What baby names are banned in Switzerland?
In global media, we often hear stories about celebrities registering their children with silly and often bully-provoking names - from X AE A-XII Musk to Moroccan Cannon. However, if you try and pull this stunt in a Swiss registry office, you are likely to get a smirk followed by a swift no and a request to be more serious the next time you try and get the birth certificate for your newborn. This raises the question, what are the rules around naming your baby in Switzerland?
Rules for naming your newborn child in Switzerland
In the past few years, many expats have fallen foul of the rules around naming their children in Switzerland. While the local council (Gemeinde) won’t bat an eye at you choosing one of the most popular Swiss names, someone attempting to name their newborn something creative, strange or avant-garde may be asked to try again.
To help registry offices decide whether to approve names or not, Swiss authorities use a 2008 revision of the 1986 book The International Book of First Names, to make sure each suggestion is genuine. What's more, there are several regulations that have to be followed when naming a child. For new parents, here are some of the most important rules to follow:
Single letters and numbers in first names are not allowed
First - sorry Elon Musk - you are not allowed to name your child a collection of numbers and letters. This was upheld by a Swiss court in 2017, which ruled that “J” was not an appropriate Swiss name and had to be changed. Of course, the lengthened version Jay is acceptable, but watch out if you plan to name your child after your favourite letter or number.
Being named after a place is not allowed
Strictly speaking, naming your child after a place is also not allowed. While registry offices will be more lenient if you choose a location from outside Switzerland, like India Hemsworth, Zum Rossdale and Egypt - the son of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz - if you try to name your child after a silly Swiss place name like Bubikon Smith, Egg Matthews or Schaffhausen Mustermann, you are likely to trigger the censor.
No naming children after Swiss brands
This idea also extends to international companies and local brands. Therefore, top Swiss brands like Aromat, Rivella and Swisscom are sadly off the table for first names. This rule also includes being named after a plant or animal - although authorities have been lenient with traditional names like Rose and Daisy.
First names should not damage the child's wellbeing
In a policy likely designed to prevent vivid school memories of wedgies and friction burns, the law also does not allow parents to name their children something that “damages a child’s wellbeing”. Suissebook explained that local authorities will look at whether “the child will be exposed to ridicule because of its name.”
Some of the examples listed include Grandma, Prince Valiant, Puhbert and Troublemaker. Insults and swear words are also not allowed.
Names with technical and negative connotations discouraged
Names with negative and technical connotations are also discouraged. For example, in May 2023, a woman in Canton Bern was not allowed to name her child “Hurricane”, with authorities telling 20 Minuten that "to describe a child as a storm is not very conducive to personality development and self-esteem and, depending on the development, can certainly hurt the child's interests."
No naming your child after biblical and historical villains
Many areas of the country do not allow “villain” first names. This typically means being named after a villain in the Bible like Judas - a name rejected by a registry office in Basel in 2017 - Satan, Cain and Lucifer. The first names of real-world dictators, criminals and tyrants are also discouraged. While this does open up the possibility of naming your child Thanos or Red Skull, it will likely still be rejected under the wellbeing clause.
Boy's names for boys, girl's names for girls
According to a report by TeleBasel, most registry offices require your newborn’s name to reflect the sex of the child at birth - a boy cannot be given a girl’s name and vice versa. If the name you choose does not clearly correspond to a boy or girl's name, they must be given a middle or hyphenated name to make it clear. However, it is likely that councils in more urban areas will have done away with this rule.
Twins must be given unique first names
Finally, to avoid confusion, twins born in Switzerland must be given a name that is substantially different to their sibling's. Suissebook cited the case used by the government as an example: you cannot name your twins Philip and Philippe.
Are non-European names allowed in Switzerland?
According to Swissbook, the 2008 revision of the International Book of First Names now includes a number of non-European names with their sources in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi and other languages. This should, in theory at least, stop non-European names from being rejected.