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!
We have two daughters, Emma Grace and Molly Rose. They’re just eighteen months apart. Emma will be 9 this summer, and Molly is 7. After many years of thinking we couldn’t have more children, we’re expecting a third daughter in August. While names were always easy for us, this time, nothing seems right.
Maybe it’s because we know SO many girls! Between family, school, sports, scouts, and church, it feels like we must know over a hundred girls, at least. All of the other names we liked when we were expecting Emma and Molly are taken: Ava, Nora, Sadie, Ruby, Daisy, Clara, Lila, Katherine/Kate.
We also have a long, Italian last name – four syllables, starts with a B, ends with an a. I really don’t like the way longer names, like Olivia or Amelia, sound with it. Also, we’re not especially Italian, so names like Rosa, Maria, etc. sound too Italian, if that makes sense.
Nicknames are a sore spot with my husband, who is Michael – NOT Mike. So we prefer names that either don’t shorten, or, maybe, by some miracle, shorten to something he likes. (Katherine/Kate is his one exception so far, but now it is our niece’s name.)
Other names seem ruled out because they’re too close to Emma and Molly. We loved Ella for Molly, but felt Emma and Ella were too match-y. We’ve also ruled out Gemma and Lily for similar reasons.
While I’m eager to avoid recycling a name, my husband strongly dislikes names he’s never heard of before. He also doesn’t like “old” names, and he’s not exactly objective about them. He thinks Hazel is old, but also Evelyn. (Never mind that we know two Evelyns under the age of five.) I don’t like made-up names, so Kaylee, Hailey, Kinsley, etc. are out, though he tends to like those just fine.
For a while, I wanted a name with an ‘M’ sound in it somewhere to match her sisters’ names, but as my due date gets closer and our list is blank, I’m willing to let that go.
What have we overlooked that would work?
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your third daughter!
If it helps, you’re facing the classic conundrum faced by experienced parents. We know what we like and what works for our family, but the reality of having named children and knowing so many more? That limits us in surprising ways.
But let’s talk about those limits for a minute.
Since your niece is Katherine-called-Kate, that name is out. But are Ava, Nora, Sadie, Ruby, Daisy, Clara, and Lila also the names of close family members? Or friends who are like family?
Because sometimes we do tend to cross out names that belong to, say, a neighbor’s kid or a maybe friend from work. And it can be awkward, in the moment, to repeat a name. But if you truly love Ava or Sadie or Clara, it’s worth considering that relationship. Neighbors move. We change jobs. If it’s not completely necessary to rule out a favorite, maybe you shouldn’t.
Still, I’m going to proceed as if all of those names belong to nieces and goddaughters and close friends’ children and make some fresh suggestions instead.
A SISTER FOR EMMA and MOLLY
A storybook name with plenty of strength, Alice sounds like a sister for Emma and Molly.
While Charlotte is very popular, it’s not on your can’t-use list. (And I’m inclined to repeat my maxims about how even the most popular names are less common than they were before.) It reminds me a bit of Katherine, though there’s not necessarily a Kate equivalent.
Maybe slightly more modern – though the Garden of Eden is anything but.
If Ruby and Lila are favorites you’ve had to rule out, would Lucy offer some of the best of both?
Like Eden, Maren is a little more modern. It’s a Scandi take on Mary, tailored and strong.
Mila shares sounds with Emma and Molly, which could make it exactly right – or maybe too close? I think Emma, Molly, and Mila are fun to say together.
Stella – or Bella? – shares the Ls of Molly and the two-syllable, ends-with-a construction of Emma. It’s a mainstream favorite that’s still plenty cool.
For something completely different, would you consider Violet? Daisy is on your like-but-can’t-use list, so maybe another floral favorite would appeal?
I think my favorite is Maren. Different ending sounds make the three names distinct, but the shared M sound links them. The question, of course, is probably whether Maren hits that mainstream, but not repeated, sweet spot?
Stick with “m” sound repeating…(too many nickname style?)
Jean C. says
What about Eloise? I feel like it has sounds from Emma and Molly, but sounds uniquely its own. It doesn’t have a natural nickname. I imagine it sounds nice with the last name (but can’t be sure). It’s probably bordering on a little long, but I think maybe not too long. I also like Avery, Alice, Tess, Hazel, Olive, Opal.
Without double letters:
To not repeat beginning letters or ending sounds/ letters…..
Emma Grace, Molly Rose and….
Gwendoline, Gwendolyn Kate
Exception, has long E sound, but does not end in Y…..
I love the name Stella for you! You mentioned that you loved Ella but it was too close to Emma… however Stella still includes the double letters featured in Emma and Molly as well as being two syllables and is far enough apart from Emma! So maybe Stella Kate?
Also I love Ava with Emma (I have an Emma and was going to use Ava if I’d had another girl second time around). So if Ava is not a name by close relatives / friends perhaps revisit – Emma, Molly and Ava would be cute!
I love so many of the suggestions and most of the ones I’d suggest are already listed … except maybe Sophie? I don’t think I’ve seen that yet.
Among them all, I’d like to second the suggestion of Anne. Double letters, not an M (maybe if you squint) but it sounds so lovely alongside Emma and Molly and looks so pleasingly symmetrical. I also thought that if you used a one syllable first name with a two syllable middle, all the girls would match in syllable count. I’ve always loved the idea of a small Anne Sarah. That would be beautiful here ….
Emma Grace, Molly Rose & Anne Sarah?
Emma, Molly & Anne
Aimee/Amy, April, Autumn, Bella, Bria, Britta, Brooke, Brynn, Calla, Camille, Camryn, Chloe, Faith, Gia, Hannah, Holly, Hope, Isla, Laney/Lanie, Lilia, Lily, Maggie, Mara, Margo/Margot, Mariah, Mariel/Marielle, Marta, Mataya/Mattea, Maura, Makenna, Maxine, Melanie, Mimi, Mina, Miri, Moira, Myra, Nina, Paige, Rachel, Remi, Roma, Romy, Rose/Rosie, Ruth/Ruthie, Summer, Talia, Tatum, Taya, Tori, Willa, Zoe
I really like the suggestion of Maeve for you. Emma, Molly and Maeve sound fabulous together. Mabel is another good one.
Since you like Katherine nn Kate, I wonder if you have considered Margaret, which has a similar feel, sounds great with the sisters, has the M and also nn potential like Meg or Maggie.
My other thought was leaning into names like Ayla or Layla/Leila. They are similar to names you like but can’t use (eg Lila), share sounds with Kaylee, Hailey etc that your husband likes, but with history behind them.
Short, modern , nickname proof, different ending to her sisters names, different starting letter, repeated double consonant pattern.
Molly, Emma and Belle.
At first I was going to suggest the lovely name Amalia. However, I quickly realized that name is way too similar to both Emma and Molly to be a good fit! Here are some other ideas
For m names: Alma or Camilla
For double letters: Carrie or Jessa
I also like the suggestions of Lucy, Cora, and Hannah others made.
I’m not surprised this is such a challenge! Emma and Molly are perfectly balanced with each other: two syllables long, M sound, double letters, feminine but not frilly, relatively nickname-proof, classic but not old-fashioned…
It’s hard to think of names that check the same boxes without coming too close to this existing pair (see: Gemma, Ella, and Lily).
Of Abby’s suggestions, I especially like Alice and Violet. They introduce new vowel and ending sounds to the sibset. Charlotte is lovely as well, but at 9 letters, maybe it’s too long for your preferences (even if it’s only two syllables)?
At first glance, I was surprised you were focused on M as the link between your daughters’ names, because the double letters seemed like a more striking connection to me. But then I realized that both you (Amber) and your husband (Michael) also have M in your names, so it really does tie your family together!
I’m inclined to lean away from names that *start* with M, since you already have a Molly. It can be practical to have different initials for labeling clothes, school supplies, and such. With that in mind, here are some possibilities that contain an M:
Summer (fitting for an August baby)
If you *like* the idea of duplicating initials, you could consider:
…in honor of your husband. It also has the double letters of your other daughters’ names.
Other possibilities with double letters:
Hannah (my own name was actually the first that came to mind)
Tess or Tessa (as several others have suggested)
And a few wild cards that don’t match the M or double letters, but that seem to fit in well with your taste and other criteria:
Finally, if you and your husband both truly love Katherine/Kate, I don’t think you have to rule it out simply because it’s your niece’s name. Plenty of families have first cousins with shared names – especially if they’re named after a grandparent. If the cousins don’t live nearby, it’s even less of an issue.
Katherine or Kate would also make a lovely middle name!
I really hope you’ll update us once your new daughter arrives.
Love Alice from this list!
For some reason I am thinking Emma, Molly and Flora.
Tatum (M sound, not made up or too old!)
Could you flip the M and look for W sounds? Have a joke/story about how you thought you were all don’t with babies and then she turned everything upside down
Willa (same ending as Emma, Molly’s double L)
I’m thinking of short and sweet Amy, Mia and Mina for the ‘M’ connection.
I’d also like to suggest Leah, Adele, Cleo, Flora, Lena and Paige.
The Mrs. says
How about Lena?
Emma, Molly, and Lena
Otherwise, I agree with Abby that Stella is great.
Emma, Molly, and Stella
Anna would be nice, too.
If these don’t work with your Italian surname, do you like Eve?
Congratulations and best wishes!!
I like Naomi, Abigail (abby), Adrienne/Adeline (Addie) or Paige.
Congratulations and best of luck- you have great taste in names!
Both your girls’ middle names would have gone great with Emma and Molly! I like Anna/Annie, Sally, June/Jane, Claire, Iris, Ivy, Aimee, Lucille, Ruby and Cora for you. Plus the suggested Alice and Violet!
C in DC says
I have nieces (who are cousins to each other) named Emma and Molly. Other nieces of their generation are Alyssa, Allison, Alicia, Kelsey, Avery, Audrey, and Kaitlyn. How about Iris, Ruby, Liv, Isla, June, Tula, Neve, Nina, Thea, Betsy, Brynn, or even just Kate?
Honestly, “ALICE” is my favorite suggestion from Abby! Emma, Molly, and Alice sound great together.
I also second, “AUDREY” or “TESSA” as previous posters mentioned.
I’d add the following names for something established but different:
+ CAMILLE/KAMILLE (nicknames that are easily built-in = “Cam/Cami” or “Kam/Kami”) — I’m in agreement w/ other posters. I think that this would fit.
+ JOSEPHINE (aka “Josie”) – familiar but has easy nicknames to draw from. There’s nothing wrong w/ breaking away from shorter names either!
+ ELEANOR (aka “Elle”, “Nora” is naturally in this name too!)
Best of luck & hope we are helping!
I also picked up on the double letter & 2-syllable theme and like Tessa as well. Tess also works! What about Audrey instead of Kaylee / Hailey?
For names with M I like Simone, Camille, Naomi.
Greta? Chloe? Kara or Keira?
Ooh. I’m feeling short and stylish for littlest sister. Love suggestion of Tess and Nell and Iris (your little rainbow caboose)! And yes Alice is super sweet.
Kit (!!!! Even snappier than Kate)
A huge fun challenge would be yes the M but also no repeating endings or initials (Simone is brilliant and I know a 10 year old Simone who rocks it.) But hmmm it does feel like those that hit all of those are a bit more daring? But hey you said you like Daisy so maybe you use the next Daisy?
Or is your set actually unrepeated vowels? EAOY are taken so IU – that puts an extra vote behind Kit and Iris and Quinn for me!
And super fun to use another one-syllable classic middle to match Rose & Grace. Claire, Jane, Kate, although I like the wordiness of Grace and Rose so maybe Eve or Pearl or Hope? Or put the M in there!
Erin Beth says
A few more ideas:
Erin Beth says
Oh! Or maybe Grace? Lots of similarities to Kate. Emma, Molly, and Grace
It’s a bummer you can’t use Kate because that would be perfect!
Emma, Molly, and…
-Quinn instead of Kate? I like that it has double letters like Molly and Emma
-Tessa (double letters)
-Hallie (rhymes with Alley)
I think my favorites would be Quinn, Tessa, and Zoe
Since both you and your husband have ‘m’ sounds too, I’m going to try to stick with suggestions that incorporate it.
Mira or Meara
Michaela (named for dad? Maybe just Mika?)
Alison Doherty says
I love this idea of Alice from Abby’s list. Short, beautiful, both a classic name and one that feels very current & on trend. And it’s beautiful with Emma and Molly. I think Violet would also be really nice!
Some other ideas:
Emma, Molly and Opal
Emma, Molly and Vera
Emma Molly and Iris
Emma, Molly and Margot
Emma, Molly and Jane (I think this one is my favorite!)
Emma, Molly and Elise
Emma, Molly and Celia
Emmam Molly and Helen
Some of these might read too old-fashioned to your husband. But I think they all fit most of your parameters.
Love the repeating letters theme! Subtle but makes sense to the eye. My first thought for them was Hannah as well.
I kind of like the idea of another double letter name…
Emma, Molly and Hannah
Emma, Molly and Tess
Emma, Molly and Scarlett
Emma, Molly and Brynn
Emma, Molly, and..
I love the suggestion Naomi! It has a m in it but doesn’t begin with M.