In the U.S., parents are given a lot of leeway when it comes to naming their children. New Jersey only bans names that include obscenities, numerals, or symbols, so the Campbells were totally in the clear when naming their children Adolf Hitler and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation. And no one could stop Penn Jillette from naming his daughter Moxie Crimefighter.
Other parts of the world aren’t as liberal when it comes to baby-naming. In 2017, the Swiss court in Zurich ruled against a couple who wanted to use “J” as one of their daughter’s middle names, as a tribute to her great-grandparents, Johanna and Josef. Their reasoning for the objection? That it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the child and that others would be prompted to put a period after the name when it wasn’t an abbreviation. (The court suggested the much-more-acceptable "Jo" instead.) Here are 37 examples of baby names that, for one reason or another, were deemed unfit for a birth certificate.
In 2015, a French couple apparently wanted to name their daughter Nutella because they hoped she could emulate the sweetness and popularity of the chocolate spread. One French judge wasn’t having it, and insisted that the name could only lead to “mockery and disobliging remarks.” It was ruled that the child’s name be shortened to the considerably more conventional-sounding “Ella.”
2. Akuma (Devil)
The case of baby Akuma, which means devil in Japanese, stirred such a frenzy in the early 1990s that it even caught the attention of the prime minister’s cabinet. The justice minister at the time spoke out against the government intervention, saying, “It is not appropriate to instruct parents to change children’s names without legal basis.” Regardless, naming your child devil eventually became illegal in Japan.
New Zealand has no time for anyone’s bizarre baby-naming shenanigans. Parents have to get all potential names approved by the government, and if officials deem something too wacky, it gets added to the ever-growing list of banned names. There were many questionable entries on the list they released in 2013, Anal being a particularly horrifying offender.
4. Gesher (Bridge)
Norway is another country that regulates what parents can name their child. One Norwegian mother was sent to jail after failing to pay the $210 fine for using an unapproved name. She protested, saying that she had been instructed to name her son Gesher, the Hebrew word for bridge, in a dream she had.
5. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii
Another name banned from New Zealand is Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. The New Zealand government hated it so much they assumed guardianship of the 9-year-old girl who held that moniker in order to ensure that a more appropriate name was found for her.
6. Osama Bin Laden
Around a year after 9/11, a Turkish couple living in Cologne, Germany, felt inspired to name their child after Osama Bin Laden. German officials declined to let that happen, citing the section of their naming guidelines which states that all names “must not be likely to lead to humiliation.” What’s more, German law prohibited foreign names that are illegal in the parents’ home country, and this particular moniker is illegal in Turkey.
In 2014, officials from Sonora, Mexico, compiled a list of banned baby names taken straight from the state’s newborn registries. While citizens are no longer allowed to give this name to their children, there’s at least one kid out there named Robocop.
8. Chief Maximus
Max is usually short for something, so why not Chief Maximus? Unfortunately, this name was banned by Australia.
Sweden has notoriously strict naming laws. In 1982, a law was passed to prevent non-noble families from bestowing their children with noble names. Today, the law vaguely states that “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 protest of the restrictions, one couple decided to make their child’s name a captcha code from hell. The name, pronounced “Albin,” was rejected. The parents later submitted the name with the same pronunciation but rewritten as “A." That was rejected as well.
As is the case with many countries, China doesn’t allow symbols or numerals to be included in baby names. The at symbol is pronounced “ai-ta” in Chinese, which sounds similar to a phrase meaning “love him.” One couple felt the symbol was a fitting name for their son, but the Chinese government apparently disagreed.
In 2014, officials from Sonora, Mexico, compiled a list of banned baby names from the state’s newborn registries. One of the unfortunate names that made the cut was Circuncisión, Spanish for “circumcision.” They made the decision to ban the name from that point forward.
12. and 13. Harriet and Duncan
In 2014, a family in Iceland was told they couldn’t renew their 10-year-old daughter’s passport. The problem? It listed her name as Stúlka, Icelandic for “Girl.” The family had a similar issue with their 12-year-old son’s passport, which listed his name as “Boy.”
Icelandic parents must name their children an approved name in the National Register of Person. In addition to not being a potential source of humiliation, the name must also meet criteria that’s more specific to Iceland. It can only include letters in the Icelandic alphabet and must be able to conform to the language grammatically.
The name “Harriet,” which is what “Girl” actually went by, fails on that second front. And there’s no letter c in the Icelandic alphabet to correctly spell “Duncan,” her brother’s given name—hence the passport that listed his name as “Boy.” Or, more accurately, its Icelandic equivalent: Drengur. After an appeal, however, it was decided that they could get passports under their real names because their parents were both foreign nationals.
In 2007, a baby girl from Sweden was baptized under this heavy metal name, but tax officials deemed it inappropriate. Eventually, authorities came to their senses and let the little girl rock out with her unique name. Unique for a while, at least—apparently there are now a few Metallicas running and/or crawling around the country.
15. Chow Tow (Smelly Head)
By naming their child Chow Tow, which translates to “smelly head,” two parents in Malaysia were basically doing future bullies’ jobs for them. The country published this in a list of banned monikers after receiving an influx of people applying to change their given names.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia released its own list of banned baby names. Several of them, like Linda, claimed spots due to their association with Western culture.
17. Sex Fruit
The New Zealand government thankfully stepped in before some poor child had to spend the rest of their life with the name Sex Fruit. (Though being raised by parents who thought that was a smart idea in the first place probably presents its own set of challenges.)
Denmark is another country that requires parents to choose baby names from a pre-approved list. Parents need permission from the government to choose outside the list of approved names, and each year approximately 250 are rejected. In addition to Monkey, the names Pluto and Anus also didn’t make the cut.
19. Venerdi (Friday)
Italy has the jurisdiction to reject baby names when they are “likely to limit social interaction and create insecurity.” Judges claimed the name Venerdi, meaning Friday, would make the young boy in question the subject of mockery. The parents were forced to change the name, but in response threatened to name their next child Mercoledi, the Italian word for Wednesday.
Portugal has a whopping 80 pages dedicated to listing which names are legal and which are not. Nirvana is among the more than 2000 names that are included in the banned section.
21. Fraise (Strawberry)
When a couple attempted to name their child after a strawberry, the French courts intervened. The judge claimed that the name Fraise would incur teasing due to its connection to the idiomatic phrase “ramène ta fraise,” which means something like “get over here.” The parents insisted that they were only trying to give their daughter an original name, and eventually went with Fraisine instead.
22. “.” (Full Stop)
Among New Zealand’s 2013 list of banned names that people apparently tried giving to their children is the symbol “.”. The name would have been pronounced “Full Stop.”
When naming their children, Moroccan parents must choose from a list of acceptable names that properly align with “Moroccan identity.” Sarah with an h is banned because it’s considered to be the Hebrew spelling, but the Arabic Sara is perfectly fine.
24. Prince William
Unless the Prince of Wales is traveling to France, you won’t find any Prince Williams in the country. A couple from southern France was barred from giving the name to their child in 2015. According to a French court, the name would have caused harm to the child and been a heavy burden.
25. Mini Cooper
The same day that the would-be Prince William made his way into the world, a couple tried to name their newborn Mini Cooper. Since the court didn’t allow parents to copy the name of a notable human, you won’t be surprised to learn that they wouldn’t let them name a kid after a notable automobile, either.
IKEA is beloved around the world, but there’s at least one place where it’s illegal to name your baby after the furniture store: Its home country of Sweden. The name violates the nation’s strict naming laws.
Harry and Ron are acceptable names in many parts of the world, but in the Mexican state of Sonora, Hermione makes the banned baby names list. The Greek name, which means “well born,” predates the studious witch in the Harry Potter series. Nonetheless, Sonora has determined that the modern pop culture connotations make the name unsuitable for kids.
28. Fish and Chips (for Twins)
New Zealand banned a couple from giving this set of names to their newborn twins, marking a rare occasion when two names were banned as a pairing.
Speaking of naming children after food: The name Spinach is outlawed in Australia. (For the record, the name Kale appears to be acceptable.)
Not many people have positive associations with cyanide. A woman from Wales was one exception: She attempted to name her daughter after the poison, explaining that it was “responsible for killing Hitler and Goebbels and I consider that this was a good thing.” The Court of Appeals stepped in before the name became official.
If your name has to consist solely of numerals, you could do worse than 007. Sadly, James Bond’s code number is a banned name in Malaysia.
32. Griezmann Mbappé
When France won the World Cup in 2018, two parents wanted to celebrate in a big way—they named their son Griezmann Mbappé after football stars Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé. French officials felt the child wouldn’t grow up to be appreciative of the homage, and they forced the couple to pick a new name for him.
Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé aren’t the only soccer stars who have had babies named after them. In Rosario, Argentina, the hometown of Barcelona player Lionel Messi, baby Messis were becoming so common that the town passed a law specifically banning the name.
34. and 35. Ambre (for a Boy) and Liam (for a Girl)
Some names are deemed inappropriate not because of how they sound on their own, but because of who they’re given to. French officials stopped a couple from naming their son Ambre (the French version of Amber), arguing that having a traditionally feminine name risked “confusing the child in a way that could be harmful.” Another pair of French parents got into legal trouble for similar reasons when they tried naming their daughter Liam.
Many countries forbid parents and guardians from including numbers in baby names. There have been attempts to skirt this rule in New Zealand by using Roman numerals instead of Arabic numerals, but they were unsuccessful. The name III doesn’t cut it in the country.
Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy could have ended up with a different name if she was born in Italy. A couple in Milan tried naming their own daughter Blu (the Italian spelling of blue) and were ordered to change it. Naming laws in Italy dictate that “the name given to a child must correspond to their sex.” Because Blu is an unconventional name, officials argued that it doesn’t correspond to any sex and is therefore illegal.
A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2023.