Choosing a Name for Your Child

One question frequently comes up from curious strangers and prospective adoptive parents: Did you name your children? I love that I was asked to speak to this topic because it is something dear to my heart. I love names. I do not think it is coincidental that the meanings of names often reflect a person’s personality or that certain names are pressed upon our hearts for the child we will steward. I also believe there is purpose in those names. Often, they reflect the work the Lord has done or will do in that family or in the child. Isaac, for instance, means “he laughs” and certainly reflects Abraham’s heart in learning of his baby to be.

How we come to an adopted child’s name is a very personal decision. There are three general options. First,
there are people who choose to keep their child’s given name. They feel this is a part of who they are. It is something that was given to them (usually) by their birth parents. In many cases, they feel it is the only thing they’ll be bringing with them aside from the clothes on their backs. There is a tender sensitivity in these parents towards children and their first families and experiences.

Other people choose to change the child’s name completely. They want the child to feel welcomed into their home and family. They know how precious it is to share with their child the name they prayed to give them. Much like when the Lord called some of his people into new stages or ministries, He changed their names. Abram became Abraham, and Saul became Paul. These parents are reflecting the hopes of a fresh start and future for their children.

Still others choose to use a combination of their given name and a new name. Either keeping the given name and giving them a new middle name or giving them a new first name and keeping their given name as their middle name. We chose this last way in naming our 3 daughters who came home from Haiti. We wanted to give them the names we had chosen for their new start in their new family. However, each of them was coming home as an older child. To do away with the names they had been known by for years entirely didn’t seem right. The names we chose for them reflect their individual personalities as well as their connection in coming home together. Together, their names mean “Happy Life Belonging to God.” That is our hope for them, that their new start would be filled with joy and laughter and that they would choose, Lord willing, to follow Him.

There is no right or wrong way, but I do think there is some intentionality that needs to go into naming a child that comes home through adoption. A careful consideration of your unique child and their unique past and unique future. In many ways, their names will always be the first part of their story. What a beautiful testimony to God’s faithfulness.


Cate Johnson

Cate Johnson has been married to her best friend, Sean, for 10 years. They currently reside in the Sonoran Desert with their three Haitian princesses who came home forever in 2008. Ada is 8, Nica is 6, and Evelyn is 5. They are passionate about Jesus, adoption, and attachment. They also love coming alongside prospective adoptive parents as well as those struggling through transition and attachment. Cate blogs about all of these topics and more at Gathered From Afar and Attaching Hearts.

3 Responses to Choosing a Name for Your Child

  • Jami says:

    Cate I like this! We too used a mixture of our son’s bith name and a name we chose for him. He came home from Guatemala when he was 10 months old. His given name, Edwin Fernando. We chose Hudson for his first name but are keeping Edwin Fernando as his middle names. One really cool thing is that my grandpa’s name is Edwin! Very special indeed. Our little Hudson is such a gift from the Lord. Blessing to you and your beautiful family!


  • Cate says:

    Hi Jami! I love that! Reminds me of Hudson Taylor. :) Congrats on your little man

  • Dawn says:

    I love how their names combine to mean “Happy Life Belonging to God”. How beautiful! We are currently adopting an 8 year old and plan to do a combination of her new name and her given name. I hosted her already last summer for two weeks and can’t get used to the idea of calling her by anything but her given name. It just seems to fit her; however, her given name is hard for most people to say, and I do like the idea of giving her a name picked out especially by us for her new start in our family. Thank you for your wonderful article.

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