While no one can claim sole ownership of a name, and there are cases of friends and relatives giving their kids the same names without malicious intentions, common decency dictates not deliberately taking a name.
Let’s explore what name theft is and isn’t.
Name theft isn’t:
1. Using the same names in a culture where it’s common to name children after relatives, esp. if there’s a fairly small pool of names to work with. E.g., Great-Grandma Julia and Great-Uncle Roger might have 10+ namesakes in the same generation because they were so beloved and everyone wanted to name kids after them.
2. You’re part of a religion and/or culture where just about everyone has a family with multiple people named for the same saints, important historical figures, rabbis, rebbetzins, holy people, etc. It’s pretty much a given, for example, that every single Lubavitcher family will have a Chaya Mushka (which has a myriad of nicknames by necessity) and Menachem Mendel. If there are no kids with those names, that means they belong to the parents instead. Many Catholic families also have sons named for Pope John Paul II.
3. You and your best friend, cousin, etc., coincidentally happen to have always adored the same name, maybe for different reasons. Daniel has been your favourite male name since you can remember, while the other person had a dear grandfather by that name.
4. Not everyone is a name nerd who’s been passionately researching and making lists of names for years. If several people in the same group of friends or cousins are taking their cues from the Top 100 and the latest trends, it shouldn’t be a big shock if they all happen to end up with children named Madison, Jayden, Liam, and Isabella, particularly if they all get filler middle names like Marie, Anne, Michael, and John.
5. You fell in love with one name combo on a list of potential names someone was considering, and had no idea that person would end up using that one too.
Name theft IS:
Only deciding to use a name after someone close to you announced it, despite having no personal connection to it and not thinking of it on your own, and then making it even worse by insisting the couple who chose it first can no longer use it, since you claimed it. If they use it anyway when their child is born a few months or weeks after yours, you accuse them of being the name thieves and acting like spoilt children.
I’ve heard so many stories like this, and they always make me so angry on behalf of the parents!
Truly, were there no other names, and name combos, in the entire world you could use instead? It’s one thing if it’s a rather common name like Sarah Jane, James Robert, William Peter, or Emily Rachel, but when both names are lesser-used, AND chosen to honour special people you never knew, that’s such a dirty deed.
How would you feel if you asked your parents about your naming story and were told their now-former friends or estranged relatives decided to name their baby after a dear sibling who died young and a great-grandparent they had a special relationship with, or a historical figure they always admired and a character from their all-time fave book, but those names meant zilch to you beyond sounding cool or pretty?
I have more respect for people who just randomly choose names from the Top 100, a names book, or names shuffled in a hat! At least they’re honest about how they approach naming. Not everyone wants to name kids after relatives, heroes, or fictional characters. They care more about the sound and/or popularity, not deep personal meaning.
If you truly fell in love with that name and aren’t just a lazy, unethical copycat, why not look for names with a similar sound or meaning? Or use the first name as a middle name on a later child?
The existence of name thieves makes me glad I’m old-fashioned and don’t want to find out the sex of a potential child until the moment of birth. It’s also an excellent reason to not announce the name until it’s on the birth certificate. That way, if anyone still steals it, their intentions will be obvious.