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 found the perfect name for our daughter, Marie Henley. Henley is a family name on my husband’s side. We considered using it for her first name, but we decided we wanted something more classic.
Now we’re expecting another daughter and we’re coming up blank. We want a name that is traditional, only has only spelling/pronunciation, and isn’t everywhere.
We ruled out Katherine because of Catherine/Kathryn. But also because we’re not crazy about the idea of nicknames. (It’s okay if they happen, but we don’t want to plan for them.) My husband is Matthew-not-Matt, and it’s a losing battle!
If Marie was a boy, we’d talked about Graham and Seth, but weren’t really settled on either name.
Our last name sounds like Thomas plus ek.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your new daughter!
This is an interesting challenge. Because, yes, at first glance, lots of names work just as beautifully as Marie.
Except that classic names tend to have nicknames. Lots of them! Elizabeth, Victoria, Beatrice, Margaret … part of the reason to choose them might be all that flexibility.
And finding something with just one spelling can be tough, too. Sophia/Sofia, Amelia/Emilia … it’s sort of surprising how often a name had to be crossed off my short list.
Popularity is tougher to pin down, but in this case, it helps that you’re looking for a name with just one spelling. It’s tough to gauge the actual use of a name like Anna/Ana/Anne because, well, you’d have to tally up all of these possibilities.
But this community is up for exactly this kind of challenge!
Let’s find some not-too-common, traditional choices for a daughter that have only one obvious spelling and pronunciation and just happen to sound great with big sister Marie’s name, too.
A SISTER FOR MARIE
It’s a sweet name, forever Wonderland. But plenty of Alices have been women of significant accomplishment, too. Alice Walker, Alice Paul, Alice Munro. To name just a few …
Okay, Francis is another spelling. But in the twenty-first century, we’ve pretty firmly settled on Frances for girls, Francis for boys. (The current Pope helps drive that home, I think.) And so Frances seems like the kind of underused classic that could be exactly right for Marie’s sister.
It’s tempting to suggest lots of feminine forms of John. But so many of them – think Joanna/Johanna/Joanne or Jean/Jeanne – seem like there’s room for confusion. While we do sometimes see Jayne, it feels like Jane is the obvious, enduring choice – literary thanks to Austen, trail-blazing thanks to Goodall and Addams, and legendary thanks to Calamity Jane.
It’s easy to forget that Julia belongs with classic names. But it’s an ancient Roman name, mentioned in the New Testament, used by Shakespeare. From nineteenth century author and poet Julia Ward Howe to Oscar winning actress Julia Roberts,
If you’ve ruled out Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn because of the challenges of nicknames, what if you just … skipped right to the nickname? Kate is nearly as classic as Katherine, but feels brief and complete.
Nicely French, just like Marie.
Spare and serious Ruth is also playful, upbeat Ruthie. Maybe that’s the type of built-in nickname you’d rather avoid, but I think Ruth and Marie are great together.
My first thought was Veronica. For a long name, it’s almost always spelled exactly like this – at least in the US. But I wonder if the shorter Vera isn’t a better match for Marie?
Overall, Alice was my very first thought, and I still think it’s perfection with Marie. But if that’s a little too popular, the rest of this list works as substitutes. I’m especially drawn to Marie and Ruth – two timeless names that feel just right on a daughter, but equally appropriate on a woman of consequence.
I have a daughter Maria Joy and a daughter Martha Lily. I know it’s a lot of Ms, but I always wanted those names. I have loved that we chose Martha- I just wanted to share bc my naming criteria is very similar to yours. Best of luck.
Marie is a great name. There’s lots of great suggestions already! Might I add:
Lydia, Astrid, Fleur or Flora, Thea, Naomi, Ursula, Xanthe, Odette, Elsa, Ivy, Zara, Gretel or Gretchen, Thora, Nadia or Nadine
Since your first is Marie (a name that was more popular in earlier generations that hasn’t “come back” yet), how about another name that has a similar style (history of use but not overly popular now or in the recent past)? Here are some ideas that fit your other criteria:
I’ll add a few more. Some of these can be nicknamed or be spelled creatively, and a lot were more popular decades ago and will probably start coming back soon: Adele, Amy, Anita, Arlene, Belle, Bettina, Blythe, Carol, Charity, Charlene, Christine, Colleen, Dana, Danielle, Darlene, Dinah, Edith, Fern, Gina, Gloria, Jill, Joanna, Judith, Julie, Kathleen, Laurel, Lisa, Mabel, Marsha, Michelle, Molly, Monique, Nicole, Olive, Paige, Patricia, Pippa, Ramona, Renee, Rita, Rochelle, Rosa, Sally, Suzanne, Tara, Tessa, Una, Zora
So many good suggestions already!
I’d add Greta. Most certainly stands alone, unlikely to be nicknamed. Marie and Greta give me a nice old worlde vibe. I know a teenage Greta and it’s so sophisticated on her, just like Marie.
Love Marie as a first name so much.
My suggestion is…
Marie Henley & Heidi Marlow
Alice, Rose, Jane, Elise, Leah, Hazel, Audrey, Olive are also great suggestions.
I’ll add Adele. Marie & Adele.
Best of luck and let us know what you pick.
I don’t think these names have been mentioned.
M@rie and Olivia or Bridget
Louise and Claire are two outstanding options with Marie. But one has nicknames and one spelling issues. Ruth is amazing. And Diane would work well too. Marie always reminds me of Theresa, but not sure that fits either with the rules. What about Florence?
Esme taps into your Old French vibe without obvious nicknames
Lara easy to say, spell and no nicknames but strong sounding
Olive can’t do much with that… Liv maybe? I know an Olive who is never given a nickname
More Old French classics without obvious nicknames that still fit in today…
I’m going to cherry pick from the other suggestions.
Anna was my first thought but could be nicknamed to Annie
Hannah is a definite classic typically without nicknames
Emma is classic but little will get Em however will not likely write that down
Laura classic no nicknames
Eva classic may get Evie
Lucy may get Lu or Lulu but unlikely to write that down
Alice I know an Alice who goes almost exclusively by Ally
Claire is a no from me. Too many ways to spell it and Marie Claire is a magazine.
Erin Beth says
I think it’s hard to top the suggestion of Louise but my other favorites for you are:
I liked Abby’s suggestion of Louise to go with Marie. I think a Marie I have met (adult) has a sister named Wendy…
Ada, Anna, Celia, Charlotte, Claire, Clara, Colette, Cora, Coral, Daisy, Delia, Diane, Dora, Dorothy, Eliza, Ellen, Eva, Grace, Hannah, Hazel, Hope, Irene, Iris, Jean, Josie, Laura, Leah, Lucy, Maeve, Margaret, Matilda, Mavis, Nina, Opal, Priscilla, Pearl, Polly, Rachel, Rose, Ruby, Stella, Susan, Sylvie, Tina, Verity, Willa, Yvette, Yvonne,
Bess or Tess
Most of these *could* have alternate spellings- there are people named Giorgia, Yve, and Grayce- but the most common spelling is waaaaay more popular than any alternatives. The same with nicknames- Caroline could be Caro or Callie, for example- but all the Carolines I know are just Caroline.
This is challenging because so many names can be nicknamed by adding an ie or y!
Possibilities (with more than a few repeats):
Claire — yes, it can also be spelled Clair or Clare, but I’ve found Claire is the most common.
Helen — maybe too close to Henley.
Hope — I love Hope in general, but also for the reason Renee stated about initial sharing.
Laura / Laurel / Lauren
This is such a fun one! Because while the style of Marie is hot, she’s underused. I only know one young Marie and it absolutely made me go “Huh. YES!” Jane was my first thought but she’s more used, as are a lot of others that come to mind (Grace, Rose.) And the spelling and pronunciation thing! Even Vera is sometimes Verra. Ruth, Rachel and Amy are great ideas.
I have only two suggestions for you that I really feel hit the same note – Nina and Hope. (And I only really included Hope because then each of the parents would share an initial with a child.) I think Nina & Marie would be a surprising and lovely set on sisters these days.
Claudia and Rose from the comments, but I think Alice has such a sweet, happy sound with Marie.
I like Abby’s suggestions of Julia and Ruth. Ideas I had are…
Elise or Eliza
I meant to post this as a reply to Iris – and her suggestion of Sarah.
Sarah has the “with or without an h” issue.
So lots of classic names with no nicknames!
My favorites are Claire, Rose and Lucy!
Claire/Clair/Clare might have too many spellings, but Clara is standardized and rarely shortened.
Roman Julia makes me think of Claudia.
Spare Jane leads me to Jill.
I love you style of underused, streamlined classics.
My first thought was Adelaide -yes, it could be shortened, but I know an Adelaide & an Adeline & both go by their full names. Adelaide nns aren’t as obvious maybe? Marie & Adelaide?
My second thought was Jane. It’s a beautiful name but seems rather short & too English next to Marie.
How about Rose? Marie & Rose are gorgeous together.
Heidi? It’s classic, only has one spelling, hard to get a nn from it, underused & maybe unexpected.
So here’s my list in order of preference:
I’m sure you’ll find a beautiful name for your daughter if not now, when you first see her.