Spelling Variations: Do They Change the Image of a Name?

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Does a different spelling alter the image of a name?

We’re not talking about kreeatif spellings here, but standard variations. For example:

• Would Ann of Green Gables have seemed like a slightly different character? (She passionately advocated for the e at the end of her name, claiming it made it “so much more distinguished.”)
Do you see Catherine as more classic than Katherine?
• Is Isobel more exotic than Isabel?
Aiden more modern or American than Aidan?
Elisabeth softer than Elizabeth?
How about Susanna vs Susannah, Margo vs Margot, Mae vs May?

Any other examples you can think of where different spellings alter your perception of a name?

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81 Responses to “Spelling Variations: Do They Change the Image of a Name?”

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megamalone Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 am

We have a daughter named Vivian, and some friends – purely by coincidence – named their daughter Vivienne (she was born three days after our little girl!) I feel that the “Vivian” spelling has a more classic, Hollywood-glamour feeling, while “Vivienne,” strikes me as a little more girly and maybe just a touch pretentious. I feel that the two names, although they are pronounced identically, create a very different image. Obviously, I’m not impartial, but many of my friends seem to agree!

Abby Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 6:35 am

If I were choosing, I’d use Isobel, Catharine, and Elisabeth. I have no idea why, but there are definitely spellings that catch my eye. Margo floated on and off our short lists for a while, but we couldn’t agree on the -t. (I like it, he doesn’t.)

QuirkFlower Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 7:39 am

I definitely think spelling variations have a huge impact! My middle name is Catherine, but when I see Katherine or Katharine or Kathryn, it’s like they’re entirely different names. Catherine is my name, not any of the others. I do think Elisabeth is softer than Elizabeth, Anne is “younger” than Ann, Margot has more spunk than Margo and Mae is a bit more hillbilly than May. But perhaps that’s just me.

tarat3232 Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 7:54 am

Eleanor and Elinor seem to have very different vibes to me–Eleanor seems classy and classic, Elinor feels more vintage and comfortable.

Claire/Clare also seem to have different identities.

RoseSi02 Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 8:24 am

Laurie and Lori- and since this is my name I have to say that yes the spelling makes a difference. I know they sound the same but they are different. I have a friend named Kari and I see it spelled in my head when I say and hear her name. Somehow she cannot possibly be a Carrie.

Andrea Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 9:20 am

Pretty much in the eye of the beholder, I’d say. I’ve always preferred Elinor to Eleanor. Elinor is the Regency-era and Sense and Sensibility; Eleanor is plain, sturdy sensible shoes and Eleanor Roosevelt. Anne is Anne of Green Gables and Anne Boleyn and royal; Ann is very much a commoner’s daughter. Claire is French and elegant; Clare looks like it’s just missing a letter. Aimee is not only French but also affected and the sort of name you’d expect as someone’s Vegas stage name. I always thought the Long Island Lolita’s name should have been spelled Aimee whereas Amy is simple and sweet. Elisabeth is European; Elizabeth is English. I’m not sure that I see much of a difference with Katherine and Catherine. Katherine is Katharine Hepburn; Catherine is Cathy from Wuthering Heights. It’s a strong-willed sort of name either way.

sadiesadie Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 9:49 am

For some reason the only ‘Isabelle’ name I like is Isobel.
I like both Amy and Aimee but they do have different feelings for me.
My biggest is Kate vs Cate vs Cait. Kate seems grown up and stuffy. Cate seems playful and teenagerish and Cait feels fresh and young.

Nikki Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:02 am

This blog post is my life right now!! I’m planning on naming my soon-to-be-here daughter Maia. Maia not Maya. Both are legitimate spellings but I’m constantly struggling with the image of the two. I prefer the ‘i’ over the ‘y’ style wise. And to me Maia seems more creative and funky…too traits I hope my daughter possesses!

mermuse Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:27 am

totally. Sara is more modern than Sarah (but I prefer Sarah). Elisabeth IS softer than Elizabeth. Mae is saucier than May. Kathryn and Catharine are two different people.

Stephanie Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:32 am

I adore the name Mae. It’s very Hollywood classic to me. May is sweet and gentle like Spring, while Mae is strong and confident like Mae West.

Lola Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:41 am

If I were choosing: Anne, Isabel, Elisabeth, Elinor, Amy & May. I dislike Margo/Margot. Margo looks lopsided and Margot makes me think escargot. Yeech!
Anne, Elinor, Elisabeth & May are family names for me hence my choosing those. Amy is sweet, Aimee looks contrived (I know it’s not!) and Isabel is simply lovely as is. If pressed, Isobel is simply darling too. But I heartily dislike Isabelle & Isabella. Too froofy for me.
Oh, and Claire is girly, Clare is masculine for me. Clare just looks wrong on a girl to me.

Nikki, Maia is absolutely lovely, go with that spelling, you might run into a few pepole assuming it’s Maya, but most people will ask. My daughter’s Josephine and We get “and how is that spelled?” all the time! (I usually look at them oddly and say “the standard way, thanks” as coldly as possible). But Maia’s just beautiful!

shefix8s Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 11:20 am

My name is Shelagh, spelled the Irish way, and I cannot imagine having the name Sheila. I’ve always appreciated the little touch of unique, although it has been misspelled every which way and I have been called ridiculous things as they mispronounce it.

daisy451 Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 11:34 am

I definitely think spellings change the image of the name. Take Julia and Giulia- clearly, Giulia looks very exotic and reads unmistakeably Italian. Names like Catherine, Katherine, and Katharine read very differently. Catherine seems very 1800’s to me and very vintage; Katherine seems standard and modern; Katharine is very clearly tied to Ms. Hepburn. I think when parents choose names with multiple legitimate spellings (especially names like Katherine that are classic but actually quite hard to spell)they take the spelling variants into account and pick the one with the image they’d most like to convey.

kelleita Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 12:47 pm

My name is Kelley and is always misspelled as Kelly. The names look completely different to me and it’s impossible to think of myself as a “Kelly”. It really surprises me when people who have known me for a while misspell it, I wonder, how could they be thinking of me as a “Kelly” all this time?

My daughter is Juliette and we deliberately chose that spelling over the more traditional Juliet. I’m sure she will one day feel that Juliet is a completely different person than the Juliette that she is.

Boston Girl Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I don’t always see spelling variations as different people necessarily, though I can certainly understand how those who have a variation on the accepted standard would feel that the other version(s) didn’t apply to them. My last name is the same as one of the four directions, and a schoolmate once asked me if it felt weird to me always seeing my surname on maps. I had never really thought about it; my surname and the direction are two different entities. So I can see the distinction.

That said, I agree with several of the perceptions described above. Katherine seems younger and more energetic and outgoing than Catherine; Ann is plain, Anne is dignified; Susanna is the “cool” modern version of Susan, as the trends would have it, while Susannah strikes me as very old-fashioned, in a colonial sort of way. Sometimes I like a name in one spelling but dislike it in another (I like Julie but not Julia, Kari but not Carrie, Jillian but not Gillian).

Some names seem to be lifted out of the ordinary by varying the spelling a bit. Kelley and Cyndy seem more exotic than regular Kelly and Cindy. And I remember wishing my middle name were spelled Elisabeth rather than Elizabeth!

RebelAngel Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I like Amy better than Aimee or Amie. Amy spelling seems classic to me, like Amy from “Little Women”. The other spellings are too yoonek to me. Anne sounds young and vibrant, while Ann seems older and stuffy. I think names sound different to different people. I have several friends who are Catherine and Katherine one we call Cat and the other is a Katy. Somehow their nicknames suit their personalities better. They both dislike the name Catherine though, they prefer to go by their nicknames.

I tend to like both versions of Elizabeth. I always think of Pride and Prejudice with this classic name. I knew an Elizabeth and she goes by Beth, but she dislikes Liza or Liz.

linelei Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Spelling variations make a HUGE difference – I just posted on the boards about one name and the way the variations change it for me. This change is even more pronounced due to my synesthesia. For example, Anne versus Ann – E is green to me, so the e on the end of the name takes the bland tan of Ann (A is light brown and N is light orange) and gives it a soft green, like rolling meadows of summer grass – you know, how parts will be light green and parts will be sun-bleached wheat colors. Yeah, much prettier.

I hate when a pretty color has other issues with it, though – like if a name was beautiful spelled a certain way but looked more trendy to me that way, or a beautiful spelling causes pronunciation issues.

LyndsayJenness Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Can someone fill me in on Aimee? I never knew that was a legit spelling.

Different spellings definitely have a different feeling for me. As a Lyndsay, I very much dislike Lindsey (except on a boy) and Lyndsey, Lindsay is acceptable but still, none of them are my name. Margo is one of my favorite names, but I don’t like Margot or Margaux at all. Margo is so fun to write and so happy, spunky and cheerful. Margot is serious and stern, while Margaux thinks she’s God’s gift to humanity. Ann and Katherine are my grandmother and mother, so I prefer them and see them as the most classic. Anne doesn’t seem so different to me, though. Eleanor and Elinor are totally different names. Sophia is vintage sweet, Sofia is hip and ethnic.

lemon Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Lyndsay, I was under the impression that Aimee was a French variant of Amy, but I’m not totally sure…

There are so many of these! Ann and Anne. Ana and Anna. Bridget and Brigid. Catherine and Katherine and Katharine. Claire and Clare. Carrie and Kari and Keri. Diana and Dianna. Eleanor and Elinor. Elizabeth and Elisabeth. Elise and Elyse. Gwendolyn and Gwendolen. Gisele and Giselle. Hannah and Hanna. Isabelle and Isabel and Isobel. Juliet and Juliette. Jessamine and Jessamyn. Laura and Lora and Lara. Margo and Margot and Margaux. Mae and May. Matilda and Mathilda. Noelle and Noel. Paige and Page. Sara and Sarah. Vivian and Vivienne and Vivien.

In general, I think names with “extras” on the end – Isabelle and Juliette and Vivienne and Noelle – look a little more flirty, perhaps a little more young, maybe even a bit more princess-y. Catherine looks comfy and classic, Katherine is a little more dressy, and Katharine is glamorous. Carrie is sweet-as-pie, Kari is modern and sassy, and Keri is easy and playful. Gisele is striking and sophisticated, whereas Giselle is a little more sweet and fairy-tale-esque. Laura is timeless and elegant, Lora is verging on dated, and Lara has a sophisticated edge to her. Matilda is full of down-home charm, whereas Mathilda feels a little more exotic, a little more elegant. Sara is simple and sweet and a little dressed up, while Sarah is vintage and darling and totally perfect. And, finally, Vivian is glossy and romantic, Vivienne is bold and energetic, and Vivien – my favorite! – is romantic but not too flirty, elegant but not too stuffy, and unique but not too unfamiliar.

In general, I prefer names without the extra fluff. I’d take Juliet over Juliette, Isabel or Isobel over Isabelle. I’ll take a classic vowel over a sort-of-consonant, so Jessamine for Jessamyn, Gwendolen for Gwendolyn, and even Elise for Elyse (which is actually my own middle name). I think that losing a letter can sometimes make a name feel more modern, as in Ana, Clare, Hanna, Lara, Margo, and Sara, but sometimes it just makes the name feel a little lackluster, as in Ann and Brigid.

Trustedwriter Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:23 pm

To me, Ann is so plain, whereas Anne is elegant. I love Catherine; it feels softer and gentler to me than Katharine, which seems more multi-faceted and rough, I guess because of all the angles of K. I almost always prefer C to K.

One of my long-time favorite names is Sonia. I love the sound of it…”SOWN-ya”. But I definitely prefer that spelling to Sonja or Sonya. “Sonya” looks like it should be pronounced “SAUN-yuh”, and Sonja feels too foreign with the J. With “Sonia”, the I blends in seamlessly and gives it a sweeter, younger feel.

Lil’s Mom Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I would add Amelia and Emilia to the list. Both are lovely, but to me Amelia is more a freckled girl next door/adventurer and Emilia is more glamorous and sultry.

Lo Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:43 pm

My two daughters are Clare and Katharine and if this next baby is a girl she’ll be Teresa May so this post definitely attracted by interest! It seems like this is much more of an issue with girls names!

Jennie Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Kelleita- I have the exact same problem. I spell my name Jennie, not Jenny. I used to put up a fight if people misspelled it, but now I don’t bother as much. The only time it really got to me was when my own brother misspelled it! I couldn’t believe he had been thinking of me as “Jenny” for 5 years!! It really does make a difference!

Vicky Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I hate Vicki spelled with an i! Seems like a different person, certainly with different parents who would choose that spelling. It is definitely an issue with naming, though I think it comes down to personal choice. We are thinking of naming our 3rd daughter (due any day now) Clio. That spelling seems more classy and less like a pet name than Cleo. I am always sensitive to the way people spell their names. It drives me crazy when I send someone an e-mail, and my name is very clearly spelled Vicky on multiple places on the e-mail, and they reply, Hi Vicki! Obviously based on the responses, this is an issue that people can get fired up about!


trich323 Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I have a name with a spelling variation, but I don’t see a difference myself. My name’s Theresa, but I don’t even bother to correct people if they put Teresa on somthing that doesn’t matter (a Starbucks order or something).

I know it’s out of date either way, but does anyone else read Theresa and Teresa differently?

wayland Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I have a daughter named Lea, in part because of French connections and in part because I wanted to avoid religious connotations. Even my own parents occasionally spell it Leah! It drives me bonkers, because I think of Leah as being much more somber. I wonder if my young daughter is going to give in one day and start adding her own ‘h’.

QuirkFlower Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Wayland brings up an interesting point- is it acceptable to just change one’s name to a variant of it? I know my sister changed her middle name from Ann to Anne after reading Anne of Green Gables.

SJ Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I have to smile that my name spelled Sara is more modern. I am named for the Sara relatives in each generation going back to colonial times. All spelled Sara. It is in the family bibles to prove it, ancestry.com and so forth. Spelling variants must have been around for forever = and not just due to the non use of codified spelling from dictionaries and bibles. One of the oldest of my family bibles has the Sara of Sara and Abraham spelled Sara. Maybe that is where it came from in my family.

Jenny Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 6:20 pm

For awhile in elementary school, I changed my ‘Jenny’ to ‘Jennie’ to sound more old-fashioned. (I was very into American Girl and Sunfire Romances.) They seemed so different, but now they both seem old-fashioned enough to suit me. ‘Jeni’, though, is a weirdo name. (Or a delicious ice cream.)

I know lots of Theresas (teh-reese-ah). It doesn’t seem out-of-date at all. Teresa, however, I only know from Spanish class and the saint and I always mentally pronounce it tair-ay-sah.

Triplicate Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Jennie – I have the same situation, though not with a name. All my life, when I called my mother “Mom”, she thought I was saying “Mum”. We only realized a few months ago that each of us saw it that way, and I’m 25!

Not all of these different spellings are the same name to me. As I’ve pointed out on the boards more than once, Vivian has a schwa-n ending, while Vivienne has a clear “en”. That is, it has stress on the last syllable.

Noel/Noelle has the same pronunciation difference, and seeing them on a girl produces quite a different image, because Noel is a male name sometimes uses on girls, while Noelle is its established female form.

Carrie sounds like Mary or Sarah. Kari sounds like car or Tara.

I thought Sonia, Sonya and Sonja were all sawn-ya?

Lora is said the same as Laura, but Lara isn’t.

If Brigid is said how I think it is (never heard it), it’s not the same as Bridget. I make the T-D distinction.

And isn’t Aimee actually spelled with an accent over the first E that’s simply left off because it’s not on English keyboards? I was sure it was said -may, not -mee.

Clio and Cleo are convergent names, not divergent. Different origins, sound the same. You have a right to be annoyed when these get confused.

Sometimes, I don’t like a spelling for a name because it doesn’t fit how I pronounce it. For example, Catharine or Katharine seem wrong to me while Kathryn is valid, because I say C/Katherine with 2 syllables, not 2.5.

I do see a major difference between most variant spellings, though I’m usually unsure how to describe it.

Mae, for example, never really looks like a name to me. Elinor seems ugly and incomplete.

lemon Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 7:34 pm

@ Triplicate

Totally agree with you – not all spelling variations are pronounced the same way! But, I do think that’s a matter of personally preference.

You mentioned Kari having a “car” sound, yet my friend Kari pronounces it just like Carrie! Then again, golfer Karrie Webb says her name as [CAR-ee].

As for Vivian and Vivienne and Vivien, I agree with you. Vivian has a stress on the first syllable the way I pronounce it, and the ending is softer, if you will. Vivienne ends in a clear, stressed “en” sound. Vivien, to me, is a bit of a combination, with a brief stress on both the first and last syllables. I love it!

Your discussion of Laura versus Lora and Lara is particularly interesting to me being that my name is Lauren. I think many names with the “au” vowel pattern have multiple pronunciations depending on regional accents. My mom says my name as [LAWR-en] whereas my dad says it closer to [LOR-en]. Same with my friend Laura! Sometimes she’s “Lora,” others she’s “Lara.”

Lo Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 7:50 pm

lemon- I’m a Laura and my parents say my name differently too! My mom says LOR-a and my dad LAWR-a. B/C I grew up with both I’m fine with either and didn’t notice they were using different pronunciations until I was an adult. I do call myself LOR-a consistently though.

Andrea Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Car-ee is the usual Scandinavian pronounciation of Kari. I knew a couple of girls who pronounced the name that way and spelled it the Scandinavian way. I knew a lot of girls named Carrie, Cari, Kerry, Kari, Kerrie, etc. and most of them pronounced with the long a — care-ee. Carrie always seemed quite different and Little House on the Prairie and the cutesier spellings were more cheerleader-like. Kerry always struck me as Irish.

I can’t say Laura any way other than Lore-uh. My north central North American accent won’t let me do it. It feels different than the spelling Lora, though. Don and Dawn are the same name to me, as are Aaron and Erin. I can’t hear any difference in pronounciation. On paper there’s quite a difference in how they look and feel, of course.

I don’t see any real difference between Teresa/Theresa or Susanna/Susannah. They have the same basic feel.

Heather Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:17 pm

My sis-in-law’s middle name is Katherine, and she’s very proud of that K. Another friend of mine is Catherine, but she goes by Katie. Apparently, the people I know thing the C is overly girly and therefore wimpy. I myself prefer Catharine, but I don’t plan of using it as a baby name.
I see Eleanor as more medieval, like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Castile. For some reason, Elinor, though I love the Austen character, makes me think of Elsinore.

hilary Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Jennie & Vicky–I’ve had the same experience with my name. I get called “Hillary” all the time (Hillary Clinton, bless her heart, hasn’t helped matters), including by email when I’ve very clearly spelled my name Hilary. And once my own brother called me Hillary! To me, Hillary is corporate, whereas Hilary is artistic and free-spirited.

And Sophia (my daughter’s name) is soft, sweet, and serious, whereas Sofia (which I do like as well, though I didn’t so much for a while) has a bit of a bite to her.

Meghan Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:49 pm

As a “Meghan”, I’d agree that spelling variations do change a name, but I love mine!

Meghan Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:49 pm

As a “Meghan”, I’d agree that spelling variations do change a name, but I love mine!

Kelli(y) Says:

February 23rd, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I was born Kelly and in the 6th grade, I begged my mom to let me change the spelling to “Kelli” because there were 3 other Kelly’s in my class and I really believed that with this new spelling I was a new person….that was 25 years ago, I wish now I was just “Kelly” again!!!

NameGoddess Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 12:15 am

My name is Sydney, and I have known female Sidneys (too masculine), Sydnies (too flouncy–for the name, that is) and Sydnees (too cre8if). One woman even spelled my name Cydni! To me (and obviously I am largely biased), Sydney is the one legitimate, classic female spelling of the name. Sidony/Sidonie works if you’re looking farther back into the roots, but I don’t even really consider it a name off the Sydney-branch…more like a second or third cousin.
Also, my middle name is Kaye, after my grandmother (whose name is actually Wanda Kay–she goes by her mn and changed the spelling). When people spell my name Sydney Kay, especially close friends, I think, “Is that who they think I am? A Sydney KAY?” (There was an above post that mentioned a similar thought, which I totally agree with!)
Another example: my brother’s name is Philip, but a lot of people think it’s Phillip. It never fails to surprise me when they spell it that way, even though both names are equally legitimate!

LyndsayJenness Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 12:56 am

My cousin is Britney and for years she went by Brittney, to the point where I thought they had gotten it legally changed. She’s been Britney again since around the time Britney Spears got popular, lol.

Triplicate, I am with you on different pronunciations for different spellings. I say most of them the same way you do, except I say Tara tare-uh, and Kari the same as Mary. Laura and Lara are completely different sounds for me. Dawn/Don and Erin/Aaron sound exactly the same, even when people who think they sound different say them, I can’t hear a difference. Actually my niece is Dawn and I once innocently said to her mother that her name sounds the same as Don and I think it made her really mad, she and my MIL don’t see any similarity between Dawn and Don…

Oh! My younger brother is Jeffrey. If I’d been a boy I would have been Geoffrey. Somehow, I think Geoffrey would have fit me (theatre kid, creative and stuff) but Jeffrey definitely would not. And my brother is SUCH a Jeffrey (athletic and popular, goes by Jeff or JT) but Geoffrey would have been so weird on him.

Gosh, this is a fun topic, there are so many examples, I wish I could think of more

Andrea Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 1:26 am

I’ve occasionally had to ask “Do you mean the girl Dawn or the boy Don?” when there’s been a Dawn and a Don in the place. They were both fairly common names when I was in high school and there were a couple of each in the school. Laura and Lara are two different names with different sounds. The way Spanish speakers pronounce names gives them a very different image, I think. Both Laura and Claudia have first syllables that almost rhyme with plough. To an English speaker, it sounds pretty but exotic and quite different from Laura on Little House on the Prairie. I agree that Geoffrey and Jeffrey sound quite different too. Jeffrey is very All-American, captain of the football team, 1960s astronaut and Geoffrey is very artsy, British, elite.

Lisa Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 2:09 am

We specifically chose names that were the very most common spelling and clearly gender-specific for these reasons. People seem to look down on youneek spellings of common names, “people will always have to ask them how to spell/pronounce it”…but that comes into play for even common names with more than one common spelling, Catherine/Katherine/Katharine/Kathryn being the most exemplary. Basically, I think spelling matters and so, we avoided names where spelling was an issue.

Carolyn Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 4:35 am

One that drives me absolutely batty is Rhys/Reese/Reece. To me the first has just a completely different sound (in my head it is definitely “rh” even though in north america no one can tell the difference) and the feel is miles away – as in, this person is using the correct, masculine form of the name and not being trendy and irritating. (Uni-sexing names doesn’t really bother me, except that all of the Welsh boys names seem to get stolen by girls in this country to an irredeemable degree, which strips my favorite name list quite bare!)

Carys/Cerys is another one that suffers north american mispronunciation. I know that’s different from just the feel of the name, but I am very judgmental, and if I meet someone called CARE-iss who spells it Carys, it makes me think that the parents are culturally ignorant and can’t spell. I can certainly see that applying to some of the more modernized spellings and americanizations of other foreign names – one says “knew what they were on about” and the other implies “did not do the research.”

For more obscure cultures you could probably even make an appropriation argument…

christena Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 9:06 am

my name is Christena, which is the Danish spelling of Christina. they are pronounced the exact same way, but like others above me, i view them as completely different names. I’ve met many Christina’s, but only one Christena.

I still make the argument that my name makes more sense phonetically. the I in the first part of Christina, sounds different than the I in the last part. They should be two different letters. I can’t think of another place where an I makes a long E sound.

Sarah A Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

As a Sarah WITH an H, I do think spelling variations matter. To me, Sarah seems much more Biblical and classic than Sara.

That said, I don’t really like statements such as “I like ___ but only spelled ___” Especially in cases where parents want to make a popular name less popular by spelling it differently. Isobel is more streamlined than Isabelle, but it doesn’t take away from the popularity of the name.

PS. Christena – I know a Dutch Christene and I have to agree with your argument about the different I/E sounds in your name.

isabel Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

i was just thinking about this! the spelling definitely changes the name’s personality. i prefer the spelling…

-catherine to katherine, and hate the spelling kathryn. catherine seems like the classiest and most classy to me.

-elizabeth to elisabeth, because i love the nn lizzie, but i don’t mind the elisabeth spelling.

-margot to margo, i was talking about the name to a margot i know and she said “this might sound weird, but i feel like the t rounds off the name and makes it complete and balanced.” i totally agree. this is the same case as susannah/susanna, which is why i prefer the “h” spelling. same with sara/sarah (also, sarah’s more classic)

Scrambledmegs Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Also being a Megan, spelling variations make a difference to me, too. In fact, I was in a course recently with someone who spelled it “Meghanne,” which was new to me!

I find I’m more bothered by pronunciation than spelling. I pronounce my name Meh-gin, not May-gahn. This became more problematic when there was a Bratz doll who spelled it “Meygan,” further emphazing the may over meh sound.

isabel Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

On the Megan topic, my cousin has the Meagan spelling and pronounces it mee-gan, to complicate things further…lol. 🙂 luckily for you i think the meg-in prn. is most common.

Kristin Says:

February 24th, 2011 at 11:50 pm

As the mother of an Annabel named Kristin, spellings definitely matter to me. After years of having to spell my name for people, I swore that my children would have the most popular spelling of their respective names. Then I fell in love with Annabel. To me, it has an entirely different feel than Annabelle. Annabelle is ornately feminine while Annabel seems stronger somehow.

texsun Says:

February 25th, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Anne gives the name enough “weight” to be used in its own right, whereas Ann seems like a placeholder middle name.

I’ve always preferred the Katharine spelling because of Katharine Hepburn (even though nobody would ever get the second ‘a’ right). Catherine seems very matronly and gentle, despite Catherine the Great and other notable (mostly royal) Catherines. The Kathryn spelling has always looked low-end and contrived to me, even though its been in use since the Middle Ages.

But in general, I prefer whatever the more common spelling is, because I see no point in giving your child a name that they will constantly have to correct. Being Elisabeth-with-an-S or Sara-without-an-H has to get irritating after a while.

The only exception to this is when the most popular spelling is indisputably incorrect. For example, I’d use the name Caitlin even though its bastardization Kaitlyn is more commonly used.

Elle Says:

February 27th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I love this post! I definitely have specific spellings that I prefer over others.

Catherine over Katherine
Katharine over Katherine
Anne over Ann
Sara over Sarah
Susannah over Susana
Moriah over Mariah
Isabel over Isobel
Margot over Margo
Elisabeth over Elizabeth

The list could go on and on…I’m sure a lot of it has to do with our own associations with these names. Perhaps people we really love and maybe those we’re not too fond of…either way this is very interesting!

Andrea Says:

February 28th, 2011 at 1:19 am

Different spellings elicit different feelings. I always agreed with “Anne” of Anne of Green Gables in that matter — it was one of the many reasons I fell in love with her character. I also agree that spelling differences can cause pronunciation differences. My aunt is named “Laurie” and her name is said “LAW-ry” (with a drawl), “LOR-ee”, and “LAH-ree”. However, my friend name “Lori” has always been pronounce “Lor-ee” by everyone. It confused me to no end as a kid.

My preferences:
*Anne over Ann (most definitely). Ann seems so plain.
*Katherine over Catherine (to quote “C always seems so smug”
*Elinor over Eleanor (Elinor is actually on my short list for kid names). Elinor seems less stodgy to me.

Different feelings evoked but no preference to either spelling variation:
* Sara vs. Sarah — I think Sarah as more of a quiet, settled person.
* Isabel vs. Isobel — I think Isobel seems more exotic
* Elizabeth vs. Elisabeth — Elisabeth is definitely a “softer” name

Ally Says:

March 3rd, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Spelling variations can definitely change the image/feel of a name.

I’m not too keen on Isabel/Isabelle/isabella but I adore Isobel (Ysobel, on the other hand…not so much)…I love the way the name looks ortographically. Very classy and feminine, without being too girly. It’s one of my favorite girl names!

But it always depends on where you live. Here in Germany I can imagine many people finding “Isobel” rather pretentious and not at all classy.

My aunt once told me that when she was in her teens she used to hate the fact that her name was spelled “Silvia” and not “Sylvia”…In fact, I think I found an old notebook of hers where she spelled it with a y herself. But she got over it!^^

I personally can’t imagine spelling my name Aleksandra instead of Alexandra though. Looks weird to me…..

Alyson Says:

March 11th, 2011 at 4:38 am

Being an Alyson (with one l and a y) Spelling makes all the difference. My last name is also one with many spellings, so it was always a treat to see how people spelled my name when I told them. (mostly Allison or Alison). I felt that the y and one l helped me stand out as a child, but as I got older I was mostly just annoyed that it had to be spelled out every time. I have had plaques engraved with my name wrong, certificates sent out with my name wrong. I got my gold award for girl scouting when I was in high school and half the certificates I got from all over the country in recognition were spelled wrong because one of the people sending out the requests spelled my name Alison. I will definitely be trying to give my children names that are a more standard spelling, or names that only have one clear spelling. I live in Germany now and it is even harder because not only is the name Alyson in all forms not popular at all, my version is even less popular!

Nyx Says:

March 21st, 2011 at 2:31 pm

• Ann vs Anne: I prefer the Anne spelling as it looks more complete to me. Ann always looks as if they’ve forgotten a letter. However, I do see them both as equal (unless I am the one getting to pick the version), and think that either version is acceptable. The “e” doesn’t change the pronunciation, and I think that both are equally likely to be misspelled as the other.

• Catherine vs Katherine: When I was pregnant with my second (and last) child, this was a debate in our house. I wanted to have options with names (I just couldn’t bare the idea of NOT thinking about other names), and so my hubby came up with Catherine Suzanna as an alternate girls name. When he said it, I saw “Katherine” and fell in love with the name. He insisted that it should be spelled with a “C” and I with a “K”. To him, “C” was more classic. For me, the “C” made me think of the dreaded nickname Cathy (ironically, Kathy isn’t as bad for me!). Before the debate ever really had a chance, we found out that we were having a boy (there went my chance to look at names – we only had one boys name left that we both agreed on/loved!). A few months later I changed my mind while reading Wuthering Heights. The main character is Catherine, and I all of a sudden loved the idea of giving a daughter the same name as that of a character in one of my favorite novels. Alas, our baby naming days were over and we’re having no more children. However, I am anxiously awaiting the time until we can buy pets (they will have full names, just so I have so fun!). And I always help my two sons come up with just the perfect name for their new stuffed animal whenever they get one 😀

• Isobel vs Isabel: I find both of these names very beautiful. However, I do find them some what different. I see Isobel as “iz-OH-bel” and Isabel as “is-AH-bel”. The first is slightly stronger and the second is slightly softer. I also see the difference in origin when I see the two names. Isobel seems more Celtic and Isabel seems more European. In practice, if two different mothers were telling me about their daughters Isobel and Isabel, I doubt that I would hear a difference. In the end, the difference between these two names is very visual, and it would be up to the parents to decide what aspect they wanted shown.

• Aiden vs Aidan: My 4 year-old son has two friends named Aiden. I’m not even sure how they’re spelled. My 6 year-old was in a play group about 4 years ago with an Aidan. To me, the sheer abundance of this name makes the spelling seem more a pain then a way to make the child’s name perfect for the parent. I hear “AY-den”, no matter what the spelling. I find both acceptable, but draw the line there. Start changing “I” for “Y”, dropping letters or otherwise trying to be “unique” and you just confuse the person trying to spell the child’s name right on the birthday card!

• Elisabeth vs Elizabeth: Much like Isobel/Isabel, the main difference between this name for me is the softer sound of Elisabeth vs the harder sound of Elizabeth. Both are acceptable and right, and it just depends on which way you want your daughter’s name pronounced. (On a side note, if you want to avoid the Liz/Lizzy nicknames, Elisabeth might help you there).

• Susanna vs Susannah: I find Susannah the more “complete” name (much like Anne), but I think Suzanna (my name – a family name) is much more fun. Overall, I find that this name (regardless of spelling) is very girly, but not overly frilly.

• Margo vs Margot: To me, Margo seems more down-to-earth and Margot seems a tad more pretentious.

• Mae vs May: May is sweet, but Mae has a sweet-with-a-slightly-funky-edge. It would just depend on if the parents wanted sweet or sweetly-funky 🙂

N Says:

April 13th, 2011 at 8:30 pm

My daughters are named Catherine (Cate) and Elisabeth. At first I wasn’t too sure about having the less common spellings of both of these classic names, but I love it. I agree with most of the posters here: Catherine and Elisabeth are the softer, more old-fashioned versions of these names, and that’s why we picked them!

Brandie Says:

April 20th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

For me it can make all the difference. Anne of Green Gables was my favorite book series growing up and I loved that Anne advocated the E at the end of her name just as much as I did to mine. People always ask is that Brandy spelled with a Y or Brandi spelled with an I. I of course respond no it is with an I and an E. Then other times I will correct the spelling and people occasionally ask “does it really matter” and my response is always the same “My parents choose my name for a reason, my name is not Brandy it’s Brandie, so yes it matters.”

*person* Says:

May 4th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

My name is Claire, and as soon as I knew it was a name, I LOVED the name Klaire, I’ve always liked the sound of my name, but Klaire looks a heck of a lot cooler then Claire.

*person* Says:

May 4th, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Mae is better then May
Isobel is better then Isabelle
Aiden is better then Aidan
Elizabeth is better them Elisabeth (I’m not much of a fan of either but Z is cooler then S)
Margot is better then Margo
(no offense to any people with the spelling variations I don’t like, it’s just my opinion.)

*person* Says:

May 4th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I think spelling does count, a K is (in most situations) cooler then a C, a Z is cooler then an S, an E is cooler then an A (Alisabeth would be cooler then Elizabeth though), and X is the ultimate letter (except in the Alexandra-Aleksandra situation where Aleksandra is CLEARLY cooler) and an I is cooler then an IE or Y.

Leslie Owen Says:

May 4th, 2011 at 10:22 pm

So many of these alternate spellings have to do with linguistic origins, as well as the “age” the name was popular in — medieval, Renaissance, Royalist, Puritan, etc. For example, Sara without the “h” is French, Spanish, German, Italian, Catalan….Isabelle, Isabeau, and Elisabeth are French, French, French, and German, Isabella is Italian, Isabel is Spanish.

My preferences….
Ann to Anne
Elisabeth to Elizabeth
Sara to Sarah
Rebekah to Rebecca
Ishbel to any of the others
Katharine to Catherine (I used to see Kate Hepburn all the time as a child as I’m from CT)
Caitlin to any of the other bizarre variations
May to Mae (Mae is too redneck for me)
Clare to Claire.
Laura to any other version.
John to Jon unless the name is Jonathan
Sean to Shawn etc unless it’s Sion (Welsh)
Geoffrey to Jeffrey

Hannah Says:

May 24th, 2011 at 11:02 pm

I love the name Johanna, and I fully plan on one day having a daughter by the name Johanna. However, I absolutely cannot stand the name Joanna. I don’t know what difference that little ‘h’ makes, but it apparently is a very big one in my inner psyche. I guess it sounds more old-fashioned and feminine with the extra letter, whereas Joanna just sounds dated.

Amanda Says:

June 6th, 2011 at 5:06 pm


It all depends on the image you want your daughter to have. I personally love both Maia and Maya.

However, I feel that Maia leaves a sophisticated, carefree, responsible image, while Maya gives off a young, outgoing, happy impression.

Of course, whatever name you give your daughter, it will not make her into a stereotype. She will be who she is regardless to what name she is given. All I’m saying is think a little more on what idea you would like to people to have of your daughter when they look at her name written down.

garnet Says:

June 15th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

@Andrea – I just wanted to pop in and say that Eleanor is also a Jane Austen approved spelling. Eleanor Tilney is a character in Northanger Abbey.

Olivia Says:

July 21st, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Interesting post. I agree that it’s usually more of an issue with girls names than it is with boys.

Katherine/Kathryn are classy yet a little bit trendy. Catherine is soft yet a little worn. Isobel lives in 19th century Scotland, as does Brigid. Isabelle and Bridgette are stylish and French, and Isabel and Bridget are playing alongside Nevaeh and Kayla at nursery. Elizabeth is distinctively British, whereas Elisabeth looks Eastern European. Susannah is sweet and soft and gorgeously vintage, Susanna is tidier but has lost it’s old lady feel. Margot is a glamorous movie star, Margo is milking cattle… and Margaux is French royalty. Mae is exotic looking, whereas May looks pretty and old. Rebecca sounds simple and sweet; Rebekah is more exotic and a little bit vular looking to the English speaker.

I also think it’s down to the spelling you first encounter. The first little girl I met named Vivian/Vivienne spelled her name Vivien, and this is the spelling I prefer and always have. I’ve never liked the sound of Isabelle, until I met an Isobel. I had a good friend throughout my childhood named Amy – and Aimee looks absolutely ghastly to me. Also, I’m an Olivia, and the only other Olivia I knew in school was several years below me, and was an ‘Alivia’. I remember thinking that her name was nothing at all like mine, and ridiculous anyone would confuse them. I also grew up with a Kally, and although I am aware that this isn’t the ‘standard’ spelling, Cally/Callie both look very silly to me, even now.

Brighton *Bree* Says:

July 23rd, 2011 at 3:49 am

I remember asking my mom to choose between the two spellings for the name of one of my minor characters named Mikayla/Mikaela. She just looked at me and said “What’s the difference? Even if Mikayla is spelled Mikaela or Makayla or McKayla or even Mikala its still just Mikayla” But when I see the name Catherine I think of a softer, soft-spoken girl but with Katherine I would imagine a louder girl. It just depends on how the name looks.

Marie Says:

July 28th, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Sophy instead of sophie or sophia. I like that it ends in a y. To go with Brittany Stephany Emily Lilly. What do you think?

Lucky*Clover Says:

July 30th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

How a name is spelled does alter my opinion on the name. For instance, where I live it’s very common to use a y in the name to show it is a girl name- Jordyn, Kamryn, Jensyn, Westyn are some examples. I see this so often that when I see the name Jordyn, I assume it is a girl just based on the spelling. Another huge spelling variation craze is to take a name that traditionally is spelled with a C and change it to a K to make it seem more modern or something. I know quite a few boys named Kaden and all are spelled with a K not a C. Other popular variations are Kaleb, Karson, Konnor, Kolton, Kolby.
When I was younger if you spelled your name with an I at the end it was considered to be more updated or spunky or something like Staci, Brandi, Lindi, Laci. It’s very interesting how one letter can change your perception on a name.

Jaci Says:

August 28th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I’ve seen some commenters lumping the names Carrie and Kerry together. To me they are completely different names. Different origins, different pronunciations, different traditional spellings. Carrie I pronounce Care-ee. While Kerry is pronounced Ker-ee. Carrie is mostly American and Kerry is Irish. I have an Aunt Kerry and couldn’t possibly imagine her as a Carrie. They are not variations of the same name.

Aaron and Erin are totally different too. Air-en and Er-en.

So are Dawn and Don.

catmcroy Says:

September 22nd, 2011 at 3:07 am

Ever since I read a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, I’ve LOVED Eleanor, with that spelling. It has the same sort of Royal Queen vibe that Elizabeth, Catherine/Katherine (THREE of Henry the VIII’s wives were one spelling or another – Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr; two were Anne’s – Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves, and one was Jane Seymour), Anne, Jane, Maud and Mary all emit.

catmcroy Says:

September 22nd, 2011 at 3:09 am

Oh and since I’ve heard people pronouncing Portia and Porsche the same way, I’d view a little Portia (and her parents) as educated, artistic people and Porsche’s parents as the sort who probably also have a Nevaeh or a Caiden/Brayden/Jayden.

ebenezer.scrouge Says:

February 24th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I really want a little Isobel its my top pick for a girl and will spell it this way as it is my grandma’s name

ElleeW Says:

April 10th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

What an interesting feed of comments to read! I am Eleanor Anne (born in 1985, so imagine growing up with Stephanie, Amanda, Jessica, Ashley, etc.) named after my paternal grandmother. The thing is, she was Elinor, but my dad really liked the historical connotation that Eleanor had. The Anne comes from my aunt Gretchen Ann, but again, he liked the feel of Anne better.

Since my dad chose Eleanor Anne, my mom got to choose my nick name- Ellee. The spelling was so unusual that I had a lot of difficulty with peers and teachers, but now in my mid 20s I appreciate the difference.

Growing up with this name was made all the more difficult by the fact that my parents hyphenated their two very Welsh/English last names together. I hated what my parents had done to me for a long time, but now I am a teacher and I realize what a blessing my oddball/classic name was. For one, nobody ever had to say “which Ellee?”. Also, I realize that while Eleanor was not a great name for a child, Ellee was cute and I have a name that will grow with me. Can you imagine Grammy Tiffany? (No offense to any Tiffany out there, I have lots of friends with that name, being a child of the 80s!).

The point of my post is this: spelling does have a lasting result. You can get creative, but I wouldn’t suggest cr8if. Constantly correcting people on the spelling of your name makes kids self-conscious. It took a long time before I could be proud of my double e.

LivyToo Says:

April 25th, 2012 at 12:42 am

There are so many spelling variations of so many names that I love. I couldn’t possibly name them all. But I can think of two examples that are relevant in my life right now:

My sister loooves the name Hannah but it’s a bit too popular for my taste. She’s dead set on using the name Hannah but I think she should use the spelling Hanna. That second spelling changes the whole name for me and makes me actually start to love it.

Also I definitely prefer Schuyler over Skylar for a girl. Even though Schuyler is harder for people that aren’t familiar with the name, I feel that using the phonetic Skylar is very tacky. Schuyler is authentic and wins in my mind.

anna_olivia Says:

May 6th, 2012 at 1:09 am

Being from South Louisiana, I’ve always been a fan of French spellings over any other. My heritage though spans French, Spanish, German, and Italian so I appreciate a little germanic and latin influences as well!

I’ve always preferred:
Catherine over Katherine. not Kathryn
Kate over Cate never Kait/Kayt/K8
Anne (my grandmother) over Ann
Eleanor over Elinor
Elisabeth over Elizabeth, though I like both
Claire over Clare
Can’t decide on Margot/Margaux/Margo
Amy and Aimee seem like very different names to me, especially because I know Aimees who pronounce their name Ay-May as well as some who go by Ay-mee. I also know an Ayme’ (a family name)
I like Isabelle and Isabel equally but agree that they give off very different vibes. Isabel seems more exotic/spanish and Isabelle very girly and French. I’d never thought of Isobel but I do like it.

Also my name is Anna. I was named after my grandmother, Anne but there were too many “Ann” sounds in my family (Aunt Jan, who’s married to Dan, and my dad’s name is Van, whew!) I love my name Anna and can’t imagine being Anne, although I think I would have liked being nicknamed Annie. But my name is very different than Ana, and I’ve always despised being confused for Hannah/Hanna, which I don’t like.

Sylfessev Says:

November 10th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I prefer Catherine over Katherine,
Kate over Cate
Anne over Ann
Eleanor over Elinor
Elisabeth over Elizabeth
Claire over Clare
Margot over Margo and Margaux

I’m dwelling on Amy and Aimee, they both have their flaws. Amy is too short, too simple, and a tad dated. Aimee is French and more sophisticated, but to me it seems more unfinished than Amy. I’m not really that fond of -ee endings.
Isabelle vs. Isabel vs. Isobel. Each name has a very different image to me. Isabelle is lovely, frilled and silky. Isabel is gallant, lady-like and dignified. Isobel is calm, collected, more down-to-earth than her cousins. It’s Isabel vs. Isobel for me.

Some other thoughts:
Susanna over Susannah. Susanna is more sweet, and more delicate than Susannah, which is a bit too heavy for me, like Savannah and Hannah.
Martha over Marta. Both names are really lovely, but Martha has more charm and substance than Marta, to me.
Gillian over Jillian. For some reason, Jillian never seemed to be sophisticated, or at least a bit fashionable. Gillian is a much more prettier spelling, while neither is truly sophisticated, Gillian seems less dated and more pretty, overall.

juliannemarie Says:

December 31st, 2012 at 7:33 am

Agree. When I was 11, I decided that Julie was just too plain for me ( plus there were two other Julie’s in my class) and ditched the -e and never looked back. In my opinion, Juli is crisp, lively, and unique.

juliannemarie Says:

December 31st, 2012 at 7:38 am

I do prefer more classic spellings

WarpedBritt Says:

February 16th, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I decided to name my daughter Lyrik instead of Lyric because I found the k on the end to be more aesthetically pleasing.

edreams.com Says:

October 31st, 2014 at 3:44 am


Spelling Variations: Do They Change the Image of a Name? – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry

Beau Jean Says:

February 9th, 2017 at 1:15 pm

I named my son Wesley because I thought it was the more common spelling. I have been surprised on how many people think it’s spelled Westley. I like both spellings I just went with the one that I thought would have less trouble.

I really prefer Una over the Oona spelling. I am sure it is because of the character Una Meredith in the Anne of Green Gables books. That girl is a saint. I love the name Una. I think Oona looks a little spooky.

And then there is my name Beau. I have always needed to spell it out or tell people how it is pronounced. It doesn’t bother me because I really love my name and how it looks. I don’t know anyone named Beau except the woman that I was named after, who I have only met once in my life. It doesn’t bother me if someone spells it Bo, Bow or Boe because I know that many people are not familiar with the French spelling of this name. I also know it is a male name, but that really doesn’t bother me because it is not a common name no matter how you spell it so I never run into men with this name anyway. If it is for something important I just automatically spell it out to avoid confusion.

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