Today’s Reader Baby Name Story comes to us courtesy of Fran, the mother to four beautifully named children.

But this is the story of her youngest – the most difficult to name!

My daughter’s name is Lenora Marguerite Rose but generally she just goes by Lena. She is a little sister to Genevieve Katherine Alice (Neve), Oliver Benjamin Henry (Ollie) and Tobias Alexander James (Toby).

Out of all my children she was easily the hardest to name. Usually we have something picked out in advance but this time her full name wasn’t chosen until a few days before she was born.

We wanted a name we both liked with an easy day-to-day nickname, nothing too popular and something that vaguely went with her brothers and sister. She also needed two, preferably family, middle names.

We try and consult as few people as possible when choosing a name, just because past experience has sadly taught me that you can never please everyone. As her middle name is a variant of my sister’s name, I consulted her and my mother to make sure they didn’t have a problem with me using it. Her second middle name, Rose, came from a suggestion that Neve made.

Lena went through probably a dozen names over a five or six month period, everything from Russian choices to honor my husband’s Russian heritage to hard to pronounce Irish names. Most of them were vetoed by one of us.

About a week before she was born I heard the story of my husband’s great-grandmother, a really strong Russian lady named Yelena, who went by Lena when she reached the US. (I must have heard it before but I just can’t be certain.) When I heard this I had the ‘wow’ moment. It was a name that was steeped in family history and had the added bonus of not being overly common but still perfectly recognizable.

Although it went nicely with her siblings nicknames (Neve, Ollie, Toby and Lena), Yelena didn’t really fit for us as a formal name.

It was several baby name books (and my husband’s classics/literature degree!) that got us a list of names that could be used as a formal name for Lena. His favorites were Eleanor and Helena, but my English high school was full of girls named Eleanor and Helen and I couldn’t really get behind either one of them.

Lenora ended up being a compromise choice to avoid my most hated nickname (Ellie) but still close to and different enough from Eleanor to be liked by both of us.

I’m not quite sure what Lena ‘officially’ means but it’s never really been important. I do sometimes think that maybe I should have put something a little more common on her birth certificate but that’s a very rare occurrence. She likes the fact that she is the only one in her school with her name and so do I. 🙂

Fran, thank you! I love your kids’ names, and they go so nicely together. It’s great the way you took a name with tons of personal meaning and tailored it to fit a 21st century girl.

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. i will definetly let you all know her name once we decide, we’ve got 3 in the running at the minute and its just a case of finding the ‘perfect’ name!

  2. Oh, how I love your children’s names and nicknames! Lena was on our list, though that was out the window when a very unexpected boy decided to appear!

  3. Thank you for all the lovely comments and thanks to Abby for printing the story too!
    I do however think the title should be ‘The Toughest Baby To Name So Far!” as we’ve got another little girl on the way (probably our last) and she is proving very difficult to name, even more difficult than Lena. She was going to be Amelie or Amelia until about a week ago when my husband decided he really didn’t like it anymore and it was his pick! So we’re back to the drawing board on that one. Fingers crossed she’ll be fully named by the time she’s born in September!

    1. CONGRATULATIONS! How did I miss that? The title is being updated now, and I really can’t wait to hear what your newest little one is named. 🙂

      1. Thank you 🙂 I don’t think I’ve actually officially mentioned it on here yet. I’m a tiny little bit superstitious about it but with 10 weeks to go I think that it’s about time to.

  4. I love Neve as a nickname for Genevieve. I don’t think I’ve heard that before. It sounds like all of your children have names with a lot of significance to you and your families… you can never go wrong with names like that! Great sibset!

  5. Thank you for sharing your beautiful taste in names with us! The story of the process you went through to name your youngest daughter is fascinating.

  6. Love your kids’ names! My son is Oliver, too, so I adore that name, of course! Lena is fantastic and I love it as a nn for Lenora. (With my first, I petitioned a good while for Lena, but my other half just wouldn’t go for it.) And I’ll admit, I’m envious of your connection to Russian heritage, as I have several Russian names that are favorites, but just sound kind of out there with my and my husband’s decidedly non-Russian background and surname. But I love how you balanced everything by choosing a name that is completely easy to wear in the US or UK and still pays homage to his roots. All that effort put into finding the ‘right’ name definitely paid off – Lenora Marguerite Rose is lovely!

  7. I, too, have a non-Lena Lena in my family tree. The great-grandmother I’m named was named Angelina (meaning “little Angela”… although we recently discovered that her birth certificate just says “Angela”). She immigrated to the USA. And on some of her formal documents, her name is typed up as “Lena” (short for Angelina). I’ve considered using Lena in the future as another sort of connection to her. (She was named after her great grandmother Evangelina, which is also on my list.)