a slang term for toilet or restroom. There the song “Skip to My Lou” simply means a trip to the bathroom.
The names Tod or Todd are boring English names that mean “fox.” But, take Tod for a spin in Germany and you might get a dour response. In German, tod means “death.” Death’s not cute.
There you have it! 25 baby names to avoid because they mean wildly different things in other languages. While this list will probably not stop you from choosing a controversial name for your child, it should.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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