Nature's Number 6
Nature's Number 6 by CarbonNYC via Flickr

First, a question for a friend: let’s say you were expecting a daughter. Not only is she going to be your last child, you’re the youngest sibling, so this baby is probably the last in her generation. You’d love to pass on your maiden name. Trouble is, your maiden name sounds exactly like a popular name, but with a totally different spelling.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the name is Reily. It looks like a creative respelling of a popular name, but it isn’t – it’s the most meaningful name you can imagine. You could respell it to Riley. But you’d rather not.

What would you do? Use Reily, knowing there’s no name more meaningful? Accept the less meaningful Riley in an attempt to save your daughter spelling hassles? Or are there so many girls called Rylee that you have to spell everything anyhow?

Opinions appreciated!

Elsewhere online:

  • I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Harry’s Law, the new Kathy Bates show on NBC. The character’s name is Harriet, one of my favorites. Harriet left the US Top 1000 after 1970, and since then the only high-profile bearer of the name was the shrewish Mrs. Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. I keep expecting to see her make a comeback. Nickname option Hattie seems like a logical successor to Maddie and Abby;
  • This post at Swistle discusses the name Hazen, for a boy. For the parents, it’s the name of a favorite place, a state park in Vermont. But it also sounds like the kind of invented boy name we continue to hear. A friend of mine mentioned she knows a newborn boy named Vallen;
  • You Can’t Call It “It” skims the London Telegraph birth announcements. It’s always a great read, but my favorite was Hero Genevieve Tallulah, a sister for Gus, Daisy, Archie, and Conrad. I’d love to know the older kids’ full names;
  • Look at this middle name, spotted by For Real: Roman Starling. It’s a great combination of the very masculine and the completely unexpected;
  • I try to read Voornamelijk, despite the fact that it is in Dutch. Her recent report on reality TV from Europe turned up an intriguing list of contestants: Dilara, Lois, Meron, and Zira;
  • Word is out that the most popular names in Germany for last year were Sophie and Maximilian. Despite being known for their restrictive laws regarding given names, quite a few unusual choices made it through, including Kix and Belana;
  • I love this story about a baby named after chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit at Nancy’s site.

I am absolutely bursting with excitement over my post at Nameberry for Monday. The names range from Amoret to Sedley, Lucien to Arthemise.

Hollywood gave us just two announcements this week, but oh, what names!

  • We learned that Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher named Olive’s little sister Elula. There’s a good analysis of the name’s style up at NameCandy and Elisabeth at You Can’t Call It “It” is reporting that Elula’s full name is Elula Lottie Miriam;
  • Gretchen Mol chose Winter Morgan for Ptolemy’s little sister. I like Winter just fine, but I was expecting something far more daring – Yseult or Persephone, maybe.

Which reminds me – do you know the most popular season name? This article at Babble reads “We all know at least one Summer, right? And Autumn isn’t unheard of. But Winter? That’s a first.” Actually, Autumn is in the US Top 100, while Summer has never ranked that high. And can Winter really be called a first when Nicole Richie’s Harlow Winter Kate is so visible? Nancy tells us that 259 girls received the name in 2009, meaning that Winter ranked just a few spots beyond the Top 1000.

As for Spring, there’s always Oscar-nominated actress Spring Byington.

Speaking of spring, remember that voting for March Madness preliminaries for both Boys and Girls is open until Friday morning.

Thanks all for this week. As always, thanks for reading!

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. If the name’s truly like Reily, then it doesn’t matter how it’s spelled. As you can see from the comments above, people are more likely to spell is Reilly than Riley. So there’s no “correct” way, Just as Caitlin became Kaitlyn and 47 other variants.

    Like Harriet as a name (it’s the -ette thing). Plus there’s Harriet in “So I Married an Ax Murderer”) – Harriet, sweet Harriet…

  2. I’d tell her to go with it for Reily. Like Emmy Jo and other commenters have said before, if she doesn’t mind calling her daughter by the name Reily everyday, then use it as her first name- spelling difference and all. It’s too meaningful to start mucking about with it. Reily doesn’t seem to be a classic enough name to where minor variations in spelling really throw it off (unlike, say, Emily being Emmalee), so if her family name is similar in feel to Reily, then there’s a good possibility they will have to spell it for people anyway, no matter which version they choose. I had to go back through this comment to retype it with only one “l” actually, because “Reilly” looks correct to me, not “Riley.”

    I love Hero for a girl! My favourites out of those names, though, were Henrietta Daphne Mabel and Henry Capability. I love virtue names (my genealogy has turned up multiples of Patience, Mercy and Comfort), but I feel like I rarely hear them on boys!

    And I love the name Roman Starling.

  3. While I’m generally in favour of going with what is arguably the most traditional/common spelling, when it comes to family names I say go with what’s accurate for your family. For example, Roseanna’s name is spelt the way it is because she was named for her grandmother. If the name hadn’t been a family name we never would have used it. Since we decided to honour a family member, we figured we might as well go with what’s traditional in our family circle. However, I’ll join in the chorus by saying that when it comes to surnames on girls I like them in the middle spot.

    More of my own opinions:

    – I’m not a big season name fan, but I definitely prefer the more popular Autumn over the dated-sounding Summer and newcomer Winter. I think it’s my secret love of silent ens.
    – Hero is a girl’s name, but Hero Genevieve Tallulah sounds like a bit much. Of course, my own daughter’s name is quite lengthy, and the names we’ve selected for our next mystery-gender baby are long too (just a month and a half left!). Perhaps I shouldn’t judge.
    – I like Elula, although not as much as Eulalie.
    – I just can’t love Harriet. Believe me, I’ve tried. It doesn’t work for me.

    Amidst the repetitive questions and general near-term-time snarkiness that make up most of my birth board’s current posts is a rather fabulous thread about our grandmother’s names. The names range from the traditional (Anne, Mary, Margaret), to the currently hot again (Charlotte, Stella, Ella), to the purely delightful. Some of my favourites include:

    Mina pronounced MY-nah
    Sina pronounced SY-nah
    Florida (a great-great-grandmother)
    Olga Elgie
    Eula May (there were a lot with either May or Mae as a middle name)

    1. I love Drusilla! These are fascinating – I wonder if anyone knows the story of HOW their grandmothers got their names? I’m guessing not … but I’d love to know the stories behind Oleda, Isyphenia, Sina, Wava … actually ALL of these!

      1. My great-aunt was Drusilla, and my father told me that all the kids called her Dracula, LOL! It has ruined the name for me!

    2. Mine were Ozella and Eva. Ozella had a sister named Hazel, and Eva had sisters named Velma and Faye.

    3. My grandmother’s names were Gladys Mildred and Anna Katerina. My great-grandmother Mercedes gave all her children American names so they would “fit in.” Gladys always hated her name and wished it was something Spanish. Most of the time people called her Gladiola, after the flower. I’m not sure about Anna Katerina, but I think she was named after family.

      1. Ah, I love the idea of Gladiola! Interesting … Gladys’ story is quite like my own. I wonder how many of us have names that are given in reaction to our parents’ dislike of their names. I do, and my daughter does – and my granddaughter probably will someday, too!

  4. Back on names from seasons– I went to elementary school with a girl named Primavera. She went by Prima, was beautiful even then, and had long straight brown hair that went all the way down her back. I guess even in first grade she (and her name) made quite an impression on me. 😀

  5. So Foxy’s source for the Elula reveal last year was accurate. I don’t mind it. I’m sure it’s causing some dramatic pearl clutching in the name-o-sphere which I find slightly puzzling given the name seems so innocuous. I’ll save my my WTF? for Locklyn Kyla and others.

  6. I would use Reily. “It’s a family name” makes up for a multitude of name sins, IMO. Using a maiden name in front or middle is nearly always a classy move.

  7. Hm. I’d probably use Reily. As you said, Riley is spelled everything from Riley to Rylee to Rylie to Reilly, my personal favorite. So, is Reily really that weird? Nope. And, seriously, significance outweighs the potential spelling issues that Riley would necessarily bring anyhow…

    Elula was a shocker, even though Lula and Lulu (for Tallulah or Louisa) are awesome nicknames. I find Elula just a tad bit challenging to say, and I dislike it’s similarity to Mama Isla’s name. Plus, after Olive, I suppose I was hoping for something equally quirky and sweet – Ada, Briony, Dinah, Eloise, Nell, or Prudence?

    Winter Morgan is okay – I do like Winter, more than Summer but less than Autumn. However, as a sister for Ptolemy John, I was sort of hoping for an Aurelia Margo or something, right?!

    Name sighting for me? Laith. Older gentleman. Eh, not in love.

  8. I know of a Winter (born in August) – she must be 10+. There’s a Summer in my daughter’s Kindergarten. Don’t know any Autumns personally.

    Starling seems like Sterling meets Sparrow.

    Hazen is a bit too close to Hazel and “hazing” for me personally. Though I do like that it has special meaning for the parents.

    In local name news – close friends had their ‘gender surprise’ baby and named her Lucy…after I told them that that’s the girl name we have picked out for our ‘gender surprise’ baby (due same week as theirs.) Told the news to our 5 year old daughter and she’s all “What?! We can’t use that now. They just used it!” I guess she inherited my preference for names that you don’t already know someone with! 😛 No word on a middle name and they may also be going with a longer form of Lucy on the birth certificate. (I’ve been trying to talk DH into Lucinda since 2005 and more recently when it was NOTD at my request. So we’ll see if that’s their favourite longer form too.) We are still planning on using Lucy (it’s a family name) if this baby is a girl. In which case she’ll be starting out as Lucy B. in the church nursery & mutual friends will think we lack name ideas of our own. Bah humbug! Maybe we’ll have a boy anyway and it’s all moot.

  9. On the topic of Reily. I have some experience with this. One of my best friend’s maiden name was Matsyn and she used it on her friend daughter in the first name spot. She has had people snarkily tell her that she spelled Madison wrong. She just simply replied that actually Matsyn is spelled exactly right! I say if you friend loves the idea of Reily in the first spot she should go with it!
    My maiden name was Halen and I was going to use it in the middle name spot if Hermione had been a boy.
    I am not in love with Elula but then I don’t like Olive at all either. I do like Winter but I really dislike the season so I wouldn’t use it. I do know both a Summer and an Autumn.
    I ran into a mom the other day with a daughter name Allouette. I really really like this idea for a new twist on a nature name since it means ‘lark’ in french. Plus it has its own song! I actually said something to her and then she actually about flipped out when she found out that I named my daughter Hermione… I think that Hermione might have a new play mate (is a few weeks old to young to have friends?)

  10. Harriet the Spy cemented my love of the name from an early age (and it’s a great book Bek!) so I share that with you.

    I’m 100% in favor of Reilly, and I also love the idea of Ptolemy and Yseult! That would have been gorgeous.

    The mentions are so appreciated Abby. I’ll have another round of Telegraph sibsets tomorrow, and speaking of names, March Madness is super fun. Look forward to tomorrow’s Nameberry!

    1. I was probably in a weird phase when I read it, and I’m sure I’ll be giving it another chance as my own girl grows… It may have to do with Michelle Trachtenberg as the lead in the movie version. She annoyed me on Pete & Pete, hahaha!