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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 Be sure to include your due date.

Reinventing Grandma Names

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

Grandma is over the rainbow about her new little namesake. Except how, exactly, do you honor a Glenda in 2018?

Tess writes:

My partner and I are expecting our first, a little girl, and are overjoyed! We are debating on first names right now, but know that we want the middle name to honor my partner’s mother, Glenda (who is arguably more excited than the both of us, haha). Neither of us are huge fans of her name as is, and we are drawing blanks for potential alternatives we like that sound similar – we’ve ruled out Glynnis.

Grandma Glenda, however, is a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, and so we were considering Dorothy as a middle name if we could find no other alternatives. I realize Glinda is both a Wizard of Oz name and fits the theme, but we aren’t fans. We are also not completely opposed to Glenda as a middle name, but we would need to be convinced one way or the other.

For first names, our top choices would probably be Alice, Rose, Quinn, or Fiona due to a combination of them being either family names and ones that we’ve always liked. Our last name is two syllables, and starts with a W, so most names should flow pretty well with it.

Thank you for your help!

The Name Sage replies:

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They chose a name for Lucy’s brother, but now they’re having doubts. Should they reconsider the name that got away?

Kelsey writes:

We’re due November 24 with a boy. My husband and I decided to name our son Callahan Samuel and call him CalSamuel is a family name, so that part is sticking.

We both loved Cal, but I wanted a longer name.

Calvin, Callen/Callan, Callum, Callix, etc. were all ruled out for various reasons. We settled on Callahan – handsome, rhythmic, great meaning. But recently I’ve started having second thoughts.

Some people pronounce Cal and it sounds like “Cow.” Now I hear it like that everywhere, despite my efforts to specifically enunciate.

Our daughter is Lucy Jane.  I love her full name. Straightforward, flows nicely, didn’t crack the top 50 in popularity at the time.

Callahan Samuel just doesn’t have that same impact. It feels very different. maybe TOO different.

We also liked Owen for a really long time, but we know three babies born in the last year with that name, and it lost its allure for me.

My husband recently admitted he doesn’t love the name Callahan. He loves Cal, but cringes a bit when he hears Callahan. However, he is so rooted in identifying this baby as Cal that he feels like picking another name would feel weird, unless we went back to another name we considered.

That name is Jack, one of my husband’s favorites. I now find myself thinking about that name a lot.  It feels like a name a kid can grow with, and seems to go hand-in-hand with Lucy.

I vetoed Jack for a number of reasons. It’s a 4-letter name just like Lucy.  Is that a pattern for all future children? Also, it’s a J name, and my husband has a J name. I wanted everyone in our family to have their own initial. Lastly, doesn’t Jack Samuel sound a little bit like Jack Daniels?

Regardless, I just can’t stop thinking about the name Jack and questioning Callahan.  I feel so confused right now… Do you have any fresh name suggestions or insights into either side of the debate?

The Name Sage responds:

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When you’ve loved names since you could talk, how can you possibly choose just one? The Name Sage advises logic, unless, of course, the name you adore breaks all the rules …  

Adriana writes:

We are finally pregnant! After years of infertility, we are expecting. I am a name lover, and have been since I can remember. I’m talking naming stuffed animals to reading the names on all the personalized items in stores to being a regular on Nameberry for years. I love names!

But that makes it hard to find that perfect baby name. I doubt you can come up with something new I haven’t heard, so I’m just looking for perspective and reassurance.

We have a strong Christian faith and a spiritual meaning really matters. But I don’t want to saddle a child with a name we don’t care for just because of the meaning! I might pair a name I like with a middle name that has a spiritual one. I don’t want a typical name in the Top 300 or so. And the name HAS to have a few good nicknames, too, to be shortened or personalized as the baby grows.

Here are my favorites so far. Any advice or patterns you can see that might help us narrow down our list to the right one is appreciated!

Girls: Agnes, Agatha, Cordelia, Dorothea, Eden, Eleanora, Eliora, Elise, Esther, Evangeline, Fiona, Hadassah, Jemima, Lucia, Lydia, Matilda, Miriam, Rosalind, Violetta, Winifred, Zelia.

Boys: Abner, Abram, Augustus, Deacon, Declan, Ephraim, Ezekiel, Franklin, Gideon, Levi, Linus, Moses, Raphael, Rowan, Shepherd, Thaddeus, Theodore.

Right now, our top girl’s name is Matilda. Boys’ names have been more difficult.

Any help is appreciated!

The Name Sage replies: 

When you’ve loved names since way back when, it can feel downright impossible to narrow down your options. And you’ve got a great list already – a mix of the traditional and the unexpected, rich with meaning, most with nicknames galore!

I can remember feeling the exact same way. Of all the names in the universe, what would point me to The Name?

There are two possible directions:

First, use cool logic to narrow down your list to the names that best fit your criteria.

Alternately, throw all of your rules to the wind and use the name that you just plain love.

Ultimately, I think you should always use the name you love. But how do you get there? Often, the best course of action is to start with dispassionate analysis – and then see if you like the results!

Happily, we can help with the analysis part.

Starting with the girls, you’d have to immediately rule out Eden, Elise, Esther, Evangeline, Fiona, Lucia, Lydia, and Miriam, as they all rank in the current US Top 300.

But I suspect you’d like to avoid names that are too rare, too. So I’d strike Eliora, Jemima, and Zelia, as they were all given to fewer than 100 girls last year.

Eleanora comes awfully close to popular Eleanor, and Violetta is just a few letters away from the chart-topping Violet. I’d drop those, too.

Despite ranking in the 700s, Hadassah seems a little less mainstream than the others, and I’m not sure if it qualifies as nickname-rich.

That leaves Agnes, Agatha, Cordelia, Dorothea, Matilda, Rosalind, and Winifred.

From that list, I agree – Matilda seems like the front-runner. It’s unusual but not too out-there, works with plenty of nicknames, and has a strong meaning: battle-mighty.

Is a combination like Matilda Rosalind an option? Or, if a specifically Christian reference matters most, Matilda Agnes? I also think Agatha, Cordelia, Dorothea, and Winifred work nicely.

Let’s see if the same approach works for the boys’ list.

If we cross out the names in the current Top 300, we’re removing Declan, Ezekiel, Levi, Rowan, and Theodore. Gideon is only a few spots above the Top 300, and Augustus sounds so much like the oh-so popular August.

I don’t think I’d call any of your boys’ names too unusual, but a few of these do feel a little light on nicknames: Deacon, Ephraim, Linus, and Moses especially.

That leaves Abner, Abram, Franklin, Raphael, Shepherd, and Thaddeus. From that list, I’d say Raphael strikes me as the most Matilda-like. It’s a traditional name with lots of nicknames, but it’s not too common. Bonus? It means “God has healed.” That seems like exactly what you’re after.

Now, the question for you: does that feel like the right decision? Because I can easily argue that Theodore is a better choice. Sure, it’s a Top 100 name, but the meaning – “gift of God” – is perfect. Nicknames like Theo and Teddy (or hey, even Thor if he turns out to be a future X Games athlete) add to Theodore’s appeal.

Likewise, the numbers tell us that Miriam is too common to satisfy your criteria. But how many little Miriams do you actually know? Mimi and Miri and Mim make great nicknames, and it’s a spiritually significant choice, too.

I know our readers will have some great suggestions, and please tell us: when it came to making your baby name choices, did it come down to love, logic, or a little bit of both?

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Their new daughter will need surgery shortly after birth. Time to find a strong name with the right meaning to encourage their little fighter!

Kristen writes:

We recently found out we were having our third girl and we were absolutely thrilled. Of course, I immediately dug up the master list we used for the last two, Daphne Evangeline and Adele Emmanuelle. We knew we wanted Elizabeth for a middle, but other than that we were at a total loss.

My husband jokingly calls our naming style “Old British Ladies”, but it seems we’re not the only ones with that taste. The remaining names on our list that we loved three years ago have either shot up the popularity charts (Hazel, Isla) or sound too similar to our daughters’ names (Elodie, Mabel).

But then we got some news that put name confusion on the back burner. Turns out our little lady has a hole in her heart. We’ve met with specialists and they’re optimistic, so we are too. In the meantime, we are back to hunting for the perfect name. Our search has definitely acquired some new parameters now. We’d like to give her a name that is inspiring, encouraging, the perfect name for a little fighter. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know that our daughter is already strong. But every name we’ve found with a meaning we like doesn’t seem to work. I love the idea of “strong protection,” but Walburga isn’t really doing it for us.

We’re hoping that the fresh eyes of naming expert can give us a few options.

The Name Sage replies:

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Remember Riggins? His family is back for another boy name! Because if it’s difficult to decide whether or not to use an out-there name for a son, imagine what it’s like to name his brother!

Jocelyn writes:

I’m back for more advice! I previously questioned you on my family and friends’ reaction to naming our son Riggins Blaine, which we did.

Now I am pregnant again and it’s another boy. We struggled so much coming up with a name for Riggins, we are both clueless now.

Our daughters are named Kylee Jo and Adrian Reece. We have discussed using the name William Owen (William after my father).

But I don’t want Riggins to feel like his name sticks out like a sore thumb. I love his name and it suits him. The girls have family-inspired names, and Riggins’ middle is a family name, too.

My husband’s only suggestion for naming this boy has been Hardy and I’m not a fan.

I guess I’m trying to ask if we should stick to the traditional family names, or should I find something unique to go with Riggins?

Our last name is very common so unique isn’t such a bad idea to me.

The Name Sage replies:

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