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!
I’m 37 weeks and still undecided! Our sons name is Linden, and we love his name Linden. It’s an actual name, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and fairly uncommon
His middle name is an unusual two-syllable Irish surname and family name. Our last name sounds like Castle with an R at the end.
We don’t know gender with this baby. The front runner for a boy is Ellis Jon.
The front runner for a girl is Collins Elizabeth. Or we could use Ellis for a girl but I don’t like Ellis Elizabeth so we’d have to find another middle name.
I’m a little less sure about Collins. I can’t decide it it’s classic (preference) or a bit too trendy sounding.
My husband is against -er ending names because of our last name. He thinks the -er and -er sounds harsh. But I don’t necessarily think it’s terrible! I love surname names and like something a bit more masculine for girls. We like uncommon names but not weird or hard to pronounce/spell.
Any help from you or your readers would be greatly appreciated!
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Krista –
Congratulations on your new baby on the way!
I think Ellis is perfect for a son. It’s more popular than Linden, but far from common.
To put that in numbers: in 2018, 105 boys and 80 girls were named Linden. 1,058 boys and 346 girls were named Ellis. The #1 name for boys, Liam, was given to 19,837 boys and the #1 name for girls, was given to 18,688 girls.
I don’t think you have to look any further.
But a girls’ name does present some challenges!
A SISTER FOR LINDEN
Here’s the thing about surname names for girls: in certain circles, especially in the American South, parents have handed down family surnames to their children – often without regard to gender – for generations.
But surname names for girls that aren’t attached to a family tree? That’s mostly a new idea, though a few outliers, like Shirley, can be found.
The wave of girls named Taylor, Kelly, and Jordan came in the 90s, followed by Madison and Mackenzie, and then Harper, Emery, Avery, and Kennedy.
It doesn’t make the names trendy, exactly. But it does mean there’s not really a group of classic surname names for girls.
This is probably good news.
It means that you don’t have to worry about whether Collins qualifies as a classic. It’s not … but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a fleeting trend, either. Because – truly – if you’re after a classic name for a daughter, then you’re going to name her Elizabeth. Or Katherine or Margaret or Jane. And that’s not what you want.
Collins is easy to spell and pronounce, and sounds like a sibling for Linden. I think it works beautifully, but if you want to consider more surname names for girls that fall outside of the current US Top 1000, let’s make a list.
Adair – I suggest it all the time, but Adair remains rare. Yes, it ends with R … but the rhythm works. Adair Carter, Adair Hunter, Adair Castle+r.
Bellamy – It’s unisex, but the first syllable makes it particularly appealing for a daughter.
Ellery – Midway between Ellis and Emily, Ellery is rare but very wearable. The only hitch: it rules out Ellis for a future son.
Halston – A stylish H surname to follow favorites like Harper and Hadley.
Marlowe – Marlo is a mid-century girls’ name, but Marlowe feels like a modern surname choice.
Quinlan – Quinn is popular for girls, but Quinlan takes it in an unexpected direction.
Reeve – File Reeve somewhere between Reese and Eve – a name no one is using, but would wear very well.
Yardley – Yardley fits with so many feminine favorites, from Ashley to Hailey to Everly. But it’s different and distinctive, too.
Overall, I love the sound of Reeve Elizabeth Castle-with-an-r. I think it’s exactly right with Linden. And, as a bonus, the writer Reeve Morrow Lindbergh, daughter of famed aviator Charles and writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh, makes it feel just slightly familiar for a girl.
OR … ELLIS?
But I also think it’s worth pondering Ellis for a daughter. One the downside, Ellie names are everywhere for girls, from Ella to Ellison to, well, Eleanor and Elizabeth.
On the other hand, Ellis itself is not especially popular.
And if Elizabeth isn’t a significant family middle name, then lots of classic choices would work beautifully with Ellis. I love Ellis Katherine Castle-with-an-R, but the list is long.
So I think Collins works, and Ellis and Reeve are both solid options to consider if Collins feels not quite right.
C in DC says
Collins Castle+r is as challenging as Ellis Elizabeth to my ear. Maybe bird names to go with the tree name. Swan, Wren, Adelie, Lark, Dove, Sparrow, Eagle, Hawk, Falcon, Peregrine, etc.
I love the suggestion of Arden! It marks the surname box, and its the name of the forest in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. That ties it perfectly to the tree surname Linden.
I also would like to recommend Aston. It’s easy to spell, easy to say, and uncommon but not unusual.
I like Ellis for a boy or a girl. I don’t mind the sound of Ellis Elizabeth.
Other girl names – Ellery, Hollis and Delaney.
What do you think of the name Tamsin. It has a surname appeal and is easy to spell and pronounce. Could be perfect for your baby girl.
I like Collins. A few others:
I do like Ellis although it does sound a bit close to Alice to me at times.
Kirstin G says
A few more to consider:
What about Maren Elizabeth for a girl? That’s a tailored, no-frills name. I also like Arden a lot, but I think it sounds a bit too much like Linden with that final syllable. Maybe Sloane?
How about Beverly or Meredith? Wallis might also appeal. Kind of out of left field, but what about Hero or Hermione—both Shakespearean, both underused.
Zena Eve says
Danielle Burrows says
How about Birgen for a girl? I heard it recently – it’s the name of the daughter of the late comedian Phil Hartman – and #swoon.
I think Merritt Elizabeth is lovely and it pairs well with Linden.
I also like the suggestion of Hollis. The only drawback I see is if you hope to use Ellis for a future son (if you’re think you might have another baby). Hollis and Ellis sound too similar, imo.
Best wishes to you!
I LOVE Ellis for a boy or a girl. If you feel strongly about using Elizabeth in the middle spot, maybe use similar and equally cool Hollis instead? Hollis Elizabeth is a little less repetitive then Ellis Elizabeth (also TBH I really don’t hate the sound of Ellis Elizabeth).
Abby’s suggestion of Reeve made be think of Reed/Reid, which is another name that I think fits the bill.
Congratulations and good luck!
What about Emery? Checks the traditional-boy-name-turned-girl-name, and last-name-first-name boxes, plus it has a good meaning – industrious. I also like that it contains “Merry” inside. Makes it feel quite happy. Emery Elizabeth. Linden and Emery. Emery Castle+r.
Ellis sounds much like the classic name, Alice. To avoid confusion, you can choice these near-classic girl names like Clara, Grace, Louisa and Violet as her middle name
C in DC says
I think you hit on the one point for not using Ellis for a girl – Alice and Ellis are too close and will cause constant name correction.
I might continue with a tree/nature theme, as with Linden (such a lovely name!).
Arden, Cedar, Sequoia, Arbor… Or for something a little more common and familiar, River.