3 Crazy Rules for Naming your Baby in Switzerland

Having a baby in Switzerland? Congrats! Naming your baby is even more complicated now. Let’s face the facts!

Closeup of pregnant woman's belly with baby names on post-its.

1. Be prepared to prove your baby’s name is in fact… a name

You might be surprised to learn that in Switzerland you’re not allowed to name your child just anything. It used to be the case you had to pick a name from an official list! 

These days you are pretty much free to name your child whatever you want, except in the case they think the child’s interests would be harmed. “This would be the case,” writes the Zurich city website in German on a page currently unavailable in English, “for example, if the first name would unambiguously belong to the opposite sex.”

Other banned names include anything offensive, single letters, numbers, objects, brand names, Biblical names deemed evil, and absurd spellings.

I know of a case of an expat family who wanted to name their son an English name which in German was a common word (not a name). They had some trouble with the authorities over this and had to produce documentation that the name they wanted was in fact a real first name from another culture. Eventually, they got to keep the name they wanted. 

2. Be prepared for your baby’s name to be mispronounced

Still, picking a baby name for an English-speaking family in a German or French-speaking environment is not always so straightforward. Perhaps as you consider baby names you’ve had thoughts like this:

  • “I love this name, but it has a th… nobody here will be able to pronounce it properly.” [German and French speakers typically pronounce th as t, so for example, “Ruth” becomes “Root”]
  • “I love this J name, but it sounds like a Y in German and I don’t like it. It’s just completely different.”

You might think that if you pick an English name with a clear German equivalent, you can predict how your child will be called by their German-speaking friends and teachers. Wrong! They’ll probably just mispronounce the English version. Like my first daughter Katherine, who theoretically could go by “Katrin” at school, but whose friends call her KESrin trying (poorly) to match the English. And by the same logic, our second daughter Hannah, instead of being known by the equally beautiful German version of her name, has friends whose parents think her name is Henna.

3. Middle name or second first name? Choose now, but beware…

If you’re from the US, you take middle names for granted. It’s nice to give your baby a second name, perhaps one that honors a family member, or just sounds nice with the first one. But middle names aren’t actually a thing in Switzerland. 

I recall a very confusing meeting at our local Zivilstandsamt when our first daughter was first born. It went something like this:

“Would you like that to be a middle name or a second first name?”

“Uh…”

“You see, we don’t actually use middle names in Switzerland. On our documents we don’t have a space for middle name. There is only the first name and the family name. But you can have as many first names as you want. … Though, since you’re foreigners, we can classify it a middle name if you really want. So which do you want? Second first name or a middle name?

“Uh… what difference does it make?”

“Well, ok, if your child ever gains Swiss citizenship in the future, then anything we have put under Middle Name will be dropped. Because here we only have the first names and the last name. But you can have as many first names as you want!”

“So… if we have it as a second first name, then if she gets Swiss citizenship, her name will remain the same?”

“Yes that’s right!”

“Ok… I guess we’ll make it a second first name then…”

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If you want to blend in, take a look at popular names in Switzerland. The Bundesamt für Statistik has some great statistics on this. Here are the top names from 2021 by language region, according to their “Hit-Parade” list: 

Top 50 Baby Boy Names in German-speaking Switzerland (2021)

  1. Noah 
  2. Matteo 
  3. Luca 
  4. Leon 
  5. Lio 
  6. Elias 
  7. Nino 
  8. Leano 
  9. Liam 
  10. Ben 
  11. Leo 
  12. Julian 
  13. Lian 
  14. Levi 
  15. Finn 
  16. Nico 
  17. Elia 
  18. Louis 
  19. David 
  20. Levin 
  21. Samuel 
  22. Leonardo 
  23. Tim 
  24. Luan 
  25. Malik 
  26. Laurin 
  27. Nael 
  28. Mateo 
  29. Jonas 
  30. Aaron 
  31. Diego 
  32. Dario 
  33. Gabriel 
  34. Andrin 
  35. Luis 
  36. Gian 
  37. Emil 
  38. Jan 
  39. Robin 
  40. Leandro 
  41. Alexander 
  42. Milo 
  43. Elio 
  44. Theo 
  45. Henry 
  46. Alessio 
  47. Lenny 
  48. Livio 
  49. Kian 
  50. Lukas 

Top 50 Baby Boy Names in French-speaking Switzerland (2021)

  1. Gabriel 
  2. Noah 
  3. Liam 
  4. Arthur 
  5. Lucas 
  6. Louis 
  7. Nathan 
  8. Léo 
  9. Adam 
  10. Enzo 
  11. Matteo 
  12. Jules 
  13. Nolan 
  14. Léon 
  15. Luca 
  16. Théo 
  17. Ethan 
  18. Isaac 
  19. Samuel 
  20. Evan 
  21. Elias 
  22. Eliott 
  23. Elio 
  24. Hugo 
  25. Mathias 
  26. Mathis 
  27. Aaron 
  28. Alexandre 
  29. Leo 
  30. Benjamin 
  31. Maxime 
  32. Rayan 
  33. Robin 
  34. David 
  35. Noé 
  36. Thomas 
  37. Eden 
  38. William 
  39. Raphaël 
  40. Alessio 
  41. Lenny 
  42. Diego 
  43. Axel 
  44. Martin 
  45. Alexis 
  46. Leonardo 
  47. Mattia 
  48. Maël 
  49. Dylan 
  50. Paul 

Top 50 Baby Boy Names in Italian-speaking Switzerland (2021)

  1. Leonardo 
  2. Alessandro 
  3. Liam 
  4. Noah 
  5. Tommaso 
  6. Diego 
  7. Enea 
  8. Gabriel 
  9. Lorenzo 
  10. Gabriele 
  11. Oliver 
  12. Edoardo 
  13. Nathan 
  14. Nicolò 
  15. Riccardo 
  16. Christian 
  17. Francesco 
  18. Matteo 
  19. Zeno 
  20. Federico 
  21. Elia 
  22. Ethan 
  23. Ryan 
  24. Dylan 
  25. Gioele 
  26. Luca 
  27. Mattia 
  28. Michele 
  29. Giulio 
  30. Samuel 
  31. Sebastian 
  32. Thomas 
  33. Alex 
  34. Giacomo 
  35. Nicholas 
  36. Samuele 
  37. Adam 
  38. Alessio 
  39. Alexander 
  40. Giona 
  41. Leo 
  42. Logan 
  43. Martino 
  44. Nicolas 
  45. Pietro 
  46. Aron 
  47. Evan 
  48. Filippo 
  49. Santiago 
  50. Simone 

Top 50 Baby Girl Names in German-speaking Switzerland (2021)

  1. Mia 
  2. Emilia 
  3. Emma 
  4. Lina 
  5. Elena 
  6. Alina 
  7. Elin 
  8. Mila 
  9. Lia 
  10. Malea 
  11. Lea 
  12. Leonie 
  13. Nora 
  14. Anna 
  15. Laura 
  16. Lena 
  17. Ella 
  18. Lara 
  19. Sofia 
  20. Julia 
  21. Sophia 
  22. Luana 
  23. Elina 
  24. Nina 
  25. Chiara 
  26. Olivia 
  27. Juna 
  28. Giulia 
  29. Livia 
  30. Sophie 
  31. Yara 
  32. Valentina 
  33. Aurora 
  34. Jana 
  35. Emily 
  36. Sara 
  37. Alea 
  38. Ava 
  39. Melina 
  40. Amelia 
  41. Elea 
  42. Mara 
  43. Hana 
  44. Luna 
  45. Lynn 
  46. Elisa 
  47. Fiona 
  48. Hanna 
  49. Ronja 
  50. Amelie 

Top 50 Baby Girl Names in French-speaking Switzerland (2021)

  1. Emma 
  2. Alice 
  3. Olivia 
  4. Mia 
  5. Eva 
  6. Chloé 
  7. Zoé 
  8. Victoria 
  9. Sofia 
  10. Mila 
  11. Charlotte 
  12. Louise 
  13. Luna 
  14. Jade 
  15. Clara 
  16. Elena 
  17. Alicia 
  18. Léa 
  19. Iris 
  20. Giulia 
  21. Lucie 
  22. Lina 
  23. Inaya 
  24. Léonie 
  25. Nora 
  26. Valentina 
  27. Julia 
  28. Nina 
  29. Lara 
  30. Maria 
  31. Maya 
  32. Agathe 
  33. Alix 
  34. Camille 
  35. Juliette 
  36. Anna 
  37. Lou 
  38. Rose 
  39. Alba 
  40. Alma 
  41. Elise 
  42. Mathilde 
  43. Ella 
  44. Kiara 
  45. Sara 
  46. Inès 
  47. Livia 
  48. Margaux 
  49. Léna 
  50. Lisa 

Top 50 Baby Girl Names in Italian-speaking Switzerland (2021)

  1. Sofia 
  2. Mia 
  3. Noemi 
  4. Alice 
  5. Aurora 
  6. Emma 
  7. Ginevra 
  8. Bianca 
  9. Lea 
  10. Emily 
  11. Melissa 
  12. Amélie 
  13. Vittoria 
  14. Amelia 
  15. Arianna 
  16. Matilde 
  17. Chloe 
  18. Eleonora 
  19. Ludovica 
  20. Sara 
  21. Sophie 
  22. Ambra 
  23. Anna 
  24. Beatrice 
  25. Giulia 
  26. Nina 
  27. Zoe 
  28. Azzurra 
  29. Elisa 
  30. Greta 
  31. Lara 
  32. Olivia 
  33. Adele 
  34. Agata 
  35. Camilla 
  36. Chiara 
  37. Gaia 
  38. Isabel 
  39. Luna 
  40. Viola 
  41. Alma 
  42. Arya 
  43. Diana 
  44. Elena 
  45. Letizia 
  46. Nicole 
  47. Stella 
  48. Tessa 
  49. Alyssa 
  50. Cecilia 

How to register your baby’s birth in Switzerland

You don’t actually have to settle on the name before the child’s birth. Want to wait and see what the little one looks like first? That’s fine. You’ll just have to submit a name within 3 days of the birth.

That part is easy, don’t worry. The hospital staff where you gave birth will have a form for you to fill out which they will forward to the relevant authorities (your local Zivilstandsamt) to register the birth.

Just don’t forget you’ll need to provide a bunch of identity documents (which could involve procuring recent copies of the parents’ birth certificates, and having them translated if they’re not in a Swiss national language or English). If you’ve already had a baby in Switzerland or gotten married in Switzerland then the requirements are less strict because you are already in their system.

It is best to check with your local Zivilstandsamt to verify the exact documents you will need to register your baby’s birth, which differ according to the country of origin of the parents and their civil status.

Once you get the birth certificate back from the Zivilstandsamt, you’ll use this for two things. First, you’ll need to show it at your country’s consulate to register the birth with your home country and apply for your baby’s foreign passport. Second, your baby will need a Swiss residence permit just like you, and for that you’ll take a visit to the Migrationsamt in the canton where you live.

Congrats, your baby is official!

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