Name Sage: Can We Still Use Our Favorite Name?
My husband and I are expecting our second child this summer. We thought we had chosen the absolutely perfect name. It’s the name that we have been calling the baby for months. It just felt so right.
So what’s the problem?
My father drowned in a boating accident when I was four. Obviously, I was too young to know the details. Imagine my shock when I told my mother we were naming the baby Henry, and she replied that my father’s accident happened in Frederick Henry Bay.
I am absolutely devastated.
Some say it’s a good sign to use the name. I’m not sure, and yet, we can’t find another name we love as much.
I hope you can help!
The Name Sage replies:
Jasmine, I am so sorry you’re experiencing this. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and I’m sure the shock – combined with the pressure to find a new name – is a lot to work through.
Let’s take a look at your options.
First, you could use Henry as planned.
It sounds like some have suggested that you could consider Henry a name that honors your dad’s memory. If your dad really loved the water, or if the bay was a favorite place for him, it might be fitting. And it does speak to the strong feeling you have that Henry is the right name for your son.
99.9% of the time, I think the final decision about a child’s name should rest with the parents. But in this case, I think grandma gets a vote. If the idea of calling her grandson Henry is far too painful to consider, I would reluctantly suggest you find another name.
In cases like this, you may not find a name that will truly replace Henry. But knowing that your top choice is off limits, you can find a name that you will eventually love just as much – especially after your son has arrived.
Additional names that work well with Oliver:
William – I’m sure you’ve thought about William. It’s a classic among classics, never out of the US Top Twenty and equally enduring throughout the English-speaking world. If you’re after strong and traditional, it doesn’t get much better than William. I also think it goes wonderfully well with big brother Oliver.
Theo/Theodore – Theodore is a very traditional name – it dates back to at least the 300s. But it’s also name that, like Oliver, feels very current in 2015. Some parents are opting for just Theo, and I do think Oliver and Theo sound good together. But Oliver and Theodore would be my pick.
Max/Maxwell – This is another case where there’s a longer form and shorter one. Maxwell has been in use as a given name for well over a century, but it’s originally a surname. That makes Maxwell less traditional than some possibilities on this list, but it has the same vibe.
Thomas – Thomas is almost as timeless as William, and it might feel a little bit softer than Alex or Max, with their attention-getting xes. And yet, I think it’s a good match for Oliver. Oliver and Thomas could be scientists or rugby players. (Or, hey, rugby-playing scientists!) Both names are traditional and versatile.
Miles – Miles isn’t common, but it is heard throughout history. Myles Standish set sail on the Mayflower to Plymouth Colony in 1620. Jazz legend Miles Davis hit it big in the 1940s. And in 2011, Miles Morales replaced Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the comic series. I think Miles works well with Oliver.
Julian – Some of the names that I’m tempted to recommend might seem too short with Oliver, like Jack and Jude. Then there’s Julian. Like August, the name has roots in the ancient world. Oliver and Julian are both strong, traditional names that would be right at home in 2015.
I’m quietly hoping that you can still use Henry. It seems like you were convinced it was The Name. But if your mom finds the association with tragedy too overwhelming, there are some great options. I’m drawn to Oliver and August, but I’m curious to hear what others have to say.
Readers, do you think they should forgo Henry? What other names would you suggest?
About the author
View all of 's articles
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on June 30th, 2015 at 11:52 pm
I would still use Henry if I were in this position. Personally, I don’t believe in giving anyone else a vote except the baby’s mother and father, but obviously she has to do what makes her happy.
I know that if my dad were traveling or boating somewhere, it would be a place he loved, and it would feel like an honoring kind of name. But again, that may just be me.
on July 1st, 2015 at 1:04 am
I would encourage you to still use Henry if you want. As much as I didn’t want it to happen, my daughter was born on the 10th anniversary of my mother in laws death. There are thousands of meaningless connections in our lives. Do you think your father would think twice about that? Or do you think he would have nothing but pride for Baby Henry. I so empathize with you. Naming your child can be an emotional process. Best of luck! Remember the baby makes the name- not the other way around
on July 1st, 2015 at 2:15 am
I agree with the Name Sage on this one. I agree that in 99% of cases, it’s only the parents that get a vote, or really any say at all. But, if it were me, I’d feel better having my mom’s blessing. Perhaps the bay was a favorite place and it could be a tribute in some way, but if grandma is bothered by the association, I think it’s best find another name. There are plenty of wonderful choices that go with Oliver and have the same sound and style as Henry, so an alternative shouldn’t be too far out of reach.
on July 1st, 2015 at 5:13 am
I like the idea of Lucas. Oliver and Lucas sound nice as a sibset.
on July 1st, 2015 at 5:35 am
Simon was the first name I thought of, and I like James with Oliver also. I really like the suggestion of August.
on July 1st, 2015 at 5:44 am
I too agree with Abby: 99% of the time grandparents don’t get a vote, but this is an exception. And I don’t think the parents ought to try to persuade grandma; if the name would cause her pain, she gets to veto this one.
I would add Edward, Philip, and Arthur to the list, but my favorite with Oliver is Simon, as the pp suggested.
on July 1st, 2015 at 6:51 am
From the Sage suggestions I like Theodore or August to go with Oliver.
Suggestions – sorry for any repeats
Oliver and ….
James or Jameson
on July 1st, 2015 at 7:07 am
I’d love Theodore with Oliver, especially is Oliver goes by Ollie. Ollie and Theo sound super cute and preppy to me.
However, if Oliver doesn’t go by a nick name, my top choices would be Julian or August. Julian could go by Jude and August could go by Auggie or Gus, but they are also names that mom and dad can say “no” to nicknames without it being a natural transition, unlike Will or Liam for William.
on July 1st, 2015 at 8:02 am
I think Henry is a nice memory of you father
on July 1st, 2015 at 9:01 am
I second that Henry would be a nice memory of your father. Depends on how your view it – an honour name or something associated with the tragedy.
Will/William/Liam and Oliver would make a nice sibset. So will Julian/Julien, and Sebastian/Bastian.
on July 1st, 2015 at 9:28 am
The place of my father’s death shares the name of my very best friend( friends since pre-k). I was still in high school at the time, but even knowing all the details, I actually did not even realize it until I read this post and thought of how would I feel.
Personally I totally overlooked the association- I think strong positive association can overpower dark ones.
For me, I would press my mother to find her true feelings and then decide.
Grief can be triggered by a single word- it comes unexpectedly, in the times which you should be the most happy. It may be that since she immediately made that connection, she will feel saddened by the name. Or overtime she may find it to redeem the sad and bring joy in the form of memories.
Perhaps bring in a middle name that honors your father…(his name or hometown or even a name bearing the meaning). Then he simply is named after the life of your father.
on July 1st, 2015 at 9:40 am
ersonally I would not, word association for me is so strong. I adore the name Myra, but my 2 year old cousin Myra was killed by a drunk driver, and it just feels not right to me to use this name.
Perhaos she could use Emery? It is similar to Henry in how it “looks” and Oliver and Emery would both start wirh vowels and balance well.
on July 1st, 2015 at 9:48 am
Wow my last post was rife with spelling errors…typing on the bus on way to work!
Two other suggestions;
on July 1st, 2015 at 12:10 pm
Well, that’s the problem with sharing things with people ahead of time. I understand the need for feedback and wisdom, but it comes with risk of criticism. On some life occasions, I’ve regretted taking the advice of others.
With that said, I think that if Henry is your perfect name, you should use it. People will get used to it, and it will lose it’s former association. Just gently share the truth: the link between the name of the bay and your favorite name was coincidental. That’s my two cents, at any rate.
on July 1st, 2015 at 12:25 pm
I think the connection of the baby name “Henry” being part of the name where her father drowned *decades and decades* ago is hardly noticeable, and shouldn’t be a bother to the grandmother. It isn’t as if they’re naming the child “Frederick Henry” or “Henry Bay” – it’s a fairly common name, and I would be concerned for the grandmother if every time she met or heard of someone named Henry she automatically associated it with her husband’s death. Parents, I would suggest you go ahead with your beloved first choice name, and perhaps in time it will help the baby’s grandmother change out her negative associations of the name “Henry” with positive associations of a sweet grandson.
on July 1st, 2015 at 1:06 pm
Oliver & Henry is great but if you do decide to let go of Henry then I think Oliver & Julian work incredibly well together.
on July 1st, 2015 at 1:44 pm
I personally wouldn’t want my child to cause my mother pain so I wouldn’t use it. That’s if the grandparent does have a problem with it. If she doesn’t then I would go for it. Although I do like Oliver and August together. My great grandfather was named Oliver August. Such great names.
on July 1st, 2015 at 2:05 pm
Could you maybe put Henry in the middle name if you really love it so much? Then you would get the connection to dad and if your mom feels to much pain saying it every time she says her grandson’s name, with it in the middle she wouldn’t have to say it all the time or could even ignore it. I think my favorite suggestion is Miles 🙂
on July 1st, 2015 at 3:24 pm
I agree with the feeling posted by many that it really depends on how you take it – you could use it as a positive to remind you of somebody you care about, and like lots of things in life, you often get used to things really quickly. Once your mother gets used to little baby Henry, she will think about him as a person, not dwell on the name.
However, if it keeps ‘sticking’ every time you try to imagine using it, then don’t do it. As gabbygrace said, you could put it as a middle name which would mean that you have the choice to change your mind if you want to later, because plenty of people (at least here in the UK) go by their middle names.
Lastly, have you considered Harry? It is a really common name here in the UK, and is technically a nickname for Henry, but is really commonly used as a stand-alone name. It might just slightly lessen the raw link to the name Henry, but still have the same feel, meaning and sound.
Just a thought! 🙂 I hope that as a family this decision doesn’t put undue pressure on!
on July 1st, 2015 at 3:43 pm
Have you considered variations of Henry that may feel similar enough but do not have that direct painful link. Henrik is a nice Scandinavian alternative for instance… Not quite as classic but still a very strong name.
on July 1st, 2015 at 5:04 pm
Other names I like with Oliver:
Sebastian, Elliot, Benjamin, Samuel, Simon, Thomas or Eric
James could work, but I’m quick to see the Jamie Oliver connection
on July 1st, 2015 at 8:25 pm
I’m inclined toward Abby’s suggestion here, although I dearly want you to be able to use Henry. I also loved the advice that the child makes the name, and not the reverse. Over time, your son Henry will likely replace the perhaps tarnished quality the name has for your mother now with something joyful – your child! I firmly believe in that. Yet, if your mom is absolutely pained by the idea of calling her grandson Henry, I too feel pulled to not push that on her. What a situation – I empathize so much with you, Jasmine, and hope you and your mother are able to come to a point of acceptance that enables you to create a new memory with your son Henry.
I like Maxwell and Miles off of Abby’s list, also Julian and August.
I might also think of these names with Oliver: Benjamin, Callum, Everett, Emmett, Graham, George, Harris, Isaac, Jasper, Leo, Nathaniel, Patrick, Reid, Silas, Sebastian.
I so love Henry with Oliver and can see why you find it to be The Name. My personal choice, if not Henry, would be one of Miles, Benjamin, Emmett, or Nathaniel.
on July 1st, 2015 at 9:03 pm
That’s a tough one! I guess let it sink in with your Mum for a little bit and then discuss it again once she’s had time to process it…it will always feel like a bigger deal upon first hearing/making that connection but once she’s had time to think, may actually convince herself that it could be a sentimental way to honour your dad….?
If you have to find something new I love the suggestions of:
Theodore nn Theo
Other H names that may appeal could include: Heath, Hugh, Hugo, Harry, Howard.
Oliver & Hugo would be adorable sibs too, but any of these names would sit well next to Oliver.
My top picks being Thomas, George, Philip, Hugo
on July 1st, 2015 at 9:16 pm
Eek, I wouldn’t use Henry knowing what you know. Your mother isn’t trying to meddle–she’s expressing legitimate and reasonable concern. Maybe Henry just isn’t who this kid is! I see this as a good reason to run the name by just a few trusted people. Anyway, Harry is awesome! It’s less common too, which is a huge bonus!
on July 2nd, 2015 at 1:21 pm
Henry is a personal name for me too. It also has a painful connection; however, my connection is over 20 years ago and I wouldn’t have a problem using it. Saying that, there are a few names I’ve recently discovered which give me the same vibe as Henry and would go with Oliver or Ollie (another name I love).
Hadley (association with West End star Hadley Fraser)
Harding (“Son of the Courageous one”)
Harland (and nickname Harley or Harlo)
Hurly/Hurley/Hurleigh (“sea tide”)
Failing that, how about a variation of Henry or one which could give the nicknames associated with Henry but which may be less painful?
One variation I really like is the Scandinavian Hendrik/Hendrick (Though it may be seen as too much of a mush of Henry and Frederick).
Henderson (I really love Oliver/Ollie and Henderson. It adheres to the -son name trend, gives the nickname Hender or Henry and is separated from the name Henry itself)
If that doesn’t work, I agree that strong, traditional names are your best bet
I think my favourite from this list is John. It’s also on my list and is much less common now than it was decades ago. Oliver and John or Ollie and John are great (plus the added bonus of Jack as a nickname. Oliver and Jack or Ollie and Jack can never fail.)
Good Luck setting on your son’s name, and congratulations!
on July 2nd, 2015 at 5:35 pm
I agree that you should talk to your mother and see what she thinks. If Henry can’t be used then I like
Archie or Archer
Harry a nn for Henry
on July 2nd, 2015 at 6:06 pm
I would find out what your mum’s true feelings are towards the name Henry. I think that if she associations the name with the tragedy that was your father’s death than I would choose another name. However if she associates the name with your father and maybe he loved that bay I think it would work and you should use Henry. For me whether you use Henry or not lies completely with your mothers thoughts on the name in regards to your father. I was wondering whether you’d consider Harry? It’s a variant of Henry has a similar vibe, works well with Oliver (I know brothers named Oliver & Harry) but doesn’t have the same association which could cause difficulties. Good luck x
on July 3rd, 2015 at 10:27 am
Talk with your mom first. If it’s too painful for her (or for you), then choose another. I personanally love James and Oliver together. But, how about a variation of Henry, like Henrik?
on July 4th, 2015 at 12:01 pm
If possible and if you and your SO like one, you could use a nickname. Name your baby Henry but choose a nickname you like and that would be used most of the time.
A few I suggest are: Hal, Harry, Hank
on July 4th, 2015 at 5:48 pm
How awful! I agree with everything said….
on July 10th, 2015 at 12:34 am
on April 13th, 2016 at 8:26 am
I’m so sorry for your dilemma, it’s difficult enough finding the perfect name without being torn in this way! But I honestly feel that you should stick with the name Henry. You said yourself that you and your husband have been using the name when referring to your baby for months and it’s PERFECT. I would hate for you to settle on another name that doesn’t feel right over a reference from many years ago – that until very recently you weren’t even aware of! I personally feel that it is a vague location reference to a tragic accident, and should not influence your decision at all. The joy that your beautiful son brings will certainly outweigh any negative connotations that the name has for your family. Best of luck, I wish you every happiness!
on July 17th, 2016 at 9:43 am
Harry is so like Henry. Plus, if you like Harry Potter, bam a nod to a great book
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.