Baby Naming Issue: Place Names, Specifically Marina

Traci writes:

You helped me out less than a year ago when we were expecting our first. Now we’re expecting AGAIN.
Besides the craziness that is having two babies less than a year apart, we have a new naming issue.
We don’t know the gender of this baby, but if it is a girl, we would like to name her Marina Lynn, after both our mothers. (His mother = Marina, Mine = Lynn). I love most everything about the name Marina. I love that my husband loves it, I love the way it sounds, I love that it is a precious namesake like our first child. The ONLY THING I don’t like about it is that Marina is a thing in English. (A place, actually. “Let’s have lunch at the marina.”) To me, a name that is a thing/place like Marina is different than a name that is a thing like Rose. I can’t explain why, exactly, but it just bothers me. As an avid reader of your site (and because you steered us so right the first time and we took your advice and couldn’t be happier!) I thought that I’d get your take on it. Should I get over it? Is there a way to frame it that might help me get over it? I also thought of spelling it Marinah. Does that seem like a viable solution? Is there another solution I haven’t thought of? I thought you might take the opportunity to talk about names that are things (or places) in general, to help more readers than just me.

Thank you!


This is the kind of question where I have to rein in my urge to PUSH you to use the name. You love it! It’s a family name! Place names are a totally valid category of names! I want to FORCE the place issue not to bother you! But if something bothers, it bothers, and there’s no “just don’t let it” about it. So let’s work on the reframing idea.

In this particular case, it would influence me whether you live near a marina or not. DO you ever suggest having lunch at the marina, or is there no marina? Proximity/confusion issues matter to me, which is why I also wouldn’t suggest using Madison in or near Madison, Wisconsin, or Brooklyn in or near Brooklyn, New York—but wouldn’t blink at either one of them used in Michigan. But of course people can move later on, so it still doesn’t dismiss the point.

It also matters to me how tied the name is to the place. I don’t immediately think of Madison and Savannah and Florence as place names even though I know they are; Georgia is definitely a place name but also strongly a name-name; and India and Ireland are places until I shake off the confusion and realize that in this case it’s someone’s name. For me, Marina is somewhere between Savannah and Georgia: I’d know it was a place, and I’d know to take that into account—but it wouldn’t bother me to use it, even knowing that the child might later move to Georgia or near a marina/savannah.

In fact, maybe it would help to think how quickly a place association can vanish. Brittany! Austin! Jordan! Devon! Cody! Chelsea!

Or, this one may backfire, but: do you think of a marina whenever your mother-in-law’s name comes up? (If so, never mind and forget I said anything.) Has anyone you know ever commented on the connection? (“Marina? Oh, like the place we have lunch!”)

Or it helps me to think about how serious a situation it would be if the connection WERE made, or if the child DID move later on. How much of a problem/issue would it be for a girl named Madison to live in Wisconsin? There were 152 more of them born there last year, so my guess is it’s not too bad. And Brooklyn is #15 in New York even though it’s only #34 nationally. Place names are common honor names, so the connection can be a positive one.

Do you LIKE marinas? If someone hates roses, Rose is probably a non-starter of a baby name for them; but if they love roses, it adds to the appeal and makes the name an even more personal choice. The appeal of a forest or a haven or a savannah or a sky can be the very thing that makes someone CHOOSE a name like Forrest or Haven or Savannah or Skye.

Marinas are pretty.

Marinas are pretty.

It’s too bad about Mirena, or I’d recommend that spelling. Marinah looks like mah-RY-nah to me, probably because of Mariah. I suppose you could use Marena (though I might say that one mare-ree-na or mah-RAY-nah instead of mah-REE-nah), but I think it’s probably best to stick with the standard spelling.




Name update:

Hello, Swistle!

You helped me name our first child, and then we had a question about our second child who we wanted to name Marina. That child was born a beautiful baby boy. Four years later we welcomed our third child, a girl. We named her Marina Lynn, after her two grandmothers. We took your wonderful advice and kept the name as it was, without changing the spelling. We are thrilled. We love the name, and it suits her. I don’t have any hangups about a Marina being an actual place (in part because we no longer live near a marina.) Also, my mother was incredibly touched and honored at the namesake. Thank you for your great advice! Even years later it’s helpful. You helped us name two out of three of our children.

Oh here’s a photo of little miss Marina Lynn!

46 thoughts on “Baby Naming Issue: Place Names, Specifically Marina

  1. Lindsey

    I used to work with a Marina who went almost exclusively by Marnie. I find that to be a cute nickname/alternative if the place association bothers you too much, and even if it doesn’t :)

  2. Kathy

    My husband’s boss, originally from Russia, is named Marina but she spells it Maryna.

    I’ve always thought the name Marina is lovely and graceful and elegant but without being formal or snobby.

    I vote Yes for the name Marina!

  3. Mary

    I really like Marina. Marinah looks wrong and would be too confusing. It would be better to go with a completely different name than to change the spelling of a perfectly good name like that. Go with Marina.

  4. Suzanne

    I LOVE the name Marina and agree that even as a place marinas are nice (It’s where we keep the boat! Boats are fun!) and it’s not a bad association.

    BUT Marina is off our own list permanently because of The Fresh Beat Band. Which is too bad really, I tend to have red headed children. Although it might work in your favor, because I head Marina used as a name EVERY DAY and only used as a place a few months in the summer.

    If you’re looking for a less-place-name alternative, Marin or Merin are both very similar. But I still say go with Marina.

  5. changelivlife

    When reading the OP, I didn’t even make the connection until she explained it. I live near marinas, but I think it is more audial than visual. So, I wouldn’t change the spelling, because it doesn’t seem to matter.

    When I say it out loud, I do think of marinas, but it isn’t negative. Also, I don’t know how much I would have connected it if it weren’t pointed out.

    I agree with Swistle, it’s bordering on “name in its own right” territory, I’d definitely use it.

    Congratulations to you.

  6. Laura

    When I see the word “Marina” I immediately think of Princess Marina of Greece, wife to Prince George of the UK, Duke of Kent. In fact, I had forgotten it’s a thing as well as a name until your letter reminded me. I am with Swistle in having to fight the urge to push you to use the name. It really is lovely!

  7. Jessica

    While reading your letter I kept waiting to get to the part about a place name you wanted to use INSTEAD of the family name. I guess I don’t really associate Marina the name with the place (even though I grew up in a lake-heavy area with LOTS of Marinas). Marina just sounds very name-y to me, as opposed to, say, Seattle.

  8. Patricia

    Ditto to Laura’s comments. I too associate the name Marina very positively with Princess Marina, wife of Prince George, Duke of Kent. And having just googled her name, I discovered there were at least two other Princesses named Marina:
    Princess Marina may refer to:

    * Princess Marina Petrovna of Russia (1892–1981), daughter of Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich of Russia and Grand Duchess Militza
    * Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906–1968), wife of Prince George, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary
    * Marina, Princess of Naples (born 1935), wife of Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples

    Acccording to a UK baby name book: “Marina – Italian, Spanish, German and English name representing a feminine equivalent of the Latin family name Marinus, itself derived from Marius. Because of its similarity to the Latin marinus (‘of the sea’) it has always had maritime associations… The earliest records of the name among English speakers date from the 14th century, when its introduction was perhaps inspired by the Greek martyr St Marina of Alexandria. Notable bearers of the name in more recent times have included Princess Marina of Greece…

    I would definitely use the name: Marina is lovely, it has a strong family connection for you, it’s a royal name.

  9. Meg C. @

    Marina is a fabulous name and is perfect considering the family connections you have with it. I think of it as more of a name than a place – plus, as other comments have mentioned, it has some great history. I’d keep the spelling Marina instead of Marinah. Although if you are dead set on changing the spellings here are some possibilities:
    Maerina …but it might change the look too much and even the pronunciation possibly. P.S. I love Marina Lynn and even Marinalyn! But I’d go with your gut, the original name – Marina Lynn.

  10. Conn Family

    I’ve always been landlocked but marina doesn’t make me think of a marina… but i knew a gal named marina and really looked up to her :) I think you should go with Marina Lynn!

  11. Sarah

    I think Marina is much more of a name than a place. Of course, there is no marina near where I live, so that might influence my opinion, but I think the name is strong enough in it’s own right that it doesn’t even need to be considered a place name as well. It’s lovely.

  12. Anonymous

    I live right next to a marina and my family had a boat at a marina growing up, yet when I hear Marina, I only think about the name!

    Many parents of toddlers will also be familiar with it as a name because of the show “Fresh Beat Band,” which many children watch INCESSANTLY! You may, though, get the question, “like the old Marina, or the new Marina?” (the show introduced a new, less red-headed Marina this season).

  13. StephLove

    I’d leave Marina as is (or use Marin or Maris or Mariah), but I think Marina Lynn is the best option for you because those are the grandmothers’ actual names. It sounds nice with Clayton, too.

  14. beyond

    Marina is a lovely name and sounds like the right choice for you. I know a Marina, and just realized that I have never though of it as a place. I think of it as… our friend’s name. I would leave the spelling as is, too.
    Good luck!

  15. The Mrs.

    Some friends of the family were set on using the name Marina for their unborn baby if it were a girl. Then they found out they were having TWIN girls and couldn’t think of a name as wonderful as Marina to pair with it. So they chose two different names altogether.

    That name is fabulous! The spelling, the family connection, the royal pedigree. Please, oh, PLEASE use this name!

    Best wishes to you and your growing family! (Oh, and great job with your son’s name!)

  16. Jen

    We are boating people and have been my whole life. So I am thoroughly familiar with marinas. And yet? Marina totally works as a name and I would say even more so since it is an honor name and if you are not boating people.

  17. Lisa

    Marina is a beautiful name! You should totally use it (and not misspell it). I love the family connection and the way it sounds, and unless you spend a lot of your time in a marina and it might be dorky, go for it. I also can imagine her affectionately being called Rina or Mar someday by her friends. I do like thing/place names, but this is one where it would take me a few beats to make the marina-noun association, and I lived right by Marina del Rey for several years.

  18. Sarah

    This is the first comment I’ve ever made on any blog – but! – my daughter, a sophomore in high school, has had a friend named Marina since they met in preschool at age three. Still one of her closest friends. In all these years I have never, not a single time, made the association between Marina’s name and a boat marina. I have seriously NEVER thought of it as a “place” name. That almost seems odd now that I’ve read this post! I totally think if you love it you should use it, PARTICULARLY since it’s a true namesake name! What a nice honor for both your mothers.

  19. vanessa

    I really like the name. Because I heard it for the first time on an actual child–before I was really old enoigh to understand what a marina is–it seems veyr name-y to me.
    Would definitely NOT add the H, but then I don’t even like Lilah/Norah (although I DO like Sarah).
    You could also use Marin, but that’s a place name and not one associated with yourfamily.
    Marina Lynn is great. Use it!

  20. Brittany

    Just another echo that although I grew up around water and live near it currently, when I read the name Marina, I thought, “I’ve never heard that name before. It’s pretty – link of like Marie, but sounds more feminine” and then was surprised to realize when you pointed it out that a marina is also, of course, a place. I love the name, especially when you add in your strong family connection and that you and your husband also like the name. I hope that the “lunch at the marina” association you have stops bothering you, because if so, you have a fantastic name for your daughter!

  21. Marjorie

    I don’t necessarily think of Marina as any different from other “place” names. I would stick with the spelling you’ve chosen to avoid confusion and because it’s an honor name. There are going to be “associations” with every name. We named our daughter Evangeline and a lot of people ask if we named her after the actress (we didn’t), but them asking doesn’t bother me because I have a positive association with the actress. I guess that’s what it comes down to, do marinas have a positive association for you?

    Also what about boy names? ;)

  22. Anonymous

    I grew up near a huge marina, one which many people worked at/for, so it was pretty central in all our lives. I am now friends with a woman named Marina, and it took me WEEKS to realize her name was a place/thing (and when I did realize it, I said, “huh, how funny!” and moved on). To me, she is just Marina– totally separate from a marina.

    I say go for it!! Clayton and Marina are just divine together!!

  23. Suki

    I have been saying “Marina” over and over in my head as I read the post and comments and the more I say it, the more I fall firmly into the “more of a name than a place” camp. It just sounds so nice! It’s European sounding without being pretencious or contrived and while it doesn’t make me think of a place where you dock a boat, it is very evocotive of water for me, which is lovely. I say go for it!

  24. christine

    I always think of Marina as a name first, then a place. I will say though that a college friend, who eventually went on to marry one of my best friends dated a girl named Marina. He now refers to his ex not so affectionately, as “boat yard.” BUT this particular friend also used to hop on campus buses while wearing a sombrero and playing a guitar and then ride it for the whole damned day.

    Although I guess “boat yard” is still better than some of the descriptions I’ve given my exes.

    My vote is still to use it. I know two other Marinas and no one has run into a problem with their names.

  25. Nicole Trager

    I agree with most everyone here.. I think it is a lovely name and didnt think of it as a place to park boats until you mentioned it. I would also go with the traditional spelling. If you are still unconvinced by the overwhelming response here on swistle, would you consider naming her Marina but calling her by a nickname like Mina, Mia or Myra? Good luck!

  26. Slim

    I used to babysit for a woman names Marina, so it’s definitely a name for me.

    I think this “name or thing?” issue is complicated by the fact that lots of places (Madison, Georgia) were named for people, and some names (Rose, Lily, Patience) were chosen particularly because of the thing they mean.

    And then there’s Marina, which in both cases is derived from the adjective “marine.” I think a name associated with the ocean is lovely.

  27. Carmen

    I think of it as a Greek name BEFORE I think of it as a place to park a boat, and I grew up near several marinas. I say use it. It’s a beautiful name that I sadly couldn’t convince my husband to use (he wanted Santina and I just didn’t like it as much). USE IT! :)

  28. Angela

    I didn’t even think of a marina when I first read the world. I don’t think I’ve ever actually said the word marina in my life…

    Maybe it’s just my hormones talking (I’m due in ten days!) but a lot of “naming issues” that I’ve seen on here lately just seem totally silly to me. The fact that a marina is a thing should make no difference to you. It’s a great name! Get over it and use it!

    It’s funny what Swistle said about place names in that place. I grew up in Austin, Texas and went to school with at least ten boys named Austin/Austen over the years. It helps too that the city is named after a person–Stephen F. Austin, and so Austin is also a surname!

  29. Anonymous

    The first and only time I’ve met somebody named Marina I immediately thought of the place. I found it really interesting and assumed it was a choice by the parents and not a “namey name.” But it didn’t stop me from loving it!

  30. Traci, the question asker

    Hi Everyone! Yay! I’m officially convinced. Not only was Swistle’s answer super helpful, but the comments were too. I think the thing I thought aboutwas how I might respond to my little girl saying “mom, my name is a place where we eat lunch!” (We do live by several marinas by the way.) Whereas before I sent in this question, I might have imagined myself apologetically saying “Yes, it’s unfortunate, but there are other wonderful things about your name.” I have now shifted my thinking just enough to be able to imagine myself saying “Yes! Aren’t you lucky? It’s so pretty there! You are also named after your grandmas and there are two princesses with your name too!” So, thank you for all of the comments. If the baby is a girl she will definitely be Marina Lynn. I’ll report back in 20 weeks or so :) Thanks again.

  31. Slim

    Yay, Traci!

    Do you listen to the Writer’s Almanac on NPR? There was a poem about your daughter this morning:

    Let’s take a walk
    Into the world
    Where if our shoes get white
    With snow, is it snow, Marina,
    Is it snow or light?
    Let’s take a walk

  32. Diane

    I’m glad you’re going to use the name! I see I’m very late commenting here, but I didn’t get the association either. I’d be tempted to call her Marilyn — a combination of both names! — sometimes as a nickname. It’s beautiful, I’m so happy to hear you’re going to use it if you have a girl!

  33. A

    Great update. I loved Marina. I was shocked to read that this was five years ago that you asked the question. I remembered this question clearly when reading the update, wow.

  34. Traci, the question asker

    Time flies! Baby boy was Samuel, so the three are Clayton, Samuel and Marina. 💕💕


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