Baby Name Compromise: When he hates her favorite

Baby Name Compromise: When he hates her favorite

by Abby Sandel

Seeking their baby name compromise: She’s always known her future daughter’s name. But now they’re expecting a girl, and he’s not a fan of her favorite. How can they compromise on a name they’ll both love?

Annabel writes:My husband and I are expecting our first baby and we’ve just learned that it’s a girl.

When we discussed baby names at the beginning of the pregnancy, we agreed on a boy name and a girl name. I had told my husband that I always wanted to have a girl named Pearl, because it’s my middle name and also my great grandmother’s name. I love that it’s relatively uncommon today, yet familiar and classic with a vintage feel. It is the perfect name – it can be edgy or stately or cute!

The problem is my husband hates it.  When we didn’t yet know the sex of the baby, I decided not to make a huge deal about the name since it might be a moot point.  We settled on a girl name that we both liked and I thought I was ok with compromising and using a name that’s a second choice for me. It’s another uncommon name, Cilla. It has the same meaning as my husband’s name.

But now that I know it’s a girl, my heart is even more set on Pearl!  Do I settle for my second choice or keep trying to win him over to Pearl?

Please help!

The Name Sage replies:

When it comes to naming babies, it’s wise to be open to compromise. But baby name compromise doesn’t mean settling on the first name that neither of you vetoes.

Because it sounds like your husband really likes Cilla and you … don’t hate it. If we’re keeping score, that does put Cilla slightly ahead of Pearl. But only slightly. And certainly not enough to consider the conversation closed. Even if you’ve painted her name on the nursery wall, your message tells me that it’s not settled at all.

Instead, it’s time to start fresh. What, precisely, does your husband dislike about Pearl? The sound or style? Does he have negative associations with the name? Discussing it doesn’t mean he’ll come around. Understanding his reasons for dismissing your favorite choice won’t necessarily make it easy to move on, either. But it should give you a foundation to choose a name that you both love.

I also think the Pearl conversation should include other possible compromises. Can you use it as your daughter’s middle name? Would you both consider Perla, the Italian and Spanish form? Or maybe Margaret – or Margot or Maggie or Greta – since it comes from the Greek word for pearl?

Let’s see if we can come up with some unusual names that share the same qualities and Cilla and Pearl. Because maybe there is a third name out there that you’ll both agree on.

AlmaAlma reminds me of Cilla, a nineteenth century name with fresh appeal in the US today. While it likely comes from the Latin almus – nourishing – it also happens to be the Spanish word for soul. Vintage, meaning-rich, and just a little bit unexpected, just like Pearl.

Honora – Maybe Honora feels a little too frilly? It’s a virtue name, derived from Honor. Annora, Honoria, and even Onora are sometimes seen, but I think Honora seems like the most wearable. It’s clearly borrowed from an earlier era, but has the same sensibility as modern innovations, like Journey or River.

Iris – As elegant as Pearl, Iris feels like it could be anything – edgy, stately, or cute! A handful of famous and fictional women lend strength to the name. And while it’s more common than Cilla or Pearl, it’s still much less common than Lily or Rose.

June – Pearls are the birthstone of June, but that’s not why I thought of this name. It’s short, vintage but energetic, and relatively underused. If part of Pearl’s appeal is the brief-but-complete sound, I wonder if you’d like June for similar reasons.

Maude – Another single-syllable name, this time from a vintage choice that’s not quite back in the mainstream – yet. It’s also spelled without the final ‘e,’ as in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s 1855 poem by the name. I can imagine Maude as Pearl’s sister, so perhaps it’s worth considering the name as a substitute.

VeraVera looks like the Latin verus – truth – but comes from the Russian word for faith.  That’s two strong meanings embodied in just four letters. It’s undeniably vintage – the name peaked around the turn of the twentieth century. But the V takes it in a modern, edgy direction.

WillaCilla is really unusual; Pearl is uncommon, but generally recognized as a given name. Might Willa be the midpoint between the two? A feminine form of Germanic William, Willa has never been quite as popular as other –lla names, like Ella and Stella … and Cilla.

Zora – It’s tempting to see Zora as a space age innovation, but that’s not so. It peaked in the 1880s, and while it’s been rare most years since, it’s not forgotten. Legendary writer Zora Neale Hurston helped keep it in the spotlight, plus it has a great meaning: dawn.

Overall, I still hope you have a heart-to-heart and your husband reconsiders Pearl. It’s hard to give up your all-time favorite name! But if that doesn’t come to pass, I hope one of these compromise names will thrill you nearly as much. Alma Pearl is my favorite, followed by Zora Pearl – but it’s good to consider lots of options.

I know our readers will have some great suggestions, but let’s also talk about letting go of your favorite names. Has something like this ever happened to you?

Have you ever had to give up your favorite name?

Abby Sandel is the creator of name blog Appellation Mountain and writes Nameberry’s Name Sage column, offering wise advice on baby name questions submitted by Berries every other Wednesday. Abby lives outside of Washington DC with her husband and two children, Alex and Clio. You can reach her on Facebook , Instagram and Pinterest. For a chance to have your questions answered on Nameberry, contact Abby at