Name Sage: Reinventing Bernice
We have Penelope June and Malcolm Redding, and we’re expecting our third! My wonderful grandmother died a few days after I found out I was pregnant and we’d love to honor her if this baby is a girl. Her name was Bernice Vera.
My problems: our last name begins with an S and ends with a Z so I tend to steer very clear of first or middle names ending in S. Also, I like Bernice but I’m not sure that I love it.
What options do you see here? I know sometimes people honor relatives with a similar name. Do any stick out to you? Does Bernice S****z run together too much and sound muddy? Should we just put Vera as a middle name and call it good? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The Name Sage replies:
Bernice was big in the 1910s and 20s. Conventional wisdom holds that it takes about a century for a name to fall out of fashion and feel fresh again. So if you named your daughter Bernice in 2016, you might be exactly ahead of the curve.
Or not. There’s just no way to say when a vintage name will be ready for revival.
The spelling of Veronica was also influenced by the Latin phrase meaning true image – which is a religious concept, but also a lovely thought for a child named after a grandparent. But it gets even better, because the Latin phrase is vera icon.
But let’s keep looking, because there are plenty of other options.
Vera – You’ve mentioned using Vera as a middle name. That’s definitely a possibility, but Vera is a girl’s name on the upswing. If Veronica doesn’t appeal, would you consider Vera as your daughter’s first name? Vera Bernice is lovely, but Vera works with a great many middles. The name means faith in Russian, but it’s also associated with the Latin word meaning truth.
Verity – For something a little more offbeat, you could transform Vera into Verity, which comes directly from the Latin word. Another option along these lines is Alethea, which means truth in Greek. It’s rare, but could fit right in with girls named Amelia and Olivia.
Victoria – Let’s go back to Pherenike for a minute. Nike was the goddess of victory long before she became associated with all things sports, and Pherenike means “bringing victory.” Victoria is a regal possibility that’s close to cousin to Bernice.
Bea – Another thought might be to use just Bea, or even Bee. I think it would be an interesting middle option with almost any first name: Victoria Bea, Alethea Bea. I took the idea from actress Bea Arthur, born Bernice Frankel. Of course, some families choose honor names based on the first initial or sound only, so Beatrix might be an honor name for Bernice, too.
Bernadette – Despite sharing the same few letters, Bernadette and Bernice aren’t related. Bernadette is the feminine form of Bernard, which comes from the Germanic elements bear and brave. Bernadette has been in style limbo since the 1960s, but lately this name is attracting more positive attention. It has a clunky-cool vibe that might work well with siblings Penelope and Malcolm.
Seraphina – I’ll admit that Seraphina is a big stretch. Bernice doesn’t mean fiery, but it’s easy to hear burn in the first syllable of the name. Seraphina is Latin, from a Hebrew term in the Bible meaning fiery. It’s not a common name, though it’s been used more since Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck gave the name to their second daughter in 2009.
Overall, my favorite is still Veronica, maybe even with the middle name Bea. But I think there are plenty of options to honor your beloved grandmother, while choosing a name that feels brand new for your daughter.
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on January 20th, 2016 at 1:22 am
I agree with Abby that Bernadette and Vera could work.
I’m also partial to Guinevere with Vera as a nickname, and even the unusual Veranda with Vera as a nickname.
on January 20th, 2016 at 2:54 am
I have to say that Veronica is spookily perfect, especially Veronica Bea!
Verity is another potential first for nickname Vera.
on January 20th, 2016 at 4:11 am
I think that Veronica seems like the best fit. It honors grandmother, in a very awesome way but also seems more their style and fits well with Penelope and Malcolm.
on January 20th, 2016 at 7:54 am
Veronica seems like the perfect fit, but Verona from Vera could also work. Other options might be Verena or Vérène, Coptic forms of Bernice but otherwise just honouring the Vera part.
on January 20th, 2016 at 8:13 am
Wow! Name Sage blew this one out of the water! Veronica, nn. Vera, is way too perfect. Penelope, Malcolm and Veronica make an epic sibset, too.
on January 20th, 2016 at 8:46 am
I like Veronica as well! But I’m even more intrigued by the name Bea as a MN! It sounds just like the letter, but it’s so much cooler. Plus, it’s one syllable, just like Penelope’s MN June. I also like Victoria Bea.
on January 20th, 2016 at 8:52 am
I love Beatrix. Beatrix Vera, or Beatrix Guinevere would be my choice. Veronica Bee would be super cute as well!
on January 20th, 2016 at 9:40 am
I agree, Name Sage has hit on the absolutely perfect name for this baby—Veronica Bea!
on January 20th, 2016 at 10:09 am
I think Abby’s suggestion of Veronica is absolutely perfect. I like it as an honor name for Bernice, it fixes the run-on “s” sound (which isn’t a big deal, but still, it isn’t a factor at all with Veronica), and it sounds great with Penelope and Malcolm. Veronica Bea is adorable!
on January 20th, 2016 at 10:36 am
I’m not a huge fan of Veronica (feels very dated and 80s to me), but it does fit the bill. Veronica with the nn Vera would be nice. Bea is a great middle. Verona Bea or Verina Bea would be cute too. Victoria is ok, but not nns Tori or Vicky. Good luck to you!
on January 20th, 2016 at 10:50 am
I love the idea of Seraphina. The “burn” connection–however loose–is a great stretch and honestly it could work!
on January 20th, 2016 at 11:38 am
I love Veronica, so that’s my suggestion!
on January 20th, 2016 at 12:04 pm
Veronica Bea/Bee nickname Vera is literal perfection. Plus, it sounds like it matches Penelope June great!
on January 20th, 2016 at 12:16 pm
We have also looked into options for honoring my husband’s gma Bernice.
I just want to add that I also found Bernicia, Bernisa, and Bernina. In the end, I think I like Bernice the best, with it’s vintage charm.
And the nicknames for Bernice are plentiful:
Bea, Bee, Bennie, Bernie, Berry, Bertie, Bess, Bessie, Bibi, Birdie, Bixie, Bo, Bonnie, Erni, Neesa, Neecy, Nica, Nisa, Nixie
I love the suggestion of Veronica too.
on January 20th, 2016 at 12:42 pm
Veronica Bea is perfect!
on January 20th, 2016 at 3:20 pm
I love Bernice! My great-grandma passed away a few years ago and she was called Bernice. She pronounced it bur-nis. When we had our daughter a couple months ago, I wanted to honor her, so we used it as her middle name. Mylah Bernice. We did change the pronunciation to the more common “bur-niece” because it flows a bit better, but she could say it either way. Have you considered pronouncing it bur-nis instead? Would that work better with your last name?
on January 20th, 2016 at 4:24 pm
I love Bernice!!!! It has been on my top choice list for awhile. Granted, I have daughters named Harriet and Miriam (along with Emeline and Clover) so I’m a bit of an old-lady namer. However, Bernice, nickname Bea has got to be one of the prettiest, most fun names ever. I’m not a fan of Veronica, but there were lots of great suggestions. Good luck!
on January 20th, 2016 at 4:25 pm
I’ll chime in one more time to say that Bernice doesn’t need a nickname, but Birdie or Bridie or Bea are all so super cute!!!!
on January 20th, 2016 at 4:32 pm
I don’t usually like Veronica but here it’s just perfect!! I think this could be the best job in finding a name Abby has ever done on the namesage blogs. Veronic Bea sounds gorgeous, I hadn’t considered Bea as a middle name but it really works.
on January 20th, 2016 at 4:49 pm
Ok, I see how perfect Veronica is in *theory*, but I really don’t care for it! It seems really dated to me, as another person mentioned. I also don’t think it goes with Penelope very well. My vote is for Vera as a first. The name is so graceful, and I think it hits the right trendy-but-not-too-popular note to make it really match Penelope and Malcolm. In fact, I think it makes the perfect bridge between the trendy Penelope and the vintage Malcolm. Penelope, Malcolm, and Vera. Adorable!
on January 20th, 2016 at 5:21 pm
Veronica is definitely a winner here. Bonus: the adorable nn Ricki, which sounds especially cute if you use nn Penny for her elder sister.
Incidentally, Veronica does not seem dated to me at all. The first Veronica I knew was the classiest, most beautiful girl in my high school — she has since parlayed her brains into an enviable career as a best-selling novelist — so the name has only the best connotations as far as I’m concerned.
on January 20th, 2016 at 9:49 pm
I think Veronica Bea is great! Veronica actually has a retro vibe to me: think Archie and Veronica comics as well as screen siren Veronica Lake.
Incidentally, I don’t think it’s a big deal if the middle name ends in an “s” sound. How often do people actually say the full name? If you’re okay with that, I suggest Berenice. It seems sleek, sophisticated, and full of history. The French Bond girl from Skyfall is Berenice Merloh and there is an Argentinian actress named Berenice Bejo. To go with Penelope and Malcolm:
on January 20th, 2016 at 11:39 pm
I love Veronica, always have. It’s eternally chic to me, like Simone. Nn Vera is fan. Please please please name her Veronica Bea. Best name I’ve heard in a long time.
on January 20th, 2016 at 11:39 pm
Veronica makes sense, but I wouldn’t pick it. My vote goes to Verity, Vanessa, or Seraphina.
on January 21st, 2016 at 9:40 am
Just Vera seems perfect to me!
on January 21st, 2016 at 1:45 pm
I agree that Veronica seems almost spookily perfect! I’m not a fan of this name personally but it really fits nicely here. I personally prefer Verity or Seraphina, but they don’t have quite the same perfect fit as Veronica.
Another variation of Vera that I love is the Slovak word for faith: Viera, pronounced roughly “VEE-air-ah”. It’s short written down, but 3 syllables when spoken, falling right in between Penelope’s 4 syllables and Malcolm’s 2 syllables.
Can’t wait to see what name the poster chooses!!
on January 21st, 2016 at 7:23 pm
not a massive fan of veronica and bernadette, they both sound super catholic too me, not in a good way. i also grew up in the 90’s in italy with lots of veronica around, and i find it too harsh. i think keeping the lovely vera as a middle name is more than enough, especially if your other kids are not named after anyone special. i think june and vera are amazing together, and wouldn’t want to miss out on that. just find a name you like and put vera in the middle, that’s my suggestion.
on January 22nd, 2016 at 1:44 pm
Veronica does fit the bill but I am not keen on the name itself. I would prefer switching your grandmother’s name around and using Vera Bernice. Vera fits in with her siblings Penelope and Malcolm and is a very sweet endearing choice furthermore it feels more like a honour choice than Abby’s other suggestions.
on January 24th, 2016 at 7:58 am
I had an exchange student from South Africa once, her name was Wernice, maybe that’s an option?
Or you just switch it to Vera Bernice.
And I remember a classmate in primary school who’s name was Beatrice, that could also work.
Good luck finding the perfect name!
on January 25th, 2016 at 4:31 pm
Verena is a name between Veronica and Vera. It could originate from either.
on January 25th, 2016 at 6:27 pm
I think the Manx name Beneste could work. But not as wearable as Veronica. The French version Veronique could also work – and it avoids that 80s feel that Veronica has.
on January 29th, 2016 at 6:40 am
If Vera means “faith” what about the name Faith?
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