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 a music teacher married to another musician, and we’re expecting our first child in the spring. We like lots of names, but we keep going back and forth on one big question: should we choose a name that reflects our love of music?
We have friends (also musicians) who named their daughter Cadence, and I really liked that idea, but I feel like Cadence is taken. We’ve talked about Aria and Harmony for a girl. I’m not sure if there are any names like this for a boy.
But mostly, I can’t decide if names like this are right for us, or just kind of silly? And if we name our first child something like this, do we give all of our kids the same kinds of names? (Maybe that’s thinking too far ahead!)
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Hi Shannon –
Congratulations on your first child!
In some ways, the answer to your question is short: if you want to use a musically-themed name, then of course you should!
But let’s talk about the rules of naming your first child:
- First, there are no rules. Okay, I do not believe you should name your child Lucifer. And some first-last combinations are awkward, and some initials could be problematic. But 99% of the names you come up with are going to be perfectly wearable choices that would serve your child well
- But general preferences can help. Do you like shorter names or longer names? Do you want to honor your Irish roots? Is having a built-in nickname important? It’s hard to think about these things in the abstract, as a first-time parent. But you’ve had a name your whole life! Reflecting on what you like or dislike about your own name is a good starting point.
- Building in meaning is never a mistake. A great story can protect against name regret. Name your child for a favorite great aunt, the movie you saw on your first date, or a life-long passion. Fashions change, but such reasons endure – and give you a story to tell your child.
- Flexibility helps, too. Some families blithely name their children things like Harmony Madrigal, and it works out just fine. But I’d rather grow up as Harmony Madeline – with a more conventional middle name waiting in case it turns out I can’t carry a tune.
- Your first child’s name may rule out choices for future children, but it doesn’t necessarily set a pattern. When we called our daughter Clio, we knew it meant crossing Theodore off our list. But it certainly didn’t mean that all future children had to be named for minor members of the Greek pantheon.
So I do think it’s a good idea to consider a musical name, and I don’t think that giving your first child a musical name sets an unbreakable pattern. After two or three kids, it starts to feel more necessary to continue, for fear of leaving out a younger sibling. But after one? Nope.
Here are three ways to incorporate your shared love of music into a child’s name:
Musical Baby Names: Mainstream Musical First
Especially when it comes to girls’ names, there are plenty of mainstream favorites that would wear well. Aria stands at #23. Harmony, Melody, and Cadence all rank in the Top 500. On the boys’ side, Reed might feel like a stretch – but it really depends on the kind of instruments you play! And we tend to think of Harper as literary, but it could count as musical, too.
While these names are clearly musical, they’re also just great names that lots of parents are considering. That makes them seem like less of a gimmick, and also decrease the pressure to repeat a similar name for a future child.
Musical Baby Names: Familiar First, Bold Middle
Another option might be to choose a really bold musical name, but put it in the middle spot. Think Logan Chord. William Madrigal. Ella Rhapsody.
This approach allows you to choose a clearly musical name, but reserves it for occasional use. If you’re not sure about using a musical baby name, it’s a good approach.
Of course, you could just as easily use a mainstream musical name. Ella Harmony or Logan Reed works just as nicely!
I’ve compiled a list of musical baby names here.
Musical Baby Names: Honor a Favorite Musician
If neither of these approaches feels quite right, would you consider honoring a favorite musician? Not every Lennon is the child of a Beatles fan, and some parents probably choose Hendrix for sound alone. But it can signify a favorite artist, too, and there’s no shortage of possibilities.
Some of these wear well as given names; but you might also reserve Wolfgang or Vivaldi for the middle spot.
If you’re looking for rock and roll surname names, I’ve compiled a list here.
All of the approaches work equally well. If you’re on the fence, I think the middle name option works the best.
But overall, I’m inclined to say that a musical name is a good thing for you. And that’s because you like lots of names. So do I! Without some criteria for narrowing your list, you’ll still have a dozen good options on the day your child arrives. And that can be frustrating and stressful. Deciding that this child’s name will have a musical meaning of some kind helps you start to choose just a few final favorites, and test out which ones feel most like The Name.
Readers, let’s hear from you. What do you think of musical names for the child of musicians? And what are your favorite musical names?
Zena Eve says
Octavia! I know it literally means ‘eight’, but as a musician I’ve always drew a connection to the word octave as well. Plus, Tavi would be a cute nickname.
I love Coda and Lyric. I think music names are great if that’s meaningful to you. And it’s sometimes hard to imagine but if you keep having kids, you also keep having life full of other meanings from which to draw name inspiration! It’s not like music is it for you forever.
Oh – this! “you also keep having life full of other meanings from which to draw name inspiration” – love, love, love. Beautifully said, Stefanie!
I don’t think exploring musical name options is silly at all! I think all that matters in the end is that you truly love the name. It’s common for people to inspire their children’s names from things they love… it seems very appropriate that you use something musical. 🙂
You could always use it as a middle if it feels “corny” or such?
Regardless, make a list of what you love. And don’t feel silly about any of them being musical. 🙂
You could use Ray for a boy as in do ray mi
This might feel overboard, but if you wanted the musical name to be subtler in everyday use, you could tuck it into the first AND middle together. Most people don’t know other people’s midfle names, so it would be more subtle.
You could name a daughter…
Claire Annette (clarinet)
Viola Lynn (violin)
Mary Ember (marimba)
Or a son…
Tim Pany (timpany–I’d work on the middle a bit)
SO glad to see Santana on this list! Santana is my surname through marriage. The name we chose for my son is one we love, but very popular (it was number 1 name for years until VERY recently). The middle name, Homero, is one we love equally and is an important family name. It might be too unusual for him to go by as far as a “backup” name, however. I had thought that maybe if he grows up and shared his name with too many other people, he could start to go by his surname instead. This makes me think that idea was not too bad! Either as a surname or first name it is a pretty cool name.
The Mrs. says
Forte is a terrific middle name for a boy! With the meaning of ‘strength’, what guy wouldn’t love that?
Classical composers might figure into your options, too. It would give an international flair to your children’s names.
It’s wise that you are thinking this through on your FIRST child.
How could any child being raised in such a musical family not value the magic of it? This idea is a beautiful way make them feel loved and wanted from the beginning!
I do not think it’s silly to use a musical name and I don’t think this locks you into only using musical names for future children, as Abby stated above – as long as their names have meaning for you, it does not have to be a consistent theme.
Can I suggest Cecilia/Cecily for a girl, after the patron saint of musicians?
And Lyra for a girl.
We considered going this route too and ultimately decided against a musical name, but only because we decided our favorite name was not musical and it was more important to us to choose our favorite than adhere to or start a theme.
One musical name that is often overlooked is Carol. Very vintage, but I think it is super cute! You can also go with Carolyn or Caroline, which is both more contemporary and subtle.
Super cute! And very Christmas-y :).