Name Help: A Sister for Joseph and MaddieUPDATE: They’ve chosen a name! Please welcome Annika Eileen. Congrats to the family.

Rachel writes:

I am due soon with baby #3, a girl. We cannot come close to anything we both like. Her siblings are Joseph Alexander and Madeline Ruth. I’m Rachel and husband is Noah. We’re not religious, even given so many Biblical names going on here.

Their last names all start with Sh (mine’s different). Joseph goes by Joseph (some day I suppose that could change) but Madeline is Maddie–so I find I’ve had to rule out names with similar nicknames.

My husband would like Rose for a middle name, his grandmother, which is nice. I’d prefer Eileen, my mom’s middle. We could go either way, or neither.

Some first names we’ve tossed around:

Annika (AHN-nik-uh) – This is my top pick. My family background is heavy on the Swedish, with some Dutch, so I like it for that. And it’s Anna-like, but with a twist and has some good nickname possibilities. It’s different without being too odd, which is kind of what I’d like for this baby. I like Rose in the middle except it yields initials ARS–I’m split on if this is an issue, but there’s a Brit side to the family who will immediately see “arse” I’m afraid. Eileen in the middle, perhaps.

Emma – Husband thinks it nice enough, but too popular, not enough oomph. I’d rather not pick a Top Ten sort of name but it was my great-grandmother’s name, so that saves it slightly.

Helen, Vera, Ingrid, Eleanor – These are my husband’s top picks, in order of his preference. I can’t imagine calling out any of those. All with Rose as a middle, although IRS isn’t going to work.

He likes traditional names, “something you could call as judge or doctor,” as he always says. I could go a bit less traditional, prefer having nickname possibilities, and am aiming not to repeat an initial already in the family.

Thank you!

Hi Rachel –

Congratulations on baby #3!

Let’s start with the easy part. If he loves Helen, Vera, Ingrid, and Eleanor, but none of them work for you, then I’d suggest you strike them all from the list.

But I think there are a few options on your list that might work, with some tweaking:

Annika Eileen or Annika Emmeline – I’m divided on whether ARS is a problem, but I’m guessing my British brother-in-law would think I’d lost my mind if we named a kiddo Annabel Rose. (Our surname starts with S, too.) That leaves Eileen, and I think Annika Eileen is just lovely. Except. I’m guessing your husband is not 100% on board, or you wouldn’t be writing. I suggest Emmeline as a spin on your family name Emma. But again, your husband isn’t getting his first or middle name preference this way, so maybe Annika is out.

Emmeline Rose – Let’s stay with the Emma idea for a minute, though. Elaborating Emma to Emmeline solves a bunch of problems. It feels like a sister name for Joseph and Madeline/Maddie, without repeating an initial. It gives you nickname options galore, from Emma and Emmy to Millie. It’s similar to his buttoned-up Eleanor, but a little less expected. Plus, it works with Rose as a middle name, which gives your husband his top choice. I think that makes it a great choice!

Helena – It seems like your husband favors names that more tailored, while you’d prefer something with a little more romance. Add an ‘a’ to Helen, and you have Helena. The downside? There are at least three distinct pronunciations, depending on your preference. And those pronunciations can impact the nickname possibilities. Say it heh LAY nuh, and she’s Laney. Opt for the British hel en uh, and she’s Nell. Still, it feels like middle ground between Annika and Helen, so I think it’s worth a look.

But let’s namestorm some more possibilities:

Margaret – Ingrid always makes me think of Greta, a common short form of Margaret that shares the ‘gr’ sound. And Greta Garbo is undeniably Swedish. So if Annika is a non-starter for your husband, would he consider Margaret, called Greta? Margaret can be a judge, a doctor, or a prime minister. And if Greta isn’t quite right, Margaret is nickname-rich. The downside? Margaret and Madeline would share an initial, and Maddie and Maggie are probably too close.

Caroline – Charlotte and Caroline are both feminine forms of Charles, but while Charlotte is a darling of our moment, Caroline remains relatively underused. Okay, it ranks right around #50 in the US, so that’s not exactly obscure. But it’s not Emma.

Genevieve – I noticed your husband loves Vera. I wonder if another name with a strong V sound and possible nicknames might make for a great compromise? There’s something slightly French about Madeline, so how about Genevieve? They make great sister names, without being too Eiffel-Tower-poodle-baguette together. And nicknames? Oh boy golly, does Genevieve have nicknames! I think Vivi is especially sweet, which brings me to …

Vivian, Vivienne, or Viviana – Or maybe another Vivi name would please? Vivienne is the most French, Vivian the most tailored, Viviana the most romantic. I think someone who loves Helen and Vera is likely to respond to Vivian, but perhaps Viviana or Vivienne would be more in line with Annika.

Susannah – Susannah feels like a name that would be common, but it isn’t. Not even a little bit! Of all of the possible Sue- names out there, only Susan ranks in the current US Top 1000 – and that name ranked around #850 in 2014!

Louisa – Yet another traditional name that’s fit for a woman of serious pursuits, but still has plenty of cutesy nicknames, like Lulu and Lou. Louisa isn’t very common, but no one would be confused about how to say or spell it, and I think it pairs well with Joseph and Madeline. Joseph, Maddie, and Lulu.

Juliet – I initially thought about Julia, a traditional and storied name that feels serious, but has a certain romantic appeal, too. And then it hit me – romantic. Why not Juliet? It’s slightly unexpected, very current, and has nicknames galore. (My favorite of the moment is Jet, a contracted form of the name.)

Annarose – You mentioned appreciating Annika’s Anna roots. Good news! There are plenty of Anna names, including Annabeth, Annalise, and Annabelle. If none of those appeal to you, would you consider Marianna, Eliana, or Juliana – all names that put the anna at the end?

Okay readers, it’s your turn. What would you suggest to Rachel and Noah for their daughter on the way?

This post was originally published on December 8, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on April 30, 2016.

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 really love Louisa for you! Another possibility which I think fits the siblings is Rosemary. Rosemary Eileen, and you can call her Rosie for short.

  2. I’ll throw out more Scandi-Dutch choices I love, considering Annika is your top pick and Ingrid is on his list. I love both!

    Annelise, Sonja, Hanna (I say HAHna), variations on Celia, Erika. For more out there but easy to pronounce choices: Eira, Saskia. For something like Vera but not Vera, there’s always Vivika, which shortens to Vivie and which I love paired with Maddie. They sound like sisters!

    1. In other words-I second Abby’s suggestions of Annelise and agree that a “getting to Vivi” name would be a perfect fit 🙂

  3. I was coming to suggest Helena or Emmeline before I read Abby’s response, so those are my votes!

    I know a sibset of Theodore, Josephine & Madeleine (Theo, Josie & Maddy) so maybe you’d like Theodora? Nickname Thea or Teddy or Dora or Dory or Tori or…

    1. I love Rosalie as a smoosh of Rose and Eileen.

      Madeline and Rosalie (or Maddie and Rosie) are pretty together too.

  4. For some reason, I am feeling Elizabeth for you with a spunky nickname like Libby. Or Lillian or Violet. Maybe one if those fits both your preferences?

  5. How about Estelle Rose? Perhaps it would suit mom’s romantic nature and satisfy dad’s honor name preference. Joseph, Maddie, and Ella.

    Ingrid Eileen really is lovely. Joseph, Maddie, and Inge. Seriously adorable.

    Curious what name Rachel and Noah actually chose!

  6. First of all… have you considered using Rose as a first name?? We have a Rose and absolutely love it. It is a common middle name but less common first name. We receive compliments on it all the time.

    OR what if you did Rose Eileen? Then both names are used??

    From your list I LOVE Vera Rose. Sigh. So fabulous.

    We also have a Juliet. So I guess I’m biased towards that name, but Juliet Rose is nice as well.

    Other names:
    Esther –> I think Esther needs a come back.

    Vivienne Rose is gorgeous.
    Emilia Rose is also gorgeous.