WATCH: Common Baby Names That Are Actually Illegal in Other Countries
Linda, George, and Catherine are just a few surprising offenders.
Part of what makes our nation so great is that we, as American citizens, have a lot of freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press, petition, and so on and so forth. Outside of our basic human rights and the U.S. Constitution, parents in this country also have the liberty to name their children whatever tickles their fancy. From traditional baby names like Elizabeth and Charlotte that have been given the royal seal of approval, to more unusual monikers like Cricket and Apple, there’s a lot of leeway given to parents when it comes to naming a child. In other parts of the world, not so much.
The government in other countries can actually put a hold on your baby-naming plans. Sometimes names are banned because officials feel that the parent doesn’t have the child’s best interest at heart. Other times it may come down to the name violating a particular country’s cultural and ethnic identity.
For example, in Denmark, if the name you’ve chosen is oddly spelled (think: Ashleiy), it can be rejected. The Government of the French Republic doesn’t take too kindly to any names that could embarrass the child (ahem, like Nutella or Strawberry). Germany is even more strict, placing limits on gender-neutral names (so long to the Sams and Baileys of the world), last names used as first names, names of objects or products (like, Kohl, as in the popular eyeliner), and, of course, any names that could lead to humiliation.
Despite how common these 18 baby names are in the South and beyond, unfortunately, you won’t see them embossed on birth certificates in other countries.
In Portugal, "Caterina" is A-OK. But "Catherine," which is the Anglicized version, is one of the many names on the Portuguese government’s 82-page document that’s unacceptable.
Similar to Portugal, Denmark also keeps a registry of names on hand. "Peter" is one of the names that didn’t make the cut on the 7,000 pre-approved list.
It’s the spelling that puts this name on the banned list in Morocco. A baby can be named "Sara" (Arabic version) because it appropriately reflects Moroccan identity, but not "Sarah" (Hebrew version).
This name, apparently, goes against social traditions and religion in Saudi Arabia. On the listing of illegal names released by the desert country’s Interior Ministry in 2014, "Linda" was one that’s been outlawed.
Sure, we love the royal tots across the pond, but both the names "George" and "Charlotte" are prohibited in Portugal, along with "William." And because one Prince is enough, it’s also forbidden to name a child "Prince William" in France.
Names: Carolina and Harriet
To say that Iceland officials take grammar very seriously is a huge understatement. Apparently, "Carolina" doesn't follow Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules because the letter "c" isn’t part of their 32-letter alphabet.
Another common name in the U.S. that you won’t find in Iceland is "Harriet." In 2014, officials refused to renew the passport of a 10-year-old, British-born girl named Harriet. Their reasoning was because Harriet "can’t be conjugated in Icelandic." And you thought multisyllabic names were hard.
"John" will forever be a timeless name in America, both for its simplicity and religious connotation. But in Denmark, it’s a no-go.
Like Morocco, spelling is everything when it comes to names in Hungary. On their registry of approved names, "Stephen" doesn’t comply with the native language, even though it’s primarily spelled this way in the U.S. "Stefán," on the other hand, gets the Hungarian blessing.
The names "Thomas," "Thomás," and "Tom" are all illegal according to Portuguese law.
Names: Maya, Alice, Lauren, Elaine, and Sandy
"Maya" is a beautiful and trendy name in the U.S., but it’s not welcomed by the Saudis. Other prohibited names in Saudi Arabia include: Alice, Lauren, Elaine, and Sandy. Why? Well, according to the Ministry of Interior, they’re offensive for one of these three reasons detailed on the banned list:
"Those that offend perceived religious sensibilities, those that are affiliated to royalty, and those that are of non-Arabic or non-Islamic origin."
Names: Zoe and Daniela
The Icelandic Naming Committee has deemed both of these names as lacking in "proper historical precedence," due to the fact that only nine girls are named "Daniela" in Iceland and seven women named "Zoe." In fact, nearly a week ago on October 26, the Reykjavík District Court ruled that the parents of a 2-year-old girl named Zoe would have to change her name because it didn’t adhere to Icelandic language and grammar.
Fortunately for us Southerners, it’s a good thing the King of Rock 'n' Roll wasn’t born in Sweden because his name would be against the law. Government officials have also blocked Swedish parents from naming their kids after another legendary rock band— "Metallica." And it goes without saying, but you can’t name a child "Ikea" in Sweden either.
What’s in a name? Everything—especially when it comes to countries like Iceland, Saudi Arabia, and Portugal. It’s a good thing names like Blanche, Julia, Nathan, and Parker are still allowed below the Mason-Dixie.