Dear Jennifer,

My husband and I just found out that we’re expecting. We don’t know what we’re having yet, but I’ve been thinking about names for a while and really like the name River for a girl. The problem is that my husband thinks it’s more of an actor name than a good name for a kid and doesn’t like the way it sounds with our last name which is Walker. Is there a way to convince him that she’ll be fine with that name growing up and won’t be teased for having the name River Walker?

Thanks for reading my question,

Dear Janice,

Because “River Walker” is a phrase with two English words, it definitely has connotations. To me, conjures up an image of someone walking on water, I would lean toward “don’t do it.” But I wanted a little more input so I asked our community. The responses I received to the post pretty much agreed with me.

Here is one such response in particular, from a girl named River: River

“Don’t do it. I can’t even begin to express how many people try to make river related jokes upon first meeting me, and then so many people ask for my surname as well to see if they can continue to jokes with that. Relegate River to the middle name slot for this one.”

Other comments:

“The problem to me is that their surname is a word. When your surname is a word, even an innocuous word like “walker,” you have to be careful about using a word name, or else it will sound like a phrase.”

“[No.] River Walker sounds kind of… hippie-ish. That’s like naming her Rain Dancer or something!”

Sorry!  I wish I had a more positive response for you.


Jennifer Moss (she/her) is the founder of, author of The Baby Names Workbook, and Producer of The Baby Names Podcast. Jennifer is widely regarded as the leading expert on popular baby name trends and the naming process, serving as the authoritative source on the subject for national and international media.

Jennifer entered the tech arena in the 80s as a software developer and database architect, and became a pioneer in the Internet industry. In addition to operating, Jennifer owns a web development agency in central California.