Challenging Family Traditions

Challenging Family Traditions

They named their son after her husband’s dad. But does that mean they have to name their second child after another relative? Let’s talk challenging family traditions – and help them find a girl’s name they can both love.

C writes:

When our son was born, my husband wanted to name him after his recently deceased father. It’s a classic name, and I was happy to honor his dad’s memory. My husband is Greek, and naming children after their grandparents is part of their naming tradition.

Now we’re expecting a second child, a delivery surprise. If it’s a boy, we have some ideas.

But if it’s a girl, we have a problem.

My husband wants to follow tradition again, and name a daughter after his mother. When we were expecting our first, I agreed to use a shorter form of her (long, Greek) name if the baby was a girl.

Now I’m having second thoughts.

We’ve already honored his family with our son’s name. Plus, my relationship with my mother-in-law hasn’t always been easy, and that complicates my feelings about using her name for a child.

I do agree that any name we choose would have to be part of the Greek name day calendar. But I don’t want to be forced to use this specific name under these circumstances.

The Name Sage replies:

When it comes to challenging family traditions, I find myself repeating a mantra:

Relationships matter more than names.

The tricky part here? There’s more than one relationship to consider.

I hope it goes without saying that your relationship with your husband matters more than his relationship with his mom, or your mother-in-law’s relationship with her future granddaughter. They’re significant, yes. But they come second.

Family traditions are marvelous, but they can also be used to shut down discussion. That’s not right, particularly because those traditions represent only half of your children’s heritage.

Continuing this family tradition takes your preferences and opinions out of the equation, and that’s hurtful. How could it not be?

Your intention – to choose a name from the Greek calendar of saints – represents a compromise. It also signals that your preferences carry equal weight. Challenging family traditions can mean breaking an established pattern – in this case, naming after grandparents – but it also helps build your new family’s identity by embracing the best of you and your husband’s stories combined.

Because you described your son’s name as classic, my list sticks to the Greek name day calendar, but favors the more traditional choices.


ALEXANDRA – Impeccably Greek, but also international and enduring. Alexandra can be shortened to at least half-a-dozen nicknames.

ANASTASIA – Combining deep roots with a current sound, Anastasia feels like an obvious Greek heritage choice.

EVA – My understanding is that Eva is often short for Evangelia – which means “bearer of good news.” That feels like an auspicious meaning for this child’s name.

HELENE – My first thought was Eleni, but some name calendars list Helene instead. Any form of this classic favorite could be a lovely choice. Again, the meaning – light – feels appropriate.

KATE – At first glance, there’s nothing Greek about Kate. It sounds impeccably English! And yet, Katherine’s roots are Greek, and Katerina remains in steady use.

LYDIA – A place name, and a popular choice for a daughter in Greece, as well as throughout the English-speaking world.

PHOEBE – Another name that feels traditional in Greek, stylish in English, and carries an appealing meaning: radiant.

SOFIA – Yes, Sofia may very possibly be the most popular name for girls in the world at the moment. Along with Sophia, it’s a favorite from Finland to Portugal, Chile to New Zealand. But that’s at least partly because it works so beautifully for families blending their cultures.

THEA (THEODORA) – Stylish Thea is rising in use, following names like Mia and Leah. The longer form of the name, Theodora, has potential, too.

ZOE – While Zoe has fallen in use slightly in recent years, it remains popular throughout Europe and the English-speaking world. It’s a mini name that feels sleek and modern, and yet instantly conveys Greek heritage, too.

Challenging family traditions is never easy. And while you’ve suggested a rock-solid compromise with lots of possible names to consider, there are other paths. Is there a grandmother’s name from his side that appeals? Or, even better, a name from your family history that would be appropriate?

Based on names alone, I’d suggest Eva or Thea – classic favorites, accessible to speakers of Greek and English alike.

But I do think it’s worth pondering whether there’s another compromise name that feels significant and pleasing to you and your husband.

Readers, can you suggest more Greek names that might be just right for this family? And what advice can you share on challenging family traditions?