Baby Girl, Sister to Jacob: Alana or Clara?

Dear Swistle,

My sister introduced me to your blog when I was pregnant for the first time about 2.5 years ago and I’ve been following ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reconsidered my approval for a name after hearing you suggest it. You have a way of making me think twice about names I would have otherwise bypassed – which is why I’m writing to you now.

My husband and I are due with our second in October. We already have a sweet and funny toddler named Jacob (usually call him Jake or Jakey) and we found out we’re having a girl this time!

We have two front-runner names that we love: Clara and Alana. Clara is a loose nod to my maiden name, Sincl@ir. We like both names because they aren’t overly popular right now – unlike Jacob – and they are names that have existed for years. We also clearly have an affinity for names that end in “A”.

Here is where our issues begin. We are struggling to choose between the two, and we are really struggling with a middle name for Clara. If we pick Alana she will be Alana Claire. If we pick Clara we have considered Clara Rose (both of our paternal grandmothers are Rose) but that feels like I’m leaving out my maternal grandmother (Ruth) who passed just a few years ago. I would love to honor my sister Stephanie who does not have children, but I’m not loving the flow of “Clara Stephanie.” My other sister, Courtney, honored my mother, Gayl, by giving her daughter the middle name “Abigail”. I’ll save you the pain of listing all of my extended family members.

I’m less focused on my husband’s side only because Jacob’s middle name is a family name on his side so I’d love to honor my side this time. If I were having another boy, we’d have probably used Stephen (my dad) as the middle.

Do you have any tips for finding a honor/meaningful middle-name when there isn’t an obvious choice? And how do we choose between two names we love!!? Do you support coin-flipping? Should we let our elderly social security volunteer at the hospital choose? ;) Help!

Thank you!!!


Clara Rose seems perfect to me: both of you having paternal grandmothers named Rose is such a fun coincidence and makes it nearly irresistible to me, as well as qualifying it for the title of The Obvious Choice. Not including your other grandmother doesn’t seem like an argument against the name, since it applies to every name except Ruth—and if you went with Clara Ruth, you’d be leaving out your grandmother Rose. Unless you’re open to using Clara Stephanie Rose Courtney Ruth, you’re not going to pack everyone in there and that’s perfectly normal and okay.

I do also like Clara Ruth, very much.

And I like the sound of Clara Stephanie, too. I find the more I say it, the more I like to say it. I also like that it is more clearly an honor name: Rose is a common middle name right now, so I wouldn’t necessarily guess that it was in honor of anyone; but if I heard a Clara Stephanie, I’d think, “I’ll bet she’s named for an aunt!,” and I’d find a casual way to ask if you had any sisters. You could count it as a double honor name if your sister was named for your dad (or even if she wasn’t).

Are you planning to have more children? I am asking not only to be nosy, but also to wonder if using Alana Claire would rule out using Clara for a possible future daughter. It is very hard to make this kind of decision: I agonized over whether we should give Henry our two favorite boy names—we were pretty sure he was our last baby, but what if we had another boy later and were sorry to have used both names up? It’s especially tricky because if we DID have another boy at this point, I’m not sure we’d still want to use that name we were worried about “wasting.” (To be fair to Past Swistle, it’s ten years later now: at the two-year point I still would have wanted the name.)

If you’re not planning any more children, though, Clara Alana is another option. I don’t always like an -a/A- combination, but I do in this case—and I rarely mind it with a first/middle anyway.

If you’re not planning more children and you decide on Alana as the first name, I like Alana Sincl@ir. I am heart-eyed over mothers being able to use their maiden names in their children’s names, and yours is such a pretty one.

I also support coin-flipping, or putting a poll on Facebook for your family/friends to take, or asking strangers at the grocery store (or on a name blog!) what they think, or any other fun games you might think of. If nothing else, this sort of thing can help you see where your actual preferences lie: are you rooting for one name over the other in a poll, or are you saying “…how about best two out of three” when the coin falls? These things can provide such useful information. Or, if you find you really don’t have a preference, then you know you can use either one; perhaps you’ll want to take both names to the hospital and decide once you see her.




Name update:

Hi Swistle,

I wanted to thank you for your naming help this summer and give you a name update for our little girl.

When we wrote, we had been deciding between two names:
1. Clara + unknown middle name, and
2. Alana Claire

Your response, and your readers, made us feel like Clara Stephanie (middle name after my sister) was the perfect choice. But, about a month after I wrote my cousin had a baby girl and named her Clare. We hemmed and hawed for several weeks, and ultimately decided that we were uncomfortable with two very similarly named children who would only be 3 months apart. This cousin is the only one on my maternal side, and ironically, my sister’s daughter already shares a name with Clare’s dog-sibling. So it was just too close.

The loss of the name Clara also made my husband and I realize that although Alana Claire was a definite 2nd runner in the name game, it didn’t feel like the one.

So, we bought more name books and started over. After another month of deliberation in the Longest Naming of a Child Ever, we are happy to share that our daughter, Alex@ndra Claire “Allie” joined our family on October 11.

Thank you for all of your help! We were really grateful for your assistance and excited to read every comment that came in.

31 thoughts on “Baby Girl, Sister to Jacob: Alana or Clara?

  1. Renee

    It sounds like you might be into tweaks to honour names, so how about Ruby to cover all three grandmothers? (Ruby and Rose both red, Ru in Ruth and Ruby.) Clara Ruby sounds amazing. So does Alana Ruby. I agree to save some of the honours in case there is a next time. Although Sincl@ir is an awesome surname to use somehow so if this is your last kid, I highly recommend Clara, I don’t think you’ll ever regret incorporating your maiden name.

    1. Kristen

      Thank you! I loved this idea but my husband says Ruby immediately reminds him of the little girl from “Christmas Vacation” ;)

      1. Renee

        Glad you liked the idea! Associations are everything. I hadn’t thought of that little Ruby Sue in years!

  2. Alison

    FWIW, my sister (born mid-70s) is Sarah Stephanie, (just because our parents liked the name) so the flow of Clara Stephanie sounds perfectly normal to me! :)

  3. Margaret

    I like the flow of Clara Stephanie! It’s not a common combination, which may be why it sounds a little “off” to you, but there’s nothing awkward about the flow at all.

    Between Clara Rose and Clara Ruth, I think I would go with Clara Ruth. Ruth isn’t as common a middle name as Rose, and since you want to honor your side of the family this time, it makes more sense to use the name that is solely from your side instead of one that happens to show up on both.

    I also like Alana Claire but agree with Swistle that I wouldn’t use Claire if there’s a possibility you might have another daughter in the future.

  4. Jean C.

    Both name choices are beautiful, but I especially love Clara with big brother Jacob. I think it’s the repeating “C” sound that is especially pleasing to my ear when I say them together. I think you should go for Rose, unless you were especially close to your grandma Ruth. My husband and I have grandmas with identical names and we used that name as our daughter’s first because it was such a fun coincidence and it just felt like kismet.
    If this isn’t a last baby, maybe Stephan would work for a potential future boy? It would honor both your dad and your sister.

  5. Brooke

    I have the same style of subtle honor names when the obvious choices don’t work. My daughter’s middle is Pearl after my mother (whose name is a version of Margaret). It made sense with our first name selection (among other things).

    If I remember correctly, Stephen/Stephanie means Laurel so that could be another option. My vote is for Clara. If this is your last child, maybe consider two middle names if you can’t decide. Should you have a third, you can always save some options for later.

  6. Brooke

    After a quick Google search Stephen/Stephanie means “crown”. I must have been thinking of the laurel crowns worn in Ancient Rome. It might be worth doing more research.

  7. beep

    I like Alana better than Clara–more uncommon and distinctive to my ear.

    What about Stephania/Stefania as a middle name for improved flow? Although I think Alana Stephanie is fine. I am drawn to the idea of your sister having a namesake, especially if this would be meaningful to her.

  8. Jaime

    Why not just use Sincl@ir as the middle name to honor your whole side of the family? I think Alana Sincl@ir sounds very glam. Or, if you went with Clara Stephanie (which I think flows fine, btw) that would honor both your sister and your father Stephen, IMO.

    My fave option for you is Alana Sincl@ir.

  9. JD

    Why not use Sincl@ir as the first but call her Clara? Sincl@ir Stephanie, Sincl@ir Ruth or Sincl@ir Rose? But call her by the sweet Nickname Clara. So beautiful, special and so meaningful. I have three family members that go exclusively by names that are not their full first name and it is surprisingly easy (school forms, doctors offices all ask what you want to be called by).
    I especially like Stephanie as a middle since your dad is Stephen

  10. Stephanie

    Clara Ruth is my favorite. But all of your options are lovely, solid names.

    One note on Rose as a middle name. It is exceedingly popular. My daughter’s middle name is Rose because it was almost her first name and we loved it enough we didn’t want to let it go completely. I found out after the fact how many of the other little girls and babies I knew had that same middle name. I’m still happy with our choice because I still love it, but it is part of the package deal with it.

  11. Elisabeth

    I quite like Clara Rose’ story about the 2 grandmas, but oddly Clara Stephanie strikes my ear in a pleasant fashion.

  12. Ash

    I’m going to second the suggestion of using Sincl@ir as the middle name for Alana. That takes care of the honor name issue other than it doesn’t honor your maternal grandmother Ruth as I’m assuming she had a different last name. With that being said, as Swistle mentioned, it’s very hard to honor all the people you mentioned with just this one child’s name! Using Sincl@ir as the middle name does also open up Clara for a future child if that name still strikes your fancy at that time.

  13. Kimberly

    I’m voting for Clara because I’m not sure how to pronounce Alana. A-LAWN-A? A-LANE-A? A-LANN-A? All of which are lovely but would probably drive me crazy with corrections.

    1. Andrea

      This. I would play with the spelling to make it more clear. Alanna seems more obviously A-lann-a. Alaina seems more obviously A-lane-a (but if that is the pronunciation I would just go with Elena, unless you want a more obvious “a” sound at the beginning and then I would use Alayna), and I don’t know how to make it clear that you want A-lawn-a.

  14. Kay W.

    I really like Clara Stephanie! It has weight, and it’s two compelling classics back to back in an unexpected combination. (Despite its status as an 70s/80s/90s megahit, it’s worth remembering Stephanie is an ancient name…there was a Spanish Queen Stephanie from the 11th century.) I also love that is honors your dad.

    If not Clara Stephanie, would you consider Clara Ruth Rose? Or Clara Rose Ruth? You could hyphen Rose-Ruth or Ruth-Rose, too. Again, so classic and so unexpected!

    I’m partial to Clara over Alana. I know Alana also has a great lineage, but I’m mildly annoyed by the spelling confusions it seems to create and the myriad other names it is very similar to (Alana, Alanna, Elana, Elena, Ilana, Iliana, Elliana, Alina, Elaina…)

  15. FE

    I don’t know if this flows much better, but would Annie work as a subtle nod to Stephan(n)ie? Clara Annie. It is more similar on style. It also leaves Stephen open if there should ever be another boy.

    Note: Where I come from Clara is only prounounced rhyming with car as opposed to care … obviously the pronunciation of the first affects its flow with the second.

  16. Maree

    You might have to stay with me on this one… Etienne (spelling?) is the French form of Stephen. I once met a girl named Ettianne (again I’m not sure re spelling, it was pronounced like the male name with an Anne sound at the end).

    Clara Ettianne would honour both sister and Dad. Saying that I would use Clara Sinclair regardless of the name double up as I think maiden name trumps other considerations.

    1. FrenchNameNerd

      While Étienne shares origines with the name Stephen, the connection is not obvious and goes back centuries. The more obvious French form of Stephen is Stéphane.

  17. TheFirstA

    I think you should use Clara. It has the most meaning for you, and I am always a sucker for meaningful names. If you don’t like the flow of Clara Alana, perhaps Claire Alana? This also seems like a more direct nod to the surname S!ncla!r.

    I agree that Claira Rose is the obvious choice, and it would be hard for me to pass on a twofer honor name. I also wouldn’t worry about leaving Grandma Ruth out. You can always keep her name in reserve if you have another girl some day. Although, it did occur to me that you could just go with an R middle initial, and claim it as a nod to all of their names. This would work in my family, but I know it might seem like too much of a stretch in some families.

    If you’d rather name after your sister, I think that the flow of Clara Stephanie is fine. First/middle flow is not nearly as important as first/last, and I think a meaningful middle is more important than something that simply “sounds nice.” You also don’t have to use her first name. Could you use her middle name, instead? I would also count Stephanie as another twofer, since it would count as a nod to your sister & your dad. Perhaps thinking of it this way would increase the honor feeling enough that you’d feel better about using it?

    I’ll also throw out that the name Alana confuses me a bit. I have known someone with the name who said ir as ah-lahn-ah, and that is always my default. However, I’ve also met a couple people who say it as ah-laine-ah (like Elena) and so that always causes me to hesitate. If you haven’t already thought about it, it might be worth considering how you feel about using a name that could have an ambiguous pronunciation for some people.

      1. Kristen

        I agree, that has been a stressful point for us that could prove to be a dealbreaker. We like the “air” pronunciation vs the “are”. I was actually shocked to hear that Alana was also disputable. I’ve always known Alana to be said one way and Alaina/Elena to be spelling for alternate pronunciations.

        1. Andrea

          This must be a regional thing because I’ve heard several variations of “Alana” but only one pronunciation of Clara (with the “air” sound in the middle). We live in the western USA. (I’m from western Canada, and the Clara pronunciation is the same there too).

          1. Renee

            I’m from western Canada and I had only ever heard Clara as -air- until about three years ago (?) when people started naming their daughters Clara after the Dr.Who character, now it’s 50/50 when I meet a baby named Clara. As for Alana (which I most commonly see spelled with two Ns here), I never even thought it wouldn’t be A-LAN-uh until people started commenting. Alaina and Elena are different names in my experience, but clearly, it is regional.

          2. beep

            So interesting.

            I now live in big-blue-city Western US but have lived on the East Coast and in Europe and Asia. I’ve heard both Clah-ra and Clair-ah multiple times, enough that I wouldn’t be able to be sure, though in my current town my kids’ peers’ names lean Clair-ah. Clara and Claire are pretty popular here in our circles; my 7yo son has had multiples in his class in multiple years.

            I have known far fewer people named Alana/Alanna, all pronounced Ah-lahn-ah. I’ve also known people named Elaina and Lena, but these names seem distinct to me in spelling and pronounciation.

  18. Kim C

    I prefer Alana over Clara.

    Alana Stephanie is quite lovely to my ear and Alana Stephanie Rose would be absolutely gorgeous if two middle names were an option.

    Alana Sincl@ir is also very distinguished.

    For what it’s worth, Clara has only ever been pronounced Clah-ra where I come from too!

    All the best!

  19. Annie

    I love all your name combo possibilities, and am also swooning over Alana Sinclair! You can’t go wrong with whatever you decide!

    The pronunciation comments are so interesting to me! I have only ever heard Clara with the “air” pronunciation (except for my mom’s best friend’s grandmother, who was an Italian woman in her 80s/90s when I knew her, and used to pinch my little sister’s cheeks and say, “sweet Allison Klahhhhra” (her middle name is Klara, and the woman’s sister’s name was Clara, so I think she assigned some kind of nostalgic name connection to her) in a heavy accent. I didn’t envy my sister in those moments! On the other hand, I never know how to pronounce Alana when I see it on a class roster, and have no idea how to spell the name when I hear “A-lain-a” or “A-lahn-a”. I think both pronunciations are lovely, though! For what it’s worth, I’m from the west coast.

  20. Megan

    I like Clara Stephanie Rose, the four letter, begins with R, can still be a subtle honor for Ruth without making the name too long.


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