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!
Our son is due in the beginning of March! We’re really excited to meet him, but I’m writing to you because, as of right now, he really doesn’t have a name.
Early on, we decided we want to use a name beginning with P. It would be for my grandmother Pam (Pamela) and my husband’s grandpa Paul.
Somehow I was convinced this baby was a girl, and we were all set to name her Penelope. We had a few others we liked, just in case, but I’ve always loved the name Penelope.
But then we found out it’s a boy. And I feel like there aren’t any great P names.
We could just drop it. No one knows about the honor name thing except for us. But dropping it feels … maybe like quitting? Or maybe it just opens up Every Possibility on Earth Again, when I thought we’d narrowed it down already.
Can you help?
Congratulations on your son!
So often we have the Exactly Right Name chosen … only to find out that our imagined Luca is really a Lyla.
The trick, I think, is to focus on two things:
First, is there a reason to reserve your favorite name? If you’re young(ish) and hoping for future children, sometimes holding on to that name might make sense. Which could, of course, rule out using Josephine because you might have a Joseph in another few years.
But I tend to argue against saving names. In part, because the future is uncertain. And names often feel like they belong to specific moments.
Without knowing any more details, my sense is that honoring your loved ones matters now, with this child. And that’s why you’re not ready to move on from the letter P.
Second, what qualities does your favorite name possess? Since there’s no obvious masculine form of Penelope, we have to think about it more broadly.
There are bunches of classic P names for boys, of course: Patrick, Peter, Paul (as in your husband’s grandfather), and Philip/Phillip come to mind.
But I think you’re looking for something like Penelope. A contemporary name, one that feels current – even if it has history galore.
P NAMES for a BOY
A surname version of Patrick, Padgett might fit right in with Beckett and Everett and Elliott.
A surname name with an outdoorsy vibe, Parker ranks in the current Top 100.
It’s a surname name with plenty of history. While it’s not related to the Latin word for peace, pax makes it seem connected.
If there is a masculine form of Penelope, maybe it’s Penn? It’s a lot like the popular Finn. Penn brings to mind actor Penn Badgley, and, of course, William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.
Speaking of Finn, Phineas is a possible P name for a son. But it shortens to Finn. So it’s sort of a both-and-neither answer to the question.
A surname form of Peter, Pierce is handsome and polished. It fits right in with names like Reid and Royce.
Another name in the key of Parker, Porter could be another possibility.
Preston caught on in the 1990s and remains in steady use. There’s something nicely buttoned-up about it, a blue blazer kind of name.
Overall, my favorite is Paxton. I think it hits the right note – current, but with history. A great sound. And so much meaning!
One final thought.
With Penelope, you had two things – a name you really liked and an honor name for two important people in your life. It sounds like you’re prioritizing finding a potential honor name. And that might mean that it takes a little longer for any choice to feel really like your child’s name. Maybe you haven’t thought about it for nearly as long as you had Penelope in mind. Or maybe it’s just a question of re-adjusting your plans and expectations.
But, in time, I think a name like Paxton could end up being every bit as meaningful for your new arrival.
My suggestion is Samuel Paul, nn Sam.
I think Sam works equally as well as a honour name for Pam as any P name does, and you have Paul right there in the middle name spot.
That leaves you free to use Penelope if you have a girl later on.
Good point re: Sam for Pam!
Julie G says
My son is Phoenix so that’s my suggestion! I also like Paris.
I second Penn and Parker. I also know a Parks which I think is cool. Good luck!
Both Pamela and Paul are starting with Pa-, so if none of the P- names feels right, then what about a name that contains pa? E.g. Caspar/Spalding
I’m here to suggest one of my all-time favorites, Pablo.
I love Peter if you want something a bit more traditional and Parker if you want something more modern. I’m going to argue that you should name him whatever name makes your heart sing regardless if it starts with a P. If you can’t find a good P candidate for the first name slot then maybe the middle would be a good place for that P honor name. Palmer kinda sounds like Paul and Pamela mixed together and would make a really cool middle name!
Palmer for Paul + Pamela is genius! I think it makes the honor much more obvious than using Penelope!
I think this is the perfect name for the baby!
My longtime favourite P name is Pierce! Or Piers. I met a little boy with the name years ago and I was smitten!
Although Patrick nn Patch has really increased my love for the name!
Is Pascal wearable? I love it from Princess & The Frog, and he could go by Cal to give him a P name on paper, although Pal would be super awesome.
I think Palmer has been mentioned but I like that it sounds like Paul and has many similar letters to Pamela.
C in DC says
I have Philip (x2), Peter, Paul, and Patrick in my extended family. We thought about using Philip nn Flip if we’d had a boy. I could name a dozen girls with P names, but boys names don’t have much middle ground between the very common, the very modern, and the very out there. If you’re willing to go with the Romance language versions, Phillippe, Pedro, Piettro, Paulo, or Patrizio might be options. Others: Paulinus, Pharis, Pharrell, Pascal, Pasquale, Pele, Pompeii, Pfeiffer/Piper, or Placido. Of Abby’s suggestions, Pacific nn Paz or Pax appeals.
Alison Doherty says
I think Paxton or even just Pax is perfect. I also really like Pierce and Parker. My first thought was Phoenix because I think it has a very similar vibe to Penelope, current but also attached to mythology. I also met a boy named Pacific, which was adorable but might be too out their for you. Other options might be Preston or Powell. But I kind of think if you don’t fall in love with one of these names, maybe it’s time to expand the list and consider a P name (maybe Paul?) as a middle.
My first thought was Patrick to be honest.
I think Philip is becoming fresh again. And the nn of Pip is darling for when they are little.
Also I once knew a very dashing Percy, and have found the name quite appealing ever since.
From Abby’s list Pierce seems like a good fit. Same old-is-new sense as Penelope.
Ooh. I just remembered I once met a Ptolomy. It’s a lot of name but the nickname of Tommy could make it easier to wear.
I like Peregrine too. Phineas seems as though it would fit. What about another Greek mythology name, like Patroclus or Perseus? Ooh! And there’s Percival, or even just Percy.
I second Perseus! It’s PERFECT in place of Penelope.
Peregrine! Could even be nicknamed Pippin or Perry, which is triple the P names!