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Middle Names: Longer choices beyond Elizabeth

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by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

Some names are common in the middle but rarely used as first names. Others are common first names but hardly used in the middle. And then there are a lucky few that are popular first and middle names, such as Grace and James. But the ultimate double-threat is Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s status as a popular first name has endured over a century. Elizabeth is the only girl name that has remained in the top 30 since 1880, the earliest year baby name rankings are available from Social Security Administration. This places Elizabeth among the baby name elite.

While Elizabeth’s many nicknames has kept it a popular first name, Elizabeth’s distinctive rhythm has kept it a popular middle name. This distinctive pattern is four syllables with the stress is on the second syllable.

Four syllable names with the stress on the third syllable don’t flow as well with most first names. For example, compare the following name combinations with Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s Spanish counterpart, Isabella, which has the stress on the third syllable:

Clover Elizabeth vs. Clover Isabella
Daphne Elizabeth vs. Daphne Isabella
Harper Elizabeth vs. Harper Isabella
Kayla Elizabeth vs. Kayla Isabella
Morgan Elizabeth vs. Morgan Isabella

Which ones sound better? There may be a few renegades who prefer the Isabella combinations, but I’m betting on the Elizabeth combinations. Because of the four-syllable/second-stress pattern, Elizabeth flows well with many names.

There are other four-syllable/second-stress names besides Elizabeth that also make great middle names. Here are some members of this small club:

Alethea
Amelia
Andromeda
Azalea
Calliope
Camellia
Epiphany
Evangeline
Felicity
Forsythia
Hermione
Magnolia
Olivia
Parthenia
Penelope
Persephone
Serenity
Veronica
Victoria

There is one quality Elizabeth has that was difficult to find in other four-syllable/second-stress names: the non-vowel ending. This non-vowel ending makes Elizabeth pair well with feminine names that end in vowels — which make up many feminine names.

With this in mind, the ending of the first name is something to consider when using middle names from this list. Repetitious vowel endings in combos like Nora Olivia are charming to some and over-the-top to others.

For those who feel repetitious endings are too much, here are three suggestions for using an Elizabeth substitute in the middle:

1. Alternate vowel endings:
Examples: Flora Calliope and Lucy Magnolia.

2. Use first names that don’t end in a vowel sound:
Examples: Alice Hermione and Eden Serenity.

3. Use Evangeline from this list, which ends in a vowel, but not a vowel sound:
Examples: Martha Evangeline and Zoe Evangeline.

And in some cases Elizabeth, with its distinctive ending, may be the best middle name. While Elizabeth is commonly used, style-wise, the name remains unique.

Which four-syllable/second-stress names are your favorites? How many combinations can you make with this list?

For more middle name discussion, see the middle name series at Upswing Baby Names.

Angela created Upswing Baby Names out of an obsession with baby name statistics, trends, and predictions. She put her predictions into a book, The Top 22 in 2022.  She is also an avid runner, wannabe foodie, and devoted mom of two.

AND TUNE IN FOR PART 2 TOMORROW–TWO-SYLLABLE MIDDLES!

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About the author

upswingbabynames

Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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