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13 Baby Names That Have Been Banned Around the World

Sure, every parent wants their kid to stand out. But these parents definitely took it a little too far.

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What’s in a name?

Every country in the world has slightly different laws when it comes to what names you can and can’t legally give your offspring. These 13 sets of parents ran afoul of their nations’ governments with their wacky, cringe-worthy, and even untranslatable name choices. Here are some surprising things that are banned in the United States.

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Messiah (United States)

Well, sort of. For better or worse, the USA is very, very lenient when it comes to baby names—unlike many other nations. Baby-naming regulations vary by state. Some states (yes, only some) forbid using obscenities. Other states ban the use of numerals in baby names. Kentucky, meanwhile, has no regulations whatsoever. One particularly controversial baby-naming case occurred in 2013, when a Tennessee judge ruled that a couple couldn’t name their baby Messiah, saying that that name should belong to Christ alone. But the ruling was overturned. There are no official laws banning religiously affiliated names, and a chancery court determined that the judge couldn’t make decisions based on religious biases.

Next, take a look at the most popular vintage baby names in the United States. Some of the names even made it onto the list of most popular baby names in each state.

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My Good images/shutterstock

Nutella (France)

Hey, we love Nutella as much as anyone, but…naming your child after it? Seems a little extreme. Two French parents claimed that they’d chosen the name because they hoped that their daughter would be sweet and popular, just like the chocolate-hazelnut spread. French lawmakers, however, weren’t having it. One judge claimed that the name was “contrary to the child’s interest” because it would “only lead to mockery and disobliging remarks.” They ruled that the parents had to change her name to Ella. Here are some foods you had no idea were banned in America.

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Robocop (Mexico)

Sonora, a state in Northwestern Mexico, has a long list of specific baby names that parents cannot give their children. In 2014, the state released a list of 61 forbidden names in hopes of “[protecting] children from being bullied because of their name.” And many of the names came straight from newborn registries. So most names on the list had already been bestowed on an unlucky child, and the government felt the need to stop the moniker madness. While the legislation is unable to change the existing names of children, it spares future children from being named after the cinematic cyborg police officer. Other names on the list include “Facebook,” “Batman,” and “Panties.” (Panties? Really?)

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esb professional/shutterstock

Chow Tow (“Smelly Head”) (Malaysia)

The Malaysian phrase, meaning “smelly head,” sounds more like a taunt from bullies than a given name from your parents … and yet one Malaysian couple inexplicably seemed to think it would make a good name. Fortunately, the Malaysian government did not agree. In 2006, this ridiculous moniker made a list of forbidden names released by the Malaysian National Registration Department. The release of the list was spurred by an increasing number of Malaysian citizens applying to change their names.

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Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii (New Zealand)

Talula for short, maybe…? In 2008, a nine-year-old New Zealand girl became a ward of the court after a judge determined that her absurd name was basically child abuse. According to her lawyer, she’d been going by “K,” refusing to tell her classmates her real name for fear of being teased. The court assumed guardianship of the girl and allowed her to change her name.

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Paul Hakimata Photography/shutterstock

Cyanide (England)

Like the United States, England doesn’t have too many laws about baby naming. But when one British mother tried to name her daughter after this well-known poison, the court decided to step in. The judge who made the ruling claimed that, in England, the court would forbid a parent’s name choice “in only the most extreme cases.” Apparently this particular naming offense constituted that.

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Ikea (Australia)

The Land Down Under has a few stipulations when it comes to names. The names can’t be “obscene or offensive”; they can’t be “contrary to the public interest”; and they can’t be “established by repute or usage.” It’s this last rule that prohibits Aussies from naming their children after the famous furniture retailer. The name of a public institution counts as “established.” And it turns out that naming your child “Ikea” has been prohibited in Sweden as well. So, even in the country where it originated, you can’t name your child after IKEA. Take a look at how these goofy baby names compare to America’s most ridiculous town names.

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Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (Sweden)

A Swedish couple tried to give their son this whopper of a moniker in 1996. They claimed that the 43-character-long letter-and-number jumble was to be pronounced “Albin,” which is a relatively common Scandinavian name. It was meant to be a direct protest of the country’s fairly strict naming laws. We’re not sure what they expected to accomplish with this protest, since the Swedish government immediately enforced those very laws and insisted that they choose a different name.

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@ (China)

Naming a baby boy after a computer keyboard symbol might seem like the wackiest example on this list, but these parents actually did have a valid reason. Somewhat. In China, people call this symbol “ai-ta,” which sounds very similar to a Chinese phrase meaning “love him.” Whether you think that’s cringe-worthy or kind of sweet, China’s ban on names containing symbols forbade it from sticking.

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.  (New Zealand)

This name (if you can even call it that) would’ve been pronounced “full stop” if these New Zealand parents had gotten their way. However, the government rejected it, adding it to their list of banned baby names.

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Monkey (Denmark)

Instead of having a banned baby names list, Denmark has an approved baby names list containing about 7,000 names. If you live in Denmark and want to choose a name that’s not on the list, you must get a government official’s approval. Needless to say, “Monkey” does not make the approved baby names list. But that didn’t stop a couple of Danish parents from trying.

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Harriet/Duncan (Iceland)

Iceland is another nation with notoriously strict naming laws. Names in Iceland may be outlawed if they cannot be conjugated in Iceland or include letters that the Icelandic alphabet doesn’t have an equivalent for. One pair of parents learned this the hard way when they named their daughter Harriet, a name which can’t be conjugated in Icelandic. The poor parents struck out again when they named their son Duncan—the Icelandic alphabet has no equivalent for the letter C. They had to get passports for their children with the names “Girl” and “Boy” instead of their real names. Find out if your own name is illegal in Iceland.

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Sarah (Morocco)

What could possibly be wrong with Sarah?! Well, in Morocco, names must reflect “Moroccan identity.” Sarah, with an H, is the Hebrew spelling of the name. The Arabic spelling, “Sara,” however, is perfectly legal. Check out these other bizarre things that you won’t believe have been banned around the world.

[Sources: Mental Floss, Business Insider, Mom Junction]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.