Classic but Rare Girls Names: Ada, Liza, and Lena
Baby naming tip: when others react negatively to your favorite name, don’t despair! Instead pay attention, because it might be a good sign you’ve found an undiscovered gem.
My husband and I are expecting our first daughter, and we are having a hard time pinning down a name. Our son’s name is Reid. What I like about Reid is that it is classic but not common. We have a very long last name so having a shorter name is important to us.
Names we have considered include:
Ivy – our top contender for so long that it seems like it has lost its flair
June – we both like, but are not in love
Liza – but it seems to get bad reactions
Norah – I’m not sold
I am a teacher so most names my husband chooses I can’t get on board with because of student connotations.
Please help us!
The Name Sage replies:
Negative reactions can be a namer’s best friend.
The same is true for nearly every name in the current Top 100.
When you’re looking for a traditional name that isn’t too common, those negative reactions can signal that you’re on the right path.
In fact, I wonder if that’s part of why Ivy has lost some of its appeal. On paper, it’s perfection. Ivy is as simple and straightforward as Reid, with a long history of use but without the Top Ten status of other mini names like Ava and Mia. But the number of newborns named Ivy has nearly doubled over the last five years.
In other words, tell someone you’re thinking of Ivy, and odds are good that they’ll love it.
Let’s move slightly farther down the popularity list, looking for names that are traditional but still undiscovered.
Ada – Between all of the Adelyns and Addisons, Addie names can feel overexposed. And yet, Ada remains relatively uncommon. It ranked Number 357 last year, putting it in the company of names like Heidi, Ember, and Felicity. Pioneering mathematician Ada Lovelace makes a worthy namesake.
Delia – Fewer than 200 girls were named Delia last year, which puts this name outside of the current Top 1000. It rhymes with Celia, but feels less expected. In Greek myth, the name was associated with Artemis, and is sometimes heard in poetry. Definitely a sweet, simple, and an undiscovered gem.
Iris – Like Ivy, Iris is a vintage nature name starting with I. In terms of popularity, it falls somewhere north of Ivy – Number 217 versus Number 129 as of 2015. Still, it’s a similar style of name, with the –s ending of traditional names like Alice and Frances.
Lena – Liza reminds me of Lena and Norah, too. At Number 272, it’s fairly mainstream and quite current, without being too popular. (Credit to Girls creator Lena Dunham, maybe? Game of Thrones actress Lena Headey is another influence.) While it can be short for lots of longer names, Lena feels complete on its own.
Mary – Can I talk you into Mary? Yes, Mary was the most popular girl’s name for ages. But for a child born in 2017, Mary is strikingly unusual. In many ways, Mary is the perfect compromise: everyone recognizes it, we can all spell and pronounce it, but no one your daughter’s age will actually be named Mary. It’s a surprise and a delight to meet a baby Mary these days.
Nell – Nell combines the straightforward charm of June with some of Norah’s sound. Like Delia, Nell is so rare it doesn’t rank in the current Top 1000. Or spell it Nelle, as in Nelle Harper Lee – who was named after her grandmother, Ellen. Nellie seems stuck as the mean girl of Little House on the Prairie fame, but I’ve also seen Nella, an alternative to Ella, Bella, and Stella.
Thea – Until recently, names with the ‘th’ sound were out of favor. But the popularity of Leo encouraged parents to rediscover Theo. Now feminine form Thea is on the upswing. It’s big in Scandinavia and the UK, but in the US has just entered the Top 500.
Vera – Here’s my favorite. Vera comes from the Russian word for faith, but we tend to associate it with the Latin verus – truth. It was a favorite at the beginning of the twentieth century, which means the name is ready for revival right about now. It reminds me of Liza, but shares Ivy’s v. At Number 312, Vera ranks around the same spot as Reid does today.
I do think you should keep Liza on your list. In fact, the only one I might drop is Norah. Norah without the ‘h’ ranked Number 40 in 2015. If you haven’t taught one yet, you almost certainly will soon. But Ivy, Liza, and June do feel like great sister names for Reid. If the only reason you’ve ruled out Liza is a few negative reactions, I might put that at the top of the list.
But there’s no shortage of names in this category, and I know our readers will have some great suggestions.
Update: She’s here! Welcome Nell James, and thanks to all for their input.
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on April 5th, 2017 at 1:10 am
Jill is a good option, especially with Reid.
I love the suggestion of Mary. We just had our third boy but if he had been a girl he’d have been ‘Mary Alice’. You could do a double Mary name too. That’s another option to make it more unique.
on April 5th, 2017 at 1:41 am
I love all of these names! Have you thought about Eve, Eva, Ava or Lou? Or maybe something a little longer like Edith, Marta or Edie? There are so many beautiful girls names out there.
on April 5th, 2017 at 1:54 am
on April 5th, 2017 at 5:34 am
Classic and uncommon describes a lot of our styles! Some of my favorite shorter names:
My favorite with Reid is probably Margot or Pearl!
on April 5th, 2017 at 6:21 am
I have a short last name, so I won’t ever get to use my favorite short names! My favorites are Fern, Eve, Plum, and Gemma. I think Fern would work really well with Reid. Of Abby’s list, I really think Mary and Iris!
on April 5th, 2017 at 7:13 am
Reid and Liza or Reid and June would be my picks off of their list, I also like namesage’s suggestions of Iris and Nellie
on April 5th, 2017 at 7:33 am
I love these names! Ada, Lena, and Liza in the blog title really caught my eye! I’m currently trying to name girl number 2 and have considered all 3 of these! Big sister has a longer name but is mostly called Nola. I worry that many of my other favorite names sound too similar to Nola.
Some other names I’ve considered that might work for you are:
Eve/Evie (although Eve might sound too similar to Reid)
Good luck! I’ll be watching other people’s responses for some ideas for myself!
on April 5th, 2017 at 7:36 am
Rolling in to suggest Ida. Reid and Ida.
I also like the suggestion of Pearl.
on April 5th, 2017 at 8:39 am
I love Mary, but I don’t understand why Mary is considered so striking now while Ivy is considered so popular? Looking at the most recent list, Mary is at 124 and Ivy at 129. Granted, the Marys may be going by nicknames or middle names, and the Ivys are probably going by Ivy, but still…
I really like Ada and Liza for this family…
on April 5th, 2017 at 8:46 am
There was a time, and honestly not that long ago I would have been one of those to have a negative reaction to Liza, but now… not so much. There is something timeless and lovely about it. Reid and Liza seem like a good sibling match. Liza, to me comes off as spunky, a bit tailored but still feminine. It is a great name. I love the suggestion of Iris in place of Ivy, a name I love in theory but would not actually use. Iris and Reid both have that known but not common feel to them, but honestly Liza seems like a nearly perfect name.
on April 5th, 2017 at 8:46 am
Thinking of short and classic…
on April 5th, 2017 at 8:46 am
I love all these names! Delia is actually on our short list for our little girl due in July. And Lena has been a long time favorite of mine. Thea is the name my SIL is thinking of for her little girl.
But I love the idea of Reid and Nora!
on April 5th, 2017 at 9:52 am
I think of the names from Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (especially Meg!).
Also, what about –
on April 5th, 2017 at 11:03 am
I love Vera & Iris as options.
If Mary’s on the table, what about Anne? Short, simple, & very uncommon now.
While I think Claire works very well w/Reid, I wonder if it was popular too recently to be appealing, especially to a teacher…?
This is more out of the mainstream, but Isa? (pronounced EYESS-uh)
on April 5th, 2017 at 11:57 am
I love the suggestions everyone has given! I’ll suggest three names:
Jane: This is such a beautiful, regal name and definitely not given to a lot of girls today. If it feels too old-timey for you, how about spicing it up to “Jayne”?
Mae: An above poster suggested this. Delicate, classic, and goes nicely with Reid. Also, not very common now.
Of your top picks, I like Lena the best. I work with a Lena and didn’t think of the connection to Lena Dunham. A lovely choice and I don’t hear it on many young girls.
Good luck 🙂
on April 5th, 2017 at 1:51 pm
Reid & Ivy is my favorite from your list! I think Liza is kind of cute but I’m more partial to Lyla.
I also think Reid & Delia, Reid & Nell, Reid & Lena and Reid & Mary would be really cute in different ways! Reid and Delia sound more book smart, quirky but also hipster and cool where Reid & Mary feels more traditional, sporty, wholesome but still fun and different. Reid & Nell are both short, sleek uncommon names that work really well together! I think Nellie is an adorable nickname personally. I think of the rapper over anything but I think that gives it a funky edge. Reid & Lena is a lot more cute then the other names (Nell the closest second!) They sound sweet together and both names are soft with power.
Some other suggestions-
Reid & Dory
Reid & Sloane
Reid & Blaire
Reid & Sage
Reid & Holly
Reid & Kenna
Reid & Lacy
Reid & Ginny
Reid & Ellen
Reid & Nina
Reid & Wynn
Reid & Stella
Reid & Lola
Reid & Etta
Reid & Effie
Reid & Talia
Reid & Yara
Reid & Ilana “Lani”
Reid & Penny
Reid & Peri
Reid & Ayla
Reid & Ana (Ahna)
Reid & Sylvie
Reid & Daphne
Reid & Faye
Reid & Flora
Reid & Georgia “Gigi”
Reid & Goldie (As in Hawn… I think it’s def up for a comeback!)
Reid & Hattie
Reid & Haley
Reid & Jessy
Reid & Kyla
Reid & Kaya
Reid & Kim
Reid & Luna
Reid & Ziva
Reid & Zara
Reid & Zella
Reid & Colby
Reid & Vivia
Reid & Belle
Reid & Betsy
Reid & Nadia
Reid & Myla
on April 5th, 2017 at 2:16 pm
I vote for Lena! My 15-month-old daughter is Evelina, named after my great great aunt of the same name, who went by “Lena”. We call my daughter “Lena Pea” as a nickname sometimes. Good luck!
on April 5th, 2017 at 4:22 pm
Love Iris and Vera– both seem to strike that balance you’re going for. Liza is nice, though I prefer Eliza personally.
Some other suggestions:
on April 5th, 2017 at 9:41 pm
I love Liza and Vera.
on April 5th, 2017 at 10:00 pm
I would second Lena, Thea or Vera 🙂
Here are some other suggestions:
(All these above are ones that aren’t common and if you are a Downton Abbey fan, they do carry that connection and are lovely choices)
Liv (Short and sweet)
Elle or Ellie
on April 5th, 2017 at 10:01 pm
Oh, I also forgot Lola, Violet, Ruth and Maeve
on April 6th, 2017 at 5:00 am
My best friend is a Liza pronounced like Lisa. If people aren’t on board with the Liza, that could be an option. Also Eliza or Elise are variants. Out of other suggestions, I really like Reid & Pearl, or Reid and Belle. But Reid and Liza sound like storybook characters. They fit perfectly.
on April 6th, 2017 at 11:19 am
I was surprised at Norah’s ranking, and now I know why because without the “h” it’s much higher. I know a few little girls with all these names (which to me is too popular). Ironically, I also know a brand new Delia, which I think is adorable! I also love all the names on this list. June and Norah sound the most usable with Reid to me. I like Liza and I think with all the “Elizas” around, it can’t possibly sound bad…people just aren’t used to it. From the list, I like June, Liza, Delia, Iris, Thea, and Vera (another favorite). Vera to me hits a sweet spot, of very vintage, and not common, if you wanted something slightly more common, I think Thea, or Iris fit well, but I know there’s a lot of comments on here for great suggestions! Good luck!
on April 6th, 2017 at 11:43 am
Here are other names I “second” from suggestions on here that I think fit the bill as well, although some might be too off the radar. Jill (about one of the very few names I’ve grown up with that I’ve managed to like, something about it just feels nice), Marta, Mina, Greta, Mabel, Pearl (favorite), Veda (favorite), Margot, Sylvie, Fern, Ruby, Sadie, Louisa (favorite), Nina, Etta, Daphne, Flora (favorite), Maeve, Ruth. There’s really no shortage of lesser known, but heard classic names:) These probably lean on vintage more than classic, but I think Jill, Louisa, Pearl, Margot, Nina fit well!
on April 6th, 2017 at 12:10 pm
I’m not sure why Mary is always referred to as rare, uncommon, or “strikingly unusual” when it currently sits at #124. And as someone else pointed out, Ivy is called a popular name at #129. Now I understand Ivy is rising fast and Mary isn’t as of now, but at it currently stands you are just as likely to meet a newborn Mary as you are an Ivy.
on April 6th, 2017 at 3:22 pm
My name is Liza, and I’m really happy with it! It’s different but not unheard of. The one issue is pronunciation. I pronounce it Lye-za, but I get Lee-za and Eliza a lot. However, it doesn’t bother me much anymore because people learn my pronunciation quickly. My brother’s name also has four letters and starts with an R, which I think makes a great combo. All-in-all, I would definitely recommend the name Liza! Plus, Liza and Reid sound great together.
Beau Jean Said
on April 6th, 2017 at 8:27 pm
My favorites from above, plus a few of my own-
Jean- similar to June
Roxy- has a Liza feel to it (kinda has an Ivy feeling too)
Reid & Roxy is putting my two cents in
on April 7th, 2017 at 7:32 pm
I immediately think Fern. Others have suggested it as well. It is just perfect. Rings like Ivy did a few years ago and feels fitting next to Reid.
I also think Liza is a great option!
on April 9th, 2017 at 11:21 am
I don’t think you should discount a long name automaticaly, I have a long name + long surname and it flows beautifuly and never feels too much, I also have the option of a shorter nickname.
June – why not try Juno if June has lost some of its sparkle and how about Eliza instead of Liza. Try also Nina and Zola.
on April 9th, 2017 at 12:53 pm
I think Reid & Lena and Reid & Liza sound great together. I might be a bit biased though because my name is Lena 😉 Another nice combination is Reid & Rowen/Rowan in my opinion.
on May 10th, 2017 at 7:19 am
I think there’s been some awesome suggestions so far! Loving the short and spunky names to go with cool Reid.
I’d be inclined to suggest Etta; it’s sweet yet soulful, familiar yet unusual. Big advocate for this name!
Other suggestions would be Erin, Lola, Aster, Fearn, Roxy and Maeve.
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on July 4th, 2017 at 10:49 pm
[…] oh–we have an update from an earlier post! Welcome, Nell James. Thanks to all for their thoughtful comments! Don’t you just love it when a parent finds the […]
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