Name HelpName 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!

Juniper writes:

I’m searching for just the right name for our sixth child, expected in February. The new baby will be welcomed to the world by siblings Madison Grace, Kennedy Rose, Parker Benjamin, Charles Benjamin, and Odelia Josephine (nickname Lia).

We are committed to Asher Benjamin for a boy, and considering Elska Leora for a girl. I’d love to hear some suggestions from you and readers.

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

Hi Juniper –

Congratulations on baby #6! Asher Benjamin is a great name – you definitely don’t need our help finding a name for a boy!

I think lots of parents become more daring namers over the years – I know it happened for us just between baby #1 and #2! Maybe it’s because we’re more confident as parents. Or maybe it’s because we hear a greater variety of  names, and feel like there’s more opportunity for creativity – or more pressure to stand out.

And yet, I wonder if Elska Leora is a little bit too out-there?

I keep arguing with myself over this one. After all, there’s no rule that says that sibling names have to match. None whatsoever! And especially as your family grows, chances of being perfectly coordinated plummet. And I do kind of love Elska. It’s got a cool, edgy, double-diminutive, slightly Scandi/Slavic vibe that’s tough to pin down and yet easy to say. If you were naming your very first child, I think I might have a different reaction.

And yet.

Madison and Kennedy are perfectly paired. Odelia is very different, but everyday-use nickname Lia brings it back to center. If you’ll call Elska something for short – Ellie? Elle? – maybe that’s the same situation here.

I’ve never come across Elska. My first thought was that it must be a diminutive of Elisabeth, a further evolution of Elsa. There’s also Elke/Elka, which I’ve usually heard connected to Adelaide and company – but could certainly link back to Elisabeth and company, too.

A dictionary tells me that Elska is a literary term in Norwegian meaning love, and also a verb meaning “to love” in some languages derived from Old Norse. That makes Elska a fantastic find! But I’m not sure if that’s why you’ve chosen the name, and I do feel pretty comfortable saying that very few people will know that one. (Or maybe I’m wrong?) There is a Winnipeg-based actress/tee shirt designer named Elska Swandel. She’s so stylish, and a great ambassador for her name.

So here are my suggestions – and I’m eager to hear what others think, too!

Use Elska Leora as-is. It’s a gorgeous name. And yes, it’s very different, both from most of the names children are given in 2015 in the US, and from your older kids’ names specifically. But that’s not the end of the world, and if you love it, then that trumps matching.

Use a formal name that shortens to Elska. This is the approach that I tend to favor. Since Odelia uses Lia as a nickname, it might make sense for you, too. Plain Elisabeth, or even Elizabeth, would work. You could also consider the initials E.K. – or, more specifically, an El- name followed by a Ka- name, preferably with an ‘s’ sound in there, too! Elisabeth Katharine, Elise Kara, Eloise Karys, Elissa Kamille, Eleanor Kari, Elinor Kay, Ellison Kate.

Use a slightly more common name Name Help: Baby Number Sixthat shares Elska’s meaning. You could substitute a name like Amanda or Carys that means love or beloved in another language. If you widen the search, there’s also EsmeAmoret, and Kerensa – though some of those are nearly as rare as Elska!

Use another name that reflects Norwegian roots. If the whole point of the name is to celebrate your Scandinavian heritage, there are other possibilities. Anja, Britta, Elin, and Thora all come to mind.

My favorites for you are as follows:

  • Carys – If it’s the meaning that matters, Carys is a Welsh name with a similar meaning to Elska. It comes from caru – love. The name got a little boost outside of Wales when Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas chose it for their daughter in 2003. It was given to 113 girls in 2014, so it’s still pretty unusual. But it’s definitely more familiar than Elska. I’d rank Esme a close second.
  • Anja – If heritage is most important, I think it’s hard to beat Anja. Anja has risen and fallen over the years, but has never broken the US Top 1000. In 2014, there were 48 newborn Anyas. The downside of the ‘j’ spelling? Anya is much more popular, with 667 newborn Anyas in 2014. And yet, the ‘j’ spelling definitely has more Scandi appeal.
  • Ellison Kate – If matching your daughters’ names is a concern, then I wonder what you would think of Ellison with a Ka- middle name? It potentially leaves out Odelia, though, so I’m not sure about this approach. It feels problematic – and yet, I love the idea of Ellison for your family!
  • Elska Jane, Elska Mary, Elska Rebecca, Elska Lily, Elska Louise, Elska Leigh, Elska Marie – I do think Elska Leora is a name with no place to hide. If your daughter ever dislikes her rare given name, Leora is only slightly more familiar. And she can’t shorten it to Lee/Lea with a sister already answering to Lia. I wonder if there are any other middles you’ve considered? Rose, Grace, and Josephine are more traditional choices that can anchor a gender neutral or unconventional first name choice.
  • Elska Leora And yet, after all this, I do find myself drawn to Elska Leora. The rhythm is exactly right, the name is gorgeous, and, assuming you’re using it because it means love, there’s an easy story to tell. If you don’t mind repeating and explaining her name frequently, I think it could be a beautiful, unexpected choice.

Readers, what’s your reaction to Elska? Is it the perfect undiscovered gem, or is it too rare to wear? What names would you suggest to Juniper?

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. Elska Leora is a wonderful name. You really have so many options but if you love it go for it. I am not sure if anyone else has mentioned it. But Elora might work. Elora Jane?

    Excited to see what you decide to choose. Whatever it is I am sure it will be perfect!

  2. I’m soooo curious about the four surname first names and then the turn to Odelia. I would never have guessed Odelia with that sibset, so it makes suggestions for the next one more challenging. Elska is a lovely name. I like the suggestions of Ellison and Eliora, but I can see how they might be too close to Madison and Odelia. I would have said Harper was perfect for you after the first 4, especially since you also like Asher. Sasha or Sashka might be other options.

    Leora doesn’t appeal to me for some reason. I like Louise. Since it’s mentioned that it’s a family name, I wonder if some form of Juniper might also make a good middle name: Juniper, June, Juno, Junia. Elska June is my favorite, but I think any of them could work.

    Good luck!

    1. Madison and Kennedy were “presidential” names, for two strong and beautiful girls. Parker is a name we have always loved and saved for a son, while Charles is a fine name with a strong history. Then came Odelia Josephine, our special little miracle! She made everything new again…any of our “presidential” surname girls options, didn’t quite seem right for her, and we ventured into new naming territory! So, now the question is…what strikes the perfect balance in our strong/delicate sibset? For little Lia is soon to be the baby no longer…

      Thanks for commenting! (I do like Elska Jane…Jane Therese is my mother’s name, and I’m tempted!)

      1. Elska Jane is marvelous! With Jane being your mother’s name (and your hesitancy to use Louise), why not go with Jane? Elska is unexpected like Odelia; Jane is a classic name for the middle spot, like all your other children have.

        Madison Rose
        Kennedy Grace
        Parker Benjamin
        Charles Benjamin
        Odelia Josephine
        Elska Jane

        Elska Jane may be just what you need to link all the names in your sibling group! (And think how pleased your mother would be. 🙂 )

        1. Yes, Patricia. After all these grandchildren, she certainly would be! It does have a nice meaning to it as well. Hmm, more to mull over.

          Does it feel too short, or just right? Should it be a combined first name ala Maryjane (leaving room for a middle name as well)…or is that overreaching?

          1. Jane is classy and classic. It doesn’t need to have another name combined with it. Jane is perfect just is — as a first name or middle. And anyway, if you were to put some other name with it as a first name, what about your Elska?

            (I’ve hesitated to say this…but when I hear Elska, I think Elsika. Elska reminds me of Jessica, with the “i’ barely pronounced. I have a friend who often says her daughter’s name that way: “Jess(i)ca”. Els(i)ka reminds me of Annika, which I find much prettier sounding.)

            Annika Jane?

            Annika – Scandinavian form of Anne: God has favored me (with this child)
            Jane – feminine form of John: God is gracious; and her maternal grandmother’s name

          2. As in, ElskaJane.

            Yes, Elska pronounced with three syllables sounds wonderful (El’s’ka) nuch nicer than two (Els’ka). I dont think I can hear it any other way now. 🙂

            Annika is charming (and has that nice crisp sound). Very meaningful.

          3. Elska Jane


            Elisabeth Jane “Elska”

            Odelia Josephine “Lia”
            Elisabeth Jane “Elska”

  3. I don’t want to offend, but Elska just doesn’t roll off the tongue nicely. It sounds clunky and made up. What about Elka? Or as Sara suggested, Leora? I think those work better with your other daughters’ names as well.