Baby Naming Advice: Teacher Edition

When you've heard every name before, what do you call your own kiddos?

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

If you’re a teacher, every name can already feel taken by a former student! What’s the best approach – choose something truly unusual? Or choose a baby name you love, knowing that it might appear on your class list, too?

Caity writes:  

We are having trouble agreeing on a girls’ name. We have a strong-sounding, single-syllable surname that starts with S and rhymes with deal. I’d like to use Elizabeth for the middle.

My husband likes Quinn; I prefer Sadie or Finley.

But here’s the real problem: I come from a huge family with lots of girls, so many names are already out. And I teach dance, meaning I’ve heard all the common names out there, spelled every which way. I don’t want to name my daughter after any students, especially current ones.

Is there something out there that my husband and I haven’t thought of and isn’t too common? Or am I being too picky?

The Name Sage replies:

Teachers – and pediatricians and coaches and anyone who works with kids – face an extra challenge when naming their own children.

Not only do you need to find a name you and your partner love, but it can’t remind you of your students.

And if you’re planning for the future? You might want to avoid any popular name that’s likely to appear on your class list anytime soon.

That might mean that letting go of Top 100 choices like Sadie and Quinn. And almost certainly Finley, too. According to the most recent popularity lists, names like Sadie and Quinn were given to more than 3,500 girls each. Only 1,850 girls were named Finley – but so were 1,200 boys. That’s fewer than the more than 8,000 Averys and nearly 20,000 Emmas.  But there’s still a good chance they’ll appear on your class roster – eventually.

Instead, let’s consider some names given to more like 100 to 200 girls. There are oodles of great possibilities that almost no one is using, names that would fit right in on a playground today, without being overwhelmingly popular.

Choose one of these choices, and chances are your daughter will have it to herself, no matter how many kids pass through your classes.

Arden – As tailored as Quinn, with a literary vibe thanks to the forest setting in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. 225 girls received the name in 2017.

Cecily Cecily feels a little frillier than your current favorites, but it might balance out your surname nicely, and shares Finley’s ending -lee. There were 188 newborn Cecilys in 2017.

Darcy – File this one midway between Sadie and Finley, a surname name with a feminine sound. 183 girls were named Darcy in 2017, with a few dozen spelled Darcie and Darcey, too.

Edie Eden and Edith are fairly popular, but retro nickname Edie was given to just 105 girls. That’s fairly rare, and yet Edie shares the same appeal as chart-topping Sadie.

Justine Just 98 girls were named Justine in 2017. It’s feminine and familiar, a tailored name that reminds me of Quinn. But you’re not likely to have any pass through your studio.

Libby – A traditional Elizabeth nickname, Libby is out of the spotlight today – despite the popularity of names like Lily and Abby. It might make a great substitute for Sadie, but of course, that means you’d have to rethink your middle name choice. In the most recent data set, 237 girls were named Libby.

Sally Sadie started out as a nickname for Sarah, and so did Sally. While Molly and Ellie have been favorites in recent years, just 242 girls were named Sally. I think it’s a great fits-in/stands-out choice.

Shea Brisk and modern, Shea is every bit as Irish as Quinn. But it’s far less common, which makes it a great alternative. 182 girls, plus 125 boys, were named Shea in 2017.

My favorite for you is Edie Elizabeth. It has the same cool, casual style as Sadie, but gives your daughter a name all her own.

Finding something rare isn’t the only approach, of course, and it’s worth noting that unusual names come with their own pitfalls. They can be misheard and misspelled, no matter how straightforward they seem.

If none of these choices feel right, I wonder if you might want to rethink the need to find something uncommon?

You could always opt for a traditional name. Elizabeth might make a great first name, instead of a middle. Or maybe another classic, like Anna or Claire? When a name is so evergreen, it’s tough to associate just one figure with it – I’m guessing you’ve known women in their 60s with these names, as well as six-year old aspiring ballerinas.

More mainstream names – like Sadie and Quinn – are options, too. You just have to be confident that you’ve chosen a great name for your daughter – even recognizing that it may repeat.

It might be helpful to hear from others in the same position, so let’s have a poll. And please suggest some uncommon names that Caity and her husband will love!

If you work with children, how did you approaching naming your own kids?

  1. AWe chose names we loved, even if it meant hearing them on our students.
  2. BWe went with really unusual names, hoping to avoid duplication with our classes.
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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
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8 Responses to “Baby Naming Advice: Teacher Edition”

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EloiseT Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 2:39 am

I don’t think it matters if you’re being picky, you have to love the name – and if that means not knowing/teaching one, that’s OK!

To me Sadie S*al is cool but definitely a little daring/ showbiz as alliterative names can be! Quinn S*al, to me, sounds like a type of animal, condiment or mode of sealing something shut – too stark for me. I like Finley but prefer it for a boy, not that that matters! If they’re still viable, I would choose Sadie or Finley of the three.

Of Abby’s suggestions, I like Arden, Edith, Justine or Elizabeth nn Lily, Libby or even Zabby, which might appeal. I love Cecily but again it’s quite a bold (lots of S sounds) choice with S*al – which might be exactly what you’re after – but could make a few people trip.

Some suggestions (though haven’t checked their popularity):

Seraphina (not sure if too popular, but think a 3-4 syllable could work well)
Anneka / Annika
Erin (love!)
Mary nn Molly
Zaley (as a blend, but a real name!)

blueylit Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 7:17 am

Agree with EloiseT that Finley seems the best option out of the three to go with your surname. However, because my favourite is actually Sadie, I’m all for Edie. It keeps that nickname name vibe whilst also working well with the MN & the LN.

jrave656 Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 9:43 am

I actually think Cecily is a great call. I don’t think the alliteration is too much at all – Sadie S*al, maybe, but Cecily S*al doesn’t sound that far off from SNL’s Cecily Strong, which I think is a wonderful name in and of itself. That being said, nickname Cece S*al might be too close for you?

jpruitt76 Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 10:10 am

I think I would steer clear of names with a heavy S sound with your last name…especially names like Cecily that repeat the S and L sounds of your surname.

How about:


Nathalia Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 11:27 am

Other names with similar vibes to Quinn, Sadie, and Finley, but may be less popular in many area of the U.S.:


I like many of the names mentioned, especially Sally and Darcy (I personally love the alliteration of Sally with the last name). I also would consider Elizabeth with a fun nn for a first – Libby, Zibby, Zabby.
Congratulations and good luck!

Selkit Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 11:53 am

If your last name starts with S and rhymes with “deal,” maybe you should name her Navy. You probably won’t have too many Navy SEALs come through your dancing class!

Joking aside, I like the suggestion of Edie (or Evie). It fits well with what looks like your preference for short-ish names ending with a long e sound. Some other possibilities that are not too common but hopefully not too out-there:

Elodie (you could also use Edie as a nickname for this)
Azalea (doesn’t end with long e sound, but still sounds kinda similar to Sadie?)

Kipperbo1 Says:

January 23rd, 2019 at 4:36 pm

How about…


tp b Says:

January 29th, 2019 at 4:18 am

I’d strongly advise against Quinn Elizabeth.
It’s far far too close to Queen Elizabeth.
Your daughter will have to deal with that connection her entire life.

Quinn Elizabeth Steele sounds like a commemorative plate.
Quinn Elizabeth Seal sounds like the HRM’s seal.

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