Name Sage: Do rules make baby naming easier?
Do too many rules make naming a baby impossible, or is a solid list of must-haves the key to finding a great name for daughter number three?
We are counting down the days until our fifth child and third daughter arrives at the end of June. We cannot wait to meet her, but I’m growing anxious she will arrive nameless.
My husband and I are picky, and I especially have a lot of naming rules. What do we need to let go of to find something we love?
Meaning – This is more important to me than my husband, though it still matters to him. Our daughters have names that mean precious things to me – Clara Sophia (light and wisdom) and Eve Marian (our mother in nature and our mother in grace). If I love a name and find out it has a negative meaning, it is out!
No repeats – We have a large circle of family and friends who are excellent baby namers. Because we see these loved ones often, we can’t use Isabel(la), Genevieve, Evangeline, Lucia, Abigail, Anna, Rose, Sarah, Celine, Gemma, or Miriam.
Popularity – We aren’t extreme about this, but definitely no Top Ten.
We have recently talked about Juniper, but don’t know about a middle, and my husband is unsure. He really likes Elizabeth but I am underwhelmed. We both sort of like Thea, but both want to more than ‘sort of’ like the name.
Any advice is so greatly appreciated!
The Name Sage replies:
Rules can be so helpful! Your list of criteria allowed you to narrow down the possibilities to choose wonderful names for your older children.
As you recognize, that same list might now stand between you and The Name for baby number five.
If your surname rules out any names with a strong ‘or’ sound, then that requirement stays. The same is true for repeats. If you’ve decided your child’s name should be unique among your close family and friends, then those names aren’t options. And since you’re only ruling out the Top Ten, that’s a pretty reasonable approach to popularity.
That leaves meaning, traditional use, and originated as a girl’s name.
If this were your first or second child, I might argue that traditional use could go. But I have a hard time imagining a really modern name, like River or Sloane, fitting in with Damian, Malachi, Clara, and Eve. Maybe that’s why Juniper – a truly fantastic name – strikes me as not quite right, at least as a first name.
I would encourage you to reconsider the last two criteria.
Meaning is tricky. It’s tough to condense all of the history of a name into a word or short phrase. Often our descriptions mention the most commonly associated meaning – but then discuss other origins and meanings, too. As for originating as a girl’s name, I understand the impulse – and yet, so many gorgeous names with great meanings and long histories of use do have a well-known masculine counterpart.
All of that said, I was able to find plenty of strong possibilities that satisfy your list – and even more if we’re a little more flexible.
June – If Juniper feels like it’s not quite right, how about just June? It has a long history of use, but isn’t too common today. Juniper could still be a pet name for your daughter. One downside? It sounds like she’ll be born in June, which might make the name feel a little too obvious. (Or exactly right.) Another alternative might be Julia, though it started out as a feminine form of Julius.
Louise – If you’re willing to consider feminine forms, might Louise work? It has the ‘oo’ sound of Juniper, and yet feels much more traditional. It’s also close to Lucia, but not so close it would cause confusion. And I think it has the same tailored appeal as Eve. Louise comes from Ludwig, and ultimately means “famous warrior” – a surprisingly fierce meaning for such a lady-like choice!
Lucy – In medieval England, Margaret became Margery, Cecilia became Cecily, and Lucia became Lucy. Lucy’s meaning is the same as Clara’s – light. If it seems too close to the Lucia in your circle, I wonder if you’d like Lucille – which shares Lucy’s meaning but is even less similar to Lucia – or lovely Lily, which is popular, but not Top Ten in the US.
Grace – You’ve mentioned that meaning matters. Is there any name that fulfills this requirement as nicely as Grace? It’s elegant but accessible, familiar but not Top Ten. Grace Juniper is an appealing combination, or you might consider Grace Ginevra – an Italian form of the name. (Leonardo da Vinci once painted an Italian noblewoman named Ginevra de’ Benci seated under a juniper tree; it’s the only Leonardo on view in the US.)
Constance – Constance has fallen out of favor as a child’s name, but it’s a choice rich with meaning. As nicknames go, Connie is rather dated – but Constance fits right in with girls called Grace and Faith, Serenity and Journey, no nickname required. It reminds me of names you’ve ruled out, like Caroline, Abigail, and Eleanor. Another similar choice might be Celeste, which refers to the sky or the heavens.
Serena – It sounds like your husband is reluctant to consider modern choices, like Seren, a Welsh name meaning star. I wonder if the more traditional Serena would win him over? It means peaceful, originated as a feminine name sometime before the fourth century, and isn’t too common.
Helena, Helen, or Lena – Serena makes me think of Helena. It’s also ancient, has an appealing meaning (shining light), and doesn’t crack the Top 200. Helen might be the better match for sisters Clara and Eve. There’s also Lena, originally short for lots of names ending with –lena, but today an independent given name. It can be tough to attach a meaning to Lena, but it does remind me of your almost, but not quite name, Thea.
Alice – Alice comes from Adalheidis, which means noble. It’s also originally a feminine name. That’s two of the trickier criteria to satisfy – not bad! Alice is in the US Top 100, but feels classic, not trendy. It might hit the sweet spot between the tailored, modern names that you like (Seren and Elowen) and the more conventional names your husband favors, like Elizabeth. If Alice isn’t quite the right name, I wonder if Elise – originally a short form of Elizabeth used in German and Scandinavian languages – might appeal.
Margaret or Margot – Margot succeeds because it has a fresh, modern sound, but also history galore. A form of the enduring Margaret, the name means pearl, though it’s also associated with daisies, thanks to the French version of the name – Marguerite. Clara, Eve, and Margot sound exactly right together. Another possibility might be Pearl – a nature name with literary and spiritual ties.
Overall, I like Margot best as a sister name for Damian, Malachi, Clara, and Eve. It’s just modern and different enough without straying from the criteria you’ve used to name your older kids. Margot June, Margot Juniper, and Margot Celeste are my favorite combinations.
Readers, is Margot the name that jumps out at you, or would you suggest something different to Kate and her family? Do you think some of the rules need to go, or can you think of more ideas that check every box? Am I too hasty to dismiss Juniper?
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on May 31st, 2016 at 11:13 pm
There do seem to be two kinds of namers out there: those with rules and those for whom passion for a particular name is the only rule.
Sounds like this couple is of the former type and I am of the latter.
Both ways are fine, but I can’t say that having rules seems to make the process easier. To me, it sounds more like a word puzzle. I know if I used the rules mode, I’d come up with a list of names that were nice but not necessarily igniting my passion.
Best of luck, with or without rules!
on May 31st, 2016 at 11:41 pm
Sofi = “Wisdom”
Nadia = “Hope”
Ramona = “Wise”
Bernadette = “Brave”
Valencia = “Brave”
Bellerose = “Beautiful”
Elethea = “Truth”
Emmett = (I know it breaks one of your rules but it doesn’t break any others so I’m including just in case) “Truth”
Verity = “Truth”
Alair = “Happy”
Felicity = “Happy”
Hillary = “Happy” (may be too associated to Hillary Clinton but it has a nice meaning”
Halia = “Loved”
Kalila = “Happy”
on June 1st, 2016 at 12:04 am
From Abby’s list I like Helen. I’ll add Gloria, Felicity and Theresa nn Tess. All have good meanings or significance and I think (!) follow the rules 🙂
on June 1st, 2016 at 12:05 am
Noooo Gloria has the “or” sound. So close!!
on June 1st, 2016 at 1:22 am
how about juliet? it’s similar to juniper but more classic, has a different ending (and beginning) than the other names, and it’s pretty cute! I like margot but wouldn’t want to repeat malachi and margot (but that’s just me). violet could also work. (i know sisters violet, beatrix and margot, so beatrix could be another option?). lucy would be perfect! how about:
on June 1st, 2016 at 1:50 am
First of all can I say – you have some beautifully named children! All your kid’s names are so full of meaning but accessible and pretty.
I kind of like what @lesliemarion said about “passion for a particular name is the only rule”. I think if there’s a name that you’re both passionate about but it doesn’t necessarily fit all your rules, just go for it! I like Abby’s suggestions of Alice, Grace, Serena, and I would like Margaret / Margot but they already have an ‘M’, Malachi.
I have to second @sweetchariot suggestion of Theresa. I suggest Gwendolyn, Lillian, Ariadne, Lydia, Beatrice, Faith, Galatea, Honor, Imogen, Ione/ Iona / Ianthe, Ophelia, Phoebe, Rebecca, Seraphina (violates the male name rule), Theodora (but I guess this would be long form for Thea?), Viveca, Valor, Violet, Rose.
I would add Adelaide as an alternative to Alice since they’re the same name.
on June 1st, 2016 at 3:08 am
Verity, Irene, Sabrina, Vivienne, Vivica, Matilda, Adele.
on June 1st, 2016 at 6:22 am
I love the suggestion of Helen, I think it fits with her sisters. My favourite suggestion though is Margot June, I think this is beautiful. June is a great suggestion! 🙂
on June 1st, 2016 at 6:27 am
The suggestion of Helena or Helen is by far my favorite. What a gorgeous, underused choice that would be.
I would also suggest:
Nadine (means hope!)
on June 1st, 2016 at 6:28 am
I love rules they stop me from being overwhelmed by the thousands of names I love haha!!!
Personally I love Margot and June from the list, and agree that Juniper doesn’t seem to fit with your other children’s names.
Id also add Rose or Rosalie to consider.
on June 1st, 2016 at 7:36 am
I, myself, love a good naming rule to stick by. My main two rules are to not have the same first initials or same “ending sounds”. So in this case, that would eliminate any names beginning with D, M, C or E – I really love the suggestions of Elise and Celeste, but there is already Clara and Eve. It would also eliminate name suggestions ending in –n, -I, -a and –v. This is mainly about sibling flow – Clara and Helena/Thea/Julia just don’t flow as nicely as say, Clara and Alice. Hopefully I haven’t added other rules to add to the list! Out of the Name Sage’s suggestions that remain, I like Alice, Pearl and Lucille (although a little close to Lucia) the most. I also like fellow Berry suggestions of Juliet, Violet, Hazel, Beatrice and Adelaide.
Here’s some other suggestions –
Therese, Iris, Opal, Blythe, Joy and Faye.
on June 1st, 2016 at 7:38 am
A friend of mine has rules that are very similar to yours…
Rosalind (beautiful rose), Viola (the flower or the instrument), Emmeline (hard working), Beatrice (love this with your sibset… she who brings happiness), Iris (rainbow), Naomi (pleasantness), Zoe (life), Ruth (compassionate friend), Astrid (divinely beautiful), Tabitha (gazelle), Adele (noble), Adelaide (noble), Adelina (noble), Adeline (noble), Stella (star), Parisa (looks like an angel), Vera (truth), Verity (truth), Nova (new), Tallula (lady of abundance), Beatrix (see Beatrice), Gemma, Freya (a noble woman), Anna (graceful), Annabelle (loving), Pearl, Ruby, Celeste, Phoebe (radiant, shining one), Cassandra (prophetess), Laurel, Annette, Daphne (laurel tree, bay tree), Violet, Hazel, Faye (fairy), Mabel (lovable), and Fern. Of course, all flowers and gems have their own symbolism that you can look up…
on June 1st, 2016 at 8:45 am
I like Alice from the list! I second the ideas of Felicity, Beatrice, & Violet.
Above poster suggestered Theresa nn Tess, I was wondering if just Tess or Tessa might be right. After all, Clara & Eve are both relatively short, Clara, Eve & Tessa sounds perfect to me!
on June 1st, 2016 at 9:30 am
I would also eliminate any repeating initials. From the Name Sage I really like Serena…& would pair it w/Juniper or June…& Lily, although I’d spell it Lillie. From the previous comments I second Juliet, Iris, Phoebe, & Daphne.
on June 1st, 2016 at 11:01 am
You and I sound might be cut from similar cloth! Some good ground rules can definitely make baby-naming easier, but when it comes around to naming baby #5, you might need to jettison the rule book if it’s keeping you from using a name that you really love. I know we had to with our sixth. My husband’s rule of “no place names” left what would eventually be “the one” off of my first 2 short lists. My rule of “honor a family member with the middle name” got thrown out when my husband decided that he really liked something else better. Now, I’d be more reluctant to choose something that sounded discordant when next to the other children’s names–and I consider a great meaning or namesake a non-negotiable–but other than that, they aren’t really “rules”. They are preferences, and they are yours to make, bend, or unmake. 😉
on June 1st, 2016 at 12:23 pm
I like the suggestion of Alice. Alice June is a gorgeous combination! Alice Juniper is also lovely.
I’m so harrowing see June and its various forms returning to fashion. It’s feminine yet strong; classic yet striking; and for me, has only positive associations. One of my favorite cousins is named June ,(she was born in November; her sister April was born in October!)
on June 1st, 2016 at 12:23 pm
Happy*, not harrowing! Sheesh, autocorrect!!
on June 1st, 2016 at 12:56 pm
I really love Margot as an option and I think it works as far as a repeating initials goes because Malachi is a boy.. It also depends on how close those two would be in age. From readers suggestions I think Audrey would fit perfectly, it is a classic with a ton of good connotations. Congratulations!
on June 1st, 2016 at 2:02 pm
Love the names of your children, and also the ‘rules’ style of naming – names that fit my criteria are the ones that tend to last! First thoughts:
on June 1st, 2016 at 2:22 pm
I used to have very specific criteria: honor family names and stick to names with French origins, but I’ve really become lax about how to implement those two rules by playing around with them. Maybe the family name in the middle, or use a similar name. Or instead of using a French name, use a name popular in France. It’s opened up a whole list of new names for me and it’s become more fun to just appreciate everything.
on June 1st, 2016 at 4:37 pm
I love the suggestion of Margot!
I just want to point out that the “started out as a feminine name” rule doesn’t necessarily apply to the other two girls’ names. Clara comes from Latin for “clear, bright” and was used for males as Clarus (before wide use on females). Clarence isn’t necessarily popular, but it’s definitely a familiar male version of the name . Most Latin names come from words which are “masculine” or “feminine” (the way “mesa” in Spanish is feminine, but is a table really girly? No, it’s just the way the language works) but not necessarily limited to one sex. I only point that out to help widen the pool; it opens you up to so many beautiful names! A large amount of Latin and Greek names were used on both sexes, such that it’s hard to determine in many cases whether they were first used for males or females.
Alexandra, for one, was actually used in the feminine form as a title for the goddess Hera. From Wikipedia: “The earliest attested form of the name is the Mycenaean Greek feminine anthroponym, ‘a-re-ka-sa-da-ra’ (transcribed as Alexandra)…”
on June 1st, 2016 at 4:48 pm
I like the name Kalia, but my mom thinks it sounds like a disease, and we’d usually use biblical names in my family, or variants of it. My middle name is a female Italian variant of Francis.
on June 1st, 2016 at 5:21 pm
Kate Felicity – “pure” “happiness”
on June 1st, 2016 at 7:50 pm
The Name Sage and the previous posters have some great options here! Here’s my two cents based on Abby’s ideas:
Lucy is a good match and meets the criteria. Too close to close friend’s daughter Lucia? Depends how they pronounce it. Is it Lu-see-uh, or Lu-shuh?
From Helen, you could also get to Elena. I love Elena Louise. Elise is also a good idea, like Abby suggested.
From Alice, you could branch off to either Alyssa/Alissa or Heidi.
Celeste and Serena are also nice.
on June 1st, 2016 at 8:57 pm
on June 1st, 2016 at 10:27 pm
Margot June gets my vote. Alice is lovely with Clara and Eve too.
on June 1st, 2016 at 10:51 pm
I love Margot June! One name that came to mind was Verity. Or perhaps another virtue name, like Hope?
on June 1st, 2016 at 11:13 pm
I love Margot Juniper & Margot Celeste!
I also like the sounds of Helen June, Stella Juniper, and Esther Grace.
on June 2nd, 2016 at 5:51 am
What about Lucy, Faye, Rosalie, Tessa, Abigail, Gemma
on June 2nd, 2016 at 6:24 am
So many rules, it made my head spin! Finding a name with a great meaning and traditional female origins takes a lot of work!
That said, I like others suggestions of June, Violet, Hazel and Beatrice.
on June 2nd, 2016 at 11:36 am
Want to second and third suggestion of Violet, Rose, Lily etc. Lily would be my first choice. (Lily can also be a nn for Elizabeth). Violet can also have the adorable nn Lettie or Vivi.
Also want to second the ideas of gem names. Ruby, Pearl, slightly out suggestion Esmeralda nn Esme.
I would add Mabel, nn May a sweet strong name that goes will with other names. Amada is also a sweet name.
Scarlet, Olive, Iris, Matilda, so many wonderful possibilities!
on June 3rd, 2016 at 5:22 pm
I love the name Regina–classic but vastly underused. I also like my name, Suzannah (it means lily) but have always wished mine was spelled with two S’s (Susannah). Finally, Corinne–classic and beautiful. All would pair beautifully with the middle name Grace.
on June 3rd, 2016 at 5:26 pm
p.s. I have a few rules too (perhaps guidelines is more apt as they are not set in stone).
I don’t like when the first and last names end in the same sound and usually don’t like the first and last name to have the same # of syllables, e.g. Kevin Bacon.
on June 4th, 2016 at 12:02 pm
Hard rules but I have to say that I love Margot June! However, like people have said previously, it begins with the same letter as Malachi (a great name as well! My eldest son’s middle name) so they may clash. I think Alice goes well with your other, well named, children. I found the names Adelpha (meaning ‘beloved sister’), Amara (meaning ‘lovely forever’), Esme (meaning ‘esteemed and beloved’ – I love this name with your other children’s but shares the same beginning letter as Eve), Adira (meaning ‘strong’), Bellatrix (meaning ‘female warrior’) and Althea (meaning ‘with healing power’ – could also be called Thea, the name you and your husband weren’t that sure on). For middle names, maybe you’d like to go with June or Juniper, or another name you like. Also really like Mabel, Beatrice and Rosalie as suggested by previous Berries. Good luck on naming your princess!
on June 5th, 2016 at 12:49 am
So many great name suggestions! I really like Margot June!
How about the following? I think they fit the beautiful names of your other children!
on June 5th, 2016 at 12:54 am
Sorry pressed enter by accident!
All the best! 🙂
on June 6th, 2016 at 11:56 am
I love Abby’s suggestions of June, Margot, Celeste, Alice and Lucy! Great names!
Some similar names:
Celine (means moon)
Eloise (means brave warrior)
Gabrielle/a although this breaks the Gabriel rule
Agnes (means pure)
on June 10th, 2016 at 11:06 pm
It seems like the meanings of the other two daughters are opposites or complimentary. I like ‘Serena Soliel’ meaning ‘moon and sun’, which fits nicely with ‘light and wisdom’ and ‘mother of body and mother of grace’.
on June 14th, 2016 at 11:53 pm
I think rules are good! There’s tons of great suggestions here.. Now I just want to know what you go with!
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