Reinventing Grandma Names

A modern namesake for Grandma Glenda

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

Grandma is over the rainbow about her new little namesake. Except how, exactly, do you honor a Glenda in 2018?

Tess writes:

My partner and I are expecting our first, a little girl, and are overjoyed! We are debating on first names right now, but know that we want the middle name to honor my partner’s mother, Glenda (who is arguably more excited than the both of us, haha). Neither of us are huge fans of her name as is, and we are drawing blanks for potential alternatives we like that sound similar – we’ve ruled out Glynnis.

Grandma Glenda, however, is a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, and so we were considering Dorothy as a middle name if we could find no other alternatives. I realize Glinda is both a Wizard of Oz name and fits the theme, but we aren’t fans. We are also not completely opposed to Glenda as a middle name, but we would need to be convinced one way or the other.

For first names, our top choices would probably be Alice, Rose, Quinn, or Fiona due to a combination of them being either family names and ones that we’ve always liked. Our last name is two syllables, and starts with a W, so most names should flow pretty well with it.

Thank you for your help!

The Name Sage replies:

It sounds like you’ve already discovered the secret to choosing great honor names: be open to re-invention. I have a tough time imagining a baby Glenda born today (though I’m sure I could be convinced), but that doesn’t mean you have to sidestep the name entirely.

Your favorite first name options represent a range of styles. There’s traditional Alice and Rose, modern Quinn, and lively Fiona. Let’s see if we can’t find some alternatives that would match well with each of those!

Now: Dorothy. If grandma Glenda loves the spunky, big-hearted heroine of L. Frank Baum’s enduring fairy tales, then that’s an honor name. In fact, I was about to suggest Rose Dorothy – which happens to be the name of Scarlett Johansson’s daughter. That might just prove how well it works!

On to more ideas:

Glen/Glenn – Drop the second syllable of Glenda, and it’s a sleek, modern option in the key of Quinn. Glenn Close gives it some leading lady stature. The name peaked in the 1950s for boys, shortly after Glenn Miller and just before John Glenn made headlines. It feels fresh and unexpected today. I’m especially in love with Fiona Glen.

Glenna – Here’s another option: Glenna, usually listed as the feminine form of Glenn. It’s one letter shy of Glenda, but somehow it feels more modern in our age of Stella, Gemma, and Sienna. I think Rose Glenna and Quinn Glenna are my favorites.

Vale – A glen is a valley, and vale is a poetic word for the same. Is it a stretch? Yes! But it’s also an appealing sound that works beautifully with some of your favorites. Alice Vale and Fiona Vale are tough to beat.

Gale – Speaking of Vale, Dorothy’s surname is Gale. That’s no accident, either – after all, a gale is a strong wind, like the one that lifted her farmhouse to Oz. If Dorothy doesn’t quite work with your favorite first, Gale seems like a good back-up. I like Alice Gale and Fiona Gale nearly as much as Vale.

Ruby – Not only does Dorothy wear the famous ruby slippers in the movie, but there’s another message there, too. Remember when she taps them three times and says, “There’s no place like home.” Of course, right? While Ruby might feel the tiniest bit removed from the character’s name, the sentiment of finding your way home might be especially meaningful when using a family name. Emerald, for the Emerald City, is another option, but maybe even more of a stretch.

Bonnie – One of my favorite ways to update a name is to search for a shared meaning. Glenda’s second syllable – ‘da’ – comes from the Welsh word for good. In Scotland, Bonnie is another word for pretty, but it comes from the French bonne – good.

If staying close to grandma’s given name matters most, then Glen/n and Glenna feel like the safest bets. But if you’re inclined to be adventurous, knowing that your Glenda will be delighted no matter what? Then we’ve just scratched the surface. A favorite fictional character is one option, but so are her favorite flowers, song titles, a place that’s significant to her, and so on.

Fair warning: some people may raise an eyebrow at calling Dorothy – or Vale or even Glenna – an honor name, since it’s not exact. But the important part is having a story to tell about your new baby’s family, and how the name connects across the generations.

Let’s have a poll, because I think that might help you narrow it down!

What middle name honors grandma Glenda best?

  1. AGlenda
  2. BDorothy
  3. CGlen/Glenn/Glenna
  4. DVale
  5. EGale/Ruby/Emerald
  6. FBonnie
  7. GSomething else ... see my comment!
Show current results

Current Results:

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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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40 Responses to “Reinventing Grandma Names”

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bjoy Says:

September 17th, 2018 at 11:26 pm

I think Glenn is the loveliest option and is a clear nod to honoree. However, I am an honoring purist and in the case of a middle name, I’d say stick with Glenda. Were you to honor her with a first name I’d tweak it a bit to suit your tastes. But in the middle spot, I’d use Glenda for sure.

Kew Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 3:43 am

I think Glen is a great option!
What about Gwen or Gwenna? Perhaps it’s straying a bit too far from Glenda’s name, but still worth thinking about…

jjayx Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 4:06 am

If it was going to be a first name, I’d have looked towards other Glen options but because you’ve said it’ll be a middle, I think its a good place for honouring in its as is form.

CarolAnn Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 4:16 am

Gwendolen could work! The sounds of Glenda are all there (albeit a bit mixed up). There are so many cute nicknames too – Gwen, Wendy (almost a nod to Wizard of Oz, a la windy), Dolly (a nickname for Dorothy, so another point for Wizard of Oz), Glen, you could get really creative and get Goldie out of it, which is so cute, and there’s probably more.

peach Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 6:00 am

I voted for Glenn/Glenna but I think that another G-initial name could be nice instead too. I might use the Welsh origin as a starting point and consider
Good luck!

Janie_Larkin70 Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 6:48 am

It would be both surprising and refreshing to meet a little Glenda born circa 2018/2019. She would certainly have a unique name amongst her age cohort! It sounds both sweet and sassy, and Glen is an adorable nickname.

If you don’t want to go that route, I love almost all the alternative suggestions, particularly Fiona Vale.

Eizariya Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 6:57 am

I really like Glen as a middle name. Fiona Glen sounds great!

Sapphie Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 7:11 am

What about removing the G & d from Glenda to get Lena? Your daughter’s name will come from her grandmother’s, but still be her own. Goes well with Alice, Rose, & Quinn.

Liamy Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 7:28 am

I’ve met a lovely baby Gloria so I’m sure Glenda could work!
Or Gloria or another Gl- name. It’s such an unusual first sound and that makes it sound fresh and original for a 2018 baby

Abby Sandel Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 8:13 am

Sapphie, that’s brilliant – Lena is hiding, nested inside of Glenda, isn’t it?

jpruitt76 Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 8:48 am

I would just go with Glenda as I feel that’s a stronger way to honor your loved one. Or use her middle or maiden. My second vote would be a more modern variant of her actual name: Glenn, Glennon (Glennon Doyle! ❤), Glenna, etc.

You could further honor her with a Dorothy inspired name like Ruby. Ruby Glynda or Ruby Glynn is darling!!!

aurebet Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 9:23 am

This may be a little more “out there” than you prefer, but what about branching off from Glenda’s meaning and origin? According to its page here on Nameberry, Glenda is Welsh and means “fair and good.” There are tons of gorgeous Welsh girls’ names that sound a little more modern than Glenda. If you wanted one that also means fair, you could go with Anwen (“very fair, beautiful”), Rhonwen (“slender, fair”), or Gwynn (“fair, blessed”), which also keeps the G beginning. I like Fiona Gwynn, Alice Rhonwen, and Rose Anwen!

annieinred Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 10:12 am

i feel like if you’re going to use it as a middle name, it would be best to go with Glenda. Alice Glenda sounds good, besides, it would bring both you and your partner the satisfaction of giving a name you like to your daughter, and the joy of your partner’s mother of being honored in the name of her granddaughter 🙂

calyma Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 10:35 am

“But the important part is having a story to tell about your new baby’s family, and how the name connects across the generations.”

100% agree!!

My mother’s name is Amy and if I have a daughter someday, I want to name her after my mom. The problem is, I don’t really like the name Amy. So I’ve pretty much settled on giving my future-daughter the middle name Ruby because it’s my mom’s birthstone. Alternately, I might name her something that sounds similar to Amy like Amelia, Amira or Amery.

maimouse Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 11:13 am

I love the suggestion of Lena hiding inside Glenda. So does Leda!

I also want to suggest Galinda. In the musical Wicked (a sort of prequel to The Wizard of Oz) it’s Glinda’s real name before she decides to go by Glinda.

SparkleNinja18 Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 11:20 am

It annoys me when people say honor names have to be obvious. They don’t! If the name honors… even if it isn’t obvious… it honors… thus it’s an honor name. If you don’t like Glenda, don’t use it. You shouldn’t feel like you have to use a name you dislike because it’s “only a middle name”. If you’re going to cringe every time you see/hear the name, then it doesn’t matter who it honors. You have some wonderful ideas for alternatives.

One of my top middle names to honor my dad is Alexandra/Alexander. It has nothing to do with his name, but relates to one of my favorite memories with him. I honestly think if I use the name someday, once I explain the meaning, he will be just as touched. If not more, because it shows I put some thought into it.

I love the idea of Dorothy as a middle name! Not only does your MIL love The Wizard of Oz, it also relates to her own name which sounds a heck of a lot like Glinda.

Angelicaecb Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 11:22 am

Another idea is to ask Grandma what her top three or five favorite names that she would pick for baby as inspiration would be. She
might have one she loves and is special to her that you also really like. You don’t have to tell her your plan to possibly use one (in case you don’t use one she won’t be disappointed) in the middle – and if you do use it then she would be tickled pink that you secretly had her pick the middle.

Yuma Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Gwendolyn Ruby
Ruby Alice
Ruby Gwendolyn
Alice Gwendolyn
Gwen Dorothy
Gwen Dorothea
Dorothy Alice

rlmurphy Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Since you don’t like the name Glenda, I’d say you’re better off not using it. My mom originally want to name her first child (my eldest sister) Lena Anastasia to honor her maternal great-grandma and my dad’s paternal great-grandma. My dad hated the name because it sounded too much like an old lady name. Because of that my mom never considered using the name for me or my other sisters, but she was still able to find names for us that honored both her family and my dad’s.

My advice to you, take a break from looking a middle names for now. Focus on choosing a first name for your baby.

pindorama Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 2:08 pm

My grandma is Glenda! My honor suggestions are Gwen and Gwendolen. 😀

mill1020 Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 5:11 pm

Alice Glenda or Rose Glenda would work great.

Lstacy Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 9:58 pm

I knew a girl with the middle name Gwen to honor her father and grandfather, both Glens. Ithoughtit was a sweet reinvention of a family name.

Kara Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 11:16 pm

@SparkleNinja18 I agree 100%!! It drives me batty when people think the only way to honor someone is to use the name exactly like it is. I much prefer the idea of honoring someone while letting the new little one have something that is his or her own, too.

2ndtimemommy2014 Says:

September 18th, 2018 at 11:51 pm


mymel0dy Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 12:01 am

@SparkleNinja18 My name is Arika to honor my great-grandfather Alexander. When I saw your post it made me laugh a little, but I love the idea your honor name has nothing to do with his name but a memory you have of a time with your dad. I have to say I wish my mom had done something like that rather than just give a fairly common name a rather uncommon spelling to fit. That is so much better than using a name you sort of like because it honors a family member.

As for the honoring of Glenda, I love the combination of Alice Glenn. I think it is close enough to get the point across but still a very wearable name. I also like that it combines the sweet old-fashioned Alice with a much more modern feeling middle in Glenn.

Care Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 1:09 am

I like both the Glenn and Glenna suggestions.
I always thought the name was spelled Glynda which feels lighter and prettier.
But my favorite is Fiona Glendell with the accent on the Dell.

tamsin101 Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 3:43 am

I like Lenna or even Lennox. The overriding sound in Glenda to me is the ‘Len’ sounds so maybe play on that? Lenore?

tamsin101 Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 3:45 am

I also agree that honour names can be subtle we took our maternal grandmas’ initials EM (my grandma) and ME (my partners grandma) and my daughters middle name is Emme. Subtle but it works for us

Brittynie Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 5:28 am

I love the idea from commenter @Eizaryia “Fiona Glen”. That is so cute

Or here’s some other ideas:

Fiona Glenrose or Glen-Rose
Alice Glendora
Rose Glindy
Glenora Quinn

Happy choosing and congratulations! Be well 🙂

onomastodon Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 8:49 am

I think Dorothy is a lovely honouring name, as are Abby’s suggestions.
Otherwise, would Glenda’s middle name or surname work for you? Or the name of someone important to her (her mother? a favourite aunt, sister, grandmother, friend, etc?). I also like the suggestion of asking Glenda to nominate favourite names.

Others have already mentioned some “Glenda” soundalikes/reinventions. If you’re happy to consider place names, I think some of these sound quite feminine and could go nicely with Fiona.


Good luck!

saoirse123 Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 9:16 am

I think someone else said this, but unless the surprise effect of the honor name is something you’re after, just ask Glenda what she thinks would make a good name.

CaitlinBrittin Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 11:58 am

If you are willing to accept that using a name with the same meaning as Glenda is a way to honor her (which I totally do!) then you already have your answer- both Glenda and Fiona share the meaning of fair!

AnandaWren Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Gwen or Gwendolen!

calyma Says:

September 19th, 2018 at 1:53 pm

@tamsin101 I love that!! I could name a daughter Aeda after my mom (AE) and grandma (DA).

TeaJay Says:

September 20th, 2018 at 11:52 am

I love Fiona Glen/n- it has a really nice feel to it and rolls smoothly together. It also uses your grandma’s name but isn’t the exact same. Fiona Glen makes me think of green rolling hills and valleys too. Very lovely!

lavendel Says:

September 20th, 2018 at 5:32 pm

I’m all here for Rose Dorothy. It’s subtle, but I’m sure obvious enough to grandma Glenda (who I imagine would be over the moon). It’s also a beautiful vintage/classic name combo.

niteowl13 Says:

September 21st, 2018 at 9:31 am

My name is Glenys! Too bad you’ve ruled out Glynnis. I don’t know why Glenys and Glynnis are unappreciated.
My fave suggestion is using Lena.
Perhaps, Gwendolyn or Wendy?

pamjsg99 Says:

September 23rd, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Adne’ (portion of Glenda backwards)
Adnel (Glenda backwards w/o the G)

What is your mother-in-law’s middle name? Perhaps you could use that name or a smoosh of her first and middle. Her maiden name might be an option or a smoosh of her first and maiden.

JamiJae Says:

September 29th, 2018 at 11:33 am

If you are truly set on honoring your mother-in-law, stick with her name. Even though it may not be your cup of tea, honoring goes beyond you and your name preferences. If you don’t like her name, maybe try her middle name or one really close alternative like Glenn. The only time her middle name will be on show will be in the first few months of her life when you are introducing her to people and then again intermittently from then onward.

If you were planning to use Glenda as a first name, I would be more inclined to tell you to experiment with the name and the forms. However, since you are using it for a middle name, you keeping it in its purest form will truly honor as I’m sure you intend it too. If you were to go with a stretch from The Wizard of Oz, you would be honoring that book/movie, so I’d stay away from that as well.

Congratulations on your new addition. Good Luck on your naming journey!

Xxxx JamiJae

marisarose Says:

October 19th, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Love honor names! Our daughter is Rosaline Joy for Mom’s mn Rose, GGrandma Eileen, and Grandma Joyce.
I think Alice Glen/Glenn is lovely or Rose Glenna.
My only pause would be using Alice Dorothy, too many fictional character references for my taste!

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