Name HelpName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!

Amanda and her husband already have two nicely-named children: son Bram and daughter Maren.

Now they’re expecting their third child. It’s a girl!

They’re looking for a name that is:

  • Uncommon
  • Frills-free but still feminine
  • Possibly nature-inspired
  • Bonus points if the names shares the same ‘a’ sound as Bram and Maren

Their current list includes Freya, Selah, Sela, Zara, Esme, Garnet, Greta, and River.

Please read on for my response – and share your helpful thoughts and suggestions in the comments!

A Sister for Maren & BramHi Amanda –

I love the names Bram and Maren, and I think you’ve got a great start with your short list!

Let’s see if we can come up with a few more ideas that meet your criteria, and then narrow down the list!

A Sister for Maren & Bram: More Ideas

We all know a frilly name when we see it: Arabella, Eleonora, Marietta, Antoinette. They’re elaborate, even frou-frou. It can be a little bit harder to describe a frills-free name, though I’ve tried to make a list!

From your list, Garnet and River are the most tailored names. They’re also used for boys and well as girls, which seems like a line you’d rather not cross. But they’re nature names, and Garnet shares the same ‘a’ sound as Bram and Maren. So that’s a plus.

But most of the names on your list are still frills-free, even if they’re clearly feminine: Sela, Selah, Freya, Zara, Greta, Esme. None of them are too dramatically feminissa.

So there’s no way to discard any of these names as an outlier.

Other names that might fit:

  • Lake – Wrong ‘a’ sound, but a frills-free nature name that feels feminine.
  • Bay – Same potential – and problems! – as Lake. But I wonder if you’d prefer to avoid repeating the initials B and M?
  • Luna – A nature name, a frills-free name, and hey, a Harry Potter heroine role model, too! But is Luna too popular? Neither Bram nor Maren is in the current US Top 1000, so that makes me think that Top 200 (and rising fast) Luna needs to be crossed from the list. Which reminds me, I really want to suggest Iris, but it’s a Top 1000 name – and doesn’t have that ‘a’ sound, either.
  • Arbor – Now here’s a nature name we don’t hear very often. (I first came across it on a flower girl at a wedding – very appropriate, right?) Not in the current US Top 1000, definitely a nature name, and while it’s frills-free, it also seems feminine.
  • Arden – Again, not in the US Top 1000. It’s literary, thanks to Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden. It’s frills-free. But, like Garnet, it has a history of use for boys. So that’s a possibly drawback – though that’s changed in recent years, and Arden definitely trends feminine these days.
  • Afton – One more two-syllable, A name: Afton, as in the river. There are lots of reasons to love this name.
  • Lark – If you like the idea of a nature name, would you consider something with wings? Avian names are a big category. Wren is the most popular possibility and fits your list nicely, too. But Lark shares the ‘a’ sound with Maren and Bram. And because it ends in k, I think it feels different from your older kids’ names, too.

A Sister for Bram & Maren: My Favorites

I worry I’m not doing you any favors by adding more ideas to your list!

So let’s go back and choose some favorites.

From your list, I love:

  • Sela – On the downside, Selah is slightly more familiar, and it might cause some spelling confusion. But I think the plusses outweigh that one drawback here. It’s a nature name – from the Hebrew for ‘rock’, as well as an Old Testament place name. (Sela and Selah have different roots.) And it checks the other boxes, too – the right ‘a’ sound, feminine but not frilly.
  • Greta – One of things I love about Maren is that it can be tied to the Latin word for the sea, but also to the ever-so-classic Mary. Greta has that same spin-on-a-classic appeal, since it’s originally a form of Margaret. Another plus? Margaret can be linked to daisies, via the French Marguerite. It’s the most popular name on your list, but it certainly isn’t common.
  • Zara – Even though there’s no nature name tie here, I’m drawn to Zara for the same reasons as Greta. Zara feels like an update to the evergreen Sarah, which makes me think of Zara as a natural sister name for Maren. Another possibility? Zora. Literary like Bram, and with a nature name tie: it comes from a Slavic word meaning dawn.

From the list of new possibilities, I’d add:

  • Lake and Lark – They’re short, frills-free nature names that I expect to hear on a girl. Lake doesn’t have the right vowel sound, but I think it still works.
  • Afton – This name has such a great story. It pairs well with Bram and Maren, and it’s a nature name, too.
  • Iris – Okay, it doesn’t fit what you asked for at all. But Bram, Maren, and Iris – I think it works, too. And as with Esme and River, sometimes considering names that don’t exactly fit your criteria can help you decide how important those criteria really are to your final decision.

Okay, readers, over to you! What would you name a sister for Maren and Bram?

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 first thought was Wren or Wrenn, I just love it for a girl and it is natured inspired. May be too close to Maren. I also like Larken, close to Lark but not as harsh. A little dramatic but not nature inspired … what about Bardot or Harlow. Good luck.