Baby Naming Patterns: Can they be broken?

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

They’re naming daughter number three, and feeling backed into a corner. Is the pattern they’ve established unbreakable? Or do they have more options than they think?

Hanna writes:

I have a bit of a dilemma. My husband and I have backed ourselves into a corner with our older girls’ names, Emma and Bella – two names that have a double letter and end-in-a. If this baby is a boy we plan to name him after his father, but if it’s a girl, we don’t have a clue.

I’m not a fan of -enna or -anna names as they sound too much like Emma, and any Ella names are obviously out because of Bella.

DH has suggested Netta, which I am not a fan of, and Nessa has already been used by a friend. At this point, I don’t even know that there is a name that fits our criteria, but I don’t want the new baby to feel left out if her name doesn’t match her sisters.

Names we do like outside of our theme include Lily, Meredith, Hazel, Pia, and Kate. The middle name will be Guinevere.

The Name Sage replies:

Here’s the thing about patterns: you should maintain them only if they help you find a name you love.

In this case, it sounds like sticking with a double letter, ending-in-a name is leading you astray. Netta might fulfill the rules you’ve established – but does it sound like a name for your daughter?

Maybe it’s time to think about the other things that Emma and Bella have in common, and how those qualities can help you find some great options.

Both names feel traditionally feminine. They’re short, nickname-proof choices. And they’re current favorites, the kinds of names that feel right at home in 2018.

From your list, my pick is Lily. Lily has plenty in common with Emma and Bella, and sounds like a logical sister name without being too matched.

Let’s consider a few more possibilities:

Clara – A vintage choice quite current today, Clara has the same straightforward, feminine style as Emma and Bella. It ranks Number 99 in the US, slightly less popular than Number 78 Bella or Number 1 Emma, but still a familiar, well-liked option.

Eden Eden has only been in heavy use since the 1990s, but it feels traditional. After all, nearly everyone recognizes the Old Testament Garden of Eden. It shares the short, nickname-proof qualities of Emma and Bella, but sounds just a little different.

Isla – Ask me if I notice a pattern with Emma and Bella, and what stands out? The fact that both names are two syllables and end in a. That makes a choice like Isla feel like an obvious sister name, while still expanding your options.

Leah Leah makes the list for the same reasons as Isla. Bonus? It carries a very traditional feel, without seeming too buttoned-down. If Pia is not quite the right name, then maybe the slightly more conventional Leah works?

Lucy Lily makes me think of Lucy. It feels vintage and feminine, but still very much at home in 2018 – just like Bella and Emma.

Maya Maya has multiple possible origins, from Greek to Hebrew to Sanskrit. That makes it a culture-spanning choice that appeals to many families today. And yet, the two-syllable, ends-with-a style makes this a match for Emma and Bella.

Molly – Or maybe, instead of sticking with the double letter, ends in a pattern, you’d just keep the double letters? Dozens of great names would work in that case, from Molly to Millie to Callie and so on.

Nora – If Maya feels too modern, how about Nora? Like Emma, and to a lesser extent, Bella, it was popular back in the nineteenth century, too – which means Emma, Bella, and Nora could have been sisters in 1918 just as easily as 2018.

Tessa – Let’s say you like all of these names just fine, but still feel like the pattern matters. Then what? Tessa comes to mind as a logical sister name for Emma and Bella while following all the rules. A few other options in this category: Anna, Milla, Jessa, Brenna, or Hanna.

If maintaining the pattern feels important, I do like Tessa as a sister for Emma and Bella. It seems like the kind of name you might choose without considering the rules. It’s close to Nessa, which you mentioned a friend used – but is that a dealbreaker?

Should you decide to forgo the pattern, I think your answer is obvious: Lily. Lily Guinevere is downright gorgeous, and it sounds exactly like a sister for Emma and Bella.

As for whether your daughter will feel left out? I suspect that you and your husband notice the pattern far more than most others do. If you don’t mention it, I think there’s a very good chance that your Lily/Nora/Molly/Eden/Hazel might never feel like the odd one out.

Readers, do you think this pattern is important to maintain? Have you ever broken – or stuck with – a similar set of rules? What other names would you suggest?

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Abby

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.
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39 Responses to “Baby Naming Patterns: Can they be broken?”

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lesliemarion Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 12:02 am

What about Rosamund Guinevere? I love the sound of those two names together and she could always be called Rosa.

RosiePosie Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 12:56 am

I see the dilemma and I personally would stick to the unintended theme so that the third one wasn’t left out.

Emma, Bella and…

Tessa *
Pippa *
Willa
Etta (maybe too close to emma)
Calla

* = my faves 🙂

saoirse123 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 1:49 am

I don’t think you need to be worried about much of a pattern, so I’d suggest either going with a name that has two syllables and an a at the end, or any name you like!

Sierra and Sienna are just a tad longer, but tick the double letter, ends in a boxes.

diane921 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 2:18 am

I like Emma, Bella and Kate, Clara, Isla, Nora, Leah and Maia or Mia

If you want to continue the pattern here are some names to consider….

Emma, Bella and…..

Annika, Lissa, Alissa, Jessa, Tessa, Annora, Susanna, Joanna

berrybaby Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 2:48 am

OMG swooning over @RosiePosies suggestion of Pippa!

mom3 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 4:01 am

Emma, Bella and Kate are adorable!

Also love Emma, Bella and Lily and adore Emma, Bella and Clara

Other great options:
Emma, Bella and Rose.
Emma, Bella and Chloe
Emma, Bella and Mia/Maia
Emma, Bella and Sara
Emma, Bella and Ava
Emma, Bella and Pheobe
Emma, Bella and Cilla
Emma, Bella and Cora
Emma, Bella and Aria
Emma, Bella and Ruby

You honestly can’t go wrong with any of these. The theme is irrelevant by the time the first one moves out of home so don’t let the first 18 years of sibset theme dictate a name they will then wear independently for the next 80+years. As long as it’s feminine, pretty and you love it as much as your other girls names – she could never feel left out. Go with what you love regardless of theme! GL

Wittyusername103 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 4:12 am

If they are willing to go a bit out there Katya could be a great contender.

I think maybe just an A ending theme could work. I like the suggestion of Emma , Bella and Tessa. Emma , Bella and Fiona or Emma , Bella and Lilia could be cute.

Gia.berry Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 5:16 am

My favourites are Tessa, Isla and Maya. They all sound like sisters to Emma and Bella as well as sounding great with Guinevere. Tessa sticks to the theme and (although they don’t have double letters) Isla and Maya both end with -a. If you don’t decide to go with the theme I don’t think that she would feel left out, but if it had the same ending as Emma and Bella then it might help her feel bit more included. However we really can’t predict how she’d feel about it so I say you should go with the name that feels right to you.

Connie25 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 6:43 am

Loving Eden and Isla!

Erin Beth Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 7:21 am

Lily Guinevere is fabulous!!! It gets my vote. I really don’t think such a subtle difference is likely to cause real and lasting bad feeling among sisters. It would be different if you gave your third daughter a traditionally masculine name or name that is currently out of style, but all of your options are compatible and appealing. If you really feel the need for a double letter, you could spell it Lilly, but I prefer the more streamlined Lily. Good luck!

yellowplums Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 7:39 am

I love Tessa! It was my first thought.

I also like Pippa, Sienna, Terra, Hanna/Hannah, and Jessa.

I think you could throw out the ends-in-a rule and just stick with “short with double letters,” or vice versa (in which case I like Lina, Mina, Mara, and Cara). You could also use Meena.

Also, what about using Lilly? It still fits with Emma and Bella and keeps the double letter. Lilly Guinevere is beautiful!

LLBaby22 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 7:47 am

Abby is right that nobody is noticing your pattern as much as you are. If some people do notice they might find it odd that you didn’t follow it for maybe a day when you announce the next one is Lily as they expected something like Tessa. But they’ll forget and Emma, Bella and Lily will end up feeling natural. Nobody is going to meet Lily or Hazel or whoever and say hey Lily what are your siblings named? And then say oh ouch! Does it hurt your feelings to not have double letters or an a ending like your sisters?
I think it’d be nice to stick with a feminine, short and sweet name for #3 if you don’t want her to be left out. But beyond that I wouldn’t worry about the specific things your other daughter’s names have in common. My first thoughts were Cora, Daisy, Sadie, Lena… has Jenna been mentioned as an option if you’re set on sticking with the theme?
Also is this your last? If you may have more I would definitely suggest not sticking with the theme. Because if you’re having trouble settling on a name for #3 it’ll be near impossible for #4. And 3 kids with those similarities makes it more of a theme instead of just coincidence.
Good luck.

paw Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 9:16 am

I presume you picked Emma and Bella because you love those names. Your third daughter will not feel left out no matter what name you choose if you don’t make the naming pattern a big deal to your daughters. If you tell the children, “we love the double letter, a ending pattern but couldn’t find another one we liked”, I expect you third daughter will feel like her name (and maybe her) is not loved as much as her sisters. However, if you can tell each daughter, “we chose your name because we loved it and thought it fit our darling little girl so well..” then no one will feel left out.

That said, I do like symmetry and patterns when they make sense. So lets say you loved Lily and Netta equally. If so, I would slightly favor Netta. However, if you plan on having more children, I do recommend that you break or change up the pattern now. Also, I see three components of your pattern, “double letter”, “ending in a”, “two syllables.” Depending on the name you choose, you can easily break two of the components and still have a pattern.

From you list, my favorite is Lily with both her sisters names and your middle name choice. I do think Hazel is another great choice. Both keep with the “two syllable” pattern but break the others. Meredith and Kate seem to completely break all of the patterns which is fine if you really love one of those names.

From the recommended names, I do think Tessa is a good option. What about Merry instead of Meredith?

Right now, I am drawn to a twist on the double letter option.

Coco (Emma, Bella, and Coco)
Lulu (Emma, Bella, and Lulu)
Nina (Emma, Bella, and Nina)

mermuse Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 9:38 am

Totally agree with you on this one! I don’t think the pattern is THAT obvious that you should drive yourself crazy on it. Lily is the obvious choice, use Lily Guinevere! 🙂

IslandMoon Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 12:04 pm

I love the suggestions of Nora, Clara and Tessa, and they fit into the pattern of ‘two syllables, ends in a’ that your girls have, and are vintage too.

My only suggestions that also fit that pattern are Cora, Rosa and Etta, though Etta is probably too close to Emma.

diane921 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 12:49 pm

I have seen Ada spelled Adda (Addah.) I think it is pronounced the same or perhaps with a short “a” sound. You can decide whichever way you want it pronounced. Emma, Bella and Adda…….. Adda Guinevere is gorgeous,

I’m not that fond of Lilly or Lily because it repeats the the “l” consonant of Bella. If the pattern if not followed I would at least try to find a short name that works well with the others style-wise and ends in an “a.” i.e., Clara, Sara, Nora

I really think you should reconsider Anna. Emma, Bella and Anna are great together. It is the name you would expect. They are all equally popular and what I consider “classic” names.

Emma, Bella and Anna
Emma, Bella and Clara
Emma, Bella and Sara
Emma, Bella and Nora

Emma, Bella and Adda or Ada
Emma, Bella and Ava (another idea)

sarah1800 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 12:51 pm

I was going to say it is no big deal to ditch the pattern, but if your name is Hanna which also fits the pattern then maybe you should stick with it. I think Tessa is a great match. Of the other options I like Cora and Kate a lot. Lillian would also fit and keep the double letter.

Other suggestions: Camilla, Gianna, Linnea, Lilliana nn Lily, Corinna

peach Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 1:38 pm

I agree with previous commenters that you are not obligated to stick with the pattern as no one else will be as aware of it as you. But there was a name that immediately came to mind: Calla. The first letter is different from the others, and the -alla sound distinguishes it from B-Ella. And it has a flower association, like Lily, but it is more original. Calla Guinevere is lovely!

Selkit Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 4:01 pm

My immediate thoughts were Calla and Jessa, although Calla may be considered too close to Bella. I also like the suggestions of Tessa or Terra, both of which can still follow the pattern without repeating the -mma or -lla sound.

Hopelesscause07 Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Tessa gets my vote. I think it sounds beautiful with the big sister names, fits in with your pattern, and had the same romantic, feminine, and hip but classic feel to it as Emma and Bella.

lavendel Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 5:45 pm

I looooove Lily Guinevere, it’s gorgeous❤️ other faves:
– Rosa Guinevere
– Isla Guinevere
– Nora Guinevere

So that’d be:
Emma, Bella and Lily
Emma, Bella and Rosa
Emma, Bella and Isla
Emma, Bella and Nora

kaiajade Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 6:06 pm

I didn’t notice the double letter pattern at all until it was mentioned! I think staying with 2 syllables will make all 3 names flow beautifully. Lily is a perfect choice but I also love Willa for something a little unexpected.

hldevine Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 7:12 pm

The pattern I most see with your girls’ names is 2 syllables, ends in a. I think the 2 syllables is the most prominent. So a name like Lily sounds much more similar than something like Anastasia or Ariana. I have a Clara and love her name and think it sounds great with your family. I also love the name Greta, and have seen it spelled Gretta, if the double letters is that important. Good luck!

JH Says:

January 3rd, 2018 at 10:36 pm

Lila, Mila, Julietta….

Kara Says:

January 4th, 2018 at 12:19 am

With sisters Emma and Bella, and Mom Hanna, I do really like the idea of keeping the double letter theme, although it would be contingent upon finding a name you love. I see Lily spelled Lilly often enough that that seems like a really plausible option; or, Lillian with nickname Lily. I also like Hattie. It sounds great with Emma and Bella but still distinctive enough, and it has the same feel as Hazel.

If you like Meredith, I’d consider the nickname Merry.

I love the previous suggestions Pippa and Sienna.

Also:

Brooke
Carissa
Charlotte
Larissa
Maggie
Poppy
Quinn
Scarlett
Vivienne
Zooey

AnandaWren Says:

January 4th, 2018 at 1:03 am

For the best of both worlds, what about Lillia “Lily”? It’s three syllables, but keeps the pattern of double letters and ending in A. It also has the bonus of being a little less common than Lily, while still easy to pronounce. And isn’t Lillia Guinevere just divine?

Camirae Says:

January 4th, 2018 at 10:10 am

I’m in agreement with another poster that since your name is Hanna, the girls’ names do stand out with their double-letters-ending-in-a.

Hanna, Emma, Bella.

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Gretta. Hands down my fave because…Gretta. Love.

Or Hanna, Emma, Bella, Lillia

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Willa

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Mirra

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Savanna

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Marissa

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Becca

Hanna, Emma, Bella, Britta

clairels Says:

January 4th, 2018 at 7:20 pm

My pick is Tessa. I don’t favor Lilly because of the repeating Ls of Bella. But Libba might fit the bill! So would Pippa, Jessa or Terra.

The name has to fit the pattern without being TOO similar. This is my favorite kInd of naming challenge!

JossieChris Says:

January 6th, 2018 at 10:06 am

Clara, Pippa or Quinn all sound lovely

livia Says:

January 6th, 2018 at 10:09 pm

Calla immediately came to mind. It is different enough from your other names and has ties to lilies, if that is important to you. Also, although you said you’ve already discounted it – Anna seriously ticks every box. An -a ending, two syllables, double letters…and the same timeless style as Emma and Bella. It seems like a natural choice, to me.

If you see all these suggestions and don’t like any of them, though, then that may just be a sign that you should ignore this accidental naming pattern and go with what you love. You will have to use this name for at least 18 years, several times a day – so it’s not worth choosing something you don’t really like for the sake of a pattern few people will ever notice.

NaomiNY Says:

January 7th, 2018 at 4:17 am

How about Emna, Bella, and Calla as a sister set? That way sister #3 won’t feel left out.

Bgrant07 Says:

January 7th, 2018 at 5:59 am

My name is Bella and my sister is Emma. Our younger sister is Sophie and it works well for our family. The double letter ending in ‘a’ thing has never even occurred to us!

carolinemchd Says:

January 7th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

What about Lillian? It shortens to Lily and has double letters.

carolinemchd Says:

January 7th, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Mila would be lovely as well! I think the 2 syllabled ending with -a is more noticeable than the double letters.

sarab.cook Says:

January 8th, 2018 at 10:35 am

Tessa really is perfect and Pippa is another great suggestion.
I think Lily fits best stylistically.
Emma, Bella, and Lily just sound like sisters

sarab.cook Says:

January 8th, 2018 at 10:36 am

Also we struggled with whether or not we should continue a double letter theme when we named our 3rd and then again with our 4th daughters and we are glad we stuck with the pattern.

JamiJae Says:

January 9th, 2018 at 11:54 am

Here are some suggestions for your pattern:

Pippa
Etta
Lilla (Lila)
Jenna
Kenna
Willa
Clarissa (“Rissa”)
Marisa
Milla
Nella
Lotta
Fenna

However, if you have a son more likely than not his name won’t fit the pattern that you have set, so if that’s okay for your son maybe the same can be said for another daughter. The pattern that you have set for yourself isn’t all too strict if you take one of the criteria and focus on that instead rather than insisting on both. Another thing to note is that your pattern isn’t only about the phonetic sound of the name but also about the era in which the name was first popularized. Both Emma and Bella are older sounding classical names, which are both extremely popular in today’s society. This alone lends you more options from which to choose the right sounding name for your family.

Other older classic names that are popular today, like Lily and Hazel, are:

Poppy
Hattie
Olive
Pearl
Penelope (“Penny”)
Blanche
Adelaide (“Addy”)

Just to name a few. In the end, when it comes to naming your children you have to name them what you want to name them. Do not focus on a pattern or a formula, because in many respects you may live to regret the choice. I wish you all the luck in your naming of your newest addition.

Congratulations!

xx JamiJae

elifsu Says:

January 16th, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Aria
Calla
Delta
Diana
Farrah
Gaia
Hannah
Isla
Leia
Liva
Maya
Nova
Oona
Pallas (?)
Rosa
Serra
Thalia
Vesta
Zena

lyndskyns Says:

January 30th, 2018 at 6:13 pm

I agree that you probably don’t have to follow this pattern as closely as you think. But the pattern itself intrigues me! Here are more names that fall under your criteria:

Becca
Adda
Jedda
Pippa
Darra
Kirra
Mirra
Terra
Dessa
Jessa
Lissa
Nissa
Tessa
Jetta

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