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!
Hi there! I have a #namehelp for you all the way from New Zealand!
We currently have a boy named Moss Robert (Robert being a family name) and our last name is two syllables and ends in ie.
We recently lost my mother-in-law Noeline Joy, and I’d love to honour her but am not crazy for either of her names or derivatives we can think of. We have decided a boy will have Noel as a middle name. For boys we love Van, Sullivan, Otto, and Oscar but would love some more suggestions.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Kelly –
Congratulations on your baby on the way! Moss Robert is a great combination of the traditional and the unexpected. I can see why it’s tough to name his sibling.
Here’s the challenge as I see it.
Moss manages to be both on-trend, as a nature name and color name – and yet seldom heard. But we can think of just enough people with Moss as a given name or surname that it feels familiar.
So – do you want to aim for an obscure name again?
Oscar is quite popular. (Find the New Zealand data here.) Sullivan and Otto are less common, but still broadly familiar. But you do like these names, and there’s absolutely no rule that says siblings’ names have to match in terms of popularity. Van feels like the best bet in terms of matching Moss, but if it were The Name, you wouldn’t be writing!
I also wonder if the middle name presents a stumbling block. Noel is a fitting tribute to your late mother-in-law, but I wonder if you might also consider Nolan? There are some great, single-syllable names that I’d like to suggest, but they might work better with a slightly longer middle.
I haven’t applied any strict tests to get to this list of suggestions, but I’ve tried to stick to names that are less popular, without feeling invented.
Asher – Here’s a thought: your mother-in-law’s middle name, Joy, might be echoed by a boy’s name with the same meaning. There’s Felix, which I think works well for your family. And Noam, which reminds me of Noeline. But there’s also Asher. On the downside, it’s much more common than some of the names you like. Yet it does remind me of Oscar, which makes it seem like one worth considering.
Dashiell – Moss and Dash sounds like an upscale design firm, doesn’t it? And yet, I think the names are marvelous together. Moss Robert and Dashiell Noel. Dashiell is long and literary, originally a surname, but long-associated with the author of so many unforgettable detective novels, Dashiell Hammett. Today The Incredibles has sparked some interest in Dash, as in Dashiell “Dash” Parr, the middle child in the Disney-Pixar superhero family. But it remains unusual.
Elgin – I pronounce this with a soft g, like El-jin. I’ve heard it pronounced with a hard g, too, like the Elgin Marbles. It’s originally a Scottish place name, turned surname, but it has a very modern sound. One caution: I’d test out how others say the ‘g’ where you live before choosing this name. Both are pleasing, but it would be good to know which will be the default.
Hale – If you love the word quality of Moss, I wonder if another word name would appeal? Hale is a favorite; it means robust, from the Old English hal – healthy. The phrase “hail fellow well met” refers to an outgoing, friendly sort of guy. It’s a thoroughly positive set of associations. And while the sound and spelling are straightforward, no one is using this as a given name.
Orson – To an earlier generation, Orson was Orson Wells – the actor. But today that’s a less familiar reference. It started out as a surname, ultimately from the Latin ursus, meaning bear. It feels just as traditional as Otto, but a little more unusual.
Otis – If you love Otto, but it’s not quite right, I wonder if you might like Otis? It’s a cousin to Otto, but with a slightly different sound. And while Otto makes me think of Germany, Otis is all Otis Redding.
Rufus – Names like Otto and Oscar are vintage picks making a comeback. I wonder if you’d like to go even farther, and consider names that have yet to catch on? Rufus is one of my favorites. Yes, it’s a Harry Potter name. (Rufus Scrimgeour is a Minister of Magic in the later novels.) But JK Rowling used so many great choices for her characters – and it’s not quite like using Harry, Ron, or Hermione! I think it’s an overlooked possibility.
Stellan – There’s something crisp and modern about Van, so I wonder if you might consider a name like Stellan? It sounds like a masculine form of Stella, from the Latin word for star, but that’s not the case. Instead, Stellan comes from Swedish and might mean calm. Actor Stellan Skarsgård has made it familiar throughout the English-speaking world, but it remains quite rare.
Overall, Dashiell is my favorite – Dashiell Noel or Dashiell Nolan, possibly with Dash as a nickname. I think it stands up nicely to Moss Robert. It’s a little less common than some of the names on your list, but isn’t any more unusual than Moss.
Sometimes I feel like there’s one obvious answer to a question, but this is the opposite case – it seems like the options go on and on and on! So let’s turn it over to the readers: what would you name a brother for Moss Robert?
1. Eben – it means, stone
Moss and Eben
2. Ackley – it means, he who dwells at the oak tree meadow
Moss and Ackley
1. Oliver – the olive tree, symbolizes fruitfulness, beauty, and dignity. Extending an olive branch is a sign of peace.
Moss and Oliver
2. Foster – one who keeps the forrest.
Moss and Foster
3. Glynn – vale or valley.
Moss and Glynn
The male form Noelin can sound almost identical to Nolan when pronounced in English. A full anagram of Noeline is Leonien. My choice of a partial anagram would be Jolyon.
Some other names you can spell using the letters of Noeline Joy which haven’t been mentioned:
Leonino, Yeonjin, Elinoy, Ienney, Inyene, Iolyon, Jeniel, Jenney, Jennie, Jiyoon, Joniel, Jonnie, Lenney, Lennie, Linney, Lonnie, Lynnie, Lyonne, Lyonni, Neylon, Noelyn, Yeniel, Yennie, Yoniel, Yonnie, Eilon, Eleno, Elien, Elion, Eljon, Ellen, Elyie, Elyon, Eniel, Ennio, Eynon, Ienny, Ionel, Ionne, Ionno, Ionny, Iooel, Jeeli, Jeiel, Jenil, Jenne, Jenni, Jenny, Jinne, Joele, Joeli, Jolon, Jonel, Jonie, Jonne, Jonni, Jonno, Jonny, Jooel, Jooni, Joyel, Leeon, Leino, Leijn, Leion, Lenie, Lenin, Lenne, Lenni, Lenny, Lenon, Leone, Leoni, Leono, Linne, Linny, Liono, Liyen, Lonie, Lonne, Lonni, Lonny, Lynni, Lyone, Lyoni, Neiel, Nelio, Nijel, Niley, Ninoy, Niyol, Nolen, Noley, Nolin, Nolon, Nolyn, Noney, Nonie, Nonio, Oleni, Onnie, Yenni, Yinne, Yoeli, Yonel, Yonie, Yonne, Yonni, Yonno, Yooel, Yooni, Eeli, Eeno, Eiel, Eije, Eile, Eilo, Eine, Eino, Eion, Ejno, Elen, Elie, Elio, Eliy, Eloi, Elon, Eloy, Elye, Elyo, Enej, Enel, Enio, Enne, Enni, Enno, Enol, Enon, Eoen, Eoin, Eole, Eolo, Eool, Ieno, Ieny, Ileo, Ilon, Inno, Ioel, Ioen, Ioey, Iolo, Ione, Ionn, Iony, Ioon, Iyel, Jene, Jeni, Jeno, Jeny, Jile, Jino, Joel, Joen, Joey, Joie, Joli, Joly, Jone, Joni, Jonn, Jony, Joon, Leen, Leeo, Lein, Lejo, Lene, Leni, Lenn, Leno, Leny, Leyn, Lien, Lije, Linn, Lino, Lion, Loni, Lono, Lony, Looj, Lynn, Lyon, Neel, Neil, Neji, Neli, Nelo, Nely, Neno, Neon, Niel, Nile, Nilo, Nino, Nion, Noni, Nono, Nony, Nyle, Oein, Oele, Oene, Oeni, Oeno, Oinn, Oino, Olej, Olen, Oley, Olie, Olin, Olon, Onie, Onne, Onni, Onno, Onny, Yeej, Yeni, Yeno, Yoel, Yoen, Yoji, Yoli, Yone, Yoni, Yonn, Yoon
I also got the impression that it wasn’t necessarily a boy they were naming and if that’s the case, maybe Elin or Noë in the middle? Vada Elin, Juniper/Junia Elin, Zinnia Noë, Aster Noë
And my favorite, because I’m in the camp of honor names as they come: Kit Noeline
Would your mother-in-law’s maiden name make a good middle name? Just wondering. I used my grandmother’s maiden name for my son as his middle and it works pretty well.
I’m Australian so different accent to the kiwis but I would say with a g as in gift. It isn’t the nicest sounding name in my accent as it sounds a lot like algae.
I love how Dash and Moss sound together, but Dashiell Noel has a bit too much ‘L’ sound for my liking. I prefer Asher Noel, it has the same ‘ash’ as Dashiell, still has the same nature vibe as Moss, and in my opinion, it flows better. But whatever you choose will definitely be uniquely adorable. Can’t wait to hear which direction you go!
The difficulty with Noel for me is that it sounds like Knoll. If you use another nature-inspired name, it sounds too much like a place to me. That’s why the suggestions of River Knoll and Spruce Noel sound off to me.
I’m usually one who defaults to preferring the honor name to stay most true to the honoree, but in this case, I’m the exact opposite. Noeline Joy. How to use and honor name for Noeline Joy. (1) Like Abby said, use a similar meaning. There are many boy names that mean Joy. (2) Shortened versions. You’ve honed in on Noel. There’s also Eli. Nel. Lin. Nolan. (3) Use a name combo that calls to mind this honoree. A name combo that uses the same initials. (4) Perhaps our there, but use Knoll. Moss and Noel seem like a jarring pair to me. Moss and Knoll seem charming and fresh. Moss Robert and Knoll John.
Laura Powell says
River came to my mind reading the post or how about Cole? The suggestions above by Abbey are good Hale and Rufus would be my favourites.
I like Otto Noel.
If your wanting a nature-ish name maybe ..,
I think Abby’s suggestions of Rufus and Stellan are great.
A few more ideas:
Idris – A Welsh name that has a nature connection, thanks to the Welsh mountain Cadair/Cader Idris.
Fen/Fenn – a bit more obviously ‘nature-y’ than Idris, but it reminds me of Van. Spelled Fenn, it’s a surname that has also been used as a first name (in the Star Wars universe). Fenn’s Moss forms part of a nature reserve in the UK, which might be a positive or negative depending on your taste.
Griffin – another nature-ish name, related to the Welsh Gruffudd. Robin is another animal name that feels fresh again on a boy, and matches Moss’s soft strength.
Torin – like Oscar, this is a ‘soft-but-strong’ Irish name (meaning ‘chieftain’). Other Irish names that might appeal include Lorcan (‘little fierce one’) and Lonan (‘blackbird’).
Ivo – Ivo reminds me of Otto, with it’s brisk sound and o-ending. Ivo is another ‘sort-of’ nature-y name, meaning ‘yew’ (and, by extension, archer). A similar choice is Arno, which is a double nature name: it’s a form of Arnold or other names incorporating the name ‘Arne’ (‘eagle’), as well as being the name of a river in Italy. Roscoe, from a surname meaning ‘deer forest’ is another thought. For an -o name without the nature meaning, there’s the jaunty Jago (the Cornish form of Jacob)
Middle name ideas (if Noel or other variants of Noeline & Joy don’t suit): Zorion (unisex Basque name meaning ‘happiness’); Lowen (unisex Cornish name meaning ‘joyful’. Lowena and Lowenna are also used for girls); Blythe (unisex, though perhaps more expected for a girl than boy. From a surname meaning ‘blithe’, or cheerful).
Or perhaps Sylvan (meaning ‘of/from the woodland/forest’) if Sullivan is almost right. Silvio or Sylvain are other options, Sylvan gets you the nn. Van.
I like Oscar Noel!
Lisa T. says
It seems you’re asking for girls’ names too? How about the middle name Leonie? It uses 6/7 letters from the name Noeline.
Just wondering if I missed something from the original letter … is it definitely a boy they are naming? I had the impression that they had boy names they liked and could use Noel as a middle, but were unsure how to honour Noeline Joy with a name that they liked for a girl …?
If you are looking for girl options, I think Noelle or Eline – or even Elina – could work as middle name options to honour your mother-in-law. Or with the right first name, Joy can be sweet as well, even if it’s not your style.
With no idea of your girl style, some thoughts for you along these lines:
All the best!
To clarify, when Kelly first reached out they had not found out their child’s sex. But she wrote in shortly after and let me know it’s a boy! My apologies if that wasn’t clear – I probably should have tweaked the original request a little more to make it clear.
Thanks Abby – we’ll concentrate on boys now!!
The Mrs. says
How does Jasper suit you?
Moss & Jasper
Rafe might be your style.
Moss & Rafe
Spruce would be the coolest!
Moss & Spruce
I do love Abby’s suggestion of Hale.
Hale Felix, Hale Asher, Hale Caius (meaning ‘joy’)
Best wishes to you and your family!
I like Moss and Hale. I also like Moss and Dash. And Van isn’t bad. A few additional suggestions:
I love Hale. Moss and Hale sound like brothers.
Getting creative with Noeline Joy: Jory Leon (do you like Noel better flipped?) or Leon James or Noble James?
Based on your faves, how about Vaughn or Orin or Whit or Gideon?
You could go so many ways with this. Can’t wait to hear where you land.
Jem [Moss and Jem]
Niall [Moss and Niall] instead of Noel
Mahe [Moss and Mahe] so sporty!
I like Van best of your options, and Hale or Otis of Abby’s.
Zena Eve says
Moss Robert really hits a nice balance, makes a bit hard act to follow.