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 are having a baby girl in a few months, and we have a 3 year old son named Theodore Crosby. Mostly we call him Theo, but we like the longer version too.
My husband is Greek, so we like that it has some Greek flavor. Crosby is kinda quirky and fun which is my style. I am Piper Peggy Star- I was the only Piper until I was 25 and it became trendy. I can’t say I liked having such a unique name as a child.
For our daughter we want something equivalent to our son’s name: not terribly common, but kind of classic as a first name, and a more risky middle name.
We like Serafina a lot but are a bit worried it might get super popular. We are fine with it not being obscure but we know six Sophias and there are three Lunas in my son’s class so we hope to avoid that level of trendy.
We also like Sidney, Analise, Henley, Daphne, Celeste, Iris, and Athena.
I think Serafina is our front runner. We could call her Sera, which around here doesn’t seem common like it was. Serafina Daphne, Serafina Star (after me a little), Serafina Bell, maybe? We do like feminine names.
Our last name is long and Greek, and quite a mouthful on its own so we worry that with a long first and middle name, it will just be too much.
We would love any thoughts or new names to consider.
Read on for my response, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Hi Piper –
Congratulations your new baby! That’s so exciting.
I’m always curious about how it feels to have a really rare name that becomes a really popular name. It sounds like you’re trying to avoid either extreme for your children, and that makes sense.
Here’s the thing about popularity: very, very occasionally a name really does come out of nowhere. Think of Miley, as in Cyrus. 26 girls were named Miley in 2005 and 197 in 2006 – that’s already a huge increase. And then – bam! – 1,233 girls in 2007 and 2,649 in 2008.
Most of the time, we can trace a gradual increase in use. Take your name. There’s no comparable supernova for Piper. It’s been used in small numbers since the 1950s (thank you, Piper Laurie) and gained significantly in recent years. But that’s very different from the kind of increases associated with the rare, wildly trendy name like Miley.
One factor that makes tracing name use challenging: spelling. When a name can be spelled multiple ways, it might seem even more popular than the numbers suggest. Sophia/Sofia demonstrates this. Over 16,000 girls were named Sophia in 2016; but factor in the 9,100 Sofias and this name rockets past Emma to claim the #1 spot in the US.
Serafina: Too Popular?
Let’s take a look at the numbers for your favorite name, Serafina.
In 2016, 117 girls were named Serafina. It’s been given to more than 100 girls every year since 2011, and it’s been in use throughout the twentieth century. Seraphina, the name of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s middle child, is more popular, with 209 births recorded in 2016. But again, there’s a long and steady increase in use, from 88 in 2009 when Miss Affleck arrived.
Combined, that puts this name just inside the current US Top 1000. But barely. Barring a wildly popular fictional character in a hit television series or movie, it’s hard to imagine either spelling reaching the Top 100 anytime soon.
There is a bestselling novel called Serafina and the Black Cloak, the start of a YA series from author Robert Beatty. I’ve yet to read it, but it’s the start of a trilogy, and it could possibly become a movie. Or not. It’s not enough to suggest this name is the new Isabella.
Give it twenty years and, as you know from personal experience, anything is possible. But as of today, Serafina seems safely under-the-radar.
If Not Serafina …
Let’s take a look at the popularity of your other favorite names:
- Sidney does not chart in the current US Top 1000 for girls. But Sydney comes in at #135.
- Analise falls outside of the current Top 1000, but Annalise ranks #405.
- Henley stands at #512.
- Daphne ranks #409.
- Celeste comes in at #495.
- Iris is #186.
- Athena charts at #142.
You’ve also mentioned preferring “kind of classic” names. That’s a tough line to draw, but I’d say that Daphne, Analise, Celeste, Iris, and Athena all make the cut. Sidney and Henley strike me as much more modern, especially for a daughter.
Since popularity factors into your decision, Daphne and Celeste feel like the better picks. Not that Athena or Iris feels too popular at all – but they’re certainly more common than the others.
Of course, Daphne and Athena clearly share Greek roots, while Celeste is Latin. (Serafina also claims Latin origins, though perhaps it’s used enough in modern-day Greece that it feels acceptable.) Iris, on the other hand, is Greek in origin. And yet, I wonder if it feels like less of a heritage choice and more of a vintage nature name.
One other note: Theodore recently re-entered the US Top 100. I think it still feels pleasingly distinctive compared to so many two-syllable, ends-with-n boy names. And no question Theodore belongs with the classics. Still, maybe Iris and Athena should be included, since they’re more popular than Serafina, Celeste, and Daphne – but overall, still beyond the benchmark of Theodore.
Serafina: More Alternatives
Calliope – Calliope shares the ‘e’ ending of Daphne, but has a more elaborate sound reminiscent of Serafina. I’ve heard it’s used in modern Greece, though I’m not clear if that makes this name dated or current by 2017 standards.
Eleni – Eleni makes for an interesting choice. It looks and feels a little bit modern, maybe even invented. But it’s the modern Greek form of Helen, and very well-used in Greece today. Eleni fails to chart in the US Top 1000, though I’ve met few in the US. It seems like a great heritage pick with a lot of energy and style, too.
Lucia – I can’t find a satisfying Greek equivalent of Luke and company. And it’s a tangled web, with some Luc/Luk names related to the Latin lux, light, and others coming from a Greek place name. Still, given Lucia’s pan-European style, it feels like a fit. Lucia ranks #213 and sounds like a sister for Theodore.
Selena – Selena comes from the Greek goddess of the moon. It ranks #285 in the US at present. It shares the same general sounds as Serafina, but is slightly shorter.
Thalia – Thalia appears throughout Greek myth, and it feels like the kind of name that would wear well in 2017 and beyond. The big challenge? Spelling and pronunciation, of course. Is the ‘h’ silent, like Theresa? Or pronounced, as in Thea? Plus, Thalia ranks #809, while Talia comes in at #307. Theo and Thalia – pronounced ‘th’ – might be a tongue-twister, but I like Theo and Thalia – silent ‘h’ – quite a bit.
Valentina – In terms of sound and style, Valentina reminds me of Serafina. Once again, it’s Latin rather than Greek. It comes in at #106, which makes it more familiar – but possibly too popular.
A Sister for Theodore Crosby: Recommendations
My top suggestion is Daphne Serafina, for three reasons. First, you’ve mentioned that your surname is long, so Serafina might make for a mouthful. Second, Sera lacks the instant familiarity of Theo. I think you’d face some confusion explaining that it’s Sera, short for Serafina, rather than Sarah or Sara. For many families, this is no reason to avoid a name – but it sounds like you’d prefer something more straightforward. Lastly, I think Daphne and Theo/Daphne and Theodore are very well matched as sibling names, with a strong hint of Greek heritage while still feeling very familiar in the US.
My second choice is Eleni Serafina. Yes, it’s much less familiar than many names on this list. But it’s a great heritage name that has a modern, on-trend sound. I think it splits the difference between names like Sidney/Henley and more traditional choices.
But lastly, I really do like Serafina, particularly with Star as a middle name from your full name. Serafina Star probably skews a little more unusual than you’d like. And yet, I don’t know if that’s a dealbreaker. It’s just worth asking yourself if finding something that fits in is more important than using a name you really love. There’s no right answer to that question, but since it might help to have some opinions, I’ll add a poll at the bottom.
Readers, what should they name Theodore Crosby’s sister?
I would highly recommend staying away from Sidney, as there is a hockey player named Sidney Crosby who is very popular in Canada and the US as he is from Canada and plays for an American team so to avoid confusion I would say don’t name her Sidney
Since Peggy derives from Margaret, which has Greek origins, you could use any of the dozens of forms of Margaret.
There are also names which derive from the Greek ‘aster’, meaning “star”; I like Astra and Astraea/Astraia.
These names haven’t been mentioned yet, all have Greek origin, and are not on the U.S. Top 1000 list:
Amaranth, Amethyst, Anatolia, Apollonia, Arcadia, Arkadia, Calanthe, Callista, Charis, Charisma, Cleo, Clio, Danae, Danai, Delphina, Electra, Elektra, Eliane, Elina, Eumelia, Faina, Gaea, Gaia, Galena, Galina, Haris, Harmonia, Hero, Hyacinth, Ianthe, Jacinda, Jacinta, Jocasta, Kalliope, Kallisto, Kleo, Klio, Kore, Korina, Korrine, Laia, Larisa, Leto, Lysandra, Melia, Nerissa, Nyx, Phaenna, Sapphira, Sapphire, Tecla, Tekla, Thecla, Thekla, Xanthe, Xenia
Maybe Philomena, Serena, Serenity, Ismene, Yolanda, Iolanthe, Parthenope, Carina, Virginia, or Marguerite?
Herthesia Sinclair says
Wow three Luna’s in your son’s class! That would have me worried too that a “unique” name could trick you by becoming quite common without any help from pop culture. It sounds like you are part of a community that values “unique” names and this makes naming difficult…and you just don’t know how certain names are going to grow up. I’m a nearly 40 year old Kylie and I am very surprised by how the popularity of my name has grown and how it’s connotation has changed. What felt like a truly unique name when I was little, now feels privledged and a little bratty. Im fine with it, but it’s weird, right? From your list and the suggestions, I think you should avoid Iris and Phoebe. These will go the way of Luna in your community; I’d put money on it! Serafina is lovely. I think the sweet spot you are looking for is names that are known, underused, but that their #1 value isn’t that they’re “unique”. I think Catherine and Georgia are great suggestions. Daphne could also go the way of Luna. That feels like more of a gamble than Serafina in that regard. I’d also suggest Lena and Nina.
Daphne Athena is my suggestion for you! I’m in love with this combo, I think it’s absolutely stunning. Beautiful, classy, timeless, elegant, smart.
Serafina is gorgeous as well, and I love Abby’s suggestion of Daphne Serafina.
Daphne Demetria/Demetra (I like the alliteration here, as you’re Piper Peggy!)
Estella/Estelle/Stella could work for middles as they all mean “star”
— Daphne Estella
— Serafina Estelle
Some other suggestions for you!
Phaedra!! Love this one for you
Phoebe (Theo and Phoebe are so cute together!)
Evadne (Evie/Eva/Eve nicknames, Theo & Evie!)
Melete (One of the 3 muses)
Raphaela/Rafaela (I always think of this when I think of Serafina)
Chrysanthe (Maybe as a middle)
You’re so lucky you have some Greek heritage to justify using some amazing Greek names!
Love the suggestions of Phaedra and Evadne!
Mandie L. says
If length is an issue, and if you want a name that will be instantly recognized as “classic”, I think Serafina should be your “bold middle, rather than a first name. I agree with the recommendation of Daphne. Helen is another idea.
If you really love Serafina, though, of course use it and it will work just fine. It’s just neither short nor familiar, but that’s OK. I love the idea of sharing your middle name with her, Serafina Star.
how about delphine?
I think Serafina Star is such a beautiful name. Definitely not too popular and Sera for short is so sweet! I don’t think the Sera / Sarah for short would be an issue and I don’t know many little Sarah’s these day either. Both go well with Theo / Theodore in my opinion. Iris is another beautiful name, one of my favorite classic names, and while I don’t know any Iris’ as suggested it is a bit more popular and I agree Iris Serafina may be a mouth full with the double S, so not sure what middle name would go well with Iris? Which opens me up to Daphne because so many commented on the name and I like it a lot too! Daphne Serafina sounds so cute.
You have picked a lot of beautiful name options and I love the name Theodore too! Good choices and great feedback from Appellation Mountain as well!
I love the original suggestion of “Serafina Star”. What a gorgeous name, what a lovely nod to mom, and also easily shortenable. I don’t think “Serafina” is too popular at all.
A few other classic Greek names to toss out — Victoria, Veronica (or Berenice, if you want to go that route), Nikodema, as well as all the Eu- names. Eularia, Eudoxia, Eudora, Euphrosyne, Eupraxia…Okay, maybe some of these are a bit TOO classic and not all that apt for modern usage…
I think Abby’s spot on: Theodore Crosby and Daphne Serafina make a wonderful pair, especially with a long surname. It fits your “not common but kind of classic” brief perfectly. Iris also fits well – it’s more common, but still less popular than Theodore. Iris Serafina is perhaps not an ideal combination (those adjacent S’s), but Iris Calliope or Iris Valentina from Abby’s suggestions work well.
Serafina is considerably less common than Theodore (or, indead, Crosby) in the States, and I suspect would be less likely than Daphne to be considered “classic” by other Americans (though I’m not American so this is conjecture on my part).
If Serafina really seems like The Name, though, I think Serafina Star is a nice name and the discrepancy in popularity between Theodore and Serafina is not really a big deal.
I also like the suggestion others have made of Serafina Margaret. Margaret seems a good match for Theodore (it’s classic and at #139 in the US charts is similarly popular), so her name would be the inverse pattern of her brother’: unexpected first, classic middle. Serafina Peggy, Serafina Daisy or Serafina Pearl would also be sweet nods to your middle name, though they lack the Greek flavour you’d like.
Good luck, and congratulations!
The Mrs. says
Do you like Phoebe? She’s classic Greek, familiar but not common, and sounds great with Theo.
Erin Beth says
I LOVE Daphne and as soon as I read your question, I was ready to vote for Daphne Serafina, as many have. I also like Daphne Margaret for you, as well as Phoebe Margaret.
Daphne! It’s my all time favorite girl’s name. My daughter ended up as Fiona, but I still kind of wish I’d used Daphne.
I’m partial to Daphne, but I love Serafina. If it didn’t skyrocket after the Garner-Afflecks used it, not sure why it would now, but I’m a bit ignorant of current pop culture. My vote is Serafina and I love Sera and Theo together. I also like Fern? Not too much of a stretch.
But what I noticed when looking at your name and seeing that you want a classic, not terribly common first, is Margaret. A nod to your middle Peggy, the ultimate classic and not heard as much as many others. Theodore and Margaret are perfect, Theo and whatever nickname of the dozens you could get from it would be sweet. Margaret Star. I’m partial to Maggie, Meg, Daisy, Molly, or even Pearl. But that is only if you give up Serafina, which seems like a no-brainer for you!
I really, really like Daphne for you. Daphne Seraphina or Daphne Star would be lovely. I do like Seraphina but it would annoy me with the inevitable confusion with Sara/Sarah.
Phoebe is another name that I would suggest.
I think Daphne Star would be perfect.
C in DC says
I love Celeste Henley as a sister to Theodore Crosby. I might call her Sis as a nn.
I love the idea of Delphine with a nickname Della. Otherwise I like Daphne far more than Serafina
I have 2 for you to consider: Thalassa and Petra. Good luck!
I love Georgia or Georgina for you, nicked Gina or Gigi. I know feminine George variants are popular in the Greek communities I’ve connected with, although the name is not technically Greek.
Whoa I just looked it up-it IS Greek. Makes more sense now that it was so common:)
It would be so easy to suggest a boy name: Alexander!
For a girl, it’s harder: Anastasia, Petra, Catherine, Diana, Irene, Constance, Lydia, Penelope or Phoebe.
I love Serafina but I agree it might be long with your last name and also the Sera/sarah thing could get old but I think neither of those are deal breakers.
I love Daphne with Theo so much that I have a 3 year old Daphne Lane and she just got a brother this summer named Theodore (always Theo) Atlas. If Theo was a girl, he would have been Iris so I have to say I kind of love your style 🙂