My husband, Justin, and I are expecting our second daughter in January. Our first daughter is Mila Aby. Our list also included Kiara and Eliana, but we settled on Mila. We love it’s meaning (hardworking, dear, and short for “milagro” or miracle in Spanish), and the fact that it’s short, sweet, and familiar without being overly popular. Aby was what we called my late grandmother, so we chose that as her middle name.
Now we are expecting another girl and planning on again choosing a few names and waiting to meet her before we make our final choice. However, we are having trouble finding names that we definitively want to add to the list. A few that we have thrown around and not nixed include Nora, Leila, and Hannah. I have always loved Olivia and the nickname Liv or Livy, but it’s too popular for our taste.
The name should sound beautiful in both English and Spanish, as much of my family only speaks Spanish. We would also like the name to pair well with Mila, and we are considering Alice for a middle name – my husband’s late grandmother.
I can’t wait to hear what your thoughts are!
The Name Sage replies:
It sounds like you have a good start on a short list. And yet, I wonder if it’s the magic of finding a truly meaningful name that’s missing here? Alice feels like a strong middle name candidate. Hannah has a great meaning; Nora and Leila might not be as promising on that count.
Of course, meaning is slippery. Few official lists give the meaning “miracle” for Mila, but it’s a natural connection. It also strengthens the ties between her given name and her heritage, since the meaning links to a Spanish word.
Some might protest that flexible meanings don’t work. But I’ve seen countless cases where such a connection transforms a pleasing name into one that feels exactly right. If it helps you get to The Name, you may freely disregard the official origins.
Let’s look at a few great names with obviously appealing meanings, but also a few that might take some creative stretching.
Alaia – Leila reminds me of Alaia. It’s originally Basque, and means joyful. Mila and Alaia share an ‘l’ sound, but I think they work together nicely. One hesitation: Alaia Alice might feel like too much, though I rather like the repetition.
Cora – Cora comes from the Greek word for maiden, but it coincides with the Latin word cor – heart. Cor is also the source of corazón, the Spanish word for heart, sometimes used as a given name. That makes Cora a perfect pair for Mila. Plus, it sounds very much like your almost-not-quite choice, Nora.
Eva – Olivia has topped charts for years, but Eva remains quietly popular, ranked just Number 73 last year, and it shares the stylish ‘v’ sound. Eva Alice makes for a stunning combination, and the names works beautifully in a great many languages, including English and Spanish. One downside: it might be confused with the wildly popular Ava. And yet, I still think it’s worthy of consideration.
Lucia – Lucia shares some of Olivia’s elaborate sound – especially if you pronounce it with three syllables, loo SEE ah. The meaning appeals, too: light. It’s almost universally pleasing, just like Mila’s meaning, which makes it a logical sister name. At Number 213, Lucia feels familiar, but far from overexposed.
Paloma – What would you think of Paloma, possibly with the nickname Lola? It feels a little more out-there than Hannah or Olivia, but I think it’s widely recognized as a given name. It means dove, which makes it a symbol of peace. Pablo Picasso’s famous image of a dove comes to mind. The artist named his youngest child Paloma, and she became a successful designer.
Serena – Mila is short, sweet, and complete, yet it sounds like more elaborate names, like Eliana and Olivia, appeal to you, too. I wonder what you would think of Serena? The meaning – tranquil or peaceful – seems like a logical sister for Mila. And it hits the familiar-not-common mark exactly, at Number 448. It also reminds me of the Welsh name Seren, meaning star.
Sylvie – I’m not sure how Sylvie sounds in Spanish. I’ve heard Silvia and Sylvana, but not this form of the name. They all come from the Latin silva – forest, but also bring to mind silver, and all the positive associations it carries, too. Mila Aby and Sylvie Alice sound just right together, but perhaps Sylvie could be short for a longer name if that works better in Spanish.
Vera – Vintage Vera is on the upswing in the US – and throughout the Spanish-speaking world, too. As for meaning, it is rich with possible associations. In Slavic languages, it means faith. But it coincides with the Latin verus – truth, the root of the Spanish word verdad. That’s a powerful pair of meanings. At Number 308, it’s well-known, but not often heard.
And yet, it also strikes me that some names on your lists are more elaborate. If choices like Eliana and Olivia feel like the better fit for this child, perhaps you’d consider Paloma called Lola, or Sylvana nicknamed Sylvie.
There’s no rule that says sibling names have to be a matched pair. But listening to your reasons for loving your first daughter’s name, the logical approach seems to be mirroring that pattern, which is why Cora and Vera rose to the top of my suggestions.