Naming law

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A naming law restricts the names that parents can legally give to their children, usually to protect the child from being given an offensive or embarrassing name. Many countries around the world have such laws, with most governing the meaning of the name, while some only govern the scripts in which it is written.


Over 200 names have been proscribed by Azerbaijan as of 2015[1][2], including "the names of persons who have perpetrated aggression against the people of Azerbaijan" (including names seen as "Armenian"[3][4]) and "names whose meaning is offensive in the Azerbaijani language".[5]


In Imperial China, a naming taboo prevented people from using the same names as the reigning Emperor.


Under the Law on Personal Names,[6] first names are picked from a list of approved names (18,000 female names and 15,000 male names as of Jan 1st 2016).[7] One can also apply to Ankestyrelsen for approval of new names, e.g. common first names from other countries. Names cannot have surname character, and must follow Danish orthography (e.g. Cammmilla with three m's is not allowed).[8]


At present, the Names Act of 1985 requires that all Finnish citizens and residents have at least one and at the most four first names. Persons who do not have a first name are obligated to adopt one when they are entered into the Finnish national population database. Parents of new-born children must name their child and inform the population registry within two months of the child's birth. The name may be chosen freely, but it must not be

  • a name used primarily by persons of the other sex
  • a name foreign to the naming tradition in Finland
  • a surname, except a patronymic as last given name
  • a name already used by a sibling, if this is to be the only given name.

Waivers may be granted if valid family, religious or ethnic reasons give grounds to use a name contrary to these principles. Persons may change their first names once without a specific reason. For subsequent changes, valid reasons must be presented.[9]

Further information: Finnish name


Since 1993 the choice has been free in France unless it is decided that the name is contrary to the interests of the child. Before that time the choice of first names was dictated by French laws that decreed which names were acceptable.[10] Napoleon Bonaparte created the law.[11]


Names have to be approved by the local registration office, called Standesamt, which generally consults a list of first names and foreign embassies for foreign names. The name has to indicate gender, it cannot be a last name or a product, and it cannot negatively affect the child. If the name submitted is denied, it can be appealed; otherwise a new name has to be submitted. A fee is charged for each submission.[12]

Umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and/or the letter ß in family names are recognized as an important reason for a name change. (Even just the change of the spelling, e.g. from Müller to Mueller or from Weiß to Weiss, is regarded as name change. In German ID cards and passports, however, such names are spelled in two different ways: the correct way in the non-machine-readable zone of the document [Müller] and transcribed [Mueller] in the machine-readable zone of the document, so persons unfamiliar with German orthography may get the impression that the document is a forgery. German credit cards may use the correct or the transcribed spelling only. It is recommended to use the exactly same spelling in the machine-readable zone of the passport for airline tickets, visas, etc. and to refer to this zone if being asked questions.) Internationally and by many electronic systems, ä / ö / ü are transcribed as ae / oe / ue, and ß is transcribed as ss.

During the Nazi period, Germany had a list of approved names to choose from that was passed on January 5, 1938 as the "Second Regulation under the law re The changing of Family and Given names." The law had one list of names for ethnic Germans and another for Jews.[13]


A child's name must be chosen from a list of pre-approved names.[14][15] If the intended name is not on the list, the parents need to apply for approval. Applications are considered by the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences following a set of principles.[16] Children born to a foreign citizen may have their name chosen according to foreign law.[17]


Parents are limited to choosing children's names from the Personal Names Register, which is a list of about 1800 names for each gender.[18] The Icelandic Naming Committee maintains the list and hears requests for exceptions.


According to a law from 1956, person should have name (permitted to have more than one) and surname (permitted to have double-barrelled name). Children get surname of their married parents or surname of father if surnames of parents differ one from another. If their parents weren't married or have marriage in fact children get surname of their mother unless both parents agreed to give them double surname. Names can be double if there was no agreement about it between both parents who at least have marriage in fact. In the case they don't children will get the name provided by their mother only.

It's possible to change name or surname once in 7 years or even earlier but than agreement of Interior Ministry is needed. The Ministry may reject name or surname in the case a possibility exists that the name can be a deception or hurt public feelings.

In a case of adoption a child gets adopting parents surname but keeps the original name.

In a case of person with no name minister of inferior chooses the name in accordance with names of person's parents, grandparents, and the spouse in the case of marriage. However, the person can change this name during two months after the announcement.

Father's name will be provided by mother of the person till the age of 16 or by persons themselves if they older than that age.[19]


Names considered ridiculous or shameful are banned by law.[20]


Similarly to China, Japan has a certain set of characters that can be used in a child's name.


Some Kyrgyz have been russifying their names.[21][22][23]

A law to ban russified names was proposed.[24]


On and after 2006, the National Registration Department of Malaysia (JPN) may decline to register objectionable or undesirable names, including names based on titles, numbers, colors, vegetables, fruits, vulgarities, and equipment. Parents who wish to register such names despite JPN objection must make a statutory declaration to that effect.[25][26]

New Zealand[edit]

Under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1995, names are prohibited which "might cause offence to a reasonable person; or [...] is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, [...] is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank."[12] This is determined by the Department of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for registering names at birth.[11] The most commonly rejected name is "Justice", which is a formal title for judges in New Zealand.[27]


In April 2009, a six-year-old Norwegian boy named Christer pressed his parents to send a letter to King Harald V to approve his name being changed to "Sonic X". They allowed Christer to write it himself but did not send it until he badgered them further, and the king responded that he could not approve the change because Christer was not eighteen years old.[28][29]


Portugal has a set list of names approved and not approved published periodically by the Institute of Registration at the Ministry of Justice.[30]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

A list of 50 names was proscribed by Saudi Arabia.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]


Swedish first names "shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name."


In Spain, people have freedom to choose any name as long as the name doesn't make identification confusing, isn't the same name as one of their living siblings, and doesn't offend to the person who is named.[41][42]


The authorities of Tajikistan have announced the preparation of a list of 3,000 pre-approved names, all referred to Tajik culture, thus banning Arabic/Islamic names and suffixes, deemed divisive.[43][44]

Among increasingly religious Tajiks, Islamic-Arabic names have become more popular over Tajik names.[45]

The Tajik government has used the word "prostitute" to label hijab wearing women and enforced shaving of beards, in addition to considering the outlawing of Arabic-Islamic names for children and making people use Tajik names.[46][47][48][49][50][51] Tajikistan President Rakhmon (Rahmon) has said that the Persian epic Shahnameh should be used as a source for names, with his proposed law hinting that Muslim names would be forbidden after his anti hijab and anti beard laws.[52]

United Kingdom[edit]

The UK has no law restricting permitted names, but names that contain obscenities, numerals, misleading titles, or are impossible to pronounce are likely to be rejected by the Registering Officer.[53]

United States[edit]

Restrictions vary by state, and most are imposed for the sake of practicality. For example, several states limit the number of characters in a name, due to limitations in the software used for official record keeping. For similar reasons, some states ban the use of numerals or pictograms. A few states ban the use of obscenities. Conversely, a few states, such as Kentucky, have no naming laws whatsoever. Courts have interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment as generally supporting the traditional parental right to choose their children's names.

One naming law that some found restrictive was California's ban on diacritical marks, such as in the name José. For over 30 years, the Office of Vital Records in the California Department of Public Health required that names contain only the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language. The law, however, was amended in 2017 to require the usage of diacritical marks to be properly recorded by the State Registrar. [54]


Zairians were urged to drop their Western or Christian names in favor of Zairian names as part of Authenticité.[55] Zairian dictator Joseph-Désiré Mobutu changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (more commonly abbreviated to Mobutu Sese Seko).

See also[edit]

  • Surname law – Various laws governing the use of surnames


  1. ^ "Azerbaijan bans strange baby names 'Frunze', 'Newton', 'Galileo'". News.Az. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  2. ^ "В Азербайджане запрещены эти имена" [Azerbaijan forbidden these names]. Эхо Кавказа. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  3. ^ Lomsadze, Giorgi (15 July 2010). "Azerbaijan to Ban Armenian Names". Retrieved 27 October 2019 – via EurasiaNet.
  4. ^ "Ban on Armenian names". Armenophobia in Azerbaijan. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Azerbaijan 'may ban Russian names'". 5 March 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2019 – via
  6. ^ "Spørgsmål/svar — Ankestyrelsen".
  7. ^ "Godkendte fornavne — Ankestyrelsen".
  8. ^
  9. ^ Nimilaki (694/1985) § 32b. Retrieved 3-11-2008. (in Finnish)
  10. ^ Mary Blume (November 11, 1995). "The Ins and Outs of French First Names". New York Times.
  11. ^ a b "France names row: Politician hits back over criticism of daughter's name". BBC News. 14 September 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Oh no, you can't name your baby THAT!". CNN. 3 July 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  13. ^ Hynning, Clifford J. (March 1944). Germany: Preliminary Compilation of Selected Laws, Decrees, and Regulations: Discriminatory Laws. Washington: Treasuy Department, Office of the General Council. p. E-70.
  14. ^ "current list of approved male Hungarian given names" (PDF).
  15. ^ "current list of approved female Hungarian given names" (PDF).
  16. ^ "basic principles guiding the approval of new given names" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  17. ^ "1982. évi 17. törvényerejű rendelet az anyakönyvekről, a házasságkötési eljárásról és a névviselésről" [Decree-Law No. 17 of 1982 on Registers, the Marriage Procedure and Person Names] (in Hungarian). Art. 27–31. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  18. ^ "Icelandic Girl Fights For Right To Her Own Name". AP. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Names law at Law development database of Knesset".
  20. ^ "Italian court: Child cannot be named Friday". USA Today. 20 December 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  21. ^ "In Kyrgyzstan, A New Interest In Russified Names".
  22. ^ "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: In Kyrgyzstan, a new interest in russified names - KyivPost". 10 December 2014.
  23. ^ "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: In Kyrgyzstan, a new interest in russified names - KyivPost". 10 December 2014.
  24. ^ "Kyrgyz Legislation Would 'De-Russify' Names".
  25. ^ "Parents turn to cyberspace for inspiration" (PDF). The Sunday Star. 5 January 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  26. ^ Laws of Malaysia: Birth and Death Registration Act 1957 (PDF). The Commissioner Of Law Revision, Malaysia. p. 16.
  27. ^ No, you can't call your baby V8: Almost 500 rejected Kiwi name requests revealed, New Zealand Herald, 1 January 2017
  28. ^ Sterling, Jim (April 23, 2009). "Six-year-old boy asks King to change his name to Sonic X". Destructoid. Archived from the original on August 31, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  29. ^ Good, Owen (April 25, 2009). "King Denies Little Boy's Wish to Be Named 'Sonic X'". Kotaku. Archived from the original on August 31, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  30. ^ "Vocábulos admitidos e não admitidos como nomes próprios". Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado. 10 July 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  31. ^ "These 50 Baby Names Are Banned In Saudi Arabia".
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Your name could now be one of 50 'banned' in Saudi Arabia". 14 March 2014.
  34. ^ "50 names banned in Saudi Arabia; check your name in the list".
  35. ^ "Why did Saudi Arabia ban 51 baby names?".
  36. ^ Report, Gulf News (13 March 2014). "Saudi Arabia bans 50 baby names".
  37. ^ "Saudi Arabia bans 50 names". 8 November 2015.
  38. ^ "Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia? - Times of India".
  39. ^ "Saudi bans 50 names on 'religious grounds' - Times of India".
  40. ^ "Saudi Arabia bans 50 'blasphemous' and 'inappropriate' children's names".
  41. ^ País, Ediciones El (2016-07-30). "¿Se le puede poner a un niño el nombre que uno quiera?". Verne (in Spanish). Retrieved 2020-07-03.
  42. ^ " - Documento consolidado BOE-A-1957-7537". Retrieved 2020-07-03.
  43. ^ "Tajik authorities prepare a list of Tajik names - ASIA-Plus".
  44. ^ Trilling, David (5 May 2015). "Tajikistan Mulls Ban on Muslim Names" – via EurasiaNet.
  45. ^ Najibullah, Farangis; Navruzshoh, Zarangez (October 6, 2010). "In Tajikistan, Islamic Names Are The New Fashion". Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
  46. ^ Trilling, David (8 May 2015). "Tajikistan debates ban on Arabic names as part of crackdown on Islam". The Guardian.
  47. ^ Trilling, David (May 5, 2015). "Tajikistan Mulls Ban on Muslim Names".
  48. ^ Moftah, Lora (May 6, 2015). "Tajikistan Muslim Name Ban: Parliament Considers Forbidding Arabic-Sounding Names Amid Crackdown On Islam". International Business Times.
  49. ^ Putz, Catherine (May 9, 2015). "Tajikistan Considers Ban on Arabic Names". The Diplomat.
  50. ^ Web Desk (May 8, 2015). "After beards, hijabs, Tajikistan wants to ban 'Arabic-sounding' names". The Express Tribune.
  51. ^ Najibullah, Farangis; Ganj, Ganjinai; Kholiqzod, Mirzonabi (April 19, 2015). "Tajiks Weigh Ban On 'Bad Names'". Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
  52. ^ Orange, Richard (3 June 2011). "Tajik President warns parents of dangers of 'scary names'". The Telegraph. Almaty.
  53. ^ "Deed poll". Camden Council.
  54. ^ "AB-82 Vital records: diacritical marks". California Legislative Information. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  55. ^ Meditz, Sandra W. and Tim Merrill.[page needed]

External links[edit]