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Middle Names: Part 2–Middle-sized middles

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by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

If you took a middle name poll of your female friends chances are the top middle name would be Marie. For years Anne and Marie were the go-to middle names for U.S. women. And then something happened. Grace and Rose became the next Anne.

Anne is still a popular middle name, but in recent decades Anne has been easy to replace. This is because one syllable middle names are easy middle names. Almost any first name works with a single syllable middle name.

This is why even underused one syllable middle names feel like they have a short shelf-life. Pearl and Wren may not be as common as Grace and Rose, but may already feel like the next Grace and Rose.

But what middle names have become the next Marie? Louise was popular for a while. Michelle and Nicole began to show up in the middle a few decades ago. But there are many unexplored names that could work in place of Louise, Marie, Michelle, and Nicole.

What do Louise, Marie, Michelle, and Nicole have in common that make them middle name material? These names all have an iambic pattern, two syllables with the stress on the second syllable.

One common belief is that names flow well when the syllable count varies between the first and middle name. For example, a 3-1 combination is popular (the first name has three syllables and the middle name has one). Some popular 3-1 combinations include Sophia Rose and Jennifer Lynn.

But syllable count doesn’t have to vary between the first and middle name. Sometimes 2-2 combinations can work as well. Yet not all 2-2 combinations work. There are some that sound repetitious. The 2-2 combinations that work, work because the stress is on different syllables.

Usually the most appealing combination is when the first name is stressed on the first syllable and the middle name is an iambic name, stressed on the second syllable. This creates a balanced, not repetitive, sound. This is what makes Sarah Michelle sound nicer to most people than Sarah Molly.

Here are some other iambic names that are more unexpected than Louise, Marie, Michelle, and Nicole:

Adele
Camille
Celeste – if it is pronounced se-LEST
Celine
Claudine
Colette
Coleen
Corinne
Diane
Eileen
Estelle
Francine
Delphine
Giselle
Ines
Irene
Jeanine
Justine
Lorraine
Lucille
Margot
Martine
Maxine
Nadine
Noelle
Noreen
Odette
Perrine
Roxane
Sabine
Simone
Suzanne
Sylvaine
Yvonne

You may note there aren’t any boys names on this list. In English-speaking cultures at least, male iambic names are hard to find. Maybe Stefan would count depending on pronunciation.

One of my favorites from this list is Simone used in combinations like Charlotte Simone, Emma Simone or Vera Simone. For an easy exotic style, Delphine is a good choice. I like it with other exotic names. One of my dream combinations is Ione Delphine.

While iambic names work well in the middle, let’s not overlook their first name potential. Even this group’s leader, Marie, is surprising as a first name, only given to 504 newborn girls in 2012 (the most recent year data is available).

Which iambic 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.

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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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