The Unitarian Universalist church is living proof that there is some sort of naming component in the child dedication/baptism ceremony in traditional Christian churches. How is the Christian name assigned? By the priest or the child's family? What is the difference between the "Christian name" and the "baptismal name" and the "confirmation name"? And what is the significance of each name?

  • Which tradition and culture are you asking about? Is it the Unitarian Universalist Church; or some other? (The tags are not clear) Apr 16, 2014 at 10:38
  • @AndrewLeach I thought it was some sort of age-old ritual in traditional Christian churches that got carried over to the Unitarian Universalist church. Since the Roman Catholic church pretty much dominated Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages, I'd use the Roman Catholic church. Eastern European rituals, I suppose, would be okay.
    – Double U
    Apr 16, 2014 at 11:56

2 Answers 2


In some cultures, notably the UK but also others, the term 'Christian name' simply means (or used to mean) someone's first name. So David Cameron's Christian name is 'David'. The logic behind this is that babies were typically 'named' at their baptism, which typically occurred shortly after their birth. Going back thirty or forty years you would find official forms that referred to a person's 'Christian name' and 'surname', and the first name might be referred to like that even if the person had not actually been baptised. Nowadays the term has dropped out of favour as it becomes less and less likely that a person will be even nominally Christian. Someone who was baptized as an infant can still reasonably call their first name their 'Christian name'.

At Confirmation, Catholics and Anglicans may select a new 'Christian' name to go with their baptismal names, and adult converts are encouraged to do so. This is sometimes described as a 'Christian name'. It is not normally part of someone's official or legal name unless they explicitly change it.

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    Confirmation names can be taken in the Church of England too. A Confirmation name is fairly obviously a Christian name; but it's not a baptismal name, and it's not recorded on the birth certificate. Thus it's not generally part of someone's "official" record unless the confirmand takes the trouble to action a deed poll and change all occurrences of his baptismal name to include the new one. I haven't bothered with mine yet! Apr 16, 2014 at 13:19
  • Does the Christian name (baptismal, confirmation) have to be an English name, as in the case of the Church of England?
    – Double U
    Apr 16, 2014 at 14:38
  • @Anonymous Absolutely not. In the sense of being a synonym of 'first name', foreign first names might well have been referered to like that, especially if someone was baptized in a foreign country (and possibly even if not). Several decades ago someone might have referred to a person whose 'Christian name was Muhammed' (if they weren't really thinking about it). Apr 16, 2014 at 16:06
  • @Anonymous In the sense of restrictions placed by the Church of England on what names a baby can be given at baptism, I'm pretty sure that they are few. Babies have certainly been baptized with foreign names in the CofE. Apr 16, 2014 at 16:09
  • There are no canonical restrictions on names in the Church of England. That said, parents would be urged to choose a name with Christian connections. But that doesn't stop exotic names being chosen. Catholic Canon Law (C.855) mandates "Parents, sponsors and parish priests are to take care that a name is not given which is foreign to christian sentiment." Apr 16, 2014 at 20:43

As far as the use of Christian name in the protestant faith seems to be a carry over from the Jewish tradition of giving the baby a name at circumcision.

Luke 1:59 KJV And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.

Exactly when and how this tradition began I can find no reference in the Bible, Perhaps someone with more knowledge can further explain.

I have been told but cannot verify that it is in connection with the Abrahamic covenant.

Acts 7:8 KJV And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.

Jesus was likewise given his name at his circumcision on the eighth day.

Luke 2:21 KJV And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

At some point in History, The Church apparently the Holy Roman Catholic Church, began to give children a new name at baptism, and that name has now apparently become an individual's middle name, and was known as a Christian name (or the name of the new Christian). Somehow over the expanse of time the Christian name evolved to be a person's first name, and this was probably because, in the Jewish tradition the Parents gave the child a name at circumcision which served as confirmation of coveting with God.

After the resurrection of Christ the coveting ceremony of circumcision was replaced by Baptism, the naming of the child was then known as Christening the child and thus the use of Christian name.

As for sir names, that is commonly thought to have come about by a process of elimination. As Jesus was called in his village as the son of the carpenter to distinguish him as separate from any other man named Jesus (Joshua) which was a common name in that day. It seems plausible that over the years that *the son of the carpenter * could have been shortened to just Carpenter. that however is conjecture and not based on any evidence of which I am aware.

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