The Long and the Short of Girl Names

July 13, 2014 Abby Sandel
short baby names

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Do you prefer your girls’ names short and simple, or long and elaborate?

There’s no right answer, and plenty of parents shortlist Rose and Isabella, Blair and Ellington.

From just one syllable to seven or eight, this week’s high profile birth announcements proved that parents can choose a long, stylish name – or a short one that packs just as much punch. The downside to a short name?  Options for nicknames might be more limited.  And they can sound choppy with shorter surnames.  Long names present their own challenges, of course – I’ll admit that I triple-checked the spelling of Gina Glocksen’s daughter’s name, and then went back and checked again.  And while Margaret doesn’t have to be Maggie (or Greta or Peggy or Meg), lots of longer names invite nicknames, which you may or may not appreciate.

All of this means, of course, that any number of syllables can be the right choice for a child, from Kate to Catalina, Ann to Annavieve.

This week’s baby names in the news ran the gamut from brief to bellissima:

Holland Marysia WalkerThe two middles are family names for PowerNation host Courtney Hansen and husband Jay Hartington.  As for place name Holland, it was inspired by the couple’s love of the Netherlands.  But it’s also a name that has slowly been attracting more attention for both genders.  Take Brooklyn and London, add in a scoop of HarperHadley-and-Harlow, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Holland catches on.

Aurelie Capucine EkaterinaDo you know about this great Tumblr, Chantalismus?  It is a collection of real names spotted in newspaper birth announcements, as well as stickers on cars – apparently putting your kids’ names on a custom static sticker is a thing – all from Europe, especially Germany.  This one caught my eye as I was looking for longer names this week.  It’s staggeringly pretty, but wow – that’s an awful lot of name!  Chantalismus described it as “Russia meets France in Switzerland.”  Thanks to Clare at for introducing me to this one!

Daenerys Josephine – Is anyone really naming their children after Game of Thrones?  Yes, yes, they are – and here’s a high profile birth announcement to prove it.  American Idol alum Gina Glocksen and husband Joe Ruzicka welcomed their first child together, a daughter with an elaborate name in George R.R. Martin‘s epic.  Daenerys is, of course, the Mother of Dragons, also known by her title, Khaleesi.  Gina has already announced that they plan to call her Dany.  The classic Josephine in the middle spot anchors her pop culture-heavy given name.

Cosima Sophie Wynne Names for Real spotted this combination in a recent birth announcement.  It’s a nice example of balancing an unusual first name with two middles – without feeling like the entire name is overkill.  Cosima Sophronia Winifred is an aristocrat, possibly fictional – but Cosima Sophie Wynne is a real girl.

Alayna Madaleine – Olympian Kerri Strug and husband Robert Fischer have added to their family.  Big brother Tyler William is joined by little sister Alayna Madaleine.  Elena and Alaina are more popular spellings, but Alayna ranked #206 for girls in 2013, ahead of Elaina.  Madaleine is also an unexpected spelling.  It’s an interesting mix of trendy and classic, and while the name is long, it does roll off the tongue.

Aleda Seren The Bold and the Beautiful’s Linsey Godfrey and The Young and the Restless’ Robert Adamson welcomed their first daughter, Aleda Seren, last month.  Aleda could be a cousin to Adelaide, or might just be a modern invention.  Seren is a Welsh nature name meaning star.  It’s a feminine combination that feels slightly unexpected – and at five syllables, it is just the right amount of name.

Lucia – The top name for girls in Spain hits the same sweet spot as Aleda.  It’s long enough for potential nicknames, but short enough that none are required.  But Lucia comes with her own challenge – is it loo SEE uh or loo SHA?  Both are correct, but you’ll have to choose – and repeat – your preference, should you use this name in the US.

Lena – From Spain to Poland, where the top name is Lena.  Lena shares sounds with Aleda, and Alayna, too.  It’s a short, complete name that works in many languages – a good choice for parents looking for something feminine but frills-free.  Lena also seems like a natural to balance out a longer surname, though Lena Jones sounds just as good as Lena Krakowski.

Jane – Let’s end with another late night talk baby!  The nicely-named Winnie Fallon has been joined by Jane Kimmel.  She’s the third child for Jimmy Kimmel, who is also father to Kevin and Kate.  Now he and wife Molly McNearney have welcomed their first, Jane.  Could Jane be the all-time most elegant short name for a girl?  From Lady Jane Grey to Jane Austen, there’s no shortage of history around this single syllable.

Do you prefer longer names or shorter names for girls?  Or is your list a mix?

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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