Name Help: Ivy, Tessa, or ClaireName 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!

Melanie writes:

We named our son Finn Henry in about twenty minutes.

We started talking about our new baby’s name on the drive home from our ultrasound … and ten weeks later, we’re still not decided.

We have three names that we both like equally, but we can’t choose between them. (I keep joking that if we were having triplets, we’d be all set.)

The names are:

  • Claire Marigold
  • Ivy Margaret
  • Tessa Marigold

We know we want short, no nicknames, and something that’s a little more interesting that the names we grew up with. (My husband is Josh, and he had another kid with almost the exact same name in his school from kindergarten right through senior year.)

We don’t want Marigold as a first name because it’s a little long and I want to avoid shortening her name, if possible. And it seems like too much to have “Ivy Marigold” because it’s two plants. But we want some version of Margaret/Marigold for my grandma Maggie. (She was just Maggie.)

Our last name sounds like Sailor with a T.

Can you help us decide?

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new baby!

I got a kick out of your triplets comment. Sometimes that’s exactly how it feels, right? We have a few names we like a lot, but nothing that ranks one higher than the others.

So you’ve got three great names, all of which work with your surname and your son’s name.

The one thing that I’m tempted to push back on is the idea that you couldn’t use Ivy Marigold. Yes, it’s a lot of plants. But then, plenty of girls are named Lily Rose. Because I’m wondering if opening up the option of Ivy Marigold changes this decision for you?

My hunch is that it might.

In terms of your criteria, there’s no obvious choice. (In fact, I changed my mind from my first draft to the final version of this post!)

And so I’ll rank your names like this:


I’ll put Ivy in third place for two reasons: first, I’m not sure you’re wild about the middle name Margaret. Yes, it fits your goal of honoring your grandmother. But it feels like it’s your second choice, and you find Ivy Marigold problematic.

Second, popularity is a factor. Over the past dozen years, Ivy has surged in use. It’s #42 right now. That’s not really that popular – certainly she’s unlikely to be in the same situation as your husband Josh.  Joshua was a Top Ten name from 1979 through 2009. With every passing year, fewer children receive the most popular names – but that’s still years of many men named Josh.

But all things considered, Ivy feels like the name most likely to reach the US Top 20 in another few years, so I’m docking points for the possibility of the name feeling more popular than you might like.


Tessa, on the other hand, is perfect from a popularity perspective. It ranks #332. Yes, it’s heard – but it’s just not that common.

In fact, it would be my #1 but … Tessa is a name that invites shortening. Tess. Tessie! (I’ve known a few little girls who go by Tessie, either for Tessa or Teresa.) It’s not inevitable, but if this is an issue for you, then Tessa doesn’t really avoid it. Also – do you live anywhere near Boston? “Tessie” is the anthem of the Boston Red Sox. Even without being a sports fan, I can hear the song when I see the name Tessa, so … that puts this otherwise perfect name a little lower on the list.


Claire is brief and nicely nickname-proof and, at #66, popular. But it’s not a skyrocketing chart-topper of a name. In fact, Claire has ranked in the US Top 100 since 1998, and peaked in the 40s about ten years ago. So it’s more popular than Finn, but not by much … and unlike Ivy, it shows no signs of being The Next Big Thing.

Another point in favor of Claire: while you can call your daughter Clary and Claire Bear, it’s seldom nicknamed in the real world, unless you very intentionally choose to do so.

And you get to use Marigold – it’s one of those unexpected middles that really sparks up a classic first!

Readers, over to you! What would you name a sister for Finn Henry – Claire, Tessa, or Ivy? And what do you think of Ivy Marigold – too botanical or work considering?

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. Tessa Sailor-with-a-T all the way!! It is so much fun to say and you can’t help but smile. It is memorable and the Tessas I have known were all smart, capable, kind women.