Baby Naming Issue: What to Do When You Don’t Really Like ANY Names

Hi Swistle! I recently discovered your blog and I really enjoy reading your responses to baby name questions. I’m hoping you’ll have a little advice for me, too.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of naming my own children more than most girls dream of a fairytale wedding. You would think that means I’ve had the names decided for years, but that’s not the case at all. Now that I am expecting my first child- a girl due June 14th- I’m finding the task to be incredibly daunting.

We decided on her middle name right away. It will be Blake, which is my husband’s first name. Our last name starts with an E and is opposite of the cardinal direction “west”. We agree that we want her first name to be more feminine, and that it doesn’t need to honor any other family members’ names. It can be uniquely her own.

The problem is I’ve put so much pressure on myself to find the “perfect” first name, and the perfect name simply doesn’t exist. I even went as far as to download the Social Security Database of every baby girl’s name in 2015 (the latest available data at the time) and used an Excel spreadsheet to eliminate names we knew we wouldn’t use. That process took months and eventually we gave up on that route.

At this point we’ve seen almost every name imaginable, and looked at them for so long that we aren’t in love with any of them- even the ones we have at the top of our list. We currently have a top three, although I’m not real sure how we got there other than these three keep coming up in our conversations:

Eiley – I feel like I could potentially be excited about this one, but I’m most worried about common mispronunciation. I’ve also heard it’s a nickname for Eileen, and I’m not a fan of the name Eileen.

Skylie – Or Skyler and have the option of calling her Skylie or Kyler.

Harper – A “safe” name, however maybe TOO safe. It’s the #4 most popular name in our state and I worry the phrase “Harper who? Which one?” would be a daily occurrence in her school years.

Other names we have recently marked off the list but might could be talked in to again- Trinity, Kensington, Mercy, Decklyn, Briley, Everly, Harlyn, Maylee.

 

Since you have already looked at all the names and you don’t like any of them enough to use them, this is not the kind of post where I make a list of names you haven’t considered and you say “Oh, whew, yes!” Instead, we are going to talk more generally about how to pick a name when nothing seems like the clearly right choice.

1. Instead of looking for a name, look for a STYLE. Once you figure out the TYPE of name you like, you can be reasonably sure that any name you like from that category will be satisfying to you in the long run and will work with future sibling names. Your style looks to me like what The Baby Name Wizard calls Bell Tones. I also see some Last Names First, some Androgynous, and some Charms & Graces—but the Bell Tones stand out. This is good news: it tells us that your choices are fairly consistent, and so you are likely to pick a name that you will like long-term and that will go well with future choices.

2. Don’t look for perfect: look for a good solid useful choice. It can seem to parents as if there is One Perfect Name out there, and that their job as parents is to find that shining grail. But in most cases, there is no One Perfect Name, there are just a lot of perfectly good names that would all work perfectly well. Your quest isn’t to find the universe’s preordained name choice for your child; your job is to give her a sensible identifier that she and others can use to refer to her. You need to find a name to put on the school-registration paperwork, and for her to write on her homework, and for everyone to write on gift tags. You can pick something that Works, without having to find Magic. The magic comes with time, as the name comes to represent the child to you.

3. Realize that every name is not just a name but a Package Deal. Some names come with spelling or pronunciation problems; some may feel boring or overly common; some are trendy or may get much more popular in the near future; some are easily mistaken for other names; some are awkward with the surname; and so on. Finding an issue with a name doesn’t mean that name has to be ruled out, because every name has issues; it only means you have to decide if the issue is one you’re okay with.

4. If having the middle name chosen before the first name is causing you any trouble, I suggest scrapping it for now and considering it again only once you have a first name chosen. When you’re already having such a hard time, there’s no sense making it harder.

5. Take a break. It sounds as if you’ve been doing this intensively for quite a while. I’d recommend taking a short period of time—say, one week—when you don’t talk about names at all, and try not to think about them.

6. Try them out. Once the break is over, take each of your finalists and give it its own day. For that day, refer to the baby by that name and think of her by that name. Does it feel like it works? Does it feel like the name of Your Baby? See which ones feel most comfortable. Are there any that you were sorry to stop using? Any that you were looking forward to being done using?

 

Let’s turn to the names themselves. I notice that you like the rhyming names Eiley, Skylie, Briley, and the similar-sounding Maylee and Everly. You’ve also got Decklyn and Harlyn. So if I were you, I would be looking pretty specifically at names containing -iley/-ylie and names ending with -ly/lie/lee and -lyn.

When putting names together, make sure you try out the first name and surname without the middle name between them, since that’s the way most people will be hearing them: -ley Ee– is a lot of long-E. (But again, consider the Package Deal concept: this is not necessarily a deal-breaking issue, just one to consider ahead of time.)

I also suggest, as The Baby Name Wizard does in the Bell Tones category, playing around with name parts and endings. If you like Skylie, maybe you’d like Skyler, as you mention, or Skylin or Kylie or Kinsley. If you like Briley, maybe you’d like Brilyn or Braelyn or Brinley or Briella. If you like Maylee, maybe you’d like Maelyn or Mylie. If you like Everly, maybe you’d like Ellery or Emery or Ellisyn or Evanie.

I wonder if you would like Isla with the nickname pronounced Eiley? (I’m not sure how I’d spell it. Isly? Ily? You could see what evolves naturally.) It breaks the connection to Eileen (though I wouldn’t have jumped to that), and may help with pronunciation.

Decklyn makes me think of Locklyn.

Locklyn makes me think of Linnea.

Harper makes me think of Juniper, a much less common choice with the darling nickname Junie.

Delaney comes to mind for no particular reason; I just wonder if you would like it. Cute nicknames Del and Lanie.

I wonder if instead of using Blake as her middle name, you’d like the idea of using Blakeley or Blakelyn or Blakelind—either as middle or first. I like how the second two could be seen as a combination of your husband’s name and yours. Lakelin would also be nice for this.

44 thoughts on “Baby Naming Issue: What to Do When You Don’t Really Like ANY Names

  1. Marie

    Your letter reminds me of myself. I have always loved talking names. I kept a running list on my iphone. But when it came time to name my child, I felt stuck. My child is nearly one and I still sometimes feel her name isn’t perfect. I will hear other names and think, oh, maybe we should have chosen that one. Sometimes choice is a burden. But I promise you, your daughter’s name will become her, whatever you choose! FWIW, I like Harper, Everly, and Isla.

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  2. liz

    Take some pressure off yourself!

    I was thinking of Brooklyn for you, but with your last name it sounds like a subway stop.

    What about Caitlyn or Cailyn? Nissa (rhymes with Lisa)? Dina (can be pronounce DEEna or DYEna, I love them both).

    Since you really seem to like the Lee sound, what about giving her two middle names? Kay Lee Blake (sunrise direction). May Lee Blake. Skye Lee Blake. Harper Lee Blake (but that’s an author’s name too). Mercy Lee Blake.

    What about Blakelee or a double barrelled first name Blake Lee? I know it’s her dad’s name, but I love it.

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  3. Ash

    I had a nice long post typed out but the last several times I’ve tried to post it times out!

    I really like the suggestion of Blakely as a first name and it seems to go along with your naming style.

    I’m going to suggest some names that are on my running list of baby names or that I’ve heard and may fit your style:

    Adley
    Emsley
    Devany
    Keelyn
    Mosley
    Malone
    Loftyn
    Jovie
    Hartley
    Jenilee
    Amery
    Quinlynn
    Afton
    Aria
    Tenley
    Cacia

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  4. Priia

    I think I would veer away from -lee/ley/etc names. Eiley E– sounds a lot like “I least” when spoken out loud, Skylie E– sounds like “Sky Least,” etc. I think Isla is a good choice, or Schuyler, so same sounds, but different endings.

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  5. Stephanie

    I too find the “ee” sound right before your last name to be tricky and slightly awkward. I would choose a name without that ending.

    Love Swistle’s suggestion of Juniper. Juniper Blake not-West. So lovely and distinctive.

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  6. girlonfire

    I come down on the other side of the -ee E– issue. I don’t think it’s an issue at all! When I say “Eiley E–” I naturally put a pause in between the names. So I think if you love names that end with -lie, you should go for it!

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  7. Kay W.

    Oh dear, I hate to say something that makes the process even harder, but I find a lot of these challenging to say with your surname. :( Those -ee endings run straight into it. Have you tried saying them all out loud with your last name, without Blake in the middle? Eiley is a particularly tough one, as is Everly.

    In some ways it’s not your style at all, but I couldn’t help but think of Evelyn while reading your letter. It’s from an earlier generation of boyish girl names, and retains that feeling a bit while also seeming vintage/classic. It’s really dashing with your last name!

    Harper made me think of Harlow, Haven, and Honor.

    Juniper is also great!

    Or how about Willow?

    Or Piper, Arden, or Hayden?

    Please do update us!

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  8. Colleen

    It’s so hard to decide on a name. I agree with Swistle and I think she hit the nail on the head with everything.

    I agree with previous posters about -ee names with your last name. It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but I’d say the names out loud a few times to see if your tongue trips over them.

    I like the suggestions of Adley, Arden, Hayden, and Harlow.

    I also think Marlowe, Calla, Penelope, or Aerin could be good choices for you as well.

    Good luck!

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  9. TheFirstA

    I think this is a case where too much choice can often times lead to an inability to pick. Stop looking at new names! Take a break from all names, and just relax. Focus on something you enjoy, or something else baby-related, but don’t think about/talk about/look at names for a while. At least a week.

    Also, don’t stress so much about having the name picked before the baby gets here. You have some solid choices that keep coming up in conversation (really, that’s a good sign). There is nothing wrong with taking a short list to the hospital and deciding after you’ve met her. Sometimes, having a real baby vs. hypothetical baby is the push people need to make a decision.

    Regarding your specific names, Eiley is adorable & my favorite from your list. It also sounds like it might be the one you feel most excited about. Who cares if it could be short for Eileen? Eileen won’t be her name & I doubt anyone will jump to the conclusion that it is. Even if they do, a simple “no, just Eiley” will solve it. Not A Big Deal.

    Skylie/Skylar are both pretty meh to me. They aren’t bad names, just not names I’m personally excited about. It did occur to me that Skylie & Eiley are very similar. So close in fact, that I could see Eiley being a nickname for Skylie, or Skylie being a pet name for Eiley.

    Harper is lovely & popularity is not an issue the way it used to be. My oldest has a top 10 name for our state for the year he was born. He has Never had another kid in class with the same name. We’ve encountered a couple here & there, but it hasn’t been an issue. Nationwide, Harper was only given to a bit over 10,000 babies last year. Unless all 10,000 babies happen to live in your town (which we know they don’t) “Harper who” is not going to be a daily event.

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  10. beep

    I agree with Swistle on doing anything you can to ratchet down the pressure to find the Perfect Name. I suffered (in a first-world-problems kind of way, but it did really bother me) a lot with choosing my unexpected third child’s name after giving my first two long-considered names I loved and was sure of even before they were conceived.

    I read through the entire extended SSBN list while pregnant with with baby number 3. I made a long list, then a short list, then actually a list with zero names. I made my friends brainstorm names at the baby shower they organized for me. I put different names on post-it notes and organized them on the wall. I found a lot of names I liked pretty well for characters in books or other people’s children. I slightly sparred with my cousin when he got worried that I might be considering the name he wanted for his expected baby (I wasn’t, except insofar as I was considering EVERYTHING). I worried that the name we chose would be too popular (#19, and the other two were in the 900s and not in the top 1000 respectively), that it was kind of a stretch as a family name whereas the other two were super duper meaningful multiple-family-members family names, that it was too cutesy with her sister’s name, that it was boring, and that it didn’t sound as especially nice with our last name as the first two had. I wrote to Swistle twice (but she didn’t pick me–which I am truly not complaining about, just noting for the record).

    And in the end: Grace is 16 months, and her name is small-p perfect. It’s beautiful, and meaningful, and I like that it matches her sister’s (who has a much less conventional “Charms & Graces” name) although I occasionally have gotten a tiny Look when I introduce them together that lets me know others might have chosen differently. It suits her exactly. I love it when she pats her chest and says her name. She had a daycare teacher with the same name, and that didn’t bother me. No other kids with it yet, but it won’t be the end of the world if she has another in her class. These days, for me it rolls right off my tongue with our last name. It’s a good name and I’m happy with it.

    I hope this longwinded story is encouraging… if you pick something that is in the ballpark of what you like, my experience says things will probably work out to your eventual satisfaction.

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  11. beep

    P.S. I slightly agree that an -ee name might be too much ee altogether. I love the thought of Isla nicknamed Isley/Eiley though. I also love Juniper Blake with or without the nn Junie.

    One other thought… Since you like the ee sound but it sort of blends into your last name, might you like it at the beginning or in the middle? How about Eva pronounced EE-va, Meena, Dina, Lisa, Leela, Emilia, Leah, or similar?

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  12. Renee

    Are you maybe one of those people that needs a name with lots of nicknames so that you get two for one (or three or four)? I’d like to suggest that you try a new exercise of choosing a name that will get you to at least two nicknames that you love. Like Skyler for Skylie or Eiley (or even Kylie.) Or go even bigger and choose something like:
    Lorelai (nn Ailey, Lola, Rory)
    Arietty (Ari, Ria, Etty, Retty)
    Amélie (Ami, Melly, Elie, Mae)
    Novalie (Noe, Nova, Aly, Valley)

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the endings clashing with the last name. That seems to be the least of your concerns, plus you’re attracted to those endings the most, so just go for it. I would, however, eliminate Decklyn from your list if one of your ideas is that the name is feminine. Even Harper is straying. (although if Decklyn and Harper pass your feminine test, then maybe you’d like Sydney?) Eiley won’t encounter too much confusion, she can just say ‘Like Isla’ which is quickly becoming a top name.

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  13. Meg

    Would you like Eiley better if you spelt it Isley? Or I like swistle suggestion of Isla. Instead of everly, how about just “ever” — then you can call her everly as a nickname (or evie) but without having the ly flow into the last name.

    I wonder if you would like Ember or Emberly or Emberlyn – it has a lot of the sounds you enjoy. My favourite of these would be Ember. I also think Maisie or Arden or Hadley would fit in with your style. There’s also Adelia or Azalea (nn Azi) .

    Since you like Blake, I wonder if you would like Berkeley or Brighton?

    Regardless, you have wonderful options and I’m sure whatever you pick will be great!

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  14. Erin Beth

    Some good suggestions here! I especially like Isla called Isley or Eiley, Maelyn, Locklyn, and I might add Keelin.

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    1. Erin Beth

      On looking at this again, I also like the sound of Decklyn or (Declyn or Declan) Blake, Devon or Devyn Blake, or Evelyn Blake with the last name. I think Locklyn (or Lachlan or Lochlyn) still may be my favorite though.

      Reply
  15. PennyUp

    I really like Blake! Could you just use that as the first name and choose a girlie middle. A daughter named after her dad really appeals to me, too. Very sweet.

    From Swistle’s list, I like Delaney the best.

    What about Bellamy? Or Hazel? I like Billie, too!

    Good luck!

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  16. Trudee

    What about Kylie or Riley to get the Eiley sound? A little more mainstream, but that’s not a bad thing. Otherwise, I like the idea of using Isla. I love Lochlyn and Delaney as options too. Personal favourites.

    And I think you set yourself up a bit. You said, “Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of naming my own children more than most girls dream of a fairytale wedding.” Reality can likely never measure up to your dreams/expectations (built up over all that time). I think if those names/styles keep coming up then those are the “perfect” ones. And whatever you choose will be wonderful.

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  17. Jean C.

    I’m going to throw my weight behind Isla. Or maybe just spelling it Isleigh instead of Eiley. Or even Eileigh. It feels less like a nickname that way. I also love Juniper. Maybe Briar? I feel like it has similar sounds to names you like. Briar is so feminine yet strong sounding to me.

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  18. Vesna

    Swistle has the best advice!
    I wanted to add that if you can’t find your favorites in the Social Security Database, that there is A WORLD of baby names outside of it. You can search for baby name databases of any country, language or culture you are fond of or perhaps even have ties to! Yes, you may need to google-translate “baby names list” to get to the language of your choice, but it’s worth it because YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EVERY NAME OUT THERE.

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  19. Lauren

    What about Aili? It’s a Scandinavian name (Finnish specifically, I believe?) pronounced the same way I’m pronouncing Eiley, but without the spelling connection to Eileen. I also love Isla.

    I’m of the camp that doesn’t find Aili/Eiley not-West a problem, but there is a singsongy rhythm to it that could result in your daughter often being called by both first and last names—this is a thing I’ve run into with my own name and it doesn’t bother me since it’s usually done with fondness by people I like, but something to consider!

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  20. JD

    I only have trouble with the 2 syllable lee
    ending first names with Sunrise Direction last. So Skylie, Eiley, Kylie are tough. My personal preference would be to pick a non-ee ending for her first. You can still call her by a lee ending nick name. So Skyler, nicknamed Skylie. Or I’d pick a three syllable “lee” ending: Briarly, Everly, Bellamy. Ending in another consonant and y is ok too: Mercy.

    I also love Lochlyn and Briar. Harper is really wonderful too.

    I’ve named three and there is no perfect name. You just decide what is most important to you (honor, easy to spell, fits sibling, matches last, no nickname, lots of nicknames etc) and decide which name is best with that criteria that you and partner can agree on. Whatever you pick may have a moments of regret or doubt but will grow on you.

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  21. borealis

    My partner’s name has changed for gender reasons, but back in the day it used to be Eilin. I used Eili as a nickname a lot. And yes, Eilin did get frequently confused with Eileen and Isla. We got in the habit of almost always including “like island but without the d” in introductions, so it’s definitely not hassle free. It was beautiful though, people always liked it once they figured it out, and I miss it.

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  22. Cece

    I went through the same thing with my daughter. As hard as it can be, try not to stress. I’m sure that elusive name will hit you when you least expect it.

    Here are my suggestions…
    Arden
    Ellery
    Maebyn (not the greatest flow with Blake but I do like it with your last name)
    Anden
    Ellison
    Kinsadie
    Shyla
    Channing
    Lylee
    Linden
    Madigan

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  23. kanah

    I suggest Aila….it is almost alliteration but isn’t and it flows nicely. I do like an E name, but not with an IE ending, so what about Ever? It’s a unique name, but perhaps you’d like it. Although, it might sound like everest with your last name… hmm maybe a double name with Blake, such as Blake-Ann or Anna-Blake? Someone already suggested Ensley. Maybe you’d like Yardley, Ellis, Camilla, Rylah, or Odette?

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  24. Eli

    With all the K sounds and -ee sounds, what about Kerry? It is pretty uncommon these days but familiar, unisex but often seen as vaguely on the feminine side, like a lot of your earlier ideas. (A classmate of mine spelled it Keri, which was pretty cool too). I also like Evelyn, and Juniper sounds cool too. I’d probably mishear Harper E@st as Harper Lee, because of the single EE sound (I don’t hear well) but that’s not necessarily a problem anyway.

    Kerry Blake E@st
    Evelyn Blake E@st
    Juniper Blake E@st

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  25. Andrea

    I am firmly in the Isla, nn Eiley camp. Or just Eiley. I have no problem saying it with your last name. If it helps, my sister had Eiley in her top three for years and her daughters ended up being Hazel, Ethne, and Navy.

    Ethne is similar to Eiley and probably there is a cool Irish spelling for it somewhere, but my sister didn’t know how one would spell it, so she just spelled it phonetically and I love it.

    Good luck!!!

    Reply
  26. Kerry

    Count me as a vote for Eiley. I like how distinctive it is, I think E.E. makes for great initials, and I get the vibe from your letter that it’s your favorite and you just have cold feet.

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  27. Kim C

    What about Elizabeth? It sounds wonderful with your surname and has so many nicknames to choose from if you want to mix it up a bit.

    Bess, Bessie, Bizzy, Elsa, Elsie, Ellie, Elle, Ella, Eliza, Liza, Liz, Lizzie, Libby, Beth, Betty, Betsy, Birdie, Buffy.

    Elsa, Elsie, Ella and Ellie are quite similar to some on your list too!

    I’m sure there’s a few more I’ve missed here.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  28. Caro

    I wonder if you’d like Bridget/Brigid, nn Bridey? It makes me think of a turn of the century Irish spunky girl.
    I’ve always thought Kinsella could work for a girls’ name, nn Kinsey or Kinsley
    I also like Harbor or Haven as an alternate for Harper.

    Reply
  29. Reagan

    I must admit that I really like Eiley, Eiley (E) ast, and Eiley Blake (E) ast. I personally wouldn’t worry about the mispronunciation or Eileen. To me it seems pretty intuitive spelled Ei. You can alwas correct people by saying “like sounds like Kylie without the k” Once you correct people they will get.

    I am not a fan of Skylie with your last name and Harper does seem to common for someone who has been dreaming about names for so long.

    That said, I think my favorite option for you

    Reply
  30. Melissa

    Oh, I feel you. My husband and I had ONE name we actually liked, and we still didn’t feel comfortable saying “Oh, this will definitely be her name.” I’m going to say, at least you have a list! But now that she’s here, I love her name (Cate.) It became a lot easier for me to love it once it was attached to an actual human who I could see and hold.
    Can I suggest the name Delia to you? It has the cute long E sound that a lot of your faves do, but it’s at the beginning of the name so it doesn’t run in to your last name. Good luck!

    Reply

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