Choosing Baby Names: Love, Logic, or Both?
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 …
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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on August 22nd, 2018 at 12:55 am
This is exactly my process, too! It was easier this time with baby #2 because we already had established aesthetic with our first. There were certain qualities I loved about my first girl’s name, I loved that it was short, easy to spell and pronounce, and familiar but barely heard in real life.
Of course, now our daughter’s name is in the top 100 but I wouldn’t change it for the world! I still think it’s perfect.
This time (having a second girl) I looked for names with similar qualities: short, spunky, easy to spell/pronounce, familiar but not too popular.
Our first is Nova and this new baby girl will be Cleo. Logic, then love.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 4:35 am
What about the name Joshua? It’s from the Hebrew name Jesus
on August 22nd, 2018 at 6:48 am
(nn- Maggie, Margie, Jorie – even Edie)
(I actually prefer the Hebrew pronunciation Avner (AHV-ner) – nn Avi (pr: AH-vee)
Emma Margaret Said
on August 22nd, 2018 at 7:12 am
I think Miriam is a perfect choice! As well as being a Biblical name, it has so many nice nicknames! I also don’t think its as used as people think it is, I would love to see it used more! Another reason I think it is perfect for you….Miriam means “wished-for child”, which I think relates to your story about struggling to have children!
Abby Sandel Said
on August 22nd, 2018 at 7:34 am
@laurelrobyn – Our daughter is Clio! We never meet other girls with the same name, and I think it’s SUCH an overlooked gem. Congrats on your new daughter, and oh, those names go together SO well!
Abby Sandel Said
on August 22nd, 2018 at 7:35 am
@Emma Margaret – I agree about Miriam! That ranking just seems impossible to me … maybe it’s regional, and I’m missing it?
on August 22nd, 2018 at 8:26 am
I think Matilda or Miriam would be lovely. If you went with Matilda Miriam, Mimi or Mim would be a cute nickname.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 8:28 am
Definitely a combination of logic and love! I took into consideration names I would probably want to use in the future so that 1) I know there are names I like that “go” with the name I’m choosing, and 2) so that I don’t use a name in the middle and later wish I had saved it for a first.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 10:13 am
Love the idea of Miriam nn Mimi. It sounds like multiple nicknames are important, so I also like Abram (Abe, Bram) and Dorothea (Thea, Dot, Dora…). Plus they have good meanings.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 10:14 am
Also I can’t believe Hadassah is in the 700s!!
on August 22nd, 2018 at 10:31 am
I am the same with names, having an unusual one myself…
I have to agree that Theodore and Miriam are the best options from your list.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 1:12 pm
I think Cordelia Miriam is gorgeous!!! My favorite nickname is Della. Raphael Moses is also my favorite pairing for a boy, nickname Rafe (ray-fe). Good luck!
on August 22nd, 2018 at 2:18 pm
I have a 3 month old Miriam, and I’m loving the name even more now that it’s in use. It feels uncommon—I’ve met only one other Miriam ever. But people recognize it when I Introduce her. And the nicknames are great. We’ve been calling our daughter Miri and Mir mostly, but Mira and Mimi and Mim are also fun. I like the weightiness of the full name and the friendliness of the nicknames. We named her after the biblical Miriam and definitely appreciate what a powerhouse she is.
On your boys list, I like Abram best.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 3:04 pm
Random but have you ever done a “playground” analysis of Shepherd? The link for the name says its in the 700s but I know SO many of them. I live in the south and maybe it’s more popular here but I know at least three and they all spell it differently. Shepherd, Shepard, Sheppard, Shephard, Shepperd are all alternatives so it may be more popular than we think…totally an aside.
on August 22nd, 2018 at 6:32 pm
I like the combination of “logic and love” although I have not been fortunate enough to use this method to actually name my own children yet. I like all the Name Sage’s suggestions! Matilda Agnes has a particularly beautiful sound, look, and balance to it. I know one school-aged Miriam who is sometimes called “Miri.” Raphael seems like such a great but underappreciated name. It would work well with many different middle names. I would check the SSA lists for popular names in your State, so you can understand regional preferences too. Good luck!
on August 22nd, 2018 at 9:48 pm
(Regarding the popularity of Miriam, I think it’s quite popular in certain Jewish circles, which might skew where it falls in the national rankings. It’s the 59th most popular name in NY, for example, I think on account of the significant Jewish population in the state. Outside of those circles, I don’t think it’s terribly common.)
on August 24th, 2018 at 4:21 pm
I love Raphael and Violetta!
on August 25th, 2018 at 5:50 pm
I was a bit sad to see Linus and Moses cut from your list–I suppose that is exactly what Abby means about starting with logic and then using your gut! Did any strike you that way when you read her post?
It does make me want to mention that some nicknames do not arise from the first name alone. We named our son Callum Bernard, and I really liked the possibility of calling him Cal when we named him. That rarely happens. Instead, we often go long and call him Callum Bear (Bear from the definition of Bernard)! It might open up possibilities to start making name combos: Moses Abner could be Moby and Linus Gideon could be Lego.
But if you want to go with more classical, recognized nicknames, Agnes (Angie, Ness), Dorothea (Dot, Thea), Evangeline (Eva, Vangie, Lina), Miriam (many mentioned previously), Rosalind (Rose, Rosa, Linda), and Violetta (Vi, Etta), all jump out as nickname rich for girls. And, of course, Matilda is great! I’m partial to Rosalind (Shakespearean!), Dorothea and Violetta (older “clunky” names just ripe for return!). On the boy side, only Theodore and Augustus really stand out to me as having a plethora of nicknames. But I really like Gideon, Linus, Moses, and Shepherd!
on August 25th, 2018 at 10:45 pm
For some reason I love the name Jerusha,the nickname Rushie is what I’m using if I give the name to a daughter someday although I might use it as a middle name.
on August 28th, 2018 at 11:01 am
Another name with special Biblical meaning related to healing and infertility is Samuel, who was Hannah’s son born after she cried out to God to “open her womb” after years of infertility. The only catch is its current popularity.
We also struggled with infertility for years, and when we finally got pregnant (with a boy), Raphael was one of our top choices. I love the name we ultimately chose for other special meaning, but a part of me still wishes we had gone with Raphael because of its meaning “God has healed.” We also are strong Christians, and I think it’s such a beautiful way to remember the gift of reproductive healing.
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