Today’s story comes to us from Elisabeth. It’s a great example of how you can know exactly what you want – but it might still take a little work to find it!

What is your child’s name?

Ivy Johanna, born 6/11/07

When did you choose?

We’d talked about Ivy before I even got pregnant. It came down to the delivery room before we were 100 percent on Johanna.

What were your criteria?

We had a bazillion. To start with, we wanted something that was easy to spell and pronounce and didn’t have a lot of nicknames. We also wanted it to be classic but quirky, so she’d have a unique name without us having to get crazy with spelling. We wanted something pretty and feminine sounding, but not supergirly. The initials couldn’t spell anything weird.

I liked Eva early on; Eva didn’t really do anything for my husband, but when we were playing around with names with that strong “v” sound, we found that we both liked Ivy.

For the middle, my middle name is Joan, after my mom — I didn’t want to pass that name down specifically, but I wanted to pass down a name with the same origin. Luckily there are many choices. Johanna and Jane were our favorite two, and in the end I went for the feminine, European lilt of Johanna.

Who was involved in the decision?

Just my husband.

What were the other options?

For a girl, we really liked Alice, Cassandra, Celia, Felicia, Georgia, Greta or Gretchen, Juliet, Lydia, Ruby and Thalia.

Our boy name would have been Samuel, with Asher, Grant and Jack as back-up possibilities. Samuel’s a more conventional name than Ivy, but it was the name we both liked the most.

Did the meaning matter?

In a way. I like that Ivy, while beautiful, is this incredibly tenacious, strong plant that will tear a building down if it’s allowed to. It’s also the name of a major character in Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling, which is a book that meant a lot to me when I was younger.

Did you second guess yourself?

No, I’ve always loved her name, even when not all of our family did!

Thanks, Elisabeth! Ivy Johanna is a lovely, lovely choice. And your story is a great example of how you can land on the perfect name – with just a little bit of thinking!

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. If I’d had a daughter I considered the same criteria as you except for the standards would’ve been Danish. We could’ve played on my name and gone with Johanne. Young parents in Denmark tend to prefer old fashioned names that may make our parents raise eyebrows because they associate it with their grandparents generation. I’ve noticed Americans dropping the end ‘h’ on Sarah, Hannah, Leah, etc. where we used to end those names on ‘a’ and Hanne is common among the post -war generation but now we’re adding the ‘h’ at the end of those names. If there’s an h after the o in Johanne or less common Johanna, then the h is pronounced here. Now I’m very confused about the new(ish) American trend with Johannah?!

    1. Joannah, that’s interesting – we don’t say the -h, so it is all a matter of preference. I’ve also seen Norah, Mylah – names that don’t (or wouldn’t) traditionally have a final h can pick one up.

      Creative spelling is a huge force here, and you can make a case for using nearly any spelling you imagine. (Heard on a baby name board: “It’s Aleksandra because my grandfather was Russian.”) Parents use Johannah, Susannah, and the like because they want something old-fashioned. (Susanna has been more popular in the US, but Susannah seems to be more stylish at the moment.) At the same time, other parents are trying to make Lea, Hanna/Hana, and Sara more modern …

      It’s fascinating, isn’t it? My cousins in Poland seem to be doing the same thing – dredging up names from the past that make their parents’ generation say “What!?” My kids’ cousins include Bruno, Ignatius (Ignas), plus Jack (Jas, sounds sort of like Josh), and Adam. I know Adam was almost Maks – Max. Funny that the trend holds world-wide, even if the names themselves aren’t the same.

  2. I like this story. Ivy Johanna is very balanced. It’s important that both you and your husband were happy with the name. You can’t make everyone else happy. 🙂

  3. Ivy Johanna is beautiful, it’s a great choice and a great story. (Ivy was actually on my shortlist for a while but next to my other children’s names it looked a bit like a nickname) Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Lovely name! I have simliar criteria and I really like the way you phrased it, and also I was just wondering, how do you submit a reader baby name story?

    1. There was a post a while ago asking for people to e-mail their stories in. I’m sure you could give it a try: AppMtn at gmail dot com

    2. What V. said is correct – email it to appmtn (at) gmail (dot) com. I’d love to share your story. Photos welcome, too!

  5. Beautiful! I love how Ivy is short and simple, yet so fresh and not overdone. It fits with the Avas and Evies, yet stands out perfectly. Great choice!

    We came to Joanna for our daughter’s mn by the same route: honoring a Joan 🙂 Do you pronounce her mn like Joanna or Jo-hannah? I’m never certain with that spelling, but it’s very pretty.

    Great story – thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the kind words! We say it Joe-hanna. People want to say Yohawna about half the time, but I like the way it sounds with the J :-).

  6. Ivy – love it! When I was preggers this last time, we whittled down to two girl combos and Ivy was the mn for one of them. I actually encountered the name on a baby girl a few months after having Imogen and thought, wow – that is such a great name! Of course, we had a boy 2nd time ’round, so no Ivy, but the name is fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  7. ”In a way. I like that Ivy, while beautiful, is this incredibly tenacious, strong plant that will tear a building down if it