name help: a sister for Julia MaeName 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!

Steph writes:

We have a daughter named Julia Mae, and our second daughter is due early in 2024. We have a long list of names but nothing feels like The One.

Here are our criteria:

  • Nothing too trendy/too 2020s – We’re Steph and Matt. It’s like our names are stamped “made in the 80s.”
  • One spelling/pronunciation – My nephew is Aydin. It’s a thing and his mom now says she wishes they’d gone with Aiden.
  • Not too popular, not too weird – We’re boring! Traditional is our jam. If this baby was a boy, we liked Andrew.
  • Nothing too long/probably no nicknames – Trying to avoid a lifetime of “please call me Steph” because Stephanie makes me feel like I’m going to the principal’s office. Plus our last name is Czech and starts with Sv, so it’s complicated already.

Our lists so far:

  • My favorites: Monica, Sabrina, Diana, Cecilia. Dropped Lucia because of pronunciation and Francesca because it seems too long. I love Mabel, but it’s a hard no from my husband.
  • His favorites: Maya, Ada (just seems short next to Julia), Leah (again, seems short), Tessa (doesn’t really feel like a name to me), Laura, Alisa/Elisa (spelling).

The latest names we’ve been talking about are Rachel, which I love but worry it’s too Friends, and Hallie, which isn’t our style AT ALL and breaks every one of my rules. I think I just really like Hallie for someone else’s daughter.

Is one of these the right name and we’re just not seeing it?

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your daughter!

Often, I look at parents’ lists. They say the lists are SO different, and they are. But as an outsider, I also see plenty of overlap. You both favor feminine, ends-with-A names, not too popular but still solidly mainstream. My first instinct was to suggest more of the same, in hopes that I’d hit on a name that made you both pause and say “maybe …”

But I think there’s something else happening here.

The two outlier names that you’re talking about now intrigue me. I think you’re probably right about Hallie not really fitting your style. But Rachel? It feels like a more familiar take on Mabel. And that fact that you’re both considering it, and talking about Hallie at all?

I think we need some non-A enders to add to your mix.


But first, a note about Rachel being too-90s/Friends.

Yes, the name Rachel peaked for girls in 1996, just as Friends was hitting its stride and Jennifer Aniston – and her haircut – were taking over the world.

But it’s truly a classic, a Biblical name with story to spare.

And Rachel hovers in the US Top 300 now, about as common as Delaney, Evangeline, and Diana.

That means that a 2024 Rachel would probably be the only one in her class, and likely never have to spell or pronounce her name, either – though she might share it with her kindergarten teacher or soccer coach.

I think it’s worth spending some serious time with Rachel. I truly do like it as a sister name for Julia. To borrow inspiration from your husband’s Alisa/Elisa suggestion, I wonder if you’d like Rachel Elise?


Assuming Rachel isn’t quite right, let’s see if we can find some non-A ending options to consider:


Names ending with -ette can feel feminine, pretty, and strong.


Like Rachel, it’s easy to dismiss Emily as a  former favorite now in Mom name territory. Except it’s actually a classic, worn by women of distinction across the ages.


Caveat: I’m not sure about the ending of Grace with your surname. But I think it’s the kind of spare, elegant, but warm name that feels perfect with Julia.


If your husband said no to Mabel, maybe Helen will also seem a little old-fashioned to him? But it’s gaining in use, a traditional headed back towards the spotlight. My guess is that it will soon meet Julia in the middle in terms of popularity.


Lucia can be a challenge to pronounce. Would you consider just Lucy?


Like Rachel, Melanie peaked a few decades back. But it’s been pretty resilient, still ranked in the US Top 200.


The Monkees sang this name in the 1960s, Steve Winwood in the 1980s, Amy Winehouse early in the new century. It’s timeless and cool, and I love it with Julia.


Another one of those names that I just can’t pin down to a particular decade.

Overall, if Rachel isn’t The One, I want to suggest Valerie. Julia Mae and Rachel Elise; Julia Mae and Valerie Elise.

Readers, over to you! What would you name a sister for Julia Mae? And do you think Rachel is too dated for a daughter born in 2024?

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. Julia and Veronica

    She’s not frilly, just feminine. Together, they sound like sisters in ancient Rome, mid-century America, or medieval ladies-in-waiting.

    Congratulations and best wishes!