THEIR FAVORITE NAME WAS MEANT FOR A SON …

Jenna writes:

We have a daughter named Lyla Marie. When she was born, our boy name was Ezra, and I always imagined our second child would be a boy.

Now we’re expecting our second child, and it’s a girl. I am honestly thrilled, and I loved growing up with my sister. But I’m pretty sure we won’t have any more children, and I’m feeling really sad that we won’t have our Ezra.

My husband suggesting we name this baby Ezra, with a super girly middle name like Rose or Jane or something.

I’m kind of in love with the idea, but also worried it somehow declares to the world that we thought we’d have a boy.

There’s no other name that feels right, even though I’ve looked through so many ideas.

I could use some outsider perspective on this: can Ezra be a name for a girl?

Our last name starts with a B and ends with an EE sound, so that rules out lots of names like Ruby that we also like.

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

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… BUT IT COULD WORK FOR THEIR DAUGHTER

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

I’m not in the habit of telling parents they can’t use a name. My please-don’t list is very, very brief. (To date, it includes the names Adolf and Lucifer.)

But I do think you’re wise to hesitate and question your decision. Ezra is a very, very popular name for boys, and it’s likely that a girl named Ezra would sometimes be mistaken for Lyla’s brother. So let’s try to put some data around how the name is used.

EZRA: BY the NUMBERS

First, the data:

  • In the year 2023, 8,437 boys and 368 girls received the name.
  • An additional 379 boys and 39 girls were named Ezrah.
  • 38 girls and 8 boys were named Esra.

That means that Ezra ranked #15 for boys in the US, with Ezrah following at #698. On the girls’ side, Ezra came in at #762.

While Ezra has appeared in the boys’ US Top 1000 nearly every year since data was first compiled, stretching back to 1880, Ezra debuted on the girls’ side quite recently, in 2018.

There’s no question: most people will perceive Ezra as a masculine name.

BOY NAMES ON GIRLS

Except, of course, conventionally masculine names have been used for women across the generations.

Shirley, Kimberly, Ashley, Evelyn, and more all crossed from occasionally-heard-for-boys to favorites for girls at different moments in time.

We’re used to seeing popular names for boys also rank in the girls’ Top 1000. Choices like Cameron, Dylan, and Ryan have been used for girls while remaining favorites for our sons.

Other names Riley, Payton/Peyton, Jordan, Taylor, Tatum, and River settle into a mostly-unisex pattern, at least for a while.

It’s sometimes called BNOG for short. For people who think about such things, it can provoke strong feelings. The most common arguments against borrowing boys’ names for girls sound a little like this:

  • Boys are bullied for having “girl” names, so giving a girl a “boy” name ruins it.
  • There aren’t as many good options for boys anyway, so having the girls take boy names is unfair.
  • Until you can’t name a boy Margaret, you shouldn’t be able to name a girl James.

Except … the problem isn’t boy names on girls. It’s the idea that our boys can’t share a name with someone else’s daughter.

And I do think a every successive generation finds that idea more and more absurd.

So yes, name your daughter Ezra (or Charlie or Drew) and someone will be there to wag a disapproving finger in your direction.

But they’re kind of dinosaurs. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, your choices don’t have to be governed by others’ worldviews.

ALTERNATIVES TO EZRA

I’m guessing you’ve considered every name under the sun, and keep coming back to Ezra. That’s perfect – because it means you’ve really tested this idea and built confidence in choosing it.

But let’s give it one last try, just in case The Perfect Name is out there.

CLEO

A vintage gem that sounds fresh and new.

EDEN

A Biblical place name that manages to be non-religious, ancient and very twenty-first century at the same time.

FALLON

An Irish import that’s been slowly gaining in use since the 1980s. Yes, there’s talk show host Jimmy Fallon, but it’s also been used for fictional characters – and, more on point, ranked in the girls’ Top 1000 in the US during the 1980s and 90s, returning in 2019.

MEADOW

A nature name with an innocent, wildflower kind of image.

PIPER

This name surged into the US Top 100 in 2012, a pop culture phenomenon finally breaking into the mainstream. It’s cooled off slightly since then, but fits nicely with favorites like Penelope and Poppy.

STELLA

A long-time Top 100 favorite, Stella has never lost a certain cool, confident edge.

TATUM

Rising favorite Tatum is firmly established as a unisex favorite, but still sounds like a sister for Lyla.

VIVIAN

Tailored and sophisticated, Vivian shortens to exuberant Vivi.

From my list, I love the sound of Vivian or Cleo with Lyla. But I’m really not sure either tops Ezra. Maybe thinking about middle names would help?

Vivian Rose, Cleo Sophia, Ezra Josephine, maybe? Or Ezra Elizabeth? It’s repetitive with the Z sounds, but I sort of like that quality. Lyla Marie and Vivian Grace, Lyla Marie and Cleo Jane, Lyla Marie and Ezra Rose?

I’m not sure, but I can see any of the three working. Let’s open it up to the readers.

What would you name a sister for Lyla Marie? Would Ezra work for her sister’s name?

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?

21 Comments

  1. It’s so funny that I hadn’t read this post yet and recommended Tatum for the next name advice-asker! Same wavelength, Abby!
    I think Ezra on a girl is fine and especially when paired with a girly middle, but the popularity makes me think she might end up being “Girl Ezra” in a class of 3 Ezras. It’s so popular. Location matters but I’m in the PNW and know/know of 6 or 7 of them under age 10.

    What about Noa Rose? I usually don’t advise Jewish names for non-Jews but that ship has sailed with Noa(h).