Not expecting yet, but I am constantly looking for that elusive “sweet spot” name. Our surname is a very common, two syllable, ending in -son. My most recent obsession is the name Milborough for a girl. Though I adore her in her full form, obviously it naturally lends itself to Millie as a nickname should one be desired.
As for middles I am found the below:
Milborough Frances (Family name)
However, I have two reservations about realistically using in the future. First, does it sound too masculine? And secondly, is the borough ending make for an unflattering place name, as in towns/suburbs? Should she have a brother, only planning to two at the most, I do adore the name Maguire. Though we are not Irish (cause for concern?) I thought it was a nice pairing nonetheless.
All suggestions/additions are welcome! Thank you all!!!!
I have a mental checklist I go through when considering if I think a word I’m not familiar with as a name would make a good name. It’s not a formal, written-down checklist, but I’ll see if I can create it here:
1. Is it a NICE SOUND? I generally re-write it with several different spellings to make sure I’m really thinking of it as sounds rather than as a word. I say it aloud repeatedly, so that the novelty of it wears off a bit and I can hear it as if I were already familiar with it.
2. Does it have name-like qualities? That is, are the sounds of the word similar to the sounds present in names, and/or are there other ways to understand it in the context of existing names (for example, Dandelion can be associated with Daisy and Violet; Berlin is a place like Brittany and Georgia). Is there a nickname that’s already a familiar, established name? Is there a quick explanation for people unfamiliar with the name, something I can imagine saying many, many times (“It’s the town where I grew up,” “It’s a family surname,” “It’s like ____ but with an N”)?
3. Is this a name I would want for myself? Can I picture introducing myself with this name? This one needs additional adjustment for generational differences: that is, it’s hard to picture introducing myself as Cadence, too, just because that name wasn’t around when I was born.
4. Now I see if I can picture introducing my child and using the name in daily life. I test it out: “Mom and dad, the baby is here! We’ve named her _______!” “Hello, I’m calling to make an appointment for _______’s 5-year physical.” “_____, time for dinner!” “______, did you finish your homework?” “______, I told you to clean up your room!” “________, stop hitting your brother!”
5. How do I think I would react to this name if I encountered it on a child? on a class list? on a resume? on a doctor, a politician, a teacher? on a store clerk’s name tag?
6. Does this name seem like it would work on a variety of person types? That is, can I picture it on someone plump, someone plain, someone beautiful, someone studious and serious, someone outgoing and athletic, someone shy and sweet?
7. Is it possible to think of sibling names for this name? (Applicable only for parents who prefer sibling names to go together.) Sometimes we can fall in love with a name that is a great name and yet not a good fit for our family. (That’s the kind of name I LOVE for a middle name.)
That might not be all of them, but those are the ones that came to mind.
So for Milborough, let’s start with the sound. I’d re-spell it a bit, to try to disconnect the look of the word with the sound of it: Mill-burrow. Mill-burro. Mil-ber-o. Etc. The “mil” segment sounds nice to me, and the -o ending is on-trend. The “ber” sound is the only one not currently nice to my ear. I also notice burrow, burro, and burough, none of which are particularly pleasing—though not particularly displeasing, either.
Now to evaluate the name-like qualities. “Mil” is familiar from Milly, Millicent, Milton, etc. “Burr/ber” is familiar from Wilbur, Kimberly, Amber, Bernice, etc. The -o ending is familiar from Leo, Hugo, Milo, Cleo, Pedro, etc. And as you’ve mentioned, Milly/Millie is a familiar nickname. We’re also familiar already in our society with place names.
The question about whether we’d want this name for ourselves is going to be largely temperament-based—and of course we don’t know what the child’s temperament will be. Still, I’ve found this exercise helpful for making me think realistically about a name. If I picture myself standing around at preschool pick-up, meeting other parents and saying, “Hi, I’m Milborough,” that gives me a very different feeling about the name than if I’m looking at it on a baby name list. Again, this effect has to be adjusted for the generational difference—but I still find it a useful way to play around with a name.
From here I remove the generation-gap issue and picture instead being at preschool drop-off, introducing both of us. “Hi! I’m Kristen, and this is Milborough.” Then on to other scenarios at a variety of ages. “Milborough, did you finish your homework?” “Milborough, you missed your curfew again, so you’re grounded for two weeks.” “Milborough, time for dinner!” “I’m calling for an appointment for Milborough’s 8-year physical.” “Milborough, can you run to the store and get milk?”
Next I picture it encountering it on someone else. A parent at preschool pick-up says to me, “Hi, I’m Milborough!” or “Hi, I’m Jen, and this is Millborough!” My child’s teacher’s name is Milborough Anderson. A candidate’s political signs say Vote for Milborough Mason. The clerk at Target has a name tag that says Milborough. I’m helping my child with their class valentines, and Milborough is on the list. I’m in the store and I hear a parent say, “Milborough!! Stop that RIGHT NOW!!” And so on.
I move on to the visual. It helps to do this while I’m out on errands: I look at a variety of children and adults and picture the name Milborough on each of them. Does it work better on some than others? I also visualize various stereotypes in my head: the plump plain girl with bad hair, the cheerleader, the girl who hates anything stereotypically girly, the smart girl, the dramatic girl, the shy and sensitive girl who hates drama, and so on. Does it work better on some than others?
And finally, sibling names. You’ve got Maguire for a boy, and I agree that goes well with Milborough. Are there girl names on your list that would be compatible with Milborough? Would you want to use Maguire with the nickname Maggie? Milborough and Maguire; Millie and Maggie.
As to whether Milborough sounds masculine or feminine, it hits my own ear as unisex. The Milly/Millie nickname gives it a more feminine tilt, but Milton doesn’t seem feminine; the -o ending is more typically used for boys’ names, but Cleo doesn’t seem masculine. The three name sounds (mil, ber, and o) are all used in names for both boys and girls.
Current usage is what makes us feel a name is “a boy name” or “a girl name”; with an unused name such as Milborough, it’s harder to say for sure how the name will be perceived—and it may go in a different direction if it comes into style and others start using it too (Mackenzie is a good example of this). The name Aspen could have gone either way, but currently it’s girls 601 to 57. There’s nothing about London that makes it “for girls,” but it’s currently used for girls 3179 to 482. Cody could just as easily be a girl name, but right now it’s boys 1988 to 22. Paris is used more often for girls, Dallas more often for boys. Miller is probably the closest name to Milborough; in 2012 it was given to 47 girls and 178 boys. And yet Miller does sound more masculine to me, while Milborough continues to sound unisex.
With a very distinctive and unusual first name, my own preference is to go with a familiar and unambiguous middle name. However, I also think it’s a good idea to choose a middle name you like very much, in case the child decides to go by it. My own favorite of your first/middle combinations is Milborough Jane: I like the rhythm of it, I like the familiarity of it, and I love the name Jane anyway.
Let’s have a poll to see what everyone else thinks of Milborough as a name candidate: