Name Help

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.

4 letter girl namesThat 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?

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. 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.

  2. My favorite is Wren. I also like Neve or Lilac. I think the baby should have a feminine tilt.