Daring Middle Names: Hamish, Chrysanthemum, and Scheherazade
Let’s talk about middle names.
Family names, filler names, fallback names – there are so many approaches to choosing your child’s middle that it can make landing on the perfect first feel almost easy.
Factor in a growing number of children who receive not one, but two middles, and it can become quite the puzzle.
Middles that are meaningful and interesting and maybe downright original have their place, and I’m an unapologetic fan of big, stand-out middles that are truly creative baby names.
This week’s daring middle names in the news are:
Hamish – The third season of Sherlock has finally made it to the US, and last week Holmes’ steadfast sidekick, John Watson, married the lovely Mary. Dr. Watson is given the middle initial H. in the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but we never learn if the H. is for Henry or Harold or some other name. In the new series, Sherlock finally figures out that his best friend is John Hamish, a Scottish form of James. It’s a small point that turns out to be quite significant as the daring duo solves another case in the nick of time.
Steadfast – Speaking of Steadfast, it came up as a possible middle earlier this week, and I’ll admit – I think it is brilliant. Options like Grace, Hope, and Faith are familiar for girls. An unconventional pick like Loyal, Noble, or Sage might work well for a son. Words like Steadfast and Resolute aren’t often heard in everyday speech – they sound a little bit like ships. But it also feels like a category to explore for unusual middle name possibilities. Evergreen, maybe? Candor?
Perpetua – For Real spotted a birth announcement for Grace Perpetua. Perpetua was a third century Christian martyr. Her name means without end – perpetual, another subtle virtue choice. Grace Perpetua sounds like a deeply religious name, but it is also terribly pretty, and far less expected than Grace Elizabeth.
Marlowe – Duana’s advice to this expectant couple is spot on. They’ve settled on the first name Julia, and had planned to use the middle name Marlowe to honor dad, Marlon. Now dad is thinking that Catherine might be better in the middle spot. Duana writes: “You can absolutely be more sure that there won’t be another Julia Marlowe than that there won’t be another Julia Catherine.” If you’re after something just a little different, a classic first with an unconventional middle might satisfy.
Chrysanthemum – In an age when so many girls are given the middle name Rose, it’s fun to see extravagant botanicals in the middle spot. For Real found a birth announcement for Thalia Chrysanthemum. It’s proof that nearly any bloom works – I can imagine Sarah Azalea, Eliza Orchid, Avery Marigold.
Django – If you’re not borrowing from the natural world, how about music? Legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt’s one-of-a-kind name has been borrowed by movies. First came a 1966 Western, then a string of spin-offs. In 2012, Quentin Tarantino gave us Django Unchained. He’s seen some use as a given name in recent decades, but I especially like this combination For Real spotted in Oregon: Arley Everett Django.
Scheherazade – Another daring middle someone suggested recently, borrowed from the ever-so-clever storytelling heroine of One Thousand and One Nights. It’s a bold, literary possibility, with richly creative ties thanks to the Rimsy-Korsakov suite and ballet. But is it just too much name? Ella Scheherazade Smith, Mia Scheherazade Carson, Louise Scheherazade Allen. Hmmm … it might work.
12th – Seattle Seahawks fans Kelly and Troy Mann named their new daughter Cydnee Leigh 12th. In football parlance, the twelfth man refers to the fans in the stadium. Cydnee Leigh 12th Mann feels a little bit like giving your son the middle name Danger – tempting, but perhaps over the top. Then again, I just made the case for Scheherazade, so maybe I’m being too dismissive of the gridiron-inspired name.
Farenorth – I’ve saved the best for last! Discovery Channel reality series Alaska: The Last Frontier follows the rugged, back-to-basics life of the Kilcher family. Their best known member is singer Jewel, but she’s not the only one with a stand-out name. Eve and Eivin Kilcher recently welcomed a new baby boy called Findlay Farenorth. Farenorth is appropriate for an Alaska babe, but this is no creative choice brainstormed in recent months. It was the name Yule Kilcher chose when he came to America and decided to set out for the distant state, back in 1913. So not only is it poetic and appropriate, it is a family name, too.
Would you consider a truly daring middle? Are there possibilities – family names, meaningful names, hero names or something borrowed from a favorite story or piece f music – that might work?
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on February 3rd, 2014 at 12:43 am
Hamish! Thalia Chrysanthemum! These are wonderful names, for a middle name or a first name.
Steadfast and Perpetua, well, well, well.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 1:59 am
Intrigued by Steadfast! I like that as either a middle or as a hopeful in the new crop of virtue names for boys. Very cool and appealing. Sounds a little like a racehorse, but I like that. We’re considering Hawthorne as a middle for our third, as he’ll be born in May and hawthorn is traditionally associated with spring. Also started looking at Springfield today, which could be an interesting middle.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 7:27 am
I’ve met two girls with the first name Scheherazade – one goes by Zadie and the other one by Zade (rhymes with hard). They’d agree it is a hard name to wear, but Zadie in particular is happy to share the story of her dad’s love for the literary character.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 8:47 am
I love unexpected middles. Those are my favorite finds.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 8:53 am
I usually prefer the “Daring First with the Fallback Middle” combination, but I do love the “Daring Middle with a Conventional First” formula, too. Chrysanthemum is my favorite here. I fear the spelling would be far too burdensome in first place, but it’s gorgeous tucked into the middle, and with Thalia too…! Scheherezade is a GP favorite of mine so I think it would be great fun to see in the middle, especially if the family had some connection with it. Grace Perpetua is just beautiful. I am not a Grace fan, and many combined-virtue-names come off as trying way too hard, but this one is perfect.
12th Mann is definitely not for me, but I think the number digits are what makes the combination outlandish. Cyndee Leigh Twelfth Mann would have been much more palatable as a name and probably would have been hailed as a fascinating, “middle name with a story.” As it is, I’m actually quite surprised that “12th” can even be processed on legal papers.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:16 am
@Saracita00 – I agree! Twelfth is outlandish, but 12th is crazytown. And I’d guess that she’ll find a mixed bag when she uses it legally. My daughter’s second middle is treated all sorts of different ways, and it is just regular ol’ letters …
@BlueJuniper – Zadie makes Scheherazade very, very wearable, doesn’t it?
@mariahsweet – Hawthorne is a great middle, and I’m intrigued by Springfield, too. I’ve loved the idea of Spring as a middle, and Maxfield is one of my favorite Max names. Put ’em together, and you have Springfield – definitely a potential middle!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:55 am
I love adventurous middles! I actually know of a toddler whose middle name is literally Adventure… first name Charl0tte.
Steadfast is really interesting… I’m a big fan of virtue names and this one is so straightforward and strong and just cool. But RE: the reveal of John Watson’s middle name, Hamish, in Sherlock, that actually happened in Season 2. It’s just elaborated on in Season 3. And, he hates it, which sort of lessens the appeal for me.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 10:47 am
I am not that keen on any of these middles [although James and Elizabeth are not my style either] but how darling is that mouse picture!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 11:06 am
As someone with an uncommon middle name that now has unfortunate pop culture associations, I favor traditional, classic or family names for mns. I never use my mn, and have been known to make up something when asked what my middle initial stands for. Oh, for Anne, Grace, Lee, Jane, etc.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 11:08 am
My favorite names are the ones that have secret meanings to them Harper Seven, Blue Ivy, Harlow Winter Kate, Sparrow James Midnight. I love all of these names for separate reasons because their parents chose exotic names with delicate meanings! I want to do the same for example, my father’s name is Thomas which means twin, Odion means twin as well, and personally I find Odion more attractive then Thomas as a middle name.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 11:16 am
Is Hamish really that daring? I’d consider it for a first name…. I really like all forms of the name James, even James.
I think virtue names are very cool as middle names, much better than firsts. Steadfast is interesting.
I don’t care for the name Chrysanthemum myself…but I ADORE that book! The mouse illustration is from Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, for those who don’t know. It’s a good book for children, especially those who have been bestowed with an unusual name.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 12:10 pm
Coming from Scotland, it’s quite funny to see Hamish considered as a daring choice – I know at least three people called Hamish 🙂
The history behind Hamish is actually quite interesting. It derives from Seumas (shay-mas), the Scottish Gaelic for James. But in Scots Gaelic, the vowel sounds change in the vocative case of a name, so if you were calling out to a Seumas you would e.g. call ‘Hello, a Sheumais” (hay-mash). Gaelic vowel sounds are quite complicated, so just trust me that’s how the extra H and I change the pronunciation 😉 Outsiders would hear it as “Hamish” and think “Oh, that’s quite a nice name, I’ll call my child that”. And that’s how the anglicised “Hamish” became popular.
Source: I studied Gaelic at university 🙂 I’ve forgotten most of it, but that’s stuck with me. Similarly, Mairi (ma-ree) becomes Mhairi (va-ree) in the vocative – mh and bh are pronounced like a v in Gaelic!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 1:16 pm
Some very interesting names. I am definitely in favor of using more daring middle names. It’s a nice alternative/compromise if you like off the wall names and your partner doesn’t and vice versa.
I’ll admit though, I’m not to keen on the ones listed in this article. I like Constantine for a girl and Westlake for a boy.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 2:30 pm
Btw, I have no idea why there a smileys inserted in random places in my earlier comment?
on February 3rd, 2014 at 2:34 pm
I LOVE offbeat middle names. I would much rather use an offbeat, cool middle that no one would expect than use a family name that I feel pressured to use. My dad is dying for me to make my first son’s middle name Armor. I think it is the coolest thing ever, and it would be special because he picked it out.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 2:50 pm
@marypoppins – Thanks for the info on Hamish!
@thatkathryngirl – I think that book is destined for my shelves …
@whitefeather01 – Westlake is stunning! And Constantine on a girl would be quite the surprise. I love Constance, Constancy, really all of the Constant- names …
@Greyer – Thank you for the Sherlock correction. And Adventure is a grand, daring middle!
@peach25 – I’m dying to know what your middle name might be … Britney?
on February 3rd, 2014 at 3:37 pm
Is it even legal to put numbers in a name? What the hell?!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 4:04 pm
I love Scheherezade and the possibility of nn Zadie (or even Greek goddess nn Hera!), but I can just imagine some kid asking my future child, “My middle name’s Elizabeth! What’s yours?” and then she says “Scheherezade,” and some other kid who thinks they’re hilarious says “gesundheit!” That makes me reconsider it a little bit, but still a very interesting idea.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 4:05 pm
I love Hamish! I think it’s funny that it’s on a list of unexpected middles, I don’t consider it unusual at all. Most of the other ones I couldn’t imagine ever using on an actual child, not even in the middle, I think you’d have to be pretty daring!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 5:16 pm
My middle name is a family surname, Walker, and I remember hating it when I was growing up. Not outlandish by any means, but defintely outside the norm in small-town Oklahoma in the 1980s. It grew on me as I grew up, but I vividly recall dreading when other kids asked what my middle name was, as well as the teasing that followed.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 5:23 pm
Just wanted to add that while Steadfast and Perpetua can work as middle names, I think they need to stay out of the first name slot for nickname reasons.
Steadfast reminds me of Stud and if it reminds a middle-aged school teacher of that it’s likely to remind kids of it. Stud Fast.
And to nickname Perpetua could lead to Perp. Would lead to Perp at the hands of some creepy kids.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 7:18 pm
I am not a fan of any of these, although I do like unique middle names.
A little story about Steadfast.
I grew up with a girl with a very common unisex 1st name and her middle name was Steadfast. She hated it SO much. It was like this constant thing that she could not get rid of. It took years for her to even tell us (her group of friends) what her “horrible” middle name was. She was always horrified in high school when things came up where her full name would be used. She managed to get her diploma printed without her middle name. She has since changed her middle name to her mother’s first name.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:09 pm
Thalia Crysanthemum!!!! I’m in love! Also I don’t really have a limit on how far I will take middle names
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:18 pm
@mariahsweet LOVE Hawthorne! You should totally use it.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:38 pm
After reading all of the unusual names on this list, what I am stuck on is that Jewel is a Kilcher! How did I not know that? Mind blown.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 9:40 pm
As a Sherlockian, Hamish has been Watson’s middle name since Conan Doyle. Really. It’s not a new discovery. I remember reading about it when Nicholas Meyer’s book came out and that was eons ago.
I love my daughter’s middle name — Louisa, a family name. However, I don’t care for my son’s middle name anymore — Caleb. I wanted him to be either Thomas Benjamin or Thomas Gideon and those were both vetoed by my now ex. Caleb was the only Jewish name he would agree on, even though I love tons of Jewish names. And because of what “kalev” means in modern Israeli Hebrew….
As for my middle name, I chose it for myself in 3rd grade because I didn’t have a middle name. I went through a name a week until finally I settled on a variation of my mother’s first name, Elayne. When my first niece was born, she also got Elaine as a middle, only spelled the way my mother actually spells it.
I’m not big on strange names. I watch my students struggle with them every day, with their a-phonetic spellings and bizarre pronunciations.
on February 3rd, 2014 at 10:35 pm
Steadfast! I love it!
on February 3rd, 2014 at 11:38 pm
Scheherazade is a jewelry store in Minneapolis, so that’s all that I think of when I hear the name. I like the idea of having a daring middle name, as long as the first name is more traditional. Lots of people with non-traditional names eventually like/love them, but as a kid, it can be embarrassing.
on February 6th, 2014 at 4:03 pm
I do think the middle spot is the place for the more unusual but 12th is just nuts, Scheherazade is a little bit much but it does have an interesting sound. Being from the UK Haamish isn’t really that unusual for me.
My middle name is Conan after Arthur Conan Doyle but everyone but always get the barbarian joke hated it when i was younger but now love it plus it goes with my name Kyle.
on February 6th, 2014 at 4:05 pm
I do think the middle spot is the place for the more unusual but 12th is just nuts, Scheherazade is a little bit much but it does have an interesting sound. Being from the UK Hamish isn’t really that unusual for me.
My middle name is Conan after Arthur Conan Doyle but everyone but always get the barbarian joke hated it when i was younger but now love it plus it goes with my name Kyle.
on February 6th, 2014 at 4:22 pm
I too am a fan of offbeat and unusual middle names. I think they’re perfect for when you love a name, but don’t have the guts to use it as a first.
I’m really liking Steadfast. It’s a great quality to have and virtue names for boys are always intriguing since there aren’t very many of them. I like the literary ties with Scheherazade, but for me it’s just too much name. I can only imagine it being very difficult for young children to pronounce and spell, unless of course they go by Zadie or Zade as mentioned in the above comments.
on December 2nd, 2015 at 6:47 pm
We take our Hawks very seriously here in the Northwest, so I actually understand the logic behind baby girl 12. I wouldn’t do it personally, but I get it.
on October 29th, 2018 at 10:00 pm
My girlfriend and I love Scheherazade as a first name, Hera for short (pronounced hair-uh, like the goddess). However, we’re struggling to find any good middle names? I like Lynne and Anne, since I have personal connections to both. Any other suggestions? Our last name will start with either a V or a G, depending whose we pick 🙂
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