Choosing Baby Names: Love, Logic, or Both?

August 21, 2018 Abby Sandel

When you’ve loved names since you could talk, how can you possibly choose just one? The Name Sage advises logic, unless, of course, the name you adore breaks all the rules …  

Adriana writes:

We are finally pregnant! After years of infertility, we are expecting. I am a name lover, and have been since I can remember. I’m talking naming stuffed animals to reading the names on all the personalized items in stores to being a regular on Nameberry for years. I love names!

But that makes it hard to find that perfect baby name. I doubt you can come up with something new I haven’t heard, so I’m just looking for perspective and reassurance.

We have a strong Christian faith and a spiritual meaning really matters. But I don’t want to saddle a child with a name we don’t care for just because of the meaning! I might pair a name I like with a middle name that’s one of the spiritual names. I don’t want a typical name in the Top 300 or so. And the name HAS to have a few good nicknames, too, to be shortened or personalized as the baby grows.

Here are my favorites so far. Any advice or patterns you can see that might help us narrow down our list to the right one is appreciated!

Girls: Agnes, Agatha, Cordelia, Dorothea, Eden, Eleanora, Eliora, Elise, Esther, Evangeline, Fiona, Hadassah, Jemima, Lucia, Lydia, Matilda, Miriam, Rosalind, Violetta, Winifred, Zelia.

Boys: Abner, Abram, Augustus, Deacon, Declan, Ephraim, Ezekiel, Franklin, Gideon, Levi, Linus, Moses, Raphael, Rowan, Shepherd, Thaddeus, Theodore.

Right now, our top girl’s name is Matilda. Boys’ names have been more difficult.

Any help is appreciated!

The Name Sage replies: 

When you’ve loved names since way back when, it can feel downright impossible to narrow down your options. And you’ve got a great list already – a mix of the traditional and the unexpected, rich with meaning, most with nicknames galore!

I can remember feeling the exact same way. Of all the names in the universe, what would point me to The Name?

There are two possible directions:

First, use cool logic to narrow down your list to the names that best fit your criteria.

Alternately, throw all of your rules to the wind and use the name that you just plain love.

Ultimately, I think you should always use the name you love. But how do you get there? Often, the best course of action is to start with dispassionate analysis – and then see if you like the results!

Happily, we can help with the analysis part.

Starting with the girls, you’d have to immediately rule out Eden, Elise, Esther, Evangeline, Fiona, Lucia, Lydia, and Miriam, as they all rank in the current US Top 300.

But I suspect you’d like to avoid names that are too rare, too. So I’d strike Eliora, Jemima, and Zelia, as they were all given to fewer than 100 girls last year.

Eleanora comes awfully close to popular Eleanor, and Violetta is just a few letters away from the chart-topping Violet. I’d drop those, too.

Despite ranking in the 700s, Hadassah seems a little less mainstream than the others, and I’m not sure if it qualifies as nickname-rich.

That leaves Agnes, Agatha, Cordelia, Dorothea, Matilda, Rosalind, and Winifred.

From that list, I agree – Matilda seems like the front-runner. It’s unusual but not too out-there, works with plenty of nicknames, and has a strong meaning: battle-mighty.

Is a combination like Matilda Rosalind an option? Or, if a specifically Christian reference matters most, Matilda Agnes? I also think Agatha, Cordelia, Dorothea, and Winifred work nicely.

Let’s see if the same approach works for the boys’ list.

If we cross out the names in the current Top 300, we’re removing Declan, Ezekiel, Levi, Rowan, and Theodore. Gideon is only a few spots above the Top 300, and Augustus sounds so much like the oh-so popular August.

I don’t think I’d call any of your boys’ names too unusual, but a few of these do feel a little light on nicknames: Deacon, Ephraim, Linus, and Moses especially.

That leaves Abner, Abram, Franklin, Raphael, Shepherd, and Thaddeus. From that list, I’d say Raphael strikes me as the most Matilda-like. It’s a traditional name with lots of nicknames, but it’s not too common. Bonus? It means “God has healed.” That seems like exactly what you’re after.

Now, the question for you: does that feel like the right decision? Because I can easily argue that Theodore is a better choice. Sure, it’s a Top 100 name, but the meaning – “gift of God” – is perfect. Nicknames like Theo and Teddy (or hey, even Thor if he turns out to be a future X Games athlete) add to Theodore’s appeal.

Likewise, the numbers tell us that Miriam is too common to satisfy your criteria. But how many little Miriams do you actually know? Mimi and Miri and Mim make great nicknames, and it’s a spiritually significant choice, too.

I know our readers will have some great suggestions, and please tell us: when it came to making your baby name choices, did it come down to love, logic, or a little bit of both?

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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