Stripped of Identity: How Naming Laws Rob Individuals of Their True Selves

By Krystal Brown

You can name your child almost anything within the UK and USA, but this isn’t the same everywhere else in the world. There are some countries that have strict baby naming laws.


Babies are not allowed to be named with a name that could be classed as a traditional last or middle name. The only exception is if you are from a culture that doesn’t make that distinction. There is also a rule that you’re not allowed to change your name more than once every ten years. Parents are also not allowed to give their children a name that could cause them misery or inconvenience. One of the strangest rules however is that if you’re deciding to change your last name and more than 200 people have it, you can. But if 200 or less have it, then you need to ask permission from every single person with that last name.


Germany is a very strict place when it comes to naming babies. You must name your baby something that is suitable to the gender, and it must not negatively affect the child later on in life. You’re also not allowed to use names of objects or products, or last names as your child’s first name. The office of vital statistics chooses whether the name you have chosen is acceptable. If your name gets rejected then you have a choice of appealing the decision. However, if you lose again then you have to consider another name that is more suited and accepted. Every single time you submit a name, you have to pay a fee, and if you put in a few different names, it can be quite costly.


Babies in China have to be named something that a computer scanner is able to read on national identification cards. It is recommended by the government for a child to be given a name that is easy to read and encourages simplified characters over the traditional Chinese ones. Any name can technically be chosen as long as there are no numbers and non-Chinese symbols and characters. The government has promised more support for obscure characters within names after the 2000s, when people were being asked to change their names for the benefit of identification cards.


The naming law was originally created to prevent any non-noble families from giving noble names to their children, but since it was first put into place in 1982, things have changed. The first section of the law reads, “First names shall not be approved if they can cause offence 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.” If you have multiple first names and you decide to change one of your names later on in life then you must at least keep one name.

New Zealand

New Zealand naming law is similar to others in regards to not being able to name a child anything that “might cause offence to a reasonable person; or is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank.” This is in accordance with New Zealand’s Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act of 1995.


One given name and a surname are given to the new babies of Japan. However, this doesn’t apply to the imperial family, who only receive given names. There are a few examples of names that are clearly given names and surnames, regardless of what order the names are given. The purpose of this is so in Japanese, the names can be easily written and read. Other names that are banned in Japan are ones that are deemed inappropriate.


In 1991, the Iceland Naming Committee was created, and this is a group of people who decide whether the baby’s name is acceptable or not. If there is a name chosen for a baby that isn’t on the National Register of Persons then there is a fee to pay to apply for approval. There are a few tests to pass in order for the name to be approved.

  • It must contain only letter in the Icelandic alphabet
  • It must grammatically fit within the language
  • It must not embarrass the child in the future
  • It must aligned with the Icelandic traditions
  • It must have a genitive ending
  • Names must be gender specific


Denmark has a very strict law on personal names, and it’s in order to protect children from having embarrassing names. There is a list of 7,000 approved names, and if a parent wants to choose a name that isn’t on the list, they must go to the local church to ask for special permission. The name will then be reviewed by government officials. If common names are spelled creatively, these are often rejected. The name chosen for the child must be gender specific, last names can’t be used for first names and any unusual names might be rejected.