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!
We have two boys. Their names are Charles Michael and Arthur Harold. Our last name is similar to Winters.
We are now having a dilemma naming our third child, a daughter.
I like classic boy names with nicknames – solid names with lots of history.
My own name is Agatha and while I love the name, it feels sloppy to my ears and leaves me with unattractive nickname options. I prefer names that are crisp, and I love many of the names from your classic girls name list like Jane, Grace, Helen, and Leah.
My husband is a much more modern namer. He wanted to name our first son Arsen.
How do we close the gap between something that feels modern and not fusty but still has a long history of use without being a weird mouthful like Agatha?
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Naming is easy.
If it’s a tank of goldfish, where we can use all of our favorites and the choice is ours alone.
Naming a human being, when we have to compromise with another human being? Yeah. It’s tough!
The thing is this: it sounds like your husband ultimately defers to you on name choices – first and middle. While Charles and Arthur are quite current, they’re traditional names with history to spare. There’s not a hint of Arsen (or anything else particularly modern/unconventional) in their names.
But the pool of potential girls’ names tends to be deeper. And parents are often willing to take risks on naming their daughters that they won’t with their sons. (I’m so guilty of this – our son’s name was Top 20 the year he was born, and entered the Top Ten a few years later. Our daughter’s name? Never in the Top 1000.)
So I wonder if the challenge is to find a traditional name for a girl that’s just not terribly common right now? The names you’ve suggested – like Jane – could be logical compromise choices. After all, Jane offers plenty of backstory and a bright, sparky sound.
But if that’s not quite right, maybe we’re looking for something a little less familiar?
Regarding your own name, I think when you say “sloppy,” maybe you mean that Agatha isn’t especially stylish right now? It’s old lady, but not granny chic? So we’re also looking for a name that feels like an up-and-coming choice, even if it’s not quite there yet.
A SISTER FOR CHARLES and ARTHUR
The Spanish word for soul, Alma sounds gently old-fashioned and novel at once.
A Scottish word meaning pretty, Bonnie fits in with Belle and Jolie, but feels a little more vintage.
A perfect sister name for Charles and Arthur, but definitely on the less-expected side.
Originally a tailored French nickname for Nicole, with plenty of literary and pop culture references. (My favorite: Colette is the female chef in Ratatouille.)
We love names like Evelyn and Vivian that sound crisp, tailored, and pulled-together. Davina is just the tiniest bit frillier, with that -a ending, but still plenty sharp.
A mini name with an ethereal vibe.
Nature name Laurel would be big today … if only Laura and Lauren hadn’t had such a good run in the 1980s and 90s. But it is catching on now, a logical choice in our age of Hazel and Rowan.
The French form of Sylvia, Sylvie sounds quite current and completely fresh … but also traditional.
My favorites for you are Sylvie and Colette – especially Colette!
I also wonder if pairing a great, modern middle with your daughter’s first might get your husband on board? It mixes your preference for a rock-solid, traditional first with his preference for a slightly more daring name.
Colette Landry, Colette Marlowe, Sylvie Laine, Sylvie Scout?
Jean C. says
I know a young Helen and Grace, but zero Arsens so…you know. You might actually be the modern namer in the marriage! I like all of the names you listed. But here’s a few names that I think fall between “crisp, classic” and sort of a modern-ish vibe.
Nora (or Cora?)
I also love Sylvia/Sylvie and Colette that Abby mentioned. Good luck!
Trying to come up with a few traditional names that feel modern like Arsen:
First and only thought is Penelope
For what it’s worth, I know several tiny Agathas and everyone reacts to their names with a sort of sparkling surprise. I think your name is beautiful.
Lady Ray says
I really like the suggestions: Sylvia/Sylvie, Louisa, and Helene or even Helena.
You really have great options to consider! Don’t be discouraged & practice saying the names out loud.
I really like the suggestion of Sadie with your boy’s names.
Maybe Sadie Jane or Sadie Margaret
C in DC says
I love the suggestion of Elaine or Helene, nn Laney. I also like Therese or Teresa, nn Reese. or Juliet nn Jet. Arthur always brings up the Guinevere names: Jennifer, Gwendolyn, Vera, Neve.
My first thoughts:
I think Iris would be lovely with your boys names. I also really like Sylvie.
I really like Mary with your boys’ names, and a cool middle (or a buffer middle plus a REALLY cool one), like Abby suggests. Mary Juniper, Mary Alice Indigo, Mary Lux. Mary Helen Marvel.
My first thought was Mary Grace.
Danielle Burrows says
Names that immediately came to mind: Zelda, Louisa, Zara, Anna, Eloise, Grace, Clara, and Lara.
Elaine is so underused in my opinion! One similar option that sprang to mind for me is Ellen. Ellen Margaret, specifically.
My first thought was Josephine. Comes with an abundance of nicknames, Jojo could be really sweet and snappy with her brothers.
But it sounds like you want short and snappy on paper, so if not the wonderful names you listed (Jane, Grace, Helen, Leah or Sylvie which would be so great with your set) then how about:
Juno (or June)
I have a baby Charles and his sisters are Eva and Elaine. Charles and Elaine are the youngest and very close in age. They are Charles Cole and Elaine Hope because of family honors. I have loved their names together because they feel symmetrical and balanced to me, though I initially thought they were boring choices. I think a tailored and solid name like Elaine IS an unexpected choice, but everyone recognizes it easily. It has lots of nicknames: Elle, Lainie, Laine, E, Ellie, Ella. I thought we might use Lainie and Charlie, but Elaine has stuck well and we usually refer to Charles as Co (Cole shortened) around the family. Colette would have been his name had he been a girl. So my favorite choices for you here are Colette (Coco) or Faye. Good luck!!
Ada, Adele, Anne, Bea, Blythe, Brynn, Cecile, Celeste, Celia, Christine, Claire, Coral, Daphne, Delia, Estelle, Eve, Frances, Garnet, Hope, Ione, Iris, Jean, June, Kay, Kit, Lake, Leigh, Lucille, Louise, Lynn, Maren, Maura, May, Nola, Rose, Tessa, Thea, Zora
I would hazard a guess that you might like one or two syllable names. Kit or Kay might work as a substitute for Kate and Jean and June for Jane, etc. Any name outside the top 50 that doesn’t have half a dozen alternate spellings or soundalikes is probably going to be fairly uncommon.
Alison Doherty says
I like the idea of Sylvia or Sylvie for sure! I also wonder if there’s common ground with some more popular/modern nicknames and classic full names – like Margaret called Margot or Louisa called Lulu. Or maybe a compromise with a name that feels both modern and classic like Naomi, Audrey, Quinn, or Ivy. I can see all of those going with Arthur and Charles (which are two of my all time favorite names btw). Good luck finding the right name!!