Nlame Help: Sister for MarieName 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!

Heather writes:

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.

Abby replies:

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.



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.

Readers, over to you – what would you name a sister for Marie Henley?

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. Congratulations!
    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.

  2. 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

  3. 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: