Name Sage: Replacing a Favorite Name

Name Sage: Replacing a Favorite Name

Leslie writes:

My husband and I are due with our first baby in early May and have been struggling with names since the second we found out she’s a girl.

My main question is this: how do I let go of a name I LOVE, but my husband has vetoed?

We are Jewish and it is traditional to name children after deceased relatives. My grandpa Irv passed away when I was in college so I have always known I wanted to name my child after him.

My husband has a long, challenging Germanic last name, so I want a short, easy name.

Enter the name Ivy. It is literally perfect. Short, spunky, not too common, timeless. But my husband hates it. I can't let it go. I compare every name to it! 

Other names we have tried:

ILANA – pretty, but worry about people saying eye-Lana not ah-Lana. Also looks a bit like llama …

IRIS - like it but don't love it

ISLA – popular, plus my husband always says iss-la

We also like Scarlett, Penelope, Violet, Quinn, Talia, Sara, and Zoey, but they don’t fit all of the criteria.

Can you help me find a name I love as much as Ivy?

The Name Sage replies:

This is a heartbreaker, because honoring grandpa Irv by naming your daughter Ivy is perfection.

Maybe it even feels a little unfair for your husband to veto Ivy. After all, he agreed to honor this beloved man, knowing that Irv is a fairly finite set of letters and sounds.   

But let’s assume that Ivy is well and truly off the table and we need to find another I name.

In the short term, it’s possible that no name will quite measure up. The best cure might be time – as you know and love your daughter, your affection for her name will grow, too. But I also think that remembering your priority – to honor your grandfather – will make any name special.  


First, let’s talk about the names on your list.

Iris would’ve been my suggestion. It’s short and compact, an easy nature name with history, but still quite stylish today.

I share your hesitation about Ilana. I’m pronouncing it more like Alana, but I can imagine you’ll hear a lot of sounds.

Would you choose Isla if only it weren’t so popular? As of 2019, Isla ranked Number 57, not too far ahead of Ivy at Number 68. So maybe it’s not really too common to use.

Moving on to more I names for a daughter:


We love Ava and Ada, so why not Ida? It was a Top 100 choice a century ago, and it fits with so many brief and complete names today.


It might seem a little like an adjective for a bookstore or a band, but Indie can be short for Indiana, Indigo, or any other bold name beginning with the right sound. And it could work on its own, too.


This name might be too much with a longer, Germanic surname. Or maybe Ingrid sounds just right – like actor Ingrid Bergman or model Ingrid Vandebosch.


It’s the ultimate mini name, just two letters but still two syllables. But it might be too different.


A 1920s favorite, Irene awaits rediscovery. With a great meaning – peace – and a long list of notable bearers, it’s the kind of name due for a comeback. And when it comes to names everyone knows, but your child will never have to share, Irene is a safe bet.


I know, I know – it’s very popular. But it’s also instantly familiar, and that can balance out a longer, more complicated surname nicely.


If Ivy is out, could Iva be in? It looks like Ivy-with-an-a, but Iva comes from the same roots as Yves, referring to the yew tree. It fits with Ava and Eva, and that’s the only downside – Iva might spend years explaining she’s Iva-with-an-I, not one of those more popular names.


My assumption is that using an I name is the top priority. But Irv’s V sound is just as prominent. And Vera comes with two great meanings: faith and truth. Plus, like Ivy, Vera is vintage and familiar, but not too common.

Overall, I think Iris and Isla from your original list deserve another look. But I can imagine Ida and Ingrid wearing well, too. In fact, I think Ida could be exactly right – a vintage name that’s under-the-radar but feels ready for revival.

Readers, please hop on over to the forums to talk about a name to honor granpda Irv that's every bit as great as Ivy!