Name 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!
I’m due with our third child in July, and we have hit a brick wall choosing a name.
Our last name sounds like Lee, but is spelled differently. Because of that, I like longer first names that we can use without a nickname. Or, we might consider something with a nickname that isn’t very short. Our first child, Oliver Thomas, was almost Alexander, because I liked Alex, but we ruled out Benjamin, because Ben Lee isn’t enough of a name.
For our daughter, we had only had one girl name we agreed on, Penelope Justine, and we still love it.
If she’d been a boy, we liked Sebastian best, and if this baby had been a boy, we would have named him Sebastian.
But it’s a girl, and that’s where we’re stuck.
We really don’t like frilly, feminine girl names. Even though I don’t think Rebecca is too girly, I’m not a fan of girl names that end with -a sounds. Other run into Lee. We both prefer Isabelle to Isabella, but Isabelle Lee sounds like “is a belly.” We talked about Evangeline, but I think it’s not great with Lee, either.
I keep Googling long girl names, and coming up with ideas like Andromeda and Henrietta. But that’s not us.
Right now, I think we just need some new ideas.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Rebecca –
Congratulations on your new daughter!
I hear you on the challenges with longer names. So often, we add on frills and flourishes when we lengthen. Antonia becomes Antonella. Emily picks up some syllables and is transformed into Emiliana.
But I wonder if the real problem is this: Oliver is three syllables. Penelope is four. But lots and lots of girl names come in at three syllables, feel reasonably tailored, and aren’t automatically shortened. Could it be that searching for long girl names keeps pushing you towards lists that focus on the elaborated Isabellina and Annabellas of the world.
Besides, it’s not just a long name. A sister for Oliver and Penelope needs a name with history, but nothing too classic. Katherine won’t hit the right note. And Oliver and Penelope are both fun to say, names with a lot of verve and style.
So would you consider:
Alexandra – Despite the ‘a’ ending, Alexandra is a strong name boosted by the appeal of the letter x.
Genevieve – French names can sound a little on the fancy side, but Genevieve has a strong, distinctive sound.
Josephine – I think Penelope and Josephine were meant to be sisters!
Juliet – Yes, Juliet is a tragic romantic heroine. But the name feels modern and sparky.
Juniper – A nature name that’s every bit as fun to say as Penelope.
Scarlett – Yes, it’s just two syllables. But there’s a big sound to Scarlett, and I think it fits.
Veronica – As with Alexandra, Veronica was big a few decades earlier. But I think it sounds exactly right with Oliver and Penelope.
Violet – Like Scarlett, Violet is a little on the shorter side. But it’s a tailored name that’s on the right side of feminine.
My favorites with Oliver and Penelope are Josephine or maybe Juliet. But I like so many of these that I’m having a hard time narrowing it down.
Readers, what would you suggest for Oliver and Penelope’s sister?
Four Happiness says
We have a Penelope and an Oliver, and their little sister is Clementine.
Expecting a baby sister in 3 weeks, and this is our short list (stumped as to what we will use, the others were much easier):
Lee is is tricky last name! So many girl names turn into tongue twisters! BUT you have found lovely, lovely names for your older children and I know you’ll find one for this sweet babe too. I particularly like Frances. It’s not long (just 2 syl) but the sounds are different enough from Lee that it feels separate and it’s a good style match for Oliver and Penelope. Frances Lee Or Franny Lee or Francie Lee. Other suggestions:
Joan (its short, but I think it works!)
Carson (gender neutral, and wonderful on a girl!)
Congratulations on your new baby!
I think there are a lot of great suggestions made already! Some long names are more likely than others to be shortened, so think about how you feel about nicknames.
Beatrice (another vote for this one, a lot of comments also like it)
Dorothy (2-3 syllables, depending on how you say it)
Isabeau (a little more unusual, but if you like Isabel, it solves that problem. Though you can also introduce a pause between the first and last when you say her full name if you go with Isabel, since you both like it)
Jocelyn (2-3 syllables, depending on how you say it)
Genevieve was my first thought–I think it’s perfect! Josephine is also great.
Maybe also consider:
Angelin (pronounced Ann-gel-lynn)
Juniper Lee is perfect to me. It has the same fun-to-say, upbeat style as Oliver and Penelope. As much as I love Violet, when I say Violet Lee, I hear violently, so I’d probably avoid that one. Lot’s of great suggestions already mentioned, I’ll add/second:
Another came to mind: Emmeline
Also loving the suggestion of Jillian.
So funny. My first thought was Evangeline, closely followed by Genevieve, Josephine, Caroline, and Eleanor.
Josephine seems great, as does Violet (I also love Juliet – one of my daughters has this name).
I also like Bernadette, Evelyn, Katherine, Mercedes, Jacqueline, and Philomena.
I think Caroline would be perfect! Vivienne as well maybe?
I’m including some repeats as I think the emphasis can be helpful.
The challenge is that many nicknames end with the same long E sound as the last name Lee, so there’s the potential for a first name-last name pairing that sounds like an adverb or a sort of rhyming sing-song sound.
Vivian Lee (sounds like the Gone With the Wind actress, Vivian Leigh)
This was a name of the day not long ago and even thought it is not 3 or 4 syllables I think it works here
I also like the suggestions of
Erin Beth says
I love lots of the suggestions, especially Josephine and Alexandra. Other ideas:
I think Abby’s suggestions are right on the mark. My favorite is Josephine. It has a distinctive sound, but is still quite mainstream, which seems to suit your style best. I have a couple more suggestions. All of these names are 3+ syllables, and while many have the potential to shorten into nicknames, I don’t think anyone would automatically shorten them the way Benjamin shortens to Ben.
I like Abby’s suggestions, particularly Josephine, Juliet, Veronica and Genevieve.
I’d also like to suggest
I do think Evangeline works from your list.
Kirstin G says
Lee can be tough to pair with! It’s my middle name and my mom’s middle name, and as much as I’d like to pass it on, it seems to either cartoonishly repeat sounds in names I like or it makes them sound like adjectives. You’ve found great pairs in Penelope and Oliver.
I like the suggestions of Josephine, Clementine, and Felicity. They both have that strong feminine component mixed with a modern freshness.
Charlotte could be an option. It’s shorter but has big presence and it ripe with nicknames.
Eleanor is another nickname-friendly, non -a name.
Gwendolyn and Genevieve are the ones that I immediately jumped to.
Sara L. Uckelman says
Here to also recommend Gwendolyn!