Update: She’s here! Scroll to the bottom to learn if they went with Sally.
We have a two year old son named Jonah Michael, and now are expecting a daughter due on December 28. With Jonah, we agreed on his name almost immediately. I like that it is not too popular, but that everyone knows about it, and I like the story of Jonah and the whale. Michael is for my husband, and it is my brother’s name, too.
For girls, we don’t really agree on anything. I like long, pretty names like Arianna, Gabriella (doesn’t work with our last name), and Alaina. He says they’re too froufrou. We were thinking about Molly, which I like, even though it’s not really my style.
And then he suggested Sally. Sally was his grandmother. She died before we met, but everyone in the family adored her, and the stories about her are great, too – definitely ahead of her time.
The more I think about it, the more I like it. Except when I tell other people we’re thinking about Sally, they sort of make a face. My sister says my daughter will hate me if I give her such an old-fashioned name.
But there’s really no other name that I like. Would we be crazy to name our daughter Sally in 2016?
Our last name sounds like Keller with a G.
Please read on for my response, and leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.
Hi Danielle –
Congratulations on your new daughter!
The general question you’re asking is this: when your favorite name is out of favor, should you embrace it? Or move on? We’ll get back to that in a minute, but first, let’s look at Sally.
Sally peaked from the 1930s to the 1950s in the US, reaching the Top 100 and climbing as high as #52 in 1939.
That tracks with our pop culture associations with the name:
- When Charles M. Schulz introduced Peanuts in 1950, Sally made a logical choice for Charlie Brown’s little sister.
- All in the Family cemented Sally Struthers’ star status in the 1970s.
- Astronaut Sally Ride made history in 1983.
- In 1989, Harry met Sally and took the box office by storm.
- Sally Field played teenagers in the 1960s, won an Academy Award in 1979, and is now a grandmother who played caring Aunt May in the 2012 and 2014 Spider-Man movies.
When Mad Men made all things midcentury fashionable, I wondered if Sally Draper – eldest daughter of Don and Betty – might spark a revival in the name. But it didn’t happen, despite the marvelous Kiernan Shipka. Sally left the US Top 1000 around 2004. The show debuted in 2007; while I see a possible tiny uptick in use post-Mad Men, it wasn’t enough to change direction.
As of 2015, 221 girls were given the name. That number holds steady over the last few years, swinging from 207 to 218, but never showing any real signs of movement. It’s stuck in style limbo.
If Sally had not been stylish in the 1950s, it might be big now. Consider:
- It shares sounds with popular Molly, as well as rising favorites Ellie and Millie.
- It originated as a nickname for Sarah, a long-time classic pick for girls.
- Current Top 100 darling Sadie also started out as a Sarah short form.
- Sally pairs with boy names that are the height of cool today – not only is Sally sister to Charlie Brown, but Sally is Jack’s love interest in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
This is good news. Some names – like Gertrude and Lorna – land in style limbo because of their sounds. Sally does not. It sounds like a 2016 name, but because we associate it with an earlier era, that takes it off the table for many parents. But from a child’s perspective, I think the name would wear as well as Molly.
So while the name is out of favor, I think that it would feel like a reasonable choice to your daughter and her peers.
I think you have a few options:
- You could, of course, name her Sarah – which seems more like your kind of name – and call her Sally. Or choose another long name that could shorten to Sally. Rosalie, maybe?
- You can move on, and try to find another name entirely.
- Or you can embrace Sally, and be confident that while the name isn’t considered stylish today, it will still wear well.
The truth, of course, is that you can never predict how your child will feel about having any name, whether it is current, classic, or anything else. I tend to think that names with meaning work best over time. Maybe she’d rather be Ava in middle school, but as she grows up, the connection to a great role model will mean more.
My sense is that you should embrace Sally, confidently explain to others that it honors her fantastic great-grandmother, and assume that you’re a decade or two ahead of the trends.
But I think a poll will really help here, so let’s open this one up to the readers.
Danielle writes: Thanks for all the help! Up until the last minute she was going to be Sarah, called Sally. But we decided that would be too confusing. (Pretty much no one we told thought that Sally was a nickname for Sarah.) So we were down to Sally or Molly, and when we told Mike’s family that we were thinking about Sally, well – that did it. She’s Sally Elizabeth, and the name is just perfect.
Congratulations! Enjoy your new baby!
Salome is a beautiful name. It’s pronounced Sallamay.
Well, I know exactly one adult Sally and she dislikes her name. It really doesn’t fit her well at all, but to be honest I have trouble picturing any adult woman with the name Sally. I like some retro or nicknamey names, even the somewhat similar Millie and Allie, but Sally is just too…silly-sounding for my taste.
I love Sally. Use it!
C in DC says
There’s a little Sally at our elementary school, sister to Annie and daughter of Sarah. I didn’t think twice about her name when she was introduced. I think Sarah, Sally, or Sadie would pair well with Jonah. With Sarah being a go-to name for the 70s and 80s, I can see Sally rising in popularity again in a few years, so I think you’d just be a bit ahead of the curve. With the grandmother connection, this seems like a perfect fit for your family.
I LOVE Sally! I think you should definitely go for it and it works really well with Jonah.
Abby Jo says
I love Sally, and I think it is perfectly acceptable for use! Its retro-cool, which is absolutely fashionable now. I named my daughter Betsy in 2013. Betsy, Sally, Molly, Millie, Lucy, all have the same lovely 50s/60s retro vibe.
I’d love to know if Grandmother – Sally was named Sally or if Sally was short for something else? If it was a nickname, do you like her long form?
I really can’t see a problem with using Sally …it’s not so different from Molly, which you like, or Lucy, Abby, Penny, Tilly, or Nellie which others are embracing – not so much old lady names as youthful classics.
I feel that using another name to get to
Sally, unless it’s hers, detracts from the honour. And it seems that having a great story behind the name enhances the appeal of the name for you.
I have loved Sally for years! I seriously considered it for my own daughter, but was turned away by peoples unfavorable reactions. I say go for it!
I voted to use Sally! I know two teenage Sallies, and know of a seven-year-old Sally and I think it wears well. The name Molly is one of my all-time favorites, but I might use Mary as the formal name for an option with more gravitas. Even so I might use “Sally,” as is, in part because Sarah is a relatively common first name among moms now. I would probably choose a middle name with some gravitas–either a family surname or a strong classic or vintage middle name.
I suppose it could also be a nickname for Alice or Allison.
Go with Sally! It makes a great sibset with Jonah and the story of her namesake is lovely. Currently, there is a collegiate golfer named Sally Fridstrom who wears the name well for a younger generation of young women. I love them name for your daughter.
My great-grandmother was a Sally and I was nearly a Sally (instead I’m a Constance/Connie for another important person- most of the naming community seems to think Connie is outdated even though it’s from the same period Sally is, but that’s just me grinding an axe).
My great-grandmother was named Salome, which was almost my name. Since your son has a biblical name, maybe Salome would work for you too. It’s longer, but not flowery.
Go for Sally, especially as a nickname!
I think you should use Sally! Especially because it is a family name. I went to school with a Sally and I found it odd in the 90’s for a child, but I think it fits in much better now with the upswing of vintage names, your daughter will just be ahead of the curve!
I think you should totally use Sally! People may make a face now, but when they see your adorable baby girl, they won’t be able to associate the name with anything other than cuteness 😉 I can tell you from personal experience. I really disliked the name Jocelyn, until I met my new baby cousin by the name and fell in love with it.
Abby pointed out every reason why it should work well today, so I can’t encourage you enough. Sally is a sweet name, and the honor behind it makes it even sweeter.
Also Abby has touched on this in other posts, but based on my 3 kids going to school in a large metro area. Kids don’t think other kids’ name are weird. They constantly hear new words and new names many from different cultures than theirs. They no more think “Sally” is odd than that a cut of meat is called a “filet”. That’s just her name; just like that’s just what it’s called. Really only other adults might have an opinion about a name, and frankly I don’t really care their opinion 🙂
Ditto on that. We live in a relatively small town, but the naming diversity is incredible, and I have never once heard a kid get teased for their name. Sally will be just fine.
Although Sally isn’t a name I’d pick for my kids, just not my style, I won’t think it odd at all to hear it on someone else. If you like it, for goodness sake use it!! Tell your daughter that she has an cool and special name. Your sister apparently has different name taste than you, so what. I actually think it’s less likely that your daughter will dislike Sally versus some other random name because she’ll hear the wonderful story behind it.
One idea if you’re still worried: use a middle with a much different feel. When she’s older if she truely doesn’t like Sally, she can go by her middle. Using your middle as the name most people call you by is fairly common in the south.
And I realize it’s a little late now. But my mom’s advice that we’ve always used to great success: don’t share the name until the baby is born. People are so much less likely to make disparaging comments about the name when it’s a done deal attached to a real live super cute baby compared to an abstract concept.
I would totally use Sally in this situation, especially since it honors a beloved family member. What others might think isn’t terribly important. it would be different if Sally had hated her name and stated thusly; but since that’s not the case, I’d use it. Sure, it’s a little retro, but many of those names are coming back into style and there are many famous bearers of the name too. Personal meaning overshadows popularity, so go for it!
Mary Renée says
Personally I prefer a “formal” name to base a nickname off of, but Sally works on her own too. I love the suggestions of the full names Celeste, Rosalie, and Salome, and would like to offer Thessaly and Sarai too.
we know a 4 year old Sally. It’s cute, and completely wearable. Go for it.
I think Sally is totally wearable on its own and that you should go for it. But the idea of a Sarah Leigh call Sally is also appealing.
Kelsey d says
All that is important is that you and your husband love the name. Honestly. If you call your child that, then that is their name… family members will just have to accept it, their granddaughter/niece/etc. will always be Sally… that will be her name and family will love it because they love your daughter. If I were you, I would stop talking baby names with other people and just focus on what you two love! Sometimes too many opinions are not helpful. (Not trying to sounds rude or short AT ALL… I’m sure some of our family members thought our name choices were odd – but we don’t care, we love them and that’s all that matters!)
I personally feel that Sally wears well. The argument that it’s too old-fashioned, in my mind, doesn’t hold up – when you look at trends in baby names, almost all of the most popular names are those that are older, classic names. If Walter and Charles can be popular again, why can’t Sally? If Evelyn and Ruth and Agnes be gaining popularity, why cant Sally? I happen to love older names, apparently so do most people these days. Sally is classic yet is still quite uncommon so to me, it ends up sounding refreshing. If that’s the name that you love then I say go for it!!! Plus I love that is has a family story behind it too… which gives it a double-backing go for it!!!
I think you should boldly and unabashedly embrace Sally. The meaning makes it all the more perfect.
How about Saloma called Sally?
I personally wouldn’t find Sally substantial enough for the birth certificate, but using it as a nickname would leave the more formal name option available should she desire it someday.
I wonder if you might feel more confident with a modern sounding middle name. For example, Sally Ava has a totally different vibe than Sally Ann.
The Mrs. says
Sally is cool. Period.
Name your daughter Sally, let her revel in her great-grandmother’s legacy, enjoy everyone remembering her name, and let her flaunt a sound that is unique to any other name of her generation.
My sister is a Sara called Sally and named after our great grandmother. Now in her mid-twenties she has never met anyone her own age with the same name. There were plenty of Sara’s but none called Sally. I think Sally is still a great name for a baby girl today, if you and your husband like it that is all that matters.
Omg Sally Keller with a G is like the name of my dreams, for myself! Go for it!
Amanda Grayson says
If you like the name and it is important to you– go for it. I chose a name for my daughter that no one was going to be able to spell or pronounce but I felt strongly about it and so– I stuck with it. it was the right decision for us. Sally is not in this category but I think the point is the same. If you both like it, if it honors someone, then those are good reasons. Go for it!
I usually don’t love nicknames as full names, but I think because so many historical and famous figures are commonly known as Sally it works fine as a full name, and is both cute and strong.
Andrea mentioned a Celestine nicknamed Sally. I went to school with a Celeste nicknamed Sally, so it seems to be a fairly accepted short form for the Celest- names, if you like any of those. What about Selene or Selena? I know you said your husband doesn’t like frilly, but those are shorter than Gabriella and such.
Sally is perfectly cute! Use it! I love the idea of Sarah or Rosalie with the nick name Sally as I personally prefer longer names with nick names. Either way, it’s a sweet choice.
Sara A. says
I named my daughter “Trudy” in 2012 and heard all sorts of arguments not to. All the same arguments that you’re hearing now, actually. People have opinions and thoughts when it’s abstract that they don’t when presented with a baby or little girl with that name. I get broad grins when I introduce my daughter, people tell me about their loved ones who bore the name or that it’s such a sweet old fashioned name. I do get some head turns when I’m chasing after her on her scooter yelling to slow down or get back here, but no one has ever taken a tone with me about her name. Now we’re expecting another daughter and we’ve decided to call her Margot; I’m hoping her name will wear as well as her sister’s.
In case I was unclear, name the baby Sally. You loving the name and its legacy is more important than someone making a style decision. No one wI’ll bat an eyelash at baby Sally once she is here.
I know one child called Sally and it’s short for Salome! Knowing current babies named Betty, Haddie, and Elsie, I think Sally is totally usable in today’s world. For my own, I’d want a more substantial first name, though. I vote use it but try to find a fuller first for which Sally can be a nn.
There’s nothing at all wrong with Sally. I’d use it if it’s a family name you like. I know of a couple of families with daughters named Sally. In one instance, it is a nickname for Celestine (her grandmother’s name.) in the other, it is a nickname for a long Indian language name beginning with Sal. Both Salllys would be in their 20s by now, but it’s not a name that sounds dated to me. My parents also have a cat named Sally, but it’s still fine for humans.
Sally can absolutely work on a baby. Once your family and friends meet your baby Sally, it will start to feel like her name rather than a grandmotherly name. I thought Nancy was very dated until I met a two-year-old Nancy. Suddenly it was cute and fresh again.