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!
Our first daughter will be here before the end of October and I’m pretty sure she’s going to be nameless.
My husband keeps suggesting names like Sarah, Erin, Emily, and Allison. They’re not bad names, but they’re all names of people we know, not names that anyone is calling their baby now.
I always thought my name was a little boring and plain, and wanted to choose something that would stand out a little more for my daughter. Yes, I’ve had a list since I was twelve! Right now, my favorites are Annalise, Aurelia, Daphne, Elora, Estella, Evangeline, Ophelia, Persephone, Serena, and Theodora, with my all-time #1 name being Francesca.
He says my list is just too much.
But our last name is one syllable – H!ll – so I think longer first names flow better. Plus, so many of these names have nicknames that we could always use. Franny H!ll makes my heart skip a beat!
Where do we go from here?
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your new daughter!
These kinds of questions are really hard, aren’t they?
That’s because the best names are compromises. But sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any overlap. Which leaves us feeling like there’s no way to even begin the conversation. So frustrating!
But let’s re-frame. Because what seems to be happening is this: your husband thinks of names he knows. The girls he sat next to in grade school; the women he considers friends and colleagues today.
That’s natural. In order to consider a name for our child, we have to hear it, right? And if you don’t spend a lot of time around children – which is pretty normal until we become parents ourselves – it’s easy to imagine that kindergartens are still packed with kids named Ashley and Jake and Austin and Rachel.
Not so, of course.
The names you’ve suggested, while all a little on the less-common side, are far more likely to sound at-home in a kindergarten sometime in the year 2028.
I do think the first step is to talk about your name and how you feel about it, and find out if he has any particular attitudes or opinions about names based on his own experience.
And then, would your husband be willing to sit down with this year’s current US Top 1000 list?
While the Social Security Administration list is the original source, Behind the Name presents one with more detail on which names are rising and falling. Both can be useful.
I’d suggest he picks out a half-dozen names or so that appeal to him. Maybe he’ll still come back with Sarah and Allison. (After all, they’re still Top 100 names.) But seeing current favorites with clear eyes can be really helpful.
And then, I wonder if there are any 1990s favorites that he’ll recognize, but that appeal to your preference for a longer, more interesting name?
1990s NAMES to CONSIDER
Regal and strong, with nicknames to spare.
A name straight out of ancient myth, with a long and elaborate sound.
A name that feels more ancient world than 90s trend.
Elegant and timeless.
A literary name that feels bigger than 90s pop culture.
A dramatic name kept in the spotlight in recent years thanks to the Marvel movies.
Similar to Serena, but with a different history and sound.
Born to rule.
It’s easy for me to choose favorites for your list. Persephone H!ll or Evangeline H!ll are amazing. And I can make a strong case for Serena or Sabrina or Cassandra, too.
But I also think it’s worth asking whether he might just warm up to Francesca after all? I’m guessing the first time you suggested it might be the very first time he ever heard it? More than one parent has rejected a name the first time around, only to find it exactly right nine months later.
My first thought for you was Emilia – it’s Emily meets Aurelia, and i wonder if it wouldn’t appeal to you both? Nns could be Emma or Emmy, Millie, Mila, Ella or Ellie, Mia or Lia – lots of possibilities. You could also consider Amelia, which gives you Amy or Mel as other nn options.
My twins have an Emily in their kindergarten class – it feels a little quaint alongside the more contemporary names, but at the same time it feels very refreshing (there’s also a Jenny – same effect).
I agree with other suggestions about Serena – Sera (Sarah) or Seraphina, or Annalise – Anna or Lisa. I also wonder if your husband might consider some of the shorter forms of your favourite names – Stella, Thea, Dora, Eva – which might suit his tastes better than the longer versions, but still retain some of the allure of them for you?
Others have suggested pointing out names he may not have heard “in the wild.” I suggest going further and seeking out movies, instagram influencers, songs, YouTubers, etc. that cast your favorite names in a desirable light.
Actually, Emily is not a “mom’s name”, even though it was popular in the 1990’s.
That’s because it’s still very popular at #21.
So a baby Emily today doesn’t feel out of place today.
But I think the names you want aren’t the most popular right now, so here are some ideas:
Lucinda nn Lucy
Mirabelle nn Mia/Belle
Adelaide nn Heidi
Cecily (this one is a compromise between Cecilia, which would be more like mom’s style, and Emily, which is more dad’s style)
Penelope nn Penny (also a compromise)
Juniper nn June
Iris, good point about Emily’s continued popularity!
What about Seraphina called Sera (sounds like Sarah)? It seems to fit your desire for longer, more romantic names, while giving him exactly what he wants.
If that’s your surname, I’d caution against using Franny as a nickname for Francesca. Fanny H!ll is the title of the first known erotic novel. Franny H!ll only makes me think of that (but I have a background in literature).
Hi! I’m just like you, original, less common names being better so that there aren’t 20 Emilys all in the same class. Francesca is so pretty and Essie or Franny are great nicknames for that. I personally have ALWAYS be obsessed with the name Evangeline because you can call her Evan!!! Sooo cute in my opinion. I hope you chose one that suits both of your likings!
If your husband is anything like my husband, the first thing he thinks about when he hears a name are the people he knows with it. If the association is good, he likes the name. If he has never heard it before he does not have an opinion. He does not know or understand what different names styles are (though mine does believe me when I tell him they exist).
I have noticed that if I point out (or he notices) examples of people with the names as they come up on tv or in life (say, standing in line), he starts to become more amenable to them. Particularly if it is a cute child (he spontaneously turned to me after the MCU movie End Game to find out if Morgan was on the list because Iron Man’s daughter was so adorable). Keep an ear out for the names you love in the wild and on screen, and point them out to him when you hear it (like “aww, did you hear, her name is … I love that name!” Or “Oh, her name is Frances, so cute! But I like Francesa better – little Franny!”). I also recommend you use it when you order from a restaurant or Starbucks, just to give him a chance to hear it out loud, I bet the more he is familiar with it, the better he will like it.
I love the responses people have given you. Starting from scratch with a current popular list is a good idea.
I do adore those long flowery names but to get to those types of names from Sarah or Emily is a big leap.
I completely agree that a middle point is ideal. I’d encourage you to look for top 200 names as they are more likely to appeal to your hubby.
Explain to him that on reflection you think it’s a good idea to think not just about names you both like but a name that will allow your daughter to both fit in yet stand out in her generation. Be open and be a name detective.
My suggestion to meet your own love of a long name is to instead listen to ones with 3 syllables that look shorter and feel very familiar. Explain that you would like 3 syllables before he selects names.
Olivia might hit the spot with 4 Franny becomes Livvy
Isabella is long
There are so many beautiful underused girl names that do not sound dated or tied to a specific era.
I’m so sad for you! You’ve been collecting names for decades and his is basically the yearbook from 1995 Trying to find some compromise… maybe a classic name with a spunky feminine nickname? A few ideas to help the conversation keep moving:
Evangeline called Eva
Emmeline called Emme or Emma
Elizabeth called one of its many awesome nicknames
Rosalie called Rose or Rosy
Eleanor called Nora
Or you could always go the route where you throw out super over the top names to make your list feel more “normal” to him. GOOD LUCK!!!
If Francesca called Franny makes your heart skip (I LOVE Franny), I say you go hard for it. Let him pick the middle, maybe? But you can also assure him that the names you like (Francesca in particular) are not too out there or frilly. I have 3 kids aged 7-12 and while my style is probably closer to his sort of pared-down, solid vibe, yours is much more au courant. Francesca Sarah H!ll is actually really nice, in my opinion!
“…all names of people we know” – that part stuck out to me from his list of names. So he’s choosing names that he’s heard on real people. I don’t know that looking at lists will work on a person who wants to know a name works on people right now? I’d suggest you spend some time at playgrounds or libraries or community centres. Somewhere that he can hear names called and watch kids respond. Even a name nerd like myself responds to this magic – years ago the name Frances was way too associated with Baby from Dirty Dancing, but it just took one little girl to make me go Wow and a few years later it became my youngest’s middle name.
I do totally agree that you need to ask him his feelings about his own name. It does sound like he’s gravitating towards familiar and used. In this generation, that would translate into something more like Ava or Isla or Emma or Chloe or Hazel – if that’s what he wants for his child. But hard for him to get if he hasn’t met one.
It’s funny – his names would actually make your daughter stand out a bit more in her generation (except a few noted by Abby.) Whereas a few of your list, if you used the nicknames, would make your daughter’s name way more common (Ellie, Evie, Anna/ie.) Names that stand out yet fit in – I think you have a list for this very thing, Abby?
Good luck! I’ve known a few people in this exact situation with their partners and they’ve all gone with Hannah, coincidentally!
I’m curious what your husband’s name is. Does he like his name? Was it a top 10 name in the decade of his birth or was he “saddled” with a name that made him stand out in a way he disliked? Maybe there’s an unexpressed reason why he prefers what he might perceive as “safe” names.
From your list, Francesca is my favorite. The nickname possibilities are great: Frankie, Francie, Frances, Fran, Franny(ie), and my loves — Ceska (with the C pronounced Ch) and Chessie. Too late, I realized that Francesca would be a fabulous name for a daughter whose father’s middle name is Francis.
Abby’s suggestions for working through the decision making process are excellent.
You might consider sitting on the sidelines of a younger kid’s sporting event and listening to the names that are called out. Last weekend I heard Kylie, Maya, and Abby. Recent baby girl names in my circle are: Scarlette, Evelyn, Sloane, Harper, Isabella, Willow, Natalya, Kylee, Amelia, Violet, Ellie, Sofia, Anna, Emma, Hayden, Bella, Grace, Mackenzie, Avery, and Aubrey.
Best wishes to you!
Alison Doherty says
I like the suggestion of you both sitting down with the social security top 1000 (or maybe just the top 100 or 200) and each highlighting all the names you would even consider and see if there is any overlap between your lists. I think Francesca is gorgeous and Franny is so cute. I also loved Abby’s suggestions of Claudia, Cassandra and Victoria, which feel like they are in line with your style but might be more familiar to him. Another idea if he likes Allison, is maybe to suggest Alice — which feels more current to the moment and like it would fit in perfectly with your list.
I think you could choose one of your longer names, and let him call her a nickname that’s more in line with his tastes. Annalise called Anna and Elora called Lora were the most obvious to me. I also liked the suggestion of Emmeline (called Emma or Em, or even Emily) above.
Serena is not that big of a jump from Sarah – of your list that might be the easiest one for him to land on. It also wouldn’t be a huge stretch for him to call a little Aurelia “Allie,” or perhaps you could consider Emmeline (Emily/Evangeline). That said, I adore Francesca, and hope you can ultimately agree on that!
I know it’s got a different – perhaps less exciting – feel, but could you compromise on Frances over Francesca to give you Franny?
Sarah and Annalise make me think Susannah could also be a good compromise.
Full disclosure … I can vouch for both of these in the wild 🙂
Maybe trimming Estella down to Estelle could be more appealing to your husband? Or the somewhat similar Celeste?
Also love the suggestion of Claudia which seems to fit amongst the names on your list. Or Lydia?
You could also pair some of these similar sounding names and play the which would you prefer game. You and he might both be surprised by the ones you agree on, or at least gain some insight into style preferences outside of the names you grew up with.
Maybe a name that’s similar to husband’s picks with a modern twist would work e.g. Ellington, but I also would love to suggest Seraphina!