I believe that every name has a story, whether it is as common as James or as obscure as Cashel. A name isn’t just a pleasing collection of letters and sounds; it is an invitation to add your own lines to the story.

While I love to talk about names, I think the most important thing is that parents have confidence in their choice. The choosing matters more than the name.

Regular Features

Check back Monday through Thursday for the Baby Name of the Day – a profile of a name. Most are suggested by readers. (You can play, too – email me at appmtn (at) gmail (dot) com.) I try to cover the history, etymology and literary/cultural uses of the name. And yes, every name has drawbacks. I’ll give you my opinion of those, too.

Fridays are a list or topic post – they evolve over time.

Every Sunday, you’ll find a Sunday Summary of naming news from around the web and the world. There’s a growing community of name bloggers – please visit!

On Mondays, you’ll find me at Nameberry.  I can’t say enough about the generosity and thoughtfulness of the site’s founders, Linda and Pam.  They created so much of the conversation that we all enjoy with their bestselling books, and it continues to grow and flourish online.

There’s a lively conversation about the names, so feel free to participate. You can be honest, but please be nice. For more on this subject, please see A Comment on Comments.

About the Author

Abby Sandel is the highly opinionated voice behind Appellation Mountain.

Like more than a quarter of a million girls born in the 1970s, I was named Amy. Sure, there were twice as many Jennifers. But it didn’t matter. Among my earliest memories? Hating to sign my kindergarten artwork “Amy N.” to make sure that Amy B. or Amy G. didn’t grab my leaf collage instead.

Over the next twenty years, I tried re-spelling my first name, smushing my first and middle names together, using just my initials or going by a nickname. (After I smashed a motorcycle senior year of high school, I answered to Harley for a few happy months.)

In the end, I opted for a legal name change. I’m still Amy, but I adopted a new middle name – Abigail. (There’s a story there, too.) Yes, Abby is nearly as popular as my given name, but not for 30-something women. It’s an imperfect solution, but at least I don’t cringe every time I hear my name said aloud.

About My Kids

Wondering if I’ve ever named an actual human being? As it happens, I have two small children.

My children have very common family names on their birth certificates – Alexander Arthur and Claire Caroline Wren. Our son answers to Aly, Alexei, Alex and Oluš; our daughter is known as Clio. My wonderful husband has opinions nearly as strong as mine about given names, and so we compromised with “classics on the birth certificate; unexpected nicknames in real life.”

So far, it has worked just fine, but I’m fully prepared for the day Clio comes home and announces that her nickname is silly, and from now on she’ll be known as Sonya.

Request a Name

To request a name, you can use the form below or email me at appmtn (at) gmail (dot) com.

My calendar usually fills up about four months ahead. I have a few general rules I use to choose the names profiled:

  • I try to take two names from every email I receive, whether you send me a list of twenty or a list of two. Either way is fine;
  • If I’m totally overloaded, I might not look at your suggestions for a few days, or even weeks. I hate to keep you waiting, but I also hate to lose track of requests;
  • Sometimes I agree to write about a name even though I don’t much like it at first glance. By the time I’m done with the post, chance are pretty good that I’m going to find quite a bit of positive in the name. The comments, however, may not be as kind.

Contact Me

Not into email? This form works, too.

[si-contact-form form=’1′]

Photo by the spectacular DaniPress Photography, formerly of Northern Virginia, now in Poulsbo, Washington.

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I’d like to require a name: Avelaine. I caught he name from a weird TV show I had never heard of. I kept watchig it because the style of the show was so different from most shows I watched and then one character popped up with the name Avelaine while everyone had names that were ordinary. I can’t remember the name of the show, but I’ve been curious about the name ever since. Google didnt really bring up much info on the name other than the fact it was a French name and a rarity.

I read your post on Loveday. I was very excited about this because I have been smitten with name as a middle. I’m requesting more information on Lovelace and Lovejoy, if its feasible. Thank you!

While I do not have a request, I still felt the need to comment after reading your short bio above on the name Amy and your thoughts toward it. I for one am named Winter Fawn. I swear, I had spent my entire life explaining why I was given *said* name. It was equally frustrating and perplexing at times. A name alone on paper, can certainly set you apart from other people, then its your appearance and then personality. I was this extremely tiny petite, green-eyed, blonde hair, pale skinned girl with a high pitched sqeaky voice with an odd name. Needless to say, I didn’t give off a great image, because people always looked at me funny and always questioned me if my name “REALLY” was my name. Then they would butcher my name by calling me winner not Win*T*er, which made me cringe… It was rude comments or questions that turned me away for many years. Such as, are you Native American, your parents must have been hippies to consider naming you Winter, if your not Indian. What ill prepaired parents to name you Winter just because you born in a Blizzard. Yes, my name was originally to be Sarah Fawn, but my parent decided not to stick with the S’s in the family (Summer Rose, Shawn Aron), and opt for a W instead. Mother went into early labor in a blizzard. This lead to the season name and a connection to my sister, but I never considered myself a product of a hippie, but a beautiful season that united family members and the celebration of holidays.. So, I never identified with the way people viewed my name… So your not alone in name cringes and finding your balance and identity…..Now I identify with my name, its unique qualities, and that fact that it sets me apart before I cross the threshholds of doors or open my mouth. It has helped me be open as a person and engage because my name draws attention and many questions. I guess I have become thicked skinned, and seek to in the future offer the same oportunities to my children. I never want them to have to add their middle intial to tell them apart from the other kids. Although, I hear it all the time, I still hate it when people miss the t, and same my
name by pronouncing it Winner not Win*t*er

Hi Abby,

What is the meaning of the strike-throughs on some of the links (either of names or of name descriptions)? Are these names you featured but don’t recommend? I tried to find the explanation on the site but couldn’t for some reason…derp.


Hi Jennifer –

Thanks for asking! There’s no meaning behind the strike-throughs. They’re evidence of an old mistake. Back in October 2012, I thought I should change the link structure. It used to be “appellationmountain.net/2008/07/28/name-of-the-day-gloria” – but that meant that a) if I refreshed a post, all of the old links to it were broken and b) readers couldn’t just type over ‘gloria’ with another name to see if I’d covered it. So I changed the link structure from one with the date to just ‘appellationmountain.net/name-of-the-day-gloria’ going forward – problem solved, right?

Wrong! Not only did it change all future posts, it broke the links to all prior posts where the date was still included. I haven’t been able to find a great tool to fix it, so I’m slowly going through four years’ worth of broken links.

If you see a link that is slashed through, you can search for the name on Google, and the post should be there. (appellationmountain insertnamehere works pretty well as a search on Google).


Hi! I would like to suggest Albany or Alba. These names have recently begun to intrigue me. 🙂 Thank you!!

I have a small naming dilemma that must be solved quickly as I am due in 10 days. We are not choosing our daughter’s name until we meet her, but we are leaning strongly towards the name Leora for a first, we can’t seem to find a good middle. Any suggestions?

Leora is lovely. Can you tell us a little bit about your last name? Long or short? If your last name is short, I’m tempted by something like Leora Genevieve.

Well, Leora is here and on the way to the hospital my husband suggested Rose as a middle name and it stuck. She was almost Leora Rosalind or Leora Scout.

Poppaea (pop-AY-a) and Kermit. I think Poppaea is a beautiful and regal name (name of an empress- Poppaea Sabina wife of Nero) with Poppy as an obvious nickname. Kermit is a vintage, quirky and underused classic, and the muppet association isn’t such a big deal anymore.

Good question! Appellation is a synonym for name – something of an archaic one, and I think today the closest synonym would be “designation.” It persists in French “Je m’appelle Abby” means “My name is Abby,” though technically I believe it is closer to “I call myself Abby.” So it is a play on the Appalachian Mountains, but really means a pile of (mostly) obscure names.

Hi Abby!

I am really liking the new site! Could you fix the entries for Anastasia and Conrad? Im really interested in those names and most of the information in those posts are missing.


I forgot to mention that we’re pretty set on the middle name being Francesca after my grandmother, Mary Frances, who passed away in December.


Call me crazy..or normal?, but I just found out that I’m pregnant last night and I’m already obssessing about baby names.
I have 2 girls-Ivy Zofia and Eden Fiona. Ivy and Eden. They are a pair. I don’t know how I’m ever going to find a another girl’s name to add up to their’s!
If it’s a boy it’ll be easy-Ezra Finnegan.
Any ideas? Anyone?


I love this blog! My husband thinks I am weird because I am constantly looking up names and their meanings and we aren’t expecting any children soon. I just think it is interesting. I was happy to find your site because I love your descriptions, comments, and name choices. Yay! I posted earlier, but i am not sure if it went through, so here are my name suggestions again:

Delmer (my sons name after his Great Grandpa..I did notice Elmer. We call him Del and Elm for short. )
Bliss (my maiden name, could be boy or girl)

Birdie (my great grandma’s name)
Veora {Vee-oh-rah} (my grandma’s name, love it)
Kahana (Hawaiian)

Hey, a name I totally love at the moment is
Azura ♥
I have only met one little girl with this name but she is the cutest and I think its a beautiful bbg name.

Just wanted to say I think its awesome that you mentioned the Coraline thing on nameberry! Love nameberry and your blog, two of the best naming sites out there 🙂

This site is such fun!
Here are my suggestions:
Horace (nickname Ace)

Hello. I remember you mentioning that you’ve got more girl names than boys for suggestions and thought I might help with that. These are my suggestions for Baby Name of the Day:


Hi Abby,

this name blog is really a sight for sore eyes, when you look at all the trendy spellings so popular in America right now. I always love discovering sites like yours, especially with indepth analysis of the history of a name (baby name websites are often terribly inaccurate).

I was wondering if you would maybe do a Name of the Day with Sunniva. It’s beginning to grow on me lately (also the Old English Sunngifu) and I’d love to read your take on it. Especially a definite pronunciaion. I am still a little confused about where to put the stress. Some say soo-NEE-vah, a Norwegian wrote it as SOO-nee-vah and yet another Norwegian at forvo.com sounded like he was yelling it at his daughter upstairs. Not very helpful, haha.

Thanks so much.

Hi Abby,
This is the first time I’ve checked out your site amdd it is awesome. I am going to be having a baby girl in a month after having 3 boys and 4 stepsons. I am stumped on a girls name and was wondering if you could do the name of the day for any of these following names:
Elia (ellie-uh)

Hello Abby and fellow commenters! I’m de-lurking here, although I did suggest a name that will be posted up here shortly. So excited!

I would like people to look at my own website, but first an explination. I’m a Wiccan, and all the different Pagan religions believe in the power of names. And yet I couldn’t find any website that talk about names from our subculture perspective. So I made one myself called Bewitching Names: http://bewitchingnames.blogspot.com/ Of course I’ll be happy if non-Pagan name lovers drop by too. Even though my ideas might be controversial to some, it’s been my experience that name lovers are nice, respectful commenters. So please take a look and tell me what you think!

Hi! I just want to say thank you so much for this site. I have been a name nerd forever and I LOVE this blog. I only found it a few weeks ago through a friend’s facebook post but now I visit every day. I haven’t named anyone yet, but my husband and I are thinking about starting our family in the next few years. I have read through most of the posts here and I want to say a particular thank you for not shutting down certain viewpoints. It’s nice to have a forum to discuss different opinions, even if no one else agrees! Thanks again for this wonderful blog.

I’ve been coming out of lurker-dom a little more lately. Just wanted to officially say I really enjoy reading your blog every day. When we named our daughter 16 months ago, it was a surprise that we settled on the name we chose at the last minute, and I had forgotten to read your comments (and others) to get an idea of general perception in addition to meaning, etc.. I was delighted when the day after her birth, after things calmed down a bit, I read your lovely blog on Helena.

Hello! I’m a big fan of you blog! I was wondering if you could do a name of the day about the name Virginia? I’m starting to like it recently.



Hi, new to this site, and am very intrigued so far. We are looking for a name for our second child to be, not sure of sex yet. I was wondering if you could do the name Hera for a name of the day? My husband and I both like it, him more than me but I am still on the fence. I thought maybe you could come up with some more insight on it. My family HATES it:P

By the way, my first girls name is Lana Rose, I know Rose is common which I didn’t know before, I chose it because it was her birth flower of June and I really liked it:) I think we will stick with that theme for this one too, either a birthstone or flower for July or August whichever month he/she is born in… More likely if its a girl of course…

thanks and I hope to hear from anyone who has a comment…

I just wanted to thank you so much for providing this site. I agree one with the previous poster that the world of baby names can be a dark one, so much so that I have found myself steering clear of most sites in spite of my longtime love of names. But I think I have finally found my fit here on Appellation Mountain!

I love, love, love your children’s names by the way. Absolutely beautiful 🙂

All of Sarah Palin’s names for her children were for patriotic and family reasons. They were either being patriotic (Bristol) or honoring family

Thanks for this being a fair, non-mean site. There are so many other sites where people are just blatantly rude and uncalled for. The level of cattiness is unbelievable.Honestly, I don’t know how people can judge a person’s character by the names they choose. Truly, it’s ridiculous

This place has so far provided an outlet where I can share a love of names with other people and not have to deal with the cattiness.It has provided knowledge and an interesting commentary.

So, thank you for that 🙂 Merry Christmas

I noticed that no one ever commented on the fact that you wanted to name your fish Cordelia Averil — Anne of Green Gables! Classic! 🙂

I have a name problem that you ladies can probably help me with… PLEASE…

I named my first daughter Amae (pronounced u-may), which I love, and my second daughter Ayden. It later blew up in my face! It is everywhere, but at least the others are boys.

I was devistated to find that the name I love for my third soon-to-be-born daughter, Ava, is also vastly popular now! I have looked at alternatives, but I just love Ava.

Does anyone have variation suggestions such as Avelyn or Avalei? I like Avalei, but not the spelling. Or even just beautiful, unique A-names?
Thank you!!

Amy, how ’bout Avalon? Amae and Ayden both share an “ay” sound – it seems like you might want to avoid another “ay” sound.

my daughters middle name is aveleen, a variant on evelyn, which i think is very pretty. i have always fancied aileron and astrid. ardis is going to be the name of my next child…if a girl.

We named our daughter Havana. She has a last name, but she has never needed it. She has never met another girl with her name, (although many ppl mistakenly call her Hannah). Her peers have shorted her name to Vana, which she is very comfortable with. She is 19 now, very beautiful, dramatic and artistic. The name suits her perfectly. And no, we are not cuban americans. =D

I am a mad single Welsh mum with six teenagers, who has been crazy about etymology since forever, and has just come become internet-literate (thanks, teenagers) and found all these wonderful Name Sites like this one! Can I join please?


Hi Ailsa – no need to join. Or, at least, since I’ve approved your first comment, you are now free to chat away with abandon. All future comments *should* post immediately! (Unless you change your address, screen name or other identifier – then you’re new again.)


Abby…Just found your wonderful blog today thanks to a great tip from a reader! I read in the C alphabet post that you’re planning a “How to get to Callie” post in the future. Any ETA on that? Callie Lou is a family name (my grandmother’s twin who unfortunately passed away when they were kids). I’ve always wanted to use Callie as a nn for a future baby girl.

HOWEVER, I find it an incredibly difficult nickname to arrive at. Not a fan of Callista or Calliope. DH isn’t a fan of Calla, though that’s probably the most grown up of the bunch (“Calla-fornia,” he says!)I’ve compromised with Campbell on my list, but even that is a stretch. I’d love to hear more!

How ’bout Caroline? Callie isn’t the most obvious nn from Caroline, but Carrie is sort of tired and Lina just as much of a stretch. There’s also Carolina, which could sound like the state – or pronounce the “lina” LEENA and it conjures up high fashion, as in Herrera.

And I’d completely forgotten that I’d meant to write that post! Let me go rummage around in the drafts file …

Hey, Verity.

How about Gregor for NotD? I recently met a guy with this name. Sounds pompous, but it intrigued me, anyway.

When I was in utero, my elder brother (who was 3 1/2) suggested I be called Cinderella. My mom was too sensible for that, but I was curious about how many women have been actually named Cinderella over the years. NotD? Or is that too fanciful?

I’m still interested in learning more about Maren if you can find anything on it. Since 1979, she’s only entered the US top 1000 chart seven times. Interesting.

You did Heath, now how about Cliff? Or Heathcliff? Or Clifford? One of those, maybe?

Another Cl- name (to go with Clarence, Clara, and Clff) is Clyde. I’d love to know more about this one.


Soooo……..I was just lookin for some baby names and I clicked on the WELCOME tab and read the ABOUT THE AUTHOR part….I felt compelled to leave a message because my name is Abigail, and I go by Abby. And I love my name so much. I just think that’s awesome that she changed her name to that – out of anything! I want my daughter to feel that same way…..so that is why it is imperative that she have an AWESOME one!!!! I love Hawaiian names but my hubby doesn’t want it to be weird…since I love Abby but am glad my full name is Abigail I would really love to find a name like that….like her name could be Lillianna but she goes by lilli?? or Heilyn or Heili but she goes by Hei (pronounced Hay of course, re the hawaiian thing..) on our honeymoon we stayed at the Grand Wailea (pronounced Why – lay – ah) and I wish we would just name her that but to Joe that would be way to weird….what about Avalei (pronounced Ava – lay)?????? That way she could go by Ava or Lei….I love the way a name ending in y sounds (like mine, Abby) but I love Hawaii and their spellings and the sound of the word “Lei”….I just need to to be perfect!!! Lemme know what you think or if you have any ideas! Anyone… 🙂

Hi Abby,

If you want to be genuine about a “hawaiian” name you have to follow some rules:

1) There are only 12 letters in the alphabet: AEIOU HKLMNPW
“W” sometimes sounds like a V . Any websites or books you come across that claim a name is Hawaiian and use letters other than the 12 above are bogus.

2) Every syllable MUST end in a vowel. And you’ll never find 2 consonents in a row.
In other words, your “Lillianna” would more correctly be spelled Liliana.

I agree that Wailea sounds great, but if your daughter ever MOVED to Hawaii it would sound silly even here.

If your husband doesn’t want something too out there, popular choices are Malia and Maile (pronounced both My-Lee and My-lei)) both which are versions of Mary.

Another beautiful one is Noelani (No-Ay-lani) who could go by Noe, very similar to Zoe or Chloe. Mahealani and Leilani are classics in Hawaii.

On the other hand it sounds like you might just be interested in names that SOUND hawaiian, in which case you could go towards names like

Ana (pronounced Ah-nah)

Have fun!!

Thank you, Susan! Bernard will be NotD on 5/25 and Maurice on 6/2. I’m booked up way in advance for the girls at the moment, though – so while I’m intrigued by Gladys and think Lucille is indeed in the midst of a revival, I’ll skip them for now. 🙂

Here are some names that I wish would come back in style: Bernard, Maurice, Gladys, and Lucille.
By the way, your name is gorgeous!

Hello Verity!

First off, I love your name!
I’d love to see a NotD of Mariuccia sometime, or these names:



I have been obsessed with names since 1st grade, when I abhored my own name and wanted a “normal” name like Mary or Amy (I had a friend with this name).

ApMtn – I thought you’d enjoy a little camaraderie. My mother has a very unique, foreign, family name, and has always regretted her parents’ choice. She was determined to give me a name everyone could spell and pronounce – Christine. I was always called “Chris”, and had a similar problem to the one you describe.

Born in 1975, Christine, Christina, Christian and Christopher (especially) were among the most popular names, and I knew no fewer than 10 people named Chris – most were boys.

Enter 7th grade, and a note from a friend. Not sure how he came up with it, but the note was addressed to “Krys”. I instantly adopted the spelling, and have been Krys ever since – much to my mother’s dismay. She still calls me Christine, but has stopped arguing with me over the “new” spelling of my name.

I never did change it legally, since I couldn’t find a suitable spelling for Christine that would include my nickname.

Anyway, thanks for a great site. I’m pregnant with my first (a girl!), and am determined to pick a “good” name for our little one.

Always nice to hear from a lurker!

As it happens, I need a boy’s name for tomorrow. I kept trying to find something inspired and Thanksgiving-themed, but I’m stumped. Tom just seemed comical! So Titus it is. What with Marcus and Atticus and Ignatius, he could certainly be considered fashionable – and he’s got far more history than some other -us names I’ve heard considered.

Check back on 11/26. 🙂

Hey there!
I’ve been lurking about for a while, following friends from YCCII and other name sites, because a girl has got to find every fab name site she can 🙂

Just thought I’d throw out another Biblical boy that doesn’t get too much attention, but is a big contender for us: Titus. Love to hear your thoughts on him! So any chance we can see him featured on NOTD sometime?

Thanks! Bek

I like Frances (spelled like this) so much!! Francie Davis is so cute! We must have similar tastes in names because Stella, Frances, Beatrice, and Cecilia are all on my list!

What about:
Stella Frances
Beatrice Quinn
Cecilia Reese
Frances Quinn
Frances Jane

All of your suggestions are great names!

Verity, any chance you could do Eloise as Name of the Day sometime? I’ve recently fallen in love and I’d be interested in learning what other people think! Thanks!

I have been having the toughest time picking a name for my soon-to-be daugther. I had planned on naming her Stella but the name seems to be getting really popular and, with a last name like Davis, I don’t want her name to be common. I really like classic names and I’m considering Francis (after my dad – nickname would be Francie), Beatrice, and Cecilia. I also like Quinn and Reece. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on other names?

Barack’s daughters are Malia and Natasha, called Sasha/Sascha (not 100% on the spelling there), and I find them adorable!

I believe the explanation for Track was that his(?) parents were fans of the sport and Track was born during the sport season. Oh boy!

For me, I’d love to see Gemma, Evangeline, Genevieve, Ivy,
Vivienne (whom I loved before the whole Brangelina ordeal, though I now have to clarify! Shame…)
Olympia, Sydney, Violet, Veronica, Charlotte, Constance, Caitlin, Oceane, Ava, Emmeline, Stella, Bronte, Carys, and Caledonia. And that’s just the girls!

Is Barack’s daughter’s full name Natasha? I know they call her Sascha in the paper and on the news. Is that what it’s short for?

Mia, I feel your pain! While my mother isn’t insulted by my choice, she’s definitely baffled. She never calls me Amy to my face, for which I am grateful, but she still defends her choice.

And for what’s it’s worth, she’s not wild about the name for my daughter-to-be. *Shrugs.* But at least I don’t have to hear that detested name any more.

LOL! I’ve been thinking about that – when Trig was born, they explained that Trig was a Norse name in honor of his Great Uncle, and Paxson was a place name in Alaska. (His full name is Trig Paxson Van.) Not sure about the explanation for Track, but I’m guessing there’s a similar backstory.

Hmmm … haven’t thought about NotD for the run-up to the election. Maybe I should do a bunch of the potential White House (and Observatory Circle) kids? I’m a huge fan of the name Natasha – Barack’s younger daughter. Hmmm …

Hi Verity!

Have you seen what Sarah Palin’s kids are named? According to Wikipedia, Palin has two sons (Track, 19 and Trig, 4 months) and three daughters (Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7). Seriously, though… Track and Trig?

My parents were and are outright offended that I changed my name. They still call me ‘Sherry’, which I hated with a passion. (I was born in 1971, but that is probably no surprise. Sherry is in the same dated bin with Tammy and Tracy.)

I changed my name to Mia, for all the wrong reasons. I kind of wish I’d taken it for a better test drive… but it is still better than Sherry.

Ah, the variant spelling question!

My initial reaction is this: it’s a lousy idea. Madeleine and Madeline look far more classic and enduring than Madelyn, Madalyn or Maddelynne, which all seem flimsy and downwardly mobile. And no matter which choice you make, it’s still a popular moniker she’ll share with many classmates – to say nothing of the nickname Maddie, shared with blockbuster Madison. (And Madisyn, Madasynne, etc.)

But there’s more to the issue. Standardized spellings are relatively new in human history – as is, of course, widespread literacy. Look at 19th century census records, and you’ll find Katherine, Kathryn, Katharine, Kathrine, Katheryn, Kathryne, Catherine, Catharine, Cathrine and Cathryn. It’s not uncommon for names in long use to have a history of different spellings. Even historical figures – half of Henry VIII’s six wives wore this name, after all – don’t always share consistent spellings. In some cases, individuals may’ve changed the preferred spelling for their name over time.

As of last year, Madeline remained the most popular spelling in the US for this decade – at #59 – but Madelyn was gaining fast, at #118. And she certainly trumped Madeleine, at #299.

Once I would’ve said “use the most popular spelling” and considered it done, but Kaitlyn is more popular than Caitlin; Makayla more popular than Michaela.

I think the strangest part of the picture when it comes to the lyn/line issue is the assumption that Madeline and Madelyn are pronounced differently and that swapping out for a “lyn” guarantees your child’s name will never be mangled. I say both names “mad uh LYN” unless told otherwise. That’s likely a combination of my regional accent and experience – far more powerful cues for most of us than a simple respelling can combat. Let’s face it, if you’re worried your AWN drey uh is going to be called an dree AH, you’re better off choosing another name. Ditto mad uh LEEN, mad ah LYNN, mad uh LINE.

So while I’d like to see an end to all of the “we went with Kaidhen just to make it a little bit different” nonsense, the bottom line is – it’s with us. We’ll probably see some of the variants pass into common use and surpass the original versions of their names. I’ll also agree that, especially with names of recent coinage, it’s a beast to argue which the “authentic” spelling of Jayden. Who’s to say that Jaidyn is any less valid?

It’s not an argument to do it. On the contrary, when a name starts to spawn variant spellings, I think it’s a clear signal that it’s overexposed and ready to pass out of consideration for the more sophisticated baby namer.

Of course, my husband is quick to remind me that when languages stop evolving and become overly codified, it’s a signal that the language is dying. Variant spellings may be downmarket, but they’re a sign that the English language continues to evolve – and that’s not a bad thing. In some ways, it’s what gives us permission to call our kids Alexei and Angus, Archer and Fletcher, Declan and Dexter. Who’s to say what’s an acceptable name when there are so many options?

Ultimately, I think the most important thing for a name is that it have something Namelab calls phonetic transparency. (They invent new names for brands and products.) Phonetic transparency means it’s easily pronounced from alphabetic notation. So while I find Makayla unappealing, I don’t find it impossible to wear. M’Kayleah, Macaelih, Mykaylah, Mikkailah, etc. truly are burdensome.

Often variant spellings get you a “worst of both worlds” scenario – a name that is common when spoken, but never correctly spelled. We tend to forget – especially in cyberspace – that we mostly experience our children’s names VERBALLY. Even with the amount of writing I do, I call “Alexei! Alexei!” far more often than I write it.

Would I ever use Madelyn? Heck, no. In fact, while it’s a lovely name, I wouldn’t consider Madeline/Madeleine for a child these days, simply because she’d be right up there with Kaitlin, Mckenna, Jaiden and Jordyn, spelling her name Every. Single. Time.

So you’re not wrong. But it’s the kind of argument that tends to fall on deaf ears. Those who wouldn’t use a variant spelling wouldn’t. And those who would, well … I recently met a Lilyannah, and I have friends shortlisting Brayden for their baby-to-be. Sometimes you just have to smile and say, “Isn’t your little one cute?”

I need to vent about a baby name pet peeve and I don’t know where else to do it!! So if you all will indulge me while I get this off my chest:

I spend some time over at babynamegenie.com, perusing the baby name polls. Why, why, why do so many people seem to like the spelling Madelyn???

A woman over there is trying to decide between Madelyn, Madeleine, and Madeline (the third pronounced differently from the first two), and the first spelling is winning!!!

Am I off base here? Is Madelyn an acceptable spelling for Madeleine now?

Help me please. 🙂

Thanks so much for the list, Kim! You’re absolutely right that the NotDs are a little bit out there – it’s because it’s (usually) easier to write about a name that has been used sparingly. (I try to keep the posts right around 500 words and edit ruthlessly if I go over the 600 word mark. It also limits the research time. Reading about William, for example, would probably take me around 10 hours. Something like Aloysius is exhausted in a quarter of the time.)

Still, I’ve been thinking that I might (someday) exhaust all of the underused gems and be forced to figure out how to talk about Anne succinctly. 🙂 And I managed to do Henry back when the new Indiana Jones movie came out, so it can be done!

I’m going to take a bunch of your suggestions, though, so stand by for:

9/1 – Finn
9/2 – Frances
9/3 – Simon
9/4 – Susannah
9/5 – Lewis
9/6 – Sylvia

Keep ’em coming – and I’ll try to incorporate some of your other suggestions into future posts, even if they don’t become NotD on their own.

Can I suggest some names for NotD? It’s so interesting to read the names you post, but some of them are a little out there for me. What about:


Sorry if I’ve mentioned any you’ve already done.


As it happens, my husband had a huge crush on Marisa Tomei. (As in, he’ll still watch a rerun of My Cousin Vinnie whenever it happens to be on.) So I’ll gladly make her NotD on August 31. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

If you are looking for a female name of the day, will you please consider Marisa? I named my daughter Marisa in 1982, when it was relatively unheard of. I loved it from the model/actress Marisa Berensen. The name has become popular in recent years, but mostly with the spelling of Marissa.

Hi, Another. You can leave suggestions anywhere you like. If the well runs dry, I post a “Looking for Names of the Day” request. But so far I’ve only had to do that once. 😉

Sure, I’ll take on Otis. It reminds me, as you say, of the charming cat and dog flick *and* elevators. I used to work in an amazing old building with Otis Elevators, and always liked the idea that I was ascending to work in the same kind of lift that ferried visitors to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view from my office, however, was not Paris. And then there’s Otis Redding. Hmmm … a very interesting one to consider.

Otis is on the calendar for July 1.

Verity – where can we leave suggestions for name of the day? I have one: My friend’s friend named her son Otis. I’m not sure if it’s up your alley. Personally, I hate it and am always reminded of that cat and dog movie from the 1990s, Milo and Otis, but wasn’t sure if this was a name you’d appreciate or not. Do with it what you want.

Everett is a great name! I’ll see what I can turn up on your darling son’s appellation on June 19.

Funny, our son is named after my FiL, too – and leaving us a bit stumped as to how to match it should our second be a boy.

Thanks for the suggestion and glad you’re having fun with the Names of the Day!

Good morning! I found my way here via Elisabeth at youcantcallitit.com because I’m always looking for more name-obsessed places.

I’m really enjoying reading through your Name of the Day posts and would like to offer my son’s name, Everett, as a possible future name of the day. We are currently trying to conceive #2 and I feel a bit lost as to what direction to go with the next name. We used Everett in honor of my deceased FIL, so I never really considered the style or trend that it fits into. I would love to hear your opinions for my own selfish reasons, plus it’s a name that’s jumped 50+ places on the SSA list the past two years . . . definitely growing in popularity and seems to appeal to a lot of different people.

Thanks! Nicole

I think it has just started over here (Yes i live in the UK, Scotland to be precise), i have however yet to watch it. I think i might start watching it though, i will look out for Penn 🙂

You’re welcome!

I do like Penn for a boy. I was even born in Pennsylvania. And there’s that delicious young actor called Penn Badgeley on Gossip Girl. Is it on yet in the UK? (I’m assuming from your spelling that you’re on the other side of the Atlantic.) Apparently, it’s his real name, too, not an alias for acting. I wouldn’t be surprised if he inspires a few Penns himself. 😉

Same here i will have to have about 50 children to use up all my favourites!!
My list just keeps on growing!!
I have stolen a few from this site actually – Archer is now on the list as is Penn – but for a boys name. So thanks for those 🙂

Thanks so much, Natalie! I’m quite fond of your name, actually. 😉

Everyone always assumes that my first initial masks something awful – I once worked with someone who guessed everything from Anselm to Aethelreada. He was quite disappointed to find out that my given name was merely common, not outlandish.

As for the obsession with baby names? Right there with you. My husband is threatening to buy me goldfish so I can call them things like Cordelia Averil and Cruz Esteban. We’ll never have a big enough family to use up all of my favorites, LOL!

Thanks 🙂
Hey that isn’t so bad! I though it would be worse, however it can be be frustrating to have a common name.
My name is Natalie and whilst it is not too popular, it is popular enough!
I too have an obsession with baby names, i don’t know why? I used to receive baby naming dictionary’s for birthdays etc.
I still do love names and have a list which i constantly add too.
I actually have seen you on Y!A and you always give out good advice, especially to those mothers wishing to name their child “Nevaeh, Ayden” etc.
So i decided to check out your blog, it is very good – keep up the good work.

Once upon a time, it was Amy. And I was born in 1973, meaning I was one of nearly 27,000 girls given that name – the second most popular choice, right behind Jennifer. When I was twelve, I was one of *five* girls with the same name in my relatively small school. It made me crazy.

And kicked off a life-long obsession.

Incidentally, my mother’s name (which is so truly unusual that I won’t reveal it) was a foreign family name tweaked slightly to be clear in American English. She hated having a one-of-one name, and felt like she was doing her kids a favor by giving us simple and “normal” names.

You just can’t win. But hey, you can blog about it. 🙂

We’d love another. Once upon a time I thought we’d have a houseful. After all, I know I could name them. 🙂 But I’m 34, so if we have one more, that’s probably all.

And, oh yes, Spencer Tracy! How could I forget him?

Yeah, the two most famous namesakes I’m aware of are Churchill and, of course, Spencer Tracy. Will you have any more? Getting to name a baby is almost worth being pregnant!

Spencer is a very distinguished choice!

A friend of mine has a Spencer, named out of affection for, believe it or not, Winston Churchill. His wife balked at the idea of calling their baby Winston, but apparently Sir W.’s full name was Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. (Thank goodness one of the four names was nice.)

You raise a very good point about styles, and whether having a Moses means your daughter has to be Zipporah. (Let’s hope not.) I think there’s a Rule in there somewhere … I’ll have to mull it over.

As for Judge? My husband is a lawyer – he’d never go for it! 😉

Great names both, solid and timeless. My son’s name is Spencer. I think it’s polished and handsome but still friendly. I do like when people call him Spence, and I had a great-uncle Spencer. Alexander is one of those same kind of names, classic and stylish but never trendy. I love the kind of name that lends itself to such great nicknames; it’s the best of both worlds. I like Archer very much, but I’m a sucker for surnames. Surprising to see it paired with Gideon… they are so different in style. I would’ve expected another surname or occupational name, like Porter or even Judge.

Saw your post at yahoo answers. The question was about the name Macy. My 1st thought was, your answer looks exactly like what I would have said (though I would have added that I have a daughter named Macy). I love that you discouraged corrupting the original name with spelling variations. My 2nd thought was, “Verity,” what a great name, pretty, intelligent, and feminine. My own interest in names ranges somewhere between hobby and obsession. That said, now I’m wildly curious: what is your son’s name??

Thanks, Allison! My son has a very ordinary family name – Alexander – but he goes by the rather exotic nickname Alexei. Had it been up to me, I think I would’ve called him Gideon or Archer, but my husband’s family has, ahem, traditions. If he had been a girl, he would’ve been Caroline, and probably called Coco.