Name Help: Fifth ChildName 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!

Kari writes:

We are adopting our 5th child and are (hopefully!) getting close to a match.

Our oldest daughters are Tessa Kate and Ruby Iris. We chose Ruby before it became more popular, and now meet little Ruby’s quite often!

Our son, Leo William, is 6. We named him after my dad, Leon, so the fact that Leo is gaining in popularity doesn’t bother me too much.

Our youngest daughter, Kamari, is 3. We chose to keep the name her birth mother chose. Although it’s different than our other children’s names, it fits her well and we call her by the nickname Kiki most of the time.

So that brings me to number five. We don’t have a match yet and don’t know the gender or race.

For boys, I think we have decided on Holden John. Both names have family ties. We’ve also considered Wilder, but I think it’s a little too much. We also considered John, but it is too common for my liking.

My issue comes with girl names. Irene is a family name. We’ve thought about using it as a first name, too. If not Irene, we are considering these names with Irene as a middle:

  • Rosalie – I adore Rosalie and the nickname Rosie. Love Kiki and Rosie together. The problem? We have a cat named Rosie. It’s not a deal breaker, though. Rose is a family name.
  • Sylvie – I really love Sylvie but I do worry she would be called Sylvia a lot, which I don’t like as much. Overall, though, I love this name. My older daughter loves it, too, which gives it bonus points.
  • Willa – I have loved Willa for a long time. My grandpa was William. But Leo’s middle name is William. Too much?
  • Susanna/Susannah/Suzanne – I love all three of these and not sure which I love best. I love the nickname Zuzu. Kiki and Zuzu would be cute together.
  • Zuri – If this baby is African American like Kiki, I would consider using another Swahili name so (Kamari means “moonlight” in Swahili, and Zuri means “beautiful.”)

Thoughts welcome!

Dear Kari –

How exciting to be adding another child to your family!

Here’s what leaps out at me: you’re an experienced parent. You know your naming style, and you have a good feel for what will be right for the newest member of your family. You really can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

But things can change between the time you choose a favorite name, and the time you actually have your child in your arms. It sounds like Kiki’s name evolved in ways you may not have expected, and that’s informed the way you’ve built your shortlist this time. But to narrow down these names to The Name requires knowing what possibly might happen between now and your match – and those factors are unknowable, right?

I really like the idea of choosing a second Swahili name should your new daughter be African American. Zuri is gorgeous, and meaningful, and broadly familiar to many. Plus, it sounds great with her siblings’ names: Tessa, Ruby, Leo, Kiki, and Zuri.

But I’d put that one in your back pocket, because you won’t know until fairly late in the process if that name feels like a fit.

Let’s go back to your list:

  • Irene – It sounds like honoring Irene is important, but possibly better in the middle spot. Since it works beautifully with every name you’re considering, that seems like the best bet.
  • Rosalie – I share your love for Rosalie, and Rosie sounds like a sister for your kids. But – would you rename the cat? Call your daughter Rosie2? When someone hesitates over a name because, say, their grandmother had a dog called Charlie back in the 80s, I feel like the concern is misplaced. But since this Rosie is very much a part of your lives, I’d probably move on.

That leaves us with Willa, Sylvie, and one of the Susanna names.

While I think Leo William and Willa Irene makes for the tiniest of conflicts, it is a good reason to put Willa at the bottom of your list.

I hear your concern about Sylvie possibly being misheard as Sylvia. The less common the name, the more often those kinds of mistakes happen. I do think Sylvie will sometimes be confused for Sylvia – but – neither name is especially common for girls right now.

But it’s Susanna/h and Suzanne that appeal to me most, for all the reasons you outline. Kiki and Zuzu are great together, but it works with all of your kids’ names, too. And it shares the Z with Zuri, so I wonder if this is a sound that really calls to you right now?

When it comes to choosing between forms of a name, there are a few things to consider:

  • Does one have family or personal significance? It sounds like that’s not true for you.
  • Does one lend itself to a desired nickname? While Zuzu evolved in Slavic languages, the shared ‘z’ with the French Suzanne might make sense.
  • Is one more common? While it’s hard to believe, only Susan appears in the current US Top 1000. (And just barely – it ranked #922 last year.) In 2016, 67 girls were named Suzanne; with an additional 191 Susannas and 93 Susannahs. This could argue for Susanna, making it most familiar of the three.
  • Does one would better with the other kids’ names? I like the way that Susanna shares an ‘a’ ending with Tessa – but that’s a pretty small detail. I do appreciate the symmetry between both of your younger daughters have a longer, formal name with a spunky nickname for everyday use.

I’m torn between Suzanne and Susanna. I do think Susanna feels like the more stylish of the two, an old-fashioned name that seems fresh. It belongs with this list of New Vintage Girl Names.

But I think that’s as far as logic will take me, so let’s turn this over to the readers, who I know will have insights galore.

Before we do, though, let’s add a poll between the three Su- names:

Do you agree that one of the Su- names rises to the top of the list? Do you think Willa or Sylvie works better? Or is there a name that I’ve overlooked?


About Abby Sandel

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What do you think?


  1. I really love the name Susan (and Zuzu, which is adorable with Kiki, still works), but if that’s too dated Susanna(h) is also lovely. Zuri is a perfect match for Kamari, should you go that route.

  2. I love the name Suzette and therefore wanted to mention it as another option! I personally think a nickname of “Etta” isn’t too far a stretch with Suzette, either, and is a great name too! Best of luck and hope you get matched soon.

  3. I think Irene works well as a first name, but Susanna is a classic but offbeat choice. I really love Zuri, though Please keep us posted

  4. I really like Sylvie and I think it fits well in your family. Zuri would be my second choice. I love the connection with Kiki’s name.

    Would Suzy be out of the question as a given name? The variations of Susannah would bother me (I’d hate to have to spell out such a long name all the time). Suzy or Susie seems to go well with Ruby and Rosie.

  5. I love Susanna and Susannah, plus Zuzu works great with your sibset! Zuri is wonderful. Sylvie gets my vote if you end up not using Susanna(h) or Zuri. Good luck with the adoption.

  6. I love Suzanne and Susanna. Also suggest Sibyl Irene or Zelda Irene. Zuri is a gorgeous name with beautiful meaning. I also love Aisha, which means life in Swahili; Imani, which means faith; Nuru, which means light. All amazing names. I’m sure whatever name U pick will be perfect !!

  7. Devyn, I LOVE Rosemary and Susanna!! I love all the Rose names.

    Amity, we have very much considered Irene as a first name. My great aunt was Irene and that is who we will be naming her after. My mom was very, very close to her and I’m afraid using it as a first would almost be too much for her. If that makes sense.

    The Mrs, I LOVE Iris, but it’s my 12 year olds middle name. Ellory and Elodie are wonderful, but we have a niece that goes by Ellie. I love all the oth r names you suggested, especially Gemma. I added it to our list a few days ago. And thank you–this is our 3rd adoption and so far we have waited right at 2 years. We are very much hoping for a match soon. Our other waits were shorter, so this one is feeing very long.

  8. Irene reminds me of Iris.
    Tessa, Ruby, Leo, Kiki, & Iris.

    Ellery and Elodie are French like Sylvie but without the Sylvia issue.
    Tessa, Ruby, Leo, Kiki, and Ellie.

    Other ideas:
    Rosemary (Rosie, Romy, Mimi)
    Magnolia (Maggie)
    Collette (Coco)

    My husband and I have adopted four times, too! It can be a puzzle to find the right name for your newest family member, but you’ve done a great job making your children’s names cohesive without being matchy-matchy. Considering ancestry is a good jump-off point for names, but I get riled up quickly when people talk about whether my own kids’ names are “too black” or “not Asian enough” or “but isn’t he a Mexican?”. Just pick what you love, and your child will feel loved.

    Best wishes to you and your family! May your wait be quick, so you can bring home your next darling.

    1. Why not Suzanna to mix both worlds? You get the sound you like with the Z that more naturally lends to Zuzu!