Can These Baby Namers Ever Agree?
His list is as classic and traditional as they come. She likes her names on the wild side. Is there any middle ground, and how can they possibly find it when every conversation ends with an eye roll?
Hoping you can break the stalemate between my partner and I. We’re expecting and we’re on such different pages, we can’t even speak about names.
He is all about tradition and timelessness whereas I enjoy adventurous and less common names that are easy to say, spell, and remember.
My partner is Alexander IV. He feels strongly about maintaining the tradition, and naming a son Alexander V. I find Alexander too common, and don’t like the confusion of having two in my life! I’m not fond of alternative nicknames like AJ, Xander, etc.
Besides Alexander, his list is Matthew, Benjamin, or Adam for a boy; Elizabeth, Sarah, or Jane for a girl. I like Ronin/Ronan, Alden, Rosco, and Cyrus for boys; Novella, Novalie, Marlo, Aleah, Amara, and Verity for a girl.
I can’t even hold back the eye-roll as he thinks hard and comes up with another name we’ve heard 10,000 times before!
We can’t even chat about this without looking at each other like we’re from another planet. We need help or this baby will be stuck as “The Kid” forever!
The Name Sage replies:
This is a tough spot, but you’re not alone! Plenty of partners find themselves on opposite sides of the popularity question.
The good news is that there is a wide and deep pool of names between the tried-and-true classics your partner prefers, and the distinctively different names that you love.
Before we dive into the names, let’s talk about some strategies for finding a name you both can embrace. If you’re struggling to talk about specific names, it might be a good idea to step back and talk about these approaches instead.
Unusual Name, Ordinary Nickname – He gets his fits-in choice for everyday use, but you can reserve a stands-out name for the birth certificate.
Classic Name, Unexpected Nickname – The opposite approach, which works every bit as well.
Out-There First, Traditional Middle – Does your partner say why he reacts so strongly when you suggest Verity and Ronin? If he thinks such names will burden his children, using a rock-solid middle name might provide a fallback option – and assure him that your children will have the best of both worlds. The opposite can work, too, with a sparky, completely unexpected middle adding some interest to a conventional first.
Traditional, But Rare Names – Another approach might be to look at the names no one is using – even though we all agree they’re perfectly familiar, even traditional, names.
Now let’s talk about some name options in each category.
Unusual Name, Ordinary Nickname
This strategy might work best where you already almost agree. Since Benjamin makes his list, Bennett-called-Ben seems like a natural fit. Because you have Verity and Novella/Novalie on your girls’ list, I looked for names with the ‘v’ sound, and thought that Evie or Vivi might be a great compromise, with plenty of daring formal names to use.
Classic Name, Unexpected Nickname
When it comes to nicknaming, it’s amazing how many possibilities are out there. There’s a thread on our Nametalk forums about this very question. If there’s a common name that you could like, it’s worth searching for an appealing nickname option.
I think this works especially well with Alexander. Since your son would be the fifth to bear the name, you might choose a numeric nickname, like Finn, Quinn, or Penn. It’s a way to carry on tradition, but make it completely fresh and new at the same time.
Out-There First, Traditional Middle
If your partner frets that your child will dislike having a truly unusual name, perhaps putting a classic, conventional name in the middle spot will satisfy his worries. If your kids agree with dad, and end up going through life as V. Elizabeth and A. Matthew, that’s just fine.
Traditional, But Rare Names
This is one of my favorite categories of names. None of them rank in the current US Top 1000, though some might be slightly more popular elsewhere in the world. They’re familiar names that we generally recognize – but try to name a child by any of these names, and odds are that you’ll come up blank!
The next step is to try to redirect those frustrating conversations. Instead of focusing on names, think about possible ways to compromise.
Readers, I know you’ll have some great advice. If you and your partner were miles away from each other in terms of names, what helped you narrow down your list?
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on October 25th, 2016 at 11:41 pm
Compromising on names can be very hard, and I think there’s plenty of options here that work well. If you can agree on, maybe, a familiar but underused name that has a cute nickname, I think you’ll both be happy with that 🙂
on October 26th, 2016 at 12:18 am
What about Dorothy for a girl? Very uncommon now but still in the top 1000 and was popular back in the early 1900’s? Also Xavier for a boy maybe?
on October 26th, 2016 at 12:28 am
For a boy, I love, love, love the idea of honoring the husband’s desire to carry on the Alexander tradition but calling him by an offbeat nickname. The 5-inspired names are clever! And we don’t know what the inherited middle is, but you could also combine sounds from Alexander and the middle to arrive at a nickname.
Other possible Alexander nicknames: Alder, Anders, Zane, Ace, Axel.
For girls, I like Abby’s suggestion of Margaret called Greer. More ideas:
Eleanor nn. Nora
Charlotte nn. Arlo
Margaret nn. Marlo or Marnie
Verity Alexandra nn. Vera
Novella Jane nn. Ella or Ella Jane
Sarah Lorienne nn. Sloan
Mary Louise or Margaret Louise nn. Marlo
Thanks for such a practical article!
Toya B Said
on October 26th, 2016 at 1:26 am
What about the quite traditional technique of inherited first name, called second name. This way you might be able to call you kid Ronan, but not be breaking any real tradition properly, as his official name is Alexander Ronan.
on October 26th, 2016 at 2:01 am
This is such a great article.
Personally I think the best compromise is a traditional first name that looks good on a resume and a middle name and nick name that you love. That way you get to call the kid a name you love everyday, and only have to use the formal first name on the rare occasion.
I really like Abby’s suggestions of Alexander or Alexandra called Sasha, Quinn, Finn, or Penn. With Ceryle adding Zane, Anders, Axel, and Ace to the mix. One of the nice things about the ordinary name Alexander and Alexandra is that much like Katherine or Elizabeth there seems to be a never ending supply of nick names or variations on spelling. You could also try Alexandria or Alessandra for a girl if you decide to carry the name one with your daughter. A little female Alessandra V could be kinda cool.
I have heard the following nn used for the male and female variants: Alexa, Alexis, Lexi, Lex, Alexi/ie/ei, Sandra, Zan, Xan, Alix, Ria,
Perhaps see if your partner would open to using a variant form of the name, or create your own nn.
More reasons to fall in love with Alexander/ra is the edgy new musical Alexander Hamilton. Popular and classic yes, but with Lin Manual Miranda’s musical it is a little bit wild and a little bit hip hop as well!
Nameberry has some great info on the name:
Nicknames & Variations for Alexander
Sandy, Zander, Al, Alexxander, Alexsandor, Xander, Alex, Zan, Lex, Alexandar, Alexsander, Alix, Alixander, Alec, Alecsander, Alexzander, Xan
Alexander’s International Variations
Alexei, Sasha, Aleksandr, Shura, Sanya (Russian) Alessandro, Sandro (Italian) Alexios, Alexandros (Greek) Alasdair, Alistair (Scottish Gaelic) Sándor (Hungarian) Alexio (Portuguese) Alexandre (French) Alastar (Irish Gaelic) Alejandro (Spanish) Alexandru (Romanian)
If those nn not pull to you create your own or see this list on NameBerry of exciting X names that might inspire you: http://nameberry.com/userlist/view/37836
I would suggest the following:
Alexander (Lex/Quinn) Bennett
Alexander (Rosco) Ronin
Alexandra (Roxy/Quinn) Ronan or Rowan
Alessandra (Nova) Novella/Novalie
The nn you choose doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with the first name. You could really pick anything, or even call them by their middle name.
Or if your partner can agree to his name in the middle:
Verity Alexandra (plus how cool would it be to have name that roughly means “truthful defender of men”)
Best of luck and I hope your and your partner can find a middle ground that does not induce eye rolls!
on October 26th, 2016 at 4:23 am
I would let DH have Alexander for a boy since tradition is important to him. He gets the first name, and you can pick the middle. Call him by a nickname or by his middle name.
For a girl, you can pick the first and he can pick the middle. Nicknames optional. Just make sure whatever you call the child is a name you both can live with!
on October 26th, 2016 at 4:30 am
You could use Alexander as the middle name or choose a different middle name from his dad. This way Alexander is still on the birth certificate, but you can call him something else. You could also look through the top names in other countries for some ideas. You will probably find some old fashioned names that aren’t too popular in your country. Hopefully there is a name in there that you both like!
on October 26th, 2016 at 9:16 am
I agree with Maple10; it’s important to your husband to carry on his name, and that is totally understandable. What a cool legacy to give a son, and Alexander offers many of possible nicknames should you choose to use one. Tell your husband he gets to name a son (first name) and you get to name a daughter (first name).
on October 26th, 2016 at 10:36 am
This may not be a popular opinion, but I really encourage you to honor your husband and his family tradition by giving your son the name Alexander. This is not Alexander Jr.–this is Alexander the 5th. You are breaking a 100+ year tradition in your quest for an offbeat name. I am big into distinctive baby-naming, but this is not the hill I would choose to die on. Your son will have a much more interesting story to tell if you give him his great, great, great grandfather’s name than if you choose just about anything else, whether it be tradition, stylish, or quirky.
Perhaps the appropriate compromise would be this–if baby is a boy, he is Alexander the 5th, if baby is a girl, she is whichever name you like best.
on October 26th, 2016 at 11:23 am
While I agree with Titus245Mama in many ways (especially since it’s a good name!), my first thought was also, “But that’s not fair! It takes all the fun out of baby naming for the mom!” And also, in regular life, the middle name truly doesn’t come into play very much. I think at the very least, mom should get to choose an unconventional middle name for a son if he is to be Alexander…especially if that first/middle combo could result in an interesting nickname.
And yes, if it’s a girl, I say it’s your call…and let him pick a traditional middle.
on October 26th, 2016 at 11:57 am
Boy should be Alexander nn Alden (all the letters of Alden are in Alexander!!!
on October 26th, 2016 at 8:40 pm
I would absolutely use Alexander V for your son. I think it would be so sad for your husband not to get to continue a meaningful tradition. I think Quincy would be a great nickname. I also really prefer your husband’s girl names as well. I think you should look at some vintage or slightly off beat classics like:
on October 26th, 2016 at 10:26 pm
How about Eleanor nicknamed Enna? 😉 That’s what my daughter goes by, so I’m kind of partial. Nora/Norie could also work. I like the traditional name/unusual nickname approach. My daughter goes by Eleanor in church/school, but to all family and close friends she’s Enna. I think it’s the best of both worlds, and the child can choose what they’d rather be called once they get older.
on October 26th, 2016 at 10:50 pm
How about Alexander V, called Van or Vander?
I agree w/ others that the name should be carried on. It’s kind of a shame to end such a strong tradition in his family. But you should get to choose any daughters’ names.
on October 27th, 2016 at 12:16 pm
This John the 2nd thing is hard. It’s easy to see how a son could feel the need for this to continue, but it’s hard to imagine most of the women I know going for it. As name lovers, we want to choose or help choose the name, not just use existing family names in their entirety.
The good news is you both like many names. I tend to be a “THIS is THE name” person; I fall in love so hard with one that anything else mentioned is blown out of the water.
This is where three given names can be so helpful. His conservative name choice first then your two middles or your choice as first with his two conservative middles.
I know that had our two children gotten to be born, I would have called them by their middles or nicknames of their middles some of the time. I’ve also known parents who each called their child a different version of the name (Liza and Betsy for example or Alexander or Alec).
on October 27th, 2016 at 2:14 pm
Its tough when two people dont agree on something this important, but in this case I think you should compromise, especially if its a boy. By now, naming your son Alexander isn’t because the name is traditional (as in William, Matthew, ect.), but because it is a family tradition. Its been in his family for 4 generations and i dont think its fair for you to make him give up that legacy because you find it “too common” and having two Alexander’s in your life is too hard for you.
However, you can still win in this compromise. I like the idea of either having an unusual middle name/nick name (I’m a big fan of unique names) and just calling them that on a day to day basis. So if y’all can find a more unconventional middle name you both like/can live with, or a cool nn (i like the Finn/Quinn thing), i think thats the best compromise anyone could ask for.
Curious to see how this turns out!
on October 27th, 2016 at 5:43 pm
I can’t help but wonder if folks would feel the same way if it was a woman insisting on naming her daughter Mary Catherine Last Name III. I think the concept works for the kings of England, but not much beyond that.
on October 27th, 2016 at 5:52 pm
I think Meryl Streep is a good example of this. All the first daughters in her family were named Mary, with a distinctive nickname. She felt pressure to do the same. So both she and her first daughter have the name Mary. But one is Meryl and the other Mamie. No one should be forced to follow tradition, but with a ubiquitous name (e.g. Alexander, Mary, John, Katherine, Elisabeth etc) with a long history of use comes an endless supply of nick names and the potential to create new ones, which is a great bonus.
on October 27th, 2016 at 6:25 pm
I ageee-Alexander for a boy with an off beat middle and unique nickname.
For a girl…Verity is beautiful paired with a classic middle name.
on October 28th, 2016 at 7:22 am
I’m thinking the same thing as lesliemarion said above.. Would people insist on following family tradition too, if it were the mom insisting on calling a daughter Mary III? I have trouble believing that.
But I like the idea of a classic name with a unusual nickname. It seems like the perfect compromise for them.
on October 28th, 2016 at 11:07 am
A girl I met in college was called Lisbon for Elizabeth. She told me she was the 17th UNBROKEN in an Elizabeth line. It became a tradition in her family to name the first daughter Elizabeth and be called a nn.
So, I’m putting my vote firmly in the Alexander V nn something offbeat camp. And I think if it’s a girl, the same should apply, especially if you plan on having more kids. It was make such an awesome sibset and be a great story for your kid(s) to tell!
on October 28th, 2016 at 12:12 pm
I vote definitely for the Alexander V with an offbeat nickname. I was named after my parents, grandparents, etc., and the national holiday on which I was born. I’m proud to have such a rich family name tradition–one that I want to pass down myself! I think if he insists on Alexander V, you should however have the pick for the girl’s name.
on October 28th, 2016 at 12:36 pm
@TeacupsandTiaras I totally agree. My first thought was that your should compromise: he “gets” Alexander V for a boy, you “get” your choice for a girl. My parents used that tactic when naming me, as it happens; Mom picked the boy name, Dad picked the girl, and thus I became Julie.
on October 28th, 2016 at 10:07 pm
I definitely think if you have a son he should be named Alexander V—it’s too long of a streak to break! The name also has many possibilities for nicknames—Finn, Quinn, Zane, Alec, Axel, Alder, Alden, Anders, Alistair, Lex, etc—that are much more uncommon than the classics Alex and Xander. For a girl, the decision isn’t quite as clear! I think if your husband gets to choose Alexander for a boy, then you should be able to decide the girl’s. Hope to hear what you decide!
four little monkeys Said
on October 29th, 2016 at 8:36 am
The first name that occurred to me was the delightful Quentin. It has a quirky, artsy and almost adorably nerdy vibe and makes me think of Quentin Tarantino and little boys like Dennis the Menace and Charlie from the Chocolate Factory.
I think Alexander is a very handsome, brilliant name and it seems like a shame to break such a long family tradition. I do think there’s gotta be in this universe a nickname for Alexander you will like. There’s Al, Lex, Axel or Axl, Xan, Anders, Andy, Sasha, Alexei, Lexus, Lux, Sand… But my absolute favorite for you would be Quentin Alexander or Alexander Quentin. Quentin comes from the Latin Quintus which means 5th. Q is such a quirky and underused letter and this name will in no doubt stand out among other boys’ names.
For a girl I have a few suggestions. I think my husband and I have a style difference similar to that of yours and your partner. I like the more unusual names and he the more common or traditional names. Our kids ended up being Marvin Louis July, Max Andrew Comet and Eulalie Norah Jane.
Here are some ideas that have been or are on my list as well: Camellia, Lucille (Lucy for short), Ramona (Romy or Mona)-, Delilah, Seraphina (Sadie, Fina or dad could call her Sara for short), Magnolia (called Nola or Maggie for short), Marina (called Mina, Nina or Marie), Jessamine (called Minnie, Mina, Jess or Jessie), Sylvia (called Silver or Sylvie), Adelina or Adelaide (Addie, Della or Adele), Estelle or Esther (Essie), Margot, Celine or Celeste, Emilia (Emmy or Milly), Dorothy or Dorothea (Dora, Dot, Thea or Dottie), Theodora (Thea, Dora, Theda), Viviana (Viv, Vivi, Vina), Eleanor or Elinor, Elsie or Elsa, Eudora, Eugenie or Eugenia (Gene, Jean), Beatrice or Beatrix (Bea, Bibi, Bitsy, Tris, Trixie, Beadie, Birdie), Sabina or Sabine (Bina or Bibi), Helena or Elena (Lena, Lenny or Nell), Flora or Florence or Florina or Florentina (Florrie, Flossie, Flor, Flower), Julia, Juliana, Juliet or Juliette (Julie, Jules, Etta), Marion, Maria, Martha or Marta or Martina, Veronica (Vera, Verity, Nica, Nikki), Vera, Rosalie, Rosamund, Rosemary, Juniper (June, Juno or Junie), Eve, Eva, Evangeline, Evelyn, Ruby, Clara or Clarice or Clarisse or Clarissa, Mabel, Willow, Willa, Penelope, Virginia (Vi, Vivi, Ginny), Hermione, Hazel, Louise or Louisa, Lydia, Liza or Eliza, Diana, Zelda, Orla, Autumn, Annika, Annabel, Coraline, Coralie, Cora, Matilda (Mattie, Tilly, Tilda), Sybil, Alicia, Phoebe, Iris, Petra, Oriana, Olympia, Bianca, Cassia, Carys, Daisy, Poppy or Luna.
Good luck to you both!
on October 29th, 2016 at 10:06 am
How about Alexander V called Alden? All the letters are there!
on October 29th, 2016 at 3:29 pm
There are lot of really beautiful names suggested here! I think its a great idea to suggest names that are traditional, but less common, as a first, and Alexander as a middle. That would hopefully check off boxes from both of your camps! I would suggest something like Rosalie, Virginia, Eleanor, Verity, Marian, or Cecelia/Cecilia for a girl, and Theodore, Bennett, Eli, or Sebastian for a boy.
As far as the Alexander debacle goes, I personally don’t love the name in general, so I wouldn’t be interested in naming my son that either. I also have issues with the fact that he would have my husband’s first and last name, and nothing of my choosing in there. A baby is a shared responsibility, and I find it archaic to name a child solely after dad. If you don’t share a last name with your partner, I wonder if you would consider naming him Alexander if he didn’t have the same last name as his father? I would make a suggestion; ask him if he would be comfortable using your last name with the first name Alexander, or a compromise choice first name, and your partner’s last name. If that’s not an option, maybe suggest you use a different version of Alexander or something that sounds like it, such as Lysander, or Sasha. Good luck, and let us know what you decide!
on October 29th, 2016 at 8:17 pm
Alexander V called Quincy!!! Quincy, like Quinn, stands for the number 5.
(For a girl I am no further help, lol sorry)
But I say let him have Alexander V, call him a cool name like Quincy, with the understanding that you will get to pick the next baby’s name. Everyone wins, right?
on November 5th, 2016 at 1:27 pm
I like the idea of Alexander V nicknamed Finn
on November 15th, 2016 at 2:34 pm
This is a hard one. I personally think having an Alexander the 5th called Quinn/Finn would be kinda cool, but I don’t mind the name itself, despite it’s popularity. Typically I’m turned off completely by anything in the top 100, but for some reason this matters less to me with boys names. But I agree with mom too, its difficult to just give in and pretty much get no say in the name, especially if you’ve been dreaming about naming your child for years. Frankly this is something I established before I even married my husband, if he would be requiring a son to be a junior, thankfully he said no but if we have a boy he wants middle name Paul (his and his fathers middle), I hate the name Paul but, if that is the only thing he’s ever thought of in terms of naming a child i’ll go with it, whereas I’ve been thinking about naming babies for about 25 years.
I do think it’s different to consider Someone the 5th, carrying on a long tradition, vs a junior, beginning a tradition. And to those who are commenting, if it were the mother wanting a 5th would we be saying the same thing, and I would. I think we don’t see more women carrying on family names for that many generations like that because we have more fun doing the naming 😉
Am I wrong in believing that if someone is a junior/3rd etc they have exactly the same name as their predecessors? Like, if he wants a child the 5th there is a middle that is also required, unless he has no middle name? People are recommending he gets the first name pick and mom picks the middle, but I am unsure if this actually counts as upholding the tradition. Maybe I’m just wrong.
I also think Verity Alessandra is a cool name.
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