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. My first thought was ‘Melanie’ — perhaps as a middle? It gets both the ‘M’ and the ‘Ellen’ — you could even spell it ‘Melleny’ or ‘Mellenie’. And then I saw that you liked ‘Delaney’ and it felt like an even more apt suggestion!

  2. I think PIper would sound perfect next to Teagan and Sloane but agree your surname may not blend well with Piper. Arwen, Brinley, Payton, Ayla, or Romilly may be good choices. As far as Ellen why not work it in as additional name ? Like Delaney Maxine Ellen W****r for example.

  3. you could invert the pattern and pick an m first name and use ellen as the middle:
    Maeve Ellen
    Morghan Ellen
    Mina Ellen
    Madeleine Ellen
    Meredith Ellen
    Margaret Ellen

    or name her ellen but use a nickname. I know an eloise whom everyone calls ella, probably named for a family member: Ella, Ellie, and Elle could all be nicknames for ellen.

    or name her ellen with an m middle name and call her the middle name:
    Ellen Maeve called Maeve
    Ellen Margaret called Maggie

    good luck!

  4. Why not use a slightly different spelling of Ellen such as the Welsh and Scandinavian Elin ? Elin Miranda would be my choice.

  5. My mother-in-law passed away while I was pregnant with our youngest. We ended up putting her name in the middle. It doesn’t match the style or pattern of our older girls’ middles (single syllable virtue names that expand on the meanings of their first names), but it felt more important to honor Mom than to keep the pattern, and the idea of using it as a first name (besides not being our style) was painful while the grief was so fresh.

    So, if I were in your shoes, I would either give up the M thing or do a double middle (as in Delany Ellen Marie or Harper Mae Ellen)