Name Help: First DaughterName 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!

Sam writes:

I am the youngest in a big family, and the last in my circle of close friends, to start a family of my own. Many of the names I always imagined using for my daughter are already taken by nieces/friends’ kids.

My boyfriend was set on naming the baby William if it was a boy. (Not a family name, he just likes it.) He doesn’t have any opinions about girl names, except to mostly say “yeah, that’s good” to everything I suggest.

The names I really liked that we can’t use are Aubrey, Avery, Chloe, Evelyn/Everly, and Harlow.

I’m Samantha, but I’ve always been Sam, so I’ve thought about giving my daughter a name like Joanna/Jo or Alexis/Alex, but not those names, if that makes sense.

She’ll have my boyfriend’s last name, which sounds like Hirsh-ner.

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

I think your idea is a clever one. While a name like Joanna-called-Jo isn’t exactly naming your daughter for yourself, it’s a fun way to link your names.

And since your boyfriend has given you a blank birth certificate, well … as frustrating as that can be, it might also mean you can choose a name you really love!

Let’s focus on feminine names with a built-in boyish short form. While Joanna/Jo and Alexis/Alex fit that brief, they’re names from an earlier generation. Joanna peaked in 1984; Alexis in 1998. Instead, let’s focus on names that feel more current now.



A popular name borrowed from mythology, folklore, and the night sky, Aurora easily shortens to boyish Rory – a popular pick for both genders.


Francesca works, too. There’s something fun about classic, refined Frances answering to sparky Frankie. Frannie is another choice.


When it comes to names that nearly everybody loves, Georgia makes the list. It’s a good mix of traditional and current, and it sounds like a sister for William, should you ever grow your family.


Speaking of traditional names, Katherine is an obvious sister name for William. Kate might be the obvious nickname, but Kit works, too – and feels more like Sam.


Lou could also be short for Louisa, Louise, Lula, Tallulah, Lucy, Lucille, Lucinda … and lots more Lou names. But Luna is quite popular right now, so I’m leading with that possibility.


Nicole is more of a sister for Alexis or Joanna, but Nicola is something different – a little more timeless, at least in the US. And nickname Nico is vibrant, edgy, and undeniably unisex.


Most Theodores answer to Theo. Theodora could, too, but Teddy feels like another possibility, one that’s less expected but every bit as wearable.


If you think this child will complete your family, maybe it’s worth talking about a feminine form of William. Willa and Willow are two options, as is Wilhelmina. Because Billie is quite stylish for a daughter now.


Though your shortlist makes me wonder if what you’d really like is something a little more unisex in style … even if it’s used predominantly for girls? Avery, Aubrey, Everly, and Harlow bring to mind names like:


A logical extension from Emily and Emma, with a dash of Avery or Allison mixed in.


Popularized by The Paris Wife, a 2011 work of historical fiction about Hadley Richardson Hemingway, the author Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.


Another H name in the key of Harlow with an appealing meaning.


Brief, complete, and ranked in the Top 100 for girls since 2015.


Sleek and sophisticated, Sloane falls somewhere between neglected classic Joan and modern favorites like Quinn.


A surname name that’s gaining in popularity for boys and girls alike.

Overall, my favorite is probably Emery or Emerson. It gives you both the unisex style you like, as well as a feminine nickname – Emmy, choose your spelling.

Readers, over to you – what would you suggest for Sam’s new daughter?

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. So many great suggestions.
    I’ve been thinking about your name for a few days.
    I’m going to suggest


    It has a similar sound and feel to other ones you liked but were used and it’s less common so hopefully not taken.

  2. Emery was my first thought, as well!

    Also love Frances “Frankie”, as well as Willa “Billie”, “Will”, or “Wills” (if you’re not saving William for a potential future son).

    Other possibilities with boyish nicknames:

    Julia, Julie, Juliet, or Juliette “Jules”
    Rachel, Reina, or Rainey “Rae”
    Valencia or Valentina “Val”
    Charlotte “Charlie”
    Isabel “Iz”
    Amelia “Ames”

    And some gender-neutral options that might fit your style:


  3. I love the suggestion of Kirby – so underused! And Leonora but I’d call her Lenny.

    Wilhelmina is natural choice if you’re not saving William. Call her Will or Willa or Mina or Minnie! It’s got that EE sound you seem to like.

    The names on your can’t use list made me think of:

    Similar sound:

    ‘Feminine’ names with ‘masculine’ nicknames:
    Briar ‘Bry’
    Eloise ‘Lou’
    Callie ‘Cal’
    Halle ‘Hal’ or ‘Lee’


  4. My first thoughts based on the names you love:

    Campbell nn Cami or Ellie
    Juliet nn Jules
    Natalie nn Nate
    Judith nn Jude

  5. You’ve had lots of great ideas already!

    My suggestion is Valerie, nn Val. It shares sounds with Everly and Avery, but it’s much less common and I’d be surprised if it’s already been taken in your circles.

    Valerie is also a bit more classic to fit in with William, and gives you the nn option of Val which parallels nicely with Samantha/Sam. Vale also works if you want something a bit sleeker.

  6. Lots of good suggestions in here! I know an elder gal who goes by Jim and I love it. Could be short for Jasmine or Jessamine (who could also be Jesse). If not Hadley, what about Henley called Hank? Or Lela, Leda or Lena called Lee?

  7. A few repetitions and mom/grandma names, along with a few new suggestions:

    Adele — Del
    Augusta — Gus, Gussie, Augie
    Britta — Britt
    Charlotte — Arlo, Carl, Carlo, Caro, Charlie/Charli/Charly
    Corinne — Corey
    Delia — Del
    Elia — Eli
    Elizabeth — Eli
    Francesca — Chess, Frankie/Franky
    Georgia — Geo, Georgie
    Josephine — Jo, Joey
    Kristan — Stan This is the name/nickname of a character in a mystery series I’m reading.
    Lenora — Len, Lennie/Lenny, Leo
    Louisa/Louise — Lou, Louie
    Michelle — Mitch
    Raina/Rayna — Ray
    Ramona — Ray
    Tabitha — Tab
    Victoria — Vic

    I really like Emerson and Emery.

  8. Elliot
    Josephine nn Jo
    Charlote nn Charlie
    Juliet nn Jet
    Scarlett nn Scottie
    Fiona nn Finn
    Delaney nn Lane