Name 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!
I have followed your site forever, and am so excited to possibly get some suggestions from you for baby #2. I feel like we’ve got a few ideas, but nothing is set in stone.
After conducting almost all of my job over the phone, I’ve come to appreciate unique but pronounceable names. We have a daughter named Marlo Rose (I think I regret not spelling it Marlow, but my husband was firm!) and will not find out the gender of baby #2.
We’ve toyed around with the idea of naming all our girls with flower middle names, and any boys with water/nature names too … but that’s not a dealbreaker. I love Celtic, Irish, and Greek names, my husband prefers slightly more traditional American names.
For a girl, here are names we’ve played around with in any combination/no particular order: Eilis, Faye, Willa, and Phillipa. The middle names that have sounded okay with us so far are Iris and Violet, but we’re open.
For a boy, we’re a little more stuck. Our favorite names are as follows: Hugo or Hugh, Isaiah, Samuel, Henry, Levi. For middle names, I want to like Hudson (like the river) or Hilton (Hilton Head Island) because of family ties, but I’m not crazy about them – ha! Maybe with the right first name? With Samuel, we like Finn as a middle.
What do you think? I just can’t wait to see what you’re able to come up with!
Read on for my response, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on baby #2!
I think your shortlists are great – though I also wonder if some of the names really match up with your criteria.
Years ago, I heard the phrase phonetic transparency – names should be read as seen – and I think that’s what you’re describing. After all, Marlo could be Marlow or Marlowe, but none of the spellings are confusing. Mahrleaux, on the other hand, would be … complicated.
Popularity is a little tougher to pin down. Marlo was briefly popular in the 1960s and 70s, thanks to actress Marlo Thomas. But despite some high profile uses, Marlow and Marlowe remain outside of the US Top 1000. The other girl names on your list seem consistent with your desire for something uncommon.
But the boys’ names? The good news is that they all pass the phonetic transparency test with flying colors.
You’ve shortlisted some really stylish choices! Isaiah, Samuel, Henry, and Levi are all great choices, a mix of classical and Biblical picks – or both. But they’re all in the current US Top 50. That doesn’t mean your son will be one in a crowd with any of these names. We know three Sams, two Henrys, but only one Isaiah and no Levis. As they say, your mileage may vary. But the numbers suggest that all of these names are more likely to repeat.
Only Hugo and Hugh could be considered less common.
Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities.
Names for a Girl
Eilis is a lovely name, and Saoirse Ronan’s character in Brooklyn gave it a boost. Except it fails the phonetic transparency test. I really, really don’t want it to. But it does. You can certainly still use it, but I think you need to recognize that you’re going to spell this one maybe more often than you’ve ever had to spell Marlo. On the plus side, Marlo and Eilis sound like sisters to me.
Phillipa seems like a good choice, but I wonder about two things. First, would you use a nickname? Second, are you set on this spelling? Philippa – two ps – is the spelling used by Pippa Middleton, and while neither form is common, it’s my default. (Readers, I’d love to hear if you disagree!)
That leaves Faye and Willa, and I think they’re the strongest two choices. True, Faye can be Fay or Fae, but the -ye spelling is most common. Marlo and Faye feel vintage, but in a brisk, tailored way. Willa is an equally strong sister name for Marlo, but I think it’s a little more conventional a pick than Marlo. (And it’s just inside the current US Top 500.)
Other names to consider include:
- Maeve – It’s every bit as Irish as Eilis, but it’s definitely easier to pronounce. Maeve is about as popular as Willa – right inside the current Top 500.
- Esme – A literary name thanks to JD Salinger, more broadly familiar once it was used in the Twilight series. Esme is in the current Top 1000, and rising – but still less common than Maeve or Willa.
- Daphne – You mentioned liking Greek names, but I’m not sure there are any on your list. Daphne comes from Greek myth, and has a fun, upbeat sound. I think Marlo and Daphne are great together, though Daphne is in the current US Top 400, so it’s far more common than Marlo.
- Sylvie – Sylvie is wildly popular with Appellation Mountain readers, but remains outside of the US Top 1000 – so far.
Overall, I love the sound of Marlo Rose and Faye Violet, or maybe Marlo Rose and Willa Ivy. From my list, I like the idea of Maeve Iris or maybe Maeve Flora or Maeve Blossom.
Names for a Boy
Here’s the question with boys’ names: are your criteria the same as for girls? It sounds like your shortlist is different, in terms of name origins, as well as popularity.
There’s nothing wrong with this – I think it’s actually pretty common for parents to be slightly more conservative when naming boys. And I love the sound of Henry as a brother for Marlo. If popularity weren’t a concern, I’d absolutely put Henry at the top of the list.
Instead, your interest in something less common points to Hugo or Hugh. While both names are in the current US Top 1000 and rising, Hugo is just within the Top 500, and Hugh all the way out in the 840s. That’s not exactly Liam.
Normally, I’d say that Hugo is your name, except I wonder about how it sounds with sister Marlo. Or, maybe I should say this: if you had a third child, would you feel pressure to find another ends-with-o name? If you think the possibility of a third child is remote, or you’re not concerned about such things, then Marlo and Hugo are great together.
Marlo and Hugh are great, too – and I can imagine a little Hugh answering to Hugo as a nickname.
One other hesitation: Hugo Hudson and Hugo Hilton might not appeal to you. I actually love the names – Hugo Hudson gets my vote – but alliteration is not for everyone.
Let’s take a look at some other possibilities:
- Felix is a traditional name that’s on the rise in recent years. It’s just outside of the current Top 250. It has the same cool sound factor as Levi and Isaiah, but isn’t as likely to repeat. I think it sounds perfect with Marlo as a sister name.
- Peter is every bit as traditional as Samuel or Henry, but it’s just outside the current Top 200, so you’re much less likely to meet a little Peter today. Peter Pan, Peter Rabbit, and Pete’s Dragon make this one as storybook perfect as Alice or Eloise for girls. It grows up well, too – just think of musicians (Frampton, Gabriel), as well as actors, the artist Peter Paul Rubens, and royals, including Peter the Great.
- Ronan – Marlo and Ronan both share a strong, long ‘o’ sound. Ronan is an Irish name currently ranked in the 300s. One negative? It might be confused with Rowan and Roman, both also popular for boys. But it’s a strong, traditional Irish name for a son.
- Fintan – While we’re talking Irish names, you mentioned that Finn is one you’d consider for a middle. I wonder if you’d like Fintan – or Finnan, Finnian, Finley, Finnegan, or some other Finn name?
From your list, I really like Henry. Henry Hilton, or maybe Henry River, if you want something more obviously tied to the natural world? Except I bet you’ll meet other little Henrys, and that sounds like something you’d rather avoid.
That leaves Hugo, and I do think Hugo Hudson – or Hugh Hudson – is great. I also think Felix Hudson could be a great choice for Marlo Rose’s brother.
Readers, what would you suggest for a sister or brother name for Marlo Rose? Am I wrong about Eilis being tough to pronounce? Do you think Henry is too popular?
My name is Marlo. I have always been attracted to the names Freya and Esme.
What about the name Havy Iris? I also like Willa so sweet
lauren zmood says
Marlo and Freya. Better than faye to me. Can’t do Hugo have to do Hugh Hilton or Hugh Hudson even better. Marlo and Hugh or Marlo and Haigh. Haigh Hudson.
Oh and I totally forgot to add Thea in as a suggestion! Thea and Marlo! Or even Theodore and Marlo. Teddy and Marlo. Love it!
Also, Willa Ivy was a big hit with my husband. He says, “I’ve never loved Willa before, but Willa Ivy is REALLY pretty!”
I just love all the suggestions and props from you guys— one recent development! My sister just had a baby girl and decided on Finley– I think anything with “Fin” is out. Henley might be too close too.
Hugh I’ve always loved, plus it’s a family name. Problem is that Hugh and Rose are both from my husband’s side… Wondering is we want to even it out??
My grandfather was Loring. Hilton, Hudson are both from my side too. (Also, what do you think about Harpeth– a river near us?) Is Hugh Loring awful??
Kelsey d says
I LOVE Hugh Loring. Seriously. That name is so distinguished without sounding snobby, but also has that vintage retro feel that is in style now. Love it. Would totally stop there.
As for girl names – I love Willa and Faye. I actually think I prefer Marlo and Faye. I do like Phillipa but it gives off a different vibe than Marlo, IMO. And Eilis, will definitely have issues with pronunciation and spelling, which is ok, just something to be aware of.
I love both the names Iris and violet. Don’t think you can go wrong either way. Good luck!
Does it matter to your husband or maybe his family? Because nothing else says it has to be even. If it will cause tension, well, even that is a matter of degree – how much do you care?
Hugh Loring sounds great to me, and then I realized that it sounds a lot like that actor Hugh Laurie. But! You’re not likely to say it all that often, and he’s not that well known a guy, so it’s nowhere near a deal breaker in my mind. It’s a clean strong name.
F. E. J. says
Please don’t go with Henry! I’m a preschool teacher, and have -six- in my various classes. Six! Enough that two even have to go by first and last name, because their last names share an initial… of course, maybe you live somewhere where you only know baby Liams, and no Henrys. (I live in Seattle – here Henry is just the name of the moment, I guess – Henry and Vivian/Vivienne.)
I agree that Faye Violet is a gorgeous match for Marlo Rose. Other ideas: Amabel – Amabel Iris makes me swoon (!), and has a beautiful meaning. Lyra – Lyra Violet is so poetic-feeling to me, and the sounds in Marlo and Lyra compliment well. Phoebe – Greek, and seems like such a match for Marlo! Thora – fits the strength of Marlo, would be lovely with Hudson, if you’d let a girl have that, and being slightly more feminine than Marlo could carry Hudson.
For a boy, I think Arthur is a sweet match for Marlo – a shared sound, but different enough for no confusion. And I think it’s lovely with Hudson. Maybe Kieran is another possibility – an anglicization of Ciaran, a gorgeous old Irish name. Marlo Rose and Kieran River? Or maybe Jules. Jules Hudson would be a solid match for Marlo Rose.
Marlo Rose & Faye Violet
Marlo Rose & Amabel Iris
Marlo Rose & Lyra Violet
Marlo Rose & Phoebe Violet
Marlo Rose & Thora Hudson
Marlo Rose & Arthur Hudson
Marlo Rose & Kieran River
Marlo Rose & Jules Hudson
Henley Hilton would be a great choice. Marta Foxglove would be my other suggestion.
Marlo Rose & Marta Foxglove
Marlo Rose & Henley Hilton
P.S. I really like your choice in Marlo spelling. I’ve always come across the other spelling for men & for little boys. So it’s refreshing and looks feminine.
Hugh Hudson sounds absolutely perfect. I personally would not mind the alteration. For a girl Faye Violet is absolutely lovely.
They all work together as well.
Marlo and Hugh
Marlo and Faye
Marlo, Faye, and Hugh.
I also like the suggestion of Hank. It sounds a bit spunkier in comparison to toe Hugh.
Marlo and Hank.
Best of luck.
Seeing Eilis here makes me think that maybe Ellis would make a decent sibling name for Marlo?
Philippa is one of my all-time favorites, but I don’t know that there’s an established “default” spelling. However, I just checked the SSA data for last year and only Philippa appears.
Nah, Henry’s not too popular. Henry (or Hugh) and Marlo would go very nicely together!
The Mrs. says
Love Hugh for a son. It’s classic, manly, and underused.
Daphne is also a (marvelously fragrant) flower. Do you two like Faye Daphne?
Some new ideas:
I see you like lovely, classic names. Have you considered Delilah? Delilah Violet is music to my ears. And instead of Hudson, how about Hunter?
I love these names. I guess I’m pulling for Levi or Samual as boys names because they seem so happy go lucky. If Hudson or Hilton aren’t doing the trick for middles, what about Henderson after Henderson Lake, the (debatable) headwaters of the Hudson and a beautiful place.
I won’t suggest any more girl names because I feel that Willa or Faye is perfect with Marlo. I think Faye is my favorite actually. Marlo and Faye is a lovely sister set. I feel like I get a little tongue tied when saying Marlo and Willa. Since you like flower names in the middle but also like Celtic names I wonder if you would like Ainsley as a middle name. It’s Scottish and means “ones own meadow”. Faye Ainsley, Ainsley Faye.
From your list of boys names I think Hugh is the best match with Marlo but I like the suggestion of Felix the most. When you mentioned liking unique but pronounceable names I immediately thought of Stellan. It’s spelling leads to obvious pronunciation and I think it’s similar enough to the more traditional name of Kellen to perhaps get your husband on board with it. Plus it follows the popular 2 syllable, ends in -N pattern (think Aiden, Gavin, Ryan etc) that it feels familiar even though it in fact is pretty unique. It’s a Swedish name thought to mean “calm” and I think Stellan River, Stellan Hugo, Stellan Finn would all be wonderful pics. I like that Stellan River and Marlo Rose both have nature middles starting with R.
F. E. J. says
I thought of Stellan when reading this, too. Marlo and Stellan is nice.
Love Marlo. For me, it’s one of those odd pocket names, I actually know two and have met a third. Very funny that the sibsets are:
Marlowe & Esme (the dad is French)
Wyatt & Marlow
Wyatt & Marlo
Yup, two Wyatt & Marlo/w pairings! The Wyatt came first so I’m sure they were looking for something equally spunky.
For girls, I love Willa for you. Willa Violet is my vote.
For boys, I love Hugh & Marlo, and I totally agree with Abby on alliteration. Hugh Hudson.
You’ve got some awesome choices!!!
How about Hank or Neve?