Name 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!
We named our daughter Lily after my husband’s grandmother. His grandma was very important to both of us, even though I only knew her briefly. As soon as we knew we were expecting, we knew we’d name a girl Lily.
Now we’re pregnant with another daughter and we agree on nothing.
There are no other family names on his side that he’d like to use, and I don’t have enough of a relationship with my family to even consider it.
My sister keeps pushing for me to use something from our side to be “fair,” but I feel like any of the names we’d use are people I don’t want our daughter to be like anyway, even if I liked their names.
But that leaves us with names we just kind of like, and that doesn’t seem like enough either.
Names we’ve discussed: Maya, Mila, Scarlett (but is it too different compared to Lily?), Eliana (I think this is too long and I don’t want Lily and Ellie), Emmaline/Emmalynn (not sure how to spell it), Aurora (he likes, I’m not on board).
Her full name is Lily Haven, and our last name sounds like Tom-plus-son. Haven sort of popped into my head a few weeks before she was born when we realized we hadn’t figured out a middle name, and it clicked. Exactly like with Lily!
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Kayla –
Congratulations on your new daughter!
I think there are two separate ways to look at this.
WIDEN YOUR SEARCH FOR MEANINGFUL NAMES
First, it sounds like you’d be open to finding a family name … there just aren’t any family names (or family members) that inspire you. (And that’s completely fine!) But maybe there’s something from your personal history, or your relationship with your husband?
The name of a favorite restaurant, the street where you lived when you were first married, a song/movie/book that means something to you both? Or maybe, if there’s no obvious name waiting, there’s something that could inspire a name: the season of your wedding, maybe? Or a place you visited together?
Because if you can make the name about your life together? Then it’s an instant family name, no extra layer of generation required.
If there are some ideas, but they feel too bold as a first, tuck them away as possible middle name options.
OR MAYBE LET IT GO
If all of that seems artificial – or if you’ve already ruled out naming your daughter for 43rd Avenue or Applebee’s or Thor: Ragnarok – then there’s another, equally valid, path.
Let’s find a name that you just plain love.
Because while Lily resonates with meaning, it sounds like you love the name, too. Right?
Even if it wasn’t the name of a loved one, Lily might’ve made it on to your list anyway. That’s the best case scenario, but it’s tough to repeat.
So let’s look for some names like Lily – feminine, traditional, nearly classic but not quite, and vintage without feeling too antique.
ALICE – A storybook name with plenty of strength.
CLARA – Undeniably pretty, with the same vibe as Lily – but a completely different sound.
ELIZA – Eliana does seem a) too long and b) likely to cause spelling headaches. Elena sidesteps the first issue, but maybe not the second. That brings us to Eliza, which I think substitutes beautifully for Eliana.
EVELYN – Emmeline and Emmalynn do raise questions about spelling and pronunciation, but how about Evelyn?
GEMMA – An Italian name meaning jewel, relatively uncommon in the US, but very compatible with Lily.
MAE – A sweet, springtime mini name that reminds me of Maya and Mila, but feels like an even better match with Lily.
NORA – Like Lily, a vintage name completely at home in the twenty-first century, feminine and strong.
STELLA – There’s something sparky about Stella. And if Lily is a flower, well, Stella is a star.
I’m particularly drawn to Stella, as it seems like it might substitute for Aurora, and Evelyn because it fixes the spelling problems of Emmeline/Emmalynn.
But Clara is my favorite with Lily, as well as with your surname.
If no creative middle names come to mind, may I suggest:
- Austen – Lily Haven + Clara Austen
- Blaze – Lily Haven + Clara Blaze
- Blue – Lily Haven + Clara Blue
- Dove – Lily Haven + Clara Dove
- Juniper – Lily Haven + Clara Juniper
- River – Lily Haven + Clara River
- Scout – Lily Haven + Clara Scout
- Winter – Lily Haven + Clara Winter
But I feel like I’m missing lots of great combinations. That’s where you come in!
I think there is the obvious choice of Kayla! It fits the preferred sound and it’s a family name.
Other options are Amelia, Chloe, Isla and Emma.
Lily and Emma
Lily Haven and Emma Kate
I love the idea of passing your name by association (Kay —> Kate) and Emma-no-line seems a perfect sweet spot. You both like it, short and feminine, and a sweet sister to lively Lily.
Lily Haven is a beautiful combo! Here’s an idea to connect your new child to Grandma Lily: Susanna means lily. Plus, it picks up the -a ending of your first name, which is a family name, too. Lily and Susanna sound great together and you could tell both your daughters about the remarkable great-grandmother they are named for.
And if Haven appealed as a middle the first time, maybe Solace works for a second daughter’s middle?
Congratulations on your new daughter!
Kate, that is BRILLIANT!
The name you pick will become a “family name.” That’s how I thought about it when I didn’t use a family name on my 2nd (after using one with my 1st). What you name your daughter is adding names to the pot of family names and someone somewhere down the line might choose it for their baby and think of your daughter and the family you built.
If you have a complicated relationship with your family, a name without that baggage is a gift to your child—and to the list of “family names” future parents can consider.
Just something to think about—
Congratulations on your new daughter!
What a beautiful perspective!
Oh, I love Clara River/Dove/Austen and I think Gemma is a indeed a dear!
Amarantha (means unfading)
Scarlett and Lily remind me of the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red.
Or maybe Rose? Are Lily and Rose too floral? I think they’re lovely together.
I like Lily with:
It doesn’t work with all the names I’ve suggested, but I like Bliss as a middle name.
Kirstin G says
Great suggestions by Abby! I’ve had a similar experience of letting go of the family name idea after my first daughter, whose family-inspired middle name just happened to work a number of levels. I love the suggestion of finding meaning and inspiration instead of holding yourself to a category. Some of these have been listed in other comments, but to to second the names, here are some suggestions:
I love the suggestion of Clara!
Others I’d add to the list:
And the middle name that keeps popping up into my head but I’m not sure which first name- Melody.
Because Lily and Mila have some very similar sounds, I think they might be either too close or just right. My pick, though, is Scarlett. I think it’s great with Lily, and that -et ending sounds pleasant. They’re both sort of color names, which can tie them together. My only possible concern would be that the Bible says, though your sins be as scarlet, they’ll be washed whiter than snow, which might make Scarlett feel like she’s the undesirable one and Lily, with the white reference, is the best. If that’s not a concern, I think the names themselves go really well together.
Also Isla might be a good liquid name for you.
What about Aurelia as an alternative to Aurora…could use the nickname Aria or just go with Aria from the get go.
Maybe you’d like Emma or Emmy if you like Emmeline?
Lastly, what about Ruby?
Great suggestions (in the article and comments!). I really love Clara with Lily – so that has my vote. I also agree that Scarlett works well with Lily.
One more suggestion is to consider your family heritage – do you have Irish, Nigerian, Peruvian, etc. heritage? If you feel some connection to that (or if you’re even interested in fostering such a connection), look for names from that category. This could even be more recent / local – does your family (or just you!) have a strong history in Pennsylvania or Nebraska, etc.? Look for names of historical figures from the area. Then it isn’t about a particular person, but it’s about where you (and of course your new daughter!) come from.
To add to the above (and, of course, Abby’s suggestion), you can also consider literary/artistic/political/scientific/etc. connections to a place. I’ve heard Antonia used to honor heritage in Nebraska (My Antonia), for example. There is probably just about an endless source of options if you approach it that way. Then you still get that meaningful connection to your personal/family history with perhaps an even more positive association (ie, connecting to a historical figure/event/development that you admire).
I love Clara Wren with Lily Haven. Equal parts tradition and meaning. Spare yet liquid. Best of luck!
I think another flower name would be lovely! Calla maybe, as a nod to Kayla? Rosa? Marigold called Mari? Iris, Penelope called Poppy?
Sara L. Uckelman says
OOOH OOOH. If you like “Eliana” but don’t want “Ellie”, how about “Liana”! (My own middle name, which my parents gave me when I was 5ish, so I’m partial to it. 🙂 )
“Lily” and “Liana” would make a great pair of siblings.
I’d def recommend finding a mn with some sort of special significance. Maybe even your first or middle or maiden name? Or Kay as a previous poster suggested?
I think Abby has a ton of great suggestions, esp Nora, Stella, Gemma and Mae.
A few additional ones that I like for you:
May I suggest naming her after you? If you want a twist on Kayla, Kay makes a great middle name. Actually, it was on my list as a first name. Kay Tomsin. Maia Kay Tomsin. Clara Kay Tomsin.
I notice you seem to gravitate to ‘eh’ and ‘ah’ sounds this time, nice round flowing names with vowel emphasis. (As opposed to something crisp and consonanty like Kirk or Constance.)
With Eliana, Emmeline, and Mila on your list, one name leaps to mind: Emilia. Pronounced Em-MEEL-ia, the one I know is nicknamed Mila. Emilia Kay Tomsin. It’s a historic name with sweetspot popularity.
Clara, Eliza, Gemma, and Stella all sound adorable with Lily. Stella Blaze or Stella Blue? Swoon.
What do you think of Aurelie instead of Aurora?
If honor names aren’t going to work out, maybe name your kids to really tie together, if that make sense.
I think Luna would be cute with Lily, if you don’t mind matching initials. My first thought is stargazer lilies, which bloom at night and track the moon across the sky.
I also like Bellaflor (nn Belle/Bella/Birdie) and Calanthe (nn Callie) if three syllables isn’t too long. Both mean beautiful flower, the first being Latin, the second being Greek. Sisters Callie and Lily instantly bring to mind the calla lily. Also, Calanthe is also a genus of orchid.
Some other names that would go thematically:
You could also google coplant lilies for a list of flowers that grow well with lilies. There are some pretty options. I personally love Lavender with Lily.
Lily Haven, what a nice combo. I don’t see any problem whatsoever with Lily and Scarlett.
Abby has made loads of great suggestions, but a couple names that I think immediately of as somehow akin to Lily in style are: Caroline, Ruby, Sophie, Laurel, Louisa.
I think Scarlett works just fine with Lily! Actually I like it a lot. Both word names, both starlet names. But if that doesn’t do, I agree with Abby to reach farther into what would be a meaningful name to you.
Lily Haven & Clara Scout! What an adorable pair! By far my favorite of Abby’s suggestions. =)
These come to mind: