Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
My husband and I are expecting our first child this spring. We agreed on a name pretty quickly: Jacob Michael. Michael is the name of the friend who introduced us, who we plan on asking to be Jacob’s godfather. And Jacob is a name we both love.
So why am I writing? My (younger, unmarried, no kids – yet) sister says it’s a boring name. That he’ll be one of five in his school. And that I’ll be one of those people regretting their baby’s name.
My husband says it’s fine with him, but it’s also fine if I want to change it.
We only have a few weeks left, and I could really use some advice.
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Holly –
How exciting to be expecting your first – congratulations!
And how lovely that you already have the perfect name chosen.
My advice: name your son Jacob Michael and never look back.
Since that would make for a very short post, let me spend a little more time telling you why I think you’ll never regret using the name you love.
You and your husband agree. This is no small thing.
Most people who write in are struggling to find a name that both parents can embrace. You’re lucky enough to be on the same page with this name!
Your sister says boring, but I say classic.
Yes, Jacob was the #1 name for boys born in the US for years. (From 1999 to 2012, to be precise.) It’s been in the Top 100 since 1974, and only just left the Top Ten after 2017.
Are there lots of boys named Jacob? Yup.
But there are also lots of boys named William and Henry and James. Classic names appeal for lots of reasons. You’re certainly not alone in preferring something time-tested.
Name regret is about being talked out of YOUR favorite name.
There are lots of reasons parents report regretting their child’s name. But the biggie? Getting talked out of your favorite name for fear it’s too anything – popular, weird, plain, uncommon.
On a practical note, I’m guessing you might know fewer Jacobs than your sister’s worst-case scenario. We know lots of kids, from teenagers all the way down to newborns. And I know a grand total of three Jacobs, pretty much spread across that range. The most popular names just aren’t as saturated as they were even a generation ago.
So I would proceed with your plan and name your son Jacob Michael. Someday, your sister can choose names, as wild and extravagant as she likes.
Readers, what would you say to Holly?
I teach in a public elementary school of 600+ kids. I looked up the name Jacob, and there is one in second grade and one in fifth. It’s not as common as it used to be, and it is a beautiful, solid name. I agree with the poster that the name your sister likes will be the one that 4 kids in the kindergarten class will share.
A common name isn’t what it used to be. My kids were born in the Jacob heyday and I don’t recall them every having one in their class. The names we’ve seen repeat are Joshua and Jackson. And Jacob at least has a distinctive sound as a name, unlike the clusters of Ellie/Eliana/Aaliyah/Leah or Aiden/Brayden/Jaden/Jalen.
The universe has a sense of humor and I can only imagine that if you were to choose a more unusual name there would be a kid or two with that same name in your son’s grade. And, as the icing on top, there wouldn’t be a single Jacob!
Jacob is a solid and lovely name. Also, of all the people I’ve met and known in my life (and of all the reasons there are to make that person a friend), I can’t say I’ve ever thought, “I think we could have hit it off, but I could never be friends with someone who has SUCH A BORING NAME.” Picking a name can feel so make or break when you’re pregnant, but every baby (with a rare name or a common one) still grows up to be the person they always were (and, really, already are). Congratulations of your son and please send an update when your sister has her first baby. 🙂
Jacob is also my and my husband’s favorite name and the name of our 6-year-old. He’s the only one out of four first grade classrooms and I only know of one other in the school! We have fun with nicknames- Jakey, Cub, Cubby, JD. So clearly I vote in favor of using it 🙂
the Mrs. says
Okay, Cub as a nickname for Jacob is possibly the best nickname yet for such an evergreen name!
ANY name bothers me IF (and only if) parents don’t have any special tie to the name. You could call your son Cavalier Croix, but if you “just liked the sound of it”… well, I know I would have wanted my name to have been special to my parents.
But AWESOME NEWS! You DO have PHENOMINAL reasons for choosing such a handsome name for your son! He is going to feel so loved and extremely cool.
Marvelous taste you two have! May your next child be as blessed as this one.
Best wishes and congrats!
It’s a classic, handsome name that you and your husband love. Go for it!
For data I know 4 Jacobs ranging from 18-12. None of them would have been in the same class. Names I’ve seen repeated in a class include Jack, Kobi, Archer, Lilly, James, Evie, Sam, Lachie, Mikayla. I don’t think most of them would have been predictable based on data (except Jack and Lachie which were both number 1 in our Australian state).
My son has a namesake in class and he doesn’t care at all. They use different nicknames anyway). Imo Jacob is a great name with history and substance. I would use it proudly.
Laura P says
Pick your favorite name. Not your sister’s favorite name.
Name prediction is kind of like weather prediction. You can see national/global trends, but can’t predict if it is going to be sunny or cloudy on a specific day in your town 6 years from now. Similarly you see (but not in real time) national trends in name popularity, but it’s impossible to guess the names of the boys in you son’s kindergarten class.
This school year I’ve come across a classroom with two boys named “Kade” and another with two boys named “Kellen”. Two girls “Yasmine”. And zero classrooms (out of many, I’m a substitute teacher) with two Jacobs. You can’t win the “popular” game because it depends on other people. You CAN win the “I love the name of my kid” game because it depends on you. Maybe your son will know other Jacobs maybe he won’t. But he will know he has a great name picked with love.
Name your son Jacob.
Gonna be real with you – I fully agree with your sisters assessment of the name Jacob. But where your sister and I differ is that I know it’s not her or I’s child and that you will never regret using a name you love. So if you want to use it please do.
Mandie L. says
My husband and I have chosen rare names for our kids, so I understand a little where your sister is coming from – if it was her own child. But this is not her son, he’s yours. My sisters and I each have very distinct naming styles, but then we have different styles on lots of things, and always have. 🙂
Jacob Michael is a beautiful, classic name, and you have great reasons to choose it. And I agree with Abby that having a name you both love is not something to give up lightly.
Use it! You love it, use it!
But in case it makes you feel any better, in our kid population over several years and states, we have had zero Jacobs. Easily 300+ kids, no Jacobs.
Popular is relative. There may find a bunch in your area (or your sister’s), but the chances are you won’t.
Use the name you love
Erin Beth says
I’m biased because I love timeless classics but I think you have chosen a wonderful name and I really can’t imagine that you would regret using it. I know a Jacob or two, but even if I knew more, it wouldn’t deter me. Classic names are versatile and each Jacob can make the name his own. For me, that is a big part of the appeal.
I have a cute little nephew named Jacob who often goes by “Cub”. I completely agree with everything Abby said- Jacob is a wonderful name, a great classic you agree on, and it’s not as popular as it used to be so it’s less likely that there will be lots of other Jacobs running around. But if you share your sister’s concern at all, one possibility might be finding a more unusual or interesting nickname. And of course, remember that family members often come to love the name because its connected to the baby they love.
I work with kids and have only had one Jacob out of the 80ish students I see every week. I would say Jack, Henry, and Theo are extremely popular names in my area and even then I never have more than 2 in the same group. (Asher however is an epidemic here; 4 in one class!) There is no guarantee that he won’t ever have another Jacob in class but I say if you love it, go for it!
If you are still on the fence and worried about popularity or his name being “boring” then my suggestion would be to go with Jacoby instead. One letter really changes up the whole name. You can still call him Jake or even Coby.
Use Jacob! It’s not boring it’s classic. I have a James. And yes, he has run into other boys with this wonderful name. No big deal.
I agree with Abby. My husband and I have many children (eight – expecting our ninth), and I quickly learned that discussing names prior to a baby’s arrival with anyone other than your spouse can be problematic. Whatever name you propose – no matter how unusual or classic – WILL be disliked by at least one person. And people tend to be extremely free with expressing their strong opinions on potential names – once a baby is born and officially named, *most* people tend to avoid criticism – except perhaps the most opinionated, and frankly, rude.
When I was expecting our first, I was at a family event, and relatives starting asking me what names we were considering. I mentioned “William” for a boy, and one aunt was fairly disgusted. Then I mentioned “Anastasia” for a girl, and a cousin immediately jumped to “But then everyone will call her Stacy – and I do NOT like that.” I was kind of astonished at the negative feedback at the time – especially over names that were pretty tame and mainstream.
We ended up not picking a first name until a day after my son’s birth (John “ Jack” Anthony – Anthony was always settled as a family name), and while I don’t think you need to wait that long to make a decision, I think keeping the name under wraps until the baby’s arrival has it’s benefits.
And for the record, my eldest son LOVES his strong, classic name – it’s not uncommon, and he knows other Jacks, but it has not bothered him an iota. I am sure your son Jacob will feel the same.
You can never predict what’s going to happen with a name- you have chosen a perennial classic, one that you absolutely love. Who knows if the more “unique” name your sister would have you choose will explode in popularity soon or take on a unfortunate connotation down the road. With Jacob, you know what to expect. He might be one of five in his class, or he might be the only one. The year I was born, my name was the #578 most popular name, and yet I went through life as Janine L. because there were three Janines in my class- all the way from kindergarten to high school. Don’t rely on a name to set your child apart, use the one you love, and let him set himself apart in whatever way he chooses.