Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, 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!
We named our daughter Louise Mirabelle, and we call her Lulu and Lou and Lucy Belle. It took forever to agree on her name, but we’re really happy with it.
Now we’re expecting a son in April, and we’re feeling just as stuck as we were with Louise’s name.
For a first name, we like:
JAMES – It’s my husband’s middle name, and my grandfather’s name. But it is too boring compared to Louise? And will people call him Jimmy? (We’d like to use James.)
ANDREW – The only other name we both mostly agree on, but again – I don’t like Andy and my husband really, really doesn’t want to call him Drew. So I feel like this one is maybe out?
ELLIOT/T – What I would name this baby if my husband didn’t have an opinion. I love it! But he just doesn’t think it sounds like a name. I like the idea of calling him Eli. Elijah won’t work because our last name ends with an -a, and we agreed to no a-ending names with Louise. (And while I say that Louisa Ay@l@ would have been fine, I can see that Elijah Ay@l@ seems like too much.)
Louise’s name really clicked when we found Mirabelle on your site, so I’m wondering if you have another great idea for us?
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Melissa –
Congratulations on your son!
It’s interesting … conventional wisdom tells us to figure out our child’s first name first, and only fill in the middle blank afterward.
Except I hear plenty of people who have the same experience you’ve shared. It’s completing your child’s full name – as with Louise Mirabelle – that makes the first name click.
That said, let’s start by looking at your first name options.
First, Elliot is a great name! And yet … if your husband feels strongly against it, there’s not much point keeping it on the list, right?
Is he open to Eli as your son’s full name? If so, that might be an option. I’d also suggest considering other names like Elliot – Everett, Beckett, Emmett, Bennett, and Wyatt.
Assuming your husband won’t be swayed, that leaves James and Andrew.
When it comes to nicknames, my rule of thumb is this: if you actively dislike a potential nickname, then it’s best to avoid the formal name. Andrew could go his whole lifetime and never be Andy even once. Or he could come home from kindergarten and announce that he’s Andy now.
You never know.
So if it’s a case of active dislike of the nickname – because of a strong negative association, or maybe because it’s just not your style – then avoiding the formal name makes sense.
But if it’s a question of preference?
Then don’t sweat it.
I know at least one baby James – never Jamie, Jimmy, or Jim – and a grown-up just James, too. For this generation, nicknames tend to be much less automatic. The same is true for Andrew.
From your description, it seems like James is the better choice. It’s classic – which means your son will share it with many other people. But it’s far from boring! It’s a timeless choice that will wear well over a lifetime.
Plus, you can find a great middle name.
Mirabelle means wonderful, so let’s look at some possible middles for James with great meanings.
ASHER – Asher means happy. (And if this meaning appeals, Felix and Noam share it, too!)
BENEDICT – From a Latin name meaning blessed, Benedict has the grandeur as Mirabelle.
CAIUS – Caius comes form the Latin gaudere – to rejoice. It’s pronounced like Kai+us.
LIONEL – Another grand and storied name, Lionel means lion. James Lionel sounds quite distinguished.
LUCIAN – Related to the Latin lux – light – the unexpected Lucian balances out classic James nicely.
THADDEUS – Thaddeus means heart, which feels like a powerful meaning for a name.
TRUETT – Strictly speaking, this surname name comes from a place in England. But it suggests the words true and truth, which make this more of a virtue name.
ZACCHEUS – Zakai (and Zaccai) are shorter forms, but maybe Zaccheus – which means pure – sounds more interesting with James?
A BROTHER FOR LOUISE MIRABELLE
My favorite combination is James Lionel. Lions are brave and noble, so the meaning feels inspirational. But like Mirabelle, Lionel reads more like an old-school name and less like a word or specifically virtuous choice.
Though if you’d like something a little more current, James Asher is very handsome. And Asher’s meaning? It’s perfection.
I have a son named Elliot and a daughter Mirabelle, so I love your taste! For what it’s worth, I know children and adults named James and Andrew, and I’ve never heard them called nicknames. I think the risk of James being called Jimmy is very low. What about James Elliot or James Milo?
C in DC says
I think Elliot James is perfect with Louise Mirabelle, or James Elliot. I really think Elliot may be the middle you’re seeking. Your last name has a lot of As, which may be why you find James not quite right. Owen, Jude, Simon, Nathan, Thaddeus, Philip/Felipe, Felix, Jonah/Jonas, Tobias.
Angus nn Gus
Magnus nn Gus
Felix – actually my favorite with the surname
Thinking about a middle name getting a first name to click got me wondering if JP or JB might be a way to take James. Lulu and JP is pretty adorable together. Maybe James Parker or James Brooks or James Palmer or James something… just something to think about.
Alison Doherty says
I know a lot of Andrew’s who never used nicknames… and I think Andrew goes with Louise a little more. Andrew Elliot also is very cute, if you could compromise on a middle. Eli Andrew or Eli James also sounds nice to me! For some reason I also keep thinking Theodore or Theo would match Louise so well…but you’ve probably thought of that one already!
I like Andrew better than James, plus its not as saturates as James these days (which is a top5 name, and Jameson is also in the top100 climbing fast)
Personally I prefer Eli, Bennett, Simon, or Peter.
I like best for you with Louise and given its family significance. Perhaps you could pair with mom’s maiden name in the middle name spot?
My brother is James but has always gone by Jimmy (my parents choice, to differentiate from my father who was also James). We’ve actually only had issues with people wanting to call him James instead of Jimmy. This happened often at school, esp when his formal name was listed on paperwork.
My husband is Michael. His mom strongly disliked the nickname Mike and would always correct anyone who called him Mike. That worked well until college. He prefers Mike and now his family are pretty much the only ones who call him Michael. I guess you have to realize that eventually it’ll be up the child what he goes by. My niece, Victoria, will always correct anyone who tries to call her Vicky or Tori. ♀️
Autocorrect must’ve deleted the name James in the first sentence. I meant to say I like James best.
Seems like with the last name a grounded first name sounds best and maybe names that don’t start with vowels.
I really like James. Like James and Louise.
I also love the suggestion of Bennett
Xavier is a cool middle name
Just for some reference points. My nephew is 9 and is always James, a friends son is 7 and always Andrew. I feel like the expectation that all names are shortened to there most common nickname is not how things work anymore. My own daughter is Elizabeth and decided she wanted to go by her full name. She gets pet names but not nicknames that everyone calls her all the time.
I relate so much to Melissa! My husband and I considered her favorite names, I wanted Eli but my husband wasn’t on board, and I was worried that an Andrew would get called Andy or Drew, neither of which I liked. Other names we liked were Peter, Caleb, and Joseph. Maybe one of those appeals?
We ended up using Andrew. In the two+ years since he’s been born, meeting hundreds of people and participating in many groups, he has been called Andy exactly one time, by an elderly relative who quickly realized and stopped. My Andrew has been called Drew zero times. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, because Andrew is simple to say and write, so people tend not to shorten it.
What did surprise me was that with time, I started to kind of like Andy and Drew. When Andrew went from being a name I love to a person I love, my love for even the syllables of his name grew. I said “Andrew” thousands of times looking at my treasured son, and eventually all the parts of his name became dear. If his name had nicknames that pulled less from the given name (James/Jimmy), I might have had a different experience.
I no longer worry that others will assign him the nicknames Andy or Drew. He could still opt for one of them himself, and I no longer worry about that, either. I like the full name better, and it sounds a lot better with our last name, but I will be fine if he decides to go by a variant. YMMV, but that’s what happened for me.
James and Eli are both great names. Andrew is too, but if either nickname is a no go then maybe leave it or use it as a middle.
Other first name suggestions:
Erin Beth says
Random suggestion: I quite like Basil as a brother name for Louise.
Ignatius and Orion are both fantastic with James and their past name.
Well what about Jaime, if not James? Or is the difference in English and Spanish a problem, before I saw your last name I was for sure thinking Jay-me not Hi-may? All of the middles sound great with James, and most sound good with Jaime. I think James Benedict sounds most like a brother for Louise Mirabelle. If not Andrew, perhaps Andre? Andre Zaccheus sounds lovely.
Maybe you haven’t quite hit on the first name because James belongs in the middle?
Caleb James, though MAYBE Caleb doesn’t quite go with Louise