Name Help: long uncommon girl namesShe’s here! Welcome Guinevere. Please see Brenda’s comment below.

Brenda writes:

After reading your blog for ages, I am so excited to be writing in for name advice for my first little one, due in August! I am facing an opposite challenge from most of your readers – as a single mom, I don’t have a partner to discuss name ideas with. So I would be so grateful for your advice.

I tend to like slightly longer names that are not too popular, but still straightforward to spell and pronounce (especially as my last name, which is similar to “Churchill”, gives people all sorts of problems). I’d like to avoid names starting with B, C, K, and J.

And I just found out – it’s a girl! For a boy, I had three names that I love: August, Theodore, and Wesley. For girls, I am having a much harder time and I’m still not confident I’ve found “the one”, so I would love some thoughts and new ideas.

My current list includes: Athena, Felicity, Matilda (nn Tilly), Norah, Ramona (nn Romy), Serena, Theodora (nn Thea), and Vivian.

Thank you so much for your help!


Please read on for my response, and leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.

Hi Brenda –

Congratulations on your new daughter! And I appreciate the reminder – as challenging as it can be to make a decision with a partner, it’s equally difficult to settle on The Name without someone to chew over the possibilities. It’s an honor to help fill that role!

Your long list is gorgeous – traditional but unexpected, and pretty straightforward in terms of spelling and pronunciation.

But I do see a few subtle differences, and so I’d encourage you to ponder two questions:

  • How important is popularity? There’s no right answer here. A Top Ten name can be a great choice; so can something super-obscure. But you do list two names from the current Top 100: Vivian and Norah. (Though it’s spelled Nora in the Top 100, with Norah hovering around the 150 mark.)
  • Do you prefer a nickname? Again, no right and wrong approach. Some people strongly prefer nicknames – often if they grew up without the option themselves! Others adamantly oppose the idea. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But if you can find a clear answer, it shortens your list – Athena and Serena feel more nickname-proof, while Theodora “Thea” and Ramona “Romy” offer built-in short forms.

Because I tend to be pro-nickname, I find myself gravitating towards Theodora, Ramona, and Matilda.

A few others that fit in that category include:

Genevieve – Vivian reminds me of Genevieve. The sounds are similar, but Genevieve ranks around the 175 mark in the US. It’s still familiar, but slightly less common. Genevieve also comes with nicknames galore: Vivi, Gen, Evie, and Gigi all come to mind.

Marguerite – Margaret makes for a nickname-rich, traditional name. But if you’d like something a little less common, consider Marguerite. It’s the French form of the name, and while it ranked in the US Top 100 a century ago, today it’s pretty rare.

Millicent – Matilda makes me think of Millicent. Go-to nickname Millie feels an awful lot like Tilly, too. If you’re concerned Matilda is a smudge too common, the similar Millicent sidesteps that problem.

Persephone – I’m not sure if this style of name appeals to you. Persephone is often suggested as a substitute for Felicity, but it also sounds something like Felicity. Persephone shortens to Persie/Percy or Sephie – maybe not as natural a nickname as you’d like. But it hits the mark for longer, familiar girl names that remain uncommon.

Susanna/Susannah – Here’s the biggie. Neither spelling charts in the current US Top 1000. Some of that might be because parents debate the -h or no -h ending. In 2015, 190 girls were named Susanna, while parents chose Susannah for an additional 79 daughters. Combined, that’s enough to crack the list. But even so, they remain traditional, familiar, but rare. If you don’t care for Susie, there’s always Zuzu as a nickname.

But let’s return to nickname-proof options for a minute:

Daphne – Like Persephone, Daphne makes a substitute for all of those -e ending Greek picks, like Chloe, Zoe, and Penelope. Rarities in this category abound. There’s Circe, Phryne, and Xanthe, too. But Daphne feels like a good compromise. It ranks in the Top 400 and everybody recognizes the name, but it’s not really trending.

Esther – Esther is more popular than you might guess. It’s just outside the current Top 200. And yet, I think it has that feel you’re going for – vintage, familiar, not over-used. It makes a good alternative to tailored Vivian and vintage Norah.

Verity – Take virtue-name Felicity, mix in the ‘v’ sound of Vivian, and you might arrive at Verity. It means truth, which seems like a solidly meaningful choice. With the rhythm of Emily and lots of traditional picks for girls, Verity fits right in – but it’s definitely a rare, stand-out choice.

Overall, I think Matilda from your original list might be the strongest candidate. It comes with a great nickname, but requires none. It hits the sweet spot of straightforward, long, but not too common choices.

Matilda feels current and cool, but also timeless. And while it’s catching on, it remains outside of the current Top 500. Even if it does head straight up the charts, your Matilda will probably be one of one.

Readers, let’s help this mom-to-be out! What do you suggest for her daughter? Do you agree that Matilda feels like a great choice? Or is there something else that feels like the best choice?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. OP here – I am coming back to this way late as my daughter is 1.5 years old already. And I ultimately named her…drumroll… Guinevere! She is called by her full name, as well as the nicknames Gwen and Gweni. I liked the nickname Evie too, but that one didn’t stick. But I love that this name is so classic, unique and elegant, but also with plenty of short and sassy nickname options too. I did debate a bit on the spelling, but ultimately I decided to stick with the real, traditional spelling. Thank you again to everyone for all of the great suggestions – picking just one name is hard (though I cheated a bit by also giving her two middle names lol).
    – Brenda

    1. Brenda, thank you SO much for letting us know! And ohmygoodness, Guinevere is a gorgeous name. 🙂

  2. Love your list. I have a Adelaide and a Millicent (Milly) we are expecting our 3rd girl (6th baby) in sept we are naming her Gertrude. Nickname Gertie or Trudy we like old fashion family names. Also on our list that I haven’t seen is Wilhelmina, Henrietta, and Johanna. Good luck!

  3. Adelaide!
    Easy to spell and pronounce, long and uncommon. And there are lots of nickname possibilities: Addy, Adela, Adele, Dela, Heidi.

  4. I LOVE your list. There are several on it that my husband would veto due to popularity, but your style is right up my ally! From Abby’s suggestions, my favorite is Verity – it has been on my own shortlists a couple times.

    We feel like we really hit a home run with Saranna. It’s very rare, but we almost never have problems with it as far as pronunciation/spelling, other than being asked whether it’s one or two n’s.

  5. Hey I’m the OP, and I wanted to say a huge Thank You to Abby and everyone who commented – so many great suggestions! To answer Abby’s excellent questions, I do tend to lean towards less popular, nickname-rich names.

    Lately the name I keep coming back to from my original list is Ramona – do others think this name sounds current, or too 60s/70s/80s? And could I use any of the nicknames Romy, Rory, Rae, or Minnie with it? I’ve always liked the idea of having a name with several nn options, and see which one sticks organically.

    Such a big decision – I’m glad I still have just under 4 months to think about it!

    1. I definitely think Ramona could give you Romy, Rae, or Minnie. I don’t see Rory, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. The lovely thing about organic nicknames is that they can be anything that you (as nickname giver) come up with through association. In my family a Ramona would probably end up long term with something like “Lisa” via a brief stint as “Mona”.

    2. I do think most people will think of Ramona and Beezus, when they first hear the name, Ramona. It also makes me personally think of Ramone, since there is only one letter difference. If you like the Beverly Cleary books and keep returning to the name…go for it! And I think any of those nicknames work for Ramona, though Rory may be a bit of a stretch. I don’t think a nickname has to be a straight derivative though. Mona is another nn option.

    3. Hi Brenda! I taught a 4y/o Ramona recently (nickname: Momo). I thought her name was perfectly current but delightfully different. Love, love the name Ramona — would like to see it more widely used.

    4. I love Ramona. 🙂 a little Mona… sigh. Love it!!

      It actually reminds me of Veronica, which was going to be my suggestion – Veronica gives you a ton of nn… Vera, Roni, Rooney (like Rooney Mara), Nica, etc.

      Good luck!!

      1. I think Ramona (Mona) is beautiful. Hadn’t thought of Minnie for Ramona but that is so cute! Mo/Momo is adorable as well. You could let her personality help you choose with the nicknames. I love the O sound. Good luck with your choice!

    5. I know a kindergarten-age Ramona, so it feels appropriate for a kiddo to me. I think any of your nickname ideas could work, but the gal I know most often goes by Mo!

    6. I think it sounds up-and-coming, it’ll fit in fine with her classmates. I do think of Beezus, but that’s just a fun association. The only Ramonas I know are in their late 30s, and both just go by the full form. I think you can get any nickname you want, but a few come more naturally than others (I don’t see Rory or Rae, more likely to go Mo). If she’s calling to you, use her! Solid choice.

      1. Yes! I very much agree with everything Renee wrote, Brenda! Ramona is great. The literary associations are fun, not a negative at all. I like Romy as a nickname, but it’s always interesting to see what feels right. The lovely Aela Mass named her gorgeous daughter Ramona late last year. (You can find Aela here:

    7. Ramona is gorgeous and it doesn’t sound dated at all to me. It’s the perfect balance of unusual but familiar.
      Other options you might like: Eloise, Mirabelle, Magnolia