Name Help: Cecily or BeatriceName 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!

Sandra writes:

We are expecting our second daughter in mid-July. She will be baby sister to Eleanor Alice and we have narrowed names down to a shortlist of two: Beatrice and Cecily.

My American husband (who moved to Australia 14 years ago) carries a French surname, seven generations after the family migrated to the US. It begins with a ‘C’ and it’s quite lovely but, from a practical sense, meant we wanted a name that would straddle the Anglo-Franco divide well.

Eleanor, a long-held favourite of mine, became the obvious choice (not least because the most famous bearer was Queen of France AND of England) and, happily, complements the chosen middle name of Alice very well.

There are certainly no regrets with our first choice but we now find ourselves torn with where to head for her sister. The middle name is likely to be Alexandra.

I am not keen to introduce a third option, unless there’s a really compelling case. Here’s where I stand:

Cecily – My favourite, which I had earlier abandoned because my husband hated the sound. There’s a chance he can be talked into it. He much prefers Cecilia but, for me, it’s Cecily or nothing; I don’t want to be reminded that I got 80% of the way to perfect. As a friend with similar naming taste pointed out “It’s the name of another Mother of Kings!”.

Beatrice – Solid and stately without being fashionable. It’s probably somewhat more familiar to people than Cecily, a name that my husband hadn’t come across before I suggested it. I think it’s a really good choice and, on paper, it seems like it might be more of an obvious sibling name to Eleanor but it doesn’t sound as pretty as Cecily to my ears.

I could really use some impartial insight and observations on these options.

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

Dear Sandra –

Congratulations on your second daughter!

This is the hardest kind of decision. Your husband doesn’t like the name you love. That means that Cecily is, practically speaking, not an option.

He’s offered Cecilia as a substitute. That sounds reasonable. Especially if you consider the name’s history. It starts with the Roman family name Caecilius. A handful of fascinating historical figures bear the name, including a seventh century Berber Christian king of Altava, in modern-day Algeria; a banker whose house is preserved in the ruins of Pompeii; and a first century saint sent to evangelize Spain.

According to the rules of Latin, the name becomes Caecilia when feminine; and spread from there to many European languages. The French use Cecile. The Germans shorten it to Silke and Zilla. But the English? They wrote Cecilia in official records, but used Cecily in everyday speech.

That’s true for many names. Margaret became Margery, and later Marjorie. So the difference between Cecily and Cecilia, one might think, is slight.

But that’s not the case for you. To your ears, there’s a chasm between Cecily and Cecilia. One form you love; the other form feels like a pale substitute.

One thought: would you consider Cecile instead? To me, it’s more faithful to Cecily’s soft sounds than Cecilia, and because it’s tailored but feminine, it sounds like a sister for Eleanor, too.

If there’s not a compromise between the various forms of the name, then that leaves Beatrice.

And Beatrice is, as you say, a really good choice. Eleanor and Beatrice sound like sisters. It’s a strong sound, but there’s lots of history and romance to Beatrice. The author Dante loved Beatrice Portinari in real life; in literature, he transformed her into the Beatrice of The Divine Comedy. I think that makes this name a rather spectacular match to Eleanor. And just like Eleanor can be

And yet, here’s what strikes me: if Cecily was your first choice, and Beatrice your second, I don’t know that you’d be writing. It sounds like Beatrice is, for you, merely adequate.

So I have to ask: Will you be content naming your daughter Beatrice?

If the answer is yes, then Beatrice gets my vote. It satisfies you both. Yes, you’ve sacrificed your favorite name. But parenting is a partnership, and we inevitably compromise on all sorts of matters related to raising our children.

But what if Beatrice doesn’t feel like your daughter’s name, and your husband can’t come around to Cecily?

Then I wonder if you might consider starting fresh.

I know you’re not looking for new suggestions, but I think that might be what you need right now. There are two possible outcomes of starting with a blank sheet of paper:

First, you might find that you really are just fine with Beatrice. Or, alternately, it might help your husband warm to Cecily. Sometimes the process of eliminating more options actually makes your original shortlist feel more appealing.

Second, of course, you might find a name that you both love.

If you’re willing to consider alternatives, might I suggest Sybil, Caroline, Genevieve, Celeste, Colette, Sabrina, or Selena? Plenty of these have a soft C sound, but they all offer plenty of strength, too.

Maybe the first step is this: have you confirmed that your husband is definitely opposed to naming your daughter Cecily? Sometimes the names we reject early in a pregnancy feel more reasonable as time goes by. It was new to him when you first mentioned it; perhaps the passing of weeks will have added to its appeal?

I’m going to add a poll, but let’s try it with three options: Cecily, Beatrice, or start fresh.


Readers, what would suggest to Sandra and her husband? Have you been stuck between two names with your partner? How did you resolve your disagreement?

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. Thanks Abby for your astute observations and everyone for the considered replies. I think you all caught on that Cecily was the strong preference but it might not have been apparent that Beatrice is genuinely in second place for me. Call it a heart vs head choice!

    Some of the comments made me think I have probably been pushing a bit hard for my choice despite my husband’s objections so I pulled back and asked him to be honest about what he really thought (knowing that sometimes he just likes to dig his heels in sport). I also showed him this post and he’s admitted that he has been warming to Cecily but not quite sold and he wants to wait until the baby is born.

    Lots of the alternatives proposed were lovely – Frances, Selena, Cecile – and if I were not a Sandra, I’d use Alexandra in a heartbeat. I think we will still stick with the two on our shortlist but I do feel better about the options and am certain that, behind Cecily, I can’t think of a better option than Beatrice for our second daughter.

    I will share an update once she’s here!

  2. I love the name Cecily but I also love Cecilia incl with Cecily as nn! I think Cecile or Celia are pretty too.

    I’m personally not a fan of Beatrice. I don’t like the “trice” sound and esp not if going into a C last name. It does match with Eleanor though.

    Other options (repeats as endorsement): Celeste or Celestine, Delphine or Josephine (nn Phina), Constance (though not sure if runs well or not into last name), Anna-Cecily, Alexandra Cecily, Frances (nn Franny), Matilda, Catherine/Katherine (Kitty), Chloe, or Adelaide.

  3. I have to agree that if your husband ‘hates’ the sound of Cecily, then it’s not really an option for you. If he slightly preferred Beatrice but liked Cecily, that would be one thing. But it sounds like he actively dislikes Cecily, and I know I wouldn’t want to call my daughter by a name I disliked.
    If Cecilia and Cecile don’t work as compromises, then that leaves Beatrice or a third option you can both agree on for her first name.

    If it helps, Beatrice is also a royal name, and has been borne by a number of queens (and mothers of kings). And I agree with previous comments – Eleanor and Beatrice are a very natural pairing.

    Finally, could Beatrice Cecily or Beatrice Alexandra Cecily be an option? Perhaps by compromising on the position of the name, you might not have to compromise on the name itself.
    I’m Australian and know people with 2 middle names – it hasn’t caused them any problems.

    Good luck!

  4. I voted for Beatrice I think the meaning is lovely and Nell and Bea are Darling together.

  5. I voted start fresh, but I have reservations. I think Cecile is a wonderful compromise, and Cecily would work as a nickname for you. Having a special mom-only nickname is a fine thing, I think. But if you are set on Cecily and only Cecily, well, sorry. There are two of you in this process, and I’m sure you would not appreciate it if the situation was reversed. If Beatrice actually does work for you, then by all means, use that. But it sounds as if you really want justification for Cecily. I hope you can get beyond that.

  6. I voted for “time to start fresh” because it might help you and your husband to have another look at what other possibilities there are. You may find a third name that you both like a lot, or it could confirm that one of the two names on your present list is indeed the “right” name for your baby girl.

    Another thing you might do is to it make your own name profile for each name — Cecily and Beatrice– based on criteria that most appeal to you. You’re very positive about Eleanor being the name of a Queen of both England and France. What are *your* positive associations for each of the two names you’ve been considering?

    If Beatrice and Cecily had been the only choices in the poll, I would have voted for Cecily because *to me* it seems lighter and less “staid” than Beatrice. I don’t find “Eleanor and Beatrice” quite as appealing as “Eleanor and Cecily”. I prefer the sister names Eleanor and Cecily because I see them as a pairing of strong, yet delightful, medieval names.

    “Cecily is the English form of the Latin name Cecilia. It was the usual form of this name throughout the Middle Ages. The name was likely popularised in the Middle Ages by the semi-legendary Saint Cecilia.” (Baby Name Wizard)

    Another possibility would be to put Cecilia on her birth certificate, but call her Cecily. According to Oh Baby, “The English commonly spelled the name Cecily until the 18th century when the Latinate Cecilia came into favor.”

    1. As with Eleanor, Cecily was a royal name, used in both England and France (as Cecile)

      Cecily Neville, Duchess of York (1415 – 1495), was the mother of two English Kings (Edward IV and Richard III). *

      Cecily of York, Viscountess Welles (20 March 1469 – 24 August 1507) was an English princess, daughter of Edward IV, King of England.

      And in France, Cecile (1100-1125) was the daughter of King Philippe I of France and his second wife Bertram.

      *Cecily Neville had an older sister — or half-sister –called Eleanor: Eleanor Neville, Countess of Northumberland.

    2. I reread your post and this time it “registered” that Eleanor was a long-time favorite of yours and for this baby, Cecily is your favorite. But it sounds like your husband doesn’t like Cecily at all because he “hates the sound”. As a few others has mentioned, it does seem that it’s your husband’s turn to have more input on this child’s name. Unless he comes around to sincerely liking Cecily (not just because it’s your favorite for this child), it’s probably only fair that you set that name aside and name her Beatrice, a name you like well enough to suggest to your husband, a new he apparently likes too.

      Beatrice is a lovely name too and “Bea” is an appealing shortening. And it’s a natural pairing with Eleanor: BNW suggests Beatrice as a sister name for Eleanor.

  7. We have a little Cecily, sister to Elisabeth. I don’t know that my husband was initially as enthusiastic about the name as I was, but he has really come to love it too. Her middle name also starts with a C (Catherine), so the nickname Cece fits well and is familiar and spunky. I wonder if sharing the possible nickname of Cece would make the name feel more ‘accessible’ to him (if it feels too ‘fancy’ now – that was my husband’s initial concern, especially since our other two kids are John and Elisabeth).

    We also considered Charlotte, but didn’t feel it went with Catherine as well. Charlotte Alexandra would be lovely.

    Good luck with your decision!

  8. I really love Beatrice as a sister to Eleanor. Both names are connected to strong and significant women and they complement each other beautifully. I also prefer Beatrice with the middle name. I think it sounds very elegant with Alexandra. I agree that if you can’t love it, you might unfortunately need some new possibilities. My favorite options for you: Florence, Frances, Charlotte, Abigail, Margaret, or maybe even Jane.

  9. Is there a reason you can’t use Alexandra? Alexandra and Eleanor make a lovely set.

    I think that if Cecily is out, it is out. It doesn’t seem fair to insist on a name your partner doesn’t like.

    You don’t actually say that your husband likes Beatrice? Is this his pick and you are trying to like it? If so, I think you can also put it off the table. Even thought it is hard I think this is a case of start again, sorry.

    English and French Royals with similar style.

    Charlotte, Mary, Alexandra, Alice, Maude, Anne, Jane, Catherine, Louise
    Adele, Josephine, Gisela, Margaret, Georgina, Isabella

    I LOVE Gisela, Mary and Louise