Name Help: Justice MarigoldName 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!

Becky writes:

I really love the name Marigold, but it breaks what I had thought was my hard and fast “name a girl something that you could imagine on a future Supreme Court Justice” rule.

I’m not talking about choosing a unisex/androgynous or traditionally male name, but rather going with a first name that seems professional and resume-worthy. A fun nickname is a huge plus (Maisie or Bizzy or Sadie), but I feel like the serious name with options is a better choice than the childish/frivolous/nickname-y name that doesn’t give her a grown-up option if she wants that later.

There are some nickname options for Marigold that are no-frills and elegant (Mary or Margo or what have you), but that’s not going to be the name on her college degree, and it seems backwards to have a girly/flowery name and a pared-down nickname.

So, how do I reconcile my love for a name that breaks my rule? Or, do you and your readers think Justice Marigold (aka, the notorious M something something) is going to be totally workable by the time she’s reached the venerable age of justicedom?

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

Dear Becky –

This is such a good question!

Plenty of parents prioritize choosing names that will age well. It makes sense, right? We’re raising future adults, and we expect them to go out and do good things in this world, not stay in a primary-colored playroom forever and ever. Those good things might require a serious name. Or at least a name more substantial than, say, Bitsi or Sparkle or Bud.


When I step away from the question, it seems like nearly any reasonably mainstream name ages well. Better than we might expect, actually.

Looking through the current list of state attorneys general – not quite the same thing as a Supreme Court Justice, but it makes for a longer list! – the names vary dramatically. Yes, we see traditional choices like Elizabeth and Ellen represented. But we also find Pam, Cynthia, Lisa, and Leslie. The patterns holds for US Attorneys. Alana, Carrie, Betsy, and Annette hold the same office as Eugenia, Rosa, and Jill.

Wait forty years, and odds are that Marigold will sound like a grown-up, just like a generation of women named Daisy and Lily. After all, the top names of the 1960s – think Susan, Nancy, and Michelle – belong to some of the most powerful women of our moment.

So yes, by the time your Marigold approaches the venerable age of justicedom, it will sound appropriate. And she may be following a Justice Madison or Justice River to the bench, too.

And yet, that’s only part of the question. Does choosing a name like Marigold – feminine, distinctive, and not at all traditional – hamper your child’s chances of success? Or, would she be more likely to achieve professional success as Margaret?

This remains a great unknown.

For parents seeking all the information possible, this feels deeply unsatisfying. I do think there are some things to consider before bestowing an unusual name on your child. And your original idea – choosing a more traditional name with a fun nickname – is one of the reasons classics wear so well.

Does that mean you should play it safe? My advice is always this: use the name you love. If you have lingering concerns that your favorite name is too out-there, anchor it with a rock solid middle name. Whether Marigold grows up to be a judge or a performance artist – or a judge of performance artists on reality television – she might appreciate the option of a more conservative middle.

I’m curious to hear what others think, of course, and so I’m including a poll.

Can Marigold be a Supreme Court Justice? Or do you think it is better to stick with more traditional names?


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. I think Marigold actually is a traditional name already. Uncommon doesn’t mean untraditional. Also, I don’t think the Supreme Court test is “will people with names like this eventually have jobs like the Supreme Court?” The Supreme Court test is really to gauge whether the name seems suitable to a distinctive position. I think Marigold passes that and I don’t think it seems cutesy at all. I actually plan to use this name, but the fact that apparently some people do consider it cutesy does give me some pause.

  2. I couldn’t take the quiz, because I think it passes the Supreme Court test currently. It doesn’t need 50 years to get there. It’s lovely and vintage and yes, a little sweet but also completely respectable.

  3. I agree with so many of the comments here. But quite simply, Abby’s right, if you love it, use it. Giving her a more conventional middle provides options if she wants to use something different. (This is what we did with our daughter who uses her unusual first name, but has a rock-solid middle if she prefers.)

    Regarding the idea of feminine or “girly” names seeming insubstantial, the more we see women succeeding with these names, the less weight this argument has. I agree that this is more about women not being adequately represented at senior levels in business, government, etc.

  4. To me, the issue is less whether a name will be strong enough when she is established and secure in her career and more how it will play on a the resume of a 20-something straight out of school. That being said, Marigold doesn’t seem overly cutsy in that situation either.

    1. Erika, those are really good points.

      I know someone with a cutesy, girly name who thought it was a pain in her mid-20s. (She had one boss say something like, “Wait, that’s your REAL name?”) But at 40, it’s not even a thought.

  5. I think that if Marigold thinks that her name is holding her back from a career she loves, she will gravitate towards a name that works for her: Margo or Mary or something else. Or she may decide to smash the patriarchy and succeed despite the naysayers who are biased against her name. Either way, you are choosing a perfectly fine name, and the rest is up to her.

  6. While NMS I can’t see any reason why Marigold couldn’t be a supreme court justice (or a teacher/plumber/whatever she wants). I don’t like the idea that a feminine sounding name is limiting and a more masculine name liberating. I do like flexibility in names though as you don’t really know what your child will be like as an adult. For this reason I like names with nickname options. Marigold has a few nn’s that I can think of. Since you are worried what about Mary nn Marigold? I don’t think it’s necessary though.

  7. I agree with all of the above. We have a Ruth now, which is traditional, but formerly a Sandra, and now an Elena and a Sonia. These aren’t little girly names, but don’t sound like classic traditionals to me. Go for it, I love Marigold!

  8. I think Marigold is completely fine. In the UK we have a Member of Parliament called Tulip. Not a problem.

  9. I have known professionals named Brandi and Misty and Tahnee, etc. In one court, there are currently five lawyers called Ashley (3), Ashlei or Ashli. No one hears their names and thinks they couldn’t become Supreme Court Justices or brain surgeons or principals or the like. Those just happen to be their names and they are judged on their performance. It’s just plain silly to worry that a Marigold couldn’t be successful because of her name. Use it if you like it. Worry more about how you raise the child. That’s what matters.