Name HelpOlga and her husband are expecting their first child. They don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, but they do know that they need help choosing a name either way!

She writes:

If the baby is a girl, the problem is finding a middle name for Iris.

The middle names I was learning toward prior to deciding on Iris were also ‘thing’ names – Pearl and Moon, for instance. I didn’t like how they made Iris appear like an adjective. So I began the search for ‘name-names’ and all we agree upon is Claire. Which we both love, but I am not sold at all for a middle name– in fact, I secretly want to keep Claire open for a future daughter!

Other middle names we considered: Ofelia, for my grandmother, which my husband isn’t that into. My husband loves Vivienne but I am not so sure. Aaaand that’s about it.

If the baby is a boy, the problem is that I’m not sure I like our agreed-on first name. Plus no definite middle.

For a boy, we have agreed on Jasper. Which I have always loved, but now feel torn on, and really without much reason at all. Maybe because Jasper has a bit of a country-feel to me, whereas all the other names we had considered– Alastair, for instance– very much don’t. The reason why I let go of Alastair was because it didn’t flow so well with our surname.

And middles! I considered Apollo for my grandfather, but my husband thinks it’s too “out there.” I also have thrown out Benjamin for his brother, who we lost in a tragedy not long ago, but my husband, though agreeable about it, doesn’t sound enthusiastic at all. I have thought about Ivan, my husband’s grandfather (whose birthday is the baby’s due date) but it doesn’t flow well with Jasper.

Their surname sounds like Gilligan, “with a lot more Ls.” Meaning that names with dominant L sounds are out. Because their last name is long, they tend to prefer two-syllable names. A few other names that they’ve already discarded: Amelia, Indira, Luna for girls, and Cedar and Viggo for boys.

Please read on for my answer, and share your thoughtful comments and suggestions, too!

Hi Olga,

Congratulations on your baby on the way!

You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought – and that’s a good thing. I agree that you’re wise to stay away from L names, and the shorter, two-syllable names that you favor seem to go well with a last name like Gilligan.

Let’s start with the easier challenge: finding a middle name for lovely Iris.

My first reaction was to try to talk to you into Iris Pearl or Iris Moon. Because Iris feels like such a well-established given name to me, I’m not sure that the adjective potential is a problem. I’d like to ask the readers what they think, too, so let’s do that now.

Middle Names for IrisBut let me also acknowledge that no matter what the poll says, you’re not on board with a double-noun name. So let’s brainstorm names like Claire, but not.

  • Iris Jane – You must have already considered Jane, right? It’s a little bit of a filler name nowadays, but there’s still so much to recommend it. I like the sound of Iris Jeanne even more,
  • Iris Kate – Yes, Kate is traditionally a nickname for Katherine. But I think it stands on its own nicely.
  • Iris Blair – Claire always me think of Blair. But is it your style?
  • Iris Lux – Yes, it’s a word name. Sort of. Does Latin count? And I can see that the translation – Iris Light – would be over-the-top. But Iris Lux feels intriguing. Possible bonus? The meaning is similar to Claire!
  • Iris Maude – An old-school, vintage pick – and yet they sound very right together, don’t they? Hmmm … could be because director Judd Apatow has daughters named Iris and Maude. But I feel that’s an obscure enough fact to overlook.
  • Iris Maeve – Is Eve out because of the double-noun issue? If so, I wonder if you’d consider Maeve.
  • Iris Quinn – Maybe my favorite so far! Quinn is along the lines of Blair, but that sound is so crisp – Iris Quinn. Also, has the initials IQ – which bothers me none, but you’ll have to decide how you feel about that one.
  • Iris Eden – I was trying to find a two-syllable middle name without ‘l’ or ‘s’ sounds. Iris Edith felt a bit too fusty, but Iris Eden has some appeal. Except, of course, that Eden is a garden, so is that too cute with Iris? I still think the sound is great.

It does seem like some of the middle names you’ve considered are longer. And I don’t think you need to limit yourself to a shorter middle. I’m tempted to brainstorm longer middles, but let’s leave that to the comments for now.

On to the boys!

The first question is whether to keep Jasper or let him go. It’s a tough call. Jasper is one of those names that I truly do adore. It’s about as popular as Iris. And, like Iris, it has ties to the natural world without being super hippie-granola.

Alternatives to JasperSo Jasper seems perfect. Until you mention Alastair. Because Alastair is much more of a little gentleman name. Not that they couldn’t be brothers. But it doesn’t seem like an obvious pair. A few names that seem to be somewhere between Alastair and Jasper:

  • August – A summery, seasonal name, but also one with a very long history of use.
  • Milo – The nature name link isn’t there, but Milo seems both modern and vintage at once – like Jasper. But is the ‘l’ sound an issue? Other possibilities, like Leo and Arlo, raise the same question.
  • Hugo – It’s big in the UK, so maybe that’s why it seems like a brother to Alastair. Plus, no pesky L sound! I see that Viggo was rejected, but maybe Hugo will seem more mainstream?
  • Dexter – Closer to Alastair in style, I think, but the nickname Dex is modern and edgy.
  • Jude – Too short? It has the same J as Jasper, and the ‘u’ sound from Luna.
  • Ezra – Another name that splits the difference between gentlemanly Alastair and the edgier Jasper. One hesitation: Ezra and Jude are much more popular than Iris and Jasper.
  • Arthur – The same ‘r’ ending as Jasper, but maybe closer in style to Alastair. At least some accounts link Arthur to the word for bear.
  • Jonah – Again, the same J sound as Jasper. Jonah means dove, which seems like a great fit for Luna, Iris, and the other nature-inspired names on your list.

Kate and RufusIf none of those feel right, or even like they could be slightly closer to your son’s name, then maybe Jasper is the one. English actor Rufus Sewell played a character called Jasper in The Holiday. He’s kind of a rat who breaks Kate Winslets’ heart, but I think it shows that Jasper can work on an Alastair-like guy.

As for middles, may I suggest Bennett? I’m so sorry for your loss, and it seems like using your late brother-in-law’s name would be a lovely way to remember him. Every family approaches this differently, but I can see that some might hesitate to use a name that is still so strongly associated with a recently departed loved one. Another Ben- name could honor your brother-in-law’s memory, but might soften any pain associated with using the same name.

I also think it sounds great: Jasper Bennett sounds-like-Gilligan, Hugo Bennett sounds-like-Gilligan, Ezra Bennett sounds-like-Gilligan.

Apollo isn’t quite as out-there as your husband might think – it actually ranked in the US Top 1000 in 2013. But that probably won’t sway him.

If Ivan doesn’t work, would you consider another form of John? Or another family name?

It also seems like you could mix and match lots of the names on this list: August Jasper, Hugo Dexter, August Jude.

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. Thank you so much Abby & everyone- you’ve given us so much to think on! Abby, you may be happy to know that my husband has fallen for Iris Quinn and nothing measures up to the combo now for him! I will definitely let you know what we choose when the baby arrives. <3 <3 <3

  2. I like Iris Augustine or Iris Antonia. (an-toe-nee-a with emphasis on 3rd syllable). I am not fond of Alistair, Jasper or Apollo so I don’t have a good middle name. We do have a Bennett in the family which is a great name. That’s my .02.

  3. Girls:
    Iris Corinne
    Iris Diana (shares ties to Greek mythology)
    Iris Lucille (shares French origin of Claire and Vivienne)
    Iris Olivia (middle “v” sound from Vivienne)
    Iris Lorraine (shares French origin of Claire and Vivienne)
    Iris Estelle (shares French origin of Claire and Vivienne)


    also consider Benson or Jamin

  4. London Telegraph birth announcements, Jan. 1, 2004 – the present: middle names used with Iris:

    Iris Elizabeth (x 3)
    Iris Lara
    Iris Mabel
    Iris Eve
    Iris Lorna
    Iris Joan Claire
    Iris Annabel
    Iris Lavinia
    Iris Charlotte
    Iris Aminta
    Iris Arabella
    Iris Constance Celia
    Iris Autumn Cerys
    Iris Patricia
    Iris Florence Mary
    Iris Hermione
    Iris Ann Hilary
    Iris Syvia
    Iris Olivia
    Iris Patti
    Iris Mary Constance
    Iris Honor
    Iris Tyger
    Iris Constance Emma

  5. How about Faye instead of Ofelia? My never-going-to-happen 3rd girl would be Sabrina Faye, after my great-aunt. Ofelia is problematic – a mouthful, and hard to get past that Oaf first syllable, but my aunt mostly went by Fay anyway (I like the e on the end)

    I like Bennett in the middle – or maybe the namesake’s middle name would honor him, without being too much of a reminder. I can see where reusing the name too soon might be difficult., but using his middle name would be a subtle nod. I do like Apollo, though.

  6. Iris Claire and Iris Vivienne are lovely. Iris Eden, Iris Lux and Iris Quinn I don’t care for at all. Since Iris is the rainbow goddess in Greek mythology, why not choose another name with Greek roots? Iris Xanthe, Iris Daphne, Iris Ariadne, Iris Chloe, Iris Thalia, Iris Persephone…

  7. Iris & Japser are lovely!

    Abby mentioned that Rufus Sewell’s character in The Holiday is named Japser–just wanted to add that Kate Winslet’s character is named Iris! I think Iris & Jasper sound lovely together. Iris’s brother in the movie was called Graham. (I have seen The Holiday too many times…)

    I really like Iris Pearl and Iris Maeve. Have you considered Jasper Alistair? I kind of love that. Iris Peal & Jasper Alistair!

    1. Oh my goodness – I *completely* forgot about that! Wonder if that’s why such a relatively minor character was on my mind the whole time I was writing this … Thanks, Ash!

  8. Hello. Just to say that I know a brother and sister named Alistair and Iris (Ali and Iris). Their names go well. They are 8 and 5 yrs old. Best of luck in your quest!

  9. I want to suggest Iris Felicity for a girl. It borrows the -feli from Ofelia, and also I think just flows really well. Felicity is not as much of a noun name as Moon or Pearl, but it is still a noun with a very positive meaning, so it seems like something you might like.

    For a boy, I like the idea of Jasper Bennett or I also think it may be worth pushing your husband a little for Apollo in the middle. Obviously, you have a family history that is not exclusively made up of people named Robert, Richard, and Susan, and that’s going to be your children’s family history too. The middle is a great place for a name that’s a little unusual, and Apollo has the advantage of being easy to pronounce and on trend right now.

    Actually, I have one more idea to throw out….Iris Apolline.