Everyone Hates My Favorite Name!
Welcome back to Nameberry’s newest column, The Name Sage. Every week, I answer one reader’s questions about naming a baby-on-the-way, or general baby name angst. We’d love it if you would add your thoughtful suggestions and comments to help expectant parents decide. Want to see your question featured? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As she’s shared the name with others, their reactions have been overwhelmingly negative. It’s too “old lady,” a name for a granny, not a new baby girl.
And so, the question is: What do you do when most of the people around you don’t like a name you love?
It’s crushing, isn’t it? After months of searching for the right name for your daughter, everyone says that you’re making a big mistake. Huge!
It’s easy to say that you should pay no mind to the haters. Your baby, your choice! But I think that takes a pretty thick skin, and you have to assume your child will be tough enough to answer to Algernon or Legend, too.
So let’s talk about two important truths:
There’s tremendous diversity in given names today. Less than 75% of all newborns receive a Top 1000 name, a percentage that continues to drop. A Number 1 name isn’t what it used to be, either. Rewind to 1915, and more than five out of every hundred newborn girls were named Mary. Today? Around one out of every 100 newborns received the top name, Sophia. The good news? More names in use means that more names feel wearable.
Once you hear a name on a baby, it instantly becomes a baby’s name. If the only Gwendolyn you’ve ever known is your elderly great aunt, well, then Gwendolyn is an old lady’s name. But guess what? Jennifer was once a little girl. So were Lisa and Barbara and Ruth. Names age as the generations that wear them age. If Sophia can go from Golden Girl to most popular baby name in the US, it’s true for every other name, too.
The year was 2004, and the general public was aghast. Hazel was an old lady name. A witch name. Totally wrong for a baby!
Except that Julia’s choice was completely on trend – a nature name, color name, with that great ‘z’ sound, and a long enough hibernation that Hazel felt fresh again. Today Hazel is in the US Top 200 and still climbing.
It’s true that Gwendolyn was most popular from the 1930s through 1950s – the previous generation of Gwens are retirement-aged. But it’s equally true that the name is starting to feel fresh once more. Gwen – just Gwen – recently re-entered the US Top 1000 for girls. And Gwendolyn feels like a successor to Madeline and Evelyn, very popular –lyn ending names parents love.
All of this is a long way of saying that Gwendolyn Annalise is a gorgeous name, and you’re ahead of the curve. You can be quietly confident in your choice, knowing that your daughter’s name will stand out, and still fit in.
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on April 21st, 2015 at 11:08 pm
I love most of the names some people consider too elderly.
The so-called granny names are for the most part classic names whereas something like Bloodrayne will not, hopefully, withstand the test of time (or the next 5 minutes).
I think the real question for folks to ask is not if a name is too granny, but if a name is too tacky. I’d rather sound quaint than strip mall.
on April 21st, 2015 at 11:32 pm
I would be absolutely delighted to meet a little Gwendolyn! It’s a lovely name. In my opinion, “granny names” are usually just vintage classics!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 12:22 am
Gwendolyn has SO much going for it. Long feminine name with sporty nickname. Current sounds (think Quinn, Ben, Brynn, etc.). … lyn at the end. Although it hasn’t been out of favor for a full century, it’s definitely coming back. I adore this name, and I think others will be too, especially on a little one.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 3:40 am
Love Gwendolen. 🙂
I think that it’s a wonderful choice.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 5:41 am
I volunteer at a primary school and I met a little Gwen just this morning, I don’t think it’s too old-fashioned at all!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 5:56 am
I *knew* we’d get some love for Gwen in the comments!
@Nathalia – Excellent point about Quinn, etc. That’s why Gwen sounds so current, right?
@lesliemarion – “I’d rather sound quaint than strip mall.” HA!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 6:18 am
My best friend is Gwendolyn and we are 23 year old. She is the only one I know, so I definitely don’t think its too old. I call her Gwen, but her mom calls her Lyn.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 6:25 am
on April 22nd, 2015 at 6:51 am
I love Gwendolyn and am considering it myself! Gwen Stefani, c’mon, no old lady there.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 8:43 am
I never thought of Gwen as sounding “old lady.” The only Gwen that I know personally is my mom’s age (50’s), but I always thought she was cool. To me, “Gwen” actually reminds me more of celebrities than old ladies (like Gwen Stefani and the similar name, Gwyneth (Paltrow)).
on April 22nd, 2015 at 8:56 am
I love the name and my coworker’s 3 year old is Gwen… we affectionately call her Gwennie Bee. It’s classic, fresh, and has an air of royalty (a la knight of the round table) I think it works
on April 22nd, 2015 at 8:57 am
My Gwendolyn is 7. It’s a great name for a kid that will grow with her – and Gwen, Gwennie, etc are perfect for a little tot as others have pointed out. It was the perfect choice for us! We did have trouble matching its perfectness when it came time for daughter #2 though
on April 22nd, 2015 at 9:21 am
Good advice! I love the name Gwendolyn, I’ve considered using it myself.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 11:01 am
Gwendolyn is gorgeous! I also think of Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man, most recently played by the amazing Emma Stone – this is another great link in my opinion!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 11:02 am
I love both Gwendolyn and Annaliese – both have been on my list for over a decade. Back then Gwendolyn seemed too outlandish, but now I think it’s right on trend while not being overly popular.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 11:04 am
Gwendolyn is lovely. I like all the Gwens, including Gwenyth and Guinivere, but think Gwendolyn the most wearable.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 11:09 am
It must be tough to hear the naysayers, but take a step back and revel in it! This means you’ve found a name just this side of too dusty for the mainstream. Those names will be the hip names in a few years and everyone will applaud your foresight. In some neighbourhoods, Gwen/dolyn/eth is already a hip choice.
Beyond being a name pioneer, it’s a fine name that will not damage her in any way. Plus YOU love it. You’ll be using it many times a day, aloud and in your head, for the rest of your life. Better to go with something you are in love with (which some people never find) than go with something your well-meaning but tactless friends and family will approve. It’s your baby.
I LOVE LOVE the combo. Freshen it up for the doubting masses with Gwen, Dolly, Winnie….
on April 22nd, 2015 at 11:40 am
I personally love it! When she is born, you won’t get much negative feedback on the name because she is a human! It would be insulting her, an innocent baby, rather than just a name idea. Also, Gwendolyn Annalise is pretty long in the syllable department……if your last name is three or more syllables, then I would change the middle name to something shorter. That being said, I still think it is a beautiful combination! Those two names are on my list. Plus, the nicknames are super cute. Gwen, Wendy, Dolly, Anna, etc. Great pick and congrats!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 12:27 pm
I’ve known two Gwendolyns in my life…one was a classmate of mine back in jr. high (mid-’70s), so she’d be in her early 50s now. The other is the daughter of a friend; this Gwen is a sophomore in high school. I think it’s a fabulous name…& I agree w/lesliemarion: I’d rather be quaint than strip mall! 🙂
on April 22nd, 2015 at 12:40 pm
I’m 18 and know two Gwens and one Gwyn. (Gwyn rhymes with Quinn) They’re all my age too. I don’t consider it “elderly”
on April 22nd, 2015 at 12:40 pm
Definitely go with Gwendolyn. My husband liked the name back in 2005, but I wasn’t sold on the nickname Gwen at the time. (Plus it would have made us: Ben, Jen & Gwen.) I agree that it will rise in popularity in the future. Great name. 🙂
on April 22nd, 2015 at 1:22 pm
I love Gwendolyn, I’m planning to use it for my firstborn.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 1:48 pm
If it helps, I know a beautiful woman named Gwendolyn (she does not go by nicknames). She is in her mid twenties, like me. She is from the US, but now sings in the Berlin Opera. It’s a very classy name.
Besides, tons of people have names that are unexpected, old, dusty, invented, pop culture or lit-based. When we meet these people we almost always appreciate their name. I find that giving unexpected, especially dusty, names to kids gives them a leg-up in current society. I mean, everyone in school loves the kid named Rainbow. Why? Because her NAME is Rainbow!
Same goes for beautiful throwbacks like Gwendolyn.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 3:06 pm
I love the name Gwendolyn!!!! I think it is adorable and I love how it a name that people have heard but not that commonly heard. Even though most people think it is an old lady name I tend to like old lady names. The nickname Gwen is also super cute and trendy right now!!!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 3:36 pm
I love reading all of your positive feedback! Thank you all so much. I love the “strip mall” comment by @lesliemarion. I never considered Dolly as a nickname and that is not one I favor. I have shared this with my friends and cannot wait to share this with some of the naysayers! I am glad there is so much love out there for my baby and her name!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 3:58 pm
I love Gwendolyn. I’ve never known one and I always loved Gwen. It’s such a romantic name.
When people are rude enough to say something about a name you’ve settled on, tell them nicely to STFU.
Was that an intentional ‘Pretty Woman’ reference? Big mistake. Huge!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 4:17 pm
I have a three year old cousin named Gwendolyn (usually called Gwen) and it fits her perfectly!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 4:37 pm
Gwendolyn Annaliese is so pretty! I love the nicknames Gwen and Gwennie too! Perfect, pretty, and unique!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 4:39 pm
I just met a 5 month old Gwendolyn last week! Everyone was fawning over how unexpected, yet sweet it was on her and complimenting the parents. The group I was with is pretty diverse in their taste of names, but there was not one negative comment.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 5:14 pm
Your name grows with you, I don’t see a problem. This is why there are nicknames..she’ll be Gwen, Gwennie or even just G until she grows into it. What’s worse is when your name doesn’t grow as you do and you end up a mature 30 year old looking for a job and stuck with something more suited to a child because your parents didn’t want to give a child an ‘old’ name.
on April 22nd, 2015 at 6:55 pm
Gwendolyn Annaliese is beautiful! I hope you don’t let their negativity persuade you!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 7:21 pm
I’m a little biased but Gwendolyn is one of my favorite names. I have a 6 yr old named Gwendolyn and she typically goes by Gwen. We do call her Gwennie too! And she loves her name so much. She says that Gwendolyn is her princess name. It was very difficult to pick a name for our second daughter because of how much we love Gwen/Gwendolyn. I think it’s a perfect name for all stages of life. I will say that we did get a few strange looks and rude comments about her name, but mostly positive. Just brush off the rude comments. It is a unique name so some people just won’t understand why you used it. Bottom line, it’s unique, pretty and versatile. Good luck!!
on April 22nd, 2015 at 10:09 pm
I Love Gwenevere
on April 23rd, 2015 at 12:55 am
I love it! “Old Lady”/”Granny Names” are very “in” right now, anyway. I also think it’s a name she can grow with. People hated our name choices as well, but once they meet the baby, all is forgotten, usually. Some of my cousins have experienced this as well and the hate usually dies down once baby is here. Go with what you feel is right!
on April 23rd, 2015 at 7:36 am
I like it. But, only if you call her Gwen. I prefer Gwendolyn Annaliese though.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 9:48 am
My 3 year old daughter is a Gwendolyn. She is a firecracker, intelligent, determined, curious, and brave little girl who never ceases to surprise us at every turn. I love the name, she is called Gwendolyn, Gwen, Gwennie and Gwennie monster… Her little brother is Preston.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 12:46 pm
Gwendolyn and Annalise are both favorites of mine. And they come with tons of nicknames. Gwen, doll/dolly, lyn, Anna, lise, or lisey (pronounced leesey). I think it’s great and once your family sees the baby with her amazing name,, hopefully they will feel different about it.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 1:19 pm
Gwendolyn is such a beautiful name! Gwen is so cute too, ignore your friends. All support in the world, and next time, don’t ever tell the name before the baby is born. People are much less likely to say they don’t like the name after there’s a cute, bouncy baby in their arms.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 1:34 pm
I LOVE Gwendolyn! Although I do prefer the spelling Gwendolen but either way I just think it’s gorgeous. I also think Gwennie is just plain adorable!! Looooove!
Most if my favourite names are ‘old lady’ names, but I don’t care, I love them and I know they won’t be seen as old ladyish forever.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 2:33 pm
I have loved Gwendolyn for as long as I can remember!
I don’t see why people think of it as ‘old ladyish’
on April 23rd, 2015 at 3:14 pm
Gwendolyn Annalise is a lovely, lovely name. Both are classics, not at all trendy but also not far out choices. I am guessing the people in your life who have criticized it are not aware of the groundswell trend for vintage clasic names!
This post reminds me of the best naming advice I ever heard: do not share your final name choice, or possibly any of your name choices, before the birth. My sister did this and swears by it. It is your baby, your name choice. If you share your name choice before the birth, people probably assume you are asking for their opinion, and everyone has their own irrational name preferences! But this is your baby, and there is no need to let your name choice be dictated by the opinion of the masses. Definitely ask for suggestions from people who’s opinion matters to you, and share here in anonymous comfort with all your fellow nameberries! If you are very close to a family member or friend you completely trust, feel free to share with them in confidence. But otherwise, let the final name chocie be a fait accompli. No one will care what you call your child when they are cooing over an adorable new baby!
on April 23rd, 2015 at 3:17 pm
Gwendolyn Annalise is gorgeous- elegant, feminine, underused yet familiar, strong yet ethereal. I love it! I just wanted to say that one of my good friends is named Anneliese Gwendolen- I’ve always thought she had such a beautiful name, so it’s great to see these two names getting some love. I agree with the other posters- once people are holding a baby, they generally seem to shush about how much they dislike the name. Like the post said, seeing a name on an actual person really changes the image of it, whereas they might have thought of Gwendolyn as an old lady name, they will now think of Gwendolyn as your sweet little girl.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 3:21 pm
Gwendolyn Annalise is gorgeous- elegant, feminine, underused yet familiar, strong yet ethereal. I love it! I just wanted to say that one of my good friends is named Anneliese Gwendolen- I’ve always thought she had such a beautiful name, so it’s great to see these two names getting some love. I agree with the other posters- once people are holding a baby, they generally seem to shush about how much they dislike the name. Like the post said, seeing a name on an actual person really changes the image of it, whereas they might have thought of Gwendolyn as an old lady name, they will now think of Gwendolyn as your sweet little girl. I also don’t really see Gwendolyn as an old lady name at all- it feels more classic to me than that, though it may just be because I’ve known a few Gwendolyn’s of various ages.
on April 23rd, 2015 at 5:09 pm
Gwendolyn Annalise is beautiful! It sounds elegant and flows together well. Gwendolyn is a lovely name and has great nicknames: Gwennie (adorable!), Gwen (spunky), or even Lyn for a more common option. I also don’t think of this as an old lady name. I know a 2 year old Gwen and a 6 year old Gwendolyn (who goes by Gwen).
on April 23rd, 2015 at 11:59 pm
I love the name name Gwendolyn. I think its lovely, very elegant. I also love the name Annelise, its one of my absolute favorites. I completely agree with the others about ignoring the naysayers. Old-fashioned, vintage names are some of the best out there. Good luck to you and your growing family!
on April 24th, 2015 at 2:45 am
I don’t see how either of those names are old-ladyish! Gwen (along with all its long forms) always struck me as a gorgeous, badass name- maybe because I grew up listening to No Doubt, but still, I can’t imagine I’m alone in that.
Gwendolyn Annalise is gorgeous and melodic and I think it will work beautifully.
on April 24th, 2015 at 6:44 am
I think Gwendolyn Annalise is gorgeous but I prefer the original Welsh spelling Gwendolen I just think it looks prettier : )
on April 24th, 2015 at 11:11 pm
Love the name. However this is why we had a strict rule that our kids names were known only to hubby and I until it after our children were born and the name was given. That way it can’t be poisoned by anyone and if you second guess and change it no one knows. Plus people’s reactions to names once they know that this is it is always different; they are polite enough, for the most part, to keep negative comments to themselves.
on April 25th, 2015 at 12:15 am
I love both of those names and I think they sound so lovely together, very romantic vintage feel. Besides, Gwendolyn is so easy to turn into nicknames too- Gwen, Dolly, Wendy, and any variation of those give Gwendolyn a more modern edge if they decide to shorten it. It’s not like Gwendolyn is super obscure or anything, I think once people have a face to the name they wont associate the name with their Great Aunts or whatever anymore.
on April 25th, 2015 at 12:44 am
Boy, this letter writer sure knew where to go to get praised heaped upon her.
on April 25th, 2015 at 8:40 am
What a lovely name! I’m baffled by the hate this mom has gotten…I hope she sees the comments here to balance it. 🙂 seriously though that’s the p
on April 25th, 2015 at 8:52 am
*oops sorry submitted!
I think it’s the perfect blend of feminine and strong, recognizable and unique. It makes me think of the actress Gwendoline Christie, who plays one of the few really morally admirable characters on Game of Thrones (Brianne! Gender-role-defying warrior lady!) and in real life is a gorgeous actress who is very talented and seems to be kind and keep a low profile. I also think of Arthurian romances (Because of the Welsh sound and the similarity to Guinevere).
Oh and I had a roommate I loved named Annalisa and I like Annalise a little better.
Stories like this are why I only told a very few people our name choices – I did with a few people just to sort of run the name by them (you know how if you keep saying ‘spoon’ it stops being a word and becomes this weird tongue twister? yeah I didn’t want to get all weirdly twisty about a name) but generally, no. After my in-laws still had not gotten over how much they dislike the sweet, pretty name a family friend choose for her now five-year-old daughter, I knew their feedback would not be valuable to me, but that whatever we named their grandchild they’d be okay with once there was a real baby, if that makes sense.
on April 25th, 2015 at 12:56 pm
I agree with the masses here. Gwendolyn Annalise is a beautiful name. (I know some of my favorite names are considered vintage names: Hazel, Ruth, Miriam, Clara) Gwendolyn is a long time favorite. I had a good friend in middle school named Gwendolyn, no nicknames, just Gwendolyn. By high school, we’d grown apart, but her name remains a favorite. It’s also probably why I adore the name Guinevere.
on April 25th, 2015 at 10:38 pm
Absolutely love the name Gwendolyn Annaliese!
on April 26th, 2015 at 8:14 pm
Idon’t think it’s old lady at all. My eldest child is transgender. She was born Sebastian, and chose Gwendolyn Idris as her new name a few years ago when she started transitioning. She just turned 21 a couple month ago, so definitely a young name! Gwen is spunky & cute.
on April 27th, 2015 at 1:08 pm
Similar names include Gwenyth, Guinevere, and Genevieve.
on June 13th, 2015 at 2:14 pm
Gwendolyn is a beautiful name. I love it!
on September 9th, 2015 at 1:52 pm
In 1980 my 1st husband and I named our 1st child a name that EVERYONE hated, to the point that my grandmother and aunt decided they were going to call him something else.
That made me very angry.
I loved my grandmother and aunt very much and am very close to them, but when they refused to my son by his name I told them that they could either use his proper name or they could live without seeing him.
That did the trick. They both came to their senses and called him by his given name
on December 3rd, 2015 at 1:04 pm
I’m such a stubborn person that I totally see myself being very bullheaded to any potential haters: “This is MY child, so if you don’t like the name, that’s entirely your problem.” That being said, if everyone hated the name I chose I would be all the MORE apt to keep using it! >:) Be proud and confident in the name you chose–if people are ballsy enough to say they hate it, be ballsy enough to own it!
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