Naming Laws in Each U.S. State

Man asking about naming laws in each U.S state

Choosing your child’s name, or a new name for yourself, is exciting. But in some states, there are some rules you’ll have to follow for the name to be accepted. In most states, the rules are only there because of the limitations of the data entry software used by the vital records office. 

However, some states do have other naming laws in place to protect children from receiving inappropriate or unusable names. So take a look at the naming laws by state to see what names are allowed in your area.


In Alabama, parents can give their child any name that they want — even the child’s last name does not have to be the same as either of the parents’ surnames. However, you can only use English alphabet letters, hyphens, and apostrophes. That means you can’t use any umlauts or tildes, numbers, periods, or any other punctuation or symbols.


Alaska allows names to include basic foreign symbols, like apostrophes, tildes, and umlauts, as well as hyphens. However, numbers and other symbols are not allowed. 


Apostrophes, hyphens, periods, and spaces are allowed in Arizona. Other forms of punctuation, foreign letters, and numbers are not permitted. There is also a 141-character limit for the full name. You get 45 characters for the first name, 45 for the middle, 45 for the last name, and up to 6 for a suffix. 


In Arkansas, apostrophes, hyphens, and spaces are okay, as long as they aren’t used consecutively. Other forms of punctuation, foreign letters, and numbers are not allowed. There are also some specific names that can’t be used, due to software restrictions: Baby, Babyboy, Babygirl, Baby Boy, Baby Girl, Infant, Test, Unk, and Void.


Names are limited to 60 characters in California, and you can only use the English alphabet, so no accents, umlauts, or tildes. Derogatory or obscene names are also banned, as well as pictures, numbers, and other symbols. 


Colorado does not have any limits on the number of characters in names, but you have to be able to spell it using only letters and symbols found on a standard American keyboard. So things like pictures and non-English letters are not allowed.


In Connecticut, you can’t use an obscene or derogatory name, and you are limited to letters found in the English alphabet. Numbers, symbols, and punctuation are not permitted. However, you’re also not required to give your baby a name at all if you give birth in this state.


Delaware has no official rules or laws regarding baby names, and parents can actually change their child’s name any time they want.


In Florida, you are free to name your child anything you want. However, parents must sign an agreement on their child’s name, and if they can’t decide on one, a court will decide for them.


Georgia also has the standard rules of no numbers, symbols, or foreign letters, but apostrophes and hyphens are acceptable.


Hawaii has some of the laxest naming laws, and you can even use special symbols. However, you do have to include a letter along with each symbol that you use.


In Idaho, you are restricted to only the 26 letters in the English alphabet. Numbers, symbols, punctuation, and foreign characters are not allowed.


Illinois does not have any rules or regulations for names, and their updated software even allows for the use of symbols.


You can choose any first name you like for your baby in Indiana. However, if a baby’s mother is not married at the time of the birth, the baby can only be given her surname. A signed affidavit establishing paternity must be provided to give the baby the father’s last name.


There are no official rules or regulations for names in Iowa, but names using characters that cannot be typed into the data entry system may be rejected.


Kansas specifically states that you must give your baby a last name. Numbers and symbols aren’t allowed, but punctuation and accent marks are permitted.


Kentucky does not have any official rules or regulations for names.


Naming laws in Louisiana are surprisingly strict and antiquated. Names can’t include obscenities, non-English characters, numbers, symbols, or accents. In addition, if a child’s parents have not been married for at least 300 days prior to the birth, the baby can only be given the mother’s last name. Whereas, if the parents have been married for at least that long, the baby must take the father’s surname.


There are no official rules or regulations concerning names in Maine.


Maryland also has no naming laws on record.


Massachusetts requires names to include only letters found on a standard American keyboard, and numbers are not allowed. You’re also limited to 40 characters per first, middle, and last name.


Only English alphabet letters are allowed in Michigan.


Minnesota allows apostrophes and hyphens, but all numbers, special characters, and other forms of punctuation are not permitted. Names can be a maximum of 150 characters — 50 for each part. 


Mississippi does not allow numbers or symbols, and if the baby’s parents are married, the baby must be given the father’s surname. 


In Missouri, there are no specific laws regarding first names. However, if a baby’s parents were married at conception, birth, or any time in between, the baby must be given the father’s last name. 


While there are no naming rules in Montana, their data entry system doesn’t allow for special symbols. However, if parents want to include symbols in their baby’s name, they can write a request to the vital records office, along with a copy of their child’s birth certificate


Nebraska only bans the use of obscenities, slurs, and vulgar language in names.


Nevada allows accent marks, foreign characters, hyphens, and apostrophes, but no other types of punctuation, symbols, or numbers. They also ban obscene or derogatory names.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, numbers and symbols are not allowed, and the full name cannot be more than 100 characters.

New Jersey

Obscene or derogatory names are not permitted in New Jersey, and neither are numbers or symbols.

New Mexico

New Mexico does not allow numbers, symbols, or diacritical marks, like accents, tildes, or umlauts. Specifically, the names Baby Boy, Baby Girl, Male, and Female are also banned.

New York

No numbers or symbols in New York, and first and middle names are limited to 30 characters each.

North Carolina

North Carolina does not have any restrictions on names.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, names can include anything except special characters. A child’s last name must be the same as a parent’s, but it can be either parent’s surname or a hyphenated version of both.


Only hyphens, apostrophes, spaces, and the letters of the English alphabet are allowed in Ohio.


While Oklahoma does not have any official naming law, its data entry system only allows for the letters of the English alphabet.


Oregon has no naming restrictions, and their software accepts 40 different special characters, including â, é, î, õ and ü.


There are no specific naming rules in Pennsylvania, and you can choose any first, middle, and last name for your child, regardless of the parents’ names.

Rhode Island

While Rhode Island’s data entry system doesn’t allow for diacritical marks, parents can spell their child’s name using special characters on other official documents.

South Carolina

South Carolina has no specific rules regarding names, so you can name your child anything you like. 

South Dakota

South Dakota allows spaces, hyphens, and apostrophes, but all other forms of punctuation, as well as numbers and symbols, are not permitted.


There are no rules regarding first names in Tennessee, but their surname laws are oddly specific. If a child’s parents were married at or within 300 days prior to the birth, the baby must be given the father’s last name. That is, unless the mother kept her maiden name. In that case, you can use either surname. If the parents were not married, the child must take the mother’s surname, unless an affidavit is signed establishing paternity.


Texas limits names to 100 total characters, and special characters, symbols, numbers, and diacritical marks are not allowed.


While Utah does not expressly prohibit punctuation, symbols, numbers, or special characters, using any of these in a name will make it more difficult to get a birth certificate.


Vermont does not have any rules or laws regarding names.


Virginia doesn’t allow any numbers or symbols, but basic punctuation, like hyphens and apostrophes, is acceptable. 


Washington only limits the length of names. First names can’t be more than 30 characters, and middle and last names are limited to 50 characters each.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, you’re only allowed to use letters found in the English alphabet. Numbers, symbols, special characters, and punctuation are not permitted. 


Wisconsin allows hyphens and apostrophes, but no other forms of punctuation, symbols, special characters, or numbers.


Wyoming limits names to characters of the English alphabet, so no foreign characters, symbols, punctuation, special characters, or numbers.

As you can see, most of the regulations exist because the software used by the vital records office can’t process non-English characters, symbols, numbers, and other special characters. However, as more states update their data entry systems, naming laws may become more flexible, allowing for things like tildes, umlauts, and accents. 

You may also want to read: How to legally change your name: Step-by-step guide

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