Experts Rank the Most Controversial Baby Names (and Why)

Baby namers beware – these are the names stirring up some serious shit, according to baby naming experts, Nameberry.

Nameberry recently put out a survey to members asking to reveal the top names parents might want to reconsider.

The survey results come shortly after Nick Cannon announced the name of his 8th child – Legendary Love. Which, let’s be honest, is ridic. But it’s also very on trend for celebrities who love to name their kids over-the-top monikers that leave us normal folk confused and slightly afraid for their kids’ futures.

Like Zillion Heir (another Nick Cannon offspring). And Powerful Queen (again Nick’s daughter). We’ve also got Kulture, Wilde Wolfe, and Usain Bolt’s appropriately named kids, Olympia, Saint Leo and Thunder Bolt. You can check out a few more wild options in our celebrity baby name story last year.

But I digress. These controversial baby names listed below are not just loved (and used) by celebrities, but by regular folk too.

Read on for the most controversial baby names, as voted by Nameberry users, that you should be aware of – and what makes them so problematic.

Adonis – and other modern virtuous names

Virtuous names are nothing new – names like Grace, Faith, Hope, for example. But lately, parents are going to great depths and into the gods when naming their infants.

Adonis, the name synonymous with masculine beauty, for example, is just one. You’ve also got Atlas, Ares, Roman, and Persephone, all of which are gaining popularity as well as the heavy hitters like Royal, Prince, King, Princess and Saint.

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The issue is that there’s A LOT of pressure on a child with a name that symbolises royalty, or perfection, whether it’s perfection in beauty or virtue. Naming your kid Saint, and then watching him grow up to be a little sh*thead? That’s baby naming irony for you.

SIDE NOTE: A lot of these powerful names are actually banned in Australia including Queen, Princess, Prince, King, Saint, Duke, and General.

Azriel – and other devilish choices 

Azriel sounds dark and mysterious and, super badass. But it’s actually the name of the Angle of Death in Jewish and Islamic tradition.

Other dark magic names that sound cool but are associated with demonic spirits are Loki, Leviathan (Levi) and Damian.

Honey – and other cutesy names 

Names like Honey, Kitty, Buddy, Coco, Dolly and Birdie sound sweet, but what about when they are adults? It’s a bit weird thinking about how a14-year-old girl is being called “Honey” by her teachers, co-workers, etc.


What’s wrong with Blair? According to Nameberry, a lot of people think of Tony Blair, the Blair Witch Project or snooty Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl.


It’s uber-hip, but it’s also one of those names that a lot of people simply don’t like.


Celebrities love this name. Megan Fox, Teresa Palmer and Nikki Reed all have Bodhis. However, the issue stems from the religious connotations and appropriation.

As Nameberry explains,

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.

Its beautiful meaning and bohemian feel is no doubt a big part of the appeal for many parents. But this spiritual significance is exactly what makes Bodhi such a contentious choice, particularly as it is not used as a name in Buddhist culture.” 

Nameberry points out there are a few other names that can be considered controversial baby names due to religious connotations include Cohen, Cree, Torah and Veda.


For Americans, the name Dixie is riddled with controversy.

As a common shorthand for the eleven states that seceded to form the Confederacy during the American Civil War, Dixie carries heavy historical echoes of slavery and racial segregation.”


Guns and names never really mix well. Other ones you might not want to land on include Colt, Cannon, Kimber, Caliber, Remington and Trigger.


Harvey is climbing the charts in Australia but it’s also attached to one of the most hated men in America. Harvey Weinstein.


Geographical names are quite popular, but some of them may have negative connotations connected to them.

As Nameberry explains,

The long history of colonialism and exploitation between India and Great Britain makes it a very divisive choice there.

The appropriateness of using unconnected geographical names like IndiaAsiaMalaysia or Kenya for babies on the basis of their “exotic” image is up for debate.”


James for a boy is fine. It’s James for a girl that’s got the Nameberry pollers up in arms.


Jemima is screaming with new-age old-school cool and we love it! But it’s also very commonly associated with Aunt Jemima, a brand of syrup and pancake mix, which until recently, featured a strongly stereotyped image of a Black “mammy” character prominently in its marketing.

For Americans, Jemima is riddled with problems, but in Australia, you may be more inclined to associate it with Jemima on Playschool. Either way, something to think about if you have this name on your list.


The queen of the trolls, Karen may never recover from the cruel world of the internet.


And let’s not forget the biggest character naming mistake in the history of ever.

Once upon a time Khaleesi, which isn’t even a real word, just a royal title from a made-up language, was the hottest thing to hit television. And then Game of Thrones’ final season arrived and, well, most of us know how that ended up. Not only was the name completely tarnished, but the whole show went up in smoke.

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Source: Twitter

Nameberry mentions a few more popular names that are deeply etched in a certain character such as Draco, Elsa and Renesmee (groan*). However, there are several other historical names that come with tragic backstories that still feel too loaded for some parents. These include Ophelia, Cain and Guinevere. Lolita is probs a good one to avoid too.


Like Azriel, Lilith is actually associated with evil spirits and translates to ‘night monster’.

Lilith was a demon in Ancient Mesopotamian mythology and the first wife of Adam in Jewish tradition. She was banished from Eden for refusing to submit to him, and their children became the evil sprits of the world.

This heavy history has led many modern parents to view Lilith as a feminist icon, punished for refusing to subordinate herself to a man. But for others, the demonic undertones are just too strong.


You either love this name or you hate it because it’s actually not a name, but a spiritual word spelled backwards.


It’s edgy, fun and sounds like it would make a great alternative to the more popular names like Jackson and Mason. But former US president Richard Nixon ruined it for everyone. Thanks a lot, Dick. Way to ruin a cute name.


Wait a minute? What’s wrong with Pippa? This adorable little name is steadily climbing the charts in Australia. But, beware, the name Pippa isn’t as sweet and innocent in every country.

Nameberry writes,

If you love to travel – or think your daughter might – beware! Pippa has seriously unappealing slang meanings in multiple European languages, including Swedish, Italian and Polish.”

Spoiler alert: Pippa is another term for your hoohaa. Similar to naming a child Fanny or Willy.

Other names that suffer the same fate include:

  • Poppy, which sounds like the word for “butt” in Russian
  • Ziva, which can mean “gonorrhea” in modern Hebrew
  • Zora, which is a little too close for comfort to the Spanish zorra, a slur meaning “prostitute”

creative spelling baby names

We’ve recently shared a whole list of names with terribly unfortunate meanings including:

  • Kennedy – “Deformed head”
  • Courtney – “Short nose”
  • Calvin – “Bald”
  • Brendan – “Stinking hair”
  • Cameron – “Crooked nose”
  • Campbell – “Crooked mouth”
  • Gideon – “Having a stump for a hand”
  • Mallory – “Unlucky”
  • Claudia – “Lame”
  • Portia – “Pig”
  • Caleb – “Dog”

Rex – and other animal names 

Popular pet names and popular baby names often cross paths. Charlie, Max, Luna, Milo, Sadie, Bella – feature on both lists.

But it’s the names that are really really associated with dogs (or other pets) that people aren’t too sure of. Names like Rex, Rufus and Bruno for dogs and Felix, Simba and Tabitha for cats.

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Pronounced SEER-sha, SUR-sha or SAIR-sha depending on dialect, Saorise means “freedom” in Irish Gaelic and is a lovely choice. But for some, it’s a bit of a problem “due to its very specific cultural roots.”

It raises the question of whether it’s even appropriate for a person from another culture to use. If the spelling is changed to follow phonetic patterns or typical pronunciation patterns in English, it can be seen as making the name less authentic or Anglicizing something that shouldn’t be.

Definitely, something to think about.

Check out other beautiful baby names that are often hard to pronounce. 

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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