Playing it Safe Baby Names

Choosing a modern mainstream favorite

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

UPDATE: She’s here! Scroll to the bottom of the post to learn what they chose for their daughter.

L. writes:

We are expecting our first baby later this year, a girl, and we are stuck on names.

For many years, I thought I would name my future daughter Chloe. My husband is okay with Chloe, but Olivia is his current favorite. I also like Olivia, but I’m not sure it’s “the one.”

We’ve also considered Whitley (but my husband doesn’t like it), Lauren, and Kinsley. When I read comments about the name Kinsley, it is mostly negative. Could I pull off a name I like but others will hate? Will I regret not using Chloe? Do I play it safe with Olivia? Go classic with Lauren?

I have read countless name lists and I go round and round with this same handful of names. Popular Nameberry suggestions such as Margot, Clementine, and Eliza don’t appeal to me.

Please help!

The Name Sage replies:

Should you play it safe when naming your child?

It’s a great question, and one that plagues many parents – whether they’re in love with Top Ten choices, or considering something slightly different. We worry that a “normal” name will be perceived as boring, and that an out-there name will be burdensome.

But let’s take a closer look at your list. Olivia ranks in the current US Top Ten; Chloe has been there until recently, and remains in the Top 20. Lauren stands at Number 134, while Kinsley comes in at Number 86. Only Whitley falls outside the Top 1000, but it sounds like your husband has vetoed that name anyway.

I’d call your style modern mainstream favorites. You’re not crazy about vintage revivals like Eliza and Clementine, but the names you do like have history and backstories of their own.

By definition, most of us end up with mainstream names. Think of all those Baby Boomers named Deborah and Bruce, or a generation of today’s parents with names like Justin and Heather. There’s nothing wrong with having a name strongly tied to your decade of birth – unless, of course, that’s something you personally prefer to avoid.

This means that any of your favorites – even Kinsley – would make a perfectly reasonable choice for a daughter born today. And about the whole worry that others might hate your child’s name? The beauty of naming children today is that we have tremendous freedom to choose the name we love. But it’s a guarantee that someone will be waiting to criticize your choice. The best approach is always to focus on finding a name that feels right for your family.

You’ve got a great shortlist; it’s just a question of figuring out which one is The Name!

Chloe – There’s a certain magic to using a long-time favorite name. If you loved it for a decade before you had a child, there’s a good chance you’ll love it still when that child heads off to high school. And what kid doesn’t like the idea of receiving a parent’s all-time favorite name?

KinsleyKinsley is the most modern of all your choices. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2005, and has climbed quickly. But –ley ending names like Ashley and Riley have been favorites for girls for decades, so Kinsley feels familiar. And yet, it is newer than Chloe, Lauren, or Olivia, so Kinsley might be misheard or misspelled more often.

Lauren Lauren Bacall keeps this name forever elegant, even as it ages – it peaked in the 1980s. Today it feels tailored and traditional, but not necessarily safer than the rest of your list. The advantage of a name like Lauren is that everyone will recognize it and know how to spell it, but few girls her age will share the name.

OliviaShakespeare’s Olivia falls just behind Emma in the US Top Ten. Long and lovely, Olivia combines centuries of use and still feels very current today. It’s no surprise parents continue to embrace this strong, feminine name for our daughters. That’s the only real downside here: your Olivia might not be the only one in her class. But given the tremendous diversity in naming today, she probably won’t be one of five, either.

If you’re feeling like your list is too short, I’m tempted to suggest modern mainstream favorites like Natalie, Scarlett, and Eden.

My vote goes to Chloe. If it still feels like The Name, and your husband is on board, I can’t see any reason not to use a long-time favorite. You haven’t mentioned middles, but Chloe Olivia might make a great combination.

Update: Welcome to the world, Chloe Rose! So glad they used their favorite name.

What should L. name her daughter?

  1. AChloe
  2. BKinsley
  3. CLauren
  4. DOlivia
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About the author


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
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24 Responses to “Playing it Safe Baby Names”

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CocoaPuff Says:

August 8th, 2017 at 11:28 pm

My mother met a little girl named Chloé when she was in her teens and loved the name, always kept it on the back burner until she had me at 30 and gave me that name. I love knowing the story of my name and how she carried that little wish in her heart for so many years, it is meaningful to me. So I say go with the name that you love most. Is this a biased opinion about the name Chloé? Totally 🙂

FelicitySmoak Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 12:43 am

Chloe 🙂

Kjh446 Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 12:58 am

I think you should go with Chloe. It is a beautiful, timeless, classic yet spunky name. I like the suggestion of Chloe Olivia.

Other names I think about when hearing Chloe and Olivia:


Good luck!

DarceyDaisy Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 1:39 am

Chloe!! 100%

srudolph Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 3:18 am

I think Kinsley is beautiful. As a teacher, I see a lot of “out there” names, and would consider Kinsley pretty tame. Plus, although NameSage makes the argument people wouldn’t know how to spell it – I doubt that. It’s pretty straightforward, and follows in a lot of -ley traditions.
Chloe is fine. (My mom put me off that name forever by pointing out that “klo” is the German word for toilet, and our family’s German, so it could never be an option for me!) If you do go for Chloe, I advise against putting an accent aigu on it, as that would be unnecessary flair, and technically change the pronunciation. I cringe when I see parents have done this to names, which their children forever have to correct! An umlaut above the ‘e’ works, but otherwise – leave accents off Chloe.

BrittanyBrown Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 3:25 am

If you’re going to be a new Mom that is birthing your child out or maybe you’re bravely adopting, either way, why do you care so much about what other people think?? This is YOUR baby and YOUR life. Your name to your child is your gift to them. There is no such thing as a name that’s burdensome unless it’s like “Patrick Fitzpatrick” or “John Johnson”…lol. Weird names build character! Revel in this time to name your child. Reclaim your power as Mother and have fun!

I honestly think you should go with Chloe Olivia or Kinsley Olivia. Good luck New Mama and bless you and our family!!

Erin Beth Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 5:52 am

I couldn’t get the poll to work, but my vote is for Chloe. I have found that the names I loved first are still the names I love best. I enjoy other names for a time and then tire of them, but my all time favorite names have been cherished since I was a child.

rosemilk Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 6:31 am

Oh my goodness, Chloe for sure! I like with or without a French accent (Chloé), although with the accent it would normally be pronounced closer to Chlo-ay.

Chloe is one of my long-time favourite names too, outranked only by Alice. Sadly, I will probably never have the chance to use any of my long-time favourite girls names; you have that chance and you should take it!!

LLBaby22 Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 6:46 am

I vote Chloe. It’s a great name. My name is a name my mom loved and picked out for me as a teenager. I love my name because I know for about a decade and a half she dreamed of having a Rebecca. And I’m so happy I got to fulfill that dream for her. If your husband has been dreaming of naming his daughter Olivia for years, I could make the same argument for that name… but I like Chloe better. I also think it’s better to go with a name that at least one of you is head over heels for. If Chloe is the only name you LOVE, and Olivia is the only name he LOVES, you like each other’s choices, you like a few others, pick one that is loved. Save the other one for if you have a 2nd daughter. Good luck.

Chloe14 Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 9:29 am

Chloe is my name, so I’m biased, maybe… I love my name! When I was born, it was a popular name, so I knew quite a few people my age with the same name as me. Maybe you could consider Chloe Olivia? That sounds really pretty!

Hayden_Taylor Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 10:15 am

If you’ve loved Chloe for this long, it’s likely a safe bet that it’ll feel good using it for your daughter in real life. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the choices on your list, though! Even Kinsley. While it isn’t my personal style, it is pretty popular therefor many people are using it. And if many people are using it, that means the majority also like the name. Though, I’d worry less about others loving her name and more about you two. There will always be people who dislike your name. You can’t let that ruin a name for you. <3

Mhill46 Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 10:45 am

I love Chloe! I think Olivia as a middle name sounds great! Chloe is such a classic, timeless, elegant name!

peach Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 11:41 am

Chloe, Olivia, and Lauren are all classic names that are very well liked and thus commonly used. They will stand the test of time, no question. Kinsley and Whitley sound modern in a “post-2005” kind of way, which does not appeal to everyone and may sound more of a certain time than the others. It sounds like overall your style is more classic, so that is the direction I would stick with for the first name. You can mix it up in the middle spot if you want to. I really like Chloe and Lauren. They also remind me of similar but less common names: Camille, Corinne, Camila, Laurel, Lucille, also Julia and Audrey. Good luck!

babymagic Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 11:55 am


mhz61358 Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Another vote for Chloe Olivia! A couple of years ago, my teenage neighbor had no fewer than four friends named Chloe (or some spelling variation thereof), but the name seems to be less ubiquitous in younger kids. Still, if for some reason you’re just not sufficiently into Chloe anymore, there are other names you might consider. I noticed that all your names, regardless of style, have an L in them. Some of these suggestions are likely repeats of names suggested by others, but they all feel similar to your contenders and have an L in them:


epowell Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Go with Chloe!

ARead Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I can’t get the poll to work, but go with Chloe if you love it! I used a name I’d loved for over a decade with my first and I’m super glad I did! Looking through tons of baby name lists is often helpful if you don’t know where to start but it can just muddy the water if you already have a favorite. I wonder if part of this endless array of options could be what’s holding you back from using Chloe?

I like other posters suggestions about using Olivia as a middle or for a future daughter as a compromise with hubby. Not sure if he’s just not a big fan of Chloe or if he actively dislikes the name. If it’s the former, maybe propose to him that you “try out” the name, talking to your baby together and calling her Chloe for a few weeks. See if that warms him up to the name at all. This helped my husband when he wasn’t 100% sold on our second daughter’s name.

Good luck!!

jpruitt76 Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Chloe, then Lauren. Olivia is a distant third. Not a fan of Kinsley.

lesliemarion Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 8:38 pm

It doesn’t sound to me as though you are playing it safe so much as simply choosing names you like. Not everyone is going to like the less common names and that’s fine. All your names sound fine, except Kinsley.

nmarie Says:

August 10th, 2017 at 12:40 pm

A cute little girl I babysat for was Chloe, nn Coco. I think it’s a great name, and add my vote for Chloe Olivia!

Liz Kent Says:

August 11th, 2017 at 1:52 pm

If you want to go for a more daring first name, go with a more simplistic middle, incase she would prefer to be called by that. Kinsley Olivia sounds beautiful!

samantha16101 Says:

August 12th, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I have a 12 yr old step sister named Chloe and i am 27. Even before i knew of her i loved that name and wanted it on the back burner for if i had a girl. I have 8 yr old son and a 12 yr old step daughter. I am currently pregnant and i am staying away from the top 50 names.

With that said my vote is for Kinsley. I think it is unique and not many kids in school will have the same name which can get annoying. I was a 90’s kid so my name Samantha is everywhere and wished my parents would have been a bit creative with it.

lydiaann27 Says:

August 14th, 2017 at 3:28 pm

I adore Chloe Olivia. I don’t like Kinsley at ALL. Lauren is too dated, but maybe Laurel?

JamiJae Says:

September 14th, 2017 at 9:31 pm

My vote goes to Lauren while Chloe has been a long time favorite of yours it seems that you aren’t as in love with it as you once were. Lauren is different enough to stand out amongst the crowd of Chloes and Olivias she is bound to meet in her time while still allowing you the comfort of being mainstream. If I was to suggest a name, I’d have to say Olive (ranked #272) as it is less popular than Olivia that your husband loves.
Or perhaps Kennedy. Kennedy has that hard “K” that Kinsley also shares as well as having the “e” sound of Chloe. It also allows for similar nicknames to Kinsley if that is what draws you to the name. Kennedy is mainstream without being overly popular, so she wouldn’t be one of many in the classroom. In 2016 it ranked at #59.

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