Name Sage: Finding a Subtle Honor Name
By Abby Sandel
We’re having a delivery surprise, so we need both a boy’s name and a girl’s name.
Ideally, we’d like the name to share the same characteristics as Everett’s name.
Here’s the most difficult part. We’d like to honor a loved one with the name. The names that we could use are Christopher, Dennis, and Ryan – though none of those seem quite right. Also, our loved one was a huge fan of baseball, but a lot of baseball names seem too much like Wrigley or Babe.
The Name Sage replies:
It’s always a lovely idea to use an honor name, but I do think you’re wise to look for a way to make it your child’s own.
But it does make for a puzzle, doesn’t it? We can work with Dennis, Ryan, and Christopher – though Christopher is awfully close to dad’s name, so that’s a consideration. And, of course, baseball names are a rich category.
We’re also looking for a name that:
–Has an interesting meaning, preferably a virtue or nature-inspired name.
–Like Everett, a simple name that is not too common, but easily recognizable. Everett has risen quite a bit in recnet years, and ranked Number 167 in 2014. My sense is that you’d be comfortable with something even less popular, as long as it still felt familiar.
That’s a tall order! But I think there are some great options, and I know the readers will have even more ideas.
I’ve mixed the boy and girl names together, and I think some might work for either a son or a daughter.
Tennyson – This name came to mind the second I read your letter! Tennyson is a surname name based on Dennis, via Tenney, a medieval nickname. The link isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s there. Thanks to the poet, most of us instantly recognize the name and know how to spell it. There’s also the kid-superhero Ben 10, full name is Benjamin Tennyson. 47 boys and 25 girls were given the name in 2014.
Dyson – I can’t decide if Dyson is the ultimate Dennis update, or too associated with the vacuum cleaner. Dye was another medieval nickname for Dennis, so like Tennyson, Dyson means “son of Dennis.” Dyson also sounds very current, and there were 79 boys named Dyson in 2014.
Sidney/Sydney – There’s more than one possible origin for Sidney, but a popular theory is that it comes from the place name St. Denis. (Denis is the patron saint of France; if you listen to the pronunciation in French, it makes sense.) My only hesitation? Sydney has been very popular for girls in recent years, while Sidney has been obscure for boys. So it might feel either too common or too different – though I do think it works for boys and girls.
Dion, Dione, Dionne – Dennis originally comes from the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. Dion is a masculine form; Dione and Dionne, feminine. The talented singer Dionne Warwick comes to mind, as does Cher’s sidekick in Clueless, Dionne Davenport. I’m not sure that any form of this name is very current, but I do think they’re fresher than 1960s favorite Denise.
Carsten – This might be a stretch, but Christopher and Christian share similar roots, and Carsten is a German form of Christian. It’s distinct from Christopher and Kristopher, and fits in nicely with current favorites like Camden and Carter.
Mariana, Marianna, Maryanna, Marianne, Maryanne – Ryan had me stumped until I thought about names that included the letters. I’m not sure if Maryanna is your style, but it does include the name Ryan – subtle, but graceful. Mariana ranked Number 331 in 2014 – the most popular of the spellings – so I think it fits your definition of familiar, but not common.
Fielder – Moving on to baseball! I’m not a big fan, but my friend Kelli at The Name Freak! is, and she’s got a great post about baseball-related baby names. Fielder jumped out at me. It’s a term for any defensive player, but it also has a great nature name vibe. It’s rare as a given name, but ends-in-r choices are on the rise, and I think Fielder would be easily understood.
Nolan – Another great name from baseball, thanks to Nolan Ryan. Ooh, look – baseball and Ryan! Nolan comes from an Irish surname meaning noble, so the meaning is there, too. It seems like a great option, but it is a popular one. Nolan ranked Number 81 in the US in 2014.
Robinson, Gehrig, Mattingly – The surnames of legendary players could be a great source of inspiration. I’ve met a little boy called Robinson, so that leaps out at me as very wearable – except that it might seem like an honor name for mom, not your loved one. Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig’s surname pops up on birth announcements every now and again. Mattingly is a new one for me, but Kelli mentions that it could fit with all of the Madeline/Madison/Matilda names, and be shortened to Mattie for a girl.
Catherine – Ready for the most obscure baseball reference ever? Jane Austen’s young Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey prefers “cricket, base-ball, riding on horseback …” It’s one of the earliest references to the sport in writing. So while plenty of fictional characters have played the baseball before and since, Catherine has a special claim.
My favorites for a brother are Tennyson and Fielder: Everett and Tennyson, Everett and Fielder. For a girl, I’m torn – though if you like the idea of Maryanne or Mariana, I think that’s a clever, subtle nod to your loved one.
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