25 Most Polarizing Baby Names in America

What are the most polarizing baby names in America? Be it a funny sound, a weird meaning, or connotations to characters and figures from the past, there are a number of names that parents today cannot form a consensus about. Now, some names are hit-or-miss as a subjective matter of taste while others raise some serious concerns about the welfare of a child who is given one of these controversial names. The brilliant team of the baby name database, Nameberry polled their audience to ascertain what baby names rubbed the most people the wrong way. The results feel extremely spot-on.

From Adolf to Vanellope, dozens of names were put forward as feeling controversial and weird while others felt to most offensive, and just wrong. We all have our own tastes when it comes to the baby names we favor but some raise more questions than not. Let’s take a look at those appellations to discuss what the issue is with each one.

Adolf

most polarizing baby names

Clearly, the name Adolf is a terrible idea. The appellation was once mildly popular in the US, in the 1920s. But, the brutal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler should really turn any parent off from the name. Last year, not a single baby was given the name in the US. However, some 100 boys were given the Spanish form of the name, Adolfo, and fewer were given the much older variant Adolphus. We think it’s wise to just steer clear of this one altogether. Yikes!

Adonis

most polarizing baby names

Adonis already sounds like a larger-than-life name that’s a lot for a little boy to shoulder but that’s not stopping new parents today from choosing it for their sons. Adonis ranks in the top 500 most popular names for boys today (it ranks as the 233 most popular name for boys). But, we think some folks are right to question this name.

In Greek mythology, Adonis is the personification of the idealized male form, one of the most beautiful male figures of antiquity. According to myth, Adonis is the handsome young lover of Aphrodite. You could see why that could make this name problematic for a boy who grows into just an average man.

Azriel

most polarizing baby names

Azriel might sound fantastic thanks to that zippy Z-sound and many parents agree. This name for boys landed in the US top 1000 names for boys last year. The name is of Hebrew origin and means “God is my help.” But, we urge parents to look deeper into this name as it belongs to the Angel of Death in Hebrew and Muslim traditions. Not, the most positive connection!

Bambi

most polarizing baby names

Bambi names a beloved boy deer in the classic Disney animated film of the same name. However, the name has always gone to girls in the US. The name is of Italian origin and means “baby girl.” Surprisingly, the name was mildly popular here from the 1950s-1980s. It took several years for the name to catch on following the 1942 release of Bambi, but for better or worse, parents thought the name was a good idea.

Blair

most polarizing baby names

What is wrong with the name Blair? Well, the name hails from Scotland where it is only used as a name for baby boys and that’s true for the UK writ large. Only in the US will you find the name Blair a popular choice for girls. So, that’s one reason folks are not crazy about this name.

Other factors that have made this appellation a polarizing one include associations with the horror film, The Blair Witch Project as well as the controversial, former Prime Minister Tony Blair. There are far worse on this list but we get why this one has folks divided.

Bodhi

most polarizing baby names

The name Bodhi has exploded in popularity in the US over the last several years thanks to a string of celebrity parents who have chosen this baby name. Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, Teresa Palmer and Mark Webber, and Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder all named their babies Bodhi.

It makes our list of controversial baby names because the name was adopted from Buddhist tradition with, what seems like, little deference to its meaningful use in Buddhist culture. “In Buddhism, bodhi is a state of enlightenment, awakening or insight gained by the Buddha while sitting under a sacred fig tree in Bodh Gaya, India circa 500 BCE,” according to Nameberry.

We get that the name sounds great but perhaps a more appropriate choice would be the spelling, Bode, to make a distinction between the two names.

Cohen

most polarizing baby names

Folks have very strong feelings about the name Cohen. We don’t make the rules! Cohen is traditionally a Jewish surname that comes from a Hebrew word for “priest” and originally denoted members of the kohanim, important Jewish religious leaders of direct descent from Aaron. The name is particularly sacred in Judaism and so it angers some when the name is used by any person as a given name.

The name currently ranks as a top 500 name for boys in the US. We have The OC‘s Seth Cohen to thank for the rise of this name in the US. So, yeah, maybe parents should learn more about the importance of this name in the Jewish community before appropriating it as a given name.

Dixie

most polarizing baby names

Just a thought: Let’s not use a name that glorifies a bloody Civil War that threatened the very identity of this country. Dixie names the ten states that succeded from the union thrusting the country into its darkest hour. The states succeeded because they wanted to retain the ability to own and trade enslaved people. The Civil War often gets framed as a “states’ rights” issue but we urge you to do a little more reading if you believe that. Dixie appeals to those who are after a “cute” “Southern Belle” style name. To many, this feels problematic (to say the least).

Dixie originated as a slang term for a ten-dollar bill used in French-speaking New Orleans. You don’t want to name a baby after a ten-dollar bill, do you? After spending decades off of the popularity charts, this name returned in 2007 and has had a spotty showing since then.

Gunner

most polarizing baby names

If you’re going to choose violence, go ahead and go with Gunner. Yes, this name for boys might be related to a Norse baby name (Gunther) that means “bold warrior” but a name that implies that your baby is a “gunman” might not be a safe bet. We are clearly not with the consensus among new parents who are choosing this name in droves today. It’s currently a top 500 pick for boys in the US. If you love this baby name, by all means, go with it. Other options that could appeal to Gunner-loving sensibilities include Cannon, Beretta, Glock, Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK for short), Bullet, and Barrel.

Harvey

most polarizing baby names

Harvey was a baby name for boys enjoying a renaissance in the US until the devasting Hurricane Harvey left catastrophic damage across the American South. Prospects for this appellation were also not helped following the many sexual abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Ultimately, he became a convicted sex offender. Harvey is a name of French origin that means “battle worthy.”

Honey

most polarizing baby names

Is Honey too sweet for a name? Parents in the UK do not think so. Following celebrities like Kate Winslet and Jamie Oliver who both gave the name to their daughters, Honey exploded in popularity across the pond. In fact, it’s a top 500 name for girls there today. In the US, parents are beginning to warm to the idea of this name but time will only tell if we follow the English trend.

A lot of detractors feel that Honey will feel inappropriate and too intimate for professional and educational settings. Imagine a boss calling your daughter Honey or even a professor. If that does not seem awkward to you, Honey is likely A-okay in your book.

India

most polarizing baby names

In the UK, India has long been a posh choice but it is not without controversy. Due to the history of imperialism and colonization (and exploitation) of India by Britain, you could understand why using India as a baby name could be problematic, especially for families who have no real ties to the country or its rich culture. In the US, the name has been on and off the charts over the last several decades.

There is no denying that India sounds beautiful but it is likely inappropriate for most to use it as a name just because it sounds “exotic.”

James

most polarizing baby names

We know what you are thinking: What is a classic, evergreen, timeless name like James doing among controversial baby names? This baby name is controversial for a different reason than many on this list. James has been given new life as a name for baby girls after centuries of the name being used solely for boys. It’s rubbing some folks the wrong way.

Following the decision by Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds to give the name to their daughter, other celebrities and normal folks too jumped on the trend. Many have used James as a middle name for their daughters as well as a first. Some folks feel like the only traditionally male names are given to girls while the opposite never happens for girl names for boys. Could that be an example of misogyny in our culture?

Jemima

most polarizing baby names

Jemima was last popular in the US in 1893. It’s been over 100 years since the baby name was widely given. Why? The immediate association for most Americans is Aunt Jemima branded syrup and pancakes. The marketing featured a deeply offensive racial stereotype of a “mammy” character.

The company did not change its branding until 2021 when it finally admitted that the marketing was propping up an ugly stereotype. Despite the positive rebranding effort the negative connotation is going to stick with people for much longer and likely keep it from being popular for several more years.

Karen

most polarizing baby names

In 2020, the idea of “A Karen” and Karen memes became widely distributed online. The name became a pejorative for an angry, entitled, white woman. Before the proliferation of the Karen memes, the name ranked as the 660 most popular for girls in 2019. By 2020, it had dropped to 831. Finally, by 2021, the name no longer ranked in the US top 1000 baby names for girls.

Considering that the name had been in the top 1000 since 1927, that is one truly monumental shift in public opinion about the name Karen.

Khaleesi

most polarizing baby names

Baby names borrowed from pop culture have always been polarizing. This is especially true for names that come from an invented language and Khaleesi is one such example. In Dothraki, a language invented by author George RR Martin, Khaleesi is a royal title synonymous with Queen. The name hit its peak popularity in 2018 but in the most recent data, the name still lands in the top 1000.

For those who kept up with the novels and TV series, you know that Khaleesi’s storyline took a very dark turn. It’s a great reminder to give names from pop culture some time to marinate before you go slapping it on a birth certificate willy-nilly. Further, Khaleesi just sounds far too over-the-top as a modern baby name.

RELATED: 30 Bad Bad Baby Names Parents Have Actually Given Their Kids

Lilith

most polarizing baby names

Lilith has been on a meteoric rise in the US since 2010. It shot up the popularity charts to become the 268 most popular baby name for girls in 2021. That makes Lilith one of the fastest-rising names for girls today. Lilith is an ancient name from Assyrian and Sumerian from the root lilitu which means “of the night.”

In Jewish folklore, Lilith is portrayed as Adam’s rejected first wife, who was turned into a night demon for refusing to obey him. Thus the name is considered to mean “ghost,” “night monster,” or “night demon.” Not the greatest credentials!

However, we believe the name has gotten a lift in recent years from Lilith Fair, an all-woman traveling music festival that raises money for a variety of women’s charities. You get to decide if that has changed the image enough for you to use this dark name.

Nevaeh

most polarizing baby names

Nevaeh has had unbelievable success since singer Sonny Sandoval introduced the idea of turning Heaven around and using it as a baby name for his daughter. The name quickly landed in the US top 1000 by 2001 and it’s been a top 100 choice for girls for a decade now. According to Nameberry, Nevaeh was the fastest growing baby name in US history. This trendy name was extremely popular among religious parents and only time will tell if it ages as poorly as many people expect.

Nixon

most polarizing baby names

Following the Watergate scandal and the ultimate resignation of the controversial president, Richard Nixon, there was very little public interest in using his surname as a given name. In fact, the name was on the rise until Nixon was elected president and then, the name stopped its upward trajectory. It was not until the early aughts that new parents began trying this name again. The name peaked in 2017 and we doubt it will improve its one-time ranking in the US top 500 baby names for boys.

Pippa

most polarizing baby names

Pippa is a cute, short form of Philippa that you seldom hear in the US. In fact, it’s only truly popular in British Commonwealth nations like England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. In England, it’s a top 100 baby name for girls. Aside from the name sounding too cutesy for many American parents, the name has negative slang meanings and connotations in several European languages including Swedish, Italian, Greek, and Polish. It will be interesting to see if American parents will ever take to the name.

Rex

most polarizing baby names

Rex has been a mildly popular name in the US since records begin in 1880. Despite it having a butch sound and that attractive X, Rex will always be a name for dogs for some. In fact, most people when polled on the most common dog names will say Rex, Max, Rufus, and Duke.

If you can get over the dog connection, Rex is a name of Latin origin that means “king.”

Saoirse

most polarizing baby names

We have Irish actor Saoirse Ronan to thank for highlighting the virtues of this name to the American public. The name first made its way onto to top 1000 chart in 2016 and has been slowly gaining traction each year since then. People find fault in the baby name because of its pronunciation(s) that range from SEER-sha, SUR-sha, or SAIR-sha depending on the dialect. That makes it difficult for many American English speakers.

The name first entered use in Ireland in the 1920s, when Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom. Thus, the name means “freedom.” Unlike older, more established Irish baby names, Saoirse is more contemporary and contentious due to its political connotations in Ireland. In fact, it’s also the name of a monthly magazine published by the political party Sinn Féin.

Trixie

most polarizing baby names

For many, Trixie only has a place as a cutesy nickname for Beatrix. And, most Americans associate the name with appellations for dogs or cats rather than a baby name. Thus, it has never been a popular choice for babies in the US. In recent years, the name has gained ground in England but that’s the only place that seems open to using Trixie as a given name.

Ursula

most polarizing baby names

Ursula was a fairly popular baby name in the US until 1982. At that time, the name was beginning to gain a reputation as an “old lady name” that was not vibing with naming trends of the time. What put a nail in Ursula’s coffin came in 1989 as a campy, witchy, octopus in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The name has never recovered from the association with the character. As far as names returning after several years, Ursula is due for a comeback but we’ll have to see if it can shake its octopus nemesis reputation.

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Vanellope

most polarizing baby names

Vanellope is a baby name that is very similar to Khaleesi. While it never got as popular as Khaleesi, Vanellope is a modern invention, given to a character, Vanellope von Schweetz, in Wreck-It, Ralph. The character, voiced by Sarah Silverman in the animated film, has inspired a few dozen parents to choose the baby name for their daughters but we do not see this name taking hold. The whole “Van” beginning is enough to turn many parents off. Yikes!

There you go! We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the most polarizing and controversial baby names in America today. If you enjoyed learning about these offbeat names, please keep reading for even more questionable baby names.

Here are 30 Bad Bad Baby Names Parents Actually Gave THier Children…

30. Quiche

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

This child’s parents were clearly Francophiles or were hoping to raise an egghead when they decided to name their child Quiche. Good ol’ Quiche was born in 1900 in Ohio and while we don’t have the full name, we have a suspicion that Quiche’s middle name was Lorraine. Ridicule Factor: We’re going with low to medium because how many people in Ohio at the turn of the century actually knew what quiche was?

29. Caravan

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

One couple looked at their baby and thought travel trailer. Or maybe they gained inspirations traveling west to new territories in a covered wagon with other pioneers and settlers. Anyhow, the freewheeling soul who got named Caravan was born in 1857 in Canada. One could see some interesting nicknames for this kid as Cara and Van work pretty well and sound normal yet distinct. Ridicule factor: Low-Med with a good nick name.

28. Wanker

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Sweet, little Wanker was born to two cruel parents in New York in 1856. We will not waste your time with a name origin or meaning here but I’m pretty sure this child’s parents did not have command of the English language when they picked this one. Please take your time when considering names for your child. Wanker is a tragedy and we hope this kid changed their name as an adult! Ridicule Factor: Simply off the charts high and this kid needed treatment for PTSD.

27. Custard

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Like Quiche, Custard was also given an unfortunate egg-inspired name. Custard was brought into this world in 1876 to deranged foodies from Virginia. If you can think of a good nickname to make out of Custard, please inform us.

26. Poof

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Poor, pitiful Poof. Poof was a proud Iowan who was born in 1859. As the name suggests, Poof’s time in Iowa was fleeting and he ended up traveling north for the Klondike Gold Rush. Let’s hope Poof struck it rich and lived large in Alaska. After receiving the name, he deserved a change in fortune.

25. Gassy

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

A baby born in 1888 to parents in South Carolina was given the name Gassy. Gassy! This child’s parents named him after flatulence. We get that the 1880s were a different time, but has this name ever been okay?

24. Pube

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Let’s give credit where credit is due, you don’t hear this name every day! Perhaps it’s pronounced “poo-bey” or “poo-bee.” We don’t why on earth Canadian parents gave their child this name in 1904.

23. Alphabeta

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

We assume the conversation around this name went something like this:

“Do you have any idea what we should name the baby?”

“No, you?”

“Why not the first two letters of the Greek alphabet but smashed together? Thoughts?”

“I love it!”

Alphabeta was the name given in the 19th Century to an English baby. The name was not the result of A/B testing.

22. A. Blob

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Let’s not just limit ourselves to first names because initials matter people! This baby’s initials spell “a blob.” Coincidentally, that’s how most of us feel at the end of a day, so it could be a fitting name.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 30 Ridiculously Bad Celebrity Baby Names, from Apple to Zuma

21. F. Ewe

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Sweet F. Ewe overcame the baggage associated with his name and was married in London in 1899. We can only imagine that F. Ewe was a person who did not take anyone’s BS.

20. Etta Lot

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Some parents don’t fully map out a baby’s name. You need to know how the full name is going to sound. Case in point: Etta Lot, who was probably a very nice woman. However, her name was not ideal. Etta Lot was born in 1877 in Mississippi.

19. Garage

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

According to marriage records, a person named Garage was married in London in 1860. Someone must have been very much in love to overlook this bad name.

18. Anice Bottom

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Anice Bottom charmed the world in 1837 England when she first graced us with her presence. Anice Bottom’s parents were probably too modest to even notice the harm they’d done in naming their child Anice Bottom.

17. Y. Nott

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

You just know that Y. Nott was a chill guy. Y. Nott was born in Staffordshire in 1930. How many “why not?” jokes do you think this person endured throughout their lifetime.

16. Drug

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Only in Alabama would you find a child with the first name Drug. Drug was born in 1847 in the Yellowhammer State. According to birth records, this wasn’t a derivative or nickname. Just Drug.

15. Gladys Friday

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

TGIF! Gladys Friday must have been the product of some good-times-loving parents. Gladys Friday was born in England in 1900. Her name has us ready for the weekend!

14. Salami

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

We at Mamas Uncut love food a lot. Some of us are even fans of hard, cured sausage. However, the name Salami is indefensible. English parents in the 1840s came up with this name. Do you think they were inspired by food tourism in Italy or just thought it sounded good?

13. Augusta Wind

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

The city of Chicago is often called “the windy city.” Parents in this town took things a little too far when they named their little Chicagoan Augusta Wind.

12. Sucker

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Sigh. In 1896 in the state of North Carolina, a Sucker was born. What were these parents actually thinking? It can’t have been easy to have gone through life with a name like Sucker…

11. Balls

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Balls was born in the mid 19th Century in England. Balls must have had a difficult life with the name, Balls. Where the parents of Balls famed jugglers?

10. F. Ingood

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

F. Ingood was born in the shire of Bedford in 1777. F. Ingood most likely lived a carefree existence free from the hardships that others faced because he was… F. Ingood.

9. Lasagna

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Perhaps the distant relative of Salami, Lasagna was born in 1968 in North Carolina. We’re not sure what’s in the air down there. You just know that Lasagna got himself cat and named it Garfield. That’s the only reason for this name to exist in this world.

8. Fay King

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Fay King strived for a life of authenticity, but alas, she was Fay King. Ms. King was born in 1927 in England, but can you even trust that information?

7. Elle Vator

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

To be fair, elevators were all the rage in the 1860s when Ella Vator was born. Many industrialists at the time were all trying to beat one another to the next big innovation. We assume that Ella Vator’s parents were just trying to get ahead of the trend, but we’re probably wrong.

6. One Too Many

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

We’re not experts on British name classifications of the 1870s, but One Too Many was the name listed for a child in Essex. We’re not sure if the parents had “one too many” and the baby was the result, or if the baby itself was an unwanted addition to an already large family. As in, “we already have seven mouths to feed and this one is one too many.”

5. Banana

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Look out, Lasagna and Salami! Your estranged cousin, Banana, is climbing the list here. Banana was born in 1919 in England. We feel so bad for Banana. A great name for a monkey, sure, but not a human.

4. Hairy

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Not to be confused with the name Harry à la Prince Harry, Hairy was born in 1878 to bad-namers in England. The insults just write themselves with this name.

3. Barbie Cue

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

In the year of our Lord, 1819 two Scottish parents decided to name their little one Barbie Cue. We were under the impression that the Scots preferred fried foods, but these parents must have had exotic tastes. Poor Barbie Cue.

2. Burp

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

The act of burping a baby can be soothing, but do you really want to name a child that? Good old Burp was born in 1771. We wonder if Burp ever met Gassy. We think they’d get along.

1. Aberycusgentylis Balthropp

30 very bad baby names parents have actually given their kids

Believe it or not, Aberycusgentylis Balthropp was actually named for another person! Alberico Gentili was an Oxford Professor and Jurist. Aberycusgentylis Balthropp was born in 1648. May the people who lived to try and pronounce his name rest in peace.

There you have some of the worst baby names ever! We all make mistakes, but if we could just take a little time to think out the baby’s name, the world would be a little less embarrassing.

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