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!
Is Vexahlia an acceptable name for a girl?
I’ve been through most girl names and none of them have struck us like this one. It comes from a character in Dungeons & Dragons. Is the first bit – Vex – too negative? It’s not much different from Noah starting with no, which is a negative term.
Our other daughter is Winry. We shorten it to Win, which is easier for people.
I’d love to hear opinions on Vexahlia, and any name suggestions with a similar sound or feel. I’m a huge fan of unusual, out-there names with a classic nickname.
Please read on for my response, and share your helpful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Zoe –
Congratulations on your second daughter!
I’m torn on this one.
Vexahlia: Why It Works
Vexahlia sounds like a name. Plenty of girls’ names end with -lia, including popular picks like Amelia and Natalia. And with Harry Potter, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings influencing baby name trends, why not Dungeons & Dragons?
Still, this marks the first time a D&D name has come up here, so I went searching for information on the character.
According to the vast and informative interwebs, Vex’ahlia and her twin brother Vax’ildan were born to a human mother and an elven father. It made for a rough childhood. She’s skilled with a longbow, speaks several languages, and excels as a tracker. Both she and Vax belong to Vox Machina, a group of adventurers.
Given the extensive mythology of D&D, some of this might be wrong – or just plain pointless – but it seems like Vex’ahlia could easily inspire a child’s name, at least in an age that sees Khaleesi rank in the US Top 1000.
To sum up the positives so far: it sounds like a name, the character seems admirable, and sci-fi and fantasy characters have become a rich source of mainstream baby names.
Vexahlia: Why It Might Not …
Let’s move on to the negatives, because I’m still struggling to give this one an enthusiastic yes.
First, there’s the problem with meaning. To vex is to worry or to annoy. It reminds me of Bane – great, on-trend sound, but strongly negative meaning. And yet, few of us use vex in everyday speech. And it’s not the name – just a possible short form that might never stick. So it’s less than ideal, but probably not a deal-breaker.
Next, let’s talk about the challenges of a (very) unusual name. When I say challenges, I mean exactly that. They’re not reasons to avoid a name; instead, they’re things to consider.
- You’ll have to spell and repeat her name fairly often; eventually, she’ll be the one to introduce herself as “Vexahlia, let-me-spell-it-for-you.”
- Likewise, people will inevitably comment on her name. Much of it will be friendly curiosity. Some of it may be judgemental, or even downright rude. The catch here? You might be perfectly comfortable with this, but there’s no way to guess if your child will feel the same.
- You’ll find yourself telling the story of her name again and again – once again, an experience that your child will inherit.
Here’s the part that gives me pause. I’m imagining what it would be like to tell the story of this specific name in different settings. A rare family name is explained easily. But when it comes to cultural references, things get dicey.
Telling a prospective employer or new romantic partner’s parents that you were named for, say, a literary figure or another borrowing from the arts feels one way. I suspect revealing a pop culture reference might be more awkward. I imagine that Khaleesi could be a successful heart surgeon and still have patients asking her about dragons.
Vexahlia: The Problem of Pop Culture Baby Names
A name drawn from, say, opera or ballet or The Faerie Queen, conveys one message. It implies the parents were educated, sophisticated, successful.
Names taken from pop culture can read the other way.
Except that this isn’t necessarily accurate, and it certainly doesn’t feel fair.
I also suspect it’s changing.
We’ve drawn names from popular culture for ages. It’s just been a little tougher to connect the dots. Nancy does a brilliant job of surfacing these stories. Today, at least some parents seem to shrug off the idea that names like Anakin or Kylo will be problematic. And when enough parents operate on that premise, it becomes true.
Vexahlia: My Two Cents
This name surpasses rare; it verges on unique. The name has never been given to even five children in a single year. The US Census records list no Vexahlias, either. (Though I did find Vexella, Vicola, and Vicalee.)
Maybe my biggest hesitation is that Vexahlia offers little in the way of easy nicknames, though I suspect that others might get used to Vex pretty quickly.
And yet, when I run this past my list of 12 Warning Signs, Vexahlia passes.
In terms of alternatives, other V names that come to mind are Valencia, Vivica, Evolet, Reverie, Valletta, Vesta, and Varvara. And yet I’m not sure any of those quite hit the right note.
I recommend that if you do choose Vexahlia, you pair it with a more traditional middle name.
Let’s have a poll, and don’t forget to add your suggestions in the comments. If there are any D&D fans out there, I’d love to hear other names from the universe, too.
What do you think of Vexahlia? Do you think the general perception of pop culture baby names is changing? Or was it never really that big a deal?
Couple things to note, Vexahilia comes from a Critical role character. Critical role is where actors play D&D so it’s not like the character is a solid piece in the game. Secondly I would reccomend Vex’ahilia’s daughters name, Vesper, if you wanted a slightly more traditional name while paying homage to critical role since it’s an astrological name meaning Venus.
Nameless wonder says
Couldn’t you just spell it differently to clear up a few problems?
Veksarlia, Vehsalia or something…
Maybe Valencia has enough of a similar sound to appeal?
Vixen (although, connotations…. :/ )
Vesper / Vespyr
Zora / Zara / Sahara
Vivica is an excellent suggestion. I just wanted to drop an anecdote, since my option is kind of neutral – I had a childhood friend named Metaxia, which immediately came to mind when I read Vexhalia. It’s Greek, and she was from a Greek family with a long and difficult last name, so she was going to do the “let-me-spell-it-for-you” routine regardless. She seemed just fine, wasn’t picked on for it any more than the rest of us, and frankly it was a beautiful name that fit her. She did have the heritage thing going over pop culture, but I’d say don’t be too scared about Vexhalia being inaccessible.
Go for Vivica! Unusual, but light and airy- with the sweet nickname Viv.
Honestly, for some reason, I think this name sounds like a country not a person. Some sound resemblance to Westphalia? Or to Hetalia Axis Powers (even though Hetalia isn’t the name of a country)? — I’m not sure. That said, I don’t get a hugely negative vibe, just doesn’t quite hit the “name” note for me.
I have trouble with it. I hear it with a Southern accent
Vex-all-yuh. (with the all drawn out– sounding like Vex all of you).
I couldn’t do it, and we play D&D.
It also bothers me that her sister would have such a light and positive name in contrast.
I have no suggestions unfortunately, but I would continue looking. The uniqueness doesn’t phase me; it is the name itself that gives me pause.
That’s an interesting point about accents. It *does* sound different when I imagine it with a Southern accent.
Love, love, love this part of your comment: “The uniqueness doesn’t phase me; it is the name itself that gives me pause.” It’s so easy to react negatively to any new name, but it’s important to pause and consider if it works, regardless of whether we’re familiar with it or not. Thank you!
I already posted on your nameberry thread, so I won’t repeat my suggestions, but I wanted to mention that I like your idea (in the NB thread) of using Vexahlia as a middle for Tova, and I think Tova Faye Vexahlia works well with a one-syllable last name.
And I agree with other posters here – I’d love to hear an update when she’s named!
Zoe Hare says
Yes I’m loving Tova iv never heard it before….i also heard that on a dungeons and dragons stream and just think it’s a beautiful name. I’m hoping hubby will be ok maybe pushing Vexahlia to a middle name but the more I read comments negative or not I’m getting so used to talking about it , it just seems normal to my ears now lol x
And that is exactly what will happen to everyone in your daughter’s life – even really unusual names eventually feel familiar.
I love unusual names too, and even though they can be tough upon introduction, they are easier to remember.
If you’re still on the fence about this one, my daughter’s name has a similar sound!
It rhymes with Julia, and means “wood dweller” (same root as Sylvia and Silas). Our daughter is 4, she loves her name, we love her name. We have only ever received positive responses. I do think that a shorter spelling makes unusual names easier. When it’s mistaken for other things it’s Azalea (we’re in the South) or Xyla/Zyla. Toddlers always call her “ya ya”, which is how she first pronounced it too. Plus X is an awesome initial 😉
I look forward to hearing what you’ll choose!
Zoe Hare says
Love Xylia and Zyla as it’s very similar to our other favourite name Xia but pronounced Zyah not the traditional Chinese way that sounds more like shire. I also love Azalea lol I think I just love names ending in ia sounds and also being quirky helps 🙂
I’m not sure how attached you are to the source or if you just like the sound. On sound, I find flipping the order around a little bit to get Valexia less challenging, and it avoids the possible Vex nickname. Vale or Lex or Xia all seem to fit with Win, (if she were my child, she would also probably get “Lexicon” occasionally, at least until she got old enough to object). Google tells me it belongs to a World of Warcraft character, but that’s too far from my geekery for me to assess any meaning it takes from there.
But if Vexahlia is what you love, it might fit well with how she wants to interact with the world and be perfect. It also might not, so I definitely agree she should have a less challenging nickname or middle to fall back on.
Zoe Hare says
The reason we like the name is purely based or that we love the sound and flow or it and it’s the only name we’ve heard that’s really kinda struck a chord and stayed with us. I do like your suggestion of Valexia thats pretty i did mention the possibility of Vaxahlia to hubby just to soften that Vex bit but he didn’t like it as much.
It’s hard to hit the same kind of notes as Winry-which as others have commented reads both as a sweet nickname of a classic Winifred but also has the caché of the Fullmetal Alchemist character. I think that’s why Vexhalia doesn’t totally work because it’s missing the first element. I would brainstorm more classic names with edgy nicknames (like Beatrix nn Bex for example or the examples from The Mrs) or go with a favorite gaming/manga character with more broad appeal-maybe something from Battle Royale or Neil Gaiman or other genres that also have some wide literary base. I love Evaine for you, from Stardust!
Oops that’s spelled Yvaine (even better!) and I transposed the letters in Vexahlia
The Mrs. says
The name Ziporrah could work for your family. Yes, it’s an established, historical name, but I can see it easily next to older sister Winry.
It means ‘bird’ in Hebrew and comes with the stylish nickname of Zip. Win & Zip almost beg to be used in a children’s book together! Don’t they sound like the brightest, shiniest, most fun sisters?!
Another unconventional idea is Cerise. Yup, she’s a color, French, and (conveniently) a fruit… specifically, a cherry. Winry & Cerise. Win & (wait for it)… Bing! (Because Bing is a kind of cherry). Bing is a darling nickname for an adventurous little girl in ponytails; Cerise could be the first name of a judge.
The last suggestion is Rialto. Win & Ria! Rialto is highly uncommon but not unheard of. There’s a musical connection, a nautical one, and a location all rolled into one.
Best wishes to you and your family. Please let us know what you decide! 🙂
Vexhalia seems a bit problematic to me, but if it’s the name you love, maybe consider Vale for a nickname.
Win and Vale?
You might try to see if there’s another name you love. Obviously, you could use Vexahlia if that’s truly the only name you love, but…
First, while Vexahlia has some appeal, it will definitely be difficult for the child having to constantly spell out and explain her name.
Second, I honestly don’t think it matches very well with your other daughter’s name. Winry is unique but also sounds like vintage nickname Winnie and on-trend girl names like Quinn and Kinsley. Vexahlia, on the other hand, is also unique, yes, but is sounds more like Dahlia and other long, frilly names for girls. While both styles may be popular, they don’t really fit together all that well in my opinion. They clash like Quinn & Victoria would as sister names. But that may not be a concern to everyone.
Finally, even in an age of kids called Khaleesi and Kylo, Vexahlia seems really made-up. Perhaps you would consider Vesper or Viveca?
How about Zahlia or even Xahlia instead? Vahlia? Valia?
C in DC says
I was thinking Dahlia, but here’s the thing. The first NN that popped into my head for the full name was Alia or Lia, both of which are pretty mainstream these days. Vixie is another nn possibility. I really don’t see Vexahlia as being any more problematic than, say, Valencia or Valentina, just not as easily recognized.
Allison Berkson says
I think that Vexahlia is a wonderful sibling to Winry. From Winry, I get the feeling you like unique names and are comfortable with the possible negatives. I think this is one of those cases in which people will give you strong opinions about the name before the baby is born but would find it endearing on a baby in day to day use.
But of course, here I sit cuddling a Khaleesi. 🙂
Zoe Hare says
This put such a smile on face how lovely 🙂 little queen x
With a sister named Winry (FMA!), I think Vexahlia is fine. I would not use Vex as the nickname, though. I like the idea of the previously suggested Lia, or maybe Val would work.
Christina Fonseca says
Two rare names with X in them and built in nicknames: Elexina or Elexine. Win and Xina sound like sisters to me. I would love for you to write in with an update after she is born!
I voted for maybe- but I think this is best as a middle name. My biggest hang up is that one sister has a positive-sounding nickname (Win) while the other has a negative-sounding one (Vex). I have two sisters, I know if either one was named Win and I was named Vex, I’d have a problem with that. I generally don’t like to use that argument (like siblings with the same letter except for one; to me that’s no big deal) but this could lean more towards favoritism. I’m sure that’s not your intention but that’s what I take from it.
British American says
I agree! After reading the question on Facebook and then clicking through to see that there is a sister named Win, I would say that that would be a deciding factor. With “Win” being such a positive nickname and then “Vex” having negative undertones, it sounds more like a hero & villain paring or a “good twin-bad twin” combo.
I see where you’re coming from with Noah having No in it, but vex seems entirely negative, where no has some positive uses. I understand and appreciate the desire for a unique name, but I’m not sure this is one you’d want to live with. I’m going to ruminate on this and look around at D&D inspirations and see if I can think of other names that would make you feel as inspired.
This doesn’t put the “v” up front, but how about Guinevere? You could call her Guin/Gwen or even Vera. In my mind, it’s unique, but it has a more positive connotation and most people know the Camelot reference.
Leigh Bennett says
It’s a powerful-sounding name with a cool nic, but Abby has a point in regard to its bearer needing to constantly spell, pronounce, and explain her name. My name is Leigh and I deal with this all the time even though it’s far more common than Vexhalia. I imagine it’ll be the cause of some exhaustion and frustration.
I voted for – maybe, it’s your favorite name, use it. I think it’s better than just Vex. Abby is right that it fits right in these days, especially with the high-value scrabble letters (and two even!) It doesn’t pass my ‘would I want this to be my name’ test, but that test is very subjective. Winry strikes me as a great unusual but familiar name. Vexalia does not. Names these days are much more unusual and with all the younique spellings out there, our world of ‘professionals’ is going to look much different in 30 years. I really like the sound of Xalia though! Would you consider that as a nod to the D&D character, still very unique, but familiar enough (sounds like Talia)? It even follows alphabetically from Winry, which makes my name nerd heart happy. (I googled it and it’s an acronym for a medical term though..) Or how about Valia? I really love that, connected to an awesome word (valiant), pretty kickass with sister Win!
Good luck with the decision! I found naming a second girl quite the strugggle too.
Megan M. says
I just don’t think this name works in real life for a real little girl OR adult woman. When you add in the likelihood that it will have to be spelled out her entire life, the ways people will comment on it … I would not do this. Sure, it’s a “cool” name that shares sounds with some very popular names right now, and people who know the association might be like “Wow, cool!” when they hear it. But I just do not think this name translates well to real life. I just don’t. Can you really imagine your real-life child answering to and using this name for her entire life? I just can’t see it.
While I can understand the pull of this name, it’s the potential difficulty of actually living with it that gives me pause. Your daughter may or may not feel attracted to the images and stories of Vexahlia, and to me, it unfairly attaches the interests of the parents to the child. I’m a huge fan of interesting and unusual names, but I think something that allows a child to define the name herself would be a better choice. Your first daughter has a name that falls beautifully into that latter category.
My first reaction and second and third would be no way.
Jean C. says
Well…I’m one of the few people who so far has voted yes on the quiz. I don’t think we use the word vex as a common part of our diction, although most people are familiar with it. Would you consider V as a nickname? Or Vee? But I honestly think Vex could be a cute nickname. It doesn’t sound that different than Dax, Pax, Bex, Max, etc. Or maybe Vexa. As an alternative, would you consider naming her the simpler “Vox?”
Marisa overseas says
I voted yes too, for the same reasons. If I met someone named Vex, I don’t actually think my brain would connect it to the word. I would clump it with “Bex”, short for Rebecca. [My brain kept boxer, the type of dog, separate from boxer, the fighting sport, until I was into my mid-30s. I honestly never joined the two.] Other people might think of it though. I do like the suggestions of Vale and Vox as alternate nicknames, but mostly because I like those names too, not necessarily to usurp Vex.
Personally if you truly love the name use it. I agree that the nickname Vex could be problematic, but you could go in the opposite direction for a nickname, as in the last three letters of the name Lia. As someone that does online roleplay, and in the past has done tabletop, like D&D, I have had many characters with varied names. One such character was a girl named Magnolia that went solely by Lia. If a girl, even a fictional one, named Magnolia can go by Lia why not a real life girl named Vexahlia.
Amanda Grayson says
First I have to say that after reading Abby’s description of the D&D character, I became immediately biased. Vexahlia and nn Vex bring forth a picture of a young woman, armed with a sword and very strong and capable. BUT– this picture isn’t going to come up for most people.
As someone who gave both their kids rare (and in the case of the first, unusual) names, I hesitate to advise against NOT giving your daughter this name. I am in concert with Abby on the downsides of having a ‘weird’ name: you have to always spell it, people will always make comments, and you will always have to tell the story. I think it’s absolutely imperative in this case that you have a good story for the sake of your child. I am fairly certain my adult child is tired of telling her name story, but at least she has one beyond ‘my parents liked it.’ Mine was ‘my dad knew a girl with that name.’ (I changed my name as an adult.)
The other thing I did was give my daughter permission to change her name when she turned 18, if she wanted to. She has told me that she is fine with her name now. I also gave her a good, beautiful middle name, one not extremely common but recognisible, and one I felt she might like and might want to use. As an adult, she does use it when getting coffee or ordering a table at a restaurant.
So– I have no helpful conclusion here other than to carefully consider all the pros and cons. Good luck and congratulations on your baby!
I gave my daughter an unusual (although definitely not unique) first name too, but a family name that’s a solid classic as a middle so she had a good fallback if she preferred. Knowing she’d have to spell it often, we taught her how to do that when she was quite young by making a song out of it.
If you opt for Vexahlia, teach her how to spell it as soon as you can. 🙂
Mandie L. says
If you love it, use it. (Of course, I’m one who deliberately looks for rare names). I would give the nickname thing careful consideration. Maybe Allie?
I agree with the advice to give her a more common middle name. But also, make sure you love the middle name and it has some special place in your heart, too, not just a “filler”. So you won’t mind if she decides to use it.
I don’t think the first syllable “no” in Noah is comparable to the first syllable “Vex” in “Vexahlia.” For one thing, while “No” is literally a negative response, it isn’t an inherently negative *word*- plenty of times “No” is the answer someone WANTS to a question. For another, it’s a syllable that occurs in many words and names without having anything to do with the word “no.” And, of course, “Noah” is an ancient name, which means many people will never even interpret it syllable by syllable- it just reads/scans as “name” instantly.
Vex doesn’t meet any of these criteria- it’s an inherently negative word, it’s a rare word/syllable that’s only ever used to describe something at least irritating, and it’s not a component of any other words or names I can think of except slight variations on the theme of ‘to vex”- vexation, vexatious, vexating, etc. And since it is not an established name, people are far more likely to consider the components as they try to parse it.
If I read the name Vexahlia in a book, I would assume off the bat the character was going to be slightly villainous, and that the author was a bit lazy about conveying that fact. It reminds of of “Cruella” in that way. I know nothing about the character in D&D and I assume if you want to name your baby after her that she isn’t a villain (although maybe not, there are a bunch of Anakins, after all), but that’s the impression it gives me without that background to color my perception.