They found a great family name for their firstborn, but now they’re stuck finding something every bit as meaningful and stylish for their new daughter.
We are now expecting a second girl and are at a stalemate. We feel compelled to give her a family name as well, because we love having that connection. My husband’s mother, Brenda, is deceased and so we’d love to honor her. But Brenda (and similar names Brenna, Brianna) just don’t resonate with us.
We’ve come up with a few names that start with B to honor her, but nothing is really exciting us yet. We are also considering Annabeth Claire (a mashup of our three sisters’ middle names) but aren’t quite sold on it yet. Any suggestions?
The Name Sage replies:
And so I have to ask: if you could only have one of those two qualities, which would you choose?
Because this time around, it sounds like there are few names that can honor loved ones and satisfy your wish for a vintage name with a dash of quirky-cool. We’ll try our best to come up with alternatives, but it’s possible no single name will do both.
It is perfectly, completely fine to decide that style maters more than honoring family. My sense is that you might be leaning that way already. After all, if family wins, you could probably settle on Brenna or Annabeth.
Of course, deciding to just look for a name you love has its own perils. Suddenly, the possibilities expand to hundreds, even thousands of names. I might expect Clementine’s sister to be Matilda, Calliope, Florence, or maybe Marigold.
But that’s not the challenge you’ve set! Instead of brainstorming fun names for Clementine’s sister, let’s focus on names that might build on the family names you’re already working with: Brenda, Ann/Anne/Anna, Beth/Elizabeth, and Claire.
Arden – I tried anagramming the letters of Brenda, and one possibility leapt out at me – Arden, as in the Forest of Arden, made famous by Shakespeare. Of course, I couldn’t use the B. And I’m not sure if Arden feels quite like your style. But I can imagine sisters called Clementine and Arden, so I’m adding it to the list.
Briony, Bryony – I think it’s fine to consider, say, Beatrix, an honor name for Brenda. But the closer the sounds, the better! You mentioned that Brenna and Brianna are off the table, but have you consider Briony? It’s the name of a flowering plant. That means that both Clementine and Briony are subtle nature names. I think they’re well-matched.
Clarice – Inspired by Claire. Clarice hits the same note as Clementine, and I think Clary has the same style as Clemmie, too. Plus it’s fun to say Clemmie and Clary together. But is it too close? Too cute? I’m not sure. I think Clementine and Clarice sound perfectly fine as sisters, but I’m curious to hear others’ opinions.
Elspeth – You mentioned that Beth is a family name. Since Beth is a form of Elizabeth, it’s tempting to consider the many international variations of Elizabeth as honor names, too! Elspeth is a Scottish spin on the name. It’s almost never heard in the US, but I think it would wear well. Elspeth offers nicknames like Elsie, and seems like a great sister name for Clementine.
Seraphina, Seraphine – This is a serious stretch, but Brenda is sometimes considered a form of Brendan, which comes ultimately from the Norse Brandr. Brandr might mean prince – or it might mean fiery. Seraphina refers to the “fiery ones,” an order of angels known as the seraphim. It’s a rare name, and it’s only thinly related to Brenda – but it could potentially work.
I know readers will have more creative suggestions, but I wonder if it’s time to think more broadly about honor names for your late mother-in-law. What her middle name, maiden name, favorite color or flower, or even birthstone? Or maybe going farther back in your family tree could present some fresh possibilities. Or if you can agree on a different first name, a middle like Brennan, Brynn or Wren might work nicely, too.
But I do think it’s worth discussing names you just plain love, too – even if it means giving up on a family first.
Readers, what would you suggest to Meghan?