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Narrowing Down Your Name List

October 7, 2020 Abby Sandel
narrowing down your name list

Narrowing down your name list can be the toughest part! Jessie has it down to three final choices. But how do you go from three to one? And if you can’t get there, does it mean that it’s time to broaden your search again?

Jessie writes:

We’re expecting our second daughter in January, and we need your help! Our first daughter is named Eloise June, a combination that we love and fits her perfectly. We chose Eloise just because we liked it, and June is in honor of both her grandmas, who have June birthdays. 

Now that we are naming our second, I just can’t find a name that seems right. We considered using Hazel or Ada with our first, but neither of those will work this time. 

Our top three names right now are Annabelle, Marceline, and Sylvie, all of which I have absolutely loved at some point. But when it comes to actually deciding, I can’t follow through. 

Will I regret not using either of the leftover names? Maybe this means that we haven’t even found the right name? Or is it on our list but I’m just too afraid to go for it?

Our last name is three syllables, starting with a long “A” sound, and I like “Mae” for a middle name, as it’s a family name in both families, and I secretly love the connection of “June” and “Mae.”

We’d love to hear your suggestions to let us know if we’re on the right track or if we should change directions entirely!

The Name Sage replies:

Some couples draft a list together on their honeymoon, and confidently use it to name children over a decade.

Other families start fresh with every pregnancy. Runner-up names simply belong to that moment in the past – even if there’s no practical reason that you couldn’t consider them for future children.

It sounds like this describes your feelings. That means it’s time to tuck Ada and Hazel in Eloise’s memory box. Will you regret not using them? Maybe a little. For those of us who love names, there are always some amazing choices that get away.

Let’s get to work on narrowing down your name list:

ANNABELLE – It’s a great balance to Eloise. The names share a similar rhythm, and I love the way Annabelle and Eloise both have a strong ‘el’ sound. Plus, Annabelle Mae sounds sweetly vintage.

MARCELINE – This name brings to mind Adventure Time, and, of course, Walt Disney’s hometown, inspiration for the iconic Main Street millions love. It’s also quite rare – in 2019, Eloise ranked #151, Annabelle #170, and Sylvie #874. Marceline doesn’t make the current Top 1000. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it does mean that you’ll probably repeat and spell Marceline more than Eloise.

SYLVIE – Like Eloise, Sylvie leans gently French. It’s less common than Eloise or Annabelle, but still generally familiar. It shares the middle ‘v’ of chart-toppers like Ava and Evelyn, and fits in with favorites like Lucy and Sophie. But Sylvie makes for a distinctive choice, too. I think it hits the sweet spot between Annabelle and Marceline.   

If not Annabelle, Marceline, or Sylvie, I’d suggest:

GEORGIA – Traditional but spirited, Georgia and Eloise go together nicely.

JUNIPER – A nature name that echoes Eloise’s middle.

MARGOT – A traditional choice with French roots and that high-energy ‘o’ ending.

MATILDA – Sparky and storied, Matilda and Eloise both have children’s books bearing their names.

SYBIL – A name that shares Hazel’s –l ending, but is far less common.

VIOLET – A Top 100 favorite with a strong, vintage sound.

And yet, I don’t think any of these top Sylvie. If Sylvie wasn’t already on your list, I’m sure I would have suggested it. Eloise June and Sylvie Mae sound like sisters.

The question now is whether you agree.

When it comes to narrowing down your name list, logic – and an outside perspective – can help. But every bit as valuable is that gut feeling that the advice might be wrong. Maybe, after reading my case for Sylvie, you’re convinced that Annabelle really is the name for your daughter.

Instead of adding to your list, I’d suggest spending some time with each of your favorites – Annabelle, Marceline, and Sylvie – and thinking about reasons that you appreciate each name. That lightning bolt moment of certainty might not come, but patience, compromise, and effort can help you choose a name that you’ll – ultimately – love.

Readers, what would you suggest for Eloise’s sister? Do you agree that Sylvie is the name to beat? Or do you think there’s something fresh they should consider?

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.

View all of Abby's articles

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