Name HelpName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!

Lauren writes:

My husband and I have a baby name dilemma. We are due in August with a second daughter.

Our 13 month old daughter is named Lila James.

Lila was a name we always loved. It is feminine, flirty, and old-fashioned. On a trip to Rome, we met an Italian woman with the most beautiful puppy, and she told us the dog’s name was Lila. Even though we weren’t yet married, we looked at one another and took that as our sign that if we ever had a daughter … her name would be Lila – even though it was a puppy. Ha!

James toughened up Lila. We appreciate all of the Biblical associations of James, and we both adore the song “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor. We did it first, Blake Lively! 🙂

We live in the heart of the South. While Lila James isn’t truly a double name, we do call her both names quite frequently.

We knew a son would be Rhodes Joseph. We had no ideas for a second daughter, and we do not seem any closer to nailing anything down.

We live in the South, and the monogram shops are calling my name!

We are leaning towards Josephine as a middle name. My husband’s middle name is Joseph, and I am madly in love with the guy. I really think it will be special for a daughter to be named after him.

For first names, our favorites are Violette, Marybelle (nickname Belle), with Juliette (but will she be called Julie?), and Dahlia. I love the names Molly, Marlowe, and Margaux, but they don’t work with our last name, which sounds like Marlborough. I also love Lola and Isla, but they’re WAY too close to Lila!

I am starting to think that if one of these names were “IT” we would have committed by now.

Our only requirement is that the name not be too common.

We would so appreciate any suggestions!

A Sister for LilaHi Lauren –

Congratulations on your second daughter! I know exactly what you mean about having one just-right boy name and one just-right girl name. We had a bunch of maybe-kinda-sorta names, but if our second child had been another boy? We might still be calling him Kiddo.

Lila James is all kind of fabulous, and hits just that right note of Southern femininity and 21st century edge.

Let’s talk about your favorites first:

  • Violette – Avoiding something super-popular is important to you, and, as you noted Violet is pretty darn popular right about now. (The name ranked #67 in 2014.) Violette could be just different enough that you wouldn’t mind. Or Violette could be confusing. Juliette sounds exactly like Juliet. But when I see Violette, I’m tempted to say vee oh LET, all Franglais-like. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re going for, though it’s pretty.
  • Marybelle, called Belle. Now Marybelle is a rare bird, indeed! Just twelve girls were named Marybelle in all of 2014. There were another 43 girls named Maribelle. Maribel is the most popular spelling, but still outside of the US Top 1000. You’re right that Bella is big, thanks to Isabella and Annabelle, and Stella-Ella-Bella. But Belle is relatively rare. (As an independent given name, it didn’t rank in the US Top 1000!) So even though Belle sounds close to a lot of popular names, it remains distinctive.

Moving on to your not-quite-so-favorites:

  • Juliette is a better bet than Violet/Violette in terms of popularity. The -ette spelling ranked #255 in 2014, followed by Juliet, at #257. The pronunciation doesn’t change, with or without the final -te, and the -ette spelling is actually slightly more popular. Would she be called Julie? No. At least, the days of automatically shortening names are fading. Plenty of kids are William, not Will, and Olivia, not Livvy. So Juliette won’t come home from kindergarten called Julie. But will she decide she’d like to be Julie in sixth grade? It’s possible. As are many things, once she hits tweenagerdom.
  • Dahlia seems like a graceful, Southern belle kind of baby name. At #445, Dahlia is fairly rare. And yet it’s familiar as a given name. Like Lila, you won’t hear it everywhere, but it will be instantly recognized as a given name.

So if popularity trumps all, it’s an easy decision – Marybelle. Lila and Belle sound great together, too. Dahlia is an easy second, followed by Juliette and Violette, in that order.

They’re all great names, but that’s the rundown based on popularity.

Still, I wonder if your hesitation comes from something else. While Lila James is a compact three syllables, Marybelle Josephine tips the scales at six! There’s no rule about parity in syllables amongst siblings, so there’s no reason you couldn’t use Marybelle Josephine. Still, I wonder if it’s why the name doesn’t fell quite like The Name.

I wonder if you’d consider:

  • Using Mary Belle as the full name. Yes, you sacrifice the honor middle name. But Lila James and Mary Belle are identical in length.
  • Just use Belle. I love Marybelle, so it’s hard to imagine letting that one go. And yet, Belle Josephine has just as much style.
  • Instead of Josephine, use Josephe. You seem drawn to French names, and Josephe is originally the French feminine form. (Josephine evolved as a pet form of Marie-Josephe.) Dahlia Josephe, Marybelle Josephe, Violette Josephe. It definitely shortens the name, regardless of which first name you choose.
  • Have you considered Josephine as a given name? Lila James and Josephine Rhodes. Lila James and Josephine Belle. There are nicknames galore for Josephine. My favorite is Posey, though Josie is much more of a go-to. (Though I wonder how you feel about Josie, considering you’re not wild about Julie.)
  • Or you might consider another Jo- name, like Joan. Marybelle Joan, maybe? Lila James and Dahlia Joan? Lila James and Violette Joan? Joan is traditionally feminine, but I think it has the same no-nonsense quality that makes James such a great choice with Lila.

Then again, maybe it’s worth considering another first name entirely:

  • Rose is a classic, but at #194 in 2014, it’s around the same popularity rank as Lila. It reminds me of Rhodes in terms of sound, and Dahlia in terms of meaning. Rose Josephine – unconventional, and very pretty.
  • Iris is yet another botanical, but it came to mind because of your affection for Isla. Lila and Isla don’t work, but Lila and Iris are great together.
  • You mentioned appreciating Lila’s old-fashioned style. I wonder if a vintage choice on the sassier side would appeal? I can imagine sisters called Lila James and Maisie Josephine.
  • Lila was quite stylish around 1930. (It was a good year for Lola, too.) Other names from the same era: Lucy, Sally, Ida, Bonnie, Annie, Frances, Betty. But some of those feel maybe a little too old-fashioned for you to consider in 2015. And Ida is too close to Lila, I think.
  • Let’s see what that clever namehunter app suggests. GemmaEloiseNora, and Daisy all come up as suggestions. I think Gemma sounds like a sister for Lila that isn’t too popular.

Then again, I’m still stuck on Marybelle and Dahlia, and that leads me to two last ideas:

  • Maribel – Yes, it’s pretty much your favorite name with a different spelling. But Maribel is visually shorter, and that might balance out the length of Lila James and Marybelle Josephine. Lila James and Maribel Josephine. I’m not sure it makes a huge difference, but I thought I’d suggest it. You could easily use the nickname Belle.
  • Delia – Delia is just as vintage as Dahlia, but it strikes me as a little sparkier. Lila and Delia share an ‘l’ and a final ‘a’, but I don’t think they’re too close for sister names.

Overall, I share your affection for Belle, and I do think it’s just different enough that it would stand out from all those Isabellas. While I’m usually all about formal names, in this case, I’m most drawn to Belle Josephine, followed by Iris Josephine, Gemma Josephine, and Dahlia Josephine.

But I do think you have a lot of great options here, and I know the readers will have more great suggestions.

What would you suggest for Lila James’ little sister?

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. A litte late to the game, but I like Joseline as a substitute for the middle name Josephine and love the combination Dahlia Joseline.

  2. I know I’m late answering, hope you still see it! We have very similar lists!

    We have a Juliet, she is 4 and has been at preschool this past year. Right when she was born, we told our families that we did not want Julie… so far, it hasn’t come up. I don’t think anyone at school has called her Julie. It seems like this generation of kids are less nick-namey then our generation.

    We have a Rose. We love her name (and Juliet’s). We sometimes call her Rosie and it just suits her! We have received so many compliments on all our children’s names. They are known names, but not overly common.

    What about using Josephine as the first name?

    Other names on our list:
    Stella – That is the next girl name if we have another! Love it! I didn’t love it right away, but the longer it sits, the more I come back to it.
    Lucy or Lucia or Lucianna
    Vivienne or just Vienne
    Emilia (although I know it is really common, it’s just so pretty)
    Violet or Violette

    Good luck! Keep us posted!

  3. I like a short, vintage name like Nina, Alma, Tessa, Celia with Joesphine (or another Jo-name) in the middle, or I like Josephine as the first name with something short and unisex like Blaine, Dean, Bryce, Drew, Sloan, Royce.

  4. Just wanted to suggest Joelle as a possibility, I think it is lovely , and a nod to Joseph.

    Also, Juliet can be nicknamed Jet, or Etta.

    And June is a gorgeous name too! Good luck.

  5. I’m first curious how you are pronouncing Dahlia and how attached you are to that particular pronunciation. I live on Dahlia Street in Colorado and everyone here says something like “Dolly-uh,” but my relatives in Alabama all say “DAL(rhymes with Pal)-yuh.” They’re practically different words to me! The difference bothers me so much that it eliminated the name from my list. Just a heads up

    I get the impression you’re saving Rhodes for future use. It’s my last name and my son’s second middle name. I loved the idea of using it as a first name, but it got edged out. You have such good taste!

    I like the idea of using Josette instead of Josephine to keep it a little shorter. Gemma is a nice sister name for Lila, but Gemma Jo-name doesn’t do it for me. I know twins named Gemma and Scarlett. Is Scarlett too southern/sassy for your tastes? Scarlett Josephine. I can get behind that name.