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!


Alexandra writes:

When we were expecting our daughter, we agreed on a boy’s name immediately: Russell, from my mother’s maiden name. But we couldn’t settle on a girl’s name at all, and, of course, we had a beautiful little girl.

Going through our family tree, I discovered a great-aunt named Sarina. I thought the name was pretty, but also strong and a little bit different.

We debated the spelling a lot. I wasn’t sure if Serena Williams might make the name more popular and I worried about The Handmaid’s Tale character, so we kept with Sarina.

I sort of have name regret around this decision, as we have to spell her name frequently. That’s making it even harder to name our second (and last) child – another girl.

My husband’s favorite name is Melanie, but I’m just not into it. I like Julia, but I feel like it’s too serious. We’ve been talking about Robinne, because his dad is Robert, but I don’t like Robin, and I wonder if I’d be back with the spelling headaches again?

All of our children will have my last name as their middle name. It sounds like Morgan. Again, a little bit of name regret, because I like the idea of Julia Robinne, or something like that, but I feel like we can’t do that now.

Our last name sounds like a popular girl’s name, but spelled differently: H—ley.


Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.


Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

I have a lot of thoughts, so let’s begin with a list:

  • Yes, I can imagine that Sarina is sometimes a spelling headache, and I can see the merits of choosing a name with a single, widely-recognized spelling this time.
  • But I’m not sure you have to use your surname as a middle name again. Lots of families do. But just as many families use a family surname as a middle for one child, but not the next. I think maybe it’s worth considering a change.
  • Melanie checks the “one obvious spelling” box, but I’m not sure if it’s a style match. I find myself wanting to change it to … Melania? Which feels like another name in the key of Sarina. A good match, but lots of let-me-spell-it-for-you.
  • I do like Robinne quite a bit, though. Except then it’s a spelling conundrum, potentially. As of 2023, Robin ranks #793 for girls and #783 for boys. Robyn and Robynn are in use, but there were fewer than five children named Robinne, making it very rare, indeed.



An international name that’s rising in use, Amara has several origins and meanings. But I’m choosing it because it’s pretty and modern and has a certain strength, too. Plus, Sarina and Amara sound like sisters without being too similar.


A gorgeous, romantic name with history aplenty, Anastasia is sometimes pronounced differently – four syllables or even five? – but it feels very wearable.


Because Melanie is on the list, I wonder if you’d like something with a similar rhythm, but a slightly more vintage feel?


Two names that came to mind were Eliana and Liliana, both elaborations of popular shorter names, Ellie and Lily. Eliana, in particular, feels like one where we’ve agreed on a spelling – and it’s this one. I hesitate, though, because both could easily be spelled multiple ways. So while I think this is the right sound, it’s worth considering how strongly you feel about spelling.


If Julia is close, but not quite, would Juliette appeal? Juliana or Julianne? I love the sound of Juliette with Sarina, and I think it looks a little bit like Robinne.


As with Anastasia, Miranda is a name that’s been around for ages, but still feels pretty and light, without sacrificing substance. I love the sound of Sarina and Miranda, and I wonder if it’s similar enough to Melanie to appeal to your husband?


The first name that came to mind when I was thinking through Melanie substitutes. It’s a little more vintage, but feels like a midpoint between your favorites and his.


Lively, vibrant Viviana feels like an obvious sister for Sarina. Vivian is more popular, but Viviana feels every bit as wearable.

Overall, my favorite is probably Juliette. It’s just a little different from your current favorite, but with a twist.

While Juliet is popular, it ranks #292. Juliette comes in at #160. In this case, while there’s a potential for spelling confusion, you’re choosing the more common option, which should help.

I also like Miranda, though. Not only is it a style match, but I think it’s easy to spell and pronounce.

While you could absolutely use the same middle name, I wonder if it’s worth considering a switch here, too? Sarina (sounds like) Morgan and … Juliette Russell? Miranda Robinne?

Readers, what would you suggest as a sister for Sarina (sounds like) Morgan?

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I don’t think Julia is too serious at all! In fact, I think it’s a perfect example of a name that wears well from childhood to adulthood. It’s both sweet and stately.

    And I agree with others that you shouldn’t feel obligated to use “Morgan” for your second child’s middle name if you like another option, like Robinne. And you can always give multiple middle names! Julia Robinne Morgan H—ley is lovely.

    All that said, if your heart is leading you in a different direction, I agree with Abby that it makes sense to explore variations on Julia.

    Juliet, Juliette, and Juliana are all wonderful options.

    I would add Joliet, Joliette, and Julie to the list.

    Some other names that might be in the right ballpark:

    Ruby (as a roundabout honor name for Robert)