UPDATE: She’s here! Casey writes: We loved the idea of Josephine, but not with our (J) last name. Margot and the other Margaret names were great ideas, but unfortunately, it still felt too close for comfort. After pretty much ignoring it on the original list, we came back to Marie two days after she was born. And it fits her SO, SO well. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We’re expecting our first child in October, and we’re looking for a traditional girl name. I love Margaret, but unfortunately, that’s the name of a family member my wife has a difficult relationship with.
We agree on Elizabeth, but not on a nickname. Katherine has come up, but Kate would probably be Katie, and that’s too close to my name.
I think we’re in a negative pattern, where we both look for reasons names won’t work. I’m still kind of stuck on Margaret, even though I know we can’t use it. My wife really likes Sophia, but I work with children, and the world already has plenty of Sophias.
Her middle name will be my wife’s last name, which is long and Italian. We’re using my two-syllable, starts-with-J, ends-with-son, very common last name for our daughter.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Casey –
Congrats on your daughter!
Also, it’s great that you can identify that awkward place: you’ve both gotten in the habit of rejecting names, when you’re supposed to be falling in love with a name!
We’re looking for:
- A traditional name
- Possibly one with a nickname you can agree on
- Something not wildly common for children over the last decade or so
I’m wondering if there’s a subtle style divide between you and your wife? Sophia and Margaret both count as classics. But backpacking the Grand Canyon and a luxury resort in the Maldives are both travel. The gap between Sophia and Margaret isn’t that vast … but I think it’s worth trying to find names that are slightly more feminine, while still feeling substantial.
NAMES LIKE MARGARET
BEATRICE or BEATRIX
I think Beatrice splits the difference between Margaret and Sophia beautifully. It’s classic, but with a certain romance. The -trice ending is far more familiar in the US today, but if you’re wild about Trixie as a nickname, the -trix ending works, too.
This might be a little too out-there. But Cosima has deep roots, and it reminds me so much of Sophia.
ELOISE or LOUISE or LOUISA
Louise feels like a sister for Margaret. But I’d name Sophia’s sister Louisa … or maybe Eloise. I think all of them work as substitutes.
There’s something antique, maybe even dainty about Frances. And yet, it’s a capable, classic name, too.
This would be my top pick for you. Except. Could you agree on a pronunciation? And would it bother you to have to reinforce that pronunciation? If you’d like to use a nickname, that’s an easy way to work backwards to a pronunciation. Like Nell? Then it’s heh LEN uh. Prefer Laney? It’s heh LAY nuh.
Josephine shares Margaret’s traditional style. And yet, I think the sound edges a little closer to Sophia.
MARY or MARIE or MARIA or MARIANNE
At first glance, any Mary name is easily dismissed as over-used. Except they’re not. Not even a little! Mary and Maria both fail to make the US Top 100. Marie sits in the 500s. And Marianne? Doesn’t make the Top 1000. (Though Mariana and Marianna do.) Any of them might hit exactly the right note.
Short and strong, Ruth shares the no-nonsense style of Margaret. But Ruthie makes it very wearable for a child.
Overall, my favorite for you is Josephine. It’s long, like Margaret; lovely, like Sophia; and while it’s easily shortened to a nickname – take your pick! – it can be used in full.
My only hesitation is your surname. I love the way Josephine J—n sounds together, but alliteration isn’t for everyone. If that’s an issue for you, I wonder if you’d consider Marie? I think it hits the same notes, but without the repeating initials.
Readers, over to you: what would you suggest for parents who like Margaret, but can’t use it, and maybe like Sophia, too?
My grandmother‘s name is Margaret and her daughter, my aunt, is named Marita. Maybe that’s a name you’ll like. It has the same root as Margaret but with a sweet diminutive ‘ita’ — like ‘little Margaret’. Anyway, whenever they get together they drink Margaritas
Janelle M. Mason says
If you like, but have rejected Margaret, perhaps you might like Margo or Margalo – both legitimate diminutives for Margaret. Also, since Margaret means “Pearl” (my mother’s name) and though old-fashioned, itis making a come-back, you might want “Pearl” on your life.
Eleanor or Eleonora, with the first more like Margaret and the second more like Sophia.
Sara L. Uckelman says
Magdalene, Lydia, Adeline, Morgana, Alice, Mathilda, Josephine, Antonia.
I’ll add Penelope (Penny, Nell, Nellie, Pen) and Magnolia (Maggie, Noli, Millie, Molly) to the mix. 🙂
Rosemary, nn Romy
Judith…nn Jude or Judy
Could you use Margot or Greta as her full name? Or Maisie or Meg?
For Katherine, I think the nn Kit or Kaye would be lovely. And Elizabeth, my faves are Betsy or Betty.
Otherwise, from Abby’s list, my favorite is Frances (nn Frannie or Francie) or Beatrice.
Zena Eve says
I’ll like to second Meredith, Helena, Mary, and Harriet!
Jean C. says
I think these are mostly already suggested, so consider them all additional votes. If I had had a second daughter, she would have likely been named Margaret after my grandmother, and here are the other names on my list:
Eloise (middle name for my first but I love love love this name and am glad I got to use it somewhere)
Matilda (called Maud)
I wonder if you would consider calling an Elizabeth “Birdie?” I just swoon for that nickname.
There are so many great ideas here! I love all of Abby’s suggestions, and I also like Harriet, Teresa/Theresa, Caroline, Cecilia, and Evangeline from other commenters. I have a couple more suggestions as well, and I might not have caught every suggestion from other commenters, so consider repeats additional endorsements!
Gwendolyn nn Gwen, Wendy
Genevieve nn Gigi, Evie, Vivi
Veronica nn Vica, Nica, Vero
Theodora nn Thea, Teddy, Thora
Adelaide nn Addie, Della, Ladie
Georgia nn Georgie, Gigi
Diana nn Didi, Di
Edith nn Edie
Anneliese nn Annie, Lis, Lissy
Julia nn Jules
Victoria! Substantial, and ends in -ia, like Sophia. Or Madeline. Maddie is close to Maggie.
I like Elizabeth. Do you really need to agree ahead of time on a nickname for your daughter?
If it were me, I would announce that the baby’s name is Elizabeth and that is what you intend to call her, and by implication, what you would like everyone else to call her as well. Then see what sort of nickname organically develops as you and your wife get to know her. Maybe she’ll have an adorable way of wrinkling her nose so you’ll start to call her Bunny or she will just seem like an Ella or Bette or Liza or one of the dozens of nicknames associated with Elizabeth. I know an Elizabeth that was called Princess, Angel Bunny, LizBeth, Ebeth (with a long E), and Lizzie, among other names. When she was eleven, she chose the name she preferred and goes by Liz.
I also like:
Meredith — this is my favorite name.
Are you dealing with two cultures here? You mention your wife’s Italian last name. Is that maybe part of the difference? Margaret is really Anglo while Sophia more palatable to an Italian ear. I’d suggest looking for something that straddles that divide a little better. Olivia for example works in both. Anastasia, Anna, Isabella, Victoria maybe better matches with Margaret.
My first thought though for appealing to the Margaret itch was Gretta. Gretta is popular in Italy right now, but tailored like Margaret. It is a nn for Margaret but distinct enough that maybe it will distance your daughter from the unappealing family member for your wife. And if you still need a nn from Gretta, there is always Etta.
What name bridges the gap between no nonsense, grown up Margaret and romantic, feminine Sophia? The lovely and underused Miranda! She’s more of a modern classic than a traditional classic like Katherine, Margaret, and Elizabeth but Miranda is still stylish while sitting lower on the popularity charts. Like Margaret, she also offers a plethora of nicknames to choose from as well: Mira, Miri, Andy, Randa, etc. As a bonus, Miranda means “wonderful, to be admired” which is a lovely meaning. I think Miranda is a great pick that ages well and hits that sweet spot of being familiar but not too popular.
Katherine is a beautiful classic name. It does not need a nickname or to be shortened. I have a daughter who is a young adult now and still goes by her full name. We just never introduced a nickname; it was not difficult at all. She loves her name and has only gotten favorable comments on the fact that she is was not another Kate or Katie.
What about Evangeline – nn Evie or Lena?
Adelaide/Adeline, Cecilia, and Isabelle seem to also fit the same style, and they all have nickname potential.
I like all the suggestions. What about Caroline?
Frances and Beatrice are great picks!
I’d also suggest:
Teresa (nn Tess)
Sarah—no one uses Sarah anymore and they should! It’s a lovely, familiar, strong name.
Love the idea of Josephine and Frances!
Other names that comes to mind:
Harriet sprang to my mind! Classic, not overused at all, good nickname potential.
But I do like Beatrice/Beatrix too.
My picks are Eleanor and Beatrice! Gorgeous classics with fantastic nicknames.