How to Reinvent Family Names for Baby

September 18, 2016 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel

This week brought us two celebrity baby names inspired by loved ones. But they’re not just simple honor names.

Lacey Chabert revealed that her new daughter, Julia Mimi Bella, is named for Lacey’s mom, Julie. Julia is the first child for Lacey and husband Dave Nehdar.

Actor Rob Schneider also welcomed a daughter – his third. Daughter Elle King, from a previous relationship, is now a successful singer. Now he and wife Patricia are parents to Miranda Scarlett and newest addition, Madeline Robbie. Robbie seems like a sweet nod to dad.

Would you name your baby after yourself? How about your mom or dad, or another loved one?

Both the Schneiders and Chabert-Nehdars made some subtle changes to the names before handing them out down to the next generation. If you like the idea of choosing family names, but aren’t sure about the names themselves, there’s no shortage of ways to reinvent them for your children.

Here are nine ways to honor a loved one with names for the newest members of your family.

Use the same initials – The upside of sharing initials is that it is easy to do. Your dad is Hubert Eugene, and your son is Henry Elliot. Or Hudson Everest, or Hugo Eldon. The downside is that shared initials might not seem like much of a connection – though in some naming traditions, that’s the norm.

Choose a name that reminds you of your loved one June might commemorate your parent’s wedding anniversary. Violet can bring to mind a beloved grandmother’s favorite flowers. I’ve heard of children’s names borrowed from towns or even streets where their families lived or vacationed. All the meaning of a family name, but with the freedom to choose something that appeals to your style.

Look for surnames – Plenty of children receive their mother’s surname as a middle. But how about family names from farther back on your tree? With surname names gone mainstream, many choices might wear well, beyond the obvious CarterHarperHunter. Even a part of a surname can work beautifully, like Kourtney Kardashian’s eldest, Mason Dash. Seth Meyers and wife Alexi Ashe recently welcomed son Ashe Olsen, named for his mother and maternal grandmother.

Find a name with the same meaning Love grandma Blanche, but lukewarm on her name? How about others that share similar meanings – like white, bright, or light? That could lead to possibilities like Clara or Claire, Lucy or Lucia, Fiona or Wynne. Arnold means eagle, but so do Ari and Adler.

Go longer – or shorter Lacey’s mom Julie inspired daughter Julia. Ann might be honored with an Annabelle or Annika. Shortening names is an option, too. Your beloved brother is Charles, but maybe his nephew is Charlie – just Charlie. If you’re not wild about a formal name, but love one of its nicknames, there’s no rule saying you can’t just use the diminutive. Rob Schneider’s Madeline Robbie is a good example of the potential of this approach.

Switch genders – The Schneiders bring to mind another possibility – naming daughters after dads, sons after moms. With some creative thinking, this works even for names that don’t have obvious male/female equivalents. Jennifer could name her son Jensen; a grandma Donna might have a grandson Donovan.

Borrow a foreign language form of the name – Think Matteo instead of Matthew, Anya instead of Anna. This might be especially powerful if you’re using the original form of a name that your grandparents or great-grandparents might have left behind when they immigrated to the US. But even if that’s not the case, it’s a good approach for finding names that honor your loved ones, and your heritage, too.

Pass down the name in full, but use a nickname Plenty of traditional names can easily be made new for another generation, just by changing the nickname. Elizabeth called Betty might have a granddaughter Elizabeth called Libby or Eliza or Elle. Theresa might be honored with a Tessa; William, with a Liam.

Tuck it in the middle Tori Spelling’s son is Liam Aaron. Countless families tuck a loved one’s name in the middle spot. The downside? The name isn’t used very often. And yet, if you feel like the name is tough to wear or just not your style, it might make a good compromise.

Just use the name – Maybe it’s not creative. Maybe it can create confusion if two – or more! – family members share the exact same name. And yet, passing down a name as-is remains a valid option. It’s one of the reasons so many great names survive, generation after generation. So if you love the name as much as you love the person? There’s no reason not to use it, free of alteration, exactly as it is.

Would you use a family name for your child? Did you try any of these creative techniques to hand down the name?

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

View all of Abby's articles


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