Menu

Long Name or Short Name? There’s No In Between

Long Name or Short Name?  There’s No In Between

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

For every Seraphina, there’s a Jax.

A glance at the US Top 100 lists from 1963 and 2013 suggests that the most popular names have gotten longer over the last fifty years.  Back in 1963, the only Top 100 name longer than three syllables was Elizabeth.

Today there are nine: Elizabeth is joined by Alexandra, Olivia, Gabriella, Isabella, Serenity, and Penelope for girls, plus Alexander and Jeremiah for boys.

There are more three-syllable names, and fewer single-syllable ones, too.

At the same time, there seems to be a steady rise in parents who introduce their children as Liliana-not-Lily.  In Disney’s new flick, Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the luckless kid at the center of things is Alexander, not Alex.

Other stylish picks, like Atticus, don’t easily shorten like former favorites Michael and Robert.

And yet, some parents have gone the opposite direction.  Plenty of fast-rising names are short.  Some feel traditional – Finn and Jude, Rose and Mae.  Others are newcomers – Kash and Jase, Saige and Sloane.

In the UK, the land of Alfie and Millie, soap opera Hollyoaks poked fun at the trend, with the arrival of Theresa and Dodger’s baby girl, MyraPocahontas Regina Madonna.

But the divide is real, and growing.  Some parents are Team No Nickname, opting for Tess on the birth certificate, while others choose elaborate first and double middles, like Marguerite Elisabeth Celeste, and call her Greta from day one.

This week’s highest profile birth announcements demonstrate the split – from the frilly and complex, to the minimalist and straightforward:

Esmeralda Amada – After weeks of speculation, we learned the name of Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling’s baby girl.  Esmeralda is the Spanish word for emerald, best known as the love interest in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.  (Both the Victor Hugo original and the Disney version with the singing gargoyles.)  Amada is Latin for beloved.  Mendes played a character called Amada in 2007 movie We Own the Night.  All together, that’s seven syllables of frilly, feminine name.  The only questions left are: Will the famous couple call their new daughter Esme for short?  And will Esmeralda be the new Isabella?

Alexandria ClaireBaby Mendes-Gosling isn’t the only new arrival with an elaborate given name.  Joe Francis and Abbey Wilson welcomed twin daughters this week.  (Yes, that Joe Francis.  Is now the father of two daughters.)  Alexandria could be slightly more regal – Queen Victoria’s given name was Alexandrina – but at five syllables, it is about as long as a given name gets in English.  It brings to mind scholarship, thanks to the ancient library at Alexandria.

Athena OliviaAlexandria’s twin has an even brainier name.  She’s Athena Olivia, as in the goddess of wisdom.  And while Athena is less of a mouthful than Alexandria, her full name is actually seven syllables, compared to Alexandria Claire’s count of six.

Kennedy Taylor – What would you expect a country music singer called Bucky to name his daughter?  Bucky Covington – born William – and fiancee Katherine Cook went with Kennedy Taylor for their new arrival.  It’s a double-surname choice that feels rather presidential, thanks to 35th president John F. Kennedy, and twelfth president Zachary Taylor.  Then again, Taylor must also feel like a girl-next-door name in Nashville, thanks to the chart-topping Taylor Swift.

Vik Barthelemy – Let’s leave Nashville for the Netherlands, where Dutch model-actress Lieke van Lexmond is a new mother.  Her son is Vik – just Vik.  The Dutch are big on short names, with brief choices like Bram, Sem, and Saar in vogue.  As for the middle, that comes from Caribbean island Saint Barthelemy, better known as St. Barts in English.  It’s a favorite vacation spot for Lieke and partner Bas van Veggel.  The name embraces both trends – the super-short and the dramatically long.

Ford – We’ll end with a name that is truly restrained.  Television screenwriter Ryan Murphy and husband David Miller have welcomed baby #2.  Big brother Logan is joined by Ford.  The pair seem to have gotten more daring with their names since becoming parents.  Logan is a modern staple for boys, while Ford is an up-and-comer.  And Ford is also the epitome of a brief-but-complete name.

Do you like longer names, shorter names or a mix?  Are you hearing more long names for babies?  Or more short ones?

About the Author

Abby Sandel

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.