Name Help: A Sister for Teagan and Sloane

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!

Melissa writes:

We have two daughters, Teagan Mary and Sloane Melissa. Our third daughter is due early in the new year, and we’re not coming up with a name we can agree on.

My husband wants to name this daughter after his mom, Ellen, who passed away earlier this year. Mary honors my grandmother, so I feel like what he’s asking is fair. But I can’t imagine a daughter named Ellen, or at least I can’t imagine our daughter being named Ellen.

I offered it as a middle name, but we like the idea of all of our children having M middles, because we both come from M families.

Names we considered for our older daughters include Hadley, Darby, Quinn, and Payton. My new favorite is Delaney, and I also like Parker and Emerson.

Our last name is three syllables, starts with W, ends with -r, which is why we’ve never seriously thought about Harper or Piper, though I’m beginning to reconsider whether that’s really as big a deal as I thought it was.

Would love to get some new ideas for names that we can both love.

Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Dear Melissa –

Congratulations on your third daughter!

Here’s the challenge: no name, no matter how perfect, will solve your current dilemma. Your problem comes down to this: he says Ellen. Your response? No, not Ellen.

There’s no reason Teagan and Sloane couldn’t have a sister called Ellen. It’s a different style – demure and classically feminine, instead of the bolder, unisex choices you made for your older daughters. Would others remark on it, maybe even guessing (correctly) that it’s a family name? Maybe. But none of that means you can’t use it.

What does matter is that Ellen doesn’t sound like your daughter’s name, and that means it really has to be off the table.

That leaves a few options:

  1. Start completely fresh, with no thought of using Ellen in this child’s name.
  2. Choose Ellen as her middle name, even if breaks your all-M middle pattern.
  3. Try to incorporate some reference to Ellen in her first name.

My sense is that #2 or #3 feels far more like a compromise that the first approach. It’s where you’re stuck, right?

Happily, I think there are tons of possible surname-style names with a strong El- sound.

Would you consider:

Ellery – Because Delaney is your frontrunner, maybe another three-syllable, ends-with-y name that starts with the Ell- sound makes for the best of both worlds?

Elliot, Elliott – We tend to hear them as boys’ names, but Elliot – one T or two – originated as a surname, based on the Biblical Elijah. Writer George Eliot spelled it with a single L and T, but that’s quite rare today. While it’s more common for a boy, all spellings are seen for girls, too.

Ellis – Like Elliot, Ellis also comes from Elijah. It might be the closest option to Ellen, requiring just a tweak of the ending sound to make it a sister for Teagan and Sloane.

Ellison – Because Emerson is on your list, how about Ellison? It reminds me strongly of Allison, which is probably one of the reason it’s fared well for girls in recent years.

Now, about your -r ending question: I don’t think a name like, say, Piper Hunsaker is a deal-breaker. In fact, they can be rather memorable. But I’m not sure any of the El- options work well. There’s Ellender – which means newcomer. It’s the middle name of actor Blake Lively. But, in this case, I think Ellender Hunsaker – two three-syllable names, both with an -r ending – do sound a little awkward.

So let’s go back to the names I’ve suggested already. Ellison came to  mind immediately, and I think it’s still my favorite.

But all four of these are rich with possibility, and there may be others I’ve neglected, too.

Readers, what would you suggest to Melissa for Teagan and Sloane’s sister?

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What do you think?


  1. I like Ellison! I also like Bellamy. I first heard of it when I watched scandal. ‘Belle or Bella’ for nicknames!

    Here are some other ideas:

    Elena or Eleni Marie (nickname Leni)
    Ellisyn Malia
    Leighton Mae Ellen
    Ellen Mattea (go by Mattea – one of my faves right now)
    Ellenor Maci (nick name Elle, Elli, Ella or leni)
    Haelyn Marie
    Laikyn Marie-Ellen
    Quinn Ellen Marie
    Haven Elina
    Minka Ellen
    Taylen Marie (maybe too close to Teagen)
    Tatum Ellamarie
    Kellen Marisa
    Keegan Ella (my best friend’s daughter).
    Eliana Marie
    Kennedy or Kenna May Ellen

    I think May Ellen is a cute combo for a double middle name – and not too long.

  2. Another vote for Nelle. It’s not quite as unisex as Teagan and Sloane, but it isn’t overly frilly and would work well with the sister’s names.
    Although if I had my heart set on Delaney (which is such a great name) I would skip the M middle name and give her the name Ellen there. I don’t think she would feel left out: “everyone had M middle names but then we lost your very special grandma, so you got her special name instead.”
    My third thought is to name her something like Ellen Marlowe, and call her Marlowe. I think I like that idea best actually.

  3. Nelle is a sweet solution (if you like the name). Or perhaps Elin or Elian or Elan might fit better: Teagan, Sloane & Elian.
    Delaney has ‘Elan’ right there in it, if that feels like enough of a connection for your husband.

    I also tagree it might help to re-imagine the pattern of your children’s names:

    Maybe it’s not ‘everyone has an ‘m’ middle name’, but everyone has at least one ‘m’ name (as others have suggested). Maybe this daughter is Mika Ellen, or Marley Ellen or Morgan Ellen or Madigan Ellen, etc. Or maybe she gets a second middle, and she’s Quinn Marcy-Ellen or Delaney Ellen Maeve or Parker Ellen Marlo, etc.

    Or maybe it’s ‘every child has a family middle name and a first name ending in a ‘n’ sound’ (and she’s Peyton Ellen or Addison Elena etc).

    Or ‘a family middle name and a strong ‘m’ sound somewhere’ ( and she’s Amery Elle or Emerson Ellen or Camber Ellen etc).

    You wouldn’t be ‘ruining’ the pattern – the pattern would evolving as your family grows. The pattern fits around your life, not the other way to go. This would give you a bit more range should you have more children in the future.

    Or perhaps you could work ‘Ellen’ into an ‘m’ middle name:
    Marcella/ Marcelle/ Marcelen/Marcellen?
    Mellena/ Melena?
    Michelle/ Michellen?
    Melanie? Marielle? Mabelle? Magellen?

    Good luck!

  4. Some combinations I love for you:
    Ellery Mae
    Ellery Maeve
    Ellery Maura
    Ellery Madeline
    Delaney Ellen
    Mallory Ellen

  5. How about Ellery Lynn (E.Lynn)
    It’s a twist on, but still honoring Ellen. 🙂

    My other favorite is Delaney Ellen.

    I hope you find a name you both love! Good luck and congrats on baby number 3!!

  6. What about writing it backwards? It becomes Nelle like Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird. Nelle is an old nickname for Ellen too, keeping it true to the intent. I like Nelle Maren with your sibset.

  7. Without considering your guidelines, I instantly thought this name would be a PERFECT fit with your two girls!


    Infusing Ellen into a name… “ell”



    1. I think it’s extremely important both to honor “Ellen” and keep your “M” middles. Don’t waiver.
      Awesome also to keep the gender neutral vibe with an Irish feel…?

      My personal faves would be one of these paired with a M middle


      1. One could argue however that perhaps the m middle intital pattern holds less priority to them now that a loved one has passed away. That idea may have had more appeal before, but as time passes sometimes priorities change. I think it’s important for the two of them to talk it over and decide what means the most to both of them in naming now, and try to find a common ground that leaves both parents feeling included and happy. 🙂