Thankful for Baby Names: The Brave and the Beautiful


By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Later this week, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving.  In simplest terms, it’s a feast, one with a very traditional menu, and a good excuse to head over the river and through the woods to see our loved ones.

But Thanksgiving is also a verb – a time to express gratitude for the best things in our lives.

How perfect, then, to read Sarah Baird’s “I Don’t Have Babies But I’m Obsessed With Baby Names” in The Atlantic earlier this week.

What I love most about these baby names websites, and the message boards therein, is that they’re places of eternal optimism about the future. There’s nothing but pure, radiating excitement about the days lying ahead and unabashed hopefulness for new life. When situations feel grim or the world feels dire, it’s easy to swaddle myself in a community that’s not only thinking long and hard about words, but words that will name people and things that will inhabit a brighter tomorrow.

Baby names come in all varieties, and this week’s list was an especially eclectic bunch.  They’re fierce, they’re lovely, and every one of them is a reason to be filled with hope for good things to come, and gratitude for all of the joy that each new life brings.

Here are the nine reasons I’m thankful for baby names and the ever-thoughtful community of berries – and, of course, the name inspiration behind each reason:

Names tell stories, like Wolf Robert.

British aristocrat Lady Edwina Grosvenor is married to Dan Snow, a presenter of historical documentaries for the BBC.  No wonder that their birth announcement for baby #2 reads a little like the opening narration for a movie: “Our son was born today, 2005 years to the day since his ancestors erupted out of the Teutoburger Wald and annihilated the mighty legions of Varus. Like those wild Germans, he came screaming out of the dawn mist, under a full moon, and so we named him Wolf.”  Even if your family isn’t quite as grand, names can connect us to all sorts of family legend and lore.

Names demonstrate pride, like Hazel UbOtDDstarL.

British Sign Language – BSL – has been recognized as an official language in the UK since 2003.  In sign language, a person’s name is communicated using a sign unique to that individual – it’s not just a finger-spelled version of the English name.  The Lichy-Garfield family was recently able to register their daughter as Hazel UbOtDDstarL.  That cumbersome-looking middle is actually notation to explain how to properly sign Hazel’s name.  Just as families have chosen names from languages and heritages formerly marginalized, the Lichy-Garfields have found a way to celebrate their language and experience – officially.

Names tie us to our siblings, like Hayley.

There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, but some families are content to choose just one for all of their children.  File actor-comedian Bill Hader and wife Maggie Carey in this camp.  Their daughters are Hannah, Harper, and new arrival Hayley.

Names celebrate our heritage, like Konrad.

Scandal’s Scott Foley and wife Marika Dominczyk welcomed their third child, son Konrad.  Konrad joins Malina and Keller.  The K-spelling of Konrad might be a nod to Marika’s Polish heritage.  Or it might just be a Domincyzk thing.  Marika’s sister Dagmara, also an actress, is mom to Kalin and Kassian with husband Patrick Wilson.

Names are a source of constant creativity, like Riff and Lazer.

In the Netherlands, where short names are all the rage, news presenter Annechien Steenhuizen welcomed Riff, a little brother for Vesper.  And in the US, DJ and music producer Diplo has welcomed a second son, Lazer.  Lazer joins big brother Lockett.  Proof that just when you think you’ve heard every name … nope.

Names make strangers feel like family, like Indie, Esme, Scarlett, and Evangeline.

Ashley and Tyson Gardner are expecting quadruplets in a few months.  The family made headlines in October when emergency surgery at 19 weeks saved the babies.  Now the couple has released the names they’ve chosen for their daughters: Indie Mae, Esme Jane, Scarlett Elizabeth, and Evangeline Faith, along with reasons for each of the meaningful middles.  It’s the best set of multiple names I’ve heard in a while – maybe ever!

Names honor our heroes, like Isabella Monroe.

Reality television starlet Tila Tequila is a new mom.  She chose a name for her daughter that nicely balances the expected and the glamorous.  Miss Tequila – born Tila Ngyuen – was formerly engaged to the late Casey Johnson, heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and a huge fan of Marilyn. It’s a safe bet that Monroe honors the Hollywood icon.

Names carry on traditions, like Penelope Darling Bloom Valentine and Vivienne Charles Augusta Faere.  

Australian website The Best Gift of Life celebrates motherhood, and profiles Inspiring Mums from all over the world.  They always ask about names.  Jordan lives in Rochester, New York.  She explains that many middles is a family tradition, and says: We thought about them from the moment we knew we were pregnant and went through hundreds of names and variations, so the final names are so special.  A very berry sentiment!

Names carry our hopes and ambitions for our children, like Yolanda Lionheart.

We started with Wolf; let’s end with Lionheart!  Yolanda Lionheart is a name from Waltzing More than Matilda’s recent birth announcement round-up.  We’ve seen lots of boys called Leo, as well as names like Lev, Lionel, and even Lion.  But this is my first Lionheart spotting, and I must say – it’s a fierce and delightful middle name choice!

Spotted any great names lately?

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