Name Sage: English-Spanish Baby Names for a Daughter
I am due in July with baby number two, a girl. My husband and I are having a difficult time agreeing on names.
We are looking at both English and Spanish baby names. My husband’s only condition is that it can be pronounced easily in both Spanish and English. I am a little more flexible in that my only requirement is that it not be too popular.
Our surname ends with “-in” and while our son’s name is Julian, this time we’d like to steer away from similar sounding names. M names are also out due to our surname.
He likes Naomi, Elena, and Natalia but I’m on the fence about all three. I also like Eliana, but it almost breaks my rule about not sounding too much like our last name, and it might be too close to our son’s name.
Is there a way to make popular names work without sacrificing that unique feeling of a rare name?
The Name Sage replies:
I love this question: Is there any way to make popular names work without sacrificing that unique feeling of a rare name?
The answer is yes … and no.
If your favorite name for your daughter is Sofia, the fact that lots of other parents have discovered the name doesn’t have to make it any less special for you. And just because your daughter shares a name with other girls her age doesn’t make her any less beloved. Focus on the reasons you love the name, and why it is the right choice for your family, and maybe concerns about popularity will fade.
Practically speaking, you can also choose a really unusual middle name. There will be many fewer girls named Sofia Aranza than Sofia Rose. It’s also possible to choose an unusual nickname – Sosie for Sofia, or Ibby for Isabel – that might make a name feel a little different.
But what you can’t control is how often you’ll meet other girls who share your daughter’s first name. If that bothers you – and it does bother many parents – it’s worth looking for something slightly less common.
Let’s see if we can find some English/Spanish crossover names not in the current US Top 250 but still nicely familiar.
Lucia – Lucia is just inside the current US Top 250, and it’s catching on – but it remains much less common than Sofia and company. It could be a good compromise between a Top Ten name and one that’s much less common.
Catalina or Caterina – Romance language versions of Katherine are another possibility. They’re traditional, but less common. It might be a great way to arrive at a relatively rare name that everyone recognizes.
Maribel, Anabel – If Calista can substitute for Camila, maybe Maribel could substitute for Isabel? Another potential bonus with Maribel: it’s originally a contraction of Maria and Isabel – which would tie your daughter’s name to your name, Mary.
Vera – Vera is used in over a dozen European languages, as well as English. It doesn’t get much more international than that. It’s a little shorter than most of the names on your list, but the culture-spanning qualities might make it worth consideration.
Bianca – If you like the B sound of Beatrice, I wonder if you’d consider Bianca? I’ve heard that Blanca is the traditional Spanish form of Blanche, while Bianca is the Italian. But Bianca seems to sound just right in Spanish. It’s also the name of the younger daughter in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, which makes it nicely literary.
Graciela, Gracia – Grace is a very common name in the US right now. Choosing a Spanish form of the name, like Gracia or Graciela, might give you the best of both worlds: popular nickname Gracie and the slightly less common Spanish version, Graciela.
If you’re concerned about popularity, my sense is that names like Lucia and Sabrina are better choices than Isabel and Sofia. And yet, there are lots of names on your lists – like Camila and Elena – that fall somewhere in between.
Let’s have a quick poll here, because I’m curious to see if readers find your favorite names especially popular.
Readers, have you used more popular names, like Isabel or Natalia? If so, can you share your experience? Also, please share more great Spanish/English crossover names with Mary and her family. Thanks!
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on March 23rd, 2016 at 3:36 am
Some other ideas:
Sabela (used in Western Spain for Isabel)
on March 23rd, 2016 at 4:34 am
We, too, reached out to The NameSage a few weeks ago before the birth of our 4th child. She had some great suggestions for us, but in the end we went with Olivia Maxine (knowing the Olivia is VERY popular but it was the one name we both loved). We will call her Livvy. My cousin has 2 children (a boy and a girl) both with names in the top 10 and she was the one who convinced me to use whatever name we liked best – she has never once regretted her name choices. And I feel better that the number of occurrences per 100 is much smaller for the top names than it was even when I was a child… Good luck with your decision, follow your heart!
on March 23rd, 2016 at 4:45 am
That’s a lovely message from Jackiehog.
I love Sophia but didn’t choose it for my daughter due to its popularity, it’s a beautiful name.
I also like Lucia very much and think is a great suggestion.
All I can offer are others I love;
on March 23rd, 2016 at 6:00 am
Coming from an hispanic community, I’m going to add a few names for consideration that I’ve heard and that are somewhat less common, but translate well into English.
on March 23rd, 2016 at 7:58 am
Maybe it depends on where you live, but I haven’t heard the name Camila on a little girl around here at all.
I like NameSage’s suggestions of Lucia, Serena, Maribel, and Graciela. I also really love the name Marisol. There are so many lovely hispanic names that cross over into English well–I’m sure you’ll find something perfect for your daughter!
on March 23rd, 2016 at 8:16 am
Ophelia (Ofelia en español) I think is a great option, and is a name I am crushing on.
Vera, a name on my shortlist, is also very pronounceable in Spanish.
Josephine (hard j) or Josefina (with the Spanish pronunciation, like an h) might good options as well – and also the children can have the same first initial without (necessarily) having the name sound, if you pronounce it the Spanish way. (I find both pretty though, honestly)
You could also go with a Spanish word name. Sera sounds like Sarah to english speakers, and means “will be” in Spanish (its a verb form).
Well I hope that helps! Good luck. Would love to know what you choose.
on March 23rd, 2016 at 8:52 am
Love suggestiones Lucia, Ophelia, Vera, and Sabrina.
I don’t think Naomi is too popular. Some others:
on March 23rd, 2016 at 8:53 am
on March 23rd, 2016 at 11:49 am
I voted for use what you love but yes, Isabel and Sofia are everywhere! If popularity is a concern, definitely steer clear and maybe use as a middle.
As always, Abby knocked it out of the park with her suggestions. My favorites being:
on March 23rd, 2016 at 12:22 pm
I used the name Eli, the most popular of any of my kids’ names, and I don’t regret it at all. It is crazy popular when you add up all the Elijah, Elias, and Eli variations. However, we’ve only met one other Eli. My sister has a Colombian husband so she also picks names that work for both languages. Her daughter, Elena, is the only Elena I’ve ever met. There was a baby born recently in our neighborhood named Camille–the first Camille we’ve ever met. We know only one Sophia and only one Isabel (my niece). My sister has worried that Sebastian is going to get too popular and her son will be one of many–but she’s never met another one and I have only met one and he’s much older. It is totally luck of the draw what names will show up in your own neighborhood. I wouldn’t let popularity worry you too much. It is most important to love the name you say dozens of times every day. 🙂
If you are looking for another choice, I would recommend Miriam. It works in both languages and is lovely–however not as flowy as the names you seem to prefer. Because of that, I vote Maribel for you. It has the femininity of Isabel, is lovely, but is not used as often. I just named my baby Annabel two weeks ago–so I am a huge fan of that name!! We used the Scottish spelling but the Anabel spelling is beautiful as well.
on March 23rd, 2016 at 1:01 pm
Valentina, Luciana, Martina, Martha, Ariana would all also translate between the two languages! Martha is pronounced more like Marta but it is commonly used in Spanish.
on March 23rd, 2016 at 5:25 pm
Although these are not necessarily Spanish or English names, I think these can all be well pronounced by both speakers.
Hope these help ☺
on March 23rd, 2016 at 5:29 pm
Ooh, Daisy–good one.
on March 23rd, 2016 at 5:51 pm
Noemi! It has the No- of the Noelle you love and is the Spanish form of Naomi. Beautiful name.
on March 23rd, 2016 at 6:28 pm
To me popular names lose their Appel once they’ve been overused. But if you are completely sold on Isabel or Sofia, that shouldn’t stop you. However, it doesn’t sound like you’re totally convinced that either of these are the one for you. I love so many of these suggestions here. My daughters’ names include Evelina and Iria and the reactions have all been positive! I also second Catalina, Calista, and Marisol!!
on March 23rd, 2016 at 7:49 pm
I want to suggest Amalia. It’s the name we have chosen for future use and one of our requirements is that a name be easy to pronounce in Spanish, English, and German.
on March 24th, 2016 at 6:54 am
I’m suggesting Paloma, Araceli/Aracely, and Magali.
on March 24th, 2016 at 7:21 am
I’m going to echo Serena (sometimes pronounced seh-REN-ah as well as seh-REE-na) and even Seren as part of that little name bundle. They remind me of Sabrina too.
I don’t know if Serafina is too unusual for you guys, but it’s also a sweet option.
Speaking of sweet, something like “Dulcie” or “Cora” might have that sound you’re looking for?
Eleni may also be a less popular name than Elena, I’m not sure if you like that variation better than your husband’s suggestion.
My last suggestion is Joelle or Jolie (instead of Noelle).
I hope you can find something you both love!
on March 24th, 2016 at 10:46 am
I would suggest Isadora or Theadora to replace Isabel. There is also Mirabel and Annabel.
I think Ophelia is a nice update on Sofia. I would also suggest Phoebe, Daphne and Serefina.
I have a close friend named Bibiana goes by Bibi – much like Viviana/Vivi.
on March 24th, 2016 at 12:29 pm
What about Fabiola? I think it’s darling and the nickname Fabi is…well…fabulous!
on March 24th, 2016 at 5:15 pm
Arabel instead of Isobel?
on March 24th, 2016 at 7:02 pm
Having lived in Spain (I have my degree in Spanish) and living now in the Bay Area with a large Hispanic population, giving a name that could be pronounced easily by both English- and Spanish-speakers was important to me, too. My daughter is Calyssa; although we normally pronounce it kuh-LISS-uh, it’s also fine pronounced as kah-LEES-ah, which we hear often from her Latina friends.
on March 25th, 2016 at 3:07 pm
My daughter goes to a Spanish immersion daycare and it’s interesting which names have proven a struggle for the staff vs. which ones they don’t. My daughter’s name is Rosemary, and they emphasize it differently, but still say ‘Rosemary’ or ‘Rose’ no problem. But there’s a girl named Maura and they pronounce it ‘Moor-a’. Even Taylor sounds very different for them, and they struggle with the name Lachlan. So probably something with either recognizable words (if you like smoosh names), or classics (love the idea of Caterina!) will help you find a name you love that doesn’t cause any pronunciation issues.
I also thought the suggestions of Noemi and Ariana were a nice. Might I also suggest Erica? It translates into most languages from Japanese, to Norwegian to Spanish very easily.
on March 26th, 2016 at 2:13 pm
Ofelia or Ophelia might be a nice choice
Slightly Different Baby Names: Silas & Sylvie – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Said
on March 27th, 2016 at 10:50 pm
[…] birth announcements that seemed to be based on finding slightly different names. It was also the topic we discussed in the latest Name Sage post – and you had some amazing suggestions for the family whose favorites include Isabel and […]
on March 28th, 2016 at 8:58 pm
Safira would work too
on March 31st, 2016 at 4:23 am
Rafaela (I know it’s said above, but according to behindthename, it’s the Spanish spelling), Marisol, Paloma, Estela, Calista, Noemi, Cecilia, Viviana
Others: Delfina, Aurora, Eloisa, Emilia, Gisela, Silvia, Marcela, Perla, Veronica, Romina, Laura, Clara
on April 9th, 2016 at 3:51 am
My favourites that will fit the bill for you are Lucia, Marisol and Serafina. All pronounceable in English and Spanish and not all that common. But go with what you love!
on April 21st, 2016 at 1:51 am
As a California girl married to a Cuban man, I definitely understand your search for the perfect name. My suggestions:
on April 23rd, 2016 at 6:08 am
I really LOVE Sofia and Isabel !
These names are so sweet and they are perfect for your daughter !
I think if you love a name, you musn’t look popularity, but just use it !
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