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 hoping you might have some suggestions. I’m pregnant with baby number two due in December. We have a daughter, 22 months, named Mabel.
We were using the name Mabel for about five years before she was born, so couldn’t imaging another name for her.
However this time round we are struggling for boy and girl names. I don’t want a name in the Top 100 – as a Jessica born in the late ’80s I was never the only Jessica in the classroom!
I like vintage with a bit of sass. A boy name that we are toying with is Chester. I also like Etta for a girl. Nothing is really something we love though.
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Jessica –
Congrats on your new baby!
When you’ve known your first child’s name forever, it can feel impossible to think of a name for her sibling. But the good news is that you have a good idea of what you’d like. It’s just a question of accelerating the process. We can help with that!
So, we need boy and girl name ideas. They need to be:
- Not currently ranked in the US Top 100 … or heading that way fast.
- Vintage, rather than modern, in style.
- With a little bit of spark!
And, of course, they need to be a good match for Mabel. This makes me think we’re looking for tailored, nickname-proof girl names, rather than something more elaborate.
A SISTER FOR MABEL
Daphne – At #383, Daphne feels familiar, but not common. And it’s a spirited name that’s not tied to any era. (Though this Django Reinhardt piece sounds like the names you’re describing – and it’s called Daphne!)
Dorothy – Dorothy Gale went over the rainbow in 1939. By 1985, Dorothy Zbornak was retired in Miami. But today, it has come full circle, and feels like an adventurous girl’s name again. It currently ranks #586.
Edith – Downton Abbey boosted this name a little, but at #586, it’s still a comfortably underused vintage gem.
Flora – Nora and Cora rank in the US Top 100, but Flora? It’s not even in the Top 1000.
Louise – Louise Brooks stamps this name as effortlessly vintage, but Louise also feels like a classic. It ranks #800.
Ruth – In some ways, Ruth is serious – an Old Testament figure, a Supreme Court Justice. But on a girl, it’s sparky Ruthie – and that’s a name that feels perfectly paired with Mabel. It ranks #265.
Simone – Simone might feel sleek and sophisticated next to friendly Mabel, but I think the names share a tailored style that’s quite compatible. It ranks #733.
Vera – A vintage name that’s on the upswing, but, at #257, remains far behind Ruby or Stella.
A BROTHER FOR MABEL
Archie – As approachable as Mabel, and every bit as vintage, too.
Calvin – Another throwback name that, like Mabel, feels quite current today.
Dexter – If Chester is close, but not quite, how about Dexter?
Felix – It’s tough to beat the meaning of this name: lucky.
Hugo – Arlo, Leo, and Milo are quite stylish. Hugo shares the same ‘o’ ending, but isn’t nearly as popular.
Otis – Originally a surname form of Otto, Otis and Mabel feel like they’re from the same era.
Philip – Maybe a little more buttoned-up than Mabel, but both names are downright fun to say.
Rufus – An ancient Roman name mentioned in the New Testament, Rufus has been out-of-favor in the US for years … but that might make this the perfect choice.
Overall, I love the idea of Archie with Mabel, but I wonder if Archie feels like it needs a formal name? I’ve been toying with Arthur called Archie, but that might be a stretch. Still, I think just Archie works well.
If not Archie, then how about Dexter? Yes, there’s the serial killer. But Dexter has that great, vintage appeal, while the X makes Dex a thoroughly modern nickname.
Back to girls’ names: Etta is great, but I like Edith just a little bit more. I think Mabel and Edith both benefit from strong, bright vowel sounds. Plus, they’re feminine without being frilly, traditional without being too expected, and nickname-proof, but with great built-in nicknames: Edie and Mae.
Hallie is the female form of two traditional names, Henry and Harold, which also means ruler. The female name can also mean lovable, delightful and springlike.
Rosa and Mabel
Perla and Mabel
Tara and Mabel
If these have already been mentioned, consider them seconded:
I have a Mabel and I’m also looking for a sibling name. Funnily Etta is top of the list. I love Ethel but feel it’s too similar to Mabel. For a boy I adore Elliot and I would also consider it for a girl.
Love the suggestions of Flora, Simone and Dorothy with Dolly as a nickname. I’d also add Esme, Agnes, Pearl, Greta and Tess.
Chester is perfection. But before reading suggestions I also thought of Calvin, Otis and Rufus. Also Victor and Francis (or Frances for a girl).
I also adore the suggestions of Nell and Gene.
Chester and Etta are great with Mabel! What about
What a fun naming style!
Absolutely love Etta and Chester, but here are some others that came to mind:
Harriet nn Hattie (a lot of suggestions for this one)
Poppy/Pippa (feels very spunky)
Gus (was the first name that sprang to mind for a boy, but August/Augie works too)
Zoe Hare says
I love your choices but the first names that came into my head were Meredith and Murray
Etta! I’d absolutely stick with Etta! If you’re not sold, there are lots of other good suggestions from others, Zelda being my favorite for runner up!
Chester is so fun! And very unexpected. I was going to suggest Clyde but someone beat me to it. I also thought of Harvey. Gilbert is a great suggestion, and, if you’re feeling brave, Gordon might be tempting.
My first comment was supposed to be in response to the comment from Iris, below.
I also wanted to suggest Clive or Gilbert and to say I’m sure you could use Etta as a nickname for Harriet.
I love Etta! For a boy, Abby’s list is fantastic. I’m really digging Rufus and Calvin. I’d toss Ira and Carl onto the list as well.
Jean C. says
I love Dorothy as a suggestion. I feel like Gloria would work—it’s my daughter’s name and if I had had a second daughter, I would have liked to consider Mabel but it has an odd family situation (step grandma sort of thing) that would have unfortunately made it unusable. BUT I still love it! I also think Dinah would be so perfect with Mabel.
For a boy, I do like Chester and Archie. I feel like Oscar would also be very sweet.
Etta is nice. It reminds me of Etta James – cool and sassy and creative. However, it also shares a lot of sounds with so many other popular E names – Emma, Ella, Ellie, etc. – that are starting to go cold and are somewhat ubiquitous in my area. Would that bother me? I’m not sure. I also love Chester – it has just the right tone. Some other ideas for a sibling to Mabel (some may be repeats):
Hester/Esther (rules out Chester in the future)
Eloise, Estelle, Frances, Francine, Hester, Ida, Iris, Lucille, Luella, Lulu, Maxine, Nola, Rosalie, Roxanne.
Baird, Barney, Clyde, Elmer, Frank, Guy, Hal, Hank, Roger, Stuart, Vincent, Warren, Wiley, Zane.
Zena Eve says
Antonia or Nina for a girl, Evander or Samson for a boy.
You’ve jusr suggested three of my five children’s names in one swoop! I have a Harriet, Alistair & Edwin!! I see Susannah mentioned by others, so only Curtis is left ..but I realise it’s a bit of a different vintage.
I love Jean with Mabel. Actually, I love Eugene/Gene, too!
I saw that someone suggested Della, which I love with Mabel. This made me also think of the even more unique Zella which I’ve only heard a handful of times but love.
I was going to suggest Chester!!! It’s my fave. Also Willard! (They can be Mae & Will later if they want.)
You’ve got so many good girl options. I think I’d go with something super-vintage. Edith, Vera, Pearl, Iris. I DO think Etta is a an appropriate choice, but maybe more popular, less fusty? & I love fusty lol.
Lots of lovely suggestions here. From the comments, I especially like the idea of Harriet or Clementine. Abby’s suggestions of Flora, Dorothy, and Edith also seem to be pitch-perfect. Mabel strikes me as a name that is vintage, sweet but capable, and slightly Southern. It’s also intuitive to spell and pronounce.
My 6.5 year old granddaughter Mabel has a has a slightly younger sister named Camilla. Their parents had a personal reason for choosing the name Camilla, but also liked it because she would sometimes be called Milla (Mabel and Milla). Runner up girl’s name was Matilda; for a boy they liked Marshall or Theodore.
Marie Thomas says
Maybe Georgia or Sylvie?
Turanga Leela says
Have you thought about Clementine? It feels like the right era to go with Mabel, and it’s so sweet. If you’re okay with other M names, Millie and Marguerite have a similar vibe. (And Marguerite can be Rita or Daisy.)
For boys: My son is Raymond, and it’s been a perfect vintage name. Everyone can spell it, we never meet other Rays his age, and a lot of people say “That was my grandfather’s name!”
Turanga Leela says
One more girl’s name: Henrietta? You could still use Etta as a nickname, although Etta also works perfectly well on its own.
I know Elizabeth is a forever classic (so certainly common), but the nicknames Bette or Betty are so vintage and sassy – I love them! – and they are rarely heard. I also love Kit (could be short for Katherine or Katrina).
One of my favorite vintage names for boys is Roger. I also like Royal, Rhett, and Gard (could be short for Gardiner). Alfred could be cute, or Francis (nn Frank/Frankie).
Three more girl names: Bernadette, Birdie, and Dolly.
I actually like Chester (nn Chet) and Etta for you.
From Abby’s suggestions, love Daphne and Rufus the best.
A few additional suggestions:
Gus (or August)
I had a great-uncle Chester who went by Gus. I never thought to ask why.
For a girl I like:
Ada — 251
Esther — 153 Etta could be a nickname for Esther
Irene — 637
Pearl — 647
Rosetta — never ranked in the top 1000; Etta could be a nickname for Rosetta
Vera — 257
For a boy I like:
Arthur — 230 Art is a great nickname
Dale — 921
Glenn — 864
Jay — 399
Louis — 263 pronounced LOO ee,, although the pronunciation of Lewis (and the name at 546) is good too.
Ray — 728
I like Etta, Dorothy, Vera, Harriet (called Etta), or Matilda for a girl. A few other suggestions:
I like Chester or Rufus for a boy. Other possibilities:
Leonard or Leopold (called Leo)
Kester (very close to Chester)
For a boy: Edwin, Alistair, August.
For a girl: Thea, Winifred, Harriet. But I prefer Etta!