Name Help: Sister for James KeeganName 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!

Allie writes:

Our son was born at 32 weeks, before we’d settled on a name. He’s doing great now, but our worry heavily influenced the name we chose – James Keegan, my (late) dad’s name and my husband’s (late) grandmother’s maiden name. I know it sounds kind of woo-woo, but we feel like they were his guardian angels.

He’s James, not Jimmy or Jim, though sometimes we do call him Jamie and BabyJay at home. But everyone else calls him James. I like that the name is strong and traditional and doesn’t sound like the hero of a romance novel, but I do sometimes wish it were a little more exciting.

Now we’re expecting a daughter, and we have decided a few things:

  • Her name has to be SET well before my due date, which is the end of November.
  • We don’t want to use a family name. Both sides of the family have been honored, and there really aren’t any obvious/good names we want to use anyway.
  • We don’t want another traditional/classic name – no Katherine, Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, etcetera.
  • Because I had some health complications, too, my husband took the lead on James’ name, so I get final say for this child.

But that is all that we’ve decided. We have a very long list of names that sound like they would be okay, but they’re mostly names of friends/family kids and so would be weird to use: Violet, Maren, Georgia, Ivy, Eloise, Belle.

It’s like we just can’t think of anything that we could actually use!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your daughter!

I hear you. In order to use a name we have to hear it. And sometimes, until we hear it in use by an actual child in real life, a name doesn’t feel like a possibility. It’s old-fashioned or too different or just not really sure.

So it’s natural that you’re having thoughts that go like this: “Oh, the neighbors just named their baby Ivy. I love that name!”

Except, of course, you probably won’t use the same name as the family next door. So you’re forever back at square one.

I’m going to suggest some names that share the qualities that seem most important to you:

  • It sounds like you’re probably leaning towards a nickname-proof name. (Or at least one that others won’t automatically use.)
  • While you’re not interested in a classic-classic name, it sounds like you’re leaning towards something with a long history of use and a traditional(ish) vibe.
  • You’re looking for names that are feminine, but strong – which is a very broad (and subjective) category, but probably means we’re steering away from frilly, romantic names.

Let’s see if any of these work!


ADA #184

A mini name that’s big on style, Ada brings to mind nineteenth century innovator Ada Lovelace. She’s best known as the world’s first computer programmer.


She went chasing rabbits in Lewis Carroll’s enduring story. But the name has been worn by world-changing women, too, like nineteenth century activist Alice Paul.


Crisp and tailored, Claire qualifies as a classic. But it’s not quite in the same category as Katherine and Mary, so perhaps it strikes the right note for James’ sister.

HOPE #204

A traditional – and powerful! – word name, Hope combines a strong sound and a rich meaning.


Margaret is too classic and too nickname-rich for you, I’m sure. But how ’bout Margot? It’s been around for ages, but it feels fresh and modern, too.

NORA #30

Top 50 favorite Nora is very popular, indeed. And sure, Cora and Flora and Aurora share much of the same sound. But Nora feels nicely distinctive, a strong name with history galore.

THEA #303

Classic Theodore has become a fast-rising favorite for our boys. The high-energy Thea is Theo’s feminine counterpart, a sparky name that straddles the traditional and the modern.


Tailored Vivian comes from the Latin word for alive. If you love Violet and Ivy, Vivian might be the perfect choice.

The first name I thought of was Ada, and it’s still my top choice for James Keegan’s sister. Ada Caroline, maybe? Or Ada Vivian?

Readers, what would you name a sister for James Keegan?

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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