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!
My husband and I are expecting our second child in May and just cannot decide on a name for a girl.
We named our first son Rhett and love his name for its simple but strong qualities.
We are also generally attracted to names with a touch of Southern flair without being a surname. If a boy, number 2 will be Baron.
For a girl, we’re attracted to Carris, Chesson, and Hollis but aren’t head over heels for any of them. Maren was a strong front runner for a while until a friend quickly associated Rhett and Maren with two popular country music artists of today.
My husband and I both have very unisex names that are often confused so it’s important to us that the name we choose be gender specific (hence my hesitation with Hollis and Chesson). However, we also gravitate away from traditionally “girly” names, which is why we’re not sold on Carris yet. I would love your suggestions for the perfect name for a girl!
Read on for my suggestions, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Logan –
How exciting to be expecting your second!
So we need the name to be clearly feminine, slightly Southern, and almost certainly not common. It should pair well with Rhett, but sound like his sister, meaning that a name like Reeve is almost certainly off the table.
Here’s the trick: in American English, the only thing that ultimately reveals gender is use. Luca is a boy’s name, but Luna belongs to the girls. Kate’s a girl, too, but Nate is a boy. And Tate? Anybody’s guess. (Though the data suggests that Tate is almost certainly a boy, too, unless it’s short for Tatum, in which case the opposite holds true.)
Names like Carris, Chesson, and Hollis don’t seem especially feminine because they’re so very rare that we can’t quite form opinions about them.
So I wonder if your part of your solution involves finding a name that’s slightly more familiar in general. After all, Rhett has ranked in the US Top 250 in recent years. (In fact, last year it climbed into the Top 200.)
I’ll mostly avoid surnames for my list, but I can’t help but note that Hollis, Chesson, and even Carris all sound very surname-y to me. So maybe you could consider a few more in that category?
Would you consider:
Blair – Sure, it’s a surname. But Blair has plenty of history as a given name, too. While it strikes me as unisex, it’s far more common as a girls’ name – possibly because it rhymes with classic Claire.
Blythe – I thought first of Bonnie. But she’s the daughter of Scarlett and Rhett in Gone With the Wind. And then it hit me – how ’bout Blythe? It’s an archaic English word for happiness. (Shakespeare uses the phrase ‘blithe and bonnie’ in Much Ado About Nothing.) But it’s come up in conversations about Rustic Chic girl names before, so maybe it fits.
Haven – It’s a word name, but it’s not common in everyday speech. And it’s unisex in style, but in practice, used overwhelmingly for girls. I think it leans Southern, too.
Julep – Is a reference to a mint julep just too obvious? Maybe. But I think the sound is exactly right. It ultimately comes from the Persian word gulab – referring to a sweet drink. I like the sound of Julep with Rhett. It’s wildly unexpected, but nicknames to the more familiar, and perfectly tailored, Jules.
Juniper – If Julep is too out-there, might you consider Juniper? This nature name sits just outside the current US Top 300. There’s some history of Juniper as a boy’s name, but in recent years, it’s all girl. Sweet nickname Junie probably explains why.
Langley – I thought about Lane, but Lane really is more common for boys. Landry rates almost unisex. But then rare Langley came to mind. Yes, it’s a surname. But based on Hollis and Chesson, I wonder if that’s not a deal-breaker?
Lyric – One more word name: the musical Lyric strikes me as a feminine, but frills-free option. Is it Southern? Maybe not exactly. But I think it works.
Nell – Flannery came to mind first. But then I considered other Southern writers. Carson? Nope, yet another surname. Eudora? Probably too vintage. But Harper Lee was born Nelle Harper Lee. So how about Nell? Everyone has heard of it, but almost no one is using it. The Nelle spelling is another option, and I like Nella quite a bit, too.
Susan – Spare and simple, classic Susan would be huge today – if it hadn’t been big in an earlier era. Susannah screams Southern to me, but I’m sure that’s too frilly for your tastes. So might Susan make the ideal sister name for Rhett?
If none of these feel quite right, I wonder if you’d consider a double name? Hollis June or Carris Kate or Chesson Mae all sound Southern. And while they’re decidedly unusual, the second name clearly signifies gender.
But honestly? I keep coming back to Maren. It’s feminine without being frilly. It’s not a surname, though it shares that same Southern style. True, Maren Morris and Thomas Rhett – do I have that right? – are both musical references at the moment. But it’s not a guarantee that both will continue to be famous over the course of your children’s lifetimes. In fact, it’s almost certain that it won’t be the case.
And so, despite all of these suggestions, I’m circling back to Maren as my #1 choice for your second child.
Readers, what do you think? Are Maren and Rhett too close for siblings? Is there another great name for their daughter that I’ve missed?
I don’t think Maren and Rhett are too weird together. Maren I do instantly associate with country singer Maren Morris. But Rhett?? No. I guess if you listen to a lot of country maybe? Suggestions I like June (I like this a lot), Maris, Greer, Haven, Adair, Olive, and Delaney. Blair actually doesnt strike me as feminine enough with Rhett I think they’re two southern boys. I also like Cara or Harper. June, olive, and Maris are my favorites.
Named plantation in Gone With the Wind
Nice Southern city.
Sara L. Uckelman says
How about “Charis” instead of “Carris”? That’s obviously female.
Scarlett….. classic Gone with the Wind. Rhett and Scarlett ❤️❤️
I was going to suggest Briar as well.
Arden is also lovely.
I’d also suggest Ever, Ester, Mabel, and Estelle.
Seems like simple and strong, but feminine is what is needed?
I love Rhett. Simple and strong and definitely boy.
I don’t know why, but I keep coming back to a name I recently heard on a teenager and found charming: Lorraine (nn Lo, Raine, etc.).
Rhett and Lorraine
Rhett and Lo
Rhett and Raine
If I read any of your top choices on a piece of paper I wouldn’t know which if any belong to a girl (including Maren). If you want something more obviously feminine, what about Hazel, Holly or Marion?
What about Arden?
Similar sound to Maren but without the cheesy association
Not girly but stronger usage on girls means it leans feminine (helped by the make up brand)
Sounds good with Rhett
I would definitely assume Rhett = boy, Arden = girl just hearing the names.
Holland, Brenna, Afton, Adair
best suggestion yet!!!!!!!!!
I like Maren with Rhett. The country singers wouldn’t even ding my radar of I heard those two together.
I know a set of twins who are Rhett and Lyla, which I think is a great stylistic match. I also love the Blair and Hollis for you.
A few additional suggestions:
Jean C. says
I like Carys best from your list, and Juniper from Abby’s—although I am much more partial to just using June.
I also like Olive, Claire, Paige, Sydney, Kate. To me, these names feel more distinctly feminine (but not frilly) than a unisex name.
However, my all time favorite unisex name is Sloane, followed by Holland, making Hollis another winner in my book.
Julie G says
I am loving Dale and Layne for you. Short and sweet. They sound like smart short girl names to me. And each sounds like a sister to Rhett.
Oops! Sorry for the double post!
What about Quinn? Rhett, Quinn and potentially a future Baron (or Barron). Quinn is unisex that skews feminine. Simple, easy to spell, familiar but distinctive. It strikes me as adventurous yet gentile, rather like Rhett. I really like the idea of Quinn Carys.
From below, I also love Merritt and Maeve and, from Abby, Blythe and Nell.
As soon as I saw the headline for this post I thought of Maren! I wouldn’t let the musical associations turn you off. I’m also intrigued by Abby’s suggestion of Langley and there are so many great suggestions in the comments (love Wallis, Berit, Beryl, & Flannery!). The only other name that came to mind is Mirren, which might be just a little bit farther from Maren to avoid the similarities in names and comes with the cute nickname Miri.
I’d put Maren back on the list. Unless it’s a painfully obvious coupling like Jack & Rose or Romeo & Juliet no one will pay it any mind. And if you do get the occasional reference it’s a simple “Hahaha we didn’t intend it that way we just liked those names”.
My choice would be Nell Maren. It matches brother Rhett but not too matchy. Sharp but not rough and clearly female but not too frilly.
2 thumbs up for Maren, Nell, & Blythe! I’m also a huge Hollis fan, and I’ve only known females – of all ages – with that name. (Holly is always a wonderful nn option if you need one, but it’s not necessary.) If you’re still looking, what about Opal? Delaney (Lane or Laney are both intuitive nicknames) Congrats on the new addition to your family.
There are some great suggestions, I like Maren, Haven, Quinn, Blythe…. a few more ideas: Willa, Juno, Nola (I think of it as a great reference to New Orleans, but it has a spare quality that makes it not too girly), Adair, Starling. Maybe Blake might suit even though it really is quite unisex. Claiborne?
What about Quinn? Rhett, Quinn and Baron (or Barron). It is unisex that skews feminine. Simple, easy to spell, familiar but distinctive. From the below, I love Merritt and Maeve and, from Abby, Blythe and Nell. But I really like the idea of ….. Quinn Carys.
Oh, I love Quinn Carys!
Erin Beth says
I really like Flannery for you, as well as Edith and Willa or Willow.
The Mrs. says
She’s clearly feminine, underused, and has a magnolia charm about her. She’s got plenty of roots beneath her, too.
Rhett, Blanche, and (maybe someday!) Baron
I love the suggestion of Blythe!
If not Hollis, maybe Wallis? Maren reminds me of Berit, which I love.
Greer and Ada both feel like they would go with Rhett, and could be sisters for Maren.
I LOVE Blythe. I love the meaning and the literary reference to Gilbert Blythe.
I think Rhett pairs well with Slone and Remy.
Jordan pace says
Ooo Merritt? I know a little girl name Merritt (she’s 4 now)
Jordan Pace says
Daphne – familiar, definitely feminine, definitely not frilly. It hits all the right notes for me
I don’t know if these have a southern vibe and they may be too frilly feminine for you, but what about…
C in DC says
Margot was the first name I thought about. I quite like Maren too. If you spell Carris with the Welsh spelling, Carys, does that appeal more? You seem to find the -air sound appealing this time around (Baron, Maren, Carris) so maybe look for similar names. Bari, Beryl, Carin, Erin, Cher, Sharon, Dare (after Virginia Dare), Harriet, Mary, Yarrow, Zara.
How about Chesarey? It mixes a lot of the sounds and names you are already considering. It’s an American version of Desiree.. Or Chessa? I actually knew a girl named Chessa growing up and always thought it was unique and fun…
I also agree with Abby that Maren seems like a great option, and don’t think the musical reference is big enough deal to rule it out..
Congrats on baby 2!!
Love luna and Juniper
It might be worth considering that Maren and Baron are very similar. So, if this baby is a girl and you name her Maren, you likely won’t be able to use Baron if you should have another boy in the future. Just throwing that out there.
Lark or Larken/Larkin
Emma, that is a REALLY good point about Maren/Baron. Thanks!
What about Rylan, Campbell, Reese, Brooke, Carolina, Anders, or Collins
My first thought was Collins, but that kind of breaks your surname rule. If you can get past that, I love it with Rhett and I feel like it does check a lot of your other boxes.
Another vote for Maren!
I’d also suggest
My first thought was Maris! It combines elements from both Maren and Carris but has a legitimate history of its own (as well as references the sea, which I love). 🙂
I like Haven and Maren a lot. What about Marit? Mavis?