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Name Sage: Girlish Baby Names with Boyish Nicknames

April 19, 2016 Abby Sandel

Shae writes:

My wife and I are expecting our first daughter in early July and cannot lock in a name.

I love distinctively classic feminine names that have a touch of alternative, like Florence, Clementine, and Estelle.

My wife likes more “tomboy” names like Pippa, Hudson, and Quinn. None of these even come close to something I would choose.

Based on this we are trying to find names that fit my criteria with an appropriate nickname that my wife loves. We have come up with Harriet/Hattie and Madeline/Maddie. But neither name feels right.

We do both absolutely love Clementine, but the nickname is always a bit of troublesome here.

Her middle name will be Ila -it’s a family name. Our surname is short, simple, starts with an M, and lends itself easily to almost every name.

If it were up to me, I would choose Florence Ila. I love the romance, but it’s a bit too much for my wife.

Names we love but have crossed off are Lola (clashes with Ila) and Esme (too repetitive with our surname).

The Name Sage responds:

I think you’ve already keyed in on the best strategy: a longer, more feminine given name and a shorter, more unisex nickname for everyday use.

Happily, there are dozens and dozens of possibilities! Because Clementine, Florence, and Estelle are a little less common, I’m guessing that you’d prefer to avoid some of the really obvious choices, like Alexandra called Alex or Charlotte called Charlie.

Let’s start with your short list. There are a few names that might work, with just a little bit of creativity and compromise.

Clementine, called Cleo or Coco – First, since you both like Clementine, let’s see if we can find a great nickname. Clemmie might be the default, but I’ve seen both Cleo and Coco suggested. They’re unexpected choices, I think they have the same appeal as Pippa or Quinn.

Louise Ila, Lois Ila, or Lorraine Ila called Lola – A few years ago, I met a Lorraine Alice, named for her grandmothers, who answered to Lola. Clever, right? You could do something similar, choosing a more traditional first name starting with Lo, and pairing it with the –la of Ila.

Josephine called Pippa Pippa is traditionally a nickname for Philippa – that’s Pippa Middleton’s full name. But it could work for other names, too, and my favorite for you is Josephine. It’s elegant, traditional, and feminine. Josie is the go-to nickname, along with just Jo, as in Jo March of Little Women fame. But the Spanish Pepe comes from José, and I’ve seen Posy suggested for Josephine, too. So why not another P name, like Pippa? I’ve also seen parents considering Finn as a nickname for Josephine, which seems like another great compromise.

But if Clementine, Pippa, and Lola are off the table, there are still plenty of names to consider:

Aurora, Marjorie, Lorelei, Coraline, or Victoria called Rory Rory is traditionally an Irish boy’s name, but it’s been used for girls in small numbers, too. The Gilmore Girls gave us Lorelai called Rory. There are plenty of other traditional feminine names with a strong “ro” or “or” sound that could shorten to Rory, too.

Rosemary, Rosemarie, Rosamond, Romilly, or Romelia called Romy Rory always reminds me of Romy. It’s originally a German nickname for Rosemary. Like Pippa and Coco, it’s more popular for girls

Georgia, Georgiana, or Georgette called Georgie Georgia is one of those names that everyone likes, but remains relatively underused. Georgiana and Georgette are pretty rare. Any of the names shortens to the boyish Georgie, which feels very retro and fun in 2016.

Margaret or Marguerite called Maisie, Greer, Grete, or Rhett – The most traditional names tend to be the most nickname-rich, and Margaret is no exception. Since Hattie made your maybe list, I wonder if nickname the Scottish Maisie would appeal? Grete is German, and it makes sense if you say Marguerite fast. Greer is a surname derived from Gregory, not Margaret – but with the strong “gr” sound in Margaret, I think it works. And Ret/Rhett is a super-boyish nickname name option that could work for Margaret, too. (I can’t take credit for the last one – the marvelous Aela Mass suggested it first!)

Juliet or Juliette called Jet or Jett – If we’re thinking about Rhett, why not Jett? In this case, Jett has a little more history as a feminine name. Jette is used in Dutch as a nickname for –ette ending names like Henriette. Juliet is quite the romantic pick, and pairing it with nickname Jett makes it edgy and cool.

UPDATE: She’s here! Welcome Estelle Ila, and thanks to all for your help.

About the author

Abby

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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