Playing it Safe Baby Names

August 8, 2017 Abby Sandel

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, ChloeOlivia! So glad they used their favorite name.

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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