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!
I was born at peak Ashley. My sisters are Jessica and Stephanie. My husband is Michael, and his sister is Ashley, too.
Now that we’re starting a family of our own, I very much want our children to have names that are all their own.
I’ve read what you wrote about popular names not being as common as they used to be. And I don’t want my kids’ names to be so different that they hate them.
We have nieces named Olivia and Lily/Lillian, and a nephew named Caleb, but those names are all a little more popular than I’d consider.
We’re expecting our first daughter in January, and I’m not sure where to start. Can you help us come up with a list of different, but not too different names?
Thank you in advance!
Please read on for my response and share your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your new daughter!
I think you’re honed in on the challenge. We want different. But what exactly does that mean?
Every family gets to define it for themselves. But let’s see if I can suggest a sweet spot.
- First, let’s avoid the Top 250. It’s a little arbitrary, but generally speaking, the more common a name, the more likely it is to repeat.
- Second, let’s rule out any name that represents a different spelling of a more popular name, or a slight twist on a chart-topper. In other words, good-bye to Alivia.
- But let’s make sure that any name considered feels generally familiar. No one is going to raise an eyebrow – at least not in a wait-what-were-they-thinking-naming-the-baby-Hephzibah kind of way.
SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT GIRL NAMES
I’ve called these Sweet Spot names, and I have a long list here.
Though lots of those names might be more popular than you’d probably prefer.
So I’ve looked a little farther up the list, but the same principles apply – immediately familiar, easy to spell and pronounce, and with a certain amount of history behind them.
As spare as Claire, but a little more modern instead of classic.
A rising favorite, Esme has history. JD Salinger gave the name to a character way before Stephenie Meyer ever imagined her world of vampire romance – though it’s Twilight that helped put the name on parents’ lists.
It sounds much like chart-topper Sophia, but Fiona also seems a little outside of the mainstream.
A name with literary ties (think Gwendolyn Brooks) and sparky nickname Gwen, Gwendolyn feels instantly familiar, but remains relatively rare.
A tailored classic for a daughter, Helen topped charts from the 1890s well into the 1930s. Now it feels a little bit antique, but still strong and timeless.
A more modern alternative to Helen, with the same straightforward style.
An Old Testament place name meaning “peaceful,” Shiloh is also a Tennessee town remembered for a Civil War battle. That might feel like baggage, but somehow, Shiloh seems like a wearable choice, the right mix of storied and fresh.
A feminine form of William and an alternative to favorites like Ella.
That’s quite a varied list, right? It’s possible to find names of any popularity level to suit any style. I’m wondering if any of these jump out at you?
I’m inclined to suggest Maren and Blair, if only because they’re nicely on-trend, but far from overused.
Or maybe you’re drawn to the more traditional names on this list? You wouldn’t be the first Ashley to opt for something a little more vintage, like Willa or Helen.
I know 2 sisters named Veronica and Olympia which are both beautiful and unique.
If you’re going for a less common but also recognizable vibe… I’d go for something like-
I’d try to avoid something new, super unique, or on trend bc you never know what the top 20 will become in a few years….
Congrats on your baby girl!!
You didn’t indicate any particular style, so here’s a scattershot:
From Abby’s list, my faves are:
Additional suggestions from a range of styles that I think fall into the “sweet spot”
I’ll add Aurora and Scarlett.
A few timeless names that seem more familiar than they are popular, from a variety of styles:
I’ll bet your daughter will someday enjoy hearing how you worked so hard to choose just the right name for her — and it will be!
I immediately thought of Tabitha.
Love Tabitha!! I just had baby number 6 this year and my LandD nurse this time was Tabitha. She was a beautiful person with a beautiful yet unique name. 🙂
Erin Beth says
I don’t have a good sense of your style, but some appealing names that feel underused to me include:
Edith nn Edie
Dorothy or Dorothea nn Dot or Thea