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Middle Names: Longer choices beyond Elizabeth

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by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

Some names are common in the middle but rarely used as first names. Others are common first names but hardly used in the middle. And then there are a lucky few that are popular first and middle names, such as Grace and James. But the ultimate double-threat is Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s status as a popular first name has endured over a century. Elizabeth is the only girl name that has remained in the top 30 since 1880, the earliest year baby name rankings are available from Social Security Administration. This places Elizabeth among the baby name elite.

While Elizabeth’s many nicknames has kept it a popular first name, Elizabeth’s distinctive rhythm has kept it a popular middle name. This distinctive pattern is four syllables with the stress is on the second syllable.

Four syllable names with the stress on the third syllable don’t flow as well with most first names. For example, compare the following name combinations with Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s Spanish counterpart, Isabella, which has the stress on the third syllable:

Clover Elizabeth vs. Clover Isabella
Daphne Elizabeth vs. Daphne Isabella
Harper Elizabeth vs. Harper Isabella
Kayla Elizabeth vs. Kayla Isabella
Morgan Elizabeth vs. Morgan Isabella

Which ones sound better? There may be a few renegades who prefer the Isabella combinations, but I’m betting on the Elizabeth combinations. Because of the four-syllable/second-stress pattern, Elizabeth flows well with many names.

There are other four-syllable/second-stress names besides Elizabeth that also make great middle names. Here are some members of this small club:

Alethea
Amelia
Andromeda
Azalea
Calliope
Camellia
Epiphany
Evangeline
Felicity
Forsythia
Hermione
Magnolia
Olivia
Parthenia
Penelope
Persephone
Serenity
Veronica
Victoria

There is one quality Elizabeth has that was difficult to find in other four-syllable/second-stress names: the non-vowel ending. This non-vowel ending makes Elizabeth pair well with feminine names that end in vowels — which make up many feminine names.

With this in mind, the ending of the first name is something to consider when using middle names from this list. Repetitious vowel endings in combos like Nora Olivia are charming to some and over-the-top to others.

For those who feel repetitious endings are too much, here are three suggestions for using an Elizabeth substitute in the middle:

1. Alternate vowel endings:
Examples: Flora Calliope and Lucy Magnolia.

2. Use first names that don’t end in a vowel sound:
Examples: Alice Hermione and Eden Serenity.

3. Use Evangeline from this list, which ends in a vowel, but not a vowel sound:
Examples: Martha Evangeline and Zoe Evangeline.

And in some cases Elizabeth, with its distinctive ending, may be the best middle name. While Elizabeth is commonly used, style-wise, the name remains unique.

Which four-syllable/second-stress names are your favorites? How many combinations can you make with this list?

For more middle name discussion, see the middle name series at Upswing Baby Names.

Angela created Upswing Baby Names out of an obsession with baby name statistics, trends, and predictions. She put her predictions into a book, The Top 22 in 2022.  She is also an avid runner, wannabe foodie, and devoted mom of two.

AND TUNE IN FOR PART 2 TOMORROW–TWO-SYLLABLE MIDDLES!

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About the author

upswingbabynames

Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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12 Responses to “Middle Names: Longer choices beyond Elizabeth”

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sarahmezz Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 2:35 am

I ADORE Elizabeth! It’s my middle name and I’ve always loved it! The four-syllable middles I like mentioned above are: Evangeline, Hermione, Magnolia, Penelope, Persephone and Victoria. For me, it’s got to have a lot of letters as well as a lot of syllables! Some of those names (i.e. Amelia and Olivia) are just too short! I’ve always been a fan of long middle names. Personally, I’m not sure I could go past Elizabeth for my daughter! I’d love to pass my middle name on.

Strawberry36 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 2:36 am

This is exactly the problem I’m having with a combo I just keep having doubts about.
I love Stella as FN and Veronica as MN.
However with Stella Veronica, the double A endings bother me.
Do not like Estelle or Veronique as substitutes. I have been thinking of adding an extra MN to balance it out, but DH dislikes the idea, because surname is kind of long already (3 syl) and he thinks 2 middles are too much, even though he has 2 himself (2-1-3 syl – surname).
Do you think I could get away with Stella Veronica or should just find something else to love? Surname by the way does not end in a vowel.

Mclevine Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 5:03 am

Oh yes, Elizabeth is a woderful name. Besides the opportunity to find a nickname you love, it has a nice ring on it almost with every name. And it doesn’t have a “filler” feel like Rose, Claire or Grace.
As for other names…My daughter’s middle name is Hermione and, although it may cause some pronounciation issues, I find it such a gorgeous name. I also like Epiphany, Felecity, Forsythia and Serenity from the list – and Victoria is my name but I am considering it as a middle name as well.

upswingbabynames Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 5:54 am

@Strawberry36: I like the repeat vowel-endings with Stella Veronica. If you love that combo I see no reason not to use it.

From the non a-ending names on this list I think I like Stella Felicity the best. Good luck!

BritishAmerican Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 8:50 am

I strongly considered Lucy Magnolia for our gender-surprise 3rd child. (Who turned out to be a boy.) So it’s fun to see that combination in your post. 😛

Brigid16 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Stella Veronica is gorgeous. As long as your surname wouldn’t make it sound like “Stella Veronica McNamara,” which would be a lot of that particular A sound.

sarahdoodle Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

One of my favorite combos is Sophia Veronica! Maybe a little froufrou, but I love princessy names, haha! Very similar to Stella Veronica with the “a” endings, but I don’t think either case is a problem. I actually think Stella Veronica makes an even better sounding combo (I think its the two syllables compared to Sophia’s three), so I’d say, if you love it, go for it!

Strawberry36 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Wow so many positive responses to Stella Veronica. Thank you all for your comments.
By the way her last name will not be anything like McNamara. LOL
However she could always marry one….. 😉
Still TTC, but I think I’ll keep this one on the list.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

June 15th, 2013 at 4:00 am

Wow, only Elizabeth and Evangeline don’t end in a vowel-sound … no wonder Elizabeth is such a go-to middle. I do love Evangeline though. Emmanuelle also has 4 syllables and doesn’t end in a vowel sound. I’m pretty stumped after that!

Khoury.jk Says:

September 22nd, 2013 at 9:33 pm

My husband’s grandma is named Simonette (french). We’ll probably use it as a middle name as it doesn’t in a vowel sound and has even sounding syllables just like Elizabeth. It’s totally perfect for us.

littlewren Says:

January 14th, 2014 at 11:46 pm

One more out-there option with this syllabic pattern is Chrysanthemum, which also doesn’t end in a vowel. Definitely would be an unexpected choice!

Spotlight On: Euphemia | Upswing Baby Names Says:

February 25th, 2014 at 6:31 am

[…] For those not quite ready to take the risk and use it as a first name, Euphemia has the same four-syllable stress on the second syllable pattern as Elizabeth, making it a great middle name. […]

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