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Name Sage: Girl Names Tied to Symbols

Name Sage: Girl Names Tied to Symbols
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Aimee writes:

We have two daughters: Luna James and Lilia Wren. What I love about their names is that they have symbols attached – the moon and either a flower or a bird. No, we didn’t plan it that way! The names we liked best just happened to be these two. But now I want our next baby to have the same.

Our third (and probably last) is due this October. If it was a boy, we were thinking about River.

But it’s a girl, and we’d like to find another name with an obvious meaning. It doesn’t have to start with L.

I think the problem is that almost everything could be a girl's name – all the flowers and trees, etc. – so we have lots of names that have symbols, but they’re not necessarily names for our daughter.

What we really need is a list! Can you help?  

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The Name Sage replies:

This is a challenge!  

So many lovely names come with ambiguous meanings. And plenty of names that do have straightforward meanings aren’t easily represented by obvious symbols. Sage, for example, means wise. But what’s the sign for wisdom? A stack of books, maybe, or a light bulb? They work, but not quite as neatly.

It seems like the ideal name can be summed up in a single emoji.

That means, of course, that other floral names are probably out. So are Raven and Lark, as well as other names that mean moon, like Selena.

Of the options that remain, I also think we’re probably looking for something more familiar. Luna has been a Top 100 choice since 2016. And while Lilia is rare, Lily has become a Top 50 staple over the last decade. You could name your daughter Sequoia or Ocean, but I don’t think that’s quite what you have in mind, right?

Let’s look at more mainstream favorites with clear – and positive - symbols and meanings.

ARIA

A musical name that’s ranked in the Top 100 since 2012, Aria is light and feminine. A musical note – or maybe a treble clef – would work nicely as your daughter’s symbol. But maybe Aria’s –ia ending is too much like Lilia?

BELLA

I love the way that Bella shares the strong L sound of Luna and Lilia, but starts with a different letter. And while Bella means beautiful, a bell is obvious shorthand for this familiar favorite.

BROOKE

A favorite from the 1980s and 90s, Brooke comes to mind mainly because you mentioned River for a son. It’s more likely to belong to a mother than a daughter in 2021 – or to a brother called Brooks. But Brooke does check the boxes. And if you’re attached to the image of River, it’s a good substitute. Of course, it’s tempting to consider River for a daughter – it ranks in the girls’ Top 200 as of 2020. But it doesn’t quite sound like a sister for Luna and Lilia.

IRIS

Luna and Lilia feel a little bit vintage, but with lots of modern energy. The same is true for Iris. Yes, it’s a flower. But before that, Iris was goddess of the rainbow in Roman myth. That makes Iris a name with an optimistic and appealing symbol attached. It’s just outside of the current Top 100, too, so it seems like a good balance between the familiar and the distinctive.

MELODY

This name is as musical as Aria, but with a slightly different sound. Again, Melody’s strong L complements Luna and Lilia without seeming repetitive.

RUBY

A gemstone name, Ruby brings to mind not only the stones but also their deep red color. It’s a Top 100 favorite, and a logical sister name for Luna and Lilia, one that doesn’t repeat the beginning L or the ending -a sound.

STELLA

Bella appears farther up on this list, but maybe Stella is the better name. It’s symbolized by a star – about as unambiguous as can be. Again, there’s the strong L sound. And it’s a nicely familiar name. Except … are Luna and Stella too much together? My first reaction was no, especially because there’s Lilia in between. But it might seem a little bit cute.

WILLOW

Since you’ve covered birds, flowers, and the night sky, a tree seems like the obvious category. And there are so many possibilities! Willow seems like a good fit, sound-wise, but I could also imagine a name like Hazel, Juniper, Aspen, or Olive with your older girls’ names.

Overall, I love the idea of a name with a strong L sound. That puts choices like Bella and Melody at the top of the list. Something like Bella Brooke might be the logical sister name for Luna James and Lilia Wren.

What would you suggest to Aimee for Luna and Lilia’s sister? Please visit the forums to weigh in on their decision.

About the Author

Abby Sandel

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 namesage@nameberry.com.

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