Solid with Sparkle: Amelia, Athena and Isabelle Amarachi


By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Snooki is looking for another Italian name.  David Arquette promised to name his baby something normal.  Kerry Washington honored her daughter’s Igbo heritage with a distinctive middle, and blogger Dana Miller borrowed a street name for a deeply meaningful choice.

For many of us, we know the characteristics we’d like in our child’s name long before we arrive at the actual name.

It seems sensible.  It’s the way we shop for a car – seats six, good safety record – or a couch – stain-resistant fabric, big enough to fill up the family room, convenient delivery available.

But it isn’t the same at all, is it?  When it comes to naming our children, we’re not completing a checklist that gets us to good enough.  The standard is higher – we’re looking for a certain magic.

Sometimes that means abandoning a standard we set earlier in the search.  Other times it might require an unconventional approach.  Or maybe it means turning to the internet for inspiration – three of the nine names in this week’s list are crowd-sourced!

This week’s names are deeply meaningful, and all have some spark that makes them stand out – even though they’re slightly more traditional than many a headline-grabbing birth announcement.  It is easy to imagine that the names satisfied the parents’ wish lists, and maybe delivered a little more, too.

Amelia Savannah Joy – Let’s start with an update from a crowd-sourced baby name story from a few months back.  Remember the couple who launched  No, they didn’t name the baby Chthulhu All-Spark – despite the fact that it was the name that garnered the most votes. Thank goodness the parents added a footnote about veto rights if the winning name was too outlandish.  Plus, Amelia still has plenty of geek cred, thanks to Doctor Who companion Amelia Pond, the girl who waited.

Isabelle AmarachiKerry Washington hit the right note when she and former Oakland Raider Nnamdi Asomugha welcomed a daughter earlier this month.  Isabelle is as typical a 2014 name as you can choose, but that lovely middle name is Igbo, in honor of dad’s heritage.  Together, the two names make for a nice balance of the conventional and the unexpected.

Mary, Mary, Mary, and Mary – Speaking of honoring heritage, what happens if every significant female relative in your family tree is named Mary?  And then you have four daughters?  You call them all Mary, of course!  Mary FrancesFrancie, Mary MarjorieMaisie, Mary JaneJanie or JJ, and Mary TeresaTessa are the four daughters of Brian and Mary Heffernan – yup, she’s Mary, too.  The restaurateur family owns several Northern California eateries, and were good enough to share their home through a DesignMom Living with Kids profile.  I love it when parents make meaningful family names work.

Mabrey – Blogger Dana of Housetweaking was already mom to boys Layne and Everett when she found out she was having #3 – their first girl!  Mabrey’s name came from the most unpredictable of places – a country road by a rural airport where her family would sit and watch planes take off and land.  Proof that great ideas for stylish and significant names are everywhere, even on the road signs around us.

CharlieDavid Arquette and Christina McClarty promised a normal name for their first child together, and sure enough, they went with Charlie West.  It’s a casual choice, but a far cry from eyebrow-raising celeb picks like Pilot or North.  It matches well with his half-sister’s equally nickname-style name, Coco.  But had David also suggested that they might try to honor his grandfather, comedian Cliff Arquette.  Cliff’s most famous role?  Charley Weaver.  Clever!

Pearson Michael – Toronto Star columnist Kristin Rushowy interviewed the parents of a toddler called Pearson.  It’s a big name in Toronto – worn by a former prime minister.  But for Pearson Carbonell, it’s simply his mother’s maiden name, a family surname that had all-but died out.  His middle name comes from St. Michael’s, the church where his parents were married, making Pearson Michael rich with family history.

Josh – The San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker and French journalist Axelle Francine haven’t told us how they came up with the name for their new arrival.  It’s Josh – and apparently, it’s just Josh, not Joshua.  If there’s a middle, they haven’t shared that, either.  I’ve met boys who are Jake instead of Jacob and Nate instead of Nathaniel, but this is my first only-Josh spotting.

Winter Finnegan – We started this week talking about Amelia, the baby nearly known as Chthulhu.  Now Lydia Netzer’s new novel includes a couple naming a baby through crowdsourcing.  Everybody’s Baby won’t be out ‘til July, but I cannot wait to read it.  It’s fiction, but the actual baby name was chosen by an online poll!  If Winter Finnegan seems tame, think again – it shortens to the oh-so appropriate WiFi, a name that walked away with nearly 40% of the vote.

Athena – Think that you’d never name your baby based on online feedback?  I tend to agree … but then there’s this family, who named their daughter Athena a few years ago after running an online vote.  Now they’re expecting a son, and they’ve invited the public to participate.  Better still, the parents – he’s a Google engineer, she’s a nurse practitioner – will donate $1 to Save the Children for every vote received.  It’s bold, but it isn’t necessarily as much of a risk as Chthulhu-Amelia, since we’re voting from a short list of parent-approved favorites.

Did you have a list of criteria for your child’s name?  Did you stick with them, or change your mind?  And, oh my goodness, how relieved are you that they didn’t name that little girl Chthulhu?

About the Author

Abby Sandel

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