Baby Girl Niemen

My husband and I are expecting our first child- a girl, in October. He is pretty insistent that we not name her until she arrives but I want to at least have a solid short list of names going in. Our last name is very similar to Niemen.

Had the baby been a boy he would have been named Charles Gray with the nickname Arlo. Charles after my deceased father, Gray is a family name on my husband’s side. I love the idea of naming the baby after my dad but I really don’t love the options for girls. I do like Charlotte but my husband does not and there are tons of them in my neighborhood.

This brings us to Catherine, my paternal grandmother’s name. Paired with my husband’s grandmother’s name of Jeanne for a middle name it gives our daughter the family names of two amazing women and my father’s initials. The problem is a nickname- the typical options are taken by family (except CJ which I do not like at all) so we are leaning towards Wren/Reine (they would be pronounced the same). Thoughts on this nickname and the spelling options would be helpful since we are sort of at an impasse on the spelling.

The next name we both really like is Mavi (pronounced Mah-vee) it has no family significance but we both like it a lot. My main worry is she won’t have a more traditional name to fall back on if she finds it a bit too unique. I am also worried about needing to defend/explain this choice to people. My husband is adamantly opposed to Maeve or Mavis.

After those two names we are just stuck, which would be fine but I am not sure either one is perfect. Other names we have discussed:
He likes:

Some of my favorites that he doesn’t care for:
Juliette- he vetoed because he knows to many people with this or a similar name
Vivienne nn Vivi
Louisa nn Lulu

Basically we came up with this list months ago and we keep just re-vetoing the same names and we haven’t been able to add any good contenders. Both of us want something slightly less common, but I prefer getting there via nickname with a more traditional option if she wants it. We both seem to be drawn to names that end in vowel sounds or other soft sounds.

We would love to hear your thoughts on Wren vs. Reine, if Mavi is too out there and to get a few more name options to ponder.

Thank you so much for any help you can offer!



The problem of how to spell the nickname from the ending syllable of Catherine reminds me of the problem of how to spell the nickname from the ending syllables of Mattea. It may have to be the sort of nickname that’s verbal but not written; or the kind the starts out as verbal and then you let the spelling develop on its own. The exception, I think, is if you want Wren: I consider that its own name, with its own strong image—so if you want Wren specifically, I think you should start early with it.

I don’t think I’d spell it Reine. I could only figure out how you wanted it pronounced by the alternate spelling Wren. If I encountered that spelling and were trying to figure it out, I might try rine (rhyming it with wine) or pronouncing it like the word rain/reign/rein, but I don’t think I’d ever get to a short-E sound.

Another possibility is to spell the name Cathryn and spell the nickname Ryn or Rynn, evoking Lyn/Lynn—but I much prefer the spelling Catherine (especially if that’s the family spelling), to the point of suggesting spelling the nickname Ryn/Rynn even with the Catherine spelling. I prefer Rynn anyway: Ryn makes me wonder if it’s supposed to rhyme with wine, as well as giving me a slight Ayn Rand feeling. Rynn makes the most pronunciation sense to me, and is no further from the spelling of the full than than Wren/Reine. It does take you from the Ren sound to a Rin sound, though. If you want the short-E sound, I think I’d spell it Renn or Wren.

I have one more nickname option to suggest, though it’s a real reach. I came to it when considering C.N. instead of C.J.—and that made me think of the name Sienna. C.N.-ah.

I think that if you don’t want to defend/explain it, Mavi is probably not the right choice for your family. It’s almost completely unused in the United States (5 new baby girls given the name in 2013), so endless requests for information will be part of the package deal of that name. People will want to know why you used it, where you came up with the idea of it. Spelling and pronunciation will be significant recurring issues.

Looking at your lists, one question I have is whether sibling-name coordination is one of your preferences. There is a wide assortment of styles here, from Emily (very popular and familiar) to Orla (virtually unused in the United States); from Ellis (unisex, used more often for boys in the United States) to Vivienne (very feminine). If you do like sibling names to coordinate, one exercise that can help narrow down your style is to imagine a group of children instead of just one. Picture the kids gathered around the table for dinner, or sitting in the living room reading books: do Catherine and Violet seem more like Your Family? or do you feel more at home imagining Astrid and Piper?

Actually, I’m having trouble even doing this exercise, because the style spread is so wide: I usually prefer to make a group of three siblings, but had trouble even finding two.

It might help us to return to your boy-name choice for guidance. Charles is a very traditional, classic, familiar name, and also a family name for you; but Arlo is a contemporary, unusual, non-intuitive nickname for it. Perhaps THAT is the style that would best suit the two of you: traditional/family names with unusual nicknames. This gives you everything you want: family names, unusual names—AND a more traditional name to fall back on, if the children turn out to prefer that.

Baby Naming Issue: Will the Name Jillian Sound Like a Mom Name?

Hi Swistle!

Do you think Jillian will be a mom name if I gave it to a girl in the next few years? I think it’s a beautiful name and my instinct says it’ll stand the test of time and it was never so trendy as to make it sound dated, but what if I’m wrong??



I like the name Jillian a lot; it was on my baby name list, too. I think one reason it doesn’t feel like a mom name to me is that I don’t know a bunch of people my age with the name—or really anyone with the name. My own name and its variants (Kristen, Kirsten, Kiersten, Krista, Kristine) feel startling to me on a new baby because I have so many peers with those names and have hardly ever heard it on anyone younger. The name Sophie would feel startling to me on someone my own age, because I know of a lot of kids with the name but have hardly ever heard it on anyone older. The name Jillian, I have much less experience with. I know of the actress Gillian Anderson, and I think that’s it. Since she’s the only Gillian/Jillian who comes to mind, I’m surprised she doesn’t skew the name older for me—but I think it’s like how Drew doesn’t seem like a mom name even now that Drew Barrymore is a mom: the name was so unusual for her age group, it didn’t register in my mind as a very weighty statistic.

I looked up Gillian and Jillian on the Social Security Administration’s baby name site to get an idea for what they’ve been doing over the years. Gillian first appeared in the Top 1000 in 1968 but stayed quite unusual over the decades: 900s, 800s, 700s, sometimes 600s. It had a brief trip to the 300s from 1997 to 2002 (very likely thanks to The X Files), and then dropped back down; in 2013, it was #835.

The name Jillian appeared in the Top 1000 in 1976 and had a fast and startling rise: #620 the first year it appeared; #236 the very next year; and #96 by 1982. Anyone looking at that chart might have predicted a new Top 10 name—but it never did get higher than #96. It messed around in the 100-200 range for decades, leaving that range only as recently as 2011, when it dropped to #221. Then it was #286 in 2012, and #341 in 2013.

That’s a lot of numbers in those two paragraphs. My interpretation of those numbers is that the name did come into our society’s awareness at around Mom Age—but as you observed, it never spiked enough to sound truly Mommish. If I were about to meet a Kristen, I would be pretty confident she’d be right around my age; if I were about to meet a Jillian, I would expect anything from about 10 years older than me all the way down to infancy: not as timeless as, say, Elizabeth, but a nice long range.

The one thing that makes me feel a little alarmed is the way it is RIGHT NOW dropping, after so many years of steadiness. If it drops into the 300-400 range and stays there, no problem: it’s just a little less popular than it was. If it drops until it goes out of the Top 1000, that’s a different story.

But it’s not such a BAD story. I know lots of women my age who have names more typical of our moms’ age, and I know plenty of kids my kids’ age who have names more typical of my age. My mom and I both have friends named Judy and Susan. My son Rob and I both have friends named Karen, Amy, and Shannon. Although I am glad to be named Kristen and not a name from my mom’s generation or my kids’ generation, I don’t think it’s at all disastrous when it happens—and it happens commonly enough not to stand out much. I guess I’m a little surprised when I meet someone my age named Patty or Carol, or someone my son’s age named Michelle or Nicole, but I don’t think “Oh, poor dear soul.” People often love names for years before they have a baby to name, or become aware of names only after the names have been popular for quite some time, or like familiar names rather than new ones, or name a baby after a peer. So for many reasons, name overlap between generations is common and not something I think of as a big deal, even though I’d personally prefer to avoid it if it comes down to two names I like equally, and to be aware of the issue ahead of time so I can make a decision that takes it into account.

One advantage to using a name that might be a mom name is that it’s been around long enough to feel pretty secure about it. We know the name Jillian didn’t spike into the Top 10 and then fall right out again, leaving a poor impression. We know it hasn’t started sounding like any of the negative categories people sometimes put names into (stripper, trashy, etc.). I know I’m not feeling tired of it and ready for something new, as is common to feel about most of the names typical of one’s own generation.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve come to a conclusion. That conclusion is that a name doesn’t really sound like a Mom Name or a Grandpa Name unless (1) it was very popular in that generation and only in that generation (as with Judy, Susan, Karen, and Amy), and/or (2) it represents a sound very popular in that generation (as with -bert and -aden). So for example, a lot of the Kris-/Chris- names sound like Parent Names now, just as a lot of -bert names sound like Grandparent Names, and just as a lot of the -aden names are going to sound like Parent Names and then Grandparent Names when this current batch of kids grows up. Jillian doesn’t click for me with any of those. It seems to me more like the names Meredith and Claire: good on moms, good on babies.

On the other hand, I think it’s very difficult to hear datedness if one is, shall we say, on the dated side oneself. That is, I know it’s very common for grandparents-to-be to suggest names that are from the era when they were naming their own children. I think the comments section is going to be very helpful on this, especially if we can get an idea of how people of different ages see the name. If people in their late 30s and early 40s (the upper range of Parent Age) are saying Jillian is a great and perfectly usable name, but people in their 20s and early 30s (the lower range of Parent Age) are saying it sounds dated, we’ll know the impression of the name is shifting. Though even in that case I’d still say it wasn’t common enough for this to rule out using it now, as I might say if you were considering the name Kristen: I love the name Kristen, but it’s a Mom Name for current babies.

Baby Name to Discuss: Declan

Dear Swistle,

I am an avid reader of your blog and have always fantasized about naming my children. The time is finally here, and I am due with my first in January! My name is Anne, DH is Dave, and our last name is Heal(e)d,pronounced as in what a doctor does to you. We have had our boy name picked out forever but are struggling with girl names. I have a list a mile long and DH doesn’t do much adding or subtracting to it. Some of my top girl names right now are :
Maeve, and
Margaret (I know Margaret is an outlier but it is after my mom — still trying to convince DH that Maggie Heal(e)d is an adorable name for a little girl!)
Middle name for girl will be a family name — Anne, Grace, Mary, or Rose.
However the problem now is that our boy name was #2 on nameberry’s most searched names of 2014 — Declan! Should I be worried? Is Declan about to become the next Aiden? Will my child be Declan H in class? Or am I overthinking this and we should just go with the name we loved first?
Middle name for boy will be Sullivan after DH’s middle. Other boy names we like include Nolan, Ronan, Benjamin, and Alexander.

So in short — should I be worried about Declan? Also, help with a girl name would be so much appreciated!

Thank you,


When I received your letter, I assumed I wouldn’t be answering it: I can only guess at the future popularity of a name, and Declan doesn’t seem worrisome to me, so it wouldn’t have been much of a post: “No, I don’t think it’s a problem, but of course I can’t know for sure. Love, Swistle”

However, in the last week and a half I’ve received TWO MORE letters worrying about the future popularity of the name Declan, so all right, let’s discuss it—with the caveat that I didn’t know AIDEN was going to be the next Aiden.

Here is the thing with a “most searched” list: it definitely tells us which names are generating a lot of INTEREST, but that doesn’t mean parents are going to USE them. I look up a lot of names just out of curiosity (“I wonder how popular this name is?,” “I wonder why I’m suddenly hearing this name everywhere?”), and I’ll bet a lot of other people do too.

I remember awhile back when it seemed like EVERYONE was talking about and asking about the name Juniper. I thought to myself, “Wow, there is a LOT of interest in this name! And it sounds a little like Jennifer, which was so popular! I’ll bet it’s going to go RACING up the charts!”

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And I mean, if parents wanted to use it because it was absolutely unique and they’d never heard it before, I WOULD still point out that increased interest in the name seems to have resulted in increased usage. But we’re not talking about an overnight sensation with several Junipers per classroom: we’re talking about a formerly almost-totally-unused name that is now being used a little bit. There was a LOT of interest in it when people first started hearing it, but that didn’t lead to a LOT of people using it—just a FEW.

The name Declan is getting some attention lately, and I would not be surprised if that led to increased usage. One of the major reasons it kept getting crossed off my own baby name list was the difficulty of pronunciation, so the increased familiarity of the name would be a huge plus for me. But if you’re looking for something highly unusual, it’s true that ship has sailed:

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That’s a nice respectable rise to fashion: 16 years from the first year it hit the Top 1000 until now, and it STILL isn’t in the Top 100. But I’d expect to see it there, maybe as early as the 2014 chart. Again, for me this would be GOOD news: I like to use names that people recognize and can pronounce, not names that result in startled or confused expressions. But if your tastes run more towards startled/confused, I don’t think Declan is the way to go.

But looking at your lists, I don’t think your tastes DO run toward startled/confused. Sophia is the #1 most popular name for baby girls right now, and Charlotte is #11. Madeline is one of those stealth names that’s challenging to even compute the popularity for, because of the many, many ways to spell it—but it’s up there. Vivienne/Vivian is similar to Declan, I’d say: TONS of attention that resulted in a nice rise to familiarity and ease of use without becoming the next Isabella.

Or perhaps Charlotte will turn out to have been a better comparison with Declan: lots of attention that looks like it will indeed result in a top-ten name. It’s very hard to know whether a name will come into fashion in the “nicely into the Top 100 but not so popular people get tired of it” way, or whether it will head right for the Top 10. I FEEL as if Declan won’t make it to #1, but I felt the same about Noah and look where we are with that.

One thing to ask yourselves is how terrible would it be if a child DID some years have to use a surname initial. I do think that would be tiresome if it were Every Single Classroom All Through School, but that doesn’t happen so much anymore: even Noah and Sophia are given to only about 1% of new babies, which gives us a national average of one Noah or one Sophia per 6 or 7 classrooms (assuming about 30 kids per classroom, about half girls and half boys). Some years a Noah or Sophia WOULD probably have to go by Noah H. or Sophia H., or perhaps they could go by their first and middle if they liked that better. But is that fate so terrible that we must avoid it at all costs, or is that the kind of thing most people can handle without undue distress? I had another Kristen in my classroom one year, and one of us just went by a nickname that year. I can see how someone whose name was used 8 times as often (that’s the approximate difference between the popularity of the name Kristen/Kristin and the popularity of the name Jennifer) would have a lingering fear of classroom duplication, but names aren’t used with that frequency now. At its peak, Jennifer was used for over 4% of baby girls—FOUR TIMES the current usage of today’s top names.

Another issue is that even Aiden was not the next Aiden: one reason its popularity feels so out of hand is that it belonged to a group of names that included Caden, Hayden, Jayden, Braden, etc. That GROUP got so popular, it caught the interest even of people who aren’t interested in names. Declan doesn’t belong to any such group: even if it reached #1, it wouldn’t FEEL as popular as Aiden did at its peak of #9.

And what if it didn’t even get there? Imagine if it rose to a very respectable “not too common and yet not too out-there” ranking of somewhere in the mid Top 100 and then STAYED there? It would be very sad to have given up your favorite name out of fear of future popularity and then have it end up right where you would have liked it.

In short, I think the name Declan is experiencing a coming-into-fashion that to me makes the name more useable rather than less. I don’t think it will be the next Aiden, but if it WERE to be the next Aiden I still don’t think it would be the next Aiden. I’d vote for going ahead and using your favorite.

Turning our attention to the girl-name list, my own clear favorite is Margaret. I’ve known one little girl named Margaret and she greatly increased my already considerable appreciation for the name. And I love family names.

Based on your preferences, I’d probably steer you away from Charlotte: I think of that as another name of the sort that rose unexpectedly fast and got a lot of attention for getting a lot of attention. And Sophia and Madeline are also very popular, if popularity bothers you—but when I see Alexander and Benjamin on your boy-name list, I suspect what actually bothers you is a sudden spike in popularity right at the time you use the name, rather then popularity itself.

My main issue with Madeline is that there are two ways to pronounce it and a dozen ways to spell it. We briefly had a cat named Madeline and even with a CAT I found the hassle more than I wanted to deal with.

For the middle name, I love Anne if it works with your first-name choice: a family name, and especially appropriate if a boy’s middle name would honor your husband.

Baby Naming Issue: Is it Okay To Use a Name that Was Chosen for a Baby Lost to Miscarriage?

Hi Swistle, I just found out a few days ago that I am pregnant with child #2! Super excited, way to early to know what the gender is yet. My husband and I already have a boys name picked that we love. Rhyse Riordan (we pronounce it Rise). We would have used it as our first child’s name if she had been a he. We still love it as much today as we did then, so its a no brainer. Girl names however have always been much more difficult for me. There are just so many that are so pretty, its tough settling on one!

After much reading of sites (including this one), making lists, bouncing ideas, and falling in and out of love with various names, I ended up naming my daughter after she was born Imara Arissa. And then a month later I decided her first name didnt suit her at all, but her middle was spot on. So we are calling her Arissa May until we can get a formal name change.

Ok now with that all out of the way, onto my question. Is it ok to use a name that we love, but was earmarked for a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage? I was pregnant with my 1st husband over 10yrs ago, and sadly miscarried. The name I had picked out for a girl then remains a perfect name to me. Rinoa Seraphine, nn Noa. This husband loves it as much as I do. But I feel very hesitant to revive it just because, what if that baby would have been a girl? I don’t want to steal her name away. But there is no other name I love as much, other than our daughters name. So what do you and the other readers think? Totally taboo, or could be considered an honor name, especially if we find a different middle?

(Twins run in my family, and on the off chance that this pregnancy is twins, I love Rhyse and Rinoa together, with an M middle for Rinoa to tie her name to big sis’s. I’m matchy matchy like that!) Thanks Swistle!


Whether it’s okay to use a name you’d picked out for an earlier child depends completely on how you feel about it. Some people feel as if all the finalist names they considered for earlier children are off the table, but your choice to put Rhyse back on the finalist list for this baby shows us that this is not the situation here.

Do you feel as if the name Rinoa belongs to that baby? Do you believe that the baby, if the baby were a girl, would know and care that you used the name? If the baby were a boy, do you believe he would know and care that you used the name you would have used if he’d been a girl? Here is where I would start drawing my own lines: do you feel that you GAVE THE BABY this name, or was the name the finalist girl name but NOT yet given to the baby? That is, was the baby NAMED? was the name USED? Or do you feel that you don’t name your babies until the baby is born and the sex of the baby is known (the “after she was born” part you used when describing how you named your daughter)? When you think/talk of the baby now, do you think of this name or use the name to refer to that child? If you were to use the name, do you think it would remind you of the lost baby? Did you tell everyone your name choices at the time (or have you mentioned them since), so that using this name would remind others of the previous sadness?

I would advise against considering it an honor name. The idea fails the “Would I want this name for myself?” test: I would not want to be named after a sibling who died; it would make me feel as if I were expected to replace that child. Also, using the name as an honor name means it was indeed that baby’s name, as opposed to being a finalist on the name list that is available to use for another child; the act of calling it an honor name is the very thing that would mean to me that the name should be ruled out. And since you don’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl, it feels even more inappropriate: let’s say the baby was indeed a boy, and now there is a child named after her brother who died, but the name is the name that would have been his if he’d been a girl. No, I don’t think that works at all.

If you use the name, I would say the story as it is: that you have loved the name for years. You could, if you like, say that it would have been the name of an earlier baby if that baby had been born alive and female: it is similar to saying that your daughter Arissa would have been named Rhyse if she’d been a boy. In fact, that may be the way to think of it: you didn’t use the name Rhyse for your daughter, even though that name was picked out for her if she’d been a boy, so the name Rhyse is still available for a future child. Did you name the lost baby Rinoa, or do you think of the name the same as you think of the name Rhyse—i.e., unused, even though it was the finalist name?

If you decide to choose a different name, I think there is a very good chance you will find a name you like just as much or more, just as you did when you found Arissa’s name.

Baby Girl Uhspike, Sister to Will, Kate, and Elizabeth: Royal Names

Hi Swistle,

We expecting our fourth (and probably last) baby in October. My husband Ben comes from an all boy family and I figured ours would follow suit but that hasn’t been the case! Our only son, William, is 7. At the time I considered naming him Nicholas or Jacob but William Scott (nn Will) won out. Then our almost 5 year old came along and without any question we went with our family girl name from the previous pregnancy- Kate Eleanor. I opted for that instead of Catherine because I wanted her called Kate and didn’t want that to change over time. A couple of years later there was the royal wedding and now people always comment on our Will and Kate and seem to like it. I didn’t mind continuing the theme when our number three came along last year and we named her Elizabeth Anne, Elizabeth having such a beautiful meaning and being my favorite name of my childhood. When we aren’t calling her the Queen, we also call her Bitty or Beth.

Now our surprise baby (and girl number 3) is coming in the Fall and we are OUT of royal names! I have a few funny rules I’m trying to follow and can’t seem to let go. Our two syllable Dutch last name rhymes with Spike and starts with an “uh” sound. I think “uh” names sound funny with the double “uhs” (like Emma Uh-spike, Amelia Uh-spike) although I quite like them. I’d also prefer not to duplicate first letters and sounds if possible, for ease in calling children and labeling their belongs (yes I know these are some OCD problems!)

If this baby had been a boy we would have named him James Benjamin. Right now I have only a few names left on my girl list that still fit into the royal theme.

A few I love but aren’t willing to use for the above reasons are Emma, Amelia, Alexandra, Emily. I also like Charlotte// nn Lottie but it’s ridiculously popular in our area. Despite the supposed frequency of my other children’s names, we’ve only run into one other Will and a few Katelyns but no Kates or Elizabeths at all! Maggie is a favorite of mine but we don’t love Margaret (and I’m not sure I’m creative enough to branch out to a Magnolia// nn Maggie with our other names).

My husband isn’t crazy about Grace. I love Caroline but would not want any nicknames for it, so I think it might be better in the middle name slot for Grace or Mary (it’s also a family name and that feels like a nice spot for the tribute name, as we have done with our other children). I also think Mary Caroline is beautiful but would likely be Mary in the long run and I wonder if Mary is too “old” to go with our other names. My brother and both like our old fashioned, classic names (Anne and John) that were never too popular but I don’t want to saddle her with a name that’s just too old for her generation. My reservation with Jane is that it rules out having a James just in case we had another. Also, I feel like we’ve gotten some really mixed reviews about the name and that it might be too old, too (and it’s only questionably royal as Lady Jane Grey was a contested Queen who only “reigned” a few days but we’re alright with that).

So my question is, do I need to let myself break out of our little theme? Do you think Mary is just too old for a little girl? What about Jane, does it fit comfortably with William, Kate, and Elizabeth, or is she bound to feel like the named-with-the-leftovers sister? How did I let myself get into this crazy theme? Do you have some other nice classics lying around that I’ve missed?

Thanks so much!

PS Yes we do love this theme, the kids dressed up exactly like Will and Kate for a Royal Wedding Halloween and we have a British decorated room. I just wish there were a few more British Royal names and still wish the Royal Baby had been a girl with four or five more names to choose from, although I’m sure she would have stuck with a classic like Alexandra anyways!


I think Jane is a great choice. My main hesitation is the same as yours: for me, it would rule out using James later on. My second hesitation is that it feels very similar to Kate. But I don’t see any reason anyone would think of it as a “leftover” name.

Grace seems like the perfect choice to me, so it’s unfortunate your husband doesn’t like it. Perhaps he will come around: we get many letters where a husband’s dislike of a name causes me to ignore it as an option, and then we get the name update and the name has been chosen after all.

Caroline seems excellent, too. I don’t think of it as having any natural nicknames (that is, there are nicknames people could use if they wanted a nickname, but it isn’t a Michael/Mike kind of situation), which increases the chances she’d go by the full form. But I agree that if you feel strongly about it not being nicknamed, that knocks it further down the list.

Mary doesn’t seem too old to me; in fact, it feels like a refreshing choice. I might not have thought so, except that I encountered a Mary in the kindergarten class of one of my older boys. My first reaction was something close to shock, as my brain rearranged what I thought of the name: my mind had always filtered it as Common Name, never even really hearing it as a name, and now suddenly I was hearing the sounds that made it such a long-loved choice. Sisters named Mary and Kate do briefly bring Mary-Kate and Ashley to my mind, but surely that is not an enduring association—and not much of an association at all when it’s Kate, Elizabeth, and Mary.

I’m hesitant to suggest any further options: it seems like you must have already combed through the list thoroughly and rejected all the other royal names. Still, this makes a better reference post if we include the others, and sometimes hearing other people remark positively on a name can put it back on the list. I used Wikipedia’s British Royal Family page to assist the search.

Beatrice and Eugenie are the first two names that come to mind, even before looking at Wikipedia. I especially like Beatrice for this sibling group, and I love the nickname Bea/Bee (I would buy everything in the world that had bees on it). Eugenie seems like a harder name to sell in the United States, and also repeats Elizabeth’s initial.

Next I think of Diana. Few names have such a royal association for me as that one does. William, Kate, Elizabeth, and Diana fairly BOILS with royal.

And although you specifically said you don’t much care for the name Margaret, I want to put in a good word for it: I love it, and I love all the nicknames, and it definitely sounds royal. We had a little girl named Margaret at our bus stop a few years ago, and it made me love the name even more. If you love the name Maggie, it may be a great choice for you.

I assume you’ve considered and rejected Victoria. For me the main downside of this name is that I don’t like any of the nicknames and only like the full form.

I think Philippa with the nickname Pippa would be a strong candidate if it weren’t for the -uh/Uh- issue: it brings to mind not only Kate’s sister but also Prince Philip. Does it help at all that Philippa is three syllables? To my ear, that third syllable gives a little natural pause. I do still hear the -uh/Uh-, but it seems less troublesome.

Camilla is another name of this sort.

It would be more a royal reference than a royal name, but Georgia would be sweet. The -uh/Uh- issue doesn’t hit my ear in this case, perhaps because it’s more of a -juh/Uh-, or perhaps the issue bothers me less overall.

Two more royal-reference names would be Henrietta and Harriet, for Prince Henry (called Harry).

Sophie and Louise are both possibilities. I particularly like Louise.

I also love Alice and Sarah, if either of those are royal enough.


If you find you’re just STUCK and none of the royal names work for this child, another option is to choose a name that COULD be royal. I remember there was a lot of talk during Kate’s pregnancy about what names they’d be likely to choose, and it’s possible they WILL have a girl later on. It’s a bit of a long shot, but that could work out in a fun way, with them choosing the same name you chose for your third daughter. It wouldn’t be something to count on, of course, but it could help ease the discomfort of breaking a theme.

Baby Boy Lamberton, Brother to Annie

Dear Swistle,

I’m hoping you can help us out with a few suggestions for a boy’s name. We just found out that our child due in mid-November is a boy, which is great, except for the fact that we only can find girl names that we like!

Our last name is Lamberton, and we have a daughter (who will be 2 when her little brother arrives) whose name is Annie (not Anne, Anna, Ann… Annie – we knew that’s what we would end up calling her for a long time, though we are not nickname-averse).

Girl names we’ve liked:
Margaret (Maggie)
Talulah, Louisa (Lulu as a nickname for either of those, although we weren’t entirely sold on the alliteration with our last name)

Boy names we’ve liked but nixed:

Elliot (our friends have a son named Elliot and it would feel weird to us)
Henry (I love it still, but my husband is less sure about it… it doesn’t feel right to him.)
Charles (I like it, husband doesn’t)
James (we’re kind of on the fence – it’s my one brother’s first name, but he goes by his middle name)
Beckett, nickname “Beck”. – I really liked it until I saw a sign for Beck beer….
Oliver – love it, especially with Annie, except for the fact that my far-more-astute-than-I friend pointed out that both our children would then be named after orphans.

We’ve also nixed a lot of the really popular names right now: Mason, Liam, Noah, Owen (he’ll have a big cousin named Owen)… Names ending in “-aden” don’t even enter the discussion.

Using “Richard” as a middle name is a possibility, as it is a strong family name on both sides, but my brother has already used it as the middle name for his son, so we don’t need to use it… but it would be nice to find something that could go with it.

My husband is Benjamin (goes by Ben), so that is probably out, although I do love it as a name. Basically, we like interesting names that are more timeless than trendy. Oh, also, we’d probably like to steer clear of names beginning with a “B”. We’re already having our first two children (I’d like more, at least I think I would, but my husband isn’t sold on that yet) at pretty much the exact same interval as my husband and his older sister, and since his sister’s name also begins with an “A”, I’d like to try to stop the similarities before they get too out of hand. Hmm… any other conflicts? Ben thinks it would be hilarious if the baby’s initials were “LOL”, but I beg to differ :)

I hope that made sense… we obviously have some time, but I would just love an impartial third party’s opinion!

Thank you so much,

Kate Lamberton


The sibling pairing Annie and Oliver does immediately bring both musicals to my mind, even though I don’t think of the musicals with either name alone. Whether this is a problem or not depends on your own reaction to it: it would bother me, but if it doesn’t bother you I think there’s plenty of room to spin this as a musical theme rather than an orphan theme. I also think “named after” is too strong a condemnation: if you’re not deliberately naming the children with the fictional characters in mind, then it’s just a shared name rather than a namesake.

I do love James from your nix list, though I would have liked it better with Anne or Anna: pairing it with Annie suddenly makes me feel as if the girls get cute names and the boys get serious names. To avoid this feeling, I think I would lean toward using a boy name with a similar nickname feel: Charlie/Charley, for example, rather than Charles. Or Jack would be exactly the kind of thing I mean. I think Henry also works for this, perhaps because of the -y ending.

Gus, perhaps? Gus Lamberton; Annie and Gus.

Or Grady. Grady Lamberton; Annie and Grady.

Or Eli. Eli Lamberton; Annie and Eli. My tongue gets just a little tangled, but not enough that I’d rule it out; I find I even like it, so perhaps tangled is the wrong word. I find I start saying it with a little sass.

Or Theo. Theo Lamberton; Annie and Theo.

Or I wonder if you’d like Milo: Oliver and Charles and Elliot and Henry and Milo were all finalists on my own name list. Milo Lamberton; Annie and Milo.

Or Hugo. Hugo Lamberton; Annie and Hugo.

Or George. George Lamberton; Annie and Georgie.

Or Louis, if you find you’re pro-alliteration. Louis Lamberton; Annie and Louie.

Elliot makes me think of Emmett and Everett. Emmett Lamberton; Annie and Emmett. Everett Lamberton; Annie and Everett.

Baby Girl Alber, Sister to Charlie

Hi Swistle,

You helped us (through a private consultation) name our little boy Charlie almost 18 months ago. Now we’re expecting his little brother or sister in early October and would love some input from you and your readers.

The issue this time around? Finding a good match to go with Charlie. Our favorite names are Audrey for a girl and Henry for a boy. Despite these being our clear favorites, I’m hesitant because the rey/ry endings seem perhaps too close to Charlie’s name. So the question is, am I over thinking this? Or should we avoid these names and move on to others we are also considering?

For more information Charlie’s full name is Charles Gray (sounds a lot like, but isn’t quite) Alber. We call him Charlie 99% of the time. Gray is my mother’s maiden name and is my middle name. This baby’s middle name will be Bryce (my maiden name).

For a girl, in addition to Audrey, we also like:
Emilia (but maybe a little too fancy paired with Charlie?)
Eliza (or maybe Elizabeth with the nickname Eliza?)
Louisa (also seems a bit fancy with Charlie)

For a boy, in addition to Henry, we also like:
Samuel (nickname Sam)
Jack (but maybe sounds a bit..geriatric…when paired with Alber?)

Names we like but can’t use:
Caroline (my absolute favorite name, but I had to give it up when we named Charlie)
Eleanor (another big favorite, but too close to my mother in law’s name, Ellen, and Jewish families do not name children after living relatives)
Alexandra (a little alliteration is ok, but Alexandra Alber is too much)
Molly (love this one with Charlie, but we already know several little Mollys)
Josephine/Josie (my husband vetoed, sigh)
Sabrina (also vetoed)
Nathaniel/Nathan/Nate (too close to my name, which is Natalie)
Theodore/Teddy (another favorite, but already used by close friends)

So please Swistle, and your insightful and creative readers, help us name baby Alber!

Thank you!



I don’t think the endings of Audrey and Henry are too close to the ending of the name Charlie, so I would stop right there and not even move on to the other names on the list. I think a second -lie/-ly ending (Lily, for example) might be too matchy, and that having a group of, say, four children all ending in -ie/-y (Charlie, Audrey, Henry, Ivy) might be too matchy, but if you hadn’t pointed it out for Charlie/Henry or Charlie/Audrey, I wouldn’t have noticed it. It further works in your favor that Charlie is a nickname for Charles: Charles/Henry and Charles/Audrey aren’t too similar at all, and I don’t think it matters nearly as much how nicknames fit.

Baby Girl or Boy Owens, Sibling to Eli Dane

Hi Swistle!
We are expecting baby #2, and could use a little help with a name. We will not find out gender, which makes it twice as hard! We are fairly set on middle names, as we will probably pass along my husband’s middle name to a boy (Alan) and my middle name to a girl (Marie), to continue a tradition. We skipped this tradition with my first son’s middle name (Dane), as we honored my elderly grandfather instead.

We would prefer to stay away from overly common names, in fact, Eli is even a little too common for our liking. Yet, we are hoping to stay away from names that are hard to pronounce or spell, or sound made-up. We also don’t want another “El-” name, although I LOVE the name Eliza. It was actually our “girl” name for our son. Lastly, I don’t want a name that ends in an “O,” given our surname. I love Milo and Leo, but crossed them off because I feel like it just runs into our last name, or sounds stutter-y.

Some boy names we like, but may be too common for us include: Noah, Henry, Landon
Some girl names we like, but may be too common for us include: Evelyn, Nora, Layla

A few boy names currently in the running: Toby, Jasper, Sawyer, Adrian, Soren, Chase, Cody, Wyatt, Isaiah.
Toby may be the front runner at this point. I like Jasper…unique and masculine, but I’m a little afraid of the “Twilight” connection…still too strong? I love Sawyer, but I worry a little about pronunciation “Saw-yer vs Soy-yer.” Personally, I’d probably say Soy-yer, even though the other may be phonetically correct, because Saw-yer is hard for me to pronounce. The others are “eh” names…but could grow on me.

Our current list of girl names include: Taya, Raina, Vianne, Corinna, Mattea, Linnea.
People seem to have an easier time with girl names, but we are the opposite. Taya may be our front-runner, but I worry about pronunciation (I like TAY-uh) and spelling. It would also be a great nn for Mattea, but spelling is an issue (Tea?). Honestly, I’m not sold on any of these names the way I was with Eliza. I loved the connection with My Fair Lady…classic, spunky and sweet. Along these lines, I like Annie for a nn (Vianne?), but my husband doesn’t seem to love it.

We also hope to have a third (or fourth!?) child, and don’t want to create a “rule” so to speak. For example, if we go with “Eli & Adrian,” (Eli Manning, Adrian Peterson), will people think we are football-crazy? Or, If we go with “Eli & Isaiah,” if we name a third child something non-biblical, will it stand out?

Lastly, I’m not sure we want an extremely long name, next to our “short & sweet” Eli. I’m thinking 6-7 letters, max, unless we have a great nn.

I would be THRILLED if you are able to feature this, as I would LOVE any input you might have.

Thanks so much for your time! I PROMISE to update you when baby comes :)


One of the things I find most interesting about baby names is how the second child’s name “spins” the first child’s name. If a family has a child named Noah, for example, and then they name their second child Liam, it’s a totally different effect than if they name the second child Moses. So I do think you’re sensible to consider the effect of the second child’s name. I wouldn’t have noticed the Eli and Adrian tie-in, but Eli and Isaiah does start a biblical theme for me.

As with other themes, though, I don’t really consider it a theme until the third child matches. If a family has a Noah and a Natalie, I notice the matching N but don’t blink if they name the third child a name not starting with N (in fact, I feel relief that they didn’t feel pressured into it); if, however, they have Noah, Natalie, and Nathan, I feel like they’re all but committed to the N theme at that point—particularly if they plan only one more child.

Since you’re planning 3-4 children, I think the easiest way to avoid a theme is to avoid it for the first two: Eli and Isaiah won’t seem as themed if you have a Sawyer in between. But if Isaiah is your top favorite, or Adrian is, I say go ahead and do it: if people do see a connection, it still doesn’t seem like a large issue. Maybe someone would say “Oh, Eli and Adrian—are you football fans?” and then you’d say “Oh, no, it’s a coincidence—we just liked the names.”

For me, the Twilight problem has all but disappeared. I still wouldn’t name siblings Edward and Bella, but names such as Jasper and Emmett and Alice feel available—and I’d use the names Edward and Bella individually without worrying that anyone would think it was because of Twilight. I looked in my archives, and parents were asking about or worrying about Twilight associations regularly until mid-2013, when it stopped; the concern peaked in 2010. This indicates to me that the associations are disappearing from people’s minds. And Jasper is my favorite from your list. Jasper Owens; Eli and Jasper.

If you don’t mind hearing Sawyer pronounced both ways by other people, then I don’t think pronunciation has to be an issue. I get concerned about it mostly when parents say they hate one pronunciation, or that one pronunciation drives them crazy; in that situation, it doesn’t seem worth the inevitable stress and irritation. And the difference in pronunciation between Soy-yer and Saw-yer is subtle to my ear and local accent.

If you like Mattea and Taya, it does seem like a natural solution is to use the latter as a nickname for the former. I don’t see any reason you can’t use the spelling Taya: it’s common for nicknames to be spelled differently than the starting name. For example, it’s fine to use Abby for Abigail, instead of using Abi; it’s fine to use Bree for Brianna/Gabriella/Aubrey, instead of Bri/Brey; it’s fine to use Zac for Isaac, instead of Saac; it’s fine to use Joe for Joseph, instead of Jo; it’s fine to use Jake for Jacob, instead of Jac.

My first guess upon seeing Taya was TIE-yah (I think because I know one Maya and one Amaya, both of whom use the long-I pronunciation), but I immediately knew it could also be TAY-ya and would say it that way if reading from a class list (“TIE-yah, TAY-yah?”), and I would quickly learn to say TAY-ya. Téa Leoni helps a little with the pronunciation of the Tea spelling, and you could spell it her way with the accent over the E—though that does seem a little odd when the full name doesn’t have the accent. Well, I also think this is an area where you could let things evolve naturally if you don’t have negative feelings about any of the options: name her Mattea, and call her Taya/Tea/Téa, and see how the spelling shakes out over time. Personalized stuff can have “Mattea” on it, avoiding the issue for most situations.

When I see Corinna and Nora, I think of Cora. Cora Owens; Eli and Cora.

I’m sorry about the name Eliza, because it’s one of my top favorites—but I see what you mean about Eli and Eliza. I was trying to think of a name that seemed similar to me, and Fiona is the only one I can think of—but I don’t like it at all with Owens. Perhaps something like Penelope/Penny/Nell/Pip? I know you’d rather avoid a long name, but I think it works quite well when the boys and girls in a family have different types of names. A few more possibilities: