Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
I’m a Jessica who went through too many years as Jess K. My husband Tom doesn’t mind being the third Thomas in his family, but I think it is confusing.
I want my children to have names of their own.
Our son is Dashiell Henley H—er, our daughter is Elissa Morgan H—er.
Some people get Dashiell wrong, but mostly I’m happy with it. But Elissa, as much as I still love it? Grrr! We get Alyssa, Melissa, Eliza, Alicia … and others.
She is almost 3, and I worry that she will hate her name growing up.
We are expecting a daughter in January. I want to find a name that is different, but still easy to understand. Most of the names I like are longer, and I don’t like to shorten them. We don’t really have any ideas, because every name I think of turns out to be more popular than I want.
Please read on for my thoughts, and leave your own helpful comments in the suggestions.
Hi Jess –
Oh, the challenges of unusual names! Even when a name appears to meet our personal standards for slightly different, it might not be perceived that way by the rest of the world.
It also strikes me that many obvious choices that fit the different, but easily understood, category are word names. Harvest or Saffron, maybe. But I don’t think those match your style, and they definitely don’t sound like siblings for Dashiell and Elissa.
Place names might be an option – but without knowing where you’ve traveled, or have family ties, it can be tough to imagine what might feel like a good fit. Still, I’m going to include one on my list.
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Luella – Lately, Luella keeps coming up. Most recently, the name featured in the column I write for Nameberry. On the downside, Lu- names for girls are enjoying a moment. That means you’ll run across plenty of girls called Luna and Lucy. But nothing really sounds quite like Luella, and if you don’t mind explaining the spelling – betcha you’ll get Louella at least some of the time, too – it could be an interesting stands-out/fits-in pick.
Ravenna – Let’s look at the map! Ravenna sits in northern Italy, a city with history galore. If you’ve seen Snow White and the Huntsman, Ravenna might bring to mind the evil queen played by Charlize Theron. It also sounds quite a bit like Raven and Makenna and other names that have been popular in recent years, so I think it works.
Katrina – Katrina does not appear in the current US Top 1000. Crazy, right? It feels instantly familiar, and yet a girl named Katrina in 2016 will likely never share her name with a classmate. Now, she might share her name with a teacher. Katrina reached the US Top 100 in the early 1980s. But it’s still a great Kate name that feels distinctive now.
Cosima – Many of us assumed Cosima would soar just a few years ago. That’s because of a few celebrity babies named Cosima, an Orphan Black character, and a few other high profile mentions. But so far, the name remains under the radar. It leans a bit British, and yet I think it could be very wearable in the US, too.
Saskia – Cosima always makes me think of Saskia, an underused name if ever one was. I’ve heard that Saskia can be greeted with a certain amount of confusion. While it is very much a name with a long history of use, few people have heard of it. The upside is that nothing really sounds like Saskia.
Susanna – As with Katrina, I’m forever surprised that Susanna remains outside of the current US Top 1000. Susan just stays in at a chilly #929. I suspect many parents avoid all of the Sus- names because Susie and Sue feel slightly dated in 2016. But if you’re not inclined to shorten your children’s names, Susanna works beautifully. It’s also spelled Susannah. I’m partial to the ‘h’ spelling, but Susanna is slightly more popular.
Marina – Marina charts at #656 in the US. It brings to mind the ocean, but it’s not quite a nature name. It’s close to Maria, but isn’t really related to the Mary names. As with Katrina, Marina enjoyed some popularity in the recent past – in this case, the 1990s. But the name never felt too common, and still feels nicely familiar without being overused.
Romilly – As with Cosima, I thought Romilly was about to take off. And then … it just plain didn’t. There are always a few three-syllable, ends-in-y or -ie names in vogue for girls, from Dorothy to Kimberly to Everly. Romilly started out as a French place name and surname, but today feels like a logical choice for a daughter.
Overall, I think I like Ravenna and Romilly best of all, but I feel like there’s no shortage of options.
Readers, what names would you suggest as a sister for Dashiell and Elissa?
It may seem to on the nose with your daughter’s expected birthday, but what about January? Not too common, though not unheard of as a given namenough, easy to spell, recognizable but still unexpected. Winter could be another similar possibility.
Dashiell, Elissa, and Greer.
Upvotes for Simone, Rosalie.
Dashiell, Elissa, and Tallulah? Dashiell, Elissa, and Luciana.
Love the previous poster suggestions of Natasha, Daphne, Lorelei
I wanted to suggest: Camille, Joanna, Sylvie, Coraline, Imogene, Jillian/Gillian
I thought of another one that combines the sounds you seem to like–Priscilla! I love the suggestion of Iris, and Esme and Daphne if they don’t feel too close to your other children’s names.
Nicole Francois says
What about Irene? I love this name and don’t understand why it’s so rare because it’s beautiful. Dashiell, Elissa and Irene. Love.
And I know this is against your desire for an easily understood, spelled and pronounced name but gosh darn I think Siobhan is gorgeous, gorgeous with your kids names.
Have you ever noticed how many letters Dashiell and Elissa share? You don’t have to find something with an S, an E, an I, an L, but if you look for a name you love with some of those letters. It’s a simple/fun way to hunt for names that would be cohesive.
C in DC says
Jessica, Thomas, Dashiell, and Elissa all have short vowels and schwa sounds. Susanna, Cosima, Ravenna all fit that pattern. Colette, Nora/Maura/Laura, Laurel, Theresa, Jennifer, Sela, Magdalyn, etc.
I would also endorse both Katrina and Marina. Also Simone and Celeste. How about Linnea, Katia, or Liora/Leora? Clara? Rose/Rosalie?
How about Genevieve?
Estelle / Stella
I think the suggestions of Scarlet, Iris, Felicity, and Esme sound great.
Scarlet might be too popular, but all of these won’t get confused for anything else.
I can’t wait to hear what they choose.
the Mrs. says
Daphne doesn’t sound like another name. It’s at #378 last year, so it’s familiar, but it’s not common.
Lorelei also has an independent sound. It ranks #448, making it a solid choice.
Carys would probably not be confused with many other options. It’s not even in the top 1000!
Elodie might be mixed up with Melody, but it also is unranked in the top 1000. Your girls would have alliterative names (if you like that).
Francine is unlike any popular name. She has charm and a bit of French influence (much like Elissa), but she is outside of the top 1000.
Then there is Calantha. Greek, beautiful, three syllables like her sister, and charming with the vintage nickname of Callie. She’d be familiar in sound only to the scholarly but user-friendly to all.
Annika, Annora, Brielle, Cambrie, Cassia, Daria, Francesca, Grania, Hala, Ines or Inez, Iris, Jacinta, Kaisa, Lark, Lavender, Lilia, Marika, Nola, Oona, Oriana, Rhiannon, Rosa, Sasha, Xenia,
My nephew and his wife have Dashiell, Esme and Lucie. I like that name sibset very much. Perhaps you would like either of those girl’s names. Esme was chosen for a literary connection, like Dashiell. They decided to go with something more mainstream/better known for their third child. (Lucie/Lucy is the standard given name, btw, not short for either Lucille or Lucinda which developed from Lucy.)
I have a daughter Susanna and a granddaughter Catrina — highly recommend both names.
I would also like to suggest Camilla, another name in my extended family. Our Camilla is 22 months old, sometimes called “Milla” but mostly her full name.
The first name that came to mind was Scarlett.
Your list seems similar to mine. If your girl unexpectedly turns out to be a boy (unlikely, I know, but possible), try Sterling.
For girls, I suggest
Slightly outside your style, also consider
Scarlett or Brianna? Or Bryn?
Or Rosalie: Dashiell, Elissa, and Rosalie.
Maybe Colette, Coletta, Cosette, Natasha, Natalia, Portia, Irina, Nina, Ivy, Cornelia, Antoinette, Paulina, or Rosamund?
Or Paloma or Simone/Simona
My first ideas are names that are common as boys names but legit and ready to recognize as girls names too… Noa, Luka, Christian. I think those give off the quirky feel you’re going for without being hard to pronounce or spell.
My favorite pretty princess but uncommon girls names (a favorite sub category for me 🙂 ):
Good luck! So many beautiful girls names out there.
For some reason I keep thinking of Charmian (as in Carr, the actress from Sound of Music) for this. But it’s VERY unusual. Maybe Charmaine would work better?