Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!
Today’s letter comes from Kari. She writes:
We are expecting our 4th and final baby and after 3 boys, this one is a girl! Would love suggestions from you and your readers for girl names.
Our sons are Eben, Bode and Cael. We love names that are unique but not weird. All names in the family have 4 letters (including mine and husband’s) but we aren’t stuck on that. Thank you for considering to help!
The family’s last name is two syllables and ends with an r.
Read on for my reply … and please add your suggestions, too!
Hi Kari –
Congratulations on baby #4! It does seem like you’ve set a pattern with four-letter names for your boys, especially since you and your husband also have four letters in your names.
Let’s start with a poll, to see if others think sticking with four letters is important.
My answer is definitely “It depends.” It would be great if you found another four-letter name that you love. But your sons’ names have a lot of variety – ends in l, ends in n, ends in e. The origins and meanings are different for each. So even though the letter count is identical, there’s a lot that makes them distinctive, too.
None of your son’s names are currently ranked in the US Top 1000, though variant spellings of Cael and Bode do chart. Bodhi comes in at #810 and rising, while Kale ranked #825 and falling. Still, that’s pretty rare.
In some ways, just choosing a not-Top-1000 name with a modern, not-quite-expected vibe would complete your family nicely – even if the name had three or five letters.
That said, I’m going to try to stick to four-letter names for my suggestions. I’m also going to automatically eliminate any name currently in the US Top 500 for girls. (Though it’s up to you whether you want to stick to this rule – it crossed out lots of my initial thoughts, like Anya, Isla, and Lena.)
Would you consider:
- Lyra – Lila came to mind, except Lila is right up there with Anya and Isla. Lyra comes from a constellation, named after Orpheus’ lyre in myth. This makes Lyra a musical name along the lines of oh-so-popular Aria. Lyra is also the heroine of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Lyra – I think this one feels nicely distinctive when said with your sons’ names.
- Ciel – From the French word for sky, and also heaven, so this one reminds of Bode. Visually, Ciel is awfully close to Cael – which seems like a downside. But the pronunciation is completely different – Ciel is two syllables, see ELLE. There’s also Cielo – the Spanish form of the same word – as well as Cielle and Ciela, which are just creative spins on this imported word name.
- Cleo – Cielo always makes me think of Cleo. Despite having been in the US Top 1000 through the 1950s, Cleo has been rare in recent decades. It’s the kind of name everyone recognizes, but no one shares. It can also be spelled Clio. (Full disclosure: It’s my daughter’s name.) Eben, Bode, Cael, and Juno.
- Juno – If the ‘o’ ending appeals, Juno could be a great fits-in/stands-out pick. Vintage June and spunky Juniper are on the rise, but the goddess Juno remains relatively rare. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Juno.
- Ever – Thinking about stylish sounds on the rise, it’s tough to overlook the Eve names. Ever is an intriguing word name, but I wonder if it is too close to Eben?
- Esme – Esme does rank in the US Top 1000, but at #929 in 2013, this name is far from common. Esme has impeccable literary roots, and quite a lot of history. Another two-syllalbe E name that came to mind was Elke, short for Adelaide in German and Dutch and a cousin to the Biblical Elkanah in Hebrew. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Esme; Eben, Bode, Cael, and Elke.
- Wren – Nature names can be a great way to get a fits-in, stands-out name. Choices like Lily might be too familiar to appeal you, but how about the birds? There’s Wren, ranked #806 in 2013. Outside of the US Top 1000 is Lark, and countless other avian-inspired choices.
- Zora – I had Zara on this list for days, but at #481 and rising, does Zara feel like a stand-out name? I think she does, but to stick with the guidelines I set for myself. So Zora – a Slavic word meaning dawn, and a literary name thanks to Zora Neale Hurston – makes the cut. And I think it works – Eben, Bode, Cael, and Zora.
- Zana – Another Z possibility, this one far more rare in English. It’s a feminine form of John heard in Slovene and Croatian.
- Romy – Naming your first girl after three boys is a challenge, in part because you have decide just how girly you’d like to go. There are a bunch of R-y names that might be worth considering. Romy is conventionally feminine (it’s a contracted form of Rosemary), while Remy and Rory have more history of use for boys. But they all feel like possibilities when listed with your sons’ names: Eben, Bode, Cael, and Romy. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Remy. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Rory.
- Orly – Rory always makes me think of Orly. It’s a Hebrew name meaning light, but it also brings to mind or – golden. And, of course, the airport outside of Paris – which did come from Aurelius, and thus does mean golden. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Orly. Or Eben, Bode, Cael, and Orli.
- Sian – Looks a bit like Sean, but is actually pronounced Shan – it’s a Welsh form of Jane.
- Mara – The Biblical Mara is a cousin to Mary, but this name is far more rare. It ranked #750 in the US in 2013. There’s also Lara and Dara.
All of those -ara names made me think of one that isn’t four letters, but does fit the general feel of your children’s names: Carys. It’s a modern Welsh name meaning love, relatively common in the UK but almost unknown in the US. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas gave this name to their daughter in 2003. That makes it more familiar to American parents, but still not well-known.
And one last five-letter name: Djuna, as in the writer Djuna Barnes. It’s a very rare name, and the D is silent. You could also go with just Juna, as in Juno and company. But there’s something quirky about Djuna that could have tremendous appeal.
What would you name a sister for Eben, Bode, and Cael? Would you stick with the four-letter theme, or do you have suggestions that are longer or shorter that Lindsay and her husband should consider?
A bit late to respond, but I see no one has yet suggested Zeya, pronounced Zay-a. I think it goes great with the boys’ names.
My favorite is Wren. I also like Neve or Lilac. I think the baby should have a feminine tilt.
Such great suggestions, I love the 4 letter theme (although I am partial since both my boys have four letter names and we are expecting another baby boy this spring). My oldest is also Eben and I am delighted to see such a warm response to it. Good luck mama!
Love that you also have an Eben! Not one I hear much at all, although there is an Eban about 2 blocks away from us which blew my mind!
How about Zelda?
For a sister to Eben, Bode and Cael, I like these names:
Romy and Lyra are my favorite suggestions.
Abby has the best suggestions! I love Lyra and Wren best. Can’t wait to find out what name you give her.
I like Esme and Wren from previous Suggestions. But I adore Quinn!! Mighty Quinn.
Mila, Aven, Anya, Sage, Gaia, Jade
You’ve had some fabulous suggestions! I think Romy and Juno are both great fits with your boys. Following on from Abby’s suggestion of Orly, what about Orla? Kyra also jumped to mind, although it is perhaps a little repetitive with Cael. Best of luck!
I like the previously suggested Viva and Lark. Some other ideas: Iris, Lake, Hero, Thea
What about Vita? (VEE-ta). It’s Latin for “life”, but is used as a short form of Victoria. I think it’s spunky.
Oh, Lyra. Love it with this group. Loved Kajya, too, although i’m old enough to think of Kaja Googoo when I look at it. Kaya seems more intuitive and fits your pattern. Juno fits in well, too.
I’m having a tough time choosing, is what I’m saying. I think I come down on the side of Lyra.
Christina Fonseca says
Congrats! I don’t have any name suggestions for you. Because this child is a different gender I think it would be fun to go in a completely different direction with her name if that is how you’re really inclined. It would be odd to break the pattern if you were having another boy; since it’s a girl, a long, elaborate or floral name would be completely fine in my opinion.
Brooke Cussans says
I love Lyra from Abby’s suggestions, it would be a great pick and goes well with your son’s names.
A few more suggestions that I think have potential:
Eben, Bode, Cael, and Lyra/ Eben, Bode, Cael, and Elke. are my favorite sibsets. I like them personally becasue of the flow, look, and sound matches. Lyra/Elke are on par with the boys name which feel fresh, posh, and stand alone but distinctively boy or girl.
I have a few recommendations myself, so here we go:
Kajya- pronounced Ky-yah, it is Norse and Greek: Norse kaða meaning “hen” /Greek katharos meaning “Pure.” it is a diminutive from Katerina, that has earned its spot as first name on its own right. Hens are an old symbolism in old Christine beliefs for the Theological virtures: Faith, Hope, and Charity. You hear them referenced in our Christmas songs, especially in the song, ” My true love gave to me.” Eben, Bode, Cael and Kajya seems to me as pairing well because they give off the Urban-Boho European Chic feel. The “it” names of the year. I do not know however, the popularity of Kajya, Abby may be able to fill in those details for you.
Nyla- pronounced Nih-lah, is Gaelic for cloud, She has a bit of a dusty but all grown feel about her. Distinctly all girl, but not frilly, yet-elegant, gently sophisticated, wise and has an old soul vibe. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Nyla. Sounds dashing and well-rounded. Abby should be able to give the stats on popularity
Calas- is pronounced Cah-lass, she can go by Cala, which reflects the beautiful Cala Lillies. Calas is 5 letters, 2 syllables, is Welsh for “hard,” and means “solidity.” calas is the source of form, differentiation, manifestation, and stability. Its image in nature is stone. Which is perfect, because your family is now complete with a little girl. Eben, Bode, Cael, Calas, sounds distincts and sounds individual, but when written down together Calas blends a bit too much with Cael.
Enav- is pronounced EH-Nahv. Hebrew for Grape. She is exotic, friendly, slightly quircky, yet poised, gently elegant and refined without appearing icy like Calas or overly frilly or too out there. She blends nice with the boys names, without being to matchy both in sound and in appearance. Eben, Bode, Cael, Enav
Sose- is pronounced Soh-see, and is Greek for Save. From the Greek σως (sos) “safe, whole, unwounded.” Your little girl was saved for last after three beautiful little boys. Sose is distinct, fun, lively or up-beat. Pairs well with boys little personalities. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Sose
Esti- is pronounced EHst-eee. It is Basque for Honey, and looks familiar to the French Esme, but has the same feel as Sose. distinct, fun, lively or up-beat. Eben, Bode, Cael, and Esti
Echo- is Greek for echo” from the word for the repeating reflected sound, which derives from Greek eche “sound”. She is Distinct, commanding, borderline on out-there but still fun and familiar. This name is guaranteed to make a statement, and stand alone from the boys names. I picture a little girl with a lot of verve and sassy-ness. Eben, Bode, Cael, Echo
Olga- pronounced Ol-Gah/Ahwl-gah. Norse for Holy/Blessed. Olga is commanding, regal, stately, and elegant. Worn by many powerful women. This name has taken on a new persona over seas- which is boho-urban chic. So this multi-dimensional name packs a lot meaning and personality, while keeping it distinct but familiar like Elke that Abby recommended. Eben, Bode, Cael, Olga
My Best wishes and congrats, let us know what you end up going with!
I am amazed by your incredible reply – thank you so much for taking the time to write this out!
Your welcome, my pleasure, I hoped it helped, it was fun!
Ira Sass says
My favorites from the list:
Zara or Zora
Juno (I also like June)
Rory (although I like it best as a nickname for Aurora)
I would also stay away from repeated initials (Cleo, Esme).
Gwen (repeats the ending of Eben)
Ooh. I love the idea of a four-letter D name!
Bode, Cael, Dara and Eben
Bode, Cael, Dion and Eben
Bode, Cael, Deja and Eben
Bode, Cael, Drea and Eben
I want to add Zara, Gwen, Tess and Marin.
Or Viva! Viva would be incredible with those names!
Or maybe Este (pronounced Ess-tay?) Or even Saoirse, if you’re willing to put up with the spelling.
I’m thinking Luna or Aine. 🙂
Aven is an idea as well. It is a mountain rose.
Dot Card says
I really love Zana and Juno with your other children. I would even be tempted, if it was me, to use them as a combo 😉
Susannah Thane Stout says
If you go short, I think it should have a similar feel as the boys names, but feel a little more feminine. I really like the ornithological choices of Lark & Wren. We had Eben picked out as the name for our middle son (he’s 9), but when we saw him it didn’t feel right, and we ended up going with Calvin. We ended up with Corbin, Calvin & Christopher(I wanted to go with Crispin, DH did not, but I can’t imagine him as a Crispin now ). If we had named the middle one Eben instead of Calvin, I get the feeling we would have ended up with Corbin, Eben, and Oren as our boys names.
I think I’d try for something with a sound & spelling that is very distinct from your boys names. There is the argument that they won’t be a set for ever, but I can imagine struggling to remember that its Cael and Cleo, not Cole and Chloe…or something. I grew up with a family that all had unusual but not weird names, but Trent and Brandt were just impossible for me to keep straight for a long time and I think I ended up with Brent a lot. Zora or Lark seem perfect in that regard. But I also think a three letter or five letter name would look very nicely balanced with the others, so I’m going to suggest Una (appropriate for an only girl?) or Idony.
Ok my new favorites are Dove (seems like a better fit with your boys than Lark) and Sose (which is just an awesome name that I had never heard before) from the other comments.
British American says
I like Zora best from Abby’s suggestions. It’s distinctly feminine and the Z makes it sounds unusual, along the same line as your boys’ names. 🙂
I LOVE Eben! Hardly ever hear it, sadly. If you’re having a hard time finding a 4 letter (or just short) name that seems like The One, I think it’d be fun to give your girl a longer name that has a 4 letter nickname that you guys could use (if you’re into nicknames). That way she would still fit into the pattern, but have something about her name that is distinctly HERS. Like… Esmeralda to Esme or Carolina to Cara or something like that. Annabelle to Anna. You get the gist. That might be way off your style, though.
I love Esme, but it that’s out because you already have an “E” name in your subset, then I would suggest Mira.
So funny that you suggested Mira – it’s MY top name but my husband doesn’t like it 🙁 He thinks it sounds whiney? Makes me sad because I think it goes SO well with the boys’ names!
Interestingly I have a great nephew called Eben Cale!
I agree about not doubling up on initials, particularly if you stick with 4 letters. After 3 boys I like the idea of this name bring identifiably ‘girl’. I like Lyra, Zora, and Romy best of the suggestions.
I like all of these suggestions! What about Nola?
I like a lot of the suggestions provided, but would recommend against doubling up on an initial. It can be useful to share an initial with a parent (in the early days of email, my dad and I shared an account with the user name “S. [ourlastname]” which worked for both of us and allowed him to keep tabs on what his teenage daughter was doing online, but sharing an initial with a sibling can be both irritating and complicated.
Susannah Thane Stout says
Our three boys all have the same initials, and it has caused no problems whatsoever. That being said, I agree that they should avoid it. It just seems lopsided somehow.
the Mrs. says
Do you like Mina (also spelled Mena)? It would give you a new initial, new ending, but still be two syllables and undeniably feminine. It’s only at #753 for last year, too!
Otherwise, Desi or Dana or Demi would fill in your alphabet gap– Bode, Cael, and Eben.
From Abby’s list, love Esme!
Congrats and please let us know when your darling daughter arrives!