The Long and (mostly) Short of Baby Names

August 16, 2015 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel

Looking at this week’s baby names in the news, you might think that parents are all about short names. We’ve heard high profile birth announcements for Edie and Della, Iyla and Poppy – no formal names required.

But it’s not that simple. Sure, Ava and Mia are in the current girls’ US Top 10. But so are Olivia and Isabella. Cheerful nickname Liam is the Number 2 name for boys, but classic William isn’t far behind.

For nearly every short name that’s trending upwards, there’s a longer possibility that’s also on the rise.

Let’s take a look at the short baby names in the news, and the longer forms that are also attracting attention.

Edie Keira Knightley finally revealed her daughter’s name! She and James Righton welcomed daughter Edie back in May. Edie is another nickname-name in the key of Hattie and Sadie. But parents have also embraced plenty of formal names for Edie, including Edith, the name Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton gave to their daughter in March.

Frankie Frankie is the spunky name Drew Barrymore and Will Koppelman gave to their second daughter in 2014. But it’s gentle Frances that’s rising fast, reaching Number 602 last year. Drew’s business partner, Nancy Juvonen, and husband Jimmy Fallon went with the formal Frances for their daughter born the same year. And, of course, the even longer Francesca is the most popular form of them all.

Poppy Laura Bush Hager’s second daughter (shown) has a creative family name, just like big sister Mila. Flower names like Poppy, Lily, and Rose don’t require longer versions. But I’ve seen Poppy listed as a possible nickname for Penelope and even Philippa. Of course, the most famous Phillipa has a different double-p nickname: Pippa, as in Middleton.

Lou – Supermodel and Project Runway host Heidi Klum named her youngest Lou Sulola in 2009. Now the longer forms of Lou– are making a comeback. Louisa recently re-entered the US Top 1000 after more than four decades’ absence. And the middle name Jenna and Henry Hager chose for their daughter? Louise, yet another family name.

Elle – Another short name that’s caught on in recent years is Elle – just Elle. Newscaster Andrea Canning gave the name to her fifth daughter in May. But longer El– names are plentiful, including classic Elizabeth and Eleanor, tailored Ellison, and Alyssa Milano’s elaborate Elizabella.

Della Elle might be cool, but it’s Ella that’s hot. Stella and Bella are nearly as popular, and now Billy Joel and wife Alexis are the parents of Della. Della last ranked in the US Top 1000 back in 1977 – the same year Billy released The Stranger, his breakthrough album. Della stands on her own, but could also be short for Delilah, Delaney, or maybe the Shakespearean Cordelia.

Iyla – Actress Ashley Scott of UNReal must be a fan of short names. Her firstborn is Ada. Now she and husband Steve Hart have welcomed daughter Iyla. (With the quirky middle name Vue – say it fast.) It’s yet another promising I name for girls. Some other great I names include the more elaborate Isolde, Isabeau, and Isadora.

Cy Long and short names aren’t just for girls! Zoe Saldana welcomed twins Bowie and Cy – just Cy – in late 2014. Longer names with the Cy– sound include Cyrus, chosen by Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, and Silas, the name Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake gave to their recent arrival.

Kai – If not Cy, how about Kai? The short nature name continues to catch on. Longer forms include Rachel Zoe’s Kaius, as well as creative coinages like Kyson.

Do you prefer long names or short names? If you like long names, do you use nicknames? Or are you an Isabella-no-nickname type?

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

View all of Abby's articles


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