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!
My partner has two sons from a previous relationship, Zachary and Ethan.
We’re due with our daughter, our first together (and my first) in July.
Most of the ideas on my partner’s list sound like they belong to a kid from Zach and Ethan’s classes. (The boys are in middle school.) Olivia, Sophia, Chloe, Hailey. He also likes Rose, but I don’t like it with his last name.
They’re not bad names, but I just can’t get excited about them.
My list is:
- Jovie – love the meaning, love the sound, and my partner and I met at a mutual friend’s Christmas party (I floated Zuzu for the same reason, but that got a hard no)
- Sylvie – I think it’s pretty and not something that you hear all the time, plus we love to camp so the meaning is perfect
- Elora – who doesn’t love Willow?!
- Birdie – tho I can see this might be too cute
- Cleo – just think this name is a cool name
My partner is very meh about these names, without actually saying no to them.
Not sure how this works? We’ve talked about maybe waiting to meet our daughter and seeing what she looks like, but what if she looks like an Olivia?!
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your daughter!
I try not to give a lot of rules and thou-shalts.
BUT I’m about to give a rule and a thou-shalt. (Actually a thou-shalt-not).
Thou shalt not delay talking about your daughter’s name until you’re in labor, in hopes that she is born wearing a name tag.
Yes, sometimes families experience a moment of clarity when they meet their child.
Just as often – probably more often – they end up debating names at the worst possible moment.
Bear in mind:
- Giving birth is exhausting! For everyone. I went into labor at 9 PM after a full day at work. It was dinner time the next day before my son was in my arms. And it’s, y’know, medical. Nurses coming in to check all sorts of things. Chaotic, as the excited new grandparents bustle in. Maybe, maybe you will find yourselves relaxing in a sun-dappled room, holding your sweetly sleeping newborn as you calmly discuss the merits of Persephone versus Amelia. But … maybe not.
- Time flies when you’re having a kid. If everyone is healthy, your hospital stay will be very, very short. Which is great! Except it means you’ll have very little time to discuss names and even less time to calmly reflect on your choices. And if your partner needs to run home to oh, say, shower? That’s a few more hours gone. The pressure can feel intense.
- If you really disagree now, you’re not going to magically agree at a future point. I mean, you might. I’ve heard about parents, so emotional at the birth of their child, that they agree on a name. But mostly, we are who we are and we like what we like. Adding a kid into the mix changes lots of things, but this isn’t necessarily one of them.
Compromise is good, but it’s hard work. Start now.
What does that look like?
You might want to start by talking about your names.
Or maybe it’s simply that your partner isn’t all that interested in names? If he’s content to let you take the lead, you might write down your three favorite names, present it, and see if one of those works.
But if that’s not the case?
I’d suggest trying to find the middle between his list of tried-and-true favorites and your slightly more adventurous style. Because you never know. My husband loved the name Emily … but also Echo. Almost everyone’s list has a range.
Here’s how to get started.
Look for a more mainstream take on the sounds you love best.
Ivy instead of Sylvie. Juniper instead of Jovie.
Try something still outside of the Top 100, but more conventionally feminine.
Eliza instead of Elora might work, though Eliza is pretty popular. Phoebe instead of Chloe? Maisie rather than Birdie? There are plenty of names that we’ve all heard of that aren’t too common.
Or, possibly, agree to look exclusively at the Top 100 for girls right now.
Would Elena be conventional enough for your husband, but fresh enough for you? Sophie, Naomi, and Willow all feel popular but not so common that they’d repeat. (And I can’t help but think of Willow with Elora on your list!)
The same middle V as Olivia, but not nearly as common. And yet, because everybody knows a Dave or three, Davina feels familiar.
Sweetly old-fashioned and at least as uncommon as Birdie, but with a history that might get your husband on board. My only hesitation: is it too close to Ethan?
I’m guessing Ethan and Zach know at least one girl named Nora, Cora, or Aurora. (Probably more than one.) That should make Elora feel more familiar, but if it doesn’t, would Flora be an option?
There’s something sparky and retro about Gwen. It’s instantly familiar and nicely distinctive, too. Gwen could be short for Gwendolyn (or Gwyneth or Guinevere), but my guess is that you’ll like it best on its own.
Jovie makes me think of Josie. Again, it might be short for Josephine or stand on its own. It feels like a compromise between Jovie/Birdie and the more popular names on your husband’s list.
This flower name is an up-and-comer. If Rose makes his list, would another flower name also appeal?
Midway between Sylvie and Sophia, Sophie is a current Top 100 pick, but not nearly as common as the longer form.
Despite enjoying considerable popularity, Stella still feels like a stand-out kind of name. I’d put it in the same category as Sylvie, Birdie, and Cleo.
Overall, I love Maisie and Sophie best – those vintage nickname names with plenty of spirit. And then I’d suggest you choose an even rarer middle. Maisie Elora, maybe? And I’m also loving Stella – assuming you don’t know three – especially with a bold middle name. Stella Jovie, maybe?
With Eth@n and Z@chary, I like…..
Elise- Lise, Lisi
It seems you have a cooler/ more hip naming style and he’s more attracted to (and familiar with) the classic (and a few 90s) names.
I would try to agree that “we’re not doing super trendy but we’re also not doing super common/expected”. I think Cleo and Jovie are great but they are quite cutesy and may not suit every stage of life in the same way Sylvie for eg will – I think Sylvie and Elora sit in the middle ground camp, and of his name, I think Rose and Chloe, but esp Rose, is beautiful!
Some names you both might like in middle ground:
Zoe (a zippy Chloe!)
Josephine Violet nn Jovie
Rosemary or Romilly nn Romy
Livia (a cool version of Olivia – though not related to the name!)
Philippa nn Pippa/Poppy
Zara (long first A)
Charlotte nn Lottie or Lotta
It would be great if this post didn’t assume all families are giving birth in hospital settings.
C, that’s a fair point. And not every country handles name registration the same, regardless of where you deliver, so it’s also possible to deliver in a hospital and not face that pressure.
Sylvia (it’s Sylvie plus the style of Sophia or Olivia.)
I was coming back because I thought of Noelle too! It has that lovely o sound, as well as Elora’s “el” sound.
Oh so tough. You may want to include your stepsons in the discussion if they can help by saying no way, Olivia, Hailey etc are girls we know… 😉
It is hopeful that you both like names with O and V sounds. There’s bound to be something that crosses over!
For Os I’ll add Marlo, Hope, Juno, Orla, Leona
For Vs about about Valerie Victoria and you can freshen them up with nicknames like Valley or Vix?
For Christmas I highly second (third?) Holly as it has an O too. Or Hollis or Holland nn Holly. Gemma is a bit of a stretch but I like it in this set. Or Noelle!
I think you need at least a shortlist to take to hospital with you, if you can’t agree on a name beforehand. With my first – who took his time in arriving, like Abby’s son – we had 5 or 6 names boy narrowed down and were able to quickly make a decision once he was born. We didn’t find out the sex before birth, but we had chosen a girls’ name early on. It was boys’ names that were harder for us!
I love a lot of the suggestions you’ve had so far, particularly Ivy. I’ll also suggest Holly, which has the Christmas connection and sounds oh-so-close to Hailey.
Olive strikes me as a good potential compromise. It sounds a lot more current than Olivia but obviously still takes from that favourite of your husband’s.
Ophelia? It’s Olivia meets Sophia, but a lot less common than those too.
This is a bit of stretch, but Aviana comes to mind. It shares sounds with Olivia, and the “avian” part means Birdie could be a logical but subtle nickname.
Have you pointed out to him that Cleo is basically Chloe with the sounds rearranged? It sounds like a logical compromise for you. I’ll also throw out Claire or Clara.
I like Eliza for you as an alternative to Elora, as it takes letters from Ethan and Zachary’s names.
How about something like Haven or Hazel – both similar in sound to Hailey, but feel more current.
Rosalie adds the ending of Jovie and Sylvie to Rose. I wonder if that would work better with the last name?
I like Cecelia for you, too, as it takes sounds from Sylvie, Sophia and Olivia.
I like Ivy for the V sound of some of the favorite names (Olivia, Sylvie, Jovie) plus Christmas tie-in. Along the same lines of V sounds, what about Vivian or Vivienne (or maybe Violet) nickname Vivi?
From your list I like: Cleo and Sylvie. Cleo could be a nickname for Clementine.
From Abby’s suggestions I like Ivy.
You might want to consider:
Avery — Ava is a possible nickname.
Bridget — Birdie can be a nickname for Bridget.
Brielle — Bri, Brie, Elle, etc. for nicknames.
Chelsea — Chels or Chelz and Chessa or Chessie for nicknames. Chelsea Rose sounds lovely.
Elowyn — lots of El nicknames: Elle, Ella, Ellie, even Elo is sweet.
Jolie — similar to Jovie, could shorten to Jo or Joy. I think Jolie is a great middle name too.
Merritt — or Meredith
Robin — or Wren or Lark. Any bird name could lead to Birdie as a nickname. I love Robin Sophia.
Tessa — one of my favorite names that I almost always suggest, but I do think it sounds great with Zach and Ethan.
Vera — short and sweet.
Your partner’s suggestions of Olivia, Rose, and Sophia work well as middle names with many of the names above.
Best wishes to you!
You like: Elora, Birdie, Willow, Jovie, Sylvie, Cleo
He likes: Hailey, Sophia, Olivia, Chloe, Rose
I do see some overlap in each if your naming styles as it seems like you both like names with Vs in them and the long O sound as well. He likes more modern/popular names while you like names that seem a bit less common and have a bit of spark to them. Some ideas:
Natalie (Christmas connection like Josie)
Hallie (rhymes with Sally)
I’ve known more than one Alora or Elora. It’s not that uncommon. I’d probably take the U.S. popularity list that is coming out later this month and ask him to put a check mark beside all of the names he kind of likes. You do the same. Any overlaps on the list should be put on your joint list that gets more discussion. Then you narrow it down by checking how it sounds with the last name and any middle names you might like. Maybe you check with parents you know who have babies and preschoolers to see how many they know. You find out what names your parents and his two boys like, without letting them know which ones you might pick. If you get a universal thumbs down or find out there are two or three girls with the same name at your friend’s daycare, maybe you pick something else.
As someone who’s had three babies who were not named before the hospital, I absolutely echo the advice to further your discussion before you get there. It’s stressful to make that decision there under a time crunch. Only one got named because of a flash of otherworldly insight—a name popped out of my mouth while pushing, “c’mon out _____”
From your list, I really love Elora, Sylvie, and Cleo. If your husband is worried about them being less common, I’d try to assure him they really will fit right in with their kindergarten classrooms. I do like Chloe from his list and Josephine called Josie (or Posie? or Jo? or Fina? or Sefi?) from Abby’s list.
The only other name I’m coming up with is Viola.
I really love Sylvie. What about naming her Sylvia and calling her Sylvie?