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!
We have three sons: Oliver, Owen, and Sawyer. Oliver and Owen were easy choices. With Sawyer, we knew we didn’t want another O name, and we really didn’t have a name picked out until we were in the hospital. I love his name now, but I don’t want to go through that again!
We are expecting our fourth (and last) child in October. It’s a girl! After naming three boys, you’d think I would have a long list of girl names. But we’re finding ourselves stuck again.
Names we can’t use:
- Ava, Leah, Hazel, Meredith (nieces)
- Olivia (because Oliver), Rowan (because Owen), Harper (because Sawyer, or are we overthinking this one?) – we considered Olivia, Rowan, and Harper with earlier pregnancies.
- Clara, Amelia, Cora – my husband doesn’t like “old-fashioned names” except that sometimes he does
My husband’s favorite is Quinn, but it was on our boy list for Owen and Sawyer, so it feels boyish, and kind of used up, if that makes any sense.
I really like Eleanor and Penelope. But I dislike nicknames Ellie and Penny, so maybe we shouldn’t risk it?
We’re stuck. Help!
Please read on for my response, and leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Rachelle –
Congrats on your new baby! It sounds like you’ve got a good idea of what you like in boy names. While I can’t quite put Oliver, Owen, and Sawyer into a single style category, they sound like brothers. All three names count as modern favorites, names with history that are currently quite stylish.
Many parents favor a slightly different style when naming daughters. Naming a daughter probably feels like starting from scratch.
The good news? Eleanor, Penelope, and Quinn all qualify as modern favorites. I can imagine any of them as sister names for your boys.
Here’s what leaps out at me:
- You probably want a shorter, nickname-resistant name. While plenty of kids answer to Isabella-not-Bella and William-not-Will, no one can promise that your third grader won’t come home and announce she’s Penny, not Penelope. You might opt for a name with a nickname you love; otherwise, I’d lean towards something that
- Feminine, but frills-free might be the best style match. Penelope makes for a longer, more elaborate, and obviously feminine pick. Quinn feels brief and boyish – even though it ranks more highly for girls. There’s plenty of room for middle ground between the two extremes.
- Let’s not worry too much about “old-fashioned.” Sometimes parents say they want – or want to avoid – old-fashioned names and it seems pretty clear what they’re going for. But in this case, it seems like your husband might like some names with more history. After all, your sons’ names boast plenty of backstory. A sweetly old-fashioned name that feels at home in the twenty-first century seems likely to appeal to your husband, even if he won’t consider truly antique picks like Eglantine.
Now, to the names:
Alice – For many years, more elaborate Al- names held sway. We named our daughters Alyssa and Alicia and Alexandra. But today, Alice ranks in the US Top 100. It’s nickname-resistant, feminine but not frilly, and sounds like a sister for Oliver, Owen, and Sawyer.
Claire – You’ve mentioned that Quinn strikes you as masculine. I wonder if your husband would go for a traditionally feminine name that happens to be equally brief? Classic Claire comes to mind immediately, but there are plenty of slim, trim names for girls, like Kate, Grace, June, and Mae.
Eloise – Eleanor and Penelope both have a strong “el” sound, so I wonder if other Ellie names might appeal? I think Eleanor and Penelope could easily go through life nickname-free, but the shorter the name, the more likely it is to happen. (The ultimate “el” sound name that also fits in the spare and elegant category? Elle.)
Hadley – If you liked the idea of Harper, but want something that doesn’t repeat Sawyer’s sound, would another H surname work? Hadley comes to mind immediately, a surname-name like Harper and Quinn that feels familiar for girls in our Ashley-Hailey age.
Ivy – Short names can pack a powerful style punch. At just three letters, Ivy still boasts a strong, distinctive sound. It might be called vintage or even “old-fashioned,” but Ivy feels very much at home in the twenty-first century.
Rose – I almost listed Rose with the Claire names, but I think it deserves a separate spot. If you really liked Rowan, Rose might appeal. Word names, color names, and nature names dominate trend lists today, and Rose belongs in each of those categories. And yet, Rose names claim centuries of use.
Ruby – Ruby qualifies as antique. But I’d call Ruby colorful and bold, a name with history that wears beautifully in our era. Like Ivy, it fits with the nickname-proof choices, and feels feminine without being too elaborate.
Stella – I suspect your husband isn’t crazy about two-syllable, ends-in-a names for girls. Or at least he tends to dismiss them as old-fashioned, right? And yet, I think Stella might make for a good compromise. It feels a little bit edgy, includes the strong ‘el’ sound you’re drawn to, but remains pretty simple and straightforward – a true modern favorite.
I usually can name a favorite at this point, but I’m torn! Eloise would probably be my top choice, but possibilities like Hadley seem promising, too. This list might have some more great ideas, too.
Let’s turn it over to the community. I know they’ll have some great insights and suggestions!
Readers, what would you name a sister for Oliver, Owen, and Sawyer?
What about the name Fallon. It means daughter of the ruler. It’s unusual but distinguished. Good luck.
Kelly Anderson says
Sylvie or Sylvia
I like Abbey’s suggestions of Alice, Ivy and Stella!
Soren or Poppy
Hadley, Riley, Finley, Elliot.
Sara M says
I have a Penelope, hate the nickname Penny, and she is not called Penny. Except sometimes I call her my PennyPopsicle. No one else calls her Penny though. It can be done. It wasn’t even actually that hard, but once she could speak and reiterated her own desire to be called Penelope, no one even tries it any more.
Bianca Gibson says
Lucy, Rose, Nora, Hazel, and Phoebe all sound like perfect compliments to your boys.
I immediately thought of Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, and Paige.
I really like Stella, and then you have 2 children with O names and two with S 🙂
Has to be an S name or it feels off balance as a sibset to my OCD brain. I love Sienna, Sierra, Skyler, Sybil, or Savannah. Stella is my favorite bulldog name. Cici or Sissy for nickname.
Love Hadley and Stella in this set. Eloise and Ivy too. All great suggestions 🙂 I would also suggest Teagan.
Or Isla or Lucy?
How about Raya or Mallory?
Laura Powell says
Fern instantly came to my mindwhen reading the post, I think it goes really well with sibling names
Others I think go well are:
Skylar – similar to Harper (as Owen shares Oliver’s initial perhaps this baby could share Sawyer’s)
I feel like an S name would be perfect here, so I’ll add Sasha and Sybil and Sabine. Sienna is my other fave for you. Although I’m also liking those punchy one-syllables that people are suggesting, like Tess and Gwen. Are you daring enough for Fleur? Or Flora? Juno? Zara?
There are lots of great ideas here so far. I particularly like Abby’s suggestion of Stella – it’s feminine and spunky, and has history while feeling modern.
Here are some more thoughts:
Abby linked to some of these. I thought I’d put in a word for a few:
Elsa (or Elsie, if Elsa’s too ‘Frozen’) – Fits really well with your boys’ names. Modern-sounding and spunky.
Helen – shares a lot of sounds with Eleanor, but is rarely shortened to Ellie. If Helen is too ‘old-fashioned’ for your husband, there’s Elin, Eleni, Ellen, Helena, Helene (etc), but I think the tailored Helen is charming with your boys’ names.
Belle – again, that ‘el’ sound, but unlikely to become ‘Ellie’. Bella is another option, though she might share her name with a few ‘Isabella-called-Bella’s.
These remind me of Penelope, without the ‘Penny’ nickname:
Phoebe – another Greek, mythological name. It’s old, but tailored an modern-sounding. It’s familiar, but not in the top 100.
Piper – Piper reminds me of Harper and Quinn. It’s modern and sleek. Pippa (either as a stand-alone or a nn for Phillipa) fits here, too.
Pearl – old-fashioned, perhaps, but also sleek, frills-free and nickname-resistant.
If you want another ‘s’ name to balance out Owen and Oliver (though I can’t think of anything better than Stella!):
Scarlett – Spunky, modern and feminine
Sadie – perhaps a little ‘old-fashioned’ for your husband, but it feels spunky and fresh to me
Sienna/Siena – another modern but feminine choice
These names remind me of Harper:
Marlowe/Marlow/Marlo – like Harper, Marlowe has literary cred: it’s the name of one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. This fits nicely with Sawyer, of course, but Oliver and Owen are also literary figures (Oliver is a knight in the medieval Song of Roland, while Owain mab Urien becomes Sir Yvain in the stories of King Arthur). Like Harper, Marlowe (or Marlow or Marlo – choose your preferred spelling) feels at home in the modern playground
Harlow – more familiar, although less literary, than Marlowe. Harlow splits the difference between Harper and Marlowe, both in sound and popularity.
frills-free nature names
Inspired by Rowan:
Willow – picks up on the ‘w’s, ‘l’s and ‘o’ sounds of your boys’ names. Willow feels sleek, modern and feminine
Aspen – another sleek tree-name
Hazel – possibly too ‘old-fashioned’for your husband, but definitely at home on the playground in 2017!
Eden – not a tree, but another modern-sounding, frills-free, nature name
All the best of luck, and congratulations!
I’m here to vote for Harper! Not close to Sawyer at all in my opinion and goes so well. Otherwise, I’m getting an Irish vibe from the boys, so I thought of Maeve or Maisie. Fiona works too from the suggestions. But Maeve is pretty perfect! There is one at my son’s daycare and it’s really sweet on a little girl…
I’ll throw out Lucy because
a. I have one
b. All of your boy names are on my list!
I also like the idea of
LOVE the suggestion of Scout! That would be perfect!
Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, and Scout <3
I love the suggestions of Rose and Stella with brothers names. (Also like the S to go with brother Sawyer.) For the only girl in a sea of boys I would go with a more feminine name. I suggest Gwen, part of my own double barreled first name, is brief and rhymes with Quinn while still being spunky and girlish.
The Mrs. says
Lily would nicely compliment your contingent of gentlemen. Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Lily.
Or if you’d like to give Sawyer a sibling with whom he could share an initial, how about Seren? (It’s Welsh for ‘star’). Oliver & Owen, Sawyer & Seren.
If Seren isn’t quite right, there’s tailored and elegant Maren. Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Maren.
And, as offbeat as this last suggestion may sound, what are your feelings about Rosemary? She’s as botanical as Rowan, classic as Eleanor, charming as Cora, and as fresh as Quinn. Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, and Rosemary.
Best wishes as you welcome your precious daughter!
Alice and Ruby from Abby’s suggestions sound just right with your boys’ names. Especially Alice. Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, and Alice just complement each other so well!
What about Blythe? It has a similar vibe to Quinn. Plus, I think it sounds like it fits well with your boys’ names: Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, and Blythe.
Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Daisy
Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Lane/Lanie
Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Phoebe
Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Sage (or Saige)
Oliver, Owen, Sawyer, & Iris
Maren, Stella, Blair, Tess
I like a 3 syllable name with these boys. How about Lilibeth, nickname Beth.
How about Nora? Could be a nn for Eleanor but also could stand alone nicely.
Nancy Gomez says
Exactly what I was going to suggest.
I really like Stella or Tess with these boys names. I love something decidedly feminine but strong.
How about Lois… It’s short, spunky, feminine, retro and fairly nickname resistant.
C in DC says
Viola or Violet popped into my head just looking at the other names. Audrey would be a good fit too. Vivian, Sophie, Jane, Vale, Kelsey, Becca, Avery, Maris, Marin, Bronwyn, Tanith, Anne, Annabelle, Anneliese.
Megan M. says
Ooh, I love the idea of Sloane! The O’s and W’s in your boy names really stand out to me and my brain wants to keep that with your girl name, so Sloane definitely works.
Hmm I might be completely off target with this one but what about Fiona? It’s not short like Quinn but it is very feminine like Eleanor and Penelope but it’s also nickname proof. Plus it has that long O sound in it like Olivia.
I know two families that named a girl after three boys. The first names their daughter Rose. The second did Margaret nn Maggie. I think both names are great fits in your family too!
I think Claire or Blair could work nicely. I also like Hadley for you. I wanted to suggest Ainsley and Darby and Maisie. Or Finley or Sloane. Lauren or Tory or Tess could also work. Oh, and Romy, Rory and Remy.
How about Sloane? Or Sylvie? Then you could have two O names and two S names.
Sylvie is a great suggestion!
Zoe Hare says
How about Effie i think it goes well with the names you already have , although it’s an older name it has modern flair with being forwarded in the media with hit tv show Skins and huge film trilogy Hunger Game’s .
If you want something very girly I’m loving Mabel , Maisy and Aurora. And opt for having Quinn as her middle name.
I love Quinn with these brothers.
I love Quinn too!