Name Help: A Middle Name for ClaireName 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!

Jenna writes:

Our daughter is due in April. We agreed on her first name before we even knew she was a girl – Claire. I love that it is simple but elegant.

When it comes to middle names, though, we’re stuck. Our last name starts with an H, ends with an R, and is very common as a boys name and a last name.

Because her first/last name will be common, I want her middle name to be different. My husband has suggested Marie and Elizabeth, but he admits he’s mostly thinking of middle names of people he knows. Not to honor someone, just because those “sound” like middle names to him.

The name I keep coming back to is Persephone. Claire Persephone. Since she’s due in spring, I really like whole mythological aspect/seasons part of Persephone, too.

My husband isn’t sure about Persephone. So while I try to win him over, can you suggest some more ideas?

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

I’m swooning over Claire Persephone. The sound, the juxtaposition of a classic first with a completely unexpected middle, the whole tie-in to being a springtime baby. It’s just perfect.

If your husband is reading this, I really hope he agrees!

But let’s take a minute and talk about middle names in general, because it seems like you’re both approaching the question from a different direction.


First, it’s easy to just fill-in-the-blank.

We spent lots of time talking about first names. But nearly everyone has a middle, too. (That wasn’t always the case. They didn’t begin to become official in the US until World War I.) So leaving the space blank doesn’t feel like an option. But we don’t always have lots of energy left to devote to middles after figuring out firsts.

So we default to a few names.

And there is a pool of names perfect as middles. They conform to our ideas about the right rhythm and style to fill up that spot. Grace and Rose are go-tos for this generation. Marie and yes, Elizabeth, have been favorites for even longer.

But, but, but …

Okay, if your beloved grandmother’s name is Rose, then maybe that’s the perfect middle – even if it’s popular.

But a bolder – even slightly bolder – middle name can be a perfect choice.

It can distinguish your child from another who shares her name.

A friend has a great story about how she shared her common, but not that common name – first, last, and middle – with another classmate at her small liberal arts college. And how she almost didn’t meet her future husband, because when a mutual friend offered to introduce them, HE’D ALREADY MET the other Ruth Anne Henderson. (Not the actual name, but that’s the general vibe.)

Claire Elizabeth will be one of many. Claire Persephone is almost certainly the only one.

It’s a great place to add meaning.

Maybe it’s a family name. A reference to a favorite place or song. In this case, Persephone is a nod to her season of birth – which is quite lovely, too.

A bold middle is like a delightful secret to share with those close to you.

You’ll often hear, “Oh, no one uses your middle name anyway.” Sort of true. But then again, so many middle names are on the predicable side.

When you have a great name story, it’s different. It becomes something you can share with friends. And a bolder, surprising choice sparks up a more classic first, too.


At this point, I’m tempted to suggest Dulcinea and Romilly.

But the trick might be to thread the needle: what’s not quite as bold as Persephone, but less conventional than Elizabeth?

These names all rank in the current US Top 1000, have history galore, and should be broadly familiar to many. But they’re not typical middle names, either.


As regal as Margaret, as borrowed-from-the-map as Sydney.


Another El- name, but one heard rarely as a middle.


Lacy, vintage Felicity share Persephone’s rhythm, but maybe it’s just a little more familiar?


It sounds like a safe middle name, and I think it is – but it’s also not quite a traditional stand-by.


Maybe there’s a family surname that you can consider as a middle? If not, surname-style firsts like Hadley might be worth considering.


It’s not unusual to hear Joseph as a middle, or Jo for girls. But Josephine in full might be just different enough.


Or Madeline. Like several names on this list, it’s common as a first, less conventional in the middle.


This might be my favorite of the choices. It’s got such a sharp, tailored sound – I think it pairs beautifully with Claire.


I don’t think any of my suggestions top Persephone. But I do think they’re great alternatives to Elizabeth – just a little sparkier and less expected.

I’d suggest Claire Vivian or Claire Genevieve as an alternative.

Readers, over to you – what would you suggest as a middle name for Claire H—–r?

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. My suggestion is Claire Marguerite.
    The birth flower for April is the daisy and the name Marguerite nods to the French Daisy.

  2. I love Claire Persephone! So many great suggestions here. I’ll add Claire Hyacinth – one of the first flowers of Spring. I like the alliteration with the middle and last name as well.

  3. I’m a Clare Trudy (in honour of grandmother Gertrude), but I love Claire Ursula to get Claire Bear! In my experience people will go there anyway, may as well make it official!

  4. I 100% agree with the idea of an unusual middle name with a common first and last. I have a very common first name that was in the top 10 for most of the decade I was born, a very uncommon middle name, and a last name that’s quite unusual for where I live, but not unheard of (think Hannah Sunday Fleming). I’ve met many people with my first name, and a few with my last name, but the only person I’ve known with the same first and last was a girl who was in the year below me at university. She once left her bank card and ID in the pub, and when they looked for her on Facebook, they found me. However, I quickly realised that it wasn’t me they wanted as her middle name was the very common Marie!

    I love the combo of Claire Persephone, I think the quirkiness really stands out from the crowd, and I think the number of syllables throughout her full name is very musical. All of the other suggestions in this thread are also brilliant, I don’t think you can go wrong, but I’d like to suggest April. It’s unusual enough that she probably won’t meet another Claire April, whilst not being too out there. It also still has that connection to the time of her birth as she’s due in April! If your husband isn’t keen on the name April, you could also suggest the French Avril or Spanish Abril, which both sound more “namey” in English, whilst maintaining the meaning.

  5. I adore Claire Persephone. But if that feels too out there, maybe Claire Penelope would be similar but a little more mainstream. Or Claire Pandora?

  6. I like Claire Primrose… Same floral concept and P sound but a little less wild than Persephone. To me it splits the difference with Elizabeth.

    Claire Iris immediately came to mind when I read your letter. Unexpected but slightly more restrained than Persephone. Plus the Greek mythology and the significance of rainbows makes a nice tie too.

    Other thoughts were
    Claire Soleil
    Claire Margot
    Claire Clementine (nn Cece would be an option)