UPDATE: Kayla writes that daughter Louisa Kate arrived last month. Everyone is doing fine. Thanks for the help!
We’re expecting a daughter in March, and we know we want to name her after my grandma Lou. My grandmother’s name isn’t Louise or Lucille or anything like that. She was Phyllis. We don’t know how she got her nickname, but no one remembers her ever being anything except for Lou, even her brother. At her funeral, people she’d known her whole life admitted they’d never known her real first name.
We’ve ruled out naming our daughter just Lou. And we don’t want to use it as a middle name. (It feels kind of like a throwaway.) This is the first great-grandchild, so we really want it to be clear that we’re honoring her memory.
Our last name is short, German, and starts with R if that helps.
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Kayla –
How exciting to be expecting a daughter, and what a lovely tribute to name her after your grandmother.
Happily, there’s no shortage of Lou- names. The question is finding on that appeals to you and feels like it makes the connection to your grandmother’s name clear.
You might use names that put Lou at the end: Annalou or Marylou. I kind of love Emmylou because of the singer. But they have a very specific style, a sort of sassy, retro, maybe a little bit of a down home-country vibe.
I’m guessing you might be after something more mainstream, a name that puts the Lou sound at the beginning of the name.
I’ll list a few of the most popular, as well as some of my favorites:
Lucy – From Lucille Ball to the Peanuts, we can all think of a famous Lucy or two. It’s a traditional name, with a long history of use. Lucy has a casual vibe, but it’s been worn by women of accomplishment. And the Lou sound is clear and obvious.
Luna – Luna’s been around, too – it regularly appeared in the US Top 1000 during the nineteenth century. But it’s skyrocketed into the Top 100 recently, thanks to several factors. There’s the Harry Potter heroine, our love of all things celestial and mythological, and a handful of high profile birth announcements for babies with the name.
Lucia – It’s the feminine form of Lucius, and the original version of the name that became Lucy in English. Pronounced either loo-shah or loo-see-ah, it’s a slightly longer, lovely option that’s just familiar enough in the US.
Lula – Originally short for Louise + related names, I think Lula stands on its own in our Lucy-Lola moment.
Luella – Take the popularity of Lucy + Luna, mix in our affection for Isabella and Annabelle, and it’s no surprise that vintage Luella is back again. It hadn’t cracked the US Top 1000 since the 1950s, but it returned in 2017.
Louisa – Literary and romantic, Louisa remains surprisingly rare. It’s both an obvious honor name for Lou, and something longer that your daughter can wear over a lifetime. Slightly shorter Louise makes for another obvious option.
Lucinda – Cervantes probably invented this longer form of Lucia for Don Quixote. It would fit right in on a playground today, but remains nicely underused.
Ludovica – Okay, I know it’s a stretch. But I’ll add it in because I think Ludovica is just downright awesome.
Overall, I think I’d suggest Louise or Louisa for something classic; Luna and Lucy for the most current options; and maybe Lucinda if you’re feeling daring.
But I like the way Louisa and Louise contain the letters Lou, and since your surname is short, I wonder if the longer, more flowing sound of Louisa sounds best when said together.
Readers, what would you suggest as an honor name for Grandma Lou?
I know this is a late reply, but perhaps Philippa with the nickname of Lou? Philippa is reminiscent of Phyllis, and much like Phyllis the “l” sound is there to make Lou seem like a stretch nickname possibility. Perhaps Philippa paired with one of Abby’s suggestions in the middle, to make the whole name seem like an honor?
Sara L. Uckelman says
Another option would be something like “Helouise”.
If you want something kinda sweet and classic, I’d go with Lucy. It’s such an evergreen choice!
If you want granny-chic or more buttoned up, Lucille is a great choice! (And you can still call her Lou and Lucy) This is my middle name after my grandma and I love that it is familiar but uncommon. I work with kids and have only ever met one Lucille and she answered to both Lucy and Lucille.
If you want something a bit fresher than Lucille but not as common as Lucy then how about Eloise? I don’t think Lou is too much of a stretch as a nickname at all
I think Luella is gorgeous and would love to see it being used. Good luck deciding!
Maybe consider using a spelling that emphasizes “Lou”. Like LouAnn or Mary-Lou or Lou-Marie.
Louisa is my personal favorite though.
If you like the sound of Lula, I have a friend with this name pronounced the same but spelled Loula. It has always seemed to me like a perfectly valid spelling variation, and may fit better your desire to use the name Lou.
Lisa T. says
Ohh, Lou is such a great name! Before I knew I was having a son, I considered these names with the idea to shorten to Lulu or Lou:
Louna (French spelling)
I also think these are great suggestions:
And finally, I will add my own, which is a shortening of Marie Louise:
I like one commenter’s suggestion of thinking about what your style is and picking a Lou or L name in that style.
As an almost purely academic suggestion (afterall, I know nothing about your style) for a name that would honor a Phyllis called “Lou,” what about combining Phyllis and Lou and using Philomena? The L and O allow for the Lou sound, and Phil beginning reflects Phyllis’ starting sound. It is pretty esoteric, so not for everyone, but she’ll probably not meet another with the same name, plus it is not completely unheard of, and has a lot of history to it. Other nicknames, should she one day reject “Lou,” include the boyish “Phil” and “Philo,” plus the girly “Mena.” The more I think about it, the better I like it. It’s a fun and melodious name. Philomena “Lou” R———
Commenter Andrea suggested Lumi, which makes me think of Lumina. I’m pronouncing it lu-MEE-na, not LU-mi-na like the Chevy. You could use nicknames Lou, Lumi, Mina, or Luna. You can choose your meaning with the nickname.
The Mrs. says
What is your naming style if You was not on the table here?
Perhaps this will give you a solid place to start…by figuring out what you’d name lil’ Lou’s siblings.
Then, find a Lou name that fits your family’s style.
Best wishes and congrats to you!
I love that your grandmother was the kind of woman who chose her identity!
Lou makes me think of the toilet, so I would choose a longer name with nickname Lou.
Ok hear me out. I think you could honor your grandmother best by naming her a wonderful name completely UNrelated to Lou and then…using Lou as a nickname. Then the parallels are not just the inherited name but the whole wonderful whimsical story! If that’s too much of a stretch, any L name can be a Lou in my opinion. My favorites are Lydia and Lisette. If you’re sent on an obvious variation of Lou, I hope you consider Lilou-charming, French, and almost reads as a diminutive of Lou, like “Little Lou” or “Lil’ lou” which makes your daughter even more the little inheritor of the Lou name. Best of luck!
I would probably go straight on traditional and call her Lou with your grandma’s maiden name as her middle name or Phyllis with the nickname Lou. If you are naming a child after someone, I tend to think it should be the person’s actual name. As for longer versions of Lou: Louna (a French spelling of the name), Lilou, Lulu, Lumi (Finnish name meaning snow), Malou/Malu, Tallulah.
I love both the names Louisa and Louise, on their own merit and ask an honor name for Lou. With your last name I think Louisa May flow well.
Luella can also be spelled as Louella, it’s a familiar spelling. The parents might prefer that because it’s more similar to Lou
I’d call her Louisa. It’s a beautiful name and feels like stretching out of Lou, which is what your Grandma was called even thought that wasn’t the name on her birth certificate. It sounds like she was “Lou” to everyone; your Louisa would clearly carry on Grandma Lou’s name. T
Also, the spelling of the “Lou” part of your daughter’s name would be exactly the same (not Lu…).
If you decide you’d prefer Lou as part of her middle name, then I’d use either Louisa or Louise.