Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!
Ashleigh and her husband are the parents of Rafael, called Rafi, and Naima. They’re expecting baby #3 and could use our help.
We aren’t finding out the gender, but are settled on Liora for a girl.
For a boy we are stumped.
We want to find something sophisticated, with a cute and unexpected nickname. Our son, for example is Rafael NN Rafi.
Meaning is important to us, we don’t want anything with a negative meaning. Our surname ends in -son.
Middle name will be either Louis or Daniel.
So far Ashleigh’s shortlist for a boy consists of Luca and Desmond – but they’re not sure if either is the right name.
Read on for my answer – and please leave your thoughts in the comments!
Would it be crazy to say that I really hope you have a daughter? Liora is such a gorgeous name – unusual but very wearable, with a great meaning – and fits so well with Rafael and Naima, too!
Okay, that’s not helpful. But I do love the sound of your children’s names.
The qualities you look for in a name are as follows:
- Sophisticated, possibly with an unexpected nickname
- A great meaning – or at least not a negative one
A few other things leap out at me:
- You’re naming little citizens of the world! The names you like come from a wide variety of backgrounds – Arabic, Hebrew, the Spanish and Portuguese form of one Biblical classic, the Italian form of another. It’s a lot of freedom, but there’s also a challenge – you almost want to keep each child’s name distinct, and that can mean a slightly different origin for each. And yet, I can completely picture these kids as twenty-somethings, already with well-worn passports.
- While Naima and Liora aren’t common names for girls, the ‘a’ ending is fairly traditional. But your boys’ names are quite daring – Rafi’s ‘i’ ending, Luca’s ‘a’. It suggests that you’re open to lots of great names, and that’s fabulous – but it only makes the list of possibilities longer!
Now, a question: is Lior a possibility for a son? No reason it has to be – for every family who loves Samuel and Samantha, there are plenty of families who only like one form or the other. But Lior has a great meaning, a sophisticated sound, and some great potential nicknames – Lio, maybe? Rafi, Naima, and Lio; Rafael, Naima, and Lior.
Assuming you’re already ruled out Lior, let’s look at some more names:
- Rodion – Rodion is a Russian name, ultimately related to Herod, from the Greek Heroides – song of the hero. Rafael and Rodion sound like brothers, and Rafi and Rodi makes for a nicely matched pair of brothers. Maybe too matched, though? Rafael, Rodion, and Naima. Rafael, Naima, and Rodion – I like it, but let’s keep going.
- Evander – A hero of the Trojan war, his name means good man – the ‘ev’ comes from the Greek ‘eu’ – good. Rafael, Naima, and Evander; Rafi, Naima, and Van. Rafi and Van. Or Ev, Evan, or Anders … lots of nickname options there.
- Jacoby – Originally a surname form of Jacob, Jacoby has caught on in recent years. The meaning isn’t great – supplanter – but nicknames Cobe and Coby might appeal.
- Koa – I almost dropped Koa from the list because it’s so short. But if you love Luca and want a great meaning, Koa seems like a name to consider. It’s Hawaiian, related to the Koa tree, and means warrior.
- Nico, Nicolo, Nicodemus – I wonder if you’ve considered Nico already? Nicholas feels a little plain with your other kids’ names, but Nico is a great modern short form, and there are plenty of formal name options. Rafi and Nico are great together. But are Naima and Nico too close? Some parents prefer to avoid repeating first initials.
- Siraj – Lior had me thinking about names that mean light. Siraj is Arabic in origin. Rafi and Raj, Rafi, Naima and Raj … hmmm … I keep running into repeating first initials! I wonder if that’s a deal-breaker for you?
- Kiran – An Indian name of debated meaning, but they’re all pretty darn lovely: sunbeam, thread. In decades past, might have been mistaken for Karen, but I feel like this works better in 2015.
- Orion – The constellation from the night sky, Orion is a hunter. The name originally comes from a Greek word meaning boundary, or maybe beehive … so the meaning isn’t rock solid. But nickname Ori goes back to the Hebrew word for light, and also brings to mind gold. Rafael, Naima, and Orion – Rafi and Ori, Rafi, Ori, and Naima.
Names I thought about but eliminated for one reason or another: Ruskin – is Rafi and Rus too much? Zebulon, nickname Zeb – it felt a little less sophisticated and globe-trotting that Rafael and Naima. Jasper – too common? Though Jas/Jaz is a great short form. Also, Galileo, Israel, and Sorrel/Sorrell … though I can’t quite say why these three didn’t make the final cut.
I’m not sure it’s time to rule out Luca or Desmond, either:
- Rafael, Naima, and Luca
- Rafael, Naima, and Desmond
Both trios sound great together, and I’m really drawn to Desmond’s jazzy nickname Dez. Rafi, Naima, and Dez – it just sounds great together, doesn’t it?
From my list, I’m most drawn to the possibility of Orion – especially because it shares sounds with your top choice for a daughter’s name.
Readers, what would you suggest for a brother for Rafi and Naima? I feel like I could list great potential names forever, but narrowing it down is tough!
Alvaro nn “Aro”
Salvatore nn “Sal”
I love Orion as a name. but my husband doesn’t like the man from the myth.
I love your taste in names so i will suggest my sons name (which i love!!)
Aurelio (means Golden and works well in most launguages.. also we call him Leo for his nickname but there are plenty of options with it including Rell, Auri, and Eli.
For our shortlist for baby #3 we have..
Lazaro (nickname Zoro!)
Javier (nickname Havi)
Xavier (nn Zavi)
Benedict (nn Ben)
Enrique (nn Rico)
Mattias (nn Matt)
I love the suggestions of Inigo and Alexei. I’d also suggest Santiago, Esteban, Viktor, Dominic, and Phillipe.
Have you considered Domenico as a way to get to Nico? In my mind Desmond & Dominic matchup in style, but Domenico feels more like a sibling of Naima & Rafi.
Oh, that’s a great suggestion!
How about Lorenzo (the Italian form of Lawrence) nn Renzo? Or would Rafi and Renzo be too matchy-matchy? And perhaps you’d want to save the ‘L’ initial for Liora…
Cosmo, nn Coz? Rafi, Naima and Coz?
A name that strikes me as compact and cute like Luca, but reserving the ‘L’ for Liora is Milo. It’s sort of nickname proof, which maybe would be an issue for you – I don’t know if you could make it a nickname for a longer name like Emilio. Rafi, Naima and Milo. I think that might be my favourite sibset, though I also love an early commenter’s suggestion of Inigo nn Iggy – Inigo Jones would be a very cool namesake (as would Iggy Pop!)
I’m going to suggest Inigo again because I love it so much and I think it would work really well here. It’s Spanish and goes really well with Rafael. It means fiery and is a form of Ignatius- I think Iggy makes a delightful nickname. There’s also Inigo Jones the famous architect and Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.
Wonder if you’d like Matteo, nn Teo? Italian for Mattgew, great meaning, unexpected nn and leaves the L initial for a future Liora (such a beautiful, unique name!)
Rafael, Naima, Matteo (and Liora)
Rafi, Naima, Teo and Liora
Desmond nn Dez is great and I also love the suggestion of Zebulon nn Zeb! Wonder if Ezekiel nn Zeke would appeal? Maybe instead of Sorrel you’d like Soren (ala Kierkegaard)?
Love your taste in names! Good luck =)
Darn typo! Matthew, not Mattgrew! =)
Thank you for posting this! I have loved reading it and the comments! My first thought for this baby was somehow getting to Nico! I love it! I think it’s as cute and spunky as Rafi and can totally see them being brothers. But repeating initials really bug my husband and he dislikes every long form I threw out. Well, he liked Nikolai “ok” but really hated using a repeating initial.
Evander was on our list for a while but I dislike Van and none of the other nick names seemed intuitive enough for my husband. Well, besides Evan which is a bit to common for our taste.
We, admittedly, overthink the naming process a bit! But there are some good options here that we hadn’t considered yet! Thanks again!
First, I must say that you have lovely taste in names! I was going to suggest Asher, nn Ash, and then I saw your name is Ashleigh. That may be just a little too close! I really like the idea of Luca as its simple but elegant and fits well with your other names. I’m not as sure about Desmond, though – its a nice name but I’m not sure it fits as well. Lior is a great name for a boy, but it depends if you plan to have any more kids. Liora is *such* a gorgeous name for a girl that you might not want to lose that name for the future. Your other names are so wonderful that I’m sure whatever you end up choosing will be equally wonderful!
Thank you! I love Lior but do have my heart set on Liora so I would like to save it! We are probably leaning the most toward Luca right now, but I still can’t let go of the idea of something longer, with a cute nick name.
British American says
Would using Luca for a boy this time rule out Liora for a possible future daughter? Since you mentioned your husband disliked repeating initials and they are similar in sound.
Lucy's Mom says
Love Liora if you have a girl. Think it works beautifully!
Here are some boy name suggestions:
Emilio nn Lio ( To strive or excel) – Rafi, Naima & Lio
Gabriel nn Gabe (God is my strength) – Rafi, Naima & Gabe
Ramiro nn Miro (Supreme Judge) – Rafi, Naima & Miro
Sampson/Samson nn Sam (Sun) – Rafi, Naima & Sam
Tybalt nn Ty (Courageous people) – Rafi, Naima & Ty
I suggest Lazarus for a boy. Or use the Greek spelling, which I am not looking up but might be Lazaros? Laz is a great nickname and the ‘L’ initial is already in the running from your girl choice.
We had briefly considers Laszlo with the nick name Laz/Las.
I think that Lior is definitely usable for a boy. Desmond and Luca are lovely as well. I also wonder about names like Hugo or Viggo or even Loki?
That’s interesting! Rafael’s name was almost Viggo! We wanted something with a better meaning though. I still love Viggo but don’t think I would use it due to it’s meaning.
I think your in a situation where the third name is what puts a spin on your first two, so it kind of depends what spin you want.
For example, if you like the globe trotting vibe, then definitely use or something like it Luca (for something like it, I’d suggest Hugo or Alexei)
On the other hand, I think with a more biblical name, you could also get a very classic 19th century American feel. Zebulon is suggested above. I also like Hiram with the nickname Hi. Asa with the nickname Ace?
Or would you like Boaz? Boaz feels both international to me and old America.
Or I also think Bertram (nickname Bram or maybe Bear, Bert doesn’t seem like your style) could work well if you’d rather go less globe trotting and less biblical.
Or (last or, I promise) if your style is actually adventurousness rather than globe trotting specifically, and Bertram, Boaz, and Hiram seem way too stuffy for you, I’d suggest looking at nature names or other noun names. I can defintely picture a Rafi with a brother named Birch or Ash.
Globe trotting or international is what we are going for I would say. We had Hugo on our list briefly. I loved the meaning and the litterary reference. But it wasn’t my husbands favorite so it slowly made its way down the list.