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!
Type “A” Mama Who Needs a Plan writes:
We currently have one daughter, A1nsley, and would like to have two more children. We have no trouble with boy names, but choosing a girl’s name last time around was a BEATING!
If it’s a boy, he will be named [email protected]. We need a name for Baby #2 if it turns out to be a girl.
I like our daughter’s name, but we mostly chose it for its sentimental appeal, and we don’t have any more sentimental names we’d like to use. Maybe we’re trying to create a cohesive sibset for a naming style that isn’t 100% ours.
To me, A1nsley reads as a trendy-sounding unisex name that skews more feminine. It also has a surnamey vibe. I’ve tried looking for names in both of those categories and am just not seeing anything that feels totally right with our preferences. I’ve even thought about just choosing another name we like and not worrying about it “going” with A1nsley.
If we end up having three daughters, Baby #3 will most likely be Delaney, Darcy, Daphne, or some other female “D” name we like.
We don’t want anyone in our immediate family to share the same first initial, which eliminates names we like that start with A, C, and J. We also want to save a D name for a boy, or perhaps a third daughter.
Our surname is Harris-with-a-C. Because it ends with the /s/ sound, names like Ellis are out, too.
We prefer an uncommon name – nothing in the top 100, at least. Because A1nsley ends in a “lee” sound, I feel the need to avoid another of those endings. We may avoid all /ee/ endings, too, so we aren’t locked into a pattern for a Baby #3.
We do like unisex names, but only if they skew feminine.
I’m a Southerner who monograms everything, so I don’t like names where I would use a nickname that starts with a different letter than the actual name — it’s too confusing.
We’ve ruled out:
- Adelaide, Adeline, Adelyn, Amelia, Ava, Audrey, Avery
- Brielle, Blair, Blythe, Berkely, Beckett
- Calla, Charlotte, Cooper, Campbell, Claire, Charlie
- Delaney, Daphne, Della, Delta, Darcy, Drew
- Eloise, Emerson, Elliott, Ella, Ellis
- Harper, Harlow, Hayden
- Jette, Juliet, Julianne
- Keaton, Kendall, Kennedy
- Landry, Lane, Logan, Lucy, Lydia, Lennox
- Marlow, Maren, Morgan, Maci, Mallory, Mia
- Parker, Palmer, Padgett, Phaedra, Phoenix
- Remington/Remy, Rory, Rowan
- Sheridan, Shelby, Saylor, Sloane, Spencer, Stella
- Teagan, Tamsin, Tenley, Tristan
- Waverly, Willow, Winslow
Plleeeassseeee help me figure out a name for Daughter #2 before I lose. my. MIND!
Dear Type A Mama –
Congratulations on your new baby!
I think it’s always a good idea to set some ground rules for choosing a name.
But sometimes the best names break one of the rules – and that’s okay. It’s also good to reflect that the more rules layered on, the smaller the list of potential choices. That can be a good thing for some families.
For others? It just becomes an exercise in rejecting every name, even when it does pass the tests.
Let’s review your wish list:
- No names starting with A, C, J, or D, and no names ending with an ‘s’ sound.
- No names where the nickname starts with a different initial.
- Nothing in the current Top 100.
- Unisex names are fine, as long as it’s used primarily for girls and would likely be perceived as feminine.
- Avoiding another name ending in with -lee, or maybe even the ‘ee’ sound is preferred.
That’s not actually too restrictive, especially since you’re open to less common names. But I did notice that many of the names that came to my mind were already on your ‘no’ list.
Still, I think there are some very good options that you have yet to consider.
Before we dive in, I’ll add one more thing: you’re right that A1nsley might be considered unisex. But it’s not. In 2016, 963 girls were given the name, versus just 14 boys. These numbers have held steady for nearly twenty years. There’s no moment in the past when A1nsley was especially popular for boys, and there are few male public figures or fictional characters with the name. (The biggest one I could find: British television chef Ainsley Harriott.)
I’ll suggest some surname-inspired names, but it strikes me that you might be better off choosing a far more conventionally feminine name.
Here’s the thing: the second name you choose will shape how everyone perceives the first. Not in life, of course. When your children are 25 – or even 15, really – their identities will be more and more distinct from their siblings. But in the early years, when you’re saying, “I have two daughters, A1nsley and Genevieve,” there’s no reason they don’t go together well. In fact, Genevieve makes us hear A1nsley differently – and vice versa.
Bellamy – Avoiding all names ending with -lee seems like a good choice, but avoiding every name ending with the -ee sound? I think that might go too far. Instead, I’d propose that you avoid -lee ending names and two-syllable names ending with -ee. A1nsley and Riley feels awfully repetitive, but a longer name? Not so much. I’m suggesting Bellamy for a few reasons: it feels feminine, thanks to Bell. If it does get shortened, it will almost certainly be to, again, Bella or Bell, meaning her nickname and formal name will start with the same initial. It reads as effortlessly feminine, in the same general style category as A1nsley, and it’s quite rare.
Briar – When Briar debuted in the US Top 1000, it was used for boys and girls. But this one skews feminine, for a few reasons. First, it follows popular picks like Brianna and Brittany. (Though, of course, there’s Brian and Bryce, too …) But mostly I think Briar reads girl because of Briar Rose, another name for Sleeping Beauty of fairy tale fame. If you’ve seen the 1959 Disney version, it’s the pseudonym used by Princess Aurora. Bonus? It sidesteps the second -ee ending name problem.
Ellington – As I mentioned with Bellamy, the first syllable of a name goes a long way towards establishing whether it feels reasonably feminine. Since Ellington easily shortens to Ellie or Elle, it seems very wearable for a girl. While the name is rare, it is given to more girls than boys.
Genevieve – I think there are lots of ways to match A1nsley, and Genevieve could be one. It’s tailored, but still frilly and feminine. And I do think A1nsley feels very feminine, even if it fits with surname-style names.
Haven – Haven strikes me as a sister for A1nsley, even though one is a surname and the other a word name with a virtue vibe. They both have strong, distinctive sounds. Even though you might call both unisex, and I wouldn’t be shocked to meet a boy named Haven, again, the numbers give this one to the girls.
Madigan – The downside to Madigan: she will almost certainly be called Madison. A lot. And yet that’s part of the reason Madigan reads like such a perfect name for a girl. Besides Maddie, you might also shorten it to the less-common Maggie. But you don’t need to shorten it at all. One association that might come to mind for some: the tragic tale of Elvira Madigan, a tight-rope walker who fell in love with a married Swedish military officer. A 1967 movie based on the real-life 1889 events used a Mozart piano concerto; the piece of music is widely referred to as the Elvira Madigan concerto.
Mariel, Marielle – Mariel ought to be more common. We’ve known plenty of women named Marianne and Mary Beth and so on. But Mariel remains rare, while feeling rather familiar. I suspect the -elle spelling might fit in better with Isabelle and Annabelle, but both work nicely. As with Genevieve, A1nsley feels a little more conventionally feminine when her sister’s name is something like the lovely Marielle.
Sinclair – Would you be tempted to call her Clari? If so, Sinclair fails one of your tests. But if not – and I don’t think you would need a nickname for Sinclair – then this could be a great, stands-out/fits-in pick for a daughter. It’s used in such small numbers for boys and girls that it’s tough to say it really leans masculine or feminine, but I think the -clair probably gives this one to the girls.
So let’s look at some possible combinations, with the assumption that your third child will have a D name. My favorites are as follows:
- A1nsley, Genevieve, and [email protected]; or A1nsley, Genevieve, and Daphne.
- A1nsley, Mariel, and [email protected]; or A1nsley, Mariel, and Daphne.
- A1nsley, Bellamy, and [email protected], or A1nsley, Bellamy, and Delaney.
- A1nsley, Briar, and [email protected], or A1nsley, Briar, and Darcy.
In other words, I think this might be a good time to choose something more feminine. Choosing a surname like Bellamy almost locks you into choosing another surname-style name, like Delaney (or Darcy or Dabney or … well, I could go on.) But finding something tailored, but still slightly more feminine, opens the door to other options.
That said, I do love the long-standing Southern tradition of using surnames, especially family-inspired surnames, for their children, boys and girls alike. So I think you have plenty of room to choose another name like Bellamy, Madigan, or Sinclair, and still have it wear well for your daughter over the course of her life.
Okay, readers – over to you! What would you name a sister for A1nsley, with Type A Mama’s list of rules in mind?