Welcome Serena JulietteUPDATE: Michelle writes: Sorry for not writing in sooner! After not being able to agree on anything, my husband started to like the idea of Serena in the last couple of days before our daughter was born. It was such a relief! Even though it wasn’t my all-time favorite name, it’s the perfect name for her. Thanks so much to everyone for their help and hopefully I’ll be reaching out for help with Serena’s sister or brother name before too long!

Michelle writes:

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.

Abby replies:

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?



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.

Readers, over to you. Any advice for Michelle and her husband? What would you suggest as a name they might both love?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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).

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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