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I'm the Victim of a Baby Name Thief!

I had a baby name picked out for about ten years. I made the mistake of telling someone about it, and then they took the name and used it: not just the first name, but the first AND middle name I picked! It's completely uncommon. I never heard it in the ten years I had it in my head. I know full well that I have no ownership of the name, but whenever I see this person writing their baby's name I actually feel betrayed. Is this completely insane? - Confused in NY

Name thieves are the scourge of the baby-naming world. Visit any messageboard devoted to expectant moms to see how many cousins, colleagues, and in-laws are guilty of breaking and entering into personal name storehouses.

When you invest time and dreams in the names you love, it’s easy to feel that you do "own" them. It's the law of possession: you’ve been living with it for so long, it has become yours. How can Miss Sally-Come-Lately have the same claim on it -- especially when you did all the hard work of thinking it up? Surely courtesy demands some request for your OK before she waltzes off with your name.

So no, you are not insane. Your feelings of disappointment, anger, and even betrayal are understandable.

And yet, they’re not very useful are they? The baby’s been named and that name isn’t going to change. In other circumstances I might suggest a frank conversation with your friend about why you’re upset, but I can’t think of a productive way to tell someone that their cherished child has a name he or she doesn’t deserve.

That means that the only way to make peace with the situation is to work within yourself. First of all, as hard as this may sound, try to see the compliment in the name burglary. A name that you invented impressed this person enough to choose it for his or her own child. That’s a huge vote of confidence in you and your taste. Second, you mention that you see the child’s written name but not that you see the child, which leads me to suspect that you're not especially close with the parents. In that case, there should be no obstacle to using the name yourself when your time to have children comes.

But if the thought of the earlier-named baby rules out your favorite name forever, take comfort in the fact that anyone with the creativity to come up with one great name has the creativity to come up with another.

Just make sure to keep that one a secret.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

November 22, 2010 11:02 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I feel badly for the writer, but I'll comment as someone who grew up with a stolen name! My mom had a completely different name picked out for me. When I was born, she thought I didn't look like the name at all. Her best friend was pregnant at the time and had my name picked out for a my mom took it! Sure enough, the friend had a girl a few months later and chose a new name.

Now, I like my name better than the new one the friend had to choose, but I really like the original name my mom picked out, and I soooo wish she would've gone with that one. My mom & her friend are still besties over 40 years later, so I guess it was either no big dea or they got over it quickly. But it's definitely something to consider when choosing - and revealing - names.

November 22, 2010 11:40 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Well, you've learned something important about your friend - they aren't as much of a friend as you think and completely lack character.

November 22, 2010 12:15 PM
By Jen (not verified)

It's so hard to read these letters and not know what the names in question are! I understand why not to include them, but I'm always curious. Sigh. :)

November 22, 2010 12:34 PM
By Jade (not verified)

I had four children before my sister had her first. When she was pregnant with her first and I was with my fourth I told her the middle names we had picked out for a girl. She was upset that I kept picking all the names she liked and didn't want me to use one of the middle names in case she had a girl, as I was due before her. I told her that I wouldn't be changing my choice as the name was my husband's grandmothers name, not too mention they were the same names as were picked out the pregnancy before when we ended up having a boy. All of our children have middle names honoring family. I told her to use it as a first name, it was no big deal to me. She said it was a big deal to her and that she could not do that.
Funny part is once she had her baby and it was a girl, the name she chose was the one I had planned to use for my second. I still wish I had picked that name for my second. Not only did she use the first name I picked but the second as well, although she swears I never told her the middle name.
At the time we didn't plan to have more children so I thought it was fun. I am now pregnant again, with a girl, and having regret that I never used that name, or that it still isn't available for this time. I know the regret is silly, if we were meant to have a child that name we would have used it the first time.
She has never talked about names she likes with me, but apparently they are the same. Just the same good taste I guess. I just have to come up with the perfect name for this one.

November 22, 2010 1:04 PM
By Julie (not verified)

People are way too possessive about names. When my brother was having his first baby I encouraged him to pick my favorite name. Everyone thought that was so strange, didn't I want to Save the name for myself? NO! I have no idea if I'll ever have a girl or if my partner will agree to the name. Isn't it better to have a lovely niece with my favorite name than see it unused?

November 22, 2010 1:49 PM
By CP (not verified)

Funny, I am the opposite - I'm pregnant with #6 and once we narrow down the names, I will ask certain relatives if they mind if we use the names (if my husband likes the family names I do) so I don't step on any naming toes.

November 22, 2010 6:02 PM
By Laura (not verified)

Why! They probably had another perfectly good name then stole the poor writer's name idea. Not fair!

November 22, 2010 9:23 PM
By Vanessa (not verified)

If the person isn't incredibly close to you, then just use the name anyway. A friend had her neighbor steal her baby name. She was very upset and decided to abandon the name she had loved for years. 4 months after her daughter with the 2nd best name was born they moved out of state and the thievery didn't matter. Choose what you love, and copying is the highest form of flattery.

November 23, 2010 8:58 AM
By Alex (not verified)

Is there any way of establishing a copyright or patent on a name before a baby is born? Possibly some legal writ?

November 23, 2010 11:21 AM
By kiki (not verified)

I agree that you should use it anyway. If you're not that close and/or won't see each other too often then it doesn't matter anyway. If you are good friends or you will be seeing a lot of each other, then you could just say blithely to your friend, "Oh, won't it be great when both of our little [insert name here]s grow up to be great friends, just like us?"
Plus if you use it, not only will you still be giving your baby the top pick name you love the best, you'll also be giving your friend a little taste of her own medicine. See how she likes having her baby's name copied/stolen. And she can't complain because she stole it first! HA!

November 23, 2010 1:20 PM
By Amy (not verified)

If you come up with the best baby name ever just don't tell anyone! Then no one can "steal" it.

November 23, 2010 1:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

oooohhh what is the name???

November 23, 2010 1:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There is a famous case where this happens. Many people know that Gwyneth Paltrow's oldest child is a little girl named Apple. Gwyneth took that name from her producer, who had had a baby girl and named her Apple just a few months before. Kind of stinks for the original Apple because no one had her name for ten thousand years, and now people may think her parents stole that name from Gwyneth when it was just the opposite. I say use the name you love, no matter who else has used it. If you think about it, you could have kept the name to yourself and then used it, and every other mom in the hospital (or at the play group or your church or your gym) could have immediately started using the name as well. We don't have any claim on baby names. If you love the name and want it for your child, it doesn't matter who else has used the name or who may use it next week or tomorrow. You'll always remember why you chose the name and what it means to you.

November 23, 2010 1:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I feel your pain. I had a name picked out for years (after my deceased grandmother, no less) and my sister-in-law used it for her dog! Her DOG! Now this is my sister-in-law, so we see them all the time and there's no way I'll be able to use the name. I hate name thieves.

November 23, 2010 1:59 PM
By Allison (not verified)

My best friend just had a baby girl and I encouraged her to use a particular name and they did. I was thrilled until my hubby pointed out that it's one letter off of my favorite girls name. I had never realized that before! So I told my BFF that if one day we popped up with name XYZ, being one letter off of her name WXY, not to be offended. She said she wouldn't be. Besides - I introduced them to the first name anyway!

On a side note - my cousin (whom I never see) used my daughter's name for his new daughter. Both in honor of our grandmother. I was angry at first, but there's more than 3 years between the girls and we still have yet to see this new baby, so it's no big deal.

November 23, 2010 4:53 PM
By Jess not Jessie (not verified)

Use the name anyway. To me, unless you're in the same family, the name is still fair game. If you're in the same family, then the name is off limits--unless it is a name that honors someone in the family. Then it can be used whenever.

On a side note, in my own family, my cousin gave my grandfather's middle name to his son as his middle name. They call him by that middle name. I rarely see this cousin, and they live on the other side of the country, and I didn't even know what his son was named when I gave my son that same name as his middle name. We call my son by both his first and middle name. And after my son was born, an aunt told me that if her daughter had been a boy, she would have gotten that name as a first name. I think it's great to have that family connection. But I might have felt differently if this cousin lived nearby and I saw them frequently.

To the anonymous commenter whose sister-in-law used her favorite name: THAT was pretty low. So sorry!

November 23, 2010 6:19 PM
By February's Child (not verified)

I have another "thievery" question for you. How do you guys feel about this one....

My brother had a baby boy with a woman he'd casually "hooked up" with. She named the baby after him (James), let's say Alexander James Lastname. Then two years later my brother got married and had a baby with his wife. They named that son James Landon Lastname, but he goes by Landon. Neither son goes by my brother's name "James" but both have his name.....

Is it just me, or is that weird? I know it's been done before---Michael Jackson, George Foreman, but what do you think of it in this case. Is it a case of a stolen name? Should there be a one-child policy?

November 23, 2010 6:58 PM
By Emmy Jo (not verified)

February's Child -- I think it's a little weird that the first woman named her child after a man she just casually hooked up with. But, no, I don't think it's weird to use his name for the second son. After all, neither of the children goes by James -- and it's just a middle name in one of the cases.

I've heard of families that actually give the same middle name to all their sons (maybe passing on the dad's name to all their sons), so they might have a Benjamin James and a Christopher James and an Edward James. I don't think that's too weird, either. But naming all your kids George 1 and George 2 and George 3 is definitely weird.

November 23, 2010 7:10 PM
By aych (not verified)

Loose lips... it's the first person's fault for letting the name out into the world. She can't really blame anyone but herself at that point.

November 23, 2010 7:18 PM
By Bea (not verified)

I actually tell EVERYONE the unique name combo that I'm set on. Everyone in my family knows not to use it and if anyone did, everyone else would know what a douche-y thing they did, hah!

November 23, 2010 9:15 PM
By sally (not verified)

It always amazes me how possessive people are over baby names. My sisters and I have all agreed that we can "share" a favorite name, and I grew up with cousins from two different moms who shared a name and LOVED it. They were best friends and since it was a family name, honoring another loved relative, that made it even more special.

Even if you think you have a completely unique name, someone else out in the world likely already has it. My husband's name is ridiculously unique and a recent search of the US census discovered three others out there like him!

Name your sweet baby whatever you want and be flattered - not appalled - that others around you love the name enough to use it. And if you really can't stand the thought of someone else using it, then for heaven's sake, keep it to yourself!

November 23, 2010 11:15 PM
By nedibes (not verified)

Most extreme case of baby name theft hysteria I know of: I have a childhood friend who was named in honor of a journalist. First name and last name as middle. When my friend was a teen, her mom wrote to the woman about it, I guess thinking maybe she would write back something nice for my friend. Instead, she got back a cease and desist letter from the journalist's lawyer. She seemed to think my friend was a baby who hadn't been named yet, and wanted to prevent the name (brand) "theft". My friend's mom's lawyer said the woman didn't actually have a case, so they just ignored it. Of course, after that my friend wasn't so keen on being named after the woman.

For the woman with the dog-in-law problem: I would use the name anyway. The dog will be long dead by the time your child is in high school, and the grandmother association will easily outshine any canine connotations. And luckily, it's extremely unlikely that this sis-in-law will use the name for an actual child in the meantime, so there's no hurry for you to procreate appropriately ;-).

November 23, 2010 11:40 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

My sister-in-law's father is one of ten sons, and the only one of the boys who did not have a son named after their father. If you go to one of their annual family reunions and you call out, "Marcelo!" 10 or 11 men and an ever increasing number of little boys will all turn their heads.

Not a lot of creativity in that family. Her sister is named after her mother, and her only brother is named after their dad, not grandfather, but I suppose if she'd had two brothers, the second probably would have been another Marcelo. She was the only one who got a name her parents just plain liked.

November 23, 2010 11:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When someone uses a family name -- in this case, your grandmother's -- for their child, it should not give them exclusive rights to it. After all, if you love your grandmother, no doubt others do, too. It would be unfair if you were the only one who could honor her in this way.

We also need to take a long-term view of this. There may be some confusion when children with the same unusual name are young, but after they are grown, chances are they won't live near each other and also will find it amusing or even comforting to share a name with someone else in the family.

November 24, 2010 12:31 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My mother-in-law named my husband Jerry, then three months later one of her sisters had a baby boy and made a big stink about her 'stealing' the name she wanted. So my mother-in-law went down to the courthouse and changed the spelling of her son's name to Jerre. He occasionally got ads in the mail for feminine products, and had people mispronounce his name, but he was a playful person with a great wit and just let it all slide right off.

November 24, 2010 10:07 AM
By Elaine (not verified)

My grandparents named one of their sons (my uncle) Eric. My grandmother's sister also liked the name and asked my grandmother if it was okay if she named her son Eric as well. My grandmother was okay with it and so my uncle has the same name as his cousin. It didn't really matter that much since the cousins lived across the country and they didn't see them very often, but when they did get together they were referred to as Eric and Eric 2. But I've always thought it was very nice of my grandmother's sister to discuss it with her sister first before bestowing a potentially confusing name.

November 24, 2010 1:03 PM
By sharalyn (not verified)

My sister-in-law has stolen three of my girl names so far. She only knew about the first one (which is the one that *really* torks me as it took us 7 months to come up with it as hubby and I struggle with girl names), but it's getting old at this point to have to cross names off my list.

November 24, 2010 6:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My sister-in-law mentioned a girl's name she knew we had picked out with our first child (a boy) when she was pregnant with her second (her first was a girl and she used her favorite name - one I did not want). The child turned out to be a boy. When I was pregnant with my second, she was pregnant with her third. She again mentioned the name (she was due first), but then voluntarily relented and picked a different name (she had a girl). She said she got to use her favorite girl's name with her first, so she would give us the name. We had another boy. She had one more child - a boy. The name in dispute - never got used!

November 26, 2010 12:06 AM
By Essy (not verified)

naming in my family is pretty funny. all the first born boys on one side have the same name in their name, only one has it as a first name, the rest have it as their first middle name. this was done unintentionally, and unknowingly but it's kind of become a family joke and I think it's really nice, and i'd love to continue the tradition one day.

I think whatever one names his/her child - make sure the kid knows it's an awesome name - even if you regret and don't want to change it, or anything, just tell the child, it's a beautiful and wonderful name. growing up knowing that your parents don't like your name is tough, believe me.

November 26, 2010 8:00 AM
By Julie (not verified)

First, I say use it anyway. It was "your" name for ten years and you still love it, so you will regret naming your baby anything else (I'm assuming you haven't had a baby yet?).

Second, I agree that this probably would not be a problem if your friend (? you never actually said whether it was a close friend?) had asked your permission to use the name. You might have been able to come up with different nicknames to call the children when they were together so that there was no confusion and she at least would have been acknowledging that it was your idea all along.

Third, I do understand that the most insulting thing about this incident is that people will think YOU are stealing the name from HER. That does suck. But you will know the real truth. And perhaps you can mention (casually, and with great tact!) to other people that your friend has you to thank for such a gorgeous name!

Fourth, whether this is a close friend/family member or not, you are not with them ALL the time. You and your child will most likely know different people at school, at family gatherings, at parties with friends, etc. You might be frequently reminded that your friend "stole" your name, but not CONSTANTLY reminded. There will still be some circles in which your child is the only one with that name.

November 26, 2010 9:20 PM
By The Name Gnome (not verified)

That is why I never mentioned the name to anyone when I chose the one for my daughter. I would be peeved if someone picked it for their child but try to see it as a compliment. They liked it so much they gave it to their child. Names belong to everyone after all. To choose the middle name too is low though. Pick another good one or just name your child what you had always planned.

November 27, 2010 6:26 AM
By elleireland (not verified)

These comments are wonderful. I want to know all the names in question! The comment on the 24th was interesting, because the name Jerry should definitely be retired forever. So some of these hot, contested, fought-over names should maybe be put to rest. Use a great classic, and you will never regret it. Your unique, gorgeous name might be the Jerry of the future, and you will be happy to have a Sarah, or Claire, or Jane.
Is the writer even expecting a baby? From her letter all the speculation sounds like just that.

November 27, 2010 4:04 PM
By Rebekah Jane (not verified)

I say use the name! If you've loved it for 10 years, any other name would probably fall short at this point. If your friend is unhappy about it, too bad! She shouldn't have stolen the name in the first place and has no right to be upset that you also decided to use it. On a seperate note, my best friend (since jr high) and I have the same first and middle name (Rebekah Jane) and love sharing it! It's what we bonded over initially, and neither were jealous/upset to share the name! Oh, and it was totally coincidental that both had the same name (spelled the same way.) Our parents didn't know each other... Use the name you truly love!

November 27, 2010 6:10 PM
By Renee (not verified)

Use it anyway. You already claimed it first, so it's obvious that SHE is the copycat :)

What about using names that an adult family member has; one that you used just because you liked it- not because you're naming your baby after that person? Is that weird? It's a little late for me to ask, but that's what I did with my son.

It's a classic name and also my husband's middle name, so I don't know if that makes any difference.

November 30, 2010 10:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We know a couple who stole a baby name, first AND middle. It's very awkward when we have both families over since one child was clearly named after the other

December 28, 2010 5:41 PM
By Empathy (not verified)

Use the name you like even if someone steals it.

This happened in our family, two brothers' wives were pregnant at the same time. One having her first girl revealed the name she'd chosen, the other delivered first and used that name. A month later the first wife had her girl and used the name anyways.

Is it odd or confusing, sure. But the girls are just called by their name and middle initial when they're together.

Was it wrong for it to be stolen, probably, but I think it would have been worse for the injured party to accept the insult and find a new name.

If the name is right for your child, use it without concern for how others might perceive that.

January 3, 2011 11:21 AM
By Manda (not verified)

I agree that people are way too weird when it comes to baby names. There is no way I'm asking anyone's permission when naming my child. If the name is on the top 100 list- fahgetaboutit! I know the OP said her name was completely uncommon, so I'm speaking in response to most of the comments.

I also can't help but notice that the OP didn't even say if she was pregnant. If not, I think 10 years is past the "hold" allowed on a name. If she never has a child- or never has a child of that gender, a perfectly good name goes to waste. There could be several reasons that the name thief felt comfortable in stealing the name. I had a name picked out when I was 12. I told it to my pregnant cousin and she used it. I now look at my 18 year old cousin and am proud I had a part in naming him. I still love the name, but didn't use it when naming my own children because I had grown out of the style.

If you like it, use it. If you're the type to get your panties in a wad when people steal it, don't share it until after the baby is born. Even then, a friend may very well use the name because she likes it. People don't own names. There would be no baby name lists because we'd all have to come up with Native American names to truly own them. Even then I suspect there would be 100 kids running around called "Child Whose Name Was Stolen". In the end, most children will spend more time with the 10 other kids that share his/her name in his class than with the child of a friend/coworker/relative who stole it. 11 months ago I named my baby(a derivative of my husband's middle name). My SIL just gave birth to her second son and named him my husband's middle name. When we talked baby names early in the pregnancy, I encouraged her to use the name she loved- regardless of who "had" it first.

January 3, 2011 10:39 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Don't tell people your name choices, then they can't steal them, also, they cannot complain about it either.

You could use a decoy name and tell people that's what you're considering calling the baby, that will throw them off too.

You can have the last laugh if it's a name you hate, and someone steals it.

January 6, 2011 3:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

With 30 first cousins on just one side of my family, we have a few duplicates in with our kids. There are two Andrews and two Christophers. I'm sure lots of the middle names overlap. I want to use family names, so there may be more overlap with Johanna or Kathryn. We'll see. I actually suggest my brother use Johanna for his girls since I don't know if I'll have kids while my grandma is still alive and I want her to know her legacy. He didn't, so I guess I better get at it!

March 21, 2011 9:52 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My situation is with my sister in law, my husbands brothers wife, we already have the last name. We have been ttc for 5 years and had the full name picked out for a girl and a boy.(i really want a girl) Im 24 and my sister in law is 18 and they got married very young bc of a pregnancy. Wel recently she found out shes expecteing again and wanted a boy very badly but is having the girl. well ive told her the name and i just found out she took the first and middle and we already have the same last name. i have had so many problems with her she is so jealous about everything in my life and makes it a goal to make me miserable. i just don't know what to do.

July 20, 2012 11:23 PM
By PrincessPurity (not verified)

I feel irritation when I read your comment that people are too possessive. I understand if you do not agree or share the sentiment, but there is something about a name that touches me on a deeper level. Even as a child I would ask people about their middle names. You shouldn't be so harsh to people with different values than your own. It sounds to me that you pride yourself on your indifference in the matter, in which case, your opinion will not do any good here, only cause irritation. But congratulations on not caring about this topic! Maybe you can start a new forum about that.

October 26, 2012 7:36 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I've had this happen to me! My sister in law (who was never in a relationship at the time) mysteriously got pregnant 3 months after I told her I was . One day we were talking about what I was going to name the baby if she was a girl. I mention the name I had my heart set on. We had a huge following -out mostly because we were both hormonal, but because i also felt like she intentionally got pregnant to steal my shine.(she would do this!) A few months later she finds out shes having twins and asks me what I think of this name and that she was planning to give one of her twins that name. It was the name I picked but with a different first letter. : / it still upsets me to talk about it, I told her straight up that I didn't like it because it was basically the same name I was going to pick. She said to me.."you don't own that name!" That irritated me even more! I know I don't own that name, but seriously?!!! Out of all the names in the world you could have picked you steal that one?!!! Think of your own name? Be creative! : / Anyways, after all was said and done she still names her child that after I told her I didn't like it. Why did she ask me in the first place what I thought of it?! Dumb! When I found out I was having a boy I got over it and decided that I wasn't EVER going to name my daughter the same name I originally picked. Btw don't use the same name if the situation really upset you because it will only remind you of all the bs you went through with that name!!! So any who I get over everything and 6 months later she admits to me that she intentionally stole that name to upset me!! Wtf?!!!! Intentionally did it?!! Why the hell would you admit to that?!! She said it was because we were fighting in the beginning of our pregnancies and that she knew it would upset me and that the name was permanent!! Ugh she should have kept that bs to herself! I totally understand how you feel, but at the end of the day you just have to be the bigger person. It isn't worth it to loose sleep over it. It shows how loyal someone is to you and how childish they can be. Pick out an even better one and let her live with the guilt! I picked out an even better girl name for my next sister in law will be the last to know the name or at least until its on my daughters birth certificate and social card! Lol stay strong!

December 4, 2012 12:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When I got pregnant I planned not to find out what we were having. My mother and sister in law asked what names we had so I told them. We ended up having a girl. My sister in law ended up having a baby boy a few months after us and used our name, it was a very unique name and I cant come up with anything better. when I came to see her baby they actually said, "didn't you have that name if you were going to have a boy". I just told them that I did, but didn't make a big deal out of it, even though I was pretty upset inside. My SIL said that she just didn't have time to think of a name. I would use the name, but I see them all the time. Every time I here them call his name, I get mad. And I really can't think of a better name. I know how you feel, so sorry.

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