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!

A VERY LONG SHORT LIST

Bri writes:

Our first daughter will be here in a matter of weeks, and because of family obligations, she has to get a passport pretty much immediately. If we have her name set in advance, there’s a much better chance we’ll be able to actually make all this crazy work and visit our family overseas at Christmas.

Or maybe I’m fooling myself, but since the only thing I can control is choosing her name, I want to put my energy there, instead of worrying about the dozens of things that could derail our plans!

Right now, though, it feels like we can only add names to our ever-growing list. We started out with:

  • Bijou – I love this, husband isn’t sold
  • Indie – Feel like I’m hearing this a lot
  • Soleil – Too hard to pronounce maybe?
  • Tru/True – Was our top name but three different people have said “like the Kardashians” and I’d rather that not be the thing that everyone says
  • Vida/Vita – Husband’s favorite, I think it’s giving Ricky Martin (had such a crush on him in middle school, so …)

Since we didn’t agree on any of these, we added to our list:

  • Dove – could be great, but maybe weird to be a bird
  • Ever – love this, but we know a 2 y.o. Ever so feels like we’re stealing
  • Fia – we’re not Irish, does it matter
  • Io – looks like it disappears when I write it and feels like a tech abbreviation
  • Lilo – got it from the Disney movie – is that weird
  • Lyric – feel like this is more popular than other names
  • Nyx – too dark maybe
  • Rey – too Star Wars (maybe)
  • Siri – maybe my favorite, but a no because how weird would that be
  • Ziva – love this, but my mom says it sounds like a granny
  • Zuri – but is it cultural appropriation

So yeah. We can come up with lots of names, but we’re just as good with thinking up reasons why they’re a problem.

This baby’s last name will be the super ordinary M!ller, which makes us both agree that names like Ava/Lucy/Mary are out.

Open to middle name suggestions, too, because right now it feels like we’ve got nothing …

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

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TIME TO NARROW UP

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your daughter!

I completely get your struggle.

(It’s like the week Trader Joe’s opened in our neighborhood – at last! We’re wandering down the aisles, adding interesting thing after interesting thing to the cart, but not really getting any closer to a reasonable meal plan for the week. I mean … cauliflower rice + Joe Joes + marinated artichokes does not dinner make.)

But back to your question. As the marvelous Swistle says, at some point you have to narrow UP. Figure out what you love most and why, and let those qualities inform your choice.

Let’s look at the common threads shared by the names on your list:

  • They’re short and complete. Not that you couldn’t call Bijou Bebe or shorten Vida to Vee, but this isn’t exactly Anastasia territory, where a shorter version feels inevitable.
  • They’re unusual, if not unique. I’m guessing you live in some pocket where less-common names are the norm, if only because Indie feels like you’re hearing a lot of it. (Indie ranked #579 for girls, with Indy at #918. It doesn’t crack the US Top 1000 for boys, but I’ve come across children named Indiana, Indigo, and so on.) Even so, the names you’re considering will likely be one-of-one in your immediate circle.
  • They’re modern. Even a name like Vida/Vita, which had a good run in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries and has history stretching even farther back, feels very much like a 2020s kind of choice. And many of these just plain weren’t names until this moment.

I’m also hearing lots of bright, strong vowel sounds – the OO of Bijou and True, the OH of Lilo, Io, and Soleil. The names are smooth, strong, and memorable.

Let’s look at your current list – both the original and the addition – and choose a few that I think deserve closer consideration, based on the criteria I’ve listed above.

TOP CHOICES FROM THE CURRENT LIST

BIJOU

If your husband was on board, this would be The Name, right? What I love about it: it’s the French word for jewel, so it fits with Ruby and Pearl. It feels a little art deco, kind of bohemian, very stylish. Maybe some of that is down to Bijou Phillips, daughter of 1960s folk rock star John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. While the former model, singer, and actress has had a tumultuous life, I don’t think it detracts from her name. Why I love it for your family: it feels like names with a modern feel but some vintage appeal really speak to you. Bijou has this quality in spades.

DOVE

Richly meaningful, nicely uncommon, and easy to wear, Dove is a standout choice. Is it weird that Dove is a bird? Nope. We’ve had a generation (or more) answer to Robin and Raven. And now favorites like River, Willow, and Wren are on top. Dove fits right in.

FIA

I hear your concerns about cultural appropriation with names like Zuri, and I share your hesitation. But Irish? Countless children have been named Erin and Ryan, Liam and Riley, without the thinnest connection to the Emerald Isle. Fia, in particular, feels nicely pan-European. I love it for the whole wild vibe, but it might also come from Italian names (think fiery Fiamma) or the so-popular Sophia or even be invented from names like Faith, Faye, and Mia cobbled together. It feels like a midpoint between Vita and Io – brief, but still substantial, pan-European, but with a great meaning, too.

SIRI

Okay, I agree – Siri really is out of the question. It’s just too, too frustrating to share your name with a ubiquitous AI. But the style feels very much on point, so even though I can see why you’re not going to name your daughter Siri, I think we can look for more names with that sleek, compact, and just on-the-right-side-of-feminine sound.

VIDA

I mean … “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is an infectious pop hit, even all these years later, but it’s not exactly the kind of anthem I’d imagine inspiring a child’s name. But Vida and Vita have been names for years. Sometimes nicknames – Vita for Victoria, for example. And, in general, we like Spanish-language words as names, like Luna and Alma. So Vida fits in many, many ways. It’s like Zoe crossed with Valentina and a dash of Clara, too.

MIDDLE NAME OPTIONS

A few of your current favorites strike me as perfect middles:

  • Dove, because it’s a strong, short sound that works well with a longer first
  • Rey, because yes, it’s quite Star Wars, but it’s a go-to middle, especially spelled Rae, that can balance a more unusual first
  • Soleil, because it’s less a pronunciation issue when it’s seldom used
  • Tru or True, because the Kardashian connection won’t matter nearly as much in the middle spot

FRESH IDEAS

I’m not sure you really need any ideas, but … I do think sometimes fresh ideas can help us fall more in love with the names we’re currently considering!

ALOE

We know that Aloe is a plant, but if Willow and Lily are girls’ names, then Aloe might be, too. Or it could be unisex – after all, the singer Aloe Blacc is a he. (Birth name: Egbert!) It’s rare, but wearable.

CLEA

Cleo is trending, climbing in the US Top 1000 as we speak. Clea, pronounced more like Clay-uh, remains far less common. But it feels like a possible substitute for Vida.

ELKE

In our Chloe era, I suspect most people will say Elke like Elkie – rhymes with selkie. But elk-ah is another option, more like Elsa with a K. It’s originally a nickname for Adelaide in northern European languages (think German and Dutch), but it feels like an independent option in English today.

LILAC

Lyric meets Violet for a far less popular name that wears nicely now.

LULA

Originally a Louise/Louisa nickname, Lula feels like the midpoint between Bijou and Vida, much less Disney than Lilo. The French Lilou – often considered a form of Lily – is a similar option, but I think Lula might feel like the more appealing choice.

RIVA

In Italian, Riva can mean riverbank. It’s a logical possibility in our age of River and Rio, but I’d put Riva more in the same category as Vida … without the Ricky Martin vibes.

SUVI

It’s surprisingly hard to find great substitutes for Siri. But Suvi might just work. It’s the Finnish word for summer and is considered a given name in Scandinavia, though it’s far from common. Since it sounds like you’re welcoming a summer baby, Suvi has double the appeal.

YARROW

When it comes to name length, there are two factors: sound and spelling. Io is two syllables, but just two letters. Yarrow is two syllables … but visually quite a bit longer. Another nature name, Yarrow has been used in small numbers since the early 1970s, a nature name embraced by counterculture parents. It feels like an alternative to Bijou, every bit as rare, but just a little bit different.

Overall, my favorite combination is probably Bijou Vida. It’s bold and intriguing, a name that’s almost two word names but not really, either. Plus you both get your top choices! Plenty of combinations come to mind after that. Fia Soleil, Lula Dove, Riva True, Vida Rey. I do think some of these feel a little bit like phrases. (Vida Rey makes me think “living king” but then … I’m clearly into overthinking names.)

Let’s open it up to the readers because I know they’ll have some amazing ideas.

What unusual, possibly bohemian-ish names would you suggest for Bri’s daughter?

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?

22 Comments

  1. I’ll share one of my favourite off the radar names with lots of vowel sounds yet it’s still an ancient name so it might just appeal. It always gives me fairy vibes. Plus an X name is just so… X factor isn’t it?

    Xyla

    Greek Origin meaning: from the woods and that general meaning

  2. I’ve been wondering about Ivory. It has some of the sounds you seem to like, and is certainly familiar as a word and, with it’s similarity to Ivy it feels like a name. I wonder if it’s different enough for you, but I think Ivory M!ller sounds sensational.

  3. I love the following combos…

    Indra Lyric M!ller, nn Indie

    Ziva Dove M!ller

    You have some excellent options. Best of luck!

  4. I’m here for the middle names! Longer to balance out Shortname Miller.

    Fia Constantina
    Ever Marigold
    Lilou Guinevere
    Ziva Clementine
    Zola Penelope
    Leila Seraphina

  5. Congratulations on your first daughter.
    Out of your list
    Dove Fiann is pretty and has a peace (dove) with strength, bravery (Fiann) meaning to it.
    I hope this helps.

  6. I’ll make suggestions without looking at the other posts:
    Briar
    Calla
    Calyx
    Chaton
    Dare
    Delphi
    Fauve
    Fjord
    Flair
    Garnet
    Kisa
    Leda
    Leta
    Mauve
    Mireille
    Sistine

  7. Your style feels very fun and unique! I LOVE Ziva from your list. I don’t think it sounds like an old lady name at all and quite honestly who cares if your mom thinks that. It’s your baby! She had her turn to name hers. Ziva feels kicky and fun yet strong and substantial.

    Here are some other ideas:

    Indira (Indie for short)
    Azura (I know one who goes by Zuzu)
    Lark
    Juno
    Cleo
    Lively
    Clover
    Zara
    Zella
    Rue
    Meadow
    Jetta
    Sonnet
    Zora
    Zelda
    Golda
    Raine
    Meridian
    Rhiannon