Baby Naming Issue: They Changed the Previous Baby’s Name; Can They Use that Name for this Next Baby?

Dear Swistle,

We are currently expecting our fourth child. We have two girls and a boy, Kamryn Alexis, Logan Michael and Kensington Bree. This fourth baby is coming as a huge surprise but after the initial shock it is definitely a welcomed surprise. I have a bit of an odd name question and was told it might be a good idea to come here because you have dealt with all kinds of questions. So here we go…..

My naming journey for this baby starts with Kensington (Kensie). When I was pregnant with her, just a year ago, (her and the baby will only be about 16 months apart) I had a really hard time naming her. As most pregnant woman, my hormones had me all kinds of crazy. Since after Kamryn was born we had said if we had another girl we would name her Eliot. It has always been a favorite girl name of ours. Then we had Logan and 2 years after he was born we found out we were expecting a girl. As you could expect we immediately decided she would be Eliot. Finally!! Our Eliot! But then I started to get second thoughts. One day she would be Eliot and the next Kensington and a week later I said we’d call her Finley. It went on and on right up until the day she was born. While I was in labor we just kind of said “Let’s call her Eliot!” So we did. The whole time I was in the hospital with her I just kept looking at her and thinking…this isn’t right. But again, my hormones were all over the place so I just chalked it up to that. We brought her home as Eliot and just 2 days later called my mom crying. I just KNEW we had given her the “wrong name”. Yeah, looking back now I realize how out of my mind I was. But everyone around me, my husband, our parents, our siblings and our friends were incredibly supportive. We almost immediately started calling her Kensington and the name just became her. Our other kids were never confused by it, it just felt right. Then when Eliot was just 2 weeks old we legally changed her name to Kensington. They say hindsight is 20/20 but looking back now I really truly wish we had never changed her name. It sits with me as if we had our chance to use a name we love and we blew it. I blew it. I let my emotions get the best of me and we did the unthinkable….we changed our baby’s name.

Now we are expecting another baby and as we talk names I can’t help but want to use Eliot. I just don’t know if that is allowed. This really is uncharted territory. People don’t usually change their baby’s name so I don’t know what the rule is. I do know I would never EVER change this baby’s name. It was a long process and living with the regret I have today shows me I could never do it again. We really like Eliot Mackenna a lot and love how it sounds with our other kids names. We’ve also thought about using the spelling “Elliette” as well. But again, is that okay to use? Will people think it’s not right or just straight up weird that we used it (again)? Or does this mean we get another chance to use the name we love and didn’t end up using before?

We would love to hear some insight on this. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. We so greatly appreciate it!


Here’s what I think. If you use the name Eliot for this baby, I think some people are going to have a flicker of reaction to that. Some will think it’s weird, some will think it’s amusing, some will think it’s interesting/thought-provoking. But I don’t think anyone will deep-down care very much, so you should certainly go with what you most want to do. As you say, this is not familiar territory for most people; this means most people won’t have any particular opinions about how it “should” be done. My own reaction falls into the camp of finding it interesting and thought-provoking, and to me it seems like getting another chance to use the name you love and didn’t end up using before.

In fact, I think using Eliot for this baby strengthens your decision to change Kensington’s name. It reinforces the idea that there was nothing wrong with the NAME Eliot, except that it didn’t fit THAT baby. That is, THAT baby WASN’T Eliot; THIS baby is Eliot. It makes for a good naming story: We accidentally used your name too early! We thought Kensington was you! But she wasn’t! We realized it right away, and fixed it—whew!

When discussing it with others, that’s the spin I suggest using. I wouldn’t make it into a story about how much you regretted changing Kensington’s name; instead, I’d emphasize the idea that THAT baby wasn’t an Eliot, she was a KENSINGTON, and THIS baby turned out to be Eliot. As much as possible, I’d suggest you laugh it off as something charming rather than something emotionally unstable: Names are HARD for us, ha ha! But it makes a great story, doesn’t it, ha ha! And NOW we have our Eliot, hooray!

I also feel the impulse to reassure you about that earlier decision. The way you describe it, it doesn’t sound at all crazy to me: you weren’t certain about the name before the baby was born, and then you felt the chosen name was the wrong one, so you changed it, and the new name immediately felt right. The part that confuses me is that even though it sounds like it was the right decision, you’re describing it afterward as an unthinkable, crazy, and much-regretted decision. Changing a baby’s name doesn’t seem unthinkable to me at all; it’s unusual, yes, but not awful or shocking. I would go so far as to say that if you decide on Eliot for this baby, and in the hospital it doesn’t seem right, you should allow yourself the option to change your mind again. Or, perhaps the experience with Kensington’s name will help you feel more certain of your choice this time.

Baby Girl or Boy Mitchell

Dear Swistle,

I’m Kristy Mitchell, and I’m currently pregnant with my first child. I’m taking a different path than most, as I’m 35+ and single, and this pregnancy is the result of many (intentional) tries, eventually needing medical assistance using donor sperm. I’m due around Thanksgiving, and am waiting to find out the sex of the baby at delivery.

It’s early, but I love names, and am enjoying thinking about what names might be great for this child. If it’s a girl my current favorites are Matilda, Magdalene, Greta, Hazel and Calliope, likely paired with the middle name Louise, a family name. I haven’t had trouble with this list but I’m stumped for ideas for a baby boy – and bounce wildly between things that seem great one day, and then sound awful the next.

I like Oscar, Barnaby, Julian, Calvin and Ezra, but they don’t seem to hit me the same way day to day. Benjamin, Samuel, Owen and Cedric also keep coming up, but something about them keeps them from coming to the top of the list. The current front runners for a middle name are Linwood or Samuel, family names.

I have two firm requirements, though they may seem a bit odd. Mitchell seems like it’s as common a first name as it is a last name around here, so I’d like to avoid a name that is “a last name first” because the idea of a kid trying to correct someone about which name is his first/last name seems like it’d be a pain. And, as someone who sees a lot of names in my work, I sometimes fear I’ll mix it up and say the wrong name first. (Ross Mitchell or Mitchell Ross?) The second is that I’d like it to be googleable, meaning that I want to look it up and see that someone else already has the name. I know that I like being able to be somewhat “hidden” in the world of social media and so I’d like to avoid something so unique that he’d be the only one. (That there already is a Barnaby Mitchell was a pleasant surprise!) (I’d got with Barnaby in a heartbeat, but I hate the nickname Barney, so it’s not as ideal as I want it to be.)

Do you or your readers have any thoughts for additional names to add to my list?
Thank you!!!


Normally I am pretty set on the idea that if the parent hates the nickname for a name, the name may not be a good choice: nicknames are easier to avoid than they used to be, but the child might still choose to use it. I think fairly often of my friend Liz, whose parents named her Elizabeth so they could call her Beth; they hated (and still hate) the nickname Liz, and she feels 100% like a Liz and 0% like an Elizabeth or a Beth. It’s a problem.

But I don’t think of Barney as a nickname for Barnaby. Perhaps it IS. Perhaps I will look it up right now and see that Barney in fact originates as a nickname for Barnaby. But I’d never connected the two names. I think of them as having sounds in common, but being as separate as Harvey and Harry, or as Isabella and Isla, or Belinda and Bea, or Georgiana and Gena, or Randolph and Ralph, or Archibald and Arnold.

Well. Indeed, looking it up in The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, I see Barney listed as a pet name of Barnaby/Barnabus, so it IS just that I personally didn’t connect them, and not that they’re not connected. This is like the other day when Hank Green realized for the first time that Barbie’s full name was Barbara. This is an upsetting turn of events. I’m not sure what to advise. I suppose for now, we will move on to other choices.

I think it’s possible that one or more of the names on your list WILL rise to the top as the months go by. But here are the names that the names on your list make me think of:


Some of these may be too last-name, but it was hard to find the line (Calvin is also a surname, for example), so when in doubt, I included it.

Baby Girl Jagusak, Sister to Robert (Bobby)

My last name is Jagusak – pronounced Jay Gu Sack. Less than lovely, I know. We have a son who’s 3 named Bobby – Robert Matthew – named after my dad (Robert) who died before we got pregnant, and middle name after my husband (Matthew). Sometimes I wish we never gave him the Bobby nickname and stuck with Robert,but I do like that it’s kind of old-skool and certainly not popular these days. That said, we are definitely more into traditional names.

Right now we think our baby girl is Ella Paige. My mother in law, Paige, just passed away in April and though I really love the name, my husband and I feel it’s too soon to have a new Paige on the scene. The name Ella came about a few months ago and my son, who never paid attention to names, instantly declared that was her name. He told the world before we even knew if we likes and always talks to my belly I’ve always loved it but I questioned that it was too popular so I didn’t even consider it in the beginning. Is it?! That’s what I keep wrestling with. I think Ella Paige together sounds beautiful but is it also silly to go with the name just because my three year old loves it?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated! We really have no other options at this point. I love names that end with ‘e’ sounds but won’t do another because of how it sounds with Bobby. With our last name I like the sound of something ending in ‘a’ – like Ella. Other names I love but can’t be used for various reasons are Caroline, Elizabeth, and Anna. Just to give you an idea.

Thank you thank you!!!


I think it would be silly to go with your three-year-old’s name choice if it were a name you didn’t like. But since it’s a name you love and think is beautiful, his endorsement is the charming icing on the cake. It also gives you a good reason for using a more popular name, if you feel a little funny about doing so.

If, on the other hand, you decide you’d prefer to use a different name, I don’t see any reason to let the three-year-old have the deciding vote. My eldest, when he was two years old, was charmingly insistent that his baby brother be named Plum, but we went right ahead and overruled that, and at this point he doesn’t even remember having an opinion.

If you wanted to use something less popular and more in line with Robert/Bobby, I might suggest Ellen: Ella is currently the 17th most popular girl name in the U.S., while Ellen is #656. Your son could still call her Ella, if he wanted.

Eliza is another possibility, if it’s not ruled out for the same reason as Elizabeth. It ends in -a, and has the Ella sound while being less popular (#212 in 2014).

Or Stella, which is currently hovering in the 60s and 70s rankings of popularity.

Or Alice.

Or Clara would be pretty, and seems to me to fit with the Caroline/Anna style.

Or Cora, or Louisa, or Fiona, or Celia.

Baby Girl Cooper-with-an-H, Sister to Wayne and Jerry

Dear Swistle,

We are currently expecting our third, a little girl, who is due at the End of August. We already have two boys, Wayne Morrison is six and Jerry Wyatt is four years old. We are very happy with our name choices. We like that both Wayne and Jerry are familiar, but so rare that we never encounter them in their age group. Only occasionally someones grandfather or great-grandfather will go by these names.

We liked the name Mary for both of our kids if they had been girls, but now it is out because it is too similar to Jerry. We also liked the name Ella back then, but now realize that it is hugely popular at the moment. We like old-fashioned names, and apparently everybody else does, too! So I think we were very lucky with our boys’ names, but it makes choosing a girl’s name very difficult.

Names my husband doesn’t like, but I do, are Mona, Adele and Trudy. He suggested Brooke, which feels too modern for my taste. If this baby were a boy, we propbably would have named him Edwin, or maybe Morgan. Last name is Cooper-with-an-H. My name is Anna, and my husband’s name is Nicholas.

Please help! We are running out of ideas.



Brooke definitely feels like a style misfit to me with Wayne and Jerry. Your choices of Mona and Trudy seem right-on (I’m particularly keen on Trudy), but of course that doesn’t help if your husband doesn’t like those names. More possibilities:


I’m especially fond of Sally from this list. Wayne, Jerry, and Sally.