Would Halacha deem it appropriate to name a child with a weird name that would be embarrassing later on, and is not a classic Jewish name (would this fall under the category of calling one by a nickname they do not want to be called by)? For example, would it be appropriate to name a child "Shoteh"?

If there is a problem, does this apply to naming a child a more classic Jewish name (e.g. after a recently passed relative), that will likely cause them to be made fun of later on. For example, would it be permissible to name a child "Yenta" in a community where this is not commonly used as a name, and it is likely that others will make fun of the child later in life?

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    They could always nickname the person something normal. – Dr. Shmuel Dec 4 at 3:21
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    Inasmuch as halacha does indeed severely forbid needlessly causing someone pain/embarrassment, why would it be allowed? – Loewian Dec 4 at 3:37
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    ואהבת לרעך כמוך זה כלל גדול בתורה – Double AA Dec 4 at 3:38
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    @loewian, I truthfully can't see why the first case would be allowed, but the second case is a very good question in my mind. (Especially since it is quite common, unfortunately). – רבות מחשבות Dec 4 at 3:41
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    Kidor was a name intended to publicize that the child was in fact a mamzer in order that he would not marry someone forbidden to him. – Meuchedet Dec 4 at 12:45

A very Chashuv friend of mine helped me gather sources on this topic:

The following story is quoted here:

מספרים שאחד מחסידי האדמו"ר ה"פני מנחם" זצ"ל מגור בא אל רבו וסיפר לו כי החליט לקרוא לבתו התינוקת בשם יענטא על שם סבתו ז"ל. "שאלתי את זוגתי, וגם היא מסכימה לשם זה", סיים החסיד וציפה לאישורו של רבו. אך האדמו"ר הגיב בתמיהה: "ואת התינוקת עצמה שאלתם אם גם היא מסכימה לשם זה?".‏

They tell the story that one of the Hassidim of the Penei Menachem (Gerrer Rebbe) came to his Rebbe and told him that he had decided to call his infant daughter "Yenta", after his grandmother. "I asked my wife, and she too agrees to name her this", the Hassid concluded, and waited for the permission of the Rebbe. However, the Rebbe responded with wonder: "And did you ask the infant herself if she agrees to this name"?

In Peninei Halacha (Family 1:28), Rav Eliezer Melamed suggests using a weirder name as a second name, employing the logic that the people being named after don't want to cause embarrassment to their descendant. Based on the context there, it is unclear if he would suggest not naming after this person at all.

In Sefer Metzuveh Veoseh Volume 2, page 158, the Chazon Ish is quoted as being opposed to naming children after relatives if they will likely be embarrassed later on.

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I think there's a difference between "naming" and "calling".

Calling names is forbidden for anyone only when it is intentional, for example, calling someone "red-head" is forbidden if it meant to offend and permitted if meant to distinguish. Like calling someone "black guy" - is not necessarily offensive.

However, naming a kid with a name with questionable meaning is not an offense on its own.

So a pious Jew can name his son חמור (donkey) implying he'll be a notorious Torah scholar as per Yaakov's Berocho to Issachar - "יִשָּׂשכָר חֲמֹר גָּרֶם רֹבֵץ בֵּין הַמִּשְׁפְּתָיִם". This name is not worse than other Hebrew names like זאב or דוב. So as long as the parents call the son normally - there's nothing wrong, but once they intend to offend him - they transgress הלבנת פנים as a part of ואהבת etc.

Same applies to the son's teachers or friends, as long as he's called this name respectfully there's nothing wrong and once they call him חמור as an assault - they transgress.

What would you say about [religious] immigrant kids meeting in an Israeli school, their originally American or Russian or Iranian or Ethiopian names can be a matter of never-ending assaults. But can we blame the parents? What would you say to parents that called their girl "עצמאותה" in honor of the establishment of the State of Israel? OR כרמלה named after the mountain of Carmel in Haifa?

What would you say to the parents that called their Frum girl Feiga and she left the religion - are they responsible to the secular reactions to her name?

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    "naming a kid with a name with questionable meaning is not an offense on its own" how do you know? "but once they intend to offend him" since when does intent change if someone gets offended or not? – robev Dec 4 at 16:34

Please don't -1 if you don't like the Halachah, this answer only brings the Jewish law, not my personal views.

  1. The Jewish Halachah does not address the topic of naming children at all. There are some naming traditions kept by single families and communities, but they are weak and not obligating.

  2. Naming a child is considered a prophecy and the parents are free from any limitations in names. Even if they call their kid a clearly embarrassing name intentionally, there's no Halachic bounds, e.g. they can claim they saw the name in their dream.

  3. The parents are not responsible for the environmental reaction and they are not liable for any [psychological] damage inflicted to the child because of the name. It should be noted that the parents' considerations might be very different from the surroundings, especially changing ones, e.g. a girl is called a very nice name Paloma (Dove) in Spain, but the family moves to Jerusalem's Haredi community and the girl is considered an outsider.

  4. On the bright side, there's nothing in the Halachah that obligates the children to bear the given names. A child may call himself whatever he wants and change names at any age (once he understands what the name is). He's also not limited to one name and can have as many names as he wants to be used at his will.

  5. The Halachah does not recognize IDs or any form of registration; No names are registered by any Rabbinical authority - any person is free to change his name as many times as he wants.

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    Your point is well taken about the absence of halachos about officialness of names. But regarding #3, why would this case be different from any other, in which a person is responsible for their interactions with another person and the damage they cause? – WAF Dec 4 at 14:05
  • @WAF Because as I said, the damage was not caused by the parents, but by other people sinning. It's not even גרמא. I understand the bad feelings, but they are wrong, or at least not Halachic. A person of any name must be respected. Can someone explain -1s? – Al Berko Dec 4 at 14:11
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    Kalev doesn't mean doggy-doggy. That's Kelev. Different word. A native Hebrew speaker would quickly know the difference. – Double AA Dec 4 at 14:16
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    @AlBerko if you just assert things without sources or basis, then what else are people supposed to judge what you write based on? – Double AA Dec 4 at 14:28
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    Without citation to the proper sh"ut or halachic authorities, this is your personal interpretation of how you understand the halacha to be. #5 is wrong. In terms of Gittin a d Kedushin or establishing who a person is called by is often determined by ID cards and how that person conducts himself legally. #4. Is also incorrect, who told you that? Did you make that up? Seems to me that you did! #2 is also wrong, there are laws to naming children - such as naming children after rashayim, and after names in Tanakh before Avrohom Avinu. #1 is also wrong - go and read hilchos Gittin! – user18362 Dec 4 at 19:54

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