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!


Maddie writes:

My husband and I almost agree on a name for our daughter, expected this month.

Grace is a name in both of our families, but it’s also a name that I just really like. He wants to name her Grace Elizabeth, which he says is pretty and strong. We’d call her Gracie.

I like the idea of Gracie James. James was my late father’s name. I wouldn’t ever use James as a first name, because my brother is James, too, and I think he might eventually give the name to a son of his own. But I really like it as a middle name, and I love the sound of Gracie James.

My husband says we can call her Gracie, but her name should be Grace. But I’m Madison and I think life would be easier if I wasn’t always saying “please call me Maddie.”

My mom suggested we name her Grace James, but I think that sounds too short, or Gracelyn James, but I’m not wild about Gracelyn. (My husband’s reaction: like Elvis’ house? So I think Gracelyn is out.)

But we’re stuck between these two names, which is really almost the same name.

Can you help us decide?

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


Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

This is a tough one, isn’t it? Often when parents are down to two very similar names, I feel like there’s either a) an obvious compromise or b) no real space for name regret either way.

That’s not quite the case with this question.

Because I agree completely: Grace “Gracie” Elizabeth is classic, pretty, a name that will grow with your daughter. But Gracie James is easy to wear, far more stylish, and has all the meaning from honoring your dear dad.

I’m going to propose five options to consider before we circle back to the original question.

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Gracie Elizabeth offers the casual ease of Gracie-not-Grace, anchored by evergreen Elizabeth. But you do sacrifice that wonderful honor name.


This is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too option. All three names, called by yet a fourth name. Everyone gets (almost) everything they want. And yes, two middles is one more than you were planning. But … it seems like more children have double middles today than ever before.


Gracia is the Spanish form of Grace; Grazia, the Italian; and both, along with Gratia is heard in other European languages. But they don’t feel like fits with American names as we use them today. Graciela, though? Isabella, Gabriella, Graciela. While this name is rare, it fits right in.


It’s not the perfect flow, I’ll grant you that. But it is an obvious compromise, and maybe it’s worth re-considering?


If you’re open to a little bit of editing on that honor name, extending James with a -son might help. Grace Jameson or Gracie Jamison, or some other combination, might be exactl


All things considered, I’m inclined to suggest you stick with Grace on your daughter’s birth certificate.

While I hear your frustration over repeating “please call me Maddie,” I think Grace is a little different. It’s easy for Grace to be Gracie, an affectionate nickname that will probably evolve naturally – or not, depending on the circumstances and your daughter’s personality.

I suspect it’s slightly harder for Gracie to be Grace. That sounds backwards, doesn’t it? We shorten Benjamin to Ben and Julia to Jules. But at formal events – graduations, for example – we tend to default to legal names.

Can a Gracie insist that she’s listed as Grace in her law firm’s directory or in the author section of a research paper? Of course!

Is it as easy and natural as Grace becoming Gracie among friends? My guess is no.

If you truly never want to use the name Grace, then yes, by all means, name her Gracie.

But I suspect you want her to have both options, and Grace preserves them best.


This feels like a much harder decision, but again – I have a definite favorite.

If you were deciding between, say, honoring grandma Elizabeth and honoring grandpa James, this might be harder.

But we’re choosing between Elizabeth, a stunning classic of a name … that’s mostly filler, right?

And James, a name that has lots of meaning.

So my vote goes to James. Picking names with strong meanings – especially personal meaning – insulates us from future regret.

And so Grace James gets my vote.

Readers, over to you! How would you resolve their dilemma: Gracie James or Grace Elizabeth?

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. Grace Elizabeth James “Gracie James” gets my vote as well. As someone who grew up with a nickname name, I hated it when people tried to call me the most obvious back form (which happened often because it was a popular name), and I always had to respond with “that’s not my name”. In my opinion and experience, offering someone your nickname is like extending an offer of friendship, while telling someone not to call you something, shuts things down and just makes everyone feel awkward.