Baby Boy or Girl Carrot-with-an-M, Sibling to Avila

Dear Swistle,

As a long-time reader, I am glad to finally be able to send you a question of my own. We named our daughter Avila (pronounced AV-i-la) after a saint we loved, feisty Teresa of Avila, and also after our two mothers who both have Therese in their names. As we didn’t announce the name until birth, I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty that the pronunciation of her name would bring. Perhaps we live in a friendlier place than most, but people are constantly asking me what our daughter is named and it often takes several tries (it rhymes with Avalon, Avalanche etc.) and some confusion before it’s sorted out. We also have family who see her a couple times a year who still mispronounce her name, including her Grandpa.

Now that we are expecting baby number two, I would really love to choose a name that doesn’t cause so many pronunciation problems. In fact, my husband and I are beginning to realize that although we love Avila’s name for the reasons we chose it, for the most part our naming style trends towards the more familiar. For boy’s names we’re set—deciding between Xavier or Blaise—but girl’s names are posing a problem for us. Our last name is Carrot with an M.

My husband loves the name Anastasia with the nickname Anya, but I am afraid that I will have to explain Anya as much as Avila, or at least that people won’t recognize it at first: (Did you say Ana? etc.) And I’m not enthused by the other nicknames for Anastasia.

We both love the name Rose, and we’ve discussed a number of other names including:



Magdalena (nn Lena)


Sylvie (my husband’s not on board)


We’d like to pick a saint name, but that hardly narrows the field as so many names (both unusual and familiar) come from saints.

As much as I’d love to choose Rose, or another good name, and call it done, I’m worried that Avila and Rose just don’t work together. One is so uncommon and the other so classic. We’d also like to have more children, and if we continue in the “pronounceable/familiar” trend, will Avila one day feel strange to have a more unusual name than anyone else?

I feel stuck. Should we go with Anya and just embrace the unusual? Should we go with Rose and forget sibling naming unity? Or choose something else? I feel like what we name baby two will make a big difference for how we name any future children.

Although my due-date is in January, we’d love to stop going in circles on this! Thanks for your help!






Name update:

Thanks for all your suggestions! Naming all our kids after saintly geographical locations, (such as the name Siena that so many of you suggested,) was an appealing idea, but seemed potentially limiting in the long run. So, when we did have a second little girl, we named her Rose Therese Eowyn. The names Rose Therese are in honor of St. Therese of Lisieux (whose symbol is the rose), and Eowyn is a courageous woman from the Lord of the Rings books that my husband and I both admire. We waffled a little on giving her two middle names, but in the end since we could not pick between them, we gave her both.

33 thoughts on “Baby Boy or Girl Carrot-with-an-M, Sibling to Avila

  1. Erin Beth

    My first thought for you was Siena. I think Magdalena would work well with Avila in terms of familiarity. I also think Rose could work. Other thoughts:

  2. Maree

    I love your naming style! Any of your choices will be lovely. Considering the honour name aspect of your daughter’s name I don’t think a shift in style will be a problem. It is very common for the first child to have a name that differs slightly for family reasons. Also tastes change – if you have any sort of gap between children or a large family there is a natural progression between siblings as styles shift. So I guess I’m saying go for what you like, tell a positive story and make each child feel that their own name is special for its own reason. Using a saint is a great way to do this – you can highlight the positive aspects of your child’s nature that they share with the saint.

    After that I don’t think I can be too helpful. My list heavily skews traditional saint name but that means I wouldn’t have anything original to say you won’t have already considered :). When I saw Blaise though I did think ‘ooh what about Pascale? ‘ That doesn’t really meet your other requirements though.

    About pronounciation. YMMV but have you thought about letting that slide? My daughter’s name has two common forms (maybe like Nye-oh-me and Nay-oh-me) and I just let it go with whatever people say. Our family have our way of saying her name which she uses but she doesn’t seem to have ever noticed that there are variations. My name is similar and I never notice which version people use. Think how easy that could be:
    “This is my daughter Av-i-la”
    “Pleased to meet you A-VIL-a”
    “Isn’t it a nice day…”
    End conversation. No stress and the only problem with her lovely name is not a problem any longer! Anyhow… if the last paragraph made you cringe please ignore it… good luck with your lovely baby.

  3. Sargjo

    Zelie? For St Therese’s mother. I suppose there might be a minor pronunciation kerfuffle over ZEHlie or ZAYlie. But still-great style match with Avila. How do you feel about Sabine? Or keep Rose but do a spectacular and meaningful middle name like Benedetta or Lourdes and then think of it as a secret double name.

  4. Dances with diapers

    You say that you’re realizing with the exception of your daughter’s name your taste is more familiar. So I think if you go out of your way to find something uncommon you’ll just feel all the more trapped into an uncommon name next time and will give up a lot of names you love and settle for names you just like.
    I don’t think my kids names to match stylistically. I do think they need to be loved equally and all be meaningful. So my advice is stick with saint names so that can be your common theme. If Rose is the name you love, name her Rose. If with baby 3 you love another name as traditional as Rose, use it. If you love one as unfamiliar as Avila, use it! Somewhere in between? Use it!
    I actually think Avila and Rose to great together. They aren’t matchy but they compliment each other well.

  5. Kristen

    Like other commenters I don’t think you should worry about any stylistic difference in Rose and Avila. In fact the only reason I think they vary in style is because Rose is more common where Avila is not. They both strike me as classically pretty sounding names, and if Avila were more common if group them together.

    I will say I saw Clara on your list and that is one of two contenders for my baby due this fall, but we are hesitating because of the varied pronunciations. We were actually surprised to hear some family members read the name as “clah-ra”. So I wanted to share since pronunciation is important to you too.

    1. Cece

      I’m confused! It might be a British thing – but here the only way to pronounce Clara is with a long A – like Lara but with a C in front of it. Is there another common pronunciation in the US? Like Claire-ah?

      1. Christi with an I

        depends on the part of the US but yes, I would generally say Claire-ah for Clara. Short A sound, but I’m in the southern part of the US. I suspect there are other parts that would say if differently.

  6. Elisabeth

    Personally, I don’t mind a happy jumble. Your names could all work (though I’d like Rosa with Avila better than Rose, but either way. :) )
    A few others to consider:
    Avila and Julian ( Julian of Norwich was definately cool).
    Avila and Lourdes (makes a geography/saintly connection)
    Avila and Siena (ibid, there was a Catherine of Siena)
    And for some unknown reason, Rachel just popped into my head. Avila and Rachel are so different, as sisters can be, but yet strikes my fancy.

  7. Ashley

    Of the names you listed I really like Magdalena/Lena with Avila. Having said that, I think Rose and Avila work as a sibling set as well. Rose is more common, but still not heard very often. For what it’s worth, I’m an Ashley born in the 80s and my sister has a name that is significantly more unusual. I don’t think either of us have ever given the discrepancy much thought.

    Anastasia is on my favorite name list as well, but I recently learned that Anastasia is the name of the girl in the 50 Shades of Grey books/movie. I never read the books or saw the movie but know that tons of people did and I wonder if enough time has passed yet that the association has faded. I definitely wouldn’t want that to be people’s first association when they hear my daughter’s name. Something to consider!

  8. Dr. Awkward

    Of the names you list, I’m immediately drawn to Magdalena as a sister for Avila. They go beautifully together!

    I worry just a bit that the similarity of Anya and Avila would make it even harder for people to get them right — though I can’t imagine that Anya on its own would be particularly confusing.

    If Rose is the name you both love best, don’t count it out, but be aware that it may come with some baggage. My name was in the top 100 the year I was born, and my little sister’s name has never cracked the top 1000! Speaking from experience, I can say that there was some angst in our younger days; my sister intermittently resented the fact that people could properly spell & pronounce my name but not hers, and went through several phases where she wanted to be called something else. However, we’ve both grown into well-adjusted adults who like our names :).

    Any interest in the lovely and unusual Rosalia (also a saint) with nickname Rose? Or how about Juliana, Helena, Dorothea, Cecilia, Camilla, Lydia, Beatrice, Gemma, or Veronica?

  9. Kerry

    I think Rose is a great choice for you guys. It goes with Avila just fine. Avila COULD be the start of a set of sibling names that are all inventive and one of a kind, but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be the start of a set of sibling names that are romantic and poetic, like Rose.

    Or if Rose seems too common (Although how often do you actually meet a little girl named Rose? Almost never), maybe you’d like a rarer flower name, like Zinnea or Hyacinth?

    I’d be a little worried about some of your other frontrunners, since your annoyance with the way people struggle to pronounce Avila seems to be pretty strong. I think people might say Leeena or Layna, Clair-uh or Clah-ra, and you might even get some confusion around Genevieve (Jin-uh-veev or – John-vi-ev, or maybe some people who have just never seen the name before). Josephine is probably safe, unless you wanted to use Josie as a nickname (Jozee or Josee?)

    1. Elisabeth

      The only Hyacinth I’ve met was a young man! Not sure where his family were originally from, somewhere in central Asia I thought.

  10. Nicki

    I think your style is pretty/romantic and meaningful, and that all of the names on your list are great. I especially like 3-syllable names with Avila:
    Avila and Genevieve
    Avila and Josephine
    Avila and Magdalen (Lena)
    Although Avila is not common, it sounds exactly how it is spelled and is quite easy to say. I hope you dont see this fabulous name as a burden just bc a few people cant manage to remember a unique name. Continue to be proud of this wonderful name choice and your daughter will wear it proudly too! And go with what you love and has meaning for you this time around – you have some excellent choices.

  11. NameNutt

    Hi G,

    I really think you should go with Anastasia/Anya. In my opinion it goes best with Avila and I don’t have a problem with familiarity of the name at all. Yes you have had issues with Avila, but I think MANY more people will be familiar with Anastasia and Anya, so I don’t see as much of a “problem”. In fact I wonder if it may help the pronunciation of Avila as the style of the names will be more obvious and people may take note.

    I also like what Maree said about just letting it go, depending on who it is. When she is old enough (?) I bet she will take over correcting people herself – if it bothers her. And I think her opinion/response will be the most important as it is her name. People will either make the effort or they won’t.

    Regarding 50 Shades, I have never read it and I didn’t know Anastasia was her name. Time will pass, something else will come along and the association will be forgotten. Think Twilight Vs Game of Thrones. Most people will associate Anastasia with the Russian Princess as she is factual. When introducing your girls, you can always say, we named them after Saints (Teresa) Avila and Anastasia. This is Avila and this is Anya.

    Because of the AV- and AN- sounds, I don’t think they are too matchy, even though they are both A’s. I also don’t believe you will be painting yourself into a corner for further children with just two names so far. The link is the Saints name, not the letters.

    Of your other names, I like Magdalena/Lena and I also prefer Rosa with Avila over Rose. Clara and Genevieve are also lovely, however, I pronounce Clara rhyming with car, bar & jar, not air, hair & mare.

    All the best!

  12. Edie

    I like Magdalena / Lena for you too, although the Layna/Leena issue may annoy you too much. Was also going to suggest Siena.

    Or – another A name – how would you feel about Alba (for Alba de Tormes, where Teresa of Avila’s shrine is)? Also has the lovely meaning “dawn” (though can also mean “white”). Pronunciation looks pretty unambiguous to me. Avila and Alba.

    Or Rosalba, called Rose! Gets you the name you love, the (subtle) spiritual connection to the meaning of her sister’s name, and a degree of rarity that works with Avila (I think). Pronunciation should be Rose-AL-ba, and although I suppose you might get some attempts at ROZ-al-ba, the familiarity of names like Rosanna should steer people in the right direction. Avila and Rosalba; Avila and Rose.

  13. Tessa

    Just some personal experience here. My name is a well recognized classic and my sister’s is…not. Her name is pretty much completely made up, hard to pronounce, and is said very different from how it is written. (Ends in an “a” but is pronounced with an ending of “ee”). She usually isn’t thrilled with the work that comes with getting people to say it correctly but she’s never mentioned or complained about the fact that our names don’t match or that I got the easier name. I also don’t ever remember a time when someone asked or commented about the difference in our names. She’s also the middle child and my brother’s name is back to classic biblical so she’s sandwiched between us. My vote is to pick a name you love or one with meaning and not worry so much about coordination.

    1. Amanda

      Too funny. My sister has a “made up” name and my name is Amanda (#2 when I was named). I hate my name. She loves hers but does tell me its a challenge. We talk ALL THE TIME about the fact our names do not match. Must depend on your family.

  14. Reagan

    I am sorry you are regretting the name, Avila, as it is lovely and has a great story behind your choice of it. And that is what I would recommend for all your future children’s names – ones with stories behind them that you can share with each child.

    Both Xavier and Blaise are grat choices and hit the right note of familiar but not too common.

    From your list, my favorite with Avila is Magdalena since it veers a bit away from classic. But I do find Rose is refreshing as a first name as it is often stuck in the middle.

    I too thought of Siena as a good option but only if you admire St Catherine of Siena,

    Go with a name that has special meaning to and it will all work out.

  15. Shaeby

    So I don’t see a style difference at all–I think all your choices are romantic and beautiful.

    I love Avila and Rose together! I also love Avila and Clara.

    I don’t think there would be as much of a learning curve with Anastasia/Anya as you’d think. The generation that watched the animated Anastasia is parent age now, and Anastasia went by Anya in the movie. Also, 50 Shades of Gray was a flash in the pan that’s already fading, so I don’t think this will present a problem.

    Thematically, I also love Avila and Magdalena together. Both are uncommon and Magdalena is a shade more familiar. I think the name Magdalena is gorgeous, and if you’re nicknamers, it has great nickname potential.

    You cannot make a bad choice! And Avila is such a wonderful name!

  16. KD

    I wouldn’t worry too much about sibling names going together style-wise. Plus, I don’t think Avila and any of of the names you’ve mentioned are jarring in any way. That said, I’m not a fan of Anastasia, and it strikes me as much too similar to Avila, particularly with the Anya nickname. From your list, I love Rose, Genevieve (this one is my favorite), and Magdalena. Good luck!

  17. TheFirstA

    I don’t think it matters if Avila is more unusual, so long as each name as a story with meaning. If you want all your kids to have saint names, that will become the style link between them all. If Avila ever does feel her name is to unusual, she could always go by something else. Perhaps her middle name or something like Ava as a nickname.

    FWIW, my name is unusual and my siblings all have super common names. There were times when I was younger than I wished my name was more orindary, but it was t ever a huge deal. And I never really considered my name in the context of my siblings names until I was much older. At that pint, it really didn’t matter

  18. Meg

    Would something like Guinevere work? Unusual but known formal name that has a more common nickname of Gwen? There’s also Daphne, a beautiful name that is uncommon but not too unusual! Both are saints as well!

  19. Bff

    Magdalena (Lena) goes so well with Avila that I have a hard time seeing another sibling pair. It’s a saint name, Lena sounds great with Avila, and I think it will bridge Avila to future siblings.

  20. Evie

    My younger daughter has an unusual name which people have much more difficulty learning and pronouncing than w anticipated. She’s 18 months. We have begun introducing her by a nickname (Lia) to those random people at the park, etc. it has really cut down the stress. Maybe you could try it?

    I adore the name Anastasia. It’s on my list. And the nickname Anya is darling

  21. Jean C.

    Another vote for Magdalena. So great by itself, but perfect with Avila. I don’t think anyone would have trouble pronouncing Magdalena, and perhaps Lena by itself will need some pronunciation assistance initially for some people (but I doubt everyone). I’m sorry that family members are refusing to pronounce your daughter’s name correctly. I think it reflects more on them than on the name.
    I do wonder if you have a nickname for Avila? When I saw Lena, I thought Avi would be an adorable nickname for a big sister to a Lena.
    Good luck! Definitely provide us with an update.

  22. Jd

    I have a Rosalie which is pretty straight forward but people call her Rose, Rosa. My dad doesn’t like #2’s name and calls him by his initials. It annoying but I let it go. i think Avilia is lovely and really not that hard. One suggestion is how you describe the pronunciation- it sounds like Avalon but rhymes with tequila :) or another rhyming word of your choice. If you tell people it rhymes with Avalon you will confuse them. Or at least you confused me!- I had to go back and check that I read your name right because it definitely doesn’t rhyme with Avalon.
    I think Anya is beautiful but not a natural nick name for Anastasia (Ana, Stacia,) which might add to confused pronunciation for folks who know her full name is Anastasia. Maybe just Anya? Magdalena, Lena is my favorite

  23. Taylor

    I think all of the names on your list are lovely and would go well with Avila. To me, as someone else mentioned, all of your names seem romantic sounding, so I think that any of them would match Avila. If you both love Rose, I think Avila and Rose is a sweet sister pair! And I don’t think there’d be a problem with adding names later on that match both. Rose is more common than Avila, but I still don’t think it’s all that common.

    My only concern from your list would be Anya, only because it looks so similar to Avila since they both start and end with A. Not a huge deal though, but I actually think I like Rose, Genevieve, Magdelena, and Josephine better with Avila. But that’s just me!

    For what it’s worth, I have a very common, well known name and my sister has a more unique name that is hardly ever heard (something similar to Avila where it is not unknown, but more rare). We never really questioned it until we realized the difference when we were older because our names go together well anyways. And yes there were times she wished she had a name that was on a keychain, but there were also times I wished I had a more unique name which could be all my own! So I think it all works out and we’re both happy with our names.

  24. Heidi J

    I love Magdalena with Avila. I think they coordinate really well without being too matchy. However, if Rose is y’all’s favorite, it’s a perfectly good option too. I don’t think it clashes with Avila. Be prepared to hear A LOT of “that’s my [whoever]’s middle name!” though.

  25. Carmen

    Anastasia in the 50 Shades of Grey went by Ana most of the time. I have read the books and it didn’t occur to me that was the name in the books until I read it it in Ashley’s comment. I wouldn’t worry about that.

    When I hear Anya, I immediately think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; one of the characters was Anya. I think for those of us that grew up with or watched Buffy, that might be the connection that is made more frequently than anything else. And because of that, people will know how to pronounce it and won’t require an explanation. :) I like it! Anastasia/Anya is my vote.

  26. Caro

    From your list, I love Genevieve. I also thought of Jacinta or Lucia (two of the children of Fatima). If not Clara, what about Clare? Or Gemma?

  27. Erica

    Like others, I was going to suggest Siena. I also very much like Magdalena. Sticking to a slightly unusual name that would be well known in religious circles seems like the best choice.

  28. Callie

    As a mom of an Xavier, I should mention that we do hear multiple pronunciations (ex-Zay or Zay). Although it’s not easy, I am trying to be chill with the pronunciation like it was mentioned by someone else above. Through the course of his life, he’ll meet people from all different places and backgrounds. I’d like him to be flexible in those situations.

    If you want a boy’s name that is consistently pronounced and spelled the same, I’d recommend my other son’s name, Vincent.

    I love all of your choices and don’t think you can go wrong. I’d lean a little more to Rosa or Rosalia rather than Rose but it’s not a strong preference. Magdalena is simply gorgeous and I don’t think that any challenges you might run into with Anastasia outweigh the elegance of it. Siena and Zelie were also great suggestions.


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