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!
My husband and I are expecting our first child in July, and we could use some help with names.
We love to hike and camp and pretty much be outside in the wilderness. I love the idea of choosing a name that reflects our shared passion. (We met on a whitewater rafting trip in college.) My husband likes the idea, but worries that our kid’s name will be too hippie, or just too weird.
I feel like I’m hearing lots of kids with names like this right now, but I’m not sure how to pick one that seems like a normal name.
We’d like the middle names to be Eleanor if it’s a girl (my name, but I’m named for my grandmother, and I’d like to honor her) and Anthony (for his dad) if it’s a boy. We might also consider Robinson, a family name, for either, but I wonder if the Robin part is too much with a nature name?
Last name is one syllable and pretty common. Think Gable and Kent.
Read on for my response, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Ellie –
Congratulations on your new baby!
I do think you’re right – nature names have gone mainstream. The same choices that would’ve felt flower child in 1970 are perfectly familiar fifty years later.
But I hear what your husband is saying, too. Some names feel like a subtle nod to a shared passion. Others feel like they’re an attempt to brand the baby. Finding the right level is a very personal decision, one that only you and your husband can make.
There are a few good places to start:
- Word names that rank in the current US Top 250 or so. The more often people hear a name, the less it reads out-there, and the more it’s like Rose. Sure, it’s a flower. But we’re so used to hearing it as a name that we don’t think twice.
- Familiar names with meanings tied to the natural world. These might be too subtle for you – or exactly the right balance.
- Surname names that sound outdoorsy, but not necessarily so. A handful of surnames derive from outdoorsy jobs from another age; like the second category, they’re a little more subtle than the word names.
Now, on to the list. I’m going to mix all three categories together.
August – A traditional masculine choice with a big meaning, but also a relaxed, summery vibe.
Forrest – Forrest was once a name for someone who lived near a royal forest, or worked as a groundskeeper at one. Today it feels traditional, but undeniably outdoorsy.
Kai – Kai means sea in Hawaiian, which makes it very much a nature name. But because it’s not a word name, it’s a little more subtle. And it sounds modern, too – Kai first charted in the boys’ Top 1000 in 1979.
Parker – A surname name, like Forrest, for someone employed as a gamekeeper. Today it feels preppy and polished, but also brings to mind all things green and growing.
River – This is the textbook definition of a name that could’ve felt super flower-child not so long ago. Today? It’s a solid Top 200 favorite for boys. (And gaining in use for girls, too.)
Rowan – Like River, Rowan is climbing for both boys and girls. (As of 2018, it’s more popular for boys.) While this is a tree name, it’s not quite as familiar as Oak or Elm. Another bonus? It’s also an Irish surname, so Rowan is a little more under-the-radar than, say, Cedar or Moss.
Silas – A New Testament name, Silas comes from the Latin name Silvanus, from sylvan – the woods.
Wilder – Like Parker and Forrest, it’s a surname name that connotes the wilderness.
Aurora – A goddess, but also the personification of the dawn, Aurora sounds like a name. Another bonus? The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, lend this name a certain drama.
Ember – Amber was a hit in the 80s, but it’s fiery Ember that feels like the right choice for a girl who will grow up around the campfire.
Hazel – A vintage name with modern appeal, Hazel is a color and a tree name, too.
Ivy – Short and simple, Ivy connotes achievement – think of the Ivy League – but also the outdoors.
Juniper – Juniper has more history of use that you might guess, and, like River, it feels mainstream in 2020. (And this one is just fun to say!)
Magnolia – A long, elaborate nature name, Magnolia brings to mind the American South. It’s the state flower of Louisiana.
Stella – From the Latin word for star, Stella is perfect if you love the night sky. It’s also common enough that no one would hear it as hippie.
Willow – A pretty name, currently in the US Top 100 for girls. That makes it plenty mainstream – even though it would’ve been surprising even twenty years ago.
My favorites are Rowan for a boy and Juniper for a girl. Rowan Anthony is great … but Juniper Eleanor isn’t quite as strong. Would you consider Juniper Ella, Juniper Elle, or Juniper Lenore? And, of course, Juniper Robinson is great, too.
Readers, what would you suggest as mainstream nature names?
Everett or Asher for a boy. Terra or Willa for a girl.
Tiffanie Reschke says
I gave my son’s pretty nature-y names that aren’t too 2020. My eldest is Leo (lion) and that’s in the top 100 right now. My middle is Stone, which is a common surname name (Think along the lines of Taylor, Parker, Quinn, etc.). My daughter has not been named yet but I’m leaning towards Opal or Hazel. Also nature-y without being River/Rain/Sunflower/Meadow…. On second thought… LOVE the name Meadow.
I like Ivy Eleanor too! I also think Linden may be perfect for you, completely familiar but nature vibe and different enough.
Another option is something traditional with an outdoorsy nickname. Like Barret, nn Bear or Katherine nn Wren. Barret Anthony, aka Bear Anthony or Katherine Robinson nn Wren Robinson, may get you to where you both feel comfortable.
Something like Miles could work as a subtle connection, especially if you like hiking.
I was also going to suggest Clifford. Clifford Anthony is cute and rugged, but perhaps not with your surname.
Although, I quite like the alliteration.
As an aside, there was a girl a few years ahead of me in high school in the mid-nineties named Lily. Someone told me her parents were hippies and I remember thinking they’d have to be! How things have changed!! At least if you’re looking for a nature name your choices are much wider now..
Alĺ the best!
I vote Rowan Anthony for a boy & Ivy Eleanor for a girl. LOVE.
Ivy is great of course,. I like Linden and Callum. And Barret (nn Bear) or Katherine (nn Wren) if you want something traditional with a woodsy nn.
Erin Beth says
For a girl I adore Ivy Eleanor and quite like Rowan Eleanor. Ainsley Eleanor, Sylvie Eleanor, and Daphne Eleanor are great too. For a boy. Forrest Anthony is my favorite.
The Mrs. says
Both Heather and Clay have been readily accepted for generations. Are those too tame for you?
Rosemary and Rockwell might feel newer than Heather and Clay.
If you want MORE traditional, Timothy and Lily are barely thought of as nature names.
Sedona was named after a man’s wife. But she definitely evokes a red rock beauty that is renowned. Foss means waterfall in Icelandic.
You’re going to give your child a great name no matter what because you’re giving it out of love.
I absolutely love the suggestion of Sierra made by one of the commenters. Sierra Robinson as well Sierra Eleanor work so well. Way back in the seventies when I was a youngster I had a friend names Sierra and even then, to me anyway, it did not seem weird or hippy. In this day in age Sierra seems even more normal than it did back than. I am also a long time fan of the name Magnolia as well as Linnea both flowers and both working quite well, in my opinion, with either middle name, as well as your surname.
As for a boys name. I love Abby’s suggestion of Forrest. Something about it seems to tick off all the boxes, in my opinion. Plus it works well with both Robinson or Anthony, then again very few names don’t work well with Anthony. Even me who is not a fan of alteration in names likes August Anthony.
Oh and on your concern that the Robin part of Robinson would be too much. I would never have thought of it if it had not been mentioned. That and I think the only way it might seem noticeable is if you went with a name like Wren Robinson because then it would be bird next to bird. That said I would more like notice the alteration more than Wren is a bird and Robinson starts with Robin which is also a bird.
How about Ainsley (meadow) or Daphne (laurel)? I also like Juniper, Maren and Estelle. Elodie means marsh flower.
For a boy, I like Silas. Or maybe Holden (hollow valley) or Calhoun (from narrow forest), Logan (little hollow) or Landon (long hill). Oh, or Beckett (little brook).
For a girl:
I love the name Magnolia!
Kiri (Maori for tree bark) this may be too alliterative with your last name
Whitney (Mt. Whitney)
For a boy:
Bryce (Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park)
Fraser (Fraser fir tree)
Trent (swift/rushing waters, a torrent)
Iris (rainbow) would be nice paired with Eleanor.
Perhaps a name with a nature meaning? I also don’t think Robinson would be too much with a nature name.
Anthea (flower, blossom)
Bryony (type of vine)
Evander (yew or bow warrior)
Grover (grove of trees)
Jasper (type of stone)
Rainier (Mt. Rainier)
Oh! I also really like Bear, Blaise/Blaze, or Brooks for a boy. Bear Anthony is so sweet! Although, I think they all sound good with Anthony.
Two of my favorite girls’ nature names are Briar and Laurel (although, I’m not sure how well they pair with Eleanor). Marina is also beautiful, but that’s definitely a sea connection, rather than a woodsy one.
What about Ash or Heath for a boy?
I love Ivy Eleanor! Very best of luck with everything.
Parker is my favorite suggestion for the boys but then I realized it’s a bit rhymey with the last name.
August Robinson or August Anthony are both really nice choices.
For boys I’ll throw in the suggestion of Morgan (meaning: circling sea) and Everest (or maybe even Everett which means “strong as a wild boar”)
For girls, how about Ainsley (ones own meadow) or Eden (garden)? Eden Eleanor or Ainsley Eleanor are both so great!
My favorites for boys are Forrest (but totally vote going all in an spelling it Forest!) and Rowan. I’d add Linden to that list!
For girls, I can’t choose! Abby’s list is fantastic. To make it a little harder, maybe I’d also add some more floral names, like Dahlia, Daisy, and Lily.