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Name Spellings: Right and Wright?

November 2, 2010 Pamela Redmond

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.

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.

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

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

Any additions? Quibbles? Thoughts?

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized 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. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show of the same name.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

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