Baby Girl or Boy S., Sibling to Patrick, Lila, and Joel: Good C Names for Girls

Relevant facts:

  • My husband has an unusual three-letter name.
  • Our last name starts with S, which is also the third letter of my husband’s first name.
  • I am due late December with #4, and we’ve decided not to find out the sex of the baby this time.
  • This is our final child, we have a naming pattern with the other three of “first name we liked, middle name family name.”
  • The girls family name we liked last time (when we had a boy) was Alice.
  • If we name a baby _________ Alice S________ that gets us reaaaaaaally close to initials that spell my husband’s first name
  • This is cool, right??? My husband and I both think so!
  • Butttttttttt………..and there had to be one………..there are only two girls names that start with C that I like-not-love (Cora and Clara) and lately I’ve even been toying with NOT using Alice (though I think ultimately we will.)

So here’s where I need help. Can you think of any other “C” girls names that are similar to Cora, Clara (or our other kids – Patrick, Lila, Joel – not super popular but not weird)? OR, can you release me from the desire to HAVE TO USE a name that starts with C?

Relevant info for a boy: we are NOT considering the naming pattern for a boy, but would welcome boys name ideas similar to:

and of course – Patrick and Joel

Help me Swistle!!!!


I will start by making a suggestion I know you have already considered, so it is a little silly to make the suggestion at all, except that sometimes around here we’ve found that it works. Here it is: I love the name Alice with this sibling set, and so I suggest it as the first name. But I know it’s common for a previous frontrunner to not seem quite right for a subsequent child, so I won’t push. But Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Alice—I love it.

The next step is to discuss some good C names for girls, and then after that I’ll work on removing the pressure to choose one of them. Cora and Clara are both great: I love both of those.

Another of my favorite C names is Celeste, but I suspect that would be too much S-sound with your surname. Cecily has the same issue.

Colette, maybe? Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Colette. Hm, it may share too many sounds with Joel.

Or Corinne. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Corinne.

Or Cleo. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Cleo. It bothers me a little bit that Joel and Cleo both have four letters and share three of them.

Claudia works, I think. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Claudia.

Camille would be pretty. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Camille.

Carys may not work with Alice, which is too bad. Carissa instead, or Clarissa? Clarissa is one of my own favorites. But it might have too much S-sound to work well with your surname.

Oh, perhaps plain Claire? Similar to Clara, and takes away all the S of Clarissa. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Claire.

I like Cressida, but I wonder if it’s a little too unusual for the sibling group; also it has the S issue.

Well, my favorites are still your top two, Cora and Clara. I have a slight preference for Cora with Lila, but it’s only slight.

Now for the reassurance. While I agree that it is quite fun and interesting to have a child’s initials spell your husband’s name, I don’t think it’s fun/interesting enough to be worth choosing a name you only like, if there are names you love. It’s the sort of gimmick I do enjoy (like when twins have matching initials or reversed first/middle initials), but it doesn’t feel irresistible. I think in the long run you would get more satisfaction out of choosing a name you loved.

Also, it would break your naming pattern, which of course is fine, but it’s an argument to use if you’d LIKE to talk yourself out of it. (If you wanted to be talked INTO it, and if you found a C name that you liked well enough to use, I’d instead be saying you were still meeting the spirit of the naming pattern: names you liked plus a family-name connection.)

One possibility is to just get CLOSE to the idea: you could give her the same three letters in a different order, for example (Alice C. S.), or use your husband’s name (or a feminine form of it such as Cassie or Cassandra) as her middle name.

I think my strategy at this point would be to set aside the initials idea for now, and look for first names you love. If you find some, then weigh it: “This name we love, or this name we like-don’t-love with the fun initials?” If you find only names you like, then it’s a different situation, and may help make one name pull ahead of the others: “This name we like-don’t-love with fun initials, or this name we like-don’t-love without fun initials?”

For boys, I’m going to copy the list down here again so we have it to look at; names similar to:

and of course – Patrick and Joel

A name we had on our finalist list for our youngest child may work here: Alan. We’d watched a television show with a very appealing Alan Alda doing the hosting/narrating, and then of course there’s Alan Rickman. It comes to mind because I saw it in action on a child for the first time just this weekend: I was in a store, and a mother called her elementary-school-aged son Alan, and I thought “That works!” It’s a slight surprise, without seeming weird. It’s similar in sound to Alice, and I think it goes well with brothers Patrick and Joel.

I wonder if you would like the name Calvin? Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Calvin.

Or Henry. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Henry.

Or Wesley. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Wesley.

Or Timothy. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Timothy.

Or Malcolm. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Malcolm.

Or Graham. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Graham.

Or Edmund. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Edmund.

Or Callum. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Callum.

Or Gideon. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Gideon.

Or Micah. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Micah.

Or Philip. Patrick, Lila, Joel, and Philip.

Baby Naming Issue: Does the name Shepherd / Shepard Seem Religious/Biblical?

I am curious about your opinion (and that of your readers)
I LOVE the name Shepherd and am considering using it for Baby No. 3 but my husband and I are not religious – bordering on atheism. Does it have too much of a biblical flare to make sense for us?



This name came up in yesterday’s post as well, with the same concern, and I’m interested enough to have a whole post on the name. As I mentioned yesterday, I had to think for a moment to discover the religious connection—despite being a pastor’s daughter who grew up very familiar with Jesus/pastor-as-shepherd imagery. The association is diluted by actual non-metaphorical shepherds, German Shepherds, Cybill Shepherd, Sam Shepard, Sherri Shepherd, Matthew Shepard, Alan Shepard, etc.

Sometimes with such things it’s helpful to ask the question from the other side: “Does Shepherd seem biblical if someone doesn’t want it to be?” AND “Does Shepherd seem biblical if someone wants it to be?” For example, if someone were writing here saying they were very religious and wanted to use only biblical names for their children, and did we think Shepherd qualified as biblical, what would we say?

I think I would say it’s a word-name that could be made to have an association with certain religious imagery, but that I wouldn’t think of it as a religious/biblical name per se. It’s a little like saying Lily is a biblical name because Jesus tells a story about the lilies of the field, or that Reed is a biblical name because Moses was in a basket of reeds: it can have that meaning for the family, if the family wants it to, but if I met someone named Lily or Reed I wouldn’t make the connection without being told.

In fact, on further thought, if I encountered a child named Shepherd, I think I would assume the family was NOT religious, because if the family WERE religious, I’d think they’d recoil a bit from seeming to compare their child to Jesus. It reminds me of the more extreme example of the name Trinity: it’s a very religious/biblical word, but not one I’d expect to see used as a name in a religious family.

Shepherd/Shepard is interesting because I think the different spellings could make a big difference. Shepherd is an occupational name as well as a surname name—like Baker, or Deacon, or Archer. Shepard is a surname name. If you want to reduce/avoid shepherd/sheep/Jesus imagery, I’d use Shepard.

Baby Boy Herman-with-an-S, Brother to Noah Jacob

Hi Swistle-

I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. As a 1980 Jennifer, I find naming trends very interesting. I also knew after naming our first son, that if we were to have any more male children, we’d be in trouble and would need your help.

My husband is Benjamin (Ben) and my 4yr old son is Noah Jacob. As one of many Jennifers, we didn’t pick Noah because of it’s popularity. It really was the only name we could agree on that we both liked (neither loved). My husband liked it a little more than me; Jacob was husband’s favorite name that go round. What we do like about Noah’s name is that all 3 names have very different sounds. Our last name is Herman, that starts with an S. The biblical theme is purely coincidental. DH is Jewish and I was raised Catholic but neither of us are very religious.

Baby boy #2 is due in January and we’ve begun looking at names with some trepidation. We think we are pretty set on the first name Matthew. I like it a bit more than husband, but it was a contender last time around and again pretty much the only name we are both in agreement on.

We are struggling in the middle name spot. I’d like something with a bit of a harder sound to balance the “thew” and “” sounds. My pick is Elliot; I don’t love the name, but I like the sound. DH likes Issac in the same vein; I’m not as keen on this one. Secondary question: both of these would spell MES and MIS respectfully. I don’t think either is a deal breaker, but I know you are less a fan of initials that spell something. Should we worry about this?

The other thought is to honor a family member. DH’s middle name is Samuel, named after an Uncle Sam. He was close to his grandfather so we’ve been playing around with that a bit. Family names on my side have been well represented with other family members.

DH’s grandfather’s name was Sanford N. *herman. Apparently, his name was originally Samuel; when starting a business here in the US he changed his name to Sanford because it sounded more businessman-like and chose the middle initial N. However, he didn’t like the name Sanford and went by the nickname Shep exclusively. As far as we know, Shep was just chosen without significance like Skip, Buck, etc. What would we chose as the name? Samuel is out since DH has never liked it, Grandfather didn’t like Sanford, and Shep is a made up nickname. Should we use Shepard? Though I’m worried about the biblical theme of Matthew Shepard; we aren’t planning on any more children but it just seems odd in comparison to our actual personalities. Is Shep a stand alone name? Should we use pick another S name (though we’ve been through the list without any grabbers)? Do we worry about the alliteration of the middle to last name? My guess is we let that go if we are doing an honor name.

Here were possible contenders for this baby. Our girl name most likely would have been Lila.

Gray (vetoed by him)
Max (vetoed by him)

Caleb (vetoed by me)

Thanks for your help!


It’s true I don’t generally like initials to spell anything, but MES and MIS don’t spell anything, unless there’s an acronym I’m not familiar with. I suppose we could say they spell MESS and MISS, sort of, and with initials such as FUK I would indeed consider even the misspelled word an issue—but with MES and MIS, I don’t think of mess/miss, and it doesn’t bother me even when I do.

I think if you wanted to honor a Samuel who changed his name to Sandford and was known as Shep, you could probably pick any of those three names. I’d lean toward whichever one most brings the person to mind; I’d also lean toward Samuel, since that’s a triple family honor name: your husband, your husband’s uncle, and your husband’s grandfather. I don’t think I’d be likely to use Shepherd—not because of religious issues (I had to think for a moment to figure out why it would be religious, even though I grew up fully immersed in Jesus-as-shepherd metaphors), but because it seems to go a step too far from the honoree: the name situation is peculiar enough (he chose the name Sandford himself, even though he didn’t like it, and then chose an unrelated nickname) without making it even more peculiar. But we could instead think of it this way: once we’re such a distance from the man’s original name, what’s one more step? And you wouldn’t need to say the whole story; you’d just say the middle name was Shepherd, “after his great-grandfather.”

Certainly Shep can be a stand-alone name, particularly for the middle name, particularly for an honor name: it would be a somewhat unusual choice, but easy to explain (“Named for his great-grandfather, who was known as Shep”) and it wouldn’t be likely to come up often. Matthew Shep Sh_____ is perhaps not ideal in sound, but it’s fine. If you did want to lengthen Shep, and you wanted to reduce the shepherd connection, you could spell it like the surname instead: Matthew Shepard Sh_____. I do think that’s handsome, though it reminds me of the sad Matthew Shepard story.

But if your husband doesn’t like the name Samuel, and you don’t want to use the name Sandford because the man who chose it for himself didn’t like the name, and Shep/Shepherd/Shepard doesn’t seem right either, it may just be that this grandfather is not a good candidate for an honor name.

It does seem simpler to choose one of your other favorite middle names. Since your husband liked the name Noah a little more than you did and also got his favorite name as the middle name, it seems as if the most balanced plan would be to use one of your favorite names as middle name this time around: Elliot, perhaps, or maybe another name off your first-name list. Matthew Alexander $herman is nice.

Middle Name Challenge: Welles _________ Johnston

Hello! We are very excited about our 2nd child. We are naming the baby Welles regardless if it is a boy or a girl. For a girl we like Welles Katherine or Welles Kate but we are totally stumped for a boy middle name. For our first, we used Pierce Robert. Our last name is Johnston. What do you think? Baby is due in spring!


It looks to me as if you may like classic/traditional middle names: your first son’s middle is Robert, and your middle name choice for a girl this time is Katherine. (I prefer Welles Katherine to Wells Kate, rhythm-wise and also because I get a little bit of Well Skate run-together.) Are Robert and Katherine honor names? If so, that’s where I’d look for a boy’s middle name.

If they’re not honor names, then I’d start by looking for names of a similar style. I was combing through possibilities and none seemed quite right until I came to Welles Henry Johnston. That’s my favorite. More possibilities:

Welles Frederick Johnston
Welles Philip/Phillip Johnston
Welles Thomas Johnston

A middle-name-finding strategy I used for my own kids’ names was to go through the baby name book saying each combination rapidly in my head and seeing if any stood out: Welles Aaron Johnston, Welles Abel Johnston, Welles Abraham Johnston, and so on. Not taking a long time over it or even necessarily trying each possibility carefully/individually, just sort of skimming fast while saying Welles ____ Johnston over and over, and seeing what felt like it clicked into place. I didn’t go through the whole name book, but a few that stood out to me:

Welles Alexander Johnston
Welles David Johnston
Welles Davis Johnston
Welles Douglas Johnston
Welles Gilbert Johnston
Welles Griffith Johnston
Welles Hugo Johnston
Welles Kenneth Johnston
Welles Leonard Johnston
Welles Lucas Johnston
Welles Matthew Johnston
Welles Michael Johnston
Welles Nicholas Johnston
Welles Patrick Johnston
Welles Russell Johnston (a little L/S heavy?)
Welles Theodore Johnston
Welles Timothy Johnston

Baby Name to Consider: Winsome

Hi Swistle,

I have no baby to name at the moment but always have names and words on the brain. I’d love to know what you and your readers think of Winsome as a name for a girl. I’ve decided it is about my favorite word in the English language and have started to wonder if it could work as a name. I wondered if maybe the Puritans used it, with their penchant for out-there virtue names, but I can’t find any evidence to suggest so in my limited searching. It seems like nicknames like Winny or Wynn could make it more wearable, but is it maybe still a bit too much?



My first association surprises me, because I’m familiar with the word winsome and I like it very much (a winsome smile, a winsome curl, a winsome glance)—and yet my first association when I said it aloud as a name was with wince and wincing. I wonder if it’s because I’m familiar with the word in books but I don’t use it in speaking? I continue to like the way it looks written down, but I liked it less when I said/heard it.

My second association, after I’d said it aloud a few more times, was “win some, lose some.”

My third association was with the name Winston, which is a name I like. But perhaps because it’s a name I’m familiar with, while Winsome is not familiar to me, my tongue tangled over it—as if the name were supposed to be Winston and I were saying it wrong.

The name is very uncommon (I looked in a sampling of Social Security data bases and didn’t find it in a single one, which means in the U.S. it was used 0-4 times in those years), but it HAS been used from time to time: I found references to Winsome Evans, Winsome McCaughey, Winsome Pinnick (Nameberry); and Winsome Sears (The Baby Name Wizard). I suspect that being familiar with one of those Winsomes would dramatically improve the name-like feel of the name.

“Win” is a moderately familiar name segment, though not currently in style: Winifred, Winnie, Winston, Winter, Winslow, Winona, Darwin, Edwin, Irwin. The “some” segment is less familiar for names in the U.S.: Summer and Blossom were the only two I could come up with—but Summer was more common in 2013 than all the Win-/-win names combined. Oh, wait, I forget about -wen/-wan: some of those might count as Win-/-win names, depending on local pronunciation: Owen, Rowen/Rowan, Ewan—even Wendy and Gwyneth and Gwendolyn might increase the name-like quality of the sound.

One thing that makes me nervous about many virtue names is that they seem to set such a clear expectation—and to make the wearer look a little foolish if that expectation isn’t met. A girl named Patience would have reason to assume that her parents expected her to exhibit that trait—and any time she ISN’T patient, she sets herself up for an easy joke. Winsome is less of an issue because the word is less familiar/used than a word like patience, but I still feel it could be a bit of a burden for a serious sort of girl. The definition isn’t particularly appealing to me if I imagine it applied to myself: “Charming in a childlike or naive way” (American Heritage Dictionary). Sweet on a small girl, but less so on an adult.

I feel quite differently about it as a middle name. It’s in the category of names I sometimes wish I’d used for my own kids’ middles: something adventurous and fun and interesting.

As a first name, I think I’d be more inclined to choose Winifred: you could use Winsome as a pet name without committing her to it.

Let’s see what everyone else thinks:

Baby Name to Consider: Winsome
Do you think Winsome works well as a first name?


Baby Boy Decker

Hi Swistle!

I am a first-time expectant mother and it goes without saying that I am more anxious than I have ever felt. It doesn’t help that I keep fearing my son being called “little guy” forever as we cannot decide upon a name. My boyfriend and I both agree that his name should be unique but not outrageous, which seems hard to do for a boy’s name! His middle name will be Andrew and his last name will be Decker. If we were having a girl the top two competitors were Ryne Faye and Emason Rey (after my great grandfather Emerson Reynolds). Our first contender for a boy’s name was Bentley but while testing it aloud one day we both agreed we no longer had an interest in it at all! After giving it a few months break I came up with Caden which everyone really liked until we realized it is very close to my younger brother’s name, Kasyn. As my due date keeps approaching I fear not having a name for my baby. Please help!!

Thanks, Caitlin


I think it would be fine to have a son Caden and a brother Kasyn; you could even spin it as a partial honor name, if you wanted. A bigger concern is that you’re looking for something unusual, and Caden belongs to “the -adens”: a group of names so large and prevalent, even some people not normally interested in baby names have become aware of them. The name Caden itself isn’t particularly common (though multiple spellings Cayden, Caiden, Kayden, Kaiden, Kaden do add up), but its popularity can feel combined with the popularity of Jaden, Hayden, Brayden, and the recently-top-10 Aiden.

The middle name Andrew is a little difficult to work with, because with your surname you end up with the initials _AD. Depending on how you feel about initials spelling words, this could rule out BAD, CAD, DAD, FAD, HAD, LAD, MAD, NAD, PAD, RAD, SAD, TAD, and WAD. I might be okay with HAD or PAD, and I can picture RAD or LAD being fun, and TAD would give a good nickname option, but I would avoid BAD, CAD, etc. I’m not sure how set the middle name is (that is, is it in stone, or could it be changed for the right first name?), so I’m making my list of suggestions below as if the middle name is still under discussion. If you love a first name that causes the initials to spell an unpleasant word, one option is to add another middle name: Brady Andrew Emerson Decker, for example, or Crosby Andrew Emerson Decker. (Reynolds is another good possibility, as is Rey, though then we get initials such as CARD and BARD and WARD, which at least are fine words to spell.)


I wonder, too, if we could make an honor name out of your great-grandfather’s name, or if there are other family members whose names you could use. Greyson, for example, while possibly more common than you’d prefer, has the -rey- of Reynolds and the -son of Emerson. Reyson would be an uncommon possibility, but it sounds similar to raisin.

I like the idea of Rey, too: Rey Andrew Decker, or Rey Emerson Decker, or Rey Andrew Emerson Decker.

Or I originally had Grey on my suggestion list, but Grey Decker made me think of deck colors, not that that’s a terrible association. Grey Emerson Decker, or Grey Andrew Decker.

Baby Name to Consider: Covington

Hi Swistle,

My name is Kathryn Noblitt (“knob”- litt) and I have been reading your blog for a while. My husband is William and we have two kids, a boy, Miller who is 3.5 and a girl, Reese who is almost 1. I am currently 23 weeks pregnant surprise baby number three, and we aren’t finding out the sex.

We are pretty set on using a family name — both Miller and Reese are family names. If it’s a girl it will most likely be Ellis (Clare or Marie as middle name). If it’s a boy we are having some trouble….our top name for a while has been Sullivan (occasional nn Sully, middle name Patrick) but lately my husband has mentioned wanting to use his middle name, also a family surname, which is Covington. I have always loved the name Covington, and I think it would be a great middle name if we were using a more traditional first name (obviously doesn’t go with Sullivan) but I just struggle to picture it as a first name, especially with its lack of nickname options. I wanted to get your opinion and/or perhaps a poll from your readers on Covington as a first name. Sometimes I can see it and sometimes I cant!

We like surname names and unisex names and, like I said, are pretty set on using a family name which all of the above are.

Thank you for any help you can offer us!!



I share your feeling: I love the sound of it, but it’s a struggle to make it seem like a first name. Many surnames have transferred to first name use, but many others have not. Miller transfers well, Wilson transfers well, Delaney and Avery and Sawyer transfer well; but Covington feels to me more like Lancaster or Clements or Hathaway: there’s no particular reason it shouldn’t work as well as other surnames, but for some reason it isn’t being used as a first name in the United States right now.

To me it sounds like a place: perhaps a castle, or an estate. I can picture saying, “Jeeves, pack my things: we set off for Covington this afternoon.” There is something about the name that brings castles/estates/butlers to mind; it reminds me of the sound of Buckingham and Kensington. (Buckingham is not used as a first name in the U.S., but Kensington was used for 223 new baby girls and 11 baby boys in 2013.)

One exercise that may be helpful is to try the name on your first son, as if it were a sweater you could test on him to see if it would fit his brother. Look at him and think “Covington.” Or look at men and boys of various ages when you’re out in public: try the name on each one of them. Imagine one of them introduces himself to you as Covington. Try calling it out loud when no one’s around: “Covington, come to dinner!” “Covington, have you done your homework?” Pretend to introduce him to someone: “This is my son, Covington Noblitt.” Imagine arriving for his appointments: “Hello! This is Covington Noblitt. We have a ten o’clock appointment.”

As a middle name, I think it’s spectacular: cool, distinguished, and I love preserving family surnames.

As a first name I’m less certain, especially with your surname. Covington Noblitt.

Are you planning to have more children after this one? Sullivan seems like such a hit, it’s hard to imagine ditching it in order to make a middle name work.

Covington works well as a middle name if you have a girl: I think Ellis Covington sounds nice. My only hesitation is that with unisex first names I generally prefer to use “hint” middle names (i.e., names that are used exclusively for boys/girls, to give options and reduce paperwork errors)—but that may not be your own preference, in which case it isn’t an issue and I’d make that the deal: if you have a girl, you’ll use Ellis Covington; if a boy, Sullivan Patrick, and maybe Covington as a middle name for the next child.

Let’s have a poll to see what everyone else things of the first-name-ishness of Covington:

Baby Name to Consider: Covington
Do you think Covington works as a first name?