Name Help: First DaughterName 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!

Carrie writes:

I found your advice to think about your name before naming your baby, and it’s just what I needed to hear! It helped me and my husband come up with some ideas, but now we’re not sure how to go from our list of lots of maybes to just one name for our daughter.

We’d been hoping the name would just come to us, but she’s due in the beginning of February, so I think we need some help!

Here is our general wishlist:

  • One pronunciation. I don’t like the way Carrie can sound like Kerry or carry or whatever.
  • No nicknames and no names that are nicknames. I’m just Carrie. It’s not short for anything. I appreciate the simplicity, but why does no one ever believe me?!
  • Nothing too common. My husband is Michael “Mike” with the middle initial J and a very common last name. He was one of two graduating his year from a big state university with the same first name, middle initial, and last name, and one of four with a very similar name. (It’s Edw@rds. Our daughter will have both of our last names, which will sounds like C@ne-Edw@rds, in part to help with this!)
  • Probably the middle name Catherine/Katheryn because it’s in both of our families, but we are flexible if it doesn’t work out. Spelling is completely open, as we have multiple versions of the name on both sides!

We’ve both made a list of ten names, then each crossed out five. We didn’t have a single name that made both of our lists, but we all agree that these ten names are pretty close to what we want. A few attempts to rate and rank them have gotten us stuck. This is sort of in our order of preference, but not really.

  1. AMELIA – We both really like it, but it breaks a bunch of rules: it’s really popular, we know it has lots of nicknames, and there’s the whole Amelia/Emilia issue.
  2. NORA – Almost perfect, but maybe too popular.
  3. ANYA – Maybe too different/confusing?
  4. EDEN – I think this one is growing on me, but is it too trendy?
  5. HALLIE – Love, but I feel like it is a nickname.
  6. DAISY – Another name I love, but worry it seems like a nickname.
  7. GWEN – Satisfies the rules, but maybe we don’t love it?
  8. HADLEY – From my husband’s list. I think I could warm up to it, but he does have a co-worker with an older daughter named Hadley, and I feel a little weird about that.
  9. TESSA – My husband really likes. I feel like I change my mind about this one every day.
  10. KENNEDY – My husband’s favorite, and it is a family name on my side. But I feel like it sounds weird with our last name. (Probably because our last name is made up of two sort-of first names?)

Where do we go from here?

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

The good news: you’ve done the hard work, and you know what you want, and what you prefer to avoid.

While I stand by my advice – talk about your experience with your own names first – it’s worth noting that rules are made to be broken.

So if you do fall hard for a name that has a flaw? That’s okay. You’re going in with your eyes open, and that will probably help navigate some potential issues. (Recognizing you might have to spell Amelia when you choose it is one thing; arriving for your daughter’s first day in child care to find her name misspelled on her cubby and that’s when you realize the issue? That’s a different level of frustration.)

Let’s rank your current list first, though I mostly agree with you.


Consider with caution:

  • Amelia – Because it’s very popular and has two very popular spellings.
  • Gwen – Mostly because it sounds like a great compromise … but not a name you really love.
  • Hallie – It stands on its own, but I think lots of people might ask what it’s short for.
  • Kennedy – I get what you mean about the sound with your surname.
  • Nora – A great compromise … except is it too popular? I hesitate …

Better bets:

  • Anya – Familiar, but not too common. Anya Taylor-Joy means lots of people recognize the spelling/pronunciation. And this “A” sound isn’t as challenging as the A in Carrie.
  • Eden – I think it’s every bit as good a compromise as Gwen, and maybe you’re more enthusiastic about it … or am I misreading that?
  • Hadley – It sounds like your husband really likes surnames, plus Hadley is a little bit like Hallie, I think. But Hadley a) is clearly complete and mostly nickname-proof and b) sounds a little better with your last name. Maybe it’s syllable count?
  • Daisy – A complete name that probably won’t invite that dreaded “what’s it short for?” question. (Though, yes, it’s traditionally associated with Margaret.) But it is a little on the sweet side. Still, a strong middle can balance that out.
  • Tessa – I think Tessa is practically perfect. But Nora feels a little more serious, while Tessa strikes me as lighter. Is that an issue? I’m not sure …



Like Hallie and Daisy, Chloe has that pleasing two-syllable, ends-in-ee sound that goes well with your surname. But Chloe is clearly complete. It’s maybe a bit on the popular side, though you might also consider Daphne or Phoebe instead.


Another Nora/Tessa alternative that, I think, hits the right note.


While it’s hovering near the US Top 100 that’s not nearly as common as Amelia … and there’s no similar Amelia/Emilia issue.


Okay, some people do drop the T and spell it Margo. And a very small number spell it Margaux. But … Margot is the dominant spelling by a LOT right now, and I think it sounds great with your surname.


Another Nora alternative, one that feels familiar but uncommon.


Amelia and Kennedy make me wonder if you’re really looking for a slightly longer name? Vivian can be Vivi and Viv, but it’s often just Vivian, in full. It’s vintage like Amelia, tailored like Kennedy.

Overall, my favorite from your list is probably Anya. It’s a little bit unexpected, but still traditional in style. It won’t be shortened and while it could be spelled Anja, most native English speakers will default to the Y.

From my list? I really like Margot, particularly with Katherine. But I wonder if Chloe might appeal to you more? It’s not uncommon, but I think the complete and easily spelled qualities outweigh those issues.

Readers, over to you! What nickname-proof, not-too-popular, easily spelled and pronounced names would you suggest for Carrie and Mike’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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. How about Adelia? It’s a variant of Adele and is close to Amelia but unique. Amelie would also be a good choice, similar but less popular. Other options:
    Annora (Can also be spelled Honora)
    Halloran (nn Hallie)

  2. I wonder if a tweak of Amelia to Amelie would help? Or Amalia, or even Melia? All of these seems to encounter less spelling/pronunciation/nickname/popularity issues than Amelia.

    Instead of Nora: Nola? It meets your criteria and is much less common than Nora.

    Anya is lovely. Where I am, it could get 2 different pronunciations – AH-nya or ANN-ya. That may not be an issue where you are, but it’s something to consider. A similar name which could be worth considering is Sonya. I know a little Sonya and it is so refreshing!

    Eden works well. Other names that give me a similar feel are Afton, Fallon, Haven, Greer and Maren.

    Hallie also works. Another poster pointed out that there’s no obvious full first name for it (Halima?) so it does work well on its own. Perhaps spelling it Halle (like Halle Berry) would make it seem less nicknamey, but that could lead to spelling difficulties.

    Daisy – also great, and also stands alone. Other alternatives: Darcy or Dulcie (and Daphne as already suggested)

    Gwen – I can imagine her being asked what it’s short for (I know Gwenneths and Gwendas who go by Gwen, as well as Gwendolyn). Maybe something like Bronwen would appeal? Or Brynn or Quinn?

    Hadley – could be a winner. I think the connection with your husband’s co-worker isn’t really an issue as they probably won’t work together forever. Adley is another possibility if you want a bit of distance from Hadley.

    Tessa – stands well on its own, but could end up as Tess or assuming it’s short for Teresa or something else. I like Tara as an alternative.

    Kennedy – being a family name gives it extra points to me! Kennedy [Katherine] C@ne-Edw@rds is a lot of name, but it’s memorable and distinctive. It makes me want to suggest Emery or Melody (combining some sounds from Amelia with sounds from Kennedy).

  3. I had to google what Hallie could be a nickname for. I do wonder if you’d have a Halle, Haley, Hallie issue, though.

    I love Rose or maybe Jane. nature inspired names come to mind like Briar or Ivy.