Baby Name to Consider: Atlas

Hello Swistle,

My husband and I started trying to have a baby this month, so here is to hoping that we will get some happy news after I pee on the stick in a few weeks.

Regardless I am very passionate about names. My future children’s, other peoples children, etc.

My main issue I would like to address is the name Atlas. I LOVE THIS NAME. I like the way it sounds, I like the way it looks, I like the stories behind it, I like it all. However, when I tell other people (friends & family) about it I sometime see the panic in their eye.

The fact that is is not common makes me very happy. My name is Autumn and believe it or not I haven’t met many others in my lifetime. I also have people say all the time “I have never heard that used as a name! How beautiful!” and every now and then I have people ask, “Can you spell that?” which blows my mind. Anyways, I love the uniqueness of my name.

My husbands name is Joshua (normally Josh, sometimes J) which is much more common, although I do like the sound of it. Also our last name is Vernon.

Back to Atlas. We don’t plan on finding out the gender of our baby so we will have 9-10 months to decide on some girl and boys names that we love. For a girl I am pretty set on Blair. I think it is feminine yet spunky, old yet new, and I have NEVER met anyone with the name. Middle name Catherine (my mothers name).

I am just worried that Atlas may be too “out there”. However, J and I think it is very masculine and strong.

Atlas really resonates with me. I have traveled extensively my whole life and am truly passionate about seeing the world. And I think the name would be a tribute to the adventurous, strong willed personalities we hope to pass on to him.

His name would be Atlas Scott (Husband’s Middle/Grandpa’s Name)

Some other names on the list to give you an idea of my overall style:

Boys: Knox, Phoenix, Huck, Dexter (Dex), Lincoln
Girls: Ivy, Phoebe, Wren, Rory, Poppy

I honestly prefer names without a nickname most of the time or short and sweet one syllable names. My middle names is where I will add some length. Except for Scott. Oh well, you see what I’m saying.

Name I like but can’t use:

Boys: Miles (could possibly use but long kinda bad story behind it), Hudson (too popular), Ace (sister in law naming baby Asa and I feel too close)

Girls: London (way to popular), Lane

Hopefully this all makes sense and isn’t just a jumbled mess.

So I would love insight on any of the above names but my main questions is, “Atlas, Usable or Not?”

Thanks so much,

Excited (hopefully) soon to be mama


One of my favorite baby-name-considering exercises is to imagine the name on a variety of people. In this case, let’s picture the name Atlas on:

  • an adventurous, strong-willed man in his early 20s
  • a pale, non-athletic little boy wearing glasses
  • an outgoing, cheerful little boy
  • an awkward high-school boy with pimples
  • a high-school football quarterback
  • a grocery stockboy
  • a lawyer in a courtroom
  • a dad at Parents’ Night
  • a dentist
  • a teacher
  • a wrestler
  • a baseball player
  • a dancer
  • a Target clerk
  • our husbands/boyfriends
  • our fathers/brothers/uncles/cousins
  • our children’s friends

Another good test is to imagine an introduction: either imagine introducing yourself as Atlas, or meeting someone named Atlas, or introducing a child to someone else. You say, “Hi, I’m Autumn!” He says, “Hi, I’m Atlas!” Or you say, “Hello! My name is Autumn and this is my son Atlas.” Or, “Hello! This is Atlas; he has a 10:00 appointment.”

I like to imagine the name in everyday use. The nurse leans out into the waiting room and calls “Atlas?” There is an arrangement of apple cut-outs by the classroom door, and one of them says Atlas. A kindergarten scribble with Atlas written on the bottom. “Atlas, did you do your homework?” “Atlas, I have told you THREE TIMES to put your shoes on!” A college student tells her/his parents about a new boyfriend, named Atlas.

The Starbucks coffee test is a favorite around here. The clerk asks for a name to put on a coffee. Your husband says “Atlas.” This is a good one for your husband to do in person, rather than imagining it.

Testing the name in your own social circles can also be useful. However, I do think for the most part people adapt to the names that are chosen—and if they don’t, it feels like a small thing: we all have different tastes in names, and I don’t necessarily like the names my friends/relatives choose for their kids, either. What I think of more is “Will the child like the reactions he gets to his name?” And of course we can’t know that: some people LOVE the startle factor, and some people wince and end up going by their middle names.

For a first baby especially, I like to do a Sibling Name check: pair up the name Atlas with other names on your lists, and make sure you can make sets you like. If for example you liked the names Atlas, David, Thomas, William, and Charles, I’d suggest Atlas might be a difficult one to pair up, and might be an outlier for your tastes. Looking at your lists, I’d say the two issues will be: (1) finding something mighty/important enough to measure up to the name of a divine being, and (2) finding something that doesn’t sound amusing. The name Lincoln might be mighty enough, but the pairing strikes me as amusing—I think because I get a mental picture of tall, dignified, top-hat-wearing Abraham Lincoln standing next to naked, crouching, heavily-muscled Atlas with the universe on his shoulders. Atlas and Phoenix seems good, but gives you a strong mythological theme. And so on. Brother names seem more important to me than sister names: I think it’s fine to have brother/sister style differences, and I am much more likely to notice, say, “Jacob and Grover” than, say, “Sophia and Grover.”

For me, I think the main impediment to the name Atlas is the divine-being thing. It seems like a tough name to live up to, no matter how strong-willed and adventurous a person might be. And on a homebody who likes to read, the imagery of the huge and heavy burden is more apt but less pleasing.

The symbolism is also iffy, if what you’re looking for is adventure. We call a book of maps an atlas, and so that could give the explorer/adventurer/traveler imagery you like; but the mythological Atlas is the Titan who was punished by having to stand still forever and hold up the heavens. Atlas is a symbol of endurance, rather than of adventures and exploration; and his strength was used to carry a burden, rather than to exert his own will.

I think if I were you, I might pursue a similar but different track. Perhaps I would look for the names of famous (human) explorers/adventurers, or other people you admire whose names make you think of confidence and strong will and adventure.

You mention liking the uniqueness of your own name, but the name Autumn was/is much more common than the name Atlas. I think another area to explore is names that are more in the league of your own name’s level of unusualness. You can find name rankings on the Social Security Administration’s baby name site.

If what you’re asking is if the name is usable, the answer is yes: it is currently being used in the United States, and in fact it just appeared in the Top 1000 for the first time in 2013, at a ranking of #789. This tells us that not only are people using it, they’re using it more and more. Let’s look at how the name’s popularity has increased over the past ten years of data:

2004: 20
2005: 17
2006: 19
2007: 35
2008: 53
2009: 62
2010: 100
2011: 108
2012: 118
2013: 282

Baby Boy Carman-with-a-J, Brother to Hadley, Emmerson, Brinley, and Huxton; Unusual Surname Names

Hi Swistle,

My husband and I are expecting our fifth (and we are pretty sure, final) baby in July.  Our names are Gordy & Megan, last name sounds like Carman, but with a J.

We had a girl name all picked out: Montgomery Adell, we just loved Montgomery and Adell is a family name.  We just found out last week we are having a boy and I’m going crazy trying to find a name that fits with ours and is unique enough for me.  As a Megan, I’ve met hundreds of other Megan’s, and I never wanted to have my kids to have the same thing happen to them.

We have 3 daughters and a son; Hadley Jo, Emmerson Paige & Brinley Jean and Huxton Louis. We’ve got a Surname thing going and would like to keep that going. Plus Huxton isn’t not on the SS list at all, so using a name that isn’t on it or very high at all, is important to us.  Even Hadley and Emmerson have moved up on the SS list quite a bit since we named our girls.
Another thing that is important to me is nicknames, we’ve got Emmy, Brinny and Huck. And I want to be able to fall in love with our babies name and nickname.

This baby’s middle name will be Gibb, my father’s middle name.

Our list as of now is:
Monroe (my husband doesn’t love this one)
I also love Beckham, but it’s more popular.

I am very open to suggestions, as none of these names have made me very excited.  I love our kids names and when we decided on Huxton, I just knew that was it.  So any help you can give us would be very welcomed.

Thanks so much!



My suggestion is to use Montgomery. Although it’s traditionally a boy name, it’s currently extremely unusual for boys as well as for girls—unlike, say, Jacob, which would be extremely unusual for a girl but extremely common for a boy. In 2013, the Social Security Administration reports the name Montgomery was used for 82 new baby boys and 19 new baby girls. This makes it somewhat more common than the name Huxton (10 new baby boys in 2013), but still significantly less common than the names Hadley, Emmerson/Emerson/Emersyn/etc., and Brinley/Brinlee/Brinleigh/etc. (hundreds/thousands of each in 2013). Montgomery Gibb seems like an excellent choice for the sibling group.

More suggestions:


I included names even if I couldn’t think of a nickname right away; I am not always quick to see nickname potential. I took out Hathaway and Holloway after realizing that might be too much H with Hadley and Huxton. I took out Gibson and Lawson and Nicholson and Nickerson after realizing they repeated the ending of Emerson, but especially with five children I think it would be fine to repeat an ending, so I put them back in. Names such as Perkins and Watkins might be too much -in- with Brinley, but I wasn’t sure I thought so, so I left them in.

I took out Gibson again because it doesn’t work with the middle name Gibb, but it’s possible you’d want to use Gibson as the honor name instead, so then I put it back in. I left in other names I didn’t think worked well with the middle name Gibb, because one person’s “doesn’t work well” is another person’s “works great/fine,” and because sometimes parents change the middle name choice if they find a first name they love that doesn’t work with it.

Baby Naming Issue: Finding a Sibling Name as Special as the First Child’s Name

I’m expecting my second little girl in July and we just can’t find a name that is as special as our older daughters name.

My 2 year old daughter is Miley which is a combination of my husband and my own name, Michael and Ashley. Her middle name is after her paternal grandmother who passed away just before we found out we were expecting. Her name felt so perfect and came to me so easy.

I feel like we need to give this girl a family name or at least a name with some meaning since Miley is so special to us. The problem is I have no idea how to combine our names to come up with another name. Does naming 2 kids after yourself make me a narcissist? I am not a fan of our parents names, they’re all VERY dated. IE: Connie, Scott, Penny, Vance.

Our last name is Tschauner (with a silent T). While I would like something that isn’t hugely popular, I don’t want her to have to spell her first AND last name each time she says it.



A familiar naming practice in our society is to name the firstborn son after the father. When that practice is followed, it doesn’t seem as if most of those families feel they have to match that level/type of specialness for the second child’s name. The feeling seems to be that the firstborn child gets the big special honor name (sometimes because the parents want this, other times because of family pressures), and then after that the names are chosen differently and/or more freely. Maybe they DO also use an honor name for the second child, but it isn’t as if they always choose the mother’s name because that’s the only name that would be an equal honor.

It would be the same if your maiden name had been, say, Meredith, and you’d named your first daughter Meredith. You wouldn’t need to rearrange the letters of your maiden name to come up with another maiden-name name for your second daughter, nor would you need to find another family maiden name: the idea would be that you’d had a special honor name to use, and so you’d used it for your firstborn child, and now naming could proceed for subsequent children the same as if there HADN’T been a special honor name.

And I say the same for this situation you’re in. You gave your firstborn child a name that was a combination of her parents’ names, and that was a fun and clever and special idea. But now I don’t think you need to somehow do the same for all your children, any more than you would if you had a Michael Tschauner Jr. or a Meredith. You’ve used the special honor name, and now you can proceed just as you would if you HADN’T used a special honor name for your firstborn.

Furthermore, I don’t think the Michael + Ashley connection is going to occur to people who meet your daughter. If you’d named her Ashley-Michaela, people might notice; but the name Miley is a subtle tribute. Others will not be wondering why you didn’t do the same for a second daughter.

I do understand the impulse to match the specialness. If you would like to pursue that option, I think it’s a good idea to ask how far you’re willing to go to succeed. Considering your firstborn is named after both her parents, it would be difficult to match that level of honor. Perhaps you could use all four grandparent names, sacrificing the preference for names you like in favor of the preference for namesake specialness: Miley and her little sister Connie Vance Penny Scott.

I suggest instead redefining what you consider “special.” A name can be special for many, many, many reasons—and as much as I like sibling names to coordinate, I don’t see any reason the type of specialness needs to coordinate. The next child’s name can be special because it reminds you of a place that’s special to you, or because it’s the name of an author or poet or actor or scientist who is special to you, or because you both loved it so much.

If you are certain this is your final child, and if you find the only level of specialness that feels right to you is the exact kind you used for your first child’s name, then I suggest looking at El- names (the last two letters of Michael instead of the first two) and Ash- names (the first three letters of Ashley instead of the last three). Or Michaela is still available, perhaps as a middle name. Something like Ellery Ashlyn could work: the El- of Michael, the -y of Ashley and then the Ash- of Ashley. Or Sasha Michaela: the -ash- of Ashley, the Michael- of Michael. Or you could make her initials M.A. or A.M.

But this sort of thing makes me feel a little tired. It feels forced. It’s as if you had a Michael John Tschauner Jr., and now we were trying to name a second son John Michael or Jonathan Micah: it’s never going to measure up to the original honor, and it feels so unnecessary to attempt it. And on top of that, I think it reduces the specialness of the second name rather than increasing it, by making it seem like a paler version of the firstborn’s name.

No, I vote to scrap the whole idea. Give your second daughter an honor name only if there’s one you like and want to use. Or if there are none you like, give her as a middle name the disliked name of someone you love and want to honor. Make her name special by choosing something you love, especially for her.

Baby Name to Discuss: Evander

Hi Swistle,

My husband and I are expecting our third and final baby, a boy, at the end of May. We have two daughters, Sasha and Rose, and our last name is a three syllable Russian name that starts with T and ends with -sky and rhymes with absolutely nothing.

We have a horrible time agreeing on names; in fact, the only reason we found out the gender of this baby was to eliminate the potential pool of names by 50%. I prefer names that are familiar enough that most people can spell them correctly, but are not so popular that there will be several of them in my child’s kindergarten class. I also prefer names that cross racial/cultural/international boundaries. While we didn’t quite accomplish this with Rose (and her naming story is better left for a different time as her original name involved a lot of regret, tears, and several hundred dollars worth of attorney’s fees for a legal name change), we absolutely love her name and it suits her perfectly.

My husband’s taste is all over the place, so at this point, we have only one name that we both agree on and love….Evander. We even both agree on James for a middle name as Evander James just “sounds good” together. I love the meaning of the name, and I love that there are endless nickname possibilities, from Van to EJ to the more traditional Evan or Andy (if he prefers). So while we both love this name, I do want to take into consideration the response that my son will receive, and as such there are a few things making me second guess this choice:

1. Why isn’t this name used more often? It seems like the perfect combination of the very popular Evan and Alexander, and it is derived from the Greek name Evandros meaning “good man” or “strong man.”

2. Will everyone immediately think of Evander Holyfield? We are a family of pale redheads, so I worry that people will hear his name, think of Evander Holyfield, and then look back to my son and think, “huh?” My husband argues that the younger generations will not be as familiar with the boxer and therefore will not immediately associate the name with him. We don’t think that it’s a bad association, and as I mentioned above, I like names that cross cultural boundaries, but I just wonder if Evander is TOO much of a namesake, like Oprah or Madonna?

Thank you in advance for your help! Unfortunately this name is so uncommon (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing) that I haven’t had much luck uncovering the reasons why parents shy away from this name.




It’s mysterious, isn’t it? I’m not sure why, either.

I wonder if part of it is pronunciation. When I see Evan-, I want to start with EV-an, but then I catch myself: no, wait, it’s e-VAN in this case. That hesitation is so small, and yet I think that’s the sort of thing that can make a parent decide not to add a name to a list.

Part of it is going to be that most people have only one association with the name. I think if there were even just one more celebrity named Evander, the association would be diluted enough that parents wouldn’t feel so much as if they were naming the child “after” Evander Holyfield. Time helps to dilute the association as well: I immediately came up with Evander Holyfield, and I knew he was an athlete, but I didn’t remember “boxer” and I didn’t have a face to go with the name.

I’m curious to see how the popularity of the name has changed over time:

1963: –
1968: –
1973: –
1978: –
1983: –
1988: 16
1993: 40
1998: 37
2003: 32
2008: 40
2013: 75

I looked up Evander Holyfield on Wikipedia, and it looks as if he was pretty famous by 1984. Comparing that to the appearance of Evander in the Social Security data, I see why it feels like a namesake name. In 1983, the name is not even in the data base; in 1984, there are 9 new baby boys named Evander.

I have almost completely neutral feelings about the association. If I met a little boy named Evander, I might wonder if his parents chose it because of the boxer, but I wouldn’t assume it, and I wouldn’t think either more or less of them whichever way it turned out to be. My feelings on it don’t change depending on the child’s skin color: I continue to feel neutral. But this is clearly only one data point: I didn’t even remember he was a boxer, so that shows you my level of familiarity; someone who was more knowledgeable might have a stronger association and it might be more specifically positive or negative.

To add another data point, my feeling is that the name is fully useable. I think it’s one of those names that just needs a little BOOST: if we could just get a few more parents to use it, all the OTHER parents would start to think of it is a less-risky candidate. I think if the two of you love it and agree on it, you should go for it.

Now what we need is a whole bunch more data points. These are the questions, I think:

1. Why do you think the name isn’t being used more?
2. Is your association with Evander Holyfield positive, negative, neutral, or non-existent?
3. Do you feel the name is useable?

Baby Boy Sofeeoh, Brother to Ian and Reagan

Hi Swistle!
I’ve been reading your blog since I was pregnant with my son who is about to turn four! When we started talking about having our third child, I knew we would have to enlist your help! Choosing names is really hard for us because it’s difficult to find one we can see ourselves saying a hundred times a day!

Our last name sounds like SO-fee-oh, my name is Jackie and my husband is Anthony. We have two children and I’m pregnant with our third and last, a boy, due mid-April.

We have a son named Ian Thomas. We chose Ian because it was a classy name that hadn’t had a surge in popularity lately. Timeless in a way, but not boring like other names you hear constantly. His middle name is his great grandfather’s name and also his father’s middle name. Our daughter is named Reagan Caroline. We liked Reagan because it had just enough spunk with plenty of sweetness. Her middle name is a combination of my mother’s name, Linda Carol. This baby’s middle name will most likely be Jack; as I am named after my grandfather, Jack.

So all that to say, in the very last days before our children were born, we picked the only name that we liked saying over and over and also that seemed like a person who would be in our family. It was a coincidence that they both ended in -an. Now it seems like -an names look best with the other two. I’d at least like an “n” sound in there somewhere I think.

My husband is very particular with names, but he doesn’t give much criteria on why he likes a name or not, only that it doesn’t seem like his son! So it’s been tricky to come up with names that he likes.

We will have a few names that are on the “like” list, but after a few weeks of thinking about it they get crossed off for one reason or another.

Names that we both still like:
Colson – I like it a little more than my husband does. Interesting name, but there are several ways to spell it. Is it too similar to the popular Colton and would get mistaken?

Kellan – Husband likes it a little more than I do. I know it’s a boys name, but the Kell beginning reminds me of Kelly, even though Kelly is not popular for girls at all anymore. Also, when said quickly to me it sounds very similar to “kill him” so that’s not great. But it does match our other kids’ names very nicely.

Simon – a new name to the list. Classic but unique, just not sure if we can get passed the “nerdy” connection that the name seems to carry. Also, since our last name starts with an S I’m not sure if it’s too similar to Simon Says. But it is a nice name.

I like the name Anderson but my husband isn’t a big fan. I don’t like that’s it’s three syllables and a very strong surname still. We generally try to stay away from three syllable names because they get nicknamed very quickly, which we aren’t a big fan of.

Names that are out because of close friends or family: Logan, Declan, Brayden, Nathan, Landon, Jameson, Hudson, Benjamin, Corbin, Gavin

Names crossed off the list for various reasons:
Carson – we’ve only met girls with this name now
Owen – too close to Ian
Jackson or Carter – presidential connection with our daughter’s name
Connor, Xander, Leland, Evan, Colton, Lachlan and Dawson are all names my husband dislikes
Colin – can’t get passed that it sounds like call-in’

So the perfect name for us would be: clearly a boys name, spelled only one way generally, have an N in it, two syllables – That’s the perfect list but we know we may need to compromise!
I’d appreciate any advice you or your readers can give! Please help!

Thank you!


I think we are up to this challenge. If, however, the post and comments prove to be unhelpful and you are right back where you started, I suggest going back to your original selection criteria: a name you like saying over and over, and that seems like a person in your family. It will be fun to look for a name with a N, and two syllables, and only one standard spelling—but those three preferences seem much less important than the other two, especially with a picky husband and a long list of rejected/unusable names, and they may be why you’re stuck. I looked at name after name that failed at least one of those preferences; when I get that “solving a logic puzzle” feeling, I’m likely to advise paring down the PREFERENCES list instead of continuing to pare down the NAME list.

My first and favorite suggestion is Calvin. It has two syllables, it has the N, it has one standard spelling, it’s clearly a boy name, it’s timeless but not boring—and yet it isn’t too similar to Ian or Reagan and, other than the N, has completely different sounds. It also reminds me of some of your other options (Kellan, Colson, Gavin, Colin). Calvin Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Calvin.

My next suggestion is Quentin. Two syllables, N, standard spelling, clearly a boy name, timeless but not boring—plus super-cool initial. Quentin Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Quentin.

Henry may be too familiar now for your tastes, but I like the way it fits many of the other preferences, and I like the way the position of the N reduces the matchiness of the set. Henry Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Henry.

Finn is only one syllable, but coordinates visually with the length of the name Ian. It may be too much F with the surname, and may not work if you do decide to use Jack as the middle name (perhaps Jackson would work instead). Finn Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Finn.

Oh, I think I like Griffin better, and that’s two syllables and reduces the F problem. Griffin Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Griffin.

Malcolm has no N, but the M and N letters/sounds are similar, and the style goes well with Ian. Malcolm Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Malcolm.

Similar to Kellan is Kieran. It removes the Kelly/Ellen issue (though by substituting a Kiera issue), and also the “kill him” issue (though I don’t hear that when I say it). Kieran Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Kieran.

Corin may be too similar to the Corbin you can’t use—but if not, it’s a nice way to get Colin without the call-in. Corin Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Corin.

If it is too similar, perhaps Torin.

Or wait, Tobin. Tobin Sofeeoh; Ian, Reagan, and Tobin.

But my top choice is still Calvin. I love it, and it solves the logic puzzle.

Baby Boy Neged-with-an-M

Hello! We are expecting our first baby, a boy, in a few weeks and still have not settled on a first name. The last name sounds like Neg-Ed but starting with an M (the G is hard and it’s 2 syllables). The middle name will be my last name, which sounds like Peench starting with an H. I know that combo doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I really want to use my family name somehow, so the middle name is non-negotiable. I imagine the full name will rarely be said out loud, and the middle name will be reserved for formal occasions like diplomas and passports. Most of the time it will be First name H. Last name. Because our last names are not easy, we prefer classic spellings of all first names.

We have a list of 4 first names at this point: Eli, Gideon, Ori, and Avery. I should mention that we are looking for names that are Jewish/from the Old Testament or are Israeli without being too religious (for example, Isaac is out because in Hebrew it is Yitzak, which is a very old school and religious name). We live in the US and I’m American, but my husband’s family is in Israel. What’s most important is how the name we choose works in the US, though we are trying to consider the Israeli perspective somewhat.

Eli – solid, easy, safe choice. Too popular? Too boring?

Gideon – A lovely name, which is classic but kind of quirky, from the Old Testament, and not too common. Concerns here: too many Gs in the first + last name? In Israel Gideon (Gidon there) is old fashioned. The meaning (warrior) is not great, but he is doing karate in my uterus right now, so maybe it will suit him.

Ori – We both love this name, which is Israeli for “my light.” This is a similar meaning to my first name, which is nice. Our concerns are that it is too foreign sounding, and not obvious if it’s a male or female to most Americans. The combo of Ori with the last name, unless one is familiar with Israeli names, could come across as very foreign and totally unrecognizable.

Avery – Solid American name which we both really like. It’s not biblical, but we would use the Hebrew name Ivri (pronounced Ee-vree) for family in Israel. Ivri means “of the Hebrew”, which is a nod towards his grandfather’s family, who were Hebrew language scholars. Also his grandfather Avi passed away, and Avery could be considered named after him. We prefer not to use his grandfather’s exact name, so Avery is a nice compromise. Our concern here is that Avery is a really popular girl’s name right now!

Gabriel and Ethan are names that made our short list initially, but ultimately we don’t love them. Also don’t love Elijah. Other names that won’t work for us: Jacob, Daniel, Adam, Ben, Jonathan, Elliot (names of our nephews/cousins), David (meh), Jonah (an ex), and Noah (too common). We hope to have 2 kids, but may just have this one. If we had a girl, we would probably have named her Naomi or Nessa (which means miracle in Hebrew).

Thanks in advance for any thoughts on our current choices or new name ideas! We promise to let you know what we choose.


I think Eli is a very nice name. It doesn’t strike me as too popular, or boring.

I also like Gideon very much. It is a lot of G and D with the surname, which is the sort of thing some people would avoid and others would seek out; it’s a matter of how it sounds to you. Do you like the way the repeated sounds hit your ear when you say them aloud, or does it feel like a downside?

I’m interested too to know how Ori strikes other people. I’ve had only one encounter with the name: a girl I went to high school with was named Orianna, and was occasionally called Ori. But I wouldn’t base much on one single exposure to the name, and if I saw Ori on a list I definitely wouldn’t assume girl: I’d be completely uncertain. I have also known a boy named Ari, so I can make an Ari/Ori connection and see it as masculine. I’m also familiar with the name Omri from the book The Indian in the Cupboard; that too could make the name feel natural to me as a boy’s name. And the name looks a little like Ollie, a name I’m familiar with as a nickname for Oliver. But it also looks a little like Lori and Dori and Tori, familiar as girl names. And it makes me think of Cory and Rory, which are both unisex names. In short, the name looks ambiguous to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it belonged to a girl OR to a boy.

You’re right that Avery is a unisex name leaning girl. In 2013, the name was given to 9,121 new baby girls and 2,036 new baby boys. Usage is currently holding fairly steady for boys (#196 in 2013) while rising for girls: #12 in 2013, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the Top 10 when the 2014 data comes out in May. If you plan to have more children, it is possible that using a unisex-leaning-girl name for a boy could cause sibling-name selection issues.

I notice that three of the four names on your finalist list are vowel-heavy with softer sounds: Eli, Ori, Avery. I don’t know anything about how names sound in Israel or what their Hebrew equivalents are/mean, but that is where I might start if I were looking for more options. Names such as Joel, Seth, Levi, Nathaniel, Paul, Cyrus, Owen, Leo, Oliver.

I think my top favorite option is Eli from your finalist list.

Baby Girl, Sister to Jillian and Oliver

Desperately seeking a name for Jillian and Oliver’s little sister! If
baby was a boy, I am 100% on Theodore (“”Theo”) Henry. However, just
found out we’re having another girl and I am completely stumped! The
perfect name for me would be classy, but friendly and approachable. I
love names that have cutesy nicknames and British sounding names. I
was so worried about Jillian seeming dated and a “mom name” when I
chose it, but now I couldn’t possibly love it more. What names could
go with Jillian?

A few I think I like…
Annabel: (only like this spelling) pro- cute nn “Annie” for little
girl con- “bel” names over used, is this too much associated with
being a cow’s name?

Eloise: pros: love love love all of the cute nick names, love the way
this name looks written cons: “wheeze” sound sometimes bothers me,
“el” names too trendy to be timeless?

Eliza: sometimes i love it, sometimes it just looks like Elizabeth
unfinished, lack of cute nn

Daphne: lack of nn, really dislike “daffy”, prob. best for middle name



Isabel: pretty sound, really really popular

Charlotte: popular, don’t care for “char” or “charlie”

Would so so love and appreciate more suggestions!!! :) The perfect
name is out there somewhere, I just can’t seem to find it!

I really like Lillian, but obviously not an option since we already
have Jillian! ;)


I wonder if you would like Lottie as a nickname for Charlotte.

Without a surname to work with, it’s difficult to come up with more possibilities. But here are some that feel to me like they could be a good fit with Jillian:


Have you noticed the main issue with many of these names? No good nicknames. The Holly I know is often called Holls, but that’s not a nickname in the Jillian/Jill sense: she wouldn’t write “Holls” on a school paper, for example. Bethany/Beth is equivalent to Jillian/Jill, but the nickname Beth sounds a bit mommish at this point; same with Laurie for Laurel.

The only ones that seem to me to be as good as Jill for Jillian are Winnie for Winifred and Abby for Abigail. Liddy/Lyddie for Lydia and Bree for Sabrina and Bee for Bianca are close.

I think your own list contains more promising candidates. Annabel/Annie is adorable, and I don’t think of Annabel as a cow name. I love Eloise and Eliza, and I don’t think the El- keeps them off the timeless list or that Eliza looks like an unfinished Elizabeth. When I say Eloise aloud, I don’t hear “wheeze”: at most I hear “weez.” To force the “wheeze” sound to appear, I have to shape my mouth differently. Eliza could be nicknamed Liza, which at my house would probably turn into Liza-Lou. (You could also use Ellie, but then you’d be emphasizing the part that concerns you.)

Baby Naming Issue: Initials C, E, F, G, H, I, J, and K Are in Use; Should They Aim for D?

My husband and I are considering having a 7th (and final!) Baby. Naming this child will be tough!! We have found it increasing difficult to name children after already using our favorite names on our older children. The problem we face is that we seem to have developed a pattern and we are not sure if we can continue with this next child. My question is, should we abandon the pattern? Or settle for a name solely on the reason that it fits the pattern? Here’s the stats: Our last name is Blackhouse but the color White. My first initial is K, My husband’s is C. Our children are: Ella, Faith, Gavin, Hayden, Isaiah, and Jude. The type A part of me wants this baby to have a D name so we would have all of the letters between mine and my husbands name, but we have scoured D name lists to no avail. I do like Delilah, but don’t appreciate the biblical connection to Samson and Delilah. Any suggestions?? Im hoping you have some fabulous D name that I have yet to think of and will save the day!


This letter caught my eye because we had a similar situation: when I was pregnant with my final child, my dad noticed that we had so far used letters only between my initial and Paul’s. It was very tempting to keep this going, especially because I didn’t know it was our final child, so even though there were three initials still available, MAYBE we’d use them all! As it turned out, we didn’t try to go with that, and yet we did use one of those three initials (and the runner-up name was another of those three initials). I’ve wondered, if I were to suddenly be expecting twins, if I’d try for those remaining two initials!

I think we wouldn’t, but I might start there just for fun, or might use that to help decide between finalists. The reason is that although it IS kind of fun, it’s almost completely unnoticeable. I think I would have a harder time resisting it if we’d used the initials in order, but we didn’t, and that makes it even LESS noticeable.

So in your case, I think that would be my opinion about what you should do too. (“Do what Swistle did”—is that really what I’m saying my advice is? Apparently so.) I think it’s a great idea to look for a D name, because that’s fun and the idea appeals to you. Maybe use it as one of the ways to decide between finalists. But I wouldn’t advise choosing a name you like less just to get the fun initials thing. If you’ve already looked through all the D names and haven’t found anything you like, it sounds to me as if that idea isn’t going to work out; I’m not likely to find one you’ve missed. The only one that comes to mind (and you’ll have already seen it in the D section) is Dahlia/Dalia: it’s similar to Delilah, but no awkward biblical story. I’ve gotten very fond of the name because of the P.D. Wodehouse books about Jeeves: Aunt Dahlia is a regular character, and one of my favorites.

Or Delia.

For a boy, a couple of my favorite D names are Declan and Daniel and Dean and Darian and Davis—but again, nothing that you haven’t already seen in the name book.

Or maybe things will look different once/if there is an actual baby on the way. My non-pregnant name lists tend to be different than my pregnant name lists, I think because I find it hard to focus realistically when the situation is still hypothetical. We used some names I never even considered before I was pregnant, even though I’d made many name lists before and between. Perhaps you’ll go through the D section again and suddenly latch on to a name that never caught your eye in previous perusals.

Baby Girl F0rd; Surname Middle Names

Dear Swistle,

We are expecting our first baby – a girl – at the beginning of April. We had a pretty hard time agreeing on a name, but after a lot of deliberation, we’ve decided to name her Mackenzie. Our last name sounds like F0rd. My question deals with middle names – specifically surname middle names. My husband and I would like to use my maiden name as the baby’s middle name. My last name sounds somewhat like F0lgers (but no coffee association), and when we got married I took his last name and moved my maiden name to the second middle name position. For various reasons, my maiden name is very meaningful to me.

The thing is Mackenzie is already derived from a surname. It’s not a surname in either of our families, but it originated as a surname. So her name would be a collection of all surnames. Is this weird or noticeable? I suspect that other people have run into this because of the popularity of surnames as first names like Parker, Fletcher, Anderson, Beckett, Kennedy, Jackson, etc.

I’ve also wondered if Mackenzie is unisex enough that it needs a feminine middle name to make it clear that it’s a girl’s name. However, since Mackenzie hasn’t been in the top 1000 names for boys since 2001, and it’s been in the top 100 for girls for the last 20 years, I think it’s safe to say that it’s gone completely to the girls like Kelly, Ashley, Leslie, etc.

If we don’t use my maiden name, we would likely go with either Marie or Jade. Marie would also be an honor name because it’s my middle name and my mom’s. But Marie doesn’t feel like a very specific honor name since it seems like half of the women I know have the middle name Marie. Jade is not an honor name – it’s just a name that we both strongly like but felt sounded silly as a first. (Jade F0rd sounds strange to me, but Mackenzie Jade F0rd sounds better to my ear for some reason.)

Technically we could give her 2 middle names, but I like giving her the option to push her last name to a second middle position like I did if she gets married and wants to, and my husband generally doesn’t like the 2 middle name option either.

What do you think about maiden names as middle names for babies with a surname-y first name?



If it’s your maiden name I see in your email address, one issue that may sway things toward using it is that I think it’s a much prettier name than F0lgers. But I would like the idea even if the name WERE F0lgers: I like very much when both parents’ family surnames can be incorporated.

It sounds as if the idea of two middle names doesn’t appeal to either of you, but if you DID go with that, she would still be just as able to structure her name the way she wanted to later on. Whether she starts as Mackenzie F0lgers F0rd or Mackenzie Marie F0lgers F0rd, she’s just as able to decide to be Mackenzie F0lgers F0rd MarriedName later on if she wants to. More names gives her MORE options, not fewer. But it does seem as if a Mackenzie F0lgers F0rd is more likely to keep the F0lgers part than a Mackenzie Marie F0lgers F0rd: the latter has more names to consider dropping (if any names will be dropped), so each name has a somewhat smaller chance of being kept.

One thing I liked about giving the kids two middle names is that it meant I still got to have the fun of choosing a middle name. It also reduced the surname-heavy aspect of it. But that was because I wanted ALL the kids to have my family name as a middle: if I were using it only for the firstborn, I would have felt differently about it.

Even knowing that Mackenzie is a surname name, it doesn’t feel much like a surname name to me anymore. If you were considering Miller F0lgers F0rd or Campbell F0lgers F0rd, I would feel like that was a lot of surname. I might very well still think it was a good idea to use it, but I’d see what you meant. But with Mackenzie, after 20 years in the Top 100, I think by now it feels more first-name than surname—more in the category of Mason and Jackson and Dylan and Madison than in the category of Anderson and Fletcher and Miller and Campbell.

I agree with you that the name is currently so used for girls, I wouldn’t feel the urge to use a clarifying middle name. In 2013, the name was given to 3,990 new baby girls and only 42 boys. And that’s only for that one spelling: the next most popular spelling, Mckenzie, was given to 2,196 new baby girls and 22 boys. The next most popular spelling, Makenzie, was given to 1,929 girls, but isn’t in the data base for boys.