Does Your Name Affect Your Personality?

Your name is the first thing that people usually learn about you. Here, you can learn how it can open or close doors for you, as well as influence how you position yourself against the different obstacles you may have to face in life.
Does Your Name Affect Your Personality?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Parents often spend a long time choosing a name for their baby. Before making a decision, they usually consider many alternatives, consult family and friends, and think long and hard. This is hardly surprising since the names that we’re given are with us for life and are extremely important. However, you may not be aware that your name can affect your personality.

We’re not talking about witchcraft or esotericism here, but about a hypothesis that’s supported by certain evidence. It’s the idea that your name shapes your self-concept, life experiences, and way of being. It does so through the mechanisms we explain below.

Why does your name affect your personality?

Your name is one of the first things you’ll associate with your identity. It’s through your name that you recognize yourself. Therefore, it becomes the basis of the concept you have of yourself. Thus, depending on whether or not you like your name and whether you associate it with negative or positive characteristics, you’ll develop a corresponding image of yourself. In fact, you’ll consider its attributes as inherent in you.

In addition, your name is usually the first thing that people know about you. For this reason, it affects their opinion of you from the very first moment they meet you.

At an unconscious level, people associate names with desirable or undesirable attributes. They do so based on different parameters. For example, the cultural origin of the name, how popular or different it is, the sound when pronouncing it, or the personal characteristics that it evokes.

These are issues that parents usually take into account when choosing a name for their child. In fact, as a rule, they select names that are appropriate to their culture and that can reflect, in some way, the qualities that they’d like to see in their children. Thus, the most conservative parents tend to stick to classic and traditional names. On the other hand, the more modern ones are likely to choose different and quirky options.

The people with whom the child relates in their lives will also capture these influences. Consequently, they’ll affect the way they relate to them. Even if it’s unconsciously, the treatment that they’ll receive on a social level will be extremely different. This is likely to end up shaping their personality.

Names of people written on paper, depicting can your name affect your personality?
According to a study led by Jean Twenge, people who don’t like their name may have poorer psychological adjustment.

How your name can affect your personality

There are many interesting studies in this regard. Below, we share the main findings of some of them. This will help you understand how your name can affect your personality.

Self-esteem and psychological adjustment

Psychological adjustment is the degree to which we know how to face and adapt to circumstances, function correctly, avoid conflict, and achieve well-being. A study published in 2006 found that people who were more satisfied with their first name showed greater psychological adjustment.

However, the direction between the two aspects wasn’t clear. For example, perhaps people with lower self-esteem and confidence don’t like their name as they see it as a symbol of themselves. Or, perhaps, it’s the rejection that they feel toward their name that affects this self-image.

Relationships and interpersonal neglect

As we mentioned earlier, your name exerts an important influence on the way others perceive and treat you. To give an example, your name gives clues about your cultural origin. Therefore, if there are any racist prejudices surrounding it, this can close certain doors for you.

Furthermore, there are other effects. For instance, a study investigated the effect that names had on the interactions with people on a dating website. Those with unattractive names (because they were considered old-fashioned or negative) received fewer visits to their profiles and ended up being neglected by others.

This interpersonal neglect, rejection, or ostracism to which a name can lead was also evident in a study that measured the probability of receiving help. The study found that strangers were more likely to help those with positively qualified names.

If you’re wondering what relationship this has with the formation of personality, you only have to consider how an individual is affected when they grow up feeling rejected, isolated, or undervalued by their peers in a systematic way. This undoubtedly affects their image, how valued they feel, their social skills, affability, and attitude towards life.

Character and life experiences

One of the most surprising investigations in this regard found that names influence the probability of engaging in criminal behavior. In fact, this study made it clear that having an unpopular name that’s socially considered negative or associated with immorality and little human warmth increased the risk of the individual committing violent crimes and crimes against property.

Again, this can probably be associated with the fact that, at an unconscious level, each name has certain connotations. Thus, as we grow up, we internalize them and accept from others the reflection of what our name evokes in them. Therefore, if we’ve been treated as undesirable or worthless throughout our lives, we’re more likely to end up fulfilling this prophecy.

Choice of career and profession

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that names can determine future work. In fact, one study suggested that people with unique and original names are more likely to end up dedicating themselves to equally unusual professions. In addition, they exhibit divergent thinking. This leads them to adopt different and innovative business strategies.

It seems that, from childhood, these people forge a sense of being unique and different. It encourages them to act in different ways, including in the workplace.

Woman pointing at a name tag
Having a rare or unusual name is associated with the likelihood of adopting a more unusual career path.

Your name affects your personality, take advantage of it

Your personality is shaped and influenced by many aspects. However, as you can see, there are multiple ways in which the name that was given to you at birth can affect your character, experiences, and relationships. By being aware of this fact, you can take advantage of it.

People with common and popular names tend to be better accepted, although are more conventional. On the other hand, those with original names are expected to be more original and creative. You should take advantage of these strengths and keep them in mind when choosing the names of your children.

On the other hand, if you feel that the influence of your name hasn’t been and isn’t positive, a simple change (such as looking for a diminutive or a nickname) may well make a difference. In short, it’s about being aware of the importance that this aspect has in your relationships and self-concept.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Busching, R., & Lutz, J. (2018). The influence of first name valence on the likelihood of receiving help: A field experiment.
  • Cai, H., DeWall, C. N., Gu, R., Chen, J., & Luo, Y. L. (2020). Name uniqueness predicts career choice and career achievement.
  • Gebauer, J. E., Leary, M. R., & Neberich, W. (2012). Unfortunate first names: Effects of name-based relational devaluation and interpersonal neglect. Social Psychological and Personality Science3(5), 590-596.
  • Kang, Y., Zhu, D. H., & Zhang, Y. A. (2021). Being extraordinary: How CEOS’uncommon names explain strategic distinctiveness. Strategic Management Journal42(2), 462-488.
  • Sidhu, D. M., Deschamps, K., Bourdage, J. S., & Pexman, P. M. (2019). Does the name say it all? Investigating phoneme-personality sound symbolism in first names. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(9), 1595-1614.
  • Twenge, J. M., & Manis, M. (1998). First‐name desirability and adjustment: Self‐satisfaction, others’ ratings, and family background. Journal of Applied Social Psychology28(1), 41-51.
  • Wang, J., & Cai, H. (2020). Blame crime on name? People with bad names are more likely to commit crime.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.