Name Help

Name Help is a new series at Appellation Mountain.  Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.  

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions.  Thank you in advance for sharing your insight! 

N writes:

We are getting ready to welcome our fifth child (and fourth daughter) in November.

We are having an impossible time settling on a name for this little one. We have a common one-syllable surname that makes names with lots of L sounds challenging.  We also can’t have a name that ends in the -ee sound.

Most of our top contenders are either rising fast in popularity (none of our older children had names ranked higher than the 200s when we named them) and most of our current potential names are in the low 100s and have risen sharply in recent years (ie. Annabelle).

N adds that they do have a shortlist – but they’re looking for new ideas, so they’d rather not share.

The family already includes four kids:  Josephine (Josie), Genevieve (Neve), Rosemarie (Romy), and Augustin (Gus).

Read on for my suggestions – and please add your ideas in the comments!

This is such a common challenge for families with more than two or three children, isn’t it?  When baby number one arrives, your style is ahead of the curve.  But over time, the world catches up … and suddenly, all of your favorites are everyone’s favorites, and don’t feel quite right for you.

While I’m burning with curiosity to know your shortlist – because I’m sure the names are gorgeous – I think it is smart to start fresh here.

A few things that stand out about your style:

  • You’ve chosen longer names, presumably to balance out that short last name.
  • Each of your kids has a go-to nickname, but it isn’t necessarily the most obvious nickname.
  • Three of your four names are French.  Not as French as Mireille or Jean-Pierre, but enough that I noticed it immediately.
  • None of your daughters’ names ends with ‘a’ – is that a coincidence, or a preference?  Since you haven’t mentioned it, I’m going to assume that ‘a’ names aren’t off the table, but they’re not your go-to style, either.

The popularity question is a tricky one.  Josephine and Genevieve have both risen considerably in recent years, but they’re still outside the Top 100.

Rosemarie and Augustin are much less common – but the very similar Rosemary and Augustine have both seen big increases in use in the last few years.

There are good reasons to use a popular name, of course, I’ll stick to suggestions that are less common.

What do you think of:

  • Adelaide – This is the name that popped into my head as soon as I read your list.  Except that Adelaide currently ranks #321, and is climbing.  Go-to nickname Addie doesn’t quite feel like a fit, and you mentioned that your short last name starts with an L and has a strong ‘ee’ sound – all of which makes me think that Adelaide, nn Della, might not work.
  • Anneliese – Another immediate thought, with the same hesitations about matching with the last name.  Plus Annalise is rising fast in the US – and it is the name of a character in new Shonda Rhimes television show How to Get Away With Murder.  So … maybe not.
  • Vivienne – I feel like this name must have come up at some point when you were naming your older daughters – but is probably off the list now because, at #280 and climbing, Vivienne feels like the Next Big Thing.
  • Francesca, Francoise – Francesca is so very Italian, and yet she’s a smidge more wearable that the French Françoise, which might cause confusion with her swahz sound.  But Francesca is in the Top 500 and gaining, so Francoise seems like the better option – and yet, I’m not sure that Frannie is a sister for Josie, Neve, Romy, and Gus.  Still, there’s no hint of an L or an ‘ee’ sound, so let’s leave her here.
  • Theodora – Names starting with Th aren’t very fashion forward right now, and yet I think Theodora feels like a natural evolution of your style.  With nicknames like Thea, Thora, Teddy, Theo, and Dora, there’s something to suit every style.  And while Theodore would probably be too popular for you to consider for a son, Theodora remains rare.
  • Marguerite – Now I think we’re getting somewhere!  68 girls received the name in 2013, and the numbers are pretty flat.  So Marguerite feels very under-the-radar.  Josephine, Genevieve, Rosemarie, Marguerite – they definitely sound like sisters.  Plus, the nickname possibilities are great – Greta, Greer, Maggie, Daisy, Margo.
  • Clothilde – I’m tempted to suggest Matilda, but Matilda is climbing fast.  Clothilde is much rarer, but shares the possible short forms Tilly/Tillie and Tilda.  You might also call her Cleo, I think – which has more of a daring feel.
  • Clementine – Thinking about formal names for Cleo reminded me of Clementine, which I’ve seen suggested as a possibility.  Clementine has gotten a lot of buzz in the naming community – just like your other kids’ names – and yet remains outside the US Top 100.
  • Everild – An obscure saint’s name that is … well, really obscure.  Evie and Vera are obvious short forms.  Everild is much less common than any of your kids’ names – but I think that might appeal.  One thing to consider: Everly is a fast riser, and lots of Ev- names are popular.  That could help Everild fit in with current trends, but might make Evie feel overused.
  • Philomene – While we’re way, way out there, would you ever consider Philomene?  All forms of the name are rare in the US right now.  Philomene is French, and suggests nicknames from Fia to Mena to Minnie to Pippa, and there’s probably room for more.

From this list, I think Marguerite is the best fit, and would be my top suggestion.  A Marguerite would probably be mistaken for Margaret occasionally, but the name is familiar to most.

But I’m so curious to hear what others think, and I know there are more possibilities out there, so please leave your comments below.

N, please let us know what your family decides – and congratulations on baby #5!

N was kind enough to write in and let us know that their daughter is here – yay! – and they decided on Clementine Beatrice.  Thanks so much to each and every AM reader for your fabulous, thoughtful comments and suggestions.

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. From your short list and Abby’s suggestions my favorites are:
    Other ideas (hopefully no repeats):

  2. One of my students this semester answers to the gorgeous and rare name “Ottoline”, which would fit nicely.

  3. Florentine
    Jovienne or Jovianne
    Esperanza or Esperance

  4. You already got some great options, just wanted to try and give you some more:

    Anastasia (the way to come to Anna in a different way)
    Penelope (Penny/Poppy)

  5. You have a great name style!! It is hard to imagine that we will come up with anything that you have not looked at. My first inclination is to go with a girls name that ends in E and has 3 sylables, as all of your girls do! A subtle connection. So right away Abby’s suggestion of Marguerite jumps out at me. I love this suggestion for you. She also said Annalise, Addalaide and Vivienne fit this matching scheme, but all of these feel too common for some reason. Marguerite feels old world but familiar with many nn options. Also Clementine would fit the bill beautifully too, but somehow I think Marguerite is better. Other options I came up with were


    My faves for you are Marguerite, Juliette, Elouise, and Valentine. I also love wild card Calliope.

    I also like two syllable Sylvie and Winnie for you.

    Please update us!

  6. My favourites would be Clementine “Minnie” and Marguerite “Daisy”. Daisy would be sweet with your surname, as it means “daisy meadow”.

    The fact that you had the dream about Francesca makes me wonder if that is the right name for you, though.

    I think Annabelle is off the list because of your surname: far too black a subject to connect to a new baby.