Welcome Willa BeaUPDATE: Please welcome Willa Bea!

We loved Clara, but it doesn’t work with a strong K sound in our last name. Up until the last minute, she could have been Tessa, Nella, or Lola (love this name!) but when she was born, we fell in love with Willa Bea. I wasn’t sure about wallaby at first, but as soon as she was in my arms, it seemed like the sweetest nickname. And it is! Thank you so much for all of the help. – Holly

Holly writes:

Our second daughter is due on Christmas Eve! Her big sister is Gemma Lou. It’s the perfect name. We have a hyphenated last name for a grand total of five syllables, so we wanted short and easy. But not common. Of course! Just like everybody else, we wanted to be different. 😉

We thought of Gemma in one single conversation. And I wondered how it took couples so many weeks to find a great name. Well – ha! Karma!

The names we like are either too long with our surname – Eloise, Juniper, Josephine – or I know one already – Isla, Stella, Ruby. We do like Georgia, but my partner comes from a family where all the siblings have the same first initial, so another G name is a no.

It seems like all we know is what we don’t want, but I’ll add one more: no Christmas names. I get asked sometimes if I was born at Christmas. (My birthday is in July.) So I don’t think I want my daughter to be Ivy or Winter or Snow. (Or maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, because she could say yes when people ask her?)

Lou comes from names in both of our families, first and last. We’re thinking about Bea/Bee for this daughter, for similar reasons.

Please help!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter! Gemma Lou is perfect.

So we need short, sparky, and (probably) nickname-proof. Almost certainly not Top 100, but also not too unusual. For reference, Gemma ranks #198 as of 2019.

Ideally, it will work with the middle name Bea/Bee, too. That part tripped me up a little. Some names feel too cute with mini middles. Others just plain repeat the same sounds. I dropped Thea – even though it’s great with Gemma. It might be worth putting Bea aside until you’ve settled on your first name, and then circling back.

But for our purposes, we’ll work with Bea/Bee.


CELIA (#863)

Cecilia is a long and lovely name. The shorter Celia is not only less common, but also might work better as a sister for Gemma. Plus, Celia Bea is all kinds of darling without crossing the line to twee.

DAPHNE (#432)

Gemma and Daphne share the same sparky energy.

ELIZA (#119)

Yes, it’s three syllables. But there’s something smooth and complete about Eliza.

FLORA (#936)

Cora and Nora would work nicely, but the Top 100 names feel a little too popular. How ’bout Flora? Like Gemma, it’s a gentle nature-adjacent name.

MARGOT (#304)

Originally short for Margaret, Margot has long stood on its own. It’s an energetic, modern-sounding name, but grounded in plenty of history.

NOLA (#606)

The -ola ending had a moment during the twentieth century. Now Lola is back, and Nola, too. It brings to mind New Orleans. Nola can be short for half-a-dozen names, but it also stands nicely on its own.

WILLA (#354)

You mentioned Stella. Would Willa substitute? The vibe is a little different, but the sounds are similar.

ZARA (#238)

It sounds like Sarah-with-a-Z, but Zara has several possible sources. Just like Gemma reads as classic-with-a-twist, so does Zara. That makes it an obvious match. Another Z name that might fit is Zelda (#662).

Margot and Daphne strike me as the obvious sister names for Gemma. But if you love the flow of Gemma Lou, I wonder if something like Celia Bea or Willa Bea isn’t the better choice?

Readers, over to you! What would you name a sister for Gemma Lou?

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. Gemma is a beautiful name. I love it!
    My first thought was Sybil but that isn’t the best choice with Bea.
    Maybe Judith,(Judy), June, Laurel, or Glynis (how cut is Glynnie B?).
    From previous recommendations I really like Clara and Audrey.
    Using Phoebe withe a different middle name is also an interesting option.

  2. I love Gemma Lou, and I enjoy this style of names in general. A lot of the suggestions are spot-on (Daphne would be perfect!) but I also want to suggest Tamsyn, Claire (or Clara) or Laurel. Phoebe is also great if you don’t mind finding a different middle name.

    I aso think that if you want to use Ivy (or something equally Christmassy) embrace it!

  3. You’re right, Gemma Lou is the perfect name. I don’t know how you could match it, but since you have to try, here’s a few suggestions that would also go nicely with a sharp one-syllable middle:


  4. Flora is great – like the idea that each child’s name would reference a different kind of beautiful thing (jewels, flowers).

    Also love the suggestions of Zara and Zelda. Also on the Z theme (and harking back to the -ora names again), Zora Bea would be gorgeous.

    Danica is three syllables but I love the rhythm of Danica Bea… and the “morning star” meaning echoes your pick of Stella.

    Since you like Isla… would Ida Bea work?! A nod to Ida B. Wells?

  5. A seasonal name is a golden opportunity! Please, oh, please… reconsider Ivy. Ivy Bea sounds *almost* like Ivy league when said quickly, but that’s a great association!

    Gemma Lou & Ivy Bea (precious!)

    Clara Bea sounds both sweet and elegant.

    Junia Bea might work. (Gemma & Junia)

    Mavis Bea (Gemma & Mavis)

    Martha Bea (Gemma & Martha)

    Greta Bea (Gemma & Greta)

    Maisie Bea (Gemma & Maisie)

    Rosa Bea (Gemma & Rosie)

    Mercy Bea (Gemma & Mercy)

    Congrats and best wishes! If I were to rename myself, I would pick Gemma. You’re an excellent namer!

  6. What about Laura? Gemma and Laura. Laura Bea.

    Or Morgan? Gemma and Morgan. Or Megan for that matter. Meg is just adorable and very spunky.