Name Spellings: Right and Wright?

Name Spellings: Right and Wright?

The idea for this blog arose, as so many good things do, from the nameberry forums, in this case one on name spellings. In particular, the focus was on names that had more than one legitimate spelling, and asked visitors to pick their favorite of the two (or more).

With so much talk these days about yooneek spellings of names – variations invented to make a name more “special” – it’s interesting to explore those names that have more than one bona fide spelling.

Of course, there may be some controversy over what constitutes bona fide name spellings. On the forum, some people took issue with spelling variations springing from different origins of a name: Isabelle as the French version and Isabel the Spanish, for instance, and so not really pure spelling variations in the way that Katherine and Kathryn are. Others argued over spelling variations that might more accurately be differences in a name’s gender or pronunciation.

There are obviously a lot of ways to split this hair.  And we’ve made a lot of judgment calls some of you may disagree with.  Sure, Debra might be a modern variation of the Biblical Deborah, but it was so widely used in mid-century America it’s now legitimate, or at least that’s the way we see it.

Here are some girls’ names with more than one spelling that we consider legitimate.

  • Annabel and Annabelle (and Anabel)

  • Anne and Ann

  • Ariana and Arianna

  • Briony and Bryony

  • Brooke and Brook

  • Claire and Clare

  • Cleo and Clio

  • Deborah and Debra

  • Eleanor and Elinor

  • Elizabeth and Elisabeth

  • Gillian and Jillian

  • Greer and Grier

  • Hailey and Hayley and Haley (same name? hard to say….)

  • Hillary and Hilary

  • Isabelle and Isabel (plus the Scottish Isobel)

  • Jean and Jeanne (in the U.S., they’re pronounced the same)

  • Juliet and Juliette

  • Katherine and Catherine and Katharine and Kathryn

  • Leila and Layla

  • Lilian and Lillian

  • Madeline and Madeleine and Madelyn

  • Margo and Margot

  • Marjorie and Margery

  • Maud and Maude

  • Rachel and Rachael

  • Rebecca and Rebekah

  • Sarah and Sara (someone on the forum commented that these are pronounced differently, but I don’t think so)

  • Sophia and Sofia

  • Susannah and Susanna

  • Teresa and Theresa

  • Vivian and Vivienne

  • Other spelling variations of the same name often signal gender differences. Sure, there are boys named Jessie and Shawn, but the first variation here is more usually used for girls, the second for boys.  We’re NOT including names such as Frances and Francis or Teri and Terry as those seem to us to be, well, more different.

  • Jessie and Jesse

  • Leigh and Lee

  • Payton and Peyton

  • Remi and Remy

  • Renee and Rene

  • Shawn and Sean

  • Sydney and Sidney

  • Some unisex names have a couple of legitimate spelling variations not divided along gender lines.

  • Devon and Devin

  • Dylan and Dillon

  • Riley and Reilly

  • Wiley and Wylie

  • There are many fewer traditional boys’ names with more than one legitimate spelling, but here are a handful we think qualify.

  • Brian and Bryan (Bryan, the variation, is more popular now)

  • Dominic and Dominick

  • Edmond and Edmund

  • Elliot and Eliot and Elliott

  • Frederick and Frederic

  • Geoffrey and Jeffrey

  • Glenn and Glen

  • John and Jon

  • Mark and Marc

  • Stephen and Steven

  • Stuart and Stewart

  • Any additions? Quibbles? Thoughts?

    About the Author

    Pamela Redmond

    Pamela Redmond

    Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

    Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.