UPDATE: Gemma Larkin is here! Thanks to all for your help.
Our journey to parenthood has been a long one, but we’re finally expecting our first baby in just a few weeks. It’s a girl! I feel so lucky and blessed, and cannot wait to have my daughter in our arms.
Here’s the problem: over the last eight years, we stopped talking about lots of things about babies. It just got too hard. That included names. Along the way, my sister-in-law had a daughter, and she unknowingly used my all-time favorite girl’s name, Piper, for my niece.
I’m not bitter. She didn’t know, and even if she had known, I’m not sure I would have asked her to choose another name. (At the time, I wasn’t sure if we’d ever have a child.) And I really do love my niece (and my sister-in-law) and I’m glad she has such an awesome name.
But now here we are, at 32-and-counting weeks, probably going to deliver at least a little early, and with no ideas. Our last name is like Jimi Hendrix, but spelled with a -cks. That rules out a lot of ‘s’ ending sounds, like Alice, though I don’t think that’s really a name I’d like.
Where do we begin?
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Lauren –
Congratulations! How exciting to be expecting a daughter. And while I’m sure it’s not easy, I applaud you for taking a generous approach to your niece’s name. Because the choice is made, and you’re right – if your daughter isn’t Piper, at least you get to hear and say the name all the time for another child you love.
You asked where to begin, and I’m going to start with … Piper.
No, you can’t use the name. (Or maybe you could. But you don’t want to.) Instead, you can consider names that embody the same spirit. Modern, but not invented. Popular, but not chart-topping. Energetic, breezy, nickname-proof, fresh.
I might even say spunky. (It’s a word that can feel a little bit loaded, and yet … it’s the word that comes to mind.)
We’re naming Piper’s cousin, but it’s almost like we’re looking for a name for Piper’s sister. I worry that’s a hurtful thing to say, but it’s often a helpful approach. Even if you loved the name Pippa or Parker second-best, you might avoid those choices to sidestep potential confusion amongst grandchildren.
So, if not Piper, would you consider:
Afton – A lovely, lyrical river name, Afton comes from a Robert Burns poem. Because it’s been set to music over the years, “sweet Afton” has inspired plenty of parents. But not that many. I think it has the same tailored, but feminine, quality of Piper without sounding at all similar.
Daphne – To an earlier generation, Daphne was the red-headed member of the Scooby Gang. But that association has faded, and now Daphne fits with Penelope and Zoe and Chloe – a classical Greek name with fresh appeal and a mythological backstory.
Esme – Esme has been around for ages. JD Salinger used it for a short story. But lately it’s gotten more attention. Maybe it’s the sound – a razor-y z, followed by a bright and springy “may.” Or perhaps we should credit Twilight, which gave the name to a vampire matriach. But I think it’s long since exceeded the appeal of the Stephenie Meyer novels.
Larkin – Bird names are seeing increased use, with Wren leading the flock. But Lark has potential, too, and Larkin nods to the songbird. And yet this name is actually a medieval nickname for Laurence – though that’s far from common knowledge. I wonder if that makes it much too close to your name, or a fitting daughter name for Lauren?
Maren – Maren might be a form of Mary, or maybe it’s a tailored surname choice or derived from the Latin word for the sea. Regardless, it’s risen in use over the last few years, and seems likely to climb even higher. As with Afton and Larkin, I wonder if the tailored, not-quite-unisex sound mirrors some of what you love in Piper?
Marlowe – When it comes to lively names, I instantly think of the o-enders. Between gentle Willow and dramatic Cleo, I think Marlowe hits the right note – modern, unexpected, but not too out-there.
Quinn – For all that Piper feels fresh and unexpected, it’s actually a Top 100 name. The same is true for Quinn, so I wonder if this might appeal.
Rory – Yes, it’s originally an Irish boy’s name. But Rory feels perfectly reasonable for a girl, especially in our post-Gilmore Girls world.
Teagan – Another Irish name, Teagan seems like a promising alternative to Piper. Despite a unisex sound, it’s consistently used in much higher numbers for girls – just like Piper.
Thea – A short form of Theodora, Thea ranks in the current US Top 1000, while the longer version does not. It’s swingy and upbeat, a mini name with tons of style.
Overall, I’m most drawn to Marlowe and Teagan as substitutes for Piper. But that’s because they strike me as the closest equivalents, which isn’t always the best way to think about such questions. I can imagine the same family that loved Piper also having names like Thea or Daphne near the top of their lists – and so I wonder if that’s what has you stuck? There are the names that ought to substitute for Piper … and then there are the names that make your heart sing.
Let’s turn it over to the readers, because they’re always so brilliant with their suggestions: what would you choose instead of Piper?
Sara L. Uckelman says
The name I always think of as a complement to Piper is Harper.
Piper was high on my list but my husband vetoed it so I couldn’t use it. We ended up naming our daughter Camille. We call her Millie which is spunky and fun like Piper and I also like calling her Camille which is a bit more elegant.
Congratulations to you — daughters are wonderful!
I’m pretty much repeating/seconding names that have been mentioned.
Esme (Maisie is a cute nn for Esme)
JK Garrison says
Some of these have been mentioned so I second them. Others fit into the same trendy surname style as Piper.
I also love the suggestions of Larkin and Marlowe.
Maybe Ivy, Zoe or Darcy.
Another vote for the sweet and lovely Poppy. Best wishes to you and your family as you find the right name for your sweet girl!
For me Piper and Paisley are such a close match. I would suggest Paisley.
Best wishes for you and your daughter.
Congratulations on your sweet baby girl! As the mom of a spunky 8 year old Afton Rhys, I was so happy to see it suggested! It’s sweet, unique and we love her name!
Congratulations on your sweet soon-to-be-here girl! I really like a lot of Abby’s suggestions for you, especially Quinn, Marlowe, and Daphne.
I wonder if you might like…
Something that shares Piper’s long “i” sound: Delilah, Ivy, Isla, Lila, Iris?
Something that shares that same spunky sweetness: Sadie, Penelope, Phoebe, Scarlett, Stella?
Something tailored and modern: Arden, Harlow, Harper, Harlan, Sloane, Hadley?
Something with strong vowel sounds: Delaney, Ainsley, Avery, Rowan, Nova, Nola?
Good luck! 🙂
Congratulations. I had to comment on this thread because I have a Piper. Maybe my daughters names will help you out.
I have 4 daughters
Naming Piper is was a challenge with 4 girls. We also liked Sloane and Scout. Good luck!
Congrats on your long-awaited blessing!
Lyra (musical like Piper, long I sound)
Cadence (again, musical)
I haven’t read the comments yet, so consider any repeats seconds.
I immediately thought of Sloane. Seems like a natural sibling for Piper in that it is last name/first name and tailored.
After a little more time though, I think Riley may be more in your wheelhouse. Not a traditional historical name but very familiar probably thanks to Pied Piper / Life of Riley. It seems rambunctious and happy to me, just like Piper. No natural nicknames. Heavy “r” sound and dominant strong “i”. Riley Hendrix. Pretty perfect.
Congrats on your little one!
Piper always brings birds and flight related names to mind, maybe because of the Sandpiper and Piper aircraft connections.
I’ve always thought Robin would make a great sister name for Piper.
I think Poppy, Pearl, or Presley are great alternatives to piper. The non P options that I wanted to suggest are Eden or Sylvie. Harper is similar to piper which I’m not sure if that would be a plus or minus for you?
We know a lot of little Pipers and it is a cute name but there are so many great names out there to consider. 🙂 I hope you find another name that you love! Congrats on your baby girl on the way!!!
So many great suggestions! Maren and Daphne are particularly great. I share your affection for Piper. Here are a few that come to mind when I think of Piper (some repeats):
Congratulations on your daughter!
Harper sounds like the perfect name.
I’d also add Hartley–Ive only known one but it gives me tge same vibe as Piper.
Also, Riddley could be a good name for you.
Harper seems like an obvious alternative.
I’d also suggest Brighton, Brylee, Cadence, Elodie, Hadley, Harmony, Kyrie, Lyra, Madrigal, Melody, Romilly, Romy, Rylan, Willow.
Some are musical, some are nature names, some have similar sounds, some are surnames. I’ve seen all of them used for kids.
Does Juniper appeal? It has a similarly tailored, sleek feel to Piper (and same ending), but the sounds are different enough to feel distinct. And I think Pippa/ Pipper/ Niper works as a nickname if you want to keep those sounds.
Other thoughts: Hadley, Paige, Fallon, Eden.
Good luck, and congratulations!
Great name suggestions from Abby and in the comments. I especially like Maren, Quinn, Margo and Marlo. I’d also suggest Annie. But I most want to suggest Fern. It’s a lovely, spunky, grounded, wearable name but I especially love the connection to Charlottes Web. I never read that book as a kid, but read it to my daughter recently and it captures so well the beauty and heartache of growing up (and being a parent/friend/girl). I think it could be a good match — and could add a lovely connection, if that’s something you’re missing about Piper. It’s hard to go from “a name I’ve always loved” to what can feel like just picking something that fits your style. Fern’s connection to such a great book character could maybe add something. Congratulations on your daughter!
I absolutely love the suggestion of Daphne. Piper and Daphne both seem so upbeat and happy to me. Phoebe came to mind, though I wonder if it’s too similar to Piper. Clementine is a name that evokes happiness to me, I know a little Clementine and love it every time I hear it. I also like the suggestion of Blair from the comments and Georgia nn Gigi. Congrats!
I wonder if you might like Arden? It has a similar vibe to Piper to me.
How about Denver? Similar to Piper but it’s different enough that it wouldn’t be a headache at family functions and the like.
I’d also suggest Foster , Porter , Saylor , Sumner and Taylor/Tayla
Erin Beth says
Another idea for you is Elliott. It has similar spunk and energy. I also like the suggestion of Isla.
How about Margo? Or Blythe?
Congratulations on expecting your baby girl!
As a substitute to Piper, I suggest:
Good luck! I’m sure whatever name you choose will be perfect.
The Mrs. says
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR DAUGHTER!!
I can only imagine how excited and happy you are!
Have you considered Harper?
I mean, it’s REALLY related to Piper… which may be a special cousin connection.
It makes for an adorable first + last name combo.
Abby featured the name Hattie the other day. Does she feel right?
Posey might also fit your vibe. She has a sweet pep about her that reminds me of Piper.
Best wishes to you and your family!
So my favorite from Abby’s selection is Daphne although it’s not exactly the same style (IMO) as Piper. I also like Quinn. And Marlo, but only spelled this way.
Here are the names that came to my mind:
I love the suggestion Poppy.
I like Sloane, Esme, Quinn… what about Soleil or Clementine or Belen? perhaps not quite Piper equivalents but holding their own nonetheless! Good luck!!
I have a soft spot for Greer and wonder if you might like that? I think Piper and Greer sound great together, even for cousins.
I also thought of Arden, and I see in I’m not alone there.
All the very best!
I suggest Poppy. It’s similar to Piper, but stands on its own. For me it brings to mind those big red poppies, which gives me a feeling of freedom and nature. I also like Margot and think it flows with your last name and has an interesting effect with all those different vowels in the first and last name (a – o – e – i).
Piper, to me, is in the same league as Scarlet, Arden, Barrett, Phoebe and Willow. It’s so hard to know what they like with only the one name!
I can relate a bit; while I was waiting to meet my kids’ dad, my brother and his wife named their daughter my long-time favorite girl name (ironically, they chose her name because our older brother had taken their favorite girl name). I loved knowing that that name would always be part of our family and her name fits her so well. It feels trite to say that your daughter’s name will become your favorite, but I think I can say that it will be one you love uniquely, because you will love you daughter with mother love.
On to names! Maybe consider:
Nicely said, Kate – thank you!
Piper makes me think about Arden, Alden, Hadley, Delancey, Aspen, Rowan, Willow, Elodie, Harlowe, Darcy, Ainsley, Sinclair, Wren, Morgan. Agree about Larkin and Teagan especially!
These resonate for me—especially Aspen.
Piper sings; it’s got that lovely long I, the repeating pop of the P’s, a fresh vivid crisp kind of sound. Aspen has a similar crisp vibrancy. Or Eilidh has the bouncing rhythm and long I. I’d be using the Nameberry search engine for similar sounds, like “ct” and “sp” and internal I’s. Can you notice what you like best about Piper, and then find things that embody that?
Erin Beth says
Erin Beth says
So many great suggestions! I especially love Afton, Delaney, Sloane, and Quinn. I would add Sheridan, Flannery, Kirby, Darby, Devon, and Campbell.
Jean C. says
Marlowe was the first one I thought when I read your letter, and I’m delightedly to see Abby already has it listed. I feel like Sloane would also be a lovely name for your daughter. Or I don’t want to get too crazy, but I feel like Nova embodies some of those same vibes as Piper.
Congratulations. How extremely exciting 🙂
These are what I consider Piper-like names (I definitely consider it spunky!):