Four-Syllable Names: A whole lotta name

Maybe it has something to do with Harry Potter attuning our ears to long Latinate names like Bartemius and Xenophilius—after that, suddenly the four syllables of Tiberius and Cornelius or Persephone no longer seem too weighty for a modern little babe.

After all, Isabella is the Number 2 girl’s name– and other four-syllable names like Penelope, Amelia, Cecilia, Seraphina and Valentina are standing right in line to join her. So clearly, many parents today are looking for just such substantial names, just as others are seeking them out to balance a short, brisk surname.

Here are our Nameberry Picks of the 20 + freshest four-syllable choices on the table. (But do note that variations in pronunciation and/or speedy speech can sometimes elide four syllables into three.)

GIRLS

Araminta—a delicate and lovely name long used in England and just now making a limited debut in the US. Refreshing nicknames: Minta and Minty.

Calliope—an upbeat, energetic name combining an ancient Greek heritage—Calliope is the mythological muse of epic poetry–with the cheerful musical sound of the carousel instrument.

Dorothea and Theodora are reverse mirror images of each other, both meaning ‘gift of God’ and both newly stylish, both more feminine versions of  rising three-syllable names—Dorothy and Theodore.

Fiorella—Not only are individual flower names more popular (and exotic) than ever, but so too are the more generic names like Florence and Flora. While brother name Fiorello became known via long-term New York Mayor LaGuardia, the lovely Fiorella has never crossed cultures. She could join Arabella as a post-Isabella ella choice; another possibility is the shiny Mirabella.

Isadora –I is emerging as a vowel du jour, yet the graceful Isadora—who would seem like another logical successor to Isabella—has been sadly neglected.  But perhaps she will slipstream along behind the newly rediscovered Theodora.  Leonora is another pretty possibility.

January—We’re definitely seeing a trendlet for cold-weather names like Snow and Frost and North and Winter. And while we don’t expect January to ever be as popular as the recently revived May and June, it has become, thanks to Mad Men’s glamorous January Jones, a viable option.

Magnolia—When it comes to newly blooming, more exotic blossoms, there’s a whole gardenful, but this is probably the most fragrant and evocative of all, with its strong but gentle Southern accent. Some others in this category: Azalea, Amaryllis and Camellia.

Olympia—A strong name with an athletic, goddess-like—yes, Olympic—vibe. O-starting runners-up: Octavia, Odelia, Ophelia

Persephone—Though definitely perceived not so long ago as too much name for a baby girl, we’re hearing a lot more parents considering this Greek goddess name, attracted by its rhythmic sound and pleasant associations via being the goddess of Spring. Two other intriguing ancient Greek girls: Ariadne and Andromeda.

Valencia—A strong contender in the place-name category is this charming Spanish city name, a possible fresher alternative to Valentina. Other attractive four-syllable place names: Catalina, Columbia, Alabama, Bolivia

Wilhelmina suddenly went from clunky little Dutch girl in wooden clogs to viable possibility when recently chosen for their fifth child by Taylor and Natalie Hanson.  Suddenly we can see her joining her more popular Wil siblings William, Will, Willa and Willow.

BOYS

AdrianoAdriano provides a perfect solution for the parent who likes Adrian for a son but finds it too confusable with the girly Adrienne. Among the scores of other recommended o–ending four-syllable Latin boys: Alessandro, Leonardo, Luciano, Octavio, Valentino.

Amadeus—You’d have to be a pretty serious classical music lover to use Mozart’s name for your child—even in the middle– though Amadeus does have the increasingly popular us ending and an amatory beginning. Tennis legend Boris Becker boldly put it up front for his son born in 2010.

Emmanuel –Spelled with one m or two, this is a name that has been long devalued by its reduction to the nickname Manny, but in its full form it has much to recommend it. Emmanuel currently ranks Number 147, Emanuel 261.

Horatio—Its upbeat final ‘o’ makes Horatio more accessible than a lot of other four-syllable Latinate names. Literary cred: Hamlet’s loyal friend, Historic: dashing British naval hero Lord Nelson, Pop culture: charismatic Horatio Caine in CSI: Miami.

HuckleberryYes, Huckleberry. We all smiled when Kimberly Williams and Brad Paisley gave their son William this middle name in 2007, but by the time Bear Grylls put it in first place on his son’s birth certificate a couple of years later, Huck was starting to sound pretty cute, and appealingly evocative of rafting down the river.

ObadiahOne of the most amiable of the multi-syllabic Biblical boys. And it comes with its own even friendlier Mayberry-type nickname, Obie, which is also the name of the off-Broadway theater award.

Olivier —With Oliver scrambling up the popularity ladder—it’s climbed 227 places in the last decade to Number 78–why not consider this sophisticated Gallic version—which also happens to be the surname of one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century?

TheloniousOne of the jazziest of names, thanks to the iconic pianist T. Sphere Monk, who inherited this Latin-sounding German name from his father. Thelonious has begun to morph away from single-owner occupancy, but with just a sprinking of boys being given the name each year, it remains distinctively cool.

Vittorio –A perfect example of how latinizing a name instantly romanticizes it (cf Victor and Vittorio). A common name in Italy, Vittorio is a name to compete here with Valentino for charm and allure.

Zebadiah –This is just one representative of a whole group of long, distinguished Old Testament names with great diminutives: Zedekiah, Jedediah, Zachariah, Zephaniah, Zacharias, Jedediah and Jebediah.

What are your favorite four-syllable names–on this list or off?

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29 Responses to “Four-Syllable Names: A whole lotta name”

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Saranel Says:

October 8th, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Felicity and Cordelia. I ave my Felicity, now to talk DH into Cordelia.

Noetje Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 12:46 am

I love Wilhelmina, but here in the Netherlands it”s still clunky…

Poppy528 Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 12:53 am

Yay yay yay! Great names. When I pronounce any 4 syb “-lia” name it comes out with 3 syllables: Magnolya, Cordelya, etc … same with Montgomery, which I adore. I love all the nicknames you can get out of them.

Other favorites:

Ezriela
Adiela
Henrietta
Astoria
Odelia
Lavinia

auroradawn Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 12:58 am

Araminta and Horatio are in my Top Ten lists! I’m thinking of adding Dorothea (I’m liking the sweet old-fashioned nickname Dolly) and Amadeus (as a middle.)

Others on my lists (firsts and middles): Christiana, Evangeline, Elisabeth, Nicodemus, and Deliverance.

Katja Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 1:17 am

My favorites:

Alexandra
Amalia
Cecilia
Cornelia
Elizabeth
Georgiana
Honoria
Josefine (German pr.)
Magdalena
Rosemarie (German pr.)
Theodora

Cornelius

Mara_lyn86 Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 2:24 am

I love a lot of three to four syllable names and I am so grateful that I have a one syllable surname or they would be way too much. They are probably my most favorite type of name ever.

Danica Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 5:15 am

There are so many girls names I really like.
Amaryllis
Amelia
Anastasia
Araminta
Catalina
Cordelia
Isabella
Katriona
Leonora
Madelina
Melania
Penelope
Seraphina

Not to mention the double names like Anna-Rose, Mia-Maja and Rose-Marie.

The only boy name I really like is Alexander…

maggiemary Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 5:33 am

Loving these:

Araminta
Dorothea
Theodora
Isadora
Leonora
Magnolia
Amaryllis
Camellia
Olympia
Octavia
Odelia
Ophelia
Valencia
Wilhelmina

Alessandro
Luciano
Octavio
Valentino
Huckleberry
Obadiah
Zebadiah
Zedekiah
Jedediah
Zachariah
Zacharias
Jebediah

Whirligig Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 5:35 am

LOVE:
Theadora
Isadora
Persephone
Ariadne
January

klcalder2 Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 8:16 am

I am forever drawn to 4 syllable girls names. I’ve already used one and it’s very likely that I’d use another. For boys, I seem to love mostly 2 and 3 syllable names, but there are a lot of handsome 4 syllable boys names.

skizzo Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 8:55 am

None of those boy names are really appealing. Horatio will never happen, do I even need to explain why? Same goes for Horace.

littlemissmariss Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 9:38 am

Calliope is really pretty, but when I mentioned it to my SO he just went “callie-oh-PEE?” 🙁 Eh, I thought it was darling. I love Ariadne as well, but I don’t think he’d like it either. He does like Aria though, close enough! <3

I love love love Theodora! Its funny because I greatly dislike Dorothea for whatever reason, but Theodora is just so pretty! I do prefer Theodore and for a boy, but I still love Theodora!

Valencia and Catalina are really cute, but I still can't picture Columbia being used… I may only be 18, but pictures of Rocky Horror Picture Show come to mind. I guess a lot of people of my day have never heard of it anyway, it was more towards my dads age. But still.

I really love Ophelia and Wilhelmina as well! So gorgeous! Henrietta would fit in well with all these four syllable names, so pretty!

I feel like I'm the only one I know who likes Horatio 🙁 I've brought it up to other name nerd friends and none of them liked it. I thought it sounded up beat and happy.

I have a tendency to like long and flowy girls names, so this topic suited me perfect! Love it! For boys though, I am a little bit more traditional, with a modern twist. I think the only boys names thats "long" on my list is Alexander and Theodore. The rest of them are along the lines of Archer, Caleb, Roman, Connor, Cole, Grey, etc.

Ah, I love it! 🙂

GoodHope Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 9:54 am

I love Olympia! It’s so powerful and pretty. I also love Elizabeth, Alexandra (both family names), and Antonia.

For the most part, though, these long names just don’t do anything for me. I find many of them either too long and ponderous or too frilly and overwrought. One- and two-syllable names are more to my tastes.

Tristan Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 10:05 am

Leonora
Penelope
Elizabeth
Mirabella
Ophelia
Cordelia
Cecilia
Amelia

I do like that “lia” ending. 🙂

My favorite four-syllable boy name is Emmanuel.

tavn Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I love Thelonius…I really do…but it will forever remind me of the guy from Shrek.

GrecianErn Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

My faves at the moment:

Penelope
Cordelia
Elizabeth
Olympia (but here in Iowa… might be too much)

but my sisters picks are very different:
Valentina
Seraphina
Theodora

We like big names here. 🙂

Flick Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I love 4 syllable names! Cordelia is on the top of our list for a girl.

R_J Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Great list!
Theodora is nice, but I love, love sweet Teodora more.

ClaireElise Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I can’t think of a single 4 syllable boys’ name I like/would use, but there are numerous on my girls’ list, including Cordelia, Cecelia, Felicity, Leonora and Elisabeth.

I just can’t ever make up my mind if 4 syllables is too many!

UniqueNameLover Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Cordelia, Persephone, Isadora and Seraphina are all on my list. Love them!

catcher5 Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Really like Ariadne, but we already have 2 A names in the family.

My daughter’s name is Adelia (uh-dell-yuh), after my great grandma. It could be 4 syllables but we usually slur it to 3. And for short we call her Deli or Del, which I also love because it’s so different from all the little Addies running around, the typical nn for girls with A names it seems.

I like Huck, but not sure I could go all the way to Huckleberry for a boy.

Reubsmum77 Says:

October 9th, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I love long names on girls. My DDs are Cordelia and Persephone.

UniqueNameLover Says:

October 11th, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Right….

Saracita00 Says:

October 11th, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I was astonished to see so many of my boys favorites featured. Amadeus and Horatio are on my list of long-time loves but even *I* have deemed them over-the-top for contemporary use. Amadeo would be easier to pull off, and instantly falls into that dreamy “Latin o-ending” category. I had Vittorio in serious consideration earlier this year but it was just outside the comfort zone. Huckleberry is fun and the Biblical -iahs are handsome, even if I wouldn’t use any myself. I’m not so thrilled with Thelonius (rhymes with erroneous) and Olivier (I’m not one to call many names snobby-sounding but this is one of them), but still, I would think it was pretty awesome to meet a young man with any of the names on this list.

The girls list sort of makes my eyes roll…they are either frilly or clunky. And I literally laughed out loud over Bolivia. The big exception here is Magnolia and the other floral appellations, which somehow manage to balance the frill and clunk, and I love the nickname possibilities. January treads the line too, though it’s not my favorite.

My favorites not listed are Anastasia and Magdalena for girls (though I like the 5 and 3 syllable versions even more), and for boys Raedanoran is quite intriguing.

periwinkle Says:

October 20th, 2012 at 10:47 am

I really like Jeremiah.

poods Says:

October 30th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Bolivia? Really? For the love of God, please do not name your white middle class child after an impoverished country. What’s next? Haiti? Liberia?

Vulpesera Says:

July 30th, 2014 at 10:10 am

Ophelia.

Also: Araminta, Octavia, Hermione, Anemone, Persephone, Honoria, Delphinia, Zenobia, Euphrosyne, Forsythia, Marcellina, Mnemosyne

kiira Says:

July 31st, 2014 at 9:00 am

kirsijóna 🙂

lindsW Says:

April 25th, 2016 at 12:11 pm

This post is a couple of years old, but I still much ask….

How are you pronouncing Magnolia to make it four syllables? In the South, it is said “Mag-Nole-ya”

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