Baby Girl Smith, Sister to Saylor and Grayson

Dear Swistle,

We need help on a baby name! The closer it gets the further we feel. I know it’s a case of over thinking and we might need to take a step back. But I am starting to panic that the big day will arrive and we will have nothing. I am dying to find a name we are excited about and start bonding with.

Our current children are:
Saylor Grace (girl) and Grayson Davis (boy – mostly goes by Gray). We are expecting our third and final – another girl!

So we need a sister for Saylor and Gray.

Our last name is Smith. Because of this, we really like names that are not trendy/popular/common. My husband was literally one of 3 Matt Smith’s in his high school. And I would prefer for her not to be known as “Emily S” (for example) in her kindergarten class.

Also, we would like to use the middle name Ellen if possible to honor my sister.

We are struggling to find a name that fits well with Saylor. I know people will have mixed opinions on this name but we love it and it fits our girl perfectly – she is spunky, smart, independent, cute, confident, and strong willed. We like that we have only come across a handful of them. We are NOT looking for a nature name like Clover or something.

At first we thought we were set on Hadley, and it is still my husbands first choice. But I worry that the ‘ey’ ending makes it way more feminine than Saylor. I think I can get over that for the right name. But I also strongly worry that Hadley is gaining in popularity, especially where we live.

I have always loved the name Maren. But I am struggling with the spelling. Maren, Marin, Merrin, or Maryn. (Maryn fits best visually with Saylor and Gray but I’m worried about the y being trendy. Although it doesn’t feel trendy to me with Saylor, probably because I’m her mom).

Other names on our list that we don’t BOTH necessarily love but haven’t vetoed:

Karis or Charis

And sometimes I just want to chuck it all and name her Lucy. I like the name! But then I remember: Saylor, Gray, and Lucy really don’t fit together.

I know that Piper, Morgan, or Payton would probably fit but I can’t make myself love any of these. I love Marlo but my husband does not.

Would love your thoughts or any other suggestions. Thank you so much!


One thing I notice is that all four names you’ve used so far feature an -ay- sound: Saylor, Grace, Grayson, and Davis. I don’t think you need to continue this (unless that would be fun), but it tells me that you like that sound. If you did want to go with that, you already have three names of that sort on your list: Lainey, Maisey, and Hazel. My favorite of the three as a sister name for Saylor is Lainey, so I’d probably vote for Lainey Hazel. Or if you wanted a rhythm similar to Saylor’s name, you could do Lainey Kate, Lainey Paige, Lainey Kay, Lainey Mae, etc. Oh oh oh, I just had a fun idea: since you’ve used both Grace and Grayson, you could do Lainey Grey. Probably too much since Grayson goes mostly by Gray, but it still seems fun to me. Well, I see you’d like to use the middle name Ellen anyway, so then it would be Saylor Grace, Grayson Davis, and Lainey Ellen.

With Saylor, I like the sister name Hadley even more. I don’t think the ending makes it more feminine than Saylor. Saylor/Sailor is a name currently used mostly for girls in the U.S. (409 new baby girls and 46 new baby boys in 2013), and because the only one I know of is Christie Brinkley’s daughter, it hits my brain as “girl”: I might not use a super-ultra-feminine sister name with it, but Hadley feels to me like the same basic level of femininity. You’re right, though, about its increasing popularity:

(screen shot from

(screen shot from

I think it feels even more popular because of all the other popular -ad- names: Madison, Addison, Madelyn, Adelyn, Maddie, Addie.

Unless you wanted to deliberately play up the marine theme (and you very well might, if the sea is important to you), I don’t think I’d use Maren with Saylor. If you do use it, the spelling Maryn makes me think first of the pronunciation with the emphasis on the second syllable (which may be what you’re going for): ma-RINN. Ever since someone told me that Marin County in California is pronounced that way, the spelling Marin is another that makes me think ma-RINN. Maren, probably because of its similarity to Karen, makes me think of the MARE-in pronunciation, as does Merrin.

If you love the name Lucy, I don’t see any reason you can’t use it. I too prefer sibling names to coordinate, but I’d definitely consider that a preference rather than a requirement, and I’d reconsider for the right name. However, another of your preferences is low popularity, and the name Lucy is more popular than Hadley: #66 in 2013, and that doesn’t even count all the Lucilles and Lucias and Lucianas going by Lucy.

A name that comes to mind is Padgett. Padgett Ellen Smith; Saylor, Grayson, and Padgett.

Another is Larkin. Larkin Ellen Smith; Saylor, Grayson, and Larkin.

Another is Darcy. Darcy Ellen Smith; Saylor, Grayson, and Darcy. That gives you a Y per child.

Baby Girl or Boy Gibbs, Sibling to Myra

I am on my way out the door to do more frantic shopping/errands, but wanted to post something. This is one of the letters I didn’t get to last week, but thought would be fun to work on. In my spreadsheet I noted “Suggest Marilla.”


I’ve been trying to figure this out on my own, but I think it’s time to ask for help. We are in the USA and this will likely be our last child. My name is Ali (Alison) and husband is Trevor.

Baby #2 (unknown sex) is due mid-February 2015. Our last name is Gibbs. Baby #1 is Myra Taylor. For no particular reason, I have been looking for names that peaked around the same era as “Myra (1920s and it seems 1880s),” but certainly not limited to that. I am not really interested in anything top 200 or up and coming. I actually enjoy the very rare occasions we run into another Myra.

My top two names are Chester (boy) and Rissa (girl) though Nell (girl) is a close second, but already used by a cousin with the same last name. Husband hasn’t vetoed them, but hasn’t fallen in love either. Middle name will definitely be either Jeffrey or Christine.

Names we like but, so far, aren’t choosing for one reason or another, mostly popularity: Anissa, Emma, Delilah, Silas, Judah, Everett.

Thank you for any help you can offer!

Baby Naming Issue: Ownership of a Family Name

Hi Swistle,

You seem very level headed and intelligent. I want to run by a situation for you.

I have an etiquette-naming question that is causing family controversy and heartache! My name is Karolina Amelia. I’m named after my great Aunt and great grandmother. We’re a French America family. You’ll find I strongly identify with my name.

I sign my name Karolina Amelia. My husband and dad call me the French version of Amelia. You’ll find my first and middle name included on all my social media accounts – you get it! ;-) I’ve planned on naming my daughter Amelia since I could fathom having children! To be honest, I was annoyed when the name became popular again.

My cousin informed me that she wants to name her daughter Amelia and claims her husband likes the name. Her husband doesn’t have a sense of tradition in his family, so I’m not sure he understands. The conversation exploded this past week. She’s is an older cousin by 9 months, so my aunt could have easily given her the name (she has no family names in her name). I feel like Amelia was passed down to me, and because of that it is not equal game in this respect because it is on my birth certificate. I’m going to be honest and disclose that she is extremely trendy, so the validity in her usage doesn’t help the situation. We’re a small family and I truly believe there cannot be two girls of the same name in our family. She doesn’t seem to understand the underlining etiquette about this. If I liked her father’s name for a boy, I would never assume that I could use it because she clearly has more emotional ties to the name. I’m hurt she doesn’t understand this isn’t a want of mine, this is common sense. We do have plenty of other family names. But this one here, this is my namesake – an identity.

Your help is appreciated in this qualm.

All the best,

Karolina Amelia


I am afraid my opinion is that you may be well and truly stuck. At this point the situation is:

1. Your cousin says she wants to use the name.
2. In which case, you absolutely will not.

The only way to fix things is for one of those two situations to change. You have attempted to change the first situation, with no success so far. Your cousin might change this one on her own, but at this point we can’t count on that.

And so my advice is to see if the second situation can be changed. You have set up a “two girls can’t have the same name” requirement that from my point of view appears unnecessary: a name is not a piece of heirloom jewelry that can only be handed down to one person, and only by the person who previously inherited it. If you’re not able to change your mind on that, or if doing so would create an enormous family feud, or if you absolutely don’t want to use the name if there’s any chance your cousin will use it, then your only option is to abandon the name: even if you were to have a daughter first, your cousin might very well still use it down the line (unless she has said she will not use it if you use it first).

But does that feel reasonable to you? Does it seem like a worthwhile price to pay? I’ve found this a very useful series of questions to ask myself: “What do I want? Can I have it? If not, what CAN I have?” What you want is for your cousin to see things the same way you do, and for her to conclude that the name Amelia is therefore off-limits to her. But you can’t have that: she does not agree with you. So what do you want INSTEAD? What is your SECOND choice? Is your second choice to use the name yourself anyway, even though it means accepting that two girls in the family might have the same name? Or is it your second choice to give up your whole plan and choose another name? I don’t know what your second choice is, and you might not know yet either: it sounds as if you’ve been focusing entirely on getting your first choice.

As you’ve already found, you don’t have a choice about what your cousin does: she and her husband get to choose what they name their children, and they disagree with what you consider common sense. What is interesting here is that by setting up a situation so that it is impossible for you to use the name if your cousin does, you are letting your cousin choose what you do. Abandoning your plan for your daughter’s first name will hurt only yourself, and what will you gain from it? But two little Amelias might be sweet, and the various usages of your name shows us that your family is good with nicknames. The two girls would probably be Amelia-_____ and Amelia-______ (or each go by her middle name, as you sometimes do), and it might give them a closer relationship: forming “The Amelia Club,” making jokes about how the couch is for Amelias only, signing letters to each other “The Other Amelia,” etc. They might let you join as an honorary Amelia, even though it’s your middle name.

To get back to the beginning of my answer, another issue here is that your cousin might not in fact use the name. So far she has said she would like to, and that her husband likes the name. There are so many steps between that and having a daughter named Amelia. She may have only boys, or she or her husband may think of a name they like better for a girl, or you might have a daughter first and name her Amelia and that might make them decide they no longer want to use the name (even if they previously stated they absolutely would use the name even if you did), or perhaps they will have a boy first and by the time they have a girl the name Amelia will be off their list, or perhaps she will decide she doesn’t want to use the name because it upsets you so much. And of course it is possible that you will only have boys yourself. It would be unfortunate to create enduring hard feelings over something that may never even be an issue.

Another option available to you is to give the name to your daughter as a middle name: make THAT the tradition you share, since it’s your middle name too. If your cousin does have a daughter and does use the name, her daughter and your daughter will not share a first name. This would also make it easier for you to continue to be called by your middle name.

There is one more thing you could do, and that is to talk to your cousin again. I suggest steering far, far away from the etiquette or common sense of the situation: those are not useful here, since both are highly subjective and you’ve already established that you and your cousin don’t see things the same way. We ARE talking about wants here: there is no reason she can’t use the name, or that two children can’t have the same name, except that you don’t want it that way. And that is a perfectly legitimate argument, and so that is the way I would approach it with her: don’t try to tell her she’s going against etiquette or common sense, because she isn’t; instead ask her earnestly to consider choosing a different name because it’s what you WANT. Explain how YOU feel, rather than telling her how SHE should feel. Acknowledge her perfect right to use names from her own family tree, but explain that this is one you plan to use for your daughter, and that you feel it wouldn’t work for second cousins to have the same name. See what she says. She may have gotten completely caught up in the entirely separate argument about whether or not she has the RIGHT to use the name, and may be very different in a discussion about whether or not she’d CHOOSE to.

But again, it is also possible that this is an impossible situation: if she DOES use the name, and if you decide you WILL NOT use it if she does, then it may be time to come up with a new plan. Could you name your daughter Karolina instead? You would still be naming her after yourself (in fact, even more so than if you used your middle name), still passing on something important to your identity, but she would not share a name with her second cousin. Another advantage is that the name is not as common. Another is that your husband could call his wife and daughter by different names.

Baby Girl Durham, Sister to Leah Alexandra

Dear Swistle,
Our baby girl is due on Dec 23. We still have not decided on a name. Our last name is Durham with an “n” instead of an “r”. Big Sister’s name is Leah Alexandra (her middle name is honouring my amazing grandma). Little sister’s middle name will likely be Margaretta, after my husband’s grandma. We both also like Christine as a middle name.
We like classic, but not overused names. Our problem is, most of the first names we like either seem too similar to Leah or have confusing spelling.
Here is a list we started with:
-Clara (my husband does not like as much as our other choices)
-Jessica (same as above)
-Tessa (our current favourite, but I am not 100% sure)
-Christina (I really like it, but we are likely to shorten it and I don’t like Tina or Chrissy)
-Alisa (we both like it, but is it too similar to Leah? This spelling is common in my home country and I always liked it, but she’d probably have to always spell it here)
-Kiera (we both like it, but again, would she have to spell it every time?)

So this leaves us with the three top choices: Tessa, Alisa, or Kiera. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you!



I do think Kiera would lead to constant spelling issues; I kept having to look back at the letter to see if I had it right, and I STILL got it wrong in the poll and had to fix it. Pronunciation is another issue: is it two syllables (KEER-rah) or three (kee-AIR-ah)? If it’s the same as Keira, Keira is currently the more common spelling in the United States: 443 new baby girls named Kiera in 2013, and 1,559 new baby girls named Keira.

If Alisa is pronounced ah-LEE-sah, then it does sound very similar to Leah to me. LEE-ah and ah-LEE-sah. I think too that it would be confused with Alyssa and Elise.

For classic-but-not-overused and a relatively easy spelling, I think Tessa is the best from your list. I like it with both middle name options, too.

Let’s see what everyone else thinks!


Baby Naming Issue: Should I Choose a Traditional Name to Avoid My Child Spelling Both His First and Last Names?

Hi Swistle!

I am so excited to write to you, I can barely type. Ha! Your blog feeds my inner naming desires. :)

My name is Christy. Hubby is Andrew. After four years of marriage, I still have extreme difficulty accepting my husband’s last name, which is Stewart, minus the T at the end. I have unofficially hyphenated my last name, but go by my maiden name 99.9999999% of the time.

I dislike the last name for several reasons such as: it needs to be spelled out every time it is spoken, often mispronounced (My kindergarteners called me Mrs. Sewer for a week), and I do not like the sound of it in general.

Anyway, we are pregnant for our fist child- a baby boy in March! YAY!

My dilema is the following: Should I choose a traditional name to avoid my child spelling both his FIRST and LAST name for a lifetime?

We would like 3-4 children. We take a liking to slightly askew names such as Julian, Beckett, Elliott, Corbin, or Sebastian. However, I am not against traditional names such as Benjamin, Will, or Thomas.

Is spelling your first and last name something you just get use to? I am no stranger to spelling “Christy” as there are many variations.

Second, do you think I’ll learn to love my husband’s last name once my baby is here?
Thank you for your input. I appreciate your on-going creativity and attention to details with names.


I am getting stuck on a couple of details. If we were talking in person, I would be saying “One: Is your LEGAL NAME your maiden name or your married name? Two: In what situations do you use your married name? Three: In what situations do you use your maiden name? Four: In what situations do you use the hyphenated form?” And so on.

But that would just be to satisfy my own curiosity: none of that really matters for what you’re asking. WHATEVER the surname situation, if it has been four years and you’re still having a very hard time with your husband’s surname, and you almost never use it yourself—is NOT using your husband’s surname for the children a possibility? Could you and the kids (and your husband too, if you’d like a unified family name) have YOUR surname? It doesn’t seem likely that you’d start loving his surname after the baby was born, though you may feel slightly less negative about it with time. I dislike Paul’s surname (hard to spell and pronounce, and I think it has an unpleasant sound), but as the years go by I do get more accustomed to it—and perhaps that has in part been from hearing it on my children.

To move on to your next question, I don’t see any reason to choose a first name you don’t have to spell, just because you DO have to spell the surname. I think it’s very common to have to spell both names (for not-sure-I-heard-it reasons as often as for not-sure-I-know-how-to-spell-it reasons), and that yes, we get used to it. Awhile back I worked at a pharmacy, and all day long we had people spelling their first and last names for us. Unless your maiden name is something really easy, my guess is that you’ve had a lifetime of experience with this yourself. Certainly I’d avoid making it deliberately HARDER (Bennjamin, Bekkitt), but that’s not the sort of spelling you’re considering. In short, I don’t find spelling my name to be a huge burden, and I don’t think you have to choose the name Thomas if you prefer the name Sebastian.

And if you DO use your husband’s surname for the baby even though you hate the name, that seems to me even MORE reason to choose a first name you love, rather than choosing something to accommodate the surname.

Regional and Future Occupation Names

Hello Swistle,

Thank you for your wonderful blog! I have a general name-trend question for you and your readers:

As we all know, many antiquated occupations are now common names, but what current-occupational versions do you see in your various regions? I began wondering about this upon noticing a trend in our local area, which is a major timber-industry center in the Pacific Northwest: the name Timber for boys, or Tymber for girls.

What are the Coopers/Masons/Tylers of tomorrow? And what other unique names have been inspired by your locale?

Looking forward to your answers,

Baby Girl Cox, Sister to Matthew, Holly, and Lilah

Hi Swistle,

I have been reading your blog the past couple months since a friend suggested it to me. I found it very interesting and different from many baby name blogs I checked out. So here is my dilemma. We are expecting our fourth next week! December 10th and still can’t seem to settle on a name. Our children’s names are Matthew Christopher, Holly Evelyn-Rose, Lilah Anneliese with the last name Cox. We are having a girl. The problem is my husband likes to pick almost all 80’s names. He especially likes my names Kristen (which is my middle name) or he would even name her Heather which is my first. I definitely prefer not to have Heather in her name. Kristen I am ok with but not sure I love. His other picks are Jessica, Amy and Rachelle. He has mentioned liking Sophia, Gabriella and flower names like Lily and at one time Daisy and Violet (I think Violet was too out there for him). He used to like Dahlia (not sure what nicknames are associated with that name), but has since changed his mind. I don’t mind Dahlia and it also has the Ls and Hs the other girls have in their names (not that it has too). I don’t care for Lily (seems a very popular choice right now like Sophia). Last night he mentioned liking Grace. This is a name I previously asked him about and he said no. I can’t keep up with him. The only way we usually find something is having him come up with names and then me picking one of them out.
My preferred names are Tessa, Noelle (I like Noelle as a middle name) or Maisy. I like older classic names and newer names, but not a big 80’s fan.
This is our fourth and most likely final child…. So I really hope we can find a solution. Help!

Thank you for your time,


I find it very pleasing that your husband likes my name, and so I will use a sweet voice as I steer him away from it. I like my name, too, but it is a Mom Name now—and one very tied to its time period. I would be enthusiastic about you and your daughter sharing a middle name, though, so I admit I’m hoping Kristen works with the chosen first name. Heather would also make a pretty middle name.

Lily and Violet both seem to me to be too close in sound to Lilah; Lily and Holly also have a similar sound, as do Dahlia and Lilah. Grace seems wonderful, if you’re still interested in it. Paul too did a complete turnaround on a name, vetoing it for the first child and picking it as his favorite for the second child. I didn’t even mention that to him, I just said “YES, great, it’s settled!” Matthew, Holly, Lilah, and Grace.

Jessica and Tessa are so similar in sound, as are Amy and Maisy, as are Daisy and Maisy, as are Rachelle and Noelle, it gives me hope that we can find something you’ll both like.

If you wanted to continue with the L sounds, I think Noelle would be my first choice for a first name: Holly, Lilah, and Noelle. Each girl has two syllables and a strong L sound, but different beginnings and endings.

Or Jillian: Holly, Lilah, and Jillian.

Or Alice: Holly, Lilah, and Alice.

Or Claudia, if you don’t mind the alliteration. Holly, Lilah, and Claudia.

Or Elise: Holly, Lilah, and Elise.

Or Juliet: Holly, Lilah, and Juliet.

Or Lydia, if that doesn’t seem too close to Lilah: Holly, Lilah, and Lydia. That does start tangling up when I say it.

Because your husband likes some of the mom names, and because Holly and Tessa and Noelle are used now but were also used in my era, I’m inclined to look in the Baby Name Wizard‘s New Classics category. Names like Sabrina and Miranda are newer and older at the same time. Vanessa, too: that one reminds me of both Tessa and Jessica. Bridget isn’t in that category in the book, but I’d add it: I can picture a Bridget my age or my daughter’s age. Same with Marissa.

If Sophia is too popular, I wonder if you’d like Josephine or Fiona.

Or I wonder if you’d like Nora. Matthew, Holly, Lilah, and Nora.

Or Phoebe? Matthew, Holly, Lilah, and Phoebe.



Name update!

Hi Swistle,

I appreciate your help and your insight into our dilemma. I went into labor early and had the baby Dec 4th. We decided Teresa “Tessa” Kristen. She will go by Tessa. I found out that my husband didn’t mind the name Tessa but he couldn’t conceive of giving her a first name that he considers a nickname. So I looked up names that Tessa is derived from and we agreed upon Teresa (no H per his request). So it will now be Matthew, Holly, Lilah and Tessa. I really appreciate your time and input. I didn’t realize, until you pointed it out, that we liked many similar sounding names. I have also referred many of my friends to your blog :)

Thank you again,


Baby Naming Issue: A Sibling for a Boy Named Sage

Hi Swistle,

I have a question concerning using unisex names for siblings, and would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

My husband and I love unisex and word names. For our first child, a boy born last year, we chose the name Sage. We would have used this name on a boy or girl, it fits him perfectly and we are very happy with it. We had checked the Social Security statistics and decided that the name was only slightly more popular for girls, so we still considered it a “true unisex” name. Within the last year, however, I was surprised to see most people assuming Sage to be a girl’s name.

We’re getting mentally ready for our second child now. Another name we both love is the name Quinn. Statistically, it seems to be comparable to Sage in that it is slightly more popular for girls, yet still considered a “true unisex” name. My questions are the following:

If we were to have a girl this time around, could we use a similarly unisex-yet-slightly-more-female name for her, given that we’ve used one on a boy the first time around? Or would that be too confusing, perhaps even resulting in even more people assuming our first-born is also a girl? If we have one child with a unisex name that is slightly more used for the opposite gender, would you recommend giving the next child a less gender-ambiguous name?

I’m also wondering if it would be a good idea to use Quinn on a boy, since that would mean we’d have two boys with names that are slightly more popular for girls.

Thanks so much!


My favorite is for all the children of a particular sex in a sibling group to have similarly unisex names. Confusion will occur no matter what with unisex names (the ambiguity is an unavoidable part of the package, and/or a large part of the appeal of such names), but my own preference is to avoid clashes, mixed messages, and anything that sends people’s eyebrows up in a “What happened THERE?” manner.

So for me, Sage and Quinn is exactly the approach that most appeals. In 2013, the name Sage was used for 660 new baby girls and 316 new baby boys: about twice as many girls as boys. That same year, the name Quinn was used for 2,634 new baby girls and 875 new baby boys: about three times as many girls as boys. Both names are unisex, currently used more often for girls, so I think they coordinate beautifully for either a pair of brothers or a pair of sisters.

I don’t think I’d use the word “slightly,” however, to describe the girl/boy usage gap: both names are used quite a bit more often for girls. I think you can expect confusion at approximately the ratio of current usage: that is, since Sage is used for twice as many girls as boys, I think you can expect about twice as many people to assume it’s a girl name; since Quinn is used for three times as many girls as boys, I think you can expect about three times as many people to assume it’s a girl name.

For a girl, you can use a unisex name or not, as you’d prefer: it’s common for parents to have different styles for girl names and boy names, so I don’t think you have to stick to the style—but if you LIKE unisex names for girls, I don’t think there’s any reason not to. Using a unisex name for her will increase the confusion levels by one unisex name: that is, each time you use a unisex name for ANY baby, boy or girl, you are adding one unit of “Is this a boy name or a girl name?” to your family.

My own preference (but this is only my own preference) would be to choose all sister names to the girl side of Sage. That is, if we draw a spectrum with name usage getting more girl to the right and more boy to the left, I would prefer to choose sister names to the right side of Sage.

boy girl spectrum

But others might prefer the opposite technique: deliberately choosing girl names used more often for boys: Hayden, for example, or Ellis, or Drew.

If your primary goal were to reduce the number of times people mistook your boy names for girl names, I’d suggest using completely unambiguous sister names. If I knew a family had two boys and two girls, and I knew the sibling names were Sage, Margaret, Quinn, and Josephine, I’d be fairly certain I knew which were which. However, this method only works when people DO know those two things: all the names together, and how many are of each sex. It won’t reduce the confusion for each individual child out in the world without his or her sibling names/sexes as clues. Because most situations in life are the latter rather than the former, it doesn’t seem worth it to choose sister names only to clarify the brother names, unless that is the style of name you prefer anyway—and it sounds as if it isn’t. In which case, at this point I think I would just choose whatever unisex/word name you like best for a girl, and assume that with time, all the acquaintances of each child will figure out that child’s sex from clues other than the name.