Celtic Baby Names SOS

Celtic Baby Names SOS

Let’s help these parents solve a puzzle! Find Celtic baby names–specifically Scottish-Cornish– that don’t start with P or I, contain the letters L and A, but don’t end with A or R. Oh, and work well with older siblings Palmer and Isla. Ready, set …

Amber writes:

SO Stuck!

My third child is due in 17 days and we’ve spent 9 months with NOTHING that we like between my husband and I. So I’m calling in the experts.

We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl. Child 1 is Palmer Sinclair (boy) and Child 2 is Isla Rosalind (girl) and we can’t find a good fit for #3!

Part of me wants the names to be all the same or different – so no starting with P or I, or ending -er or -a, but both names have an L and A in them, so it would be neat if the third might follow that pattern?

All of the names are family-inspired except Isla which is a nod to Scottish heritage (almost did Islay). Both my husband and I are of Celtic heritage (predominantly Scottish and Cornish).

The Name Sage replies:

Okay, deep breath.

Here’s my first piece of advice: if following a pattern for nine months has yielded zero names, it’s time to abandon the rules. Is there a name that you could both love, if only you stepped outside the lines? Maybe Greek Daphne or English surname Easton? They both come to mind when I think of siblings for Palmer and Isla … but only if you disregard your wish list.

Instead, let’s assume that you’re not quite ready to give up hope. Because there are at least some great names that contain the letters A and L, don’t start with P or I, and work with your heritage, too!

I’ve mixed in a few that break the rules, too, because it’s possible that your perfect name isn’t quite right – at least, not on paper.


Alasdair, Alastair – I like this name because it feels imported. Alasdair is the Scottish form of Alexander; we all recognize it, but it’s seldom heard in the US. There’s an A-L, and while it has an –r ending, Palmer and Alasdair feel like very different names. If not a first, it definitely belongs on your list of middles.

Callum – Have you considered Callum? It’s also spelled with a single L, but Callum is more common, especially in the US. It’s impeccably Scottish, derived from Saint Columba. He’s credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland in the sixth century.

Finlay – Americans tend to spell this name Finley, but the –ay version appears in Scotland, as well as Ireland. It’s the name of the real MacBeth’s father. (Shakespeare called him Sinel.) Finley is rising in use for boys and girls alike, so you might consider it for a daughter, too.

Lachlan, Lochlan – With names like Landon and Lincoln in the US Top 100, the traditionally Scottish Lachlan is starting to attract attention in the US, too. Both spellings are similar in popularity, and either way, there’s an L-A in the name.

Malcolm – I tend to think of Malcolm as an overlooked gem. It’s traditional, but not quite as classic as Henry or James. It’s Scottish, but not nearly as obviously as, say, Hamish. I think it matches your older kids’ names without being too clearly tied to a theme.

Maxwell – If Malcolm is subtly Scottish, Maxwell is even more under-the-radar. There’s no question the surname originates in Scotland, and the style seems like a good match for Palmer and Isla, too.


Annabelle – Strictly speaking, it’s Annabel that we credit to Scotland. The medieval Amabel seems to have transformed into an Anna– name there sometime in the Middle Ages. Annabelle is the far more popular spelling in the US today. It checks so many boxes – there’s an A and an L – though not together – a different first letter and a different ending, too.

Fiona – There’s no L, true. But Fiona feels impeccably Scottish. And while it repeats the –a ending of Isla, they don’t sound alike. It’s one of the first names that came to mind, until I started thinking about the As and the Ls. A similar, equally Scottish option with the L-A combo is Fenella, a cousin to Fiona. But it’s far less familiar in the US.

Flora – If you don’t mind having an ‘or’ between the L and the A, Flora could be fabulous. It’s the name of a Roman goddess of spring, but it has a long history of use in Scotland.

Freya – Like Fiona, it’s missing a letter. And yet, Isla and Freya sound like sisters. Maybe that’s because they’re both popular in Scotland today.

MarloHow do you feel about surname-style names for girls? Marlowe feels quite stylish these days. Marlo is even rarer, a midcentury pick thanks to That Girl star Marlo Thomas – born Margaret. (You probably know her as a spokesperson for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.) It’s not especially Scottish, but it sounds like a good sister name for Palmer and Isla.

Tamsin – I’ve saved two great Cornish names for last. Tamsin offers Cornish roots – it’s from Thomasina, a feminine form of Thomas. And it sounds distinct and different from Palmer and Isla.

Tressa – Here’s one of my favorites! It’s a modern Cornish name meaning third. While it doesn’t hit every requirement on your list, it feels like an irresistible choice for a third child.

Overall, my picks from the names that (mostly) satisfy your rules are Callum Maxwell and Flora Annabelle, or maybe Annabelle Finlay.

If you were willing to look a little farther afield, I’d suggest Easton Nathaniel and Daphne Mariel.

But I’m curious to hear what our readers suggest – and I have the feeling there must be some ideas I’ve overlooked!

Readers, what would you suggest as a sibling for Palmer and Isla? And if you had to prioritize how to best match sibling names, which seems most important to keep?