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!
My husband and I are horribly stuck naming our second baby. We’re due in about five weeks with girl #2 and still don’t have a short list of names!
We named our first daughter Margaret Evelyn and we call her Margot. We’re fans of fairly classic names but like a fun nickname as well. Margaret felt like a strong, classic, feminine but not girly name that could grow with our daughter and gave us all sorts of nickname options.
My husband’s family is French and British. Our last name rhymes with “goes on” and starts with the letter C.
My husband’s absolute favorite name is Elizabeth but I just can’t get on board. It’s so popular and I don’t like any of the nickname options it offers. As a “Lindsay” growing up in the late-80s and early-90s, there were always at least 2 of us with the same name in school and I don’t want that for my girls!
Other names we’ve considered include Madeleine, Claire, Amelia, Eleanor, Juliana. My mother-in-law’s middle name is Francis and we like the idea of incorporating Francis, perhaps as a middle name.
Our first daughter’s middle name was my grandmother’s name so we’d like to now honor my husband’s family with this baby’s name. Husband’s father is Jean-Noel so we briefly considered Noelle as a middle name as well. I also like the names Cora and Clara but husband isn’t super enthusiastic about either and both are so short they don’t lend well to nicknames.
Friends have named their daughters Juliette, Evelyn, Lillian, Charlotte and we have two relatives named Caroline so those names are out.
Any advice?! Thank you!!
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Lindsay –
Congratulations on your new daughter!
Here’s the challenge: is it important to maintain the pattern – classic first, spunky nickname, family middle? Or are you open to a different approach to naming this daughter?
My tendency is to try to maintain the pattern, because it’s the easiest place for me to make suggestions. But if none of these feel quite right? Maybe that’s a signal that you don’t need to follow the same formula.
Elizabeth: Too Popular?
Let’s start by discussing Elizabeth. It is a very popular name, no doubt about that. But it’s also a true classic name for a daughter, more like Margaret than Mia or Ava. So it meets at least one of your criteria.
I’d be surprised if your daughter is one of three Elizabeths in her class. Popularity is complex; but, in general, even the most popular name today is much less common than it would have been thirty years ago. In 2017, Elizabeth was the eleventh most popular name for girls born that year; it was used just under .5% of the time. But thirty years ago? The eleventh most popular name in 1987 was Samantha, and it was used nearly 1% of the time, or twice as often.
Because you like the French spellings Madeleine and Claire, I’m also tempted to suggest Elisabeth instead of Elizabeth.
But the real magic here is all of the possible Elizabeth nicknames. Choose Ellie and her name might feel very common indeed. But Libby, Elsie, or Bess all sound like sisters for Margot, and all are much more rare. If none of those are quite right, nicknames for Elizabeth abound.
One other note about popularity: Madeleine doesn’t seem very popular, but tally up Madeline, Madelyn, and all of the other spellings, and it’s heard more often than you might guess. Plus, plenty of Madisons are also Maddie.
Amelia ranks in the current US Top Ten.
Juliana does feel less common, as does Claire – but Margaret still seems a little less common than any of those choices, and Margot is even less frequently heard.
Working Backwards: A Sister for Margot
In fact, I’m wondering if we should try to match Margot.
What would you think of:
Bea – In the traditional-but-not-common column, I wonder if you’d like Beatrice? Nickname options range from the obvious Bea to less familiar choices like Birdie or Tris. There’s also the spelling Beatrix, which might appeal.
Edie – Edith makes for a serious, substantial name; Edie, for a light and sparky short form. Margot and Edie sound just like sisters, but so do Margaret and Edith.
Elsie – I mentioned Elsie as short for Elizabeth – or Elisabeth. But it works for Eloise, too. And while Eloise isn’t quite as enduring as Elizabeth, it’s certainly a name with plenty of history.
Frannie, Frankie – If Francis is a family name, would you consider another related name for your daughter’s first? Francis names are plentiful. For girls, Frances is the most common spelling, and I think it pairs well with Margaret. But there’s Italian Francesca and French Francine, too. Frannie strikes me as the most Margot-like nickname. But Frankie carries plenty of retro appeal, too.
Josie – This list can’t be complete without Josephine! Josie feels like the default nickname, but my personal favorite is Posy. (And there are plenty of other options, too.)
Lula, Lulu – How do you feel about Lou names? Louisa and Louise remain relatively uncommon in the US, even though everyone recognizes them as a given names pretty much instantly. I’d call Margot’s sister Lula or Lulu – both nicknames with a lot of style, and links to far more traditional choices.
Thea – Is Theodora just way too out there for you? In many ways, it’s a perfect sister name for Margaret. And Thea and Margot sound exactly like siblings to me.
It sounds like you’ve considered Francis and Noelle for middle names, and both work beautifully.
But I wonder if you’ve considered the possibilities related to Jean? There’s just Jean, of course, or the feminine Jeanne. And since it’s a form of John, lots of other names might work, too. My top suggestion would be Jane, since it’s still pretty close.
My favorite combinations so far are:
- Edith “Edie” Francesca
- Theodora “Thea” Jane
But I think you have plenty of options – and I know our readers will have some great suggestions! So let’s open it up: what would you name a sister for Margaret “Margot” Evelyn?