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!

Marianne writes:

My husband and I both came up with lists on our own for our daughter, due at the end of November. Our plan was to make a list, then trade, and circle the ones we liked on the other person’s list. You’d think that we’d have some names in common, or at least would be open to names on the other list.

Instead we have NOTHING. Exactly zero names that I would consider on his list. Zero names that he would consider from mine.

Now what?!

Here are our lists. Help!

HIS LIST: Joanna, Eliane/Aliane/Eliana, Jayla, Alexia/Alexis, Melissa, Meadow, Briella, Reina

MY LIST: Poppy, Maisie, Esme, Juniper

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your daughter!

Almost always, I look at a pair of lists and I think: okay, they feel like they’re far apart. But I see plenty of overlap!

This time? It’s definitely much, much harder to find common ground!

Your husband’s list strikes me as pretty, feminine names. And maybe slightly past their moment. Alexis peaked in the late 1990s; Joanna in the 1980s; Melissa in the late 1970s.

In contrast, your list is quite current. Those names are all rising in use or at peak popularity right about now. They’re energetic names, with an upbeat bounce to their sounds. It’s almost impossible to know how high they’ll climb, but Maisie, Juniper, Poppy, and Esme are all current favorites, the kinds of names people hear and say “Oh I love that!”

The only name on your husband’s list that feels like it could be on yours?


But, but, but … you didn’t see it and think “Okay, we can make that work.”

You read his list and thought “Nope.”

So now I’m a little stumped.

Possibility A: You were so stunned at how little overlap there was that you automatically rejected Meadow.

Possibility B: You first noticed Meadow way back when The Sopranos was peak pop culture, and that was twenty years ago, so it’s not current for you.

Possibility C: Meadow would almost kind-of, sort-of work, but it’s not quite there for whatever reason you can’t identify. (And that’s fine!)

If it’s C, that’s good news! That means there’s definitely some overlap in your styles, and we just need to nail down another name like Meadow that you can both appreciate.

And maybe if it’s A or B, that’s okay, too. Because hearing that others (or at least one other person) puts Meadow in the same category as Juniper and Esme might get you there.

For now, I’ll try to find some middle ground between your two lists, inspired by Meadow … but also all the other names that don’t seem to overlap.


Would you agree on a name/nickname combination? Particularly one that falls into the pretty, romantic category that he favors, but with a nickname that feels more like a spirited, upbeat choice from your list? Aurora, nickname Rory, is the one that comes to mind – but there are plenty of options in this general category.


There’s a lot of EL sound on his list. Would a name like Bellamy, particularly if it’s shortened to Bella or Belle, check the boxes for you both?


Another EL option, this time with more of a vintage vibe.


The first name that came to mind, probably because it feels like a midpoint between Joanna and Juniper, plus Jo reminds me of Meadow’s strong O sound. Shorten it to Josie or use it in full.


Lainey feels like a midway point between Maisie and Eliane/Aliane.  You could even opt for something like Elaine/Alaina on her birth certificate and use Lainey as a nickname, but I do think Lainey might be the obvious compromise.


Maisie is vintage; Meadow reads modern. But Maya is more of a pan-global choice, with plenty of history, but at its more popular now. It’s pretty, a little bit like Jayla. But while Jayla is a novel name, Maya has more meaning and story connected.


My original thought was Rosemary, called Romy – but that feels a little too far from your husband’s list. Would Rosalie appeal to you both? It’s pretty and feminine, but with plenty of energy, too.


Susanna sounds like a sister for Melissa and an alternative to Joanna. But nicknames like Sukie and Zuzu are more in keeping with Maisie.

Overall, Josephine is still my favorite for you both. It’s not clearly your style or his, but that’s probably what it will take to get to agreement.

I’m also in love with the idea of Lainey, either as a nickname for Elaina/Alaina or as a standalone name.

For some combinations, maybe … Josephine Meadow? Alaina “Lainey” Josephine? Meadow Josephine?

Readers, what would you suggest for Kara and her husband?

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. Very different lists, indeed!

    I think the exercise was a good one, and I would encourage you to do it again, this time casting a wider net. See if you can each list 20-30 options you like, then trade lists again.

    Some possibilities to consider:

    Inspire by Poppy & Eliana:

    Inspired by Maisie & Melissa:

    Inspired by Juniper & Jayla:
    Julie or Julia
    Layla or Leila

    And a few wild cards:

  2. What about Greta? Or Heidi? Or Elsie? I feel like these are established feminine, older names that have spunk and energy. And all three sound somewhat nicknamey which seems to appeal to you. Best of luck!

  3. Flip a coin to see who gets to pick the first and who gets to pick the middle? There’s really nothing wrong with any of the names. I personally like Melissa and Joanna quite a bit more than Maisie or Juniper or Poppy, which all sound just a little too cute and perky for an adult to my ear. You could pretty easily use your favorites as the nickname for some of his. Maisie for Melissa, Juniper for something like Joanna June, etc. Melissa and Joanna sound pretty but also adult. They’re classics at this point.

  4. What struck me are 2 things.
    1) most of the names your hubby likes are multiple syllable and ending with a
    What struck me with your names is they’re popular.
    What I noticed is both of you have nature sounding names… Poppy, Meadow, Juniper jand even Raina (sounds like nature, I know technically it’s not).
    I suggest looking at nature and flower messages.
    In that respect Aurora fits the multiple syllable plus nature perfectly.

    He really likes an e or a followed by an L sound… So I’ll put those first…



    Other names with the el sound

    Instead of Melissa maybe Marissa?

    You could look at the top 100 names and each cross out the *absolutely not” ones then look at what’s remaining to find a middle ground.
    But make a rule that you can only start by crossing it 20. Then one you’ve got a common lost repeat crossing out 5 more.

  5. I am a sucker for a good alliteration.

    Meadow Maeve

    But from his/hers list Meadow is my favorite. Followed by Maeve

    From the suggested list I like Susanna and Laine/Lainey

    My suggestions are

  6. Since dad loves names with “L” sounds, and mom loves vintage names, I suggest:
    Isla – Middle ground between Esme and Eliana/Jayla
    Alice – Middle ground between vintage names and Melissa/Alexis
    Hazel – Middle ground between the vintage nature names and “el” names
    Willow – “L” sound and ends in -ow like Meadow, also a nature name
    June – Middle ground between Joanna and Juniper
    Marielle – honors mom Marianne, but with a twist, plus has an “L” sound
    Elinor – similar to Eliana, but ends like Juniper, and I just can’t resist the Jane Austen reference here

  7. Hmm… I also thought of Aurora. Other ideas:

    Liliana nn Lily
    Roxana nn Roxie
    Miranda nn Miri or Mimi

  8. My husband was like this with names too -he only wanted traditional names that everyone knows. He actually told me I could pick any name I wanted as long it was used in the royal family. I did a lot of research on the royal family tree searching for names I liked. in the end we only had boys & they all have Biblical names (that aren’t in the Royal family), and 2 of the boys go by more unique nicknames.
    Abby’s suggestion of a longer name for you, but with a shorter, more contemporary nickname makes a lot of sense. Josephine is my favourite from her list, nickname Josie -or would Posie work better for you? It’s closer to Poppy.
    What about Marguerite or Magnolia to get to Maisie or Maggie?
    Juniper, nn June?
    My favourite from his list is Eliana, and my favourite from your list is Esme.

  9. What if you do the same exercise, but expand your lists first? I’m personally not surprised that there wasn’t any overlap. There are thousands of name possibilities and you only picked a total of twelve names. If you do the same exercise but with 20 or 30 or 50 names each that you would consider, you are a lot more likely to get somewhere with this approach. Don’t be discouraged- you’ve got a great start! Most couples don’t name a baby super quickly and easily. It’s a process. It’s a journey.

  10. I was going to say Marlo/we seems like an obvious crossover for you two… but maybe you do really agree on non unisex names, something ‘pretty’ but your definition is different. Could Juno work taking from your Juniper and his acceptance of Meadow, or even just June which may appeal to his comfort in familiarity but you can call her Juniper? Both of you seem to like the ISS sound maybe Iris? or the strong A sound so maybe Gracie or Maeve?

    I agree a more traditional name with an edgy nickname seems like the best compromise too! I’d go straight to the names on your lists though:
    Penelope nn Poppy
    Briella nn Briar
    Elisa Mae nn Esme

    Good luck!!