welcome Willow AnnabelleUPDATE: She’s here! Cara writes: I really appreciated all the feedback, and the tough love, too, Abby! We talked about it a lot, and I realized that my husband was never gonna go for Elora. But to my surprise/delight, he suggested Willow! Maybe more popular than I wanted, but I still love all the adventure and bravery I think of when I hear her name. She was almost Willow Rose, but I just didn’t like the way it sounded with my husband’s last name. We compromised on Anne, which is my grandma and his grandmother’s name, but then I thought of Annabelle at the last minute, and he agreed! So … Willow Annabelle! If we’re lucky enough to have another baby, I’m sure I’ll be back again!

Cara writes:

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.

Abby replies:

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?

Readers, over to you! What would you name a sister for Zachary and Ethan?

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. With Eth@n and Z@chary, I like…..

    Rowenna- Rowen
    Claire, Clare
    Elise- Lise, Lisi
    Sybil- Sybi

  2. 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!)
    Adelaide (Daisy/Della)
    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

  3. It would be great if this post didn’t assume all families are giving birth in hospital settings.

    1. 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.

  4. Sylvia (it’s Sylvie plus the style of Sophia or Olivia.)