Name Sage: Choosing Names When You Disagree

June 3, 2020 Abby Sandel
Choosing names when you disagree

This week’s dilemma: choosing names when you disagree.

Katy and her partner have very different taste in names. It took them nearly a week to settle on Thea Margot for their firstborn. This time, she’d like to be prepared with a name in advance!

Katy writes:

I’m hoping you and your wisdom can help me.

I’m 20 weeks pregnant with my second child (gender unknown).

My daughter was named after five days, when my partner and I were just simply fed up of name conversations. (The midwife found us a names book!) It broke my heart because I love names and had so many that were vetoed in the process. We never really clicked on a name together.

She is called Thea Margot. Not that I don’t love it – I do – I just somehow don’t think that is really her name. When I would raise my concerns in the first few months that I didn’t think it was her name, people would ask “well what is it” and I couldn’t answer – I had no idea what her name should be! Throughout my pregnancy a girl was always going to be called Annie Rose.

I need some names that go with Thea and for this time, for my baby’s name to feel like his/her name. The only stipulation is that it cannot be an H name, which annoys me because I love Helena and Hannah.

I also really like Alex, George, or Sam for a boy, but they’re all used by close family members. Annie, Phoebe, and Sophie are on my list for a girl, but Annie is the only one my partner likes.

I am dreading going through the same doubts and heartache over a name and I want to really enjoy this process!

The Name Sage replies:

It might not have been your first – or fifteenth! – choice, but Thea Margot is a great name, and I’m sure your daughter wears it well.

If you’re feeling stuck again, it might help to shift the conversation. Instead of talking about names, discuss the qualities you’d both like in a name. Is it important to find something a little bit different? It sounds like maybe you’re trying to avoid nicknames. And I wonder if your partner, especially, has a strong preference for classic choices.  

Rejecting a suggested name is so easy. All it takes is a frown or a shake of the head. But really thinking through what you both value in a child’s name? That’s a different kind of process. (If you’re a number-cruncher, you might even plug your answers into this spreadsheet from Nancy’s Baby Names.)

Most importantly, talking about qualities changes the dynamic from you-suggest, your-partner-rejects. Instead, you’re working together to find areas of agreement.

That’s so much more enjoyable than the alternative!


Speaking of agreement, it sounds like you both like Annie. As with Thea, it might not be your all-time favorite. But I’m going to assume it makes a good starting point.

If Annie Rose is almost the right name, I wonder if a more daring middle would appeal? And, of course, Anna and Anne might work every bit as well.

Anna Callisto

Anna Sophia

Anne Phoebe

Anne Sophie

Annie Juliet

Annie Elena

If none of these choices sound quite right, maybe you’d consider:

Chloe – A Greek e-ending name like Phoebe, but one that’s been more popular in recent years, and might feel more familiar.

Claire – Like Anne, a trim, sophisticated name.

GracieAnnie reminds me of Gracie, another traditional choice with an –ie ending.

Rose – Maybe your favorite middle name actually works better as a first?

Violet – Of course, if flower names appeal, there are dozens to consider. Violet feels nicely vintage, while still familiar.

My favorites are Anne Phoebe, or maybe something like Chloe Annabelle. They’re mainstream choices, but they have a little bit of spark, too – just like Thea Margot.  


When it comes to boy names, I think we’re looking for something brief and traditional, but still very current.

Isaac – A Biblical boy name that’s both long-established and stylish, Isaac carries a joyful meaning: laughter.

Jack – Equal parts classic and casual, Jack is the name of heroes from fairy tales to Hollywood.

Leo – The ‘o’ ending makes Leo bright and modern, but this name traces its origins to the ancient world. (One hesitation: when I say Thea and Leo, it might be misheard as Theo and Leah.)

Max – This name combines the ‘x’ of Alex with the brevity of Sam. Longer forms, like Maxwell, are options, too.

Owen – If you like the ‘o’ of Margot and Leo, maybe you’ll love a name that starts with the same sound?

Xavier – A Top 100 choice since 2001, Xavier hits a sweet spot, less buttoned-up James and Joseph, but still a familiar, enduring choice.

My favorite is Jack. Yes, it’s popular. But I never tire of hearing it. And with a great middle name – Jack Xavier, maybe? – it could be traditional enough to satisfy your partner, but with enough excitement to thrill a name lover, too!

Choosing names when you disagree can be a challenge. But I think you’re smart to start early, and to look for something you can both feel good about.

Readers, over to you – what would you suggest as a sibling for Thea Margot? Advice on choosing names when you disagree with a partner is welcome, too!

About the author


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

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