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!
My husband and I have a son named George Daniel, after my father-in-law and my husband. We call him Geordie, which I love so much.
Part of the reason we used family names for our son is that I always sort of thought I’d name my daughter Elizabeth. I’m the fourth Elizabeth in four generations. It’s not my mom’s name, though. Her older sister, Elizabeth “Beth” passed away before I was born, and so I’m named for her. (And my grandmother and great-grandmother, who went by Liz and Betty. I was Lizzie when I was little.)
But now that we’re expecting a daughter, I’m not sure if that’s what I want to do. This is probably our last baby, and so it’s my last chance to choose a name. But while I see mostly upsides to having a family name, I never actually lived in the same house with someone with the same first/last name as me. Would I resent having to explain that I wasn’t that Elizabeth all the time?
There isn’t necessarily another name I’d like to use, but I feel like I need some outside perspective on whether there’s another name out there.
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your daughter!
It’s funny … men rarely say that they worry about naming a child after themselves. But women really do hesitate. And because women have traditionally given up our surnames at marriage, a daughter with a family name is often not going to share a full name, like a junior will.
There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s worth reflecting on that difference, I think.
Because it sounds like you’ve always planned to continue a long-standing family tradition. You don’t have to, of course! But I also don’t hear any other names that you’re considering.
So let’s assume your daughter’s name is meant to be Elizabeth – or maybe some form of Elizabeth? – and our task is to figure out exactly how to work with this lovely, classic, and significant name.
There’s already an Elizabeth-called-Betty in your family, but it’s been a few generations. This sweetly retro nickname name is ready for a comeback.
Boyish Billie might come from Wilhelmina. But Lily likely originated as a nickname for Elizabeth. And so Billie – with that strong middle B – seems like a contender, too.
Take the “bet” from Elizabeth, and Birdie emerges as a nickname option. It has the same retro, kicky spirit of Geordie.
Eliza can stand on its own, a spirited update to elegant Elizabeth.
The first syllable of Elizabeth naturally leads to nicknames – or names – like Ellie and Ella.
The sound Elsie is right there, if you slur all the syllables of Elizabeth together. It has a delightfully vintage vibe.
A long-time Elizabeth nickname, Libby isn’t especially common right now … but it’s also not out of favor, either. If Abby can be a Top 100 favorite, but not Libby?
A German nickname for Elizabeth, made famous by The Sound of Music.
Some of these names – like Eliza and Liesel – might stand on their own as formal names. And, of course, if you find another name you really love, Elizabeth could always be your daughter’s name.
But my suggestion is Elizabeth called Birdie. Geordie and Birdie are beyond adorable together, and George and Elizabeth feel strong and substantial.
Also: if you do decide to stick with Elizabeth for your daughter’s first name, I’d suggest you choose a daring, bold middle name that you just plain love. It might satisfy that urge to choose a name that’s just for you – and, in a way, that’s a time-honored custom, too.
Elizabeth is a great name to pass on!
If I was the daughter in that situation, I would feel excluded if I wasn’t named Elizabeth.
I would do Elizabeth called Elise.
2 elegant and traditional names.
I just remembered that a dear friend of mine growing up was Elizabeth, nicknamed Tess. It could be a nice option for this family!
I recently came across another variant for Elizabeth: Elsabeth. I’ve been pronouncing it like “Elsa” and “Beth” together. I think it’s really pretty. I like the nicknames Elsie, Elsa, Ellie and Beth for it. I guess I do worry that it would be easily confused for Elisabeth though. I also like Lilibeth and Lisbeth.
I like Zibby as a nickname for Elizabeth. I also like Bessie and Buffy as well. I think Tibby and Tabby could also work at a stretch, though they’re usually nicknames for Tabitha. I had a schoolmate whose sister was named Elizabeth and her nickname was “Ipsy”. I remember being told that when she was learning to pronounce her name, she ended up saying “Ipsy”.
I had a similar issue when naming my daughter, except my husband is Jewish and it is not considered appropriate to name children after living relatives in that tradition. We ended up compromising by using it in the middle spot. Neither tradition was exactly followed, but neither was fully broken either.
It’s OK to find creative solutions so it works for your family!
Even if you can’t get excited about Elizabeth as a first name, strongly consider using it or a variant as the middle, so the connection is still there.
I love Elizabeth called Libby.
An Elspeth called Elsie is so sweet too.
You could consider a name that’s “Elizabeth adjacent” but would give you different nn options.
Eg Anneliese – nn Annie or Nellie
or Liselotte nn Lottie
First of all. It is okay not too continue the family tradition. Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.
But it does sound like you have wanted to for some time and maybe you just feel sad the decision is made so fast?
Elizabeth is an excellent name . I adore Betsy. Maybe focus your creativity on the middle name instead ?
The Mrs. says
I was the third generation to receive the same middle name. When our oldest daughter was born, I didn’t use the name.
She has been exasperated about it her whole life, and now that she and her husband are choosing names, she told me she plans to use the family name.
I guess I do regret not using it but thrill at the idea of a granddaughter having it.
I love Geordie, a Scottish nickname for George.
Elspeth, the Scottish form of your family name, is also a unique take on Elizabeth and pairs well with her brother’s name.
Elizabeth nn Elspeth
Elspeth nn Elsa or Elsie
I also like Elizabeth called Betsy — classic.
Geordie and Elsa
Geordie and Betsy
I would definitely use some form of Elizabeth to include your daughter in your family tradition. Can’t wait to hear what you choose!
You can always choose to change the spelling of the family name you love to “Elizabeth” with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’ for variation? ELISABETH instead of Elizabeth!
That way… I think the nickname recommendation of ELISE that a previous commenter mentioned offers a different feel than the tradition E name makes you wonder.
There’s Libby, but you could also consider Liddy (with D’s) like in 30 Rock.
Or Izzy (traditionally from Isabella, but could work). Might be too close to Liz, though.
Just wanted to say that I love Betsy! Elizabeth Sybil called Betsy would be amazing. Libby is also cool. I have a good friend called Libby. Elizabetta is the Italian version of Elizabeth.
I vote for Elizabeth as a first name, and then select a nickname that you love.
I’m familiar with a family with multiple women named Ebeth (pronounced with a long E at the beginning). For them it’s a standalone name, but I think it is a cool nickname for Elizabeth.
I adore the suggestion Elizabeth nn Libby – absolutely beautiful. You might consider a B middle name such as Beatrice or Brigitte to emphasise the nn. There is also Lisbeth as a possibility (far less frumpy than Elsie and far less twee imo than Lilibet). Isabella is a lovely alternative, nn Belle. But why settle for anything less than the full classic Elizabeth and a charming nn?
I’m liking the idea of doing a similar take to Geordie by playing with the middle name to get a variation.
Edie Elizabeth Delaney (ED) (like Geordie)
Evie Willow suggested Elizabeth with V middle being Evie (EV)
Eloise Elizabeth Louise
Ella as Abby suggested is Elizabeth with an A middle
Bethany Elizabeth Ann (An name eg Anneke, Angel.. Etc)
Emery Elizabeth Mary
Eva Elizabeth with V and A middle names eg Vivienne Ann
Elodie Elizabeth Olive Delilah
Eleni Elizabeth Delaney or Elena
Estelle Elizabeth Stella
Eliana Elizabeth Lana
Elizabeth is a great name. Lots of options
I love Eliza especially.
Elizabeth is probably the best family name to want to pass on, because it’s so versatile. If I were you, I think I’d want to use Elizabeth in full, to maintain the family connection, with a nickname to distinguish.
Of course there are plenty of options for a nickname! I don’t think Liza has been mentioned, so I’ll add that. You could take a further step and use Lisa, which sounds delightfully retro to me, or contract down to Lia.
Elza or Elsa would be lovely choices.
I’ve always like Bethan or Bethel. Or, if you’re really daring, use Ethel!
Abby (from ElizABeth) is a possibility is you want to lessen the nickname’s connection with your name. The letters of Bea are there too, you just need to rearrange them. Bebe works, too.
I could also see Zazie or even Zelie working.
Or, riffing off Betty – Lettie, Ettie, Etta or Zeta. Or just Bette?
If you do decide to go a different route with a name, it struck me that Beatriz shares a lot of letters with Elizabeth, so Beatrice or Beatrix could be a fun choice.
My middle name is Claire, in honor of my mom (Clara), my maternal grandmother (Klara), and my paternal grandmother (Mary Claire). I love that there’s a connecting thread without any of us sharing the exact same name.
That said, I think Elizabeth is a wonderful choice for your daughter. There are lots of great suggestions for nicknames here – Libby is probably my favorite.
I would add Lissy to the list. Geordie and Lissy sound adorable together!
Another subtle Elizabeth variant is Lillian (although to many it feels like an elaboration of Lily).
Lauren Steenkamp says
In the post Abby suggested Elsie as a nickname for a little Elizabeth, Elsie was originally the short form of the Scottish version of Elizabeth, Elspeth . If your determined to keep the family name tradition up but want to breath new life into it then maybe Elspeth (nicknamed Elsie) would be a way to do that
Alison Doherty says
Like a few other commenters, I thought of Elise as a nice compromise. I think it’s beautiful and fits well with your family. Another thought was Bethany. But I think two Elizabeths would probably be fine — especially if you with a different nickname from Liz/Lizzy for your daughter. It would be a beautiful family tradition to continue, but if you feel like starting a new tradition I think that is beautiful too.
I think Evie is perfect with a V middle name e.g. Elizabeth Verity
What I love about Geordie is it takes from the first and middle. How about Esme from Elizabeth Maeve? Elin from Elizabeth Neve? Benny from Elizabeth Naomi? Everly from Elizabeth Beverly? Hard to know your style as you’ve only talked about Elizabeth so use it use it! 😉 I also love Bess as suggested, or Beth. I know an Elise from Elisabeth.
(I would absolutely name her Elizabeth. What a cool gift and connection to you.)
You say you’re worried about sharing the name in your house, but you’ve had time with two Georges on paper – how’s that going so far? How did your husband do growing up? I shared an initial with my father which definitely had occasional mail mixups, but rare enough.
How would you feel if you speed ahead to when she’s turning one and her name isn’t Elizabeth?
If asked by your daughter later, the reason for not sharing would be happening in your house anyways. So maybe you and she would laugh that you’d escaped those mixups or maybe you’d both feel a pang of a missed opportunity?
Maybe a version of Elizabeth would be more your style so then she would still have her own name while also having a family connection.
Isobel (Scottish version of Elizabeth)
called Izzy, Belle, Bella (maybe even Zoe from Isobel?)
Isobel “Izzy” is really cute along with George “Geordie”. Plus the fact that you went by Lizzie when you were little is a sweet connection to share with your daughter. Elizabeth and Isobel, Lizzie and Izzy (or Izzie) ❤️ this is my favorite option for you!
Eliza (love this with Geordie)
Or what if you spelled her name Elisabeth instead of Elizabeth? Perhaps that would cause more confusion though or maybe not!
Or just putting Elizabeth in the middle would be just as nice 🙂
How about Isabella (or one of the other Isabel variants)? Same root and meaning, but not obvious to many non-namenerds.
There’s no reason you couldn’t make Elizabeth her middle name and pick another first name you like if you have a reason to. There is definitely occasional confusion when someone has exactly the same first name as a parent, even when you use nicknames, and the nicknames themselves can be confusing when it comes to driver’s licenses and billing if you must use the formal name. There are multiple people named after parents and grandparents in my family too.
It sounds like you love the idea of continuing the family tradition, and loved having that connection yourself to your wider family. As with Geordie, putting your own spin on a family name is possible and gives the best of both worlds … a name you love and a family naming connection.
If you go by Liz yourself, there are so many other nicknames you could use for your daughter that won’t cause everyday confusion. It’s just a matter of finding the one that brings you joy.
Personally, I love Bess. Like Geordie, it’s just a little different, but still intuitive : George & Elizabeth; Geordie & Bess.
There’s also Lilibet.
I think that’s Harry and Megan’s daughter. Called Lily (but could easily be called Betty too).
I think Lilibet or Elsie would be my choice. I also love Eliza.
I think i would lean towards using one of these Elizabeth-derived short forms as a given name.