Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!
Momma Dunn writes:
My husband and I had very little trouble naming our first daughter. He is of Irish descent, and we fell in love with the name Cassidy while looking at a list of Irish girls’ names.
Because our last name is one syllable, and Cassidy is three syllables, I was next looking for a two syllable middle name. My husband suggested Erin, and the baby’s name was settled!
Four our second daughter, the naming process has not gone anywhere near as smoothly. My husband and I have looked extensively online and in a baby book for that perfect name, but have very few ideas. The ideas that we come up with don’t really sound right, and we just can’t really settle on anything.
I admittedly have all kinds of rules, some of which I have begun to stray from, since I was coming up empty handed.
Here’s my list:
- Three-syllable first name, two-syllable middle
- Not in the Top 100 most popular names for 2014
- Sounds compatible with Cassidy
- Works with our one-syllable last name
- Initials won’t result in an acronym with a negative connotation. (No S.A.D. or B.A.D.)
- A name that sounds feminine, but translates well to adulthood – not too cutesy!
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful ideas and suggestions in the comments!
Hi Momma Dunn –
That’s quite a list! But it’s not an unreasonable one. Well, it might be worth re-considering the three-two syllable pattern. (But you’ve mentioned that you’re open to that.)
I was struggling with suggestions at first, and it struck me that it’s probably because Cassidy doesn’t immediately read Irish to me. It’s a surname name, and maybe a cowgirl name (Hopalong!), and not so long ago it was a major celebrity kid name (Kathie Lee’s daughter, much-mentioned on morning television – though she’s now grown up.) Then again, you didn’t ask for Irish names.
So let’s start with surname names. We can probably rule out Riley, since it ranked #47 in 2014, before Inside Out was such a success, with a young girl named Riley at the heart of the story. Kennedy also seems likely to be out, since it ranked #54 in 2014 – though it is undeniably Irish, and the alliteration of Cassidy and Kennedy could be appealing.
Moving on … Would you consider:
- Flannery – If Kennedy is too popular, is Flannery too rare? Mary Flannery O’Connor, known exclusively by her middle name, was a Southern writer active from the 1940s through the 1960s. Shades of Nelle Harper Lee, right? Flannery is also notable for her writings on faith, including book reviews columns for the local Catholic press in Georgia. As names go, Flannery has a lot of strength, but no easy nicknames.
- Delaney – One of my longtime favorites, Delaney peaked a few years ago and is now falling. But that’s not a bad thing! It means that chances are that Delaney won’t be cracking the US Top 100 anytime soon. It is currently ranked #268.
- Madigan – Do names ending in ‘n’ work with your surname? I’m not sure. But if you’re open to them, Madigan is one of my favorites. It brings to mind the tragic romance of Elvira Madigan, as well as the haunting Mozart concerto now associated with her story. One downside: Madigan might be confused for Madison. A lot. One upside: Madigan could be nicknamed Maggie as well as Maddie.
- Marlowe – It’s just two syllables, but Marlowe is undeniably a surname name with a lot of style.
- Aveline – I wonder if you’d like an unusual, tailored name like Aveline? It’s not a surname, but it does have the same tailored style. It’s related to the hazelnut, making it an edible choice, too. Other rare Av- names that might be too out there? Avalon and Avonlea.
- Juniper – Another possibility with ties to the natural world, this time a type of tree. I like the bright, upbeat feel of Cassidy and Juniper as sisters.
- Brenna – I almost suggested Brennan, but I think sounds abrupt with your short surname. But how about Brenna? It’s relatively rare – it ranked just #783 in 2014, and has never ranked higher than the mid-200s, back in the 1990s.
- Tierney – One more surname name, this time authentically Irish. It’s also the surname of Oscar-nominated actress Gene Tierney, which makes it a cousin to Harlow and Monroe.
If you’re after another Irish-signifiying middle, there’s Ireland, Clover, or Emerald – though they’re all a bit more daring than Erin.
For a two-syllable middle that’s not quite as out-there, how about Adele, Elise, Iris, or Eden? If you’d prefer to avoid a vowel – and lessen the chances of spelling something! – there’s Ciel (from the French word for sky, and also heaven), Laurel (though maybe too much nature name with Juniper), Celeste, and Delphine. Or maybe something too popular for you to consider as a given name, like Riley or Kennedy, depending on the first name?
I have a few favorite combinations for you:
- Juniper Riley – It follows your three-two pattern exactly. Riley is Irish, just like Erin. Juniper has the same playful quality as Cassidy. There’s no overlap in sounds, but I think they sound exactly right as sisters. No problems with initials spelling anything, either. My favorite for you!
- Tierney Celeste – Not quite the pattern you had it mind, but I think Tierney could be a great sister name for Cassidy. Celeste isn’t the traditional Anne-Grace-Rose middle name, but it works nicely.
- Marlowe Eden – I’m in love with the sound of Marlowe Eden. Cassidy and Marlowe sound like sisters, and I think Eden might appeal to you for the same reasons that Erin works so well. One hesitation – are the initials M.E.D. a non-starter? It doesn’t seem negative to me in the way that S.A.D. or B.A.D. would, but if you’re trying to avoid spelling things, well … I don’t think this quite fits.
So overall, I’m rooting for Juniper Riley, but I know that our readers will have fantastic suggestions that I’ve never thought of!
Readers, what would you name a sister for Cassidy Erin?
Some three-syllable, Irish girl names I’d suggest:
Beltany, Darina [if you like alliteration], Fenella, Honora/Onora, Juverna/Vernia [Roman names for Ireland], Lasrina, Tallulah
Momma Dunn says
First of all, I just want to thank Abby for writing this wonderful and thoughtful article. I also want to thank everyone that took the time to write a response. My husband and I really appreciate the assistance with our search to find the perfect name!
Right now the front runner for a first name is Delaney. I love the nickname Laney, especially paired with Cassie. I also liked the suggestion of Aveline – pretty! One of my co-workers loved your suggestion of Marlowe as well.
For potential middle names I love the reader suggestion of Arwen. I had not come across that name in all my searches, so thank you for that! I also like the suggestion of Lyra.
A lot of the names that were mentioned by Abby or readers were names that were already on my shortlist of names… Annika, Calista, Brenna/Brianna, Ainsley/Ansley. Ansley was actually my number one choice before this article, but my husband vetoed it unfortunately. I thought a lot about Calista, but the name reminds me of Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal). I also had previously considered Tierney.
Some of the names that were suggested are good names, but have been already used in our large family! Bridget is a niece, there is a cousin named Madison (too close to Madigan), and there is another niece named Melanie (so I can’t use the rhyming version of Delanie). I have a college friend with daughters named Mallory and McKenna, and would prefer not to “copy” names if possible.
Some of the other names have negative cultural associations in my mind… my only point of reference with the name Catriona is Jim Carrey’s girlfriend (Cathriona) who committed suicide earlier this year. I was actually interested in that name when I heard it then, but dismissed it due to all the publicity. Zenaida was the name of the babysitter that Casey Anthony claimed she left her daughter with before she went missing. Carrigan is another cute name, but it reminds me of the Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan and the whole Tanya Harding scandal.
Thank you for everyone who helped with our search for the perfect name! We are much closer to making a decision and not having to write “Baby Girl Dunn” on the birth certificate!!
Cassidy is one of my favorites – it’s on our short list for girls too. You have great taste Momma and Daddy Dunn!
I love Flannery and Kennedy as sibling names for Cassidy. I’d also second the suggestion of Catriona from the comments. It is likely to be pronounced with four syllables in the US, but it’s my understanding that it should be said almost identically with Katrina, as 3 syllables. Catriona and Cassidy are great together! You could also spell it Catrina, although I don’t think it looks as nice. Carrigan is pretty, if you don’t like the repeating initial, there’s the variant Kerrigan, which I think I like better.
For middle names, not much screams Irish like Erin! I’d nominate Bridget or Brigid as a close second. Shannon or Kathleen are also pretty darn Irish. Colleen is dated, but I still love it. If you’re feeling like sailing close to the pop culture winds, there’s also Caitlin. My favorites are the more difficult Gaelic choices like Saoirse and Caoimhe or Niamh. Aisling and Ailis are also nice.
I have a secret weakness for Alastriona (al-as-TREE-na) which is a feminine of Alastair or a variant of Alexandra depending on how you want to look at it. It’s 4 syllables though. Alastriona and Cassidy.
Maybe it’s just me?
I like Catriona Kathleen best, I think.
Love Delaney with Cassidy. I also love the suggestion of Juniper Riley!
Here are some 3 syllable first names that I think sound great with sister Cassidy: Adelaide (nn: Addy, Della, Lala), Annika, Felicity, Fiona, Imogen, Juliet, Lorelai, Matilda (nn: Tilly)
Some 2 syllable middle names: Arwen, Bridget, Bronwen, Enid, Esme, Lyra, Luna, Siobhan, Tessa
I love the suggestion of Delaney.
But how about:
Kenneally, with Neely as a nickname? Makenna/McKenna?
I *love* Tierney.
It’s 4 syllables, but what about Catriona? Irish, unusual but clearly feminine, and Catriona and Cassidy sound like sisters.
As soon as I read Delaney I thought it was the perfect sister name for Cassidy. Good luck!!
The Mrs. says
Do you like Deirdre (DEER-drah)? It’s only two syllables, but it’s feminine, well outside the popularity range you want to avoid, gives you a distinctly new sound from Cassidy, AND is truly Irish!
Otherwise Sabrina is my favorite from others’ suggestions. Best wishes!
How about McKenna, Mallory or Chiara?
Middle name possibilities: Brie/Bree or Bria?
A softer alternative to Delaney is Delanie (rhymes with Melanie).
The Mrs. says
Ah! I second Mallory!! Excellent option!
I think Delaney is the perfect choice! I have been in love with that name for a long time, so maybe I am prejudiced. But Cassidy and Delaney sound like sisters. Viable nicknames, Cassie and Laney are adorable, too! My favorite combo is Delaney Iris. It’s so sweet and feminine! I do think Abby’s suggestion, Juniper Riley, is cute, too, though:)
The moment I saw Cassidy, I thought Tierney, which like Cassidy is an Irish name. Tierney Brenna would be a lovely and rather Irish combination, but Tierney is only two syllables not three. Instead of 3-2-1 could you consider 2-3-1? In which case you could go with something like Tierney Pagraigin (PAW-dri-geen), Tierney Finola, or Tierney Catrina.
Another suggestion is Sheridan though I am assuming your surname is Dunn, so I am not sure how well Sheridan Dunn works. I do know a little girl named Sullivan, granted in her case it is her mother’s maiden name. Her nickname is Lili (Lee-lee). However Sullivan Dunn, at least to my ear works less than Sheridan Dunn.
I have to say I like the suggestion of Carrigan is you are not bothered by repeating the first initial of C. Kensington is also quite lovely and interesting. If you are willing to veer away from Irish names I think Juniper is an amazing choice. Juniper Tierney would be amazing and different without being strange.
What about Finnegan? A 3-syllable Irish name .. on Kenslea, another Irish surname, if Finnegan is too unisex?
I like Sabrina from the comments! I also think Ainsley could work well for something more unusual and I do like Delaney or even Lainey if you don’t like the alliteration with the last name. An outlier name that I love would be Maureen. I think Maureen Dunn sounds incredibly professional and classic but has the childhood nicknames of Maura or Reenie or Reena. Oh, maybe that’s why I like Sabrina-hahaha
I think Delaney is the perfect choice! I have been in love with this name for a long time, so maybe I am prejudiced. But Cassidy and Delaney sound like sisters. Viable nicknames, Cassie and Laney are adorable, too! My favorite combo is Delaney Iris. It’s so sweet and feminine! I do think Abby’s suggestion, Juniper Riley, is cute, too, though:)
Love the suggestions of Madigan and Flannery. Bridget was the first Irish name that came to mind for me. Would you be willing to swap the syllable requirement to 2-3-1? Bridget Flannery for example.
So many good suggestions. Loving Juniper, Madigan and Waverly.
Cassidy and Catrina–Cat and Kitty make for fun nns
Cassidy and Finnola
Cassidy and Bernadette–Birdy or Betty for short would be adorable
Cassidy and Maribel
Cassidy and Rowena
Cassidy and Waverly
Cassidy and Zenaida–Zenna or Zadie works as a nn
As far as middles go:
Morgan, Sabine, Kelly, Róisín, Tara, Nola, Brigid, Deirdre…
I love Catrina Morgan, Bernadette Róisín, and Rowena Kelly.
Love Flannery as a first name. For a middle, why not Shannon? It’s a lovely name, a city in Ireland, and not terribly common today.
I love Juniper.
Sabrina is gaelic too. Cassidy and Sabrina seem will matched. Sabrina Maeve. Sabrina Rowan. Sabrina Colleen.
Delaney was my first thought after reading the title of the post. Cassidy and Delaney are two of the last names as first names that I like best. I also thought of Emerald before I realized it was in the post (you know what they say about great minds). Clover is another cute middle name suggestion. The middle is the place to go wild! (Not that Emerald and Clover are even that wild – I know of a girl whose first name is Emerald and a girl whose middle name is Clover.)
I can think of quite a few 2 syllable, Irish to Irish-ish middle options that come to mind: Clara or Cara or Carley, Dierdre, Meara, Brigid, Nora… And these 3 syllable ones: Alanna/h, Fiona
What about reversing the system and making Baby#2 a 2 syllable first, 3 syllable second? Brigid Tierney or Clara Flannery have nice flow.
Christina Fonseca says
Congrats on Baby # 2! I don’t have any middle name suggestions or name combos. I second Abby’s suggestions of Flannery, Delaney, Madigan and Juniper. Other ideas: Carrigan, Kensington, Kerensa, Mallory, Rhiannon, and Waverly.