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Have a baby name dilemma?

Ask the Namesage!

Welcome to Nameberry’s newest column, The Name Sage. Every week, Nameberry’s Abby Sandel, will answer one reader’s questions about naming a baby-on-the-way, or general baby name angst. And here’s the best part: we’d love it if you would add your thoughtful suggestions and comments to help expectant parents decide. The world needs more nicely named children, berries! Want to see your question featured? Please email namesage@nameberry.com. Be sure to include your due date.

a Name Sage post by: Abby Sandel View all Name Sage posts
cute classic girl names

Cute classic girl names evolve from charming nicknames in nursery school to distinguished formal names as adults. But which goes best with brothers TheodoreTeddy” and Jack?

Christie writes:

We are pregnant with a GIRL after two sweet boys and really struggling with a name for her! 

My boys are Theodore Matthew (Teddy) and Jack Edmund

We like classic names that are cute when they are little but can transition well into adulthood. 

Here are some of the names we like: Elizabeth, Anna, Grace, Emma, Lucy, and Celia.

The middle name would either be Christine or Mae

Open to other suggestions too!

Names we love but cannot use include Katherine/Kate, Caroline, Claire, and Olivia.

Thank you so much for your help!

The Name Sage replies:

You’ve nailed one of the best reasons to choose classic baby names: flexibility! Your older son can be Teddy until he reaches middle school, then Theo or Ted to family and friends, but Theodore when he earns his PhD.

Happily, there are dozens of names for your daughter that fit the same pattern.

The challenge, of course, is finding The Name that you love and that sounds like a sister for Teddy and Jack.

Name length might be part of the puzzle. Anna Mae sounds too brief with Theodore Matthew and Jack Edmund. But Teddy, Jack, and Anna sound great together.

Your second son’s name is a good reminder, too – not every name has to change to age gracefully.

Let’s look at a lot of different options – because there are so many cute classic girl names to consider!

Amelia, called Millie Olivia is on your list of can’t-use names. I wonder if you’d consider Amelia instead? It’s similar in sound, but rich with nicknames – Amy, Mia, Lia, and the one I’d suggest as a sister for Teddy and JackMillie!

Cecilia, called Cece Celia works beautifully with Theodore and Jack. But lengthen it to Cecilia, and you might have a few more nickname options to consider, including Cece. Of course, Celia Christine could be called Cece,too.

Evelyn, called Evie – As tailored as Caroline or Elizabeth, but perhaps not quite as classic, Evelyn sounds like a sister for Theodore and Jack. Some pronounce the nickname with a long E, like Eve. Others say it more like the “ev” in Bev. Either way, it’s a cute classic choice.

Frances, called Franny Frances might feel a little more old-fashioned than some of the names on your list. But it fits perfectly with Theodore and Jack, and Franny is a darling nickname.

Margaret, called MaisieMargaret always strikes me as the most distinguished of classic girl names, maybe even moreso than Elizabeth or Katherine. Traditional Scottish nickname Maisie takes it in a playful direction. She can be Margaret as an adult – or Meg, Margot, or Greta, or any of the many other choices.

Mary, called Mary Long-time number one name Mary now feels surprisingly rare for children. But it remains the most classic of names, and, like Jack, one that ages without alteration. We have nursery rhyme Marys with their gardens and their lambs, but also strong and confident women, saints and artists and authors and queens. And Downton Abbey’s Mary Crawley, of course.

Paulina, called Polly Edmund is so unexpected, but completely wonderful! I wonder if something like Paulina called Polly would hit that same traditional, underused note.

Rose, called Rosie – There’s no shortage of longer Rose names, of course, but just Rose feels particularly classic and enduring.

Sarah, called Sadie – Most Sadies are just Sadie. And few Sarahs use a nickname. But Sadie started out as a diminutive for traditional Sarah, and the option remains. Sarah is slightly less popular than Emma or Anna, but similar in style. And maybe Sadie is exactly the kind of classic cute that you’re seeking?

From your original list, Elizabeth Mae might be my favorite. It offers nicknames galore: Libby, Betsy, Ellie, Eliza, and of course, Lizzie. And if you really want to up the cute factor, Ellie Mae is about as sweet as it gets.

From my list, Amelia-called-Millie feels like a great match. Teddy, Jack, and Millie are perfect together. And with women of accomplishment like Amelia Earhart answering to the formal name, it’s clearly destined for success.

Readers, over to you – what makes your list of cute classic girl names?

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Finding International Boy Names

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international boy names

These physician parents are hard at work responding to the global pandemic. Let’s help them find some great international boy names due later this month!

Alyssa writes:

We have a little boy on the way, due in late May, and are looking for a name. We live in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and speak Swiss German at home. Our first child is called Lisa Amanda. We are looking for a short, simple, nickname-proof name, easy to spell and pronounce. It should work well internationally, and we would like the name to be pronounced the same in German, English, and if possible, French and Italian (sharing this characteristic with Lisa). Our last name is three syllables, and starts with H.

Names we like so far are Max, Leo, Liam, and Silas. None of them really stands out to us. However, we would also prefer if the name didn’t start with “L” so that both our children would have their own unique initials.

We would really appreciate your help with finding a few more names for us to consider! Thank you so much!

The Name Sage replies:

It sounds like you’ve already unlocked the secret to naming future globe-trotters and polyglots: keep it simple. The shorter the name, the fewer sounds to shift across languages.

Avoiding another L name seems wise; in particular, Lisa shares a first syllable with Leo or Liam. I’d rule them both out, even if you weren’t opposed to matching initials.

That leaves Max and Silas, either of which would be great. But let’s find you some fresh international boy names, too!

INTERNATIONAL BOY NAMES FOR LISA‘S BROTHER

AdamAdam feels like an almost-classic, a name with long history. And yet, like Lisa, it’s not wildly popular today. That makes it a good match for his sister’s name, and one that will travel across languages seamlessly.

Ben Benjamin shifts from English to German. (Though the French is pretty close to English.) But how ‘bout just Ben? It’s strong and simple. I’d call it timeless, though it’s currently pretty popular. If Ben feels too brief, I think Bennett works in English and German, but perhaps is more of a challenge in French and Italian.

Colin – It sounds strange, but I think it’s worth asking how identical is identical? Because almost no names sound exactly the same across languages –  some just change more subtly than others. Colin sounds pretty similar in English and German, and only slightly different in French.

Dominic Dominic probably fails your first test – it looks like the preferred German spelling is Dominik. But despite the c/k switch, the sound remains pretty similar from German to English, and so I wonder if it’s worth the occasional frustration. Or maybe Dominik makes the perfect middle name.

FinnOriginally a name from Irish legend, Finn feels literary, too – think of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn. Like Ben, it’s just a single syllable. But unlike Ben we don’t necessarily expect Finn to be short for anything. (Though options abound.)  

Kai – In the US, we often think of Kai as a Hawaiian name. It means sea, and feels breezy and modern. But Kai has roots in German, too, as a nickname for Cornelius, or maybe Nicholas or another name.

Noah – Like Ben and Finn, Noah is popular internationally. But maybe that’s because all three names are nicely portable, little changed across many languages. I also think Noah sounds great with big sister Lisa.

ThomasTom works, too, but perhaps names like Tom and Ben feel too casual. If that’s the case, Thomas is a longer, traditional name that stays pretty similar in German and English, and only changes slightly in French.  

For sheer portability, I think I like Noah best of all. Yes, it’s popular. But that’s a benefit in this case, as your son will never have to spell, pronounce, or explain his name as he moves across cultures and languages.

But in terms of a style match for Lisa, I’m drawn to Adam or Colin. They’re both traditional choices, easily recognized. And yet, they don’t feel terribly common, either.

So Noah Dominik is my first choice, but I’d put Adam and Colin right behind.

Readers, over to you! What English-German international boy names would you suggest for Lisa’s new brother?

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a Name Sage post by: Abby Sandel View all Name Sage posts
Boy Names

She loves rare and unexpected names. He likes to keep it more traditional. Sound familiar? It’s the classic tug-of-war between too-common and too-out-there for this couple. Let’s help them name a brother for Scout Valentine.

Desperate writes:

I’ve just found out I’m expecting baby number two, a sibling for Scout Valentine!

We were team green in that pregnancy and probably will be with this baby as well. My issue is boy names. I could name girls all day long but I find I don’t really love any boy names.

I’m a long-time name nerd, but husband tends to veto everything as too out-there. He agreed to Scout Valentine right after she was born and we hadn’t discussed girl names at all because I was sure she was a boy!

I do really like Atticus, but husband isn’t a fan of nickname Atti. And can you have a Scout and an Atticus?

I would really like something out of the Top 100. Our last name is Child-with-an-s and I like word/surname/occupation names for boys but Miles and Wilder are out.

My husband likes Hunter but I feel this is too popular. I like Theodore but worry it will get too popular.

November was always a guilty pleasure of mine, but baby is due in November, is that too much?

I would love some suggestions on a name for Scout’s brother!

The Name Sage responds:

Nope, you shouldn’t name Scout’s brother Atticus.

Scout Valentine is gorgeous! And Atticus is a great name. But both choices are so strongly – and almost exclusively – associated with a very famous book. While I wouldn’t flinch at many a literary combination, this is right up there with Romeo and Juliet. Unless you’re a professor specializing in Harper Lee studies, I wouldn’t consider it. (And probably not even then.)

Besides, it sounds like your husband has some hesitations.

Speaking of your husband, is he on board with November? It’s a handsome name. But it feels like it might be too daring for his tastes.

I do think November makes a fabulous middle name. Is Scout a February baby? If so, using a middle name like November – or maybe Harvest? – ties the siblings’ names together in a subtle, seasonal fashion.

It sounds like Hunter and Theodore are both ruled out because they’re a little too popular.  

Let’s find a middle ground between Top 50 favorites and seldom-heard rarities.

Axel – Cool, edgy Axel claims traditional roots – it’s the Scandinavian form of Old Testament Absalom. But it doesn’t feel like an old school name at all. It’s not nearly as rare as November or even Atticus, but it sounds fresh.

Cassius – So many ancient names could substitute for Atticus. Cassius is my pick, but there are dozens of possibilities.

Everett – Like Axel, Everett ranks just inside the current US Top 100. It’s a surname in the key of Hunter, but the middle V nudges it closer to November.

Magnus Scout is an adventuring name, with a lot of built-in boldness. Magnus has just as much swagger. The Latin name means “greatest.”  

Milo Miles might not work with your surname, but have you considered Milo? If you like Theo and Theodore, Milo might be a logical alternative.

Orion – Would a constellation name appeal? Orion feels a little more familiar, probably because we all know a Ryan – or three. And, of course, in Greek myth, Orion is the hunter, which brings to mind your husband’s favorite name.

Thayer – We love a good boy name ending with R. They range from chart-toppers like Hunter and Carter, to under-the-radar alternatives. Thayer shares the Th of Theodore, so I wonder if it would appeal?

Zane Zane has been around for ages, a surname and given name that’s never been wildly popular, but has never faded from use. The Z lends it some instant-cool; author Zane Grey connects it to the American West.

My first suggestion is still my favorite: Axel. But I’m not sold on Axel November. Axel Orion, maybe? Another combination that jumps out at me is Thayer Atticus. While some might notice the To Kill a Mockingbird tie with your son’s middle name, it seems far less problematic. Or maybe Milo November? I love those names together, and I think the combination works well with Child-with-an-s.

Readers, over to you: what would you name a brother for Scout Valentine?

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a Name Sage post by: Abby Sandel View all Name Sage posts
rare girl names

They’re looking for recognizable, rare girl names to go with big sister Delphine.

Michelle writes:

My husband and I are due with our second daughter at the end of April and are still stumped on a name. 

Our first daughter is called Delphine – which we love for being recognizable, but not common where we live, for the international feel, and being a name that sounds sweet for a little girl, but that she can grow into. We get such great, enthusiastic feedback that we’re afraid our second kid’s name won’t possibly live up to the high standard we’ve accidentally set!

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Twin Girl Names Pack a Surprise

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twin girl names

Finding twin girl names is double the challenge! They’re wild about Primrose, but what to call her sister?

Hillary writes:

I need a bit of help as my baby naming duty just doubled! We are having twins – two girls.

For a long time, I’ve loved the name Primrose. Luckily, my partner agrees. The problem is that we can’t find a name we love as much for our other daughter. Primrose is whimsical and pretty. My partner likes the nickname Rosie.

I’m nervous the other name will always end up being second-best, and I want to love both names. Ideally, the names will go together without being matchy-matchy.

We both like traditional, British, Irish, and French names. Our list right now is:

Charlotte – very popular

Florence – the name of a close friend’s child

Maeve – we both like it, but feel underwhelmed compared to Primrose

PenelopeNell” – but it feels plain compared to Primrose

Help!

The Name Sage replies:

Primrose is gorgeous. I can see why naming her twin feels difficult. And yet, this isn’t just about dreaming up fresh options. It’s really about falling in love with a second choice – fast! That’s tough to do when you’ve spent months or years dreaming about a daughter called Primrose.

My best advice? Have confidence that you’ll love your daughters equally, even if one of the names is newer to your heart.

Now let’s work on finding that name.

I agree that your current list isn’t quite right. Maeve lacks a sweet nickname to match Rosie. Penelope and Charlotte might be too mainstream compared to the delightful surprise of Primrose. Florence could be perfect, but duplicating a friend’s name might be off-limits.

We’re looking for an uncommon name that feels light, even pretty. A great nickname helps. It shouldn’t be too frilly, and it must have traditional roots.

AriadnePenelope reminds me of so many other Greek girl names. I wonder if you’d like Ariadne? The mythological figure helped Theseus defeat the Minotaur, so there’s much to admire. Ariana comes from Ariadne, but I think the original has more oomph. It shortens to Ari, Addie, or maybe Andi, but I like Addie best with Rosie.

Cosima Cosima feels British, even though it comes from the Greek kosmos – order – via Italian. It’s the source of our word cosmos, referring to the universe. I’d shorten it to Coco, but maybe Mimi is more your style?

Delphine – I love Primrose and Delphine together! Rosie and Della, maybe? Delphine is French, and it has the same known-but-underused quality as Primrose. It also brings to mind a flower – the spiky, colorful delphinium.

Juniper Juniper is rising in use faster than Primrose, at least for now. But it makes a perfect pair. Not only are they both nature names, but Rosie and Junie sound like sisters.

Maribel Primrose comes from a Latin phrase meaning first rose – prima rosa. Maribel is a smoosh of Maria and Isabel. Both names feel layered, and I think that makes them compatible without being too matchy. Maribel could shorten to Mari, Mimi, Bella, or Belle. Rosie and Bella are my favorite combination.

Millicent Millicent sounds delicate, but it comes from a Germanic name meaning “strong in work.” Primrose and Millicent are both familiar names that surprise and delight, and Rosie and Millie sound just like sisters.

Persephone – There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how much to match twins’ names. Primrose and Persephone sound like something out of a storybook. Whether that’s exactly right, or a little much, is up to you. Primroses are associated with spring, as is the goddess Persephone. I’d call her Persie for short.

Sybil – Tailored, feminine Sybil occupies the same space as Primrose – we all recognize the name, but it remains rare. You might shorten it to Sibby, as in Downton Abbey. Another option is boyish Billie.

Winifred Winnie sounds like the perfect sister name for Rosie, and Winifred is the obvious formal version. But there’s also Gwendolyn – that’s the full name of Winnie Cooper from late 80s television series The Wonder Years – and Winter, though that might be too much with a spring-focused sister name like Primrose.

Much as I love the sound of Primrose and Delphine, I think the key is matching the formal names and the nicknames. That pushes me towards JuniperJunie” or MillicentMillie.” But I know there are many more options, so let’s turn it over the to the readers.

What would you name a twin sister for Primrose, with the nickname Rosie? Are there any great twin girl names I’ve overlooked?

PS – Expecting twins? Don‘t forget to check out our Twin Naming Guide.

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