The Long and the Short of Girl Names

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?

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14 Responses to “The Long and the Short of Girl Names”

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MillieMM Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 3:07 am

My list is most certainly a mix, my top two girls names are Rose and Alexandra! But the majority of my list lies somewhere in between with names such as Luna, Margot and Willow.

Abby Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 5:43 am

@MillieMM – Oh, I love all five of your names! My favorites boys’ names are short – Asa, Leif – but my girls’ names are long – Rosemary, Marguerite, Theodora. Of course, I’d use a nn for all of the girls’ names – Romy, Thora, Greta maybe … so I guess I’m in between, too.

Erinm Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 5:59 am

Lucia in Italian is pronounced ‘loo-CHEE-ah’ which complicates it even further!

I like 2 or 3 syllable names (maximum)

Whirligig Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 6:18 am

I prefer middle length names. Most of my favourites are between 5 and 7 letters.

onlythingbetterthanhairspray Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 6:46 am

My top boy and girl names are Nathaniel and Charlotte, but I would shorten those to Nate and Charlie. Then again, I also have names like Luke and Clara on my list, so I guess it’s good to have variation. I’m a fan of shorter middle names to balance out longer first names- my name is Abigail Claire, my brother is Daniel Ian.

Anotherkate Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 8:41 am

I think it’s really hard to get the majority of people to stick with the full name if that name is 4 syllables. I LOVE nicknames and nickname everything/one, so too long isn’t a huge concern with me.
Since I give nicknames to everything, there aren’t any one syllable names on my lists except for possible middle names (Anne and Jane).
Most of my favorite names are 2 or 3 syllables.

Theodora_Phoenix Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 9:04 am

I don’t think I prefer short or long girl names. If I had a list, you’d see Victoriana, Julietta, and Augustina right next to Jane, Eve and Hope! After reading your list, I’m now liking Lucia-Jane as a double barrel name. (Loo-CHEE-ah)

hklatt Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 10:16 am

My naming style is eclectic at best. There are many names that I absolutely love (Quinn for example) but can not use due to flow issues with our last name. The length of the name truly doesn’t matter to me but I do prefer it to have a nickname built in.

NaomiNY Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 11:01 am

My list is a mix, from Anna, Sarah, John and Rory, to Johannah, Mackenzie, Thaddeus and Dashiell.

JH Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 11:25 am

My list is a mix, but for our baby due in January, the name we like (if it’s a girl) is Juliette Rose. Our last name has 10 letters with 3 syllables, so it’ll be a long name, but Rose breaks it up a bit.

miloowen Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 11:36 am

I simply love the name Jane. My real name doesn’t have any decent nicknames, and I felt that acutely as a child. Perhaps because I grew up in an era of nicknames: everyone was Billy, and Johnny, and Jimmy; Debbie, Susie, and Lisa. So the first names I chose for my own children have a variety of nicknames attached to them. My daughter’s middle name is Louisa and to me, like my own first name, Louisa is a stand-alone. I often wished I’d called my daughter Louisa — but she looked more like a Kate.

mill1020 Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Jane is so lovely. Would love to use it as a first if we didn’t already have a James. I like medium-to-short length names. Too long and my husband balks at it, anyway.

linekelei Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 1:10 pm

My second daughter, a three-year old, is named is Holland Georgiana (both family names). I love Holland but I will be sad if it gets really popular for girls. We have a third baby on the way-if it’s a girl, we are thinking something really short and spunky – Sage or Kit.

Abby Says:

July 14th, 2014 at 6:26 pm

@Erinm – Excellent point!

@linekelei – Oh, I *love* that combination – and Kit and Sage are fabulous, too.

@mill1020 – I know how you feel! When we had a Clio, I had to kiss Theo good-bye forever …

@miloowen – I really like Kate Louisa as a combination!

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