Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed. (Wait, you say, it’s Sunday! Right you are. Thanks to March Madness Baby Names, these posts are moving to Sundays temporarily.)
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!
Kate and her husband Michael are expecting their first baby in just a few weeks!
I’ve always loved baby names, maybe that’s the problem – it’s so hard to pick just one! There are so many wonderful directions to go: traditional, family, unique, trendy, up and coming. We are not sharing names with friends or family so outside opinions are so very needed at this point. Throw in a desire to wait until our sweet little one is born to hear the words “it’s a…” and now we are stumped! I will bring you up speed on where we are currently with the process.
Kate and her husband have a good shortlist for a son or a daughter, but narrowing it down is tricky. Read on for their lists – and my response! And please remember to add your comments and ideas, too.
If it’s a girl:
- Kirra – The spelling comes from Kirra Beach in Australia. Dad’s suggestion, and probably their #1 choice right now. But will that unusual spelling be a problem? Kate would prefer to drop an ‘r’ and spell it Kira.
- Mckenna – Dad’s full name is Michael Kenneth. Kate writes “Love the father-daughter tie. Might like the link more than the name.”
- Linley – A combination of family names Linda and Lee. I agree with Kate’s take on this one – it’s a modern name with a unisex feel, but I’d guess that Linley was a girl.
If it’s a boy:
Kate adds her instincts tell her she’s having a boy! And while she wants something outside of the US Top 25, it’s hard to “see many of the names like on a man, not just a little boy.” They initially narrowed the list to Will, Lucas, Cooper, Beckett, Emmett, and Elliott. Now it’s down to:
- Will (or maybe William) – It’s a huge name in Kate’s family, and her husband’s family, too. Kate says: William is such a strong family tie – melts my heart. But popularity is a concern. Plus, what middle name works with Will? Will Michael, Will Kenneth, Will Howland (from the place where they got engaged)?
- Luke (or maybe Lucas) – A name that Kate just likes, and less popular than William. Another bonus: Kate, Mike, and Luke all have a strong ‘k’ sound, but aren’t too similar.
- Cooper – Less traditional and less common than Will/Luke. It’s also the name of a favorite island Kate and Mike recently visited. But is this more of a dog’s name? (Kate’s met a few canine Coopers.) And how ’bout the fact that it rhymes with pooper?
They’re also open to new suggestions.
Before we get to the names, here are a few things that jump out at me:
- It seems like the best possible names for you have some personal significance. Even Luke, which you initially say is a name you just like, makes for a pleasing trio with Kate and Mike in a way that feels meaningful.
- I hear your concerns about popularity, but just looking at the Top Ten or Top 100 isn’t always enough to understand just how common (or unusual) a name might feel. More insights here.
- Back in the 1940s, Gary was a child’s name. There were almost no grandpa Garys. Now the situation is reversed – Gary is the grandpa to Logan or Benjamin or Jack. That means that names popular today will eventually sound like respectable names for a grown-up, if only because all of the kids with those names will, in fact, grow up.
In brief: we’re looking for a modern meaningful name for your firstborn.
Looking at your girls’ list:
- I love that Kirra is a meaningful place name, but I share your hesitation over the double-r spelling. Then again, your daughter will have to spell her name anyway. (Keira, Kiera, Kyra, Ciara …) And so it’s not the end of the world to consider an alternative spelling. If you do spell the name Kira, you can still claim inspiration from the beach.
- Mckenna is such a clever way to honor your husband! But if popularity is a concern, Mckenna may very well disappoint. Mckenna has been steadily popular since the late 1990s. Factor in the equally popular spelling Makenna, and I think Mckenna feels more popular than the numbers suggest.
- My favorite from your list: Linley. I love the smoosh quality of the name. It also brings to mind Viscount Linley – the son of the late Princess Margaret. And it is a real surname, too. So Linley is rare, but feels like a stylish possibility rich with potential. Kaylee, Hadley, Presley, Marley … Linley. Novel but perfectly wearable.
And now, the boys’ list:
- Cooper ranked in the US boys’ Top 100 in recent years. It’s definitely a name I’ve heard around the playground. It probably feels rarer because you likely didn’t know anyone named Cooper growing up – in 1990, the name ranked #706, and was unranked for most of the twentieth century.
- Luke is actually much more popular than Cooper. So is Lucas. It’s a great name, and have that subtle k in common is a fun way to link your names.
- My favorite from your list: Will. Just Will. I’m the nicknaming-type, but there are plenty of good reasons to skip the formal name. Will Howland is my favorite combination from your list, but Will Kenneth and Will Michael are equally strong possibilities.
It’s tough to suggest names in this case, because you’re drawing from personal history and places of significance – and I think that’s a great way to choose a name. So let’s say this: if you love Cooper’s ends-in-r style, but fret about possible rhymes, there are tons of ends-in-r names for boys. Archer, Parker, Thatcher, Walker? Looking at Luke and Will, I think you might like a single-syllable name, too. Finn, Nate, Kai?
Girls’ names ending in -ley are also a big list: Kenley, Hadley, Waverly. If one of those strikes a chord with you, I think they’d be good alternatives to Linley. (Though Linley is still my favorite.) Other names that honor dad: Mika, Kenley, Micah.
Let’s have two polls, girls first:
And for the boys:
Update: He’s here! See Kate’s comment below about how they chose William Michael, called Will, for their son. What a handsome, meaningful choice for their family!
Thank you all for your thorough and thoughtful name help! Sorry for the delay in reporting back on the name we chose for our first sweet baby BOY!
Our son, William Michael, was born May 2015. We decided to name him William after his maternal grandfather and Michael after his paternal grandfather – both grandfathers were moved to tears when they heard the news! We call him Will almost exclusively.
Will is now 7 months old and the baby name planning begins again as we start to think about a sibling for our son.
We love the suggestion of Linley McKenna for a girl. For a boy, his middle name will be Patrick but his first name still eludes us.
Names I currently like for a boy but have no specific significance:
Girl names I like:
I love Kirra. Also love the beach in Coolangatta. Kirra. – i would not change the spelling. What about a middle name? Any more suggestions?
Nic- is the female form of Mac-/Mc-, and Ni- is the female form of O’-, so I’d suggest Nickenna or Nikenna as a middle name for a girl. Kendra is another possibility.
I like Kendall and Mackenzie for a boy [my g-g-g-g-grandfather was a Kenzie].
Makena and Ekene are unisex names meaning “happy one”, and “praise”, respectively, and they can be spelled using letters in Michael Kenneth. Some other ‘ken’-containing male names using those letters: Ikenna, Kenan, Kenelm, Kenhelm, Kenith, Kennet, Kent, Kenta, Kentin, Mackenna, Mckenna.
Some other names you can spell from his name [eliminating any three- and four-letter names for a bit of brevity (there are a lot!) ;-)]…
boy: Achim, Ahmet, Aimen, Akeem, Akemi, Akhil, Alcee, Amiel, Ancel, Ancelin, Anice, Anicet, Anthelme, Anthime, Antime, Camel, Camelien, Camil, Celian, Celien, Celim, Celin, Cemal, Cemil, Cenek, Cenhelm, Cetin, Chaim, Chane, Chant, Cheikh, Chetan, Chiemeka, Chima, Cihan, Clement, Clementin, Clint, Eemeli, Eemil, Ehmet, Eitan, Ekain, Elchin, Elcin, Elkan, Emeka, Emile, Etane, Etele, Ethan, Etienne, Hacen, Hacene, Hachim, Hailee, Hakem, Hakim, Halie, Halim, Halit, Hamit, Hamlet, Hamnet, Hane, Hanicet, Hanke, Hankin, Hatem, Hatim, Heckie, Heith, Helian, Helmi, Henne, Henneke, Hicham, Hichame, Hichem, Hikmet, Icham, Ichem, Ilane, Ilann, Ilham, Ilhame, Ilhan, Ilhem, Ithel, Kacem, Kacie, Kaelen, Kailen, Kalin, Kamel, Kamen, Kamil, Keane, Keenan, Keilan, Keith, Kelan, Kelcie, Kelian, Kelli, Kellie, Kemal, Kemen, Kemil, Ketil, Khani, Kinlee, Klemen, Klement, Kliment, Lachie, Lehen, Leith, Lekan, Lenaic, Lenaick, Lennie, Machli, Mahel, Mahli, Maikel, Malek, Malick, Malik, Manel, Manlee, Matei, Matelin, Mathelin, Matic, Mecit, Meical, Meine, Meint, Melech, Melek, Melih, Melik, Metin, Micael, Micah, Michel, Mickael, Micke, Mihael, Mihkel, Mikael, Mikel, Mikele, Mikhael, Milan, Milen, Mitch, Mitchel, Mladen, Nacim, Nacime, Nahel, Nahim, Naime, Nathel, Neacel, Nechtan, Neelie, Nehemia, Nehemie, Netan, Netanel, Nethan, Nethanel, Taneli, Taniel, Teman, Temel, Tennie, Thane, Tinek
girl: Aelie, Aileen, Ailen, Ailene, Aimee, Aithne, Akemi, Aleit, Alene, Alice, Aline, Amee, Amele, Ameli, Amelie, Ameline, Anceline, Anelie, Anick, Anneke, Anneli, Annelie, Annice, Annick, Annie, Annik, Athene, Atheni, Caelie, Caeline, Caleen, Caline, Camelie, Cameline, Cateline, Cathel, Catheleen, Catheline, Cathie, Cathleen, Cathline, Catleen, Catline, Celena, Celia, Celiane, Celie, Celina, Celine, Cemile, Chanele, Chani, Chann, Cheima, Chika, Chita, Ciela, Cilka, Cleena, Cleita, Clementa, Clementia, Clementie, Clementina, Cleta, Eemelia, Eemila, Eileen, Eilene, Eithne, Elaine, Elane, Elena, Elene, Eleni, Elham, Eliane, Elianne, Elicia, Elien, Elina, Eline, Elita, Emalee, Emelia, Emelie, Emelina, Emeline, Emilee, Emina, Emine, Eneka, Etain, Etelka, Etheline, Ethna, Ethne, Halime, Hannele, Hanneke, Hannie, Hatice, Hekate, Helaine, Helee, Heleen, Heleena, Helen, Helena, Helene, Heliena, Helka, Helma, Helmi, Helmine, Hemera, Henna, Iahel, Ianthe, Ielena, Ielene, Ilean, Ileen, Ilena, Ilene, Ilheme, Imane, Inacie, Intan, Kalie, Kaline, Kamile, Kanti, Katel, Katelin, Kateline, Kathe, Kathel, Katheleen, Katheline, Kathi, Kathie, Kathleen, Kathline, Katie, Katleen, Katline, Keila, Kelia, Keliane, Kemila, Kenna, Kleia, Kleita, Klementa, Klemente, Klementia, Klementie, Klementina, Klementine, Kleta, Klimentina, Laeticie, Laine, Leane, Leann, Leanne, Lecia, Leean, Leeann, Leeanne, Leena, Leina, Lenka, Lenna, Letha, Leticie, Liane, Liann, Lianne, Lieke, Linnea, Lital, Maele, Maelenn, Maelet, Maeleth, Maelice, Maelie, Maeline, Mahin, Maike, Maine, Maite, Manel, Manele, Mateline, Matheline, Mathie, Meckele, Meena, Meike, Meital, Meklit, Melanie, Melati, Melecha, Meleka, Melena, Melene, Melete, Melia, Meliane, Melicent, Melie, Melika, Melike, Melina, Meline, Melita, Metea, Michaele, Michela, Micheline, Mieke, Miela, Mikaeline, Milane, Milena, Milene, Milica, Milka, Minna, Minta, Nacie, Naemi, Naile, Naime, Nance, Nancie, Nanee, Nannie, Neale, Neela, Neila, Neith, Nekane, Nelia, Nelie, Nelinha, Niame, Niamet, Niamh, Nienke, Niketa, Nimet, Ninel, Nkechi, Nneka, Talin, Taline, Tecla, Tehani, Tehila, Tekla, Telia, Telma, Thalie, Thecla, Theia, Thekla, Thela, Thelma, Thema, Timea, Tineke
unisex: Aethel, Amice, Amine, Athel, Chanel, Chante, Chantel, Chike, China, Clemente, Clementine, Elain, Elian, Enitan, Ethel, Hanne, Heath, Heike, Helia, Hennie, Hikmat, Ikram, Ilham, Ilhame, Ilhem, Kaelee, Kalie, Keahi, Keala, Keelan, Keelie, Keelin, Lacie, Lance, Linnet, Macie, Maile, Manlie, Mannie, Melaine, Micha, Michal, Michele, Minke, Neelam, Nilam, Nimat, Tacie, Teale, Thanh, Thank, Thien
C in DC says
I love Linley. Other suggestions: Malcolm, Kendall, Dale, Deke/Deacon.
My only concern about Kirra is that I automatically pronounce it with a short i…which is fine if that’s how you’re pronouncing it to, but potentially annoying if you are pronouncing it with a long i. But I think that either Kirra or Linley would be a very pretty choice.
For boys, I want to suggest Lee…I think Lee would work very well on a little boy, and since you like Will & Luke it seems like a simple, one syllable name might be your style. I also know of a baby named Leland, which could work as an honor name for Lee + Linda (or Lee + Howland)….if you didn’t mind not having Linley as an option for a future girl.
I would sidestep the popularity of William by putting it in the middle. Lee William, Lucas William, or Cooper William are all very handsome names.
sorry…I’m forgetting basic phonics. I say Keera, which I guess is a long e not a short i. I could probably get used to saying Kur-rhymes with her-a. I’d be a little confused if the pronunciation was Ki-rhymes with hi-rra…but would accept it if somebody told me there was a beach in Australia pronounced that way.
That’s the key for me, too. I can hear the explanation: “It’s spelled Kirra, K-I-R-R-A. I’m named after Kirra Beach in Australia.” And I think it would click for most people.
Kirra beach – short.i like in itch – with an Aussie accent anyway 🙂
The Aussie ‘ɪ’ [as in itch] sounds like ‘i’ [as in beach] to most Americans, so it would be the same as Kira/Kiera/Ciara here.
McKenna, Makenna, MacKenna, etc. it has more use than any one spelling would suggest. I know… 4 I think? It has a pretty sound but I’d only use it as a middle name.
Kira I love. Kirra is cute too and would be my runner up but 1st for me would be Kira. Partly for simplicity and partly because one of the other meanings for Kira is ‘sun’ – beach + sun makes me smile.
I really like Lee as a middle name (it’s on my own list) as its breezy and crisp and unexpected. But I find Linley just sorta… mushy… with all the Tinsley/Kinsley/Kayley/Bayley type names. Could be my own damage but no love.
I like Connor, Corbin, Clay, and Cael.
But none of those were options and I went with Luke. I also like Levi.
My cousin’s name is Lynley!! Different spelling, but I’ve always loved her name. My aunt got the inspiration from a friend in college who was an exchange student – who was also a girl.
I love either Linley or Kirra. I don’t think the extra r is that big a deal (My name is Kimberley, with an extra e at the end. My brother’s name is Scot, with one t. He’s had a tougher time with it, but it hasn’t been insurmountable for either of us. Mom had a story for him, as you will, and he likes being a little different.) Using McKenna as a middle is brilliant, IMO.
I was leaning toward Will, and then I read the comments, and swung back over to my usual spot – William. You don’t ever have to use the formal name if you don’t want to, but it gives him the choice.
Megan M. says
I like Linley! My brain kind of wants to make it Lindley, with a D, not sure why, but it wouldn’t necessarily be something that other people do. The suggestion of Linley McKenna is inspired! I like McKenna way more as a middle than a first.
For boys, I picked Luke because I thought the ‘K’ connection was pretty cool, but then you have to consider how you might continue that with more children. I’m usually a proponent of the “name them what you plan to call them/nickname name” strategy, but “just Will” kind of looks wrong to me. Any middle name paired with it makes me think “Will Kenneth or won’t he?” like it’s the beginning of a sentence. But then again, very rarely are peoples’ full names written out that way – birth announcements, graduation/wedding invitations are pretty much it, right? But I agree that a majority of people will assume his full name is William, and that may cause a problem with paperwork or mail in the future.
I like the combo Linley Mckenna. It gives her the trendier Mackenna, but tucked away.
For a boy, I’d suggest Willis, Wilhelm, Wilson, or William and call him Will. Will is a great name, but I think it’ll likely cause confusion as he gets older.
I *love* the idea of Linley Mckenna! And those are great ideas for longer names for Will, too.
While I typically go for the long name and then shorten it, and I think William is a really great name, I think you should go with Will. It’s a family connection but with a twist.
You both have 4 letter names so it will be another connection.
For girls I like Linley the best. I think Kirra is pretty too.
I know a 30-something Will, just Will. He actually dislikes it a lot because people assume it’s William. I know another guy named Ben, just Ben, and he has had issues with people filling out paperwork as Benjamin because they assume that’s his full name. This may not be a major hassle for you or for your baby (if it’s a boy), but it’s something to consider.