When Name Nerds Name Pets
By Kara Blakley
For so many people, bringing a pet home is one of the most joyous and exciting days of their lives. There are a lot of decisions to make, but for name nerds, the name is of the utmost importance.
This is what I went through recently. I have loved dogs my entire life, and we have been fortunate enough to have some pretty awesome pooches in my family. But since I live in Australia and my parents are in the US, I don’t get to see my beloved canine “siblings” Luke and Hannah–Claire as much as I’d like. (They’re very good at using Skype, though.) It was finally the right time for me to bring home two puppies of my own. As fate would have it, there were two Maltese girls that were meant to join my family. But what to name them?
Naming a puppy has many of its own unique challenges, separate from naming a baby. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about how the name will sound on a judge or neurosurgeon. You don’t have to think about how kids at school might tease it. You don’t have to think about how many other kids with that name will be at the playground. But when our pets have their own Instagram accounts (mine do!), Fido and Rover just don’t fit the bill.
You have to really like the name, since you’ll say it for the rest of your life. (We will always talk fondly about my childhood dog, Tucker.) When you haven’t had kids yet, but would like to eventually, you don’t necessarily want to use up any of the names on The List, but you don’t want to feel like you’re settling, either. I found some tips online that said the name should be short but not sound like a command (Joe sounds like No, Kit sounds like Sit.) It also suggested seeing what your dog’s personality is like– but that wasn’t an option this time around because of the paperwork that needed to be finalized first. I also hit the Nameberry forums, of course (thanks, Berries!) and my mom was a great sounding board.
I first had to decide what style I wanted to go with. Most people would agree that you have more leniency with a dog than a person. A Papillion named Diva is adorable; a human, less so. There were cutesy names that I found myself liking for a Maltese that I’d never consider for a human; Sailor in particular kept standing out, but I couldn’t think of a good match for it. I generally like people names on dogs, but I wanted to avoid the most popular crossovers, like Sadie, Lucy, and Molly. I decided to stick to one of my favorite styles: short and sweet vintage.
So I made a list. The final contenders were Alice, Georgia, Hazel, June, Margot, Sylvia, and Violet. My mom and I both love Margot, but I was afraid that it could be confused with the command Go. Violet was a name that I have loved for a long time, but because of its popularity it has lost its luster as a baby name for me, so I decided that I’d like to use it for my pup. That ruled out Hazel for me, since I thought it was too theme-y with Violet. My other frontrunner was Georgia, but I was having trouble putting it with a middle name. (Yes, we do do doggy middle names.) So I asked my brother, an impartial third party. He instantly chose June, in honor of our beloved childhood dog Tucker, who was born in June. (It was always going to be a middle name if not a first.) He also liked the potential nickname Junebug—how could I say no to that?
Violet and June needed middle names, which ended up being a combination of names with meaning to me: Violet Annabelle Augusta because Annabelle was my mom’s childhood nickname, and Augusta is a fusty old name I love and my grandma and brother were both born in August; June Olivia Ottoline because my mom suggested Olivia (as in de Havilland, who had just turned 100) and Ottoline because it is a nod to the French/German cultures that have meaning for me, and I love how old-fashioned and old world it sounds.
What did you name your pets? How did you decide? Did they get “human” names?
About the author
View all of 's articles
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 1:23 am
I love this post ? It was easy choosing my pups name, he’s brown and curly and as soon as we saw him when knew he was Morris.
I never thought so many nicknames would come from Morris but so far we have;
Mo, Mog, Mogs, Momo, Moggy, Mowgli, Moggles, Moss, Moson, Maurice….
Then we have his doggy middles which we just can’t stop adding!! It started as Morris Thornton and developed into
Morris Maximus Aurelious Thornton ?
He’s 2 now and everyone is crazy for his name. It suits him down to a T.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 5:58 am
Our first rabbit was instantly named Pietje (little Pete). I saw him in the store and it just Was His Name.
Our second rabbit we got from a shelter. Her name was Kiki, but we didn’t think it suited her. She’s a tiny silverfox and all in all not really a “happy” rabbit – she can be really snarky and grumpy – and since Kiki is such a joyful, bright name we decided to try other things to see what fit her. In the end we settled on Lucy, after Lucy Pevensie, who is also tiny and quite fierce.
After Pietje passed away, we got another rabbit from the shelter that was named after the street he was found on. His name was Albert after Albert Schweitzer. We both didn’t like the sound of Albert and tried out new things. We tried Albus for a while, but he was way to rowdy and wild for that. When we got him he was throwing around all his toys in his cage and digging and running around (he still does all those things). He needed a name that screamed “I’m alive!!”. When I walked past an Irish pub I got the idea of Murphy and that fit him really well!
Then I found a rabbit that was abandoned in a park. Of course we couldn’t determine the gender from so far away, so we had to go for something gender-neutral. The first thing that came to mind was Sandy, because her fur was yellowish brown, but I really dislike that name on boys (Sandra Dee-connection is just too strong) so I picked Sam. Turns out it’s a little lady and Sam/Sammie is still living with us.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 6:18 am
Mine are all beloved cats:
Jacob Francis was rescued after being abandoned at a fruit market at 5 weeks. It was 104 degrees and I watched a lady drop a blanket on the ground and run away. Jake was a nickname I loved at the time (although he was NEVER called anything but Jacob) and Francis was for St. Francis who loved animals.
Then came Natalie Grace. Loved Natalie for our daughter but husband was afraid she’d be called Nat and it was ruled out.
Then came Kylie Rose – my angel. Sweetest cat EVER. Then Gabriel Padraic – another name I would have used for a son.
When Gabriel died we rescued a plain little tiger we named Fiona Jane who lived to be 18. Sweet, shy Fiona was so wee.
An orange tiger named Bridget Doon arrived next – born on St. Patrick’s day on my sons college campus, she was a birthday gift to me 6 weeks later. We used to sing her the theme done from the old movie musical Brigadoon and she’d swish her tail and purr.
I always wanted a calico and one finally came my way – Nellie Charlotte. She is sweet but independent – just like s cat should be.
And finally Dorian Colette, but we call her Dorian The Grey. She is very attached to me as I am to her.
Nelle and Dorian are the ones we have now ??
on April 3rd, 2017 at 6:39 am
I have two dogs: Scout and Arwen.
Scout was named after Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. We gave her the middle name Harper, after Harper Lee.
Arwen was named after Arwen from The Lord of the Rings. We gave her the middle name Lee, also after Harper Lee. I know Harper Lee didn’t write LOTR, but Arwen Lee sounds a lot better than Arwen Tolkein in our book.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 11:26 am
For pets, I use names I love but would never be brave enough to use on a baby.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 12:08 pm
At present, I have two pets, Flora the Jack Russell and Cara the corn snake.
I’ll admit that not a whole lot of thought went into either name. I picked Flora long before I actually picked my dog, and it was simply a name I liked. Cara has orange eyes, and was named after a orange eyed character from a book I can no longer remember.
I have also had another two snakes, both named after book characters, though I do still love those books.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 12:31 pm
I have two cats one the shelter named Lita (as in Lita Ford female metal musician), which we figured because she is very metal looking. She is grey with a lot of brown/bronze accents to her fur. However they also said she was an adult cat but she was still very kitten like or kitten-ish and over time Ish became her name not Lita. Our other cat, also from a shelter, had no name just a number. He was very much like a prisoner so we named him Papillon because it seemed like we were breaking him out of prison. However over time he has become known as Monster, because he kind of is one. He delights in tormenting his fellow cat, biting though rarely hard enough to break the skin, and just being an annoying little brother, so to speak.
on April 3rd, 2017 at 10:48 pm
Two cats, my orange and white half Persion, half something else, Alfie (the asthmatic child who sits at the back of the class, plotting his takeover of the world, were he human) and my white half Siamese, half Calico named Casper (because he’s scared of everything except me – and would sit in the back of the class eating glue, were he human).
Before them, I had a ton of other cats. Two female Calico sisters named Buttons and Blueberry, because of their spots. Blueberry had a spot so black it was almost blue. Blueberry had kittens and I, accordingly, named them all after some sort of food, based on their looks: Plum (he was half Siamese, with a spot on his nose so dark it was a plum color), Caramel (who was spotted white and a light caramel color), and I can’t remember the other three. They were given to other members of my family.
I generally just have inspiration strike when I’m naming. Sometimes they’re totally food names. Others they’re classic Georgian or Edwardian names. I was feeling classic with Alfie and Casper.
on April 4th, 2017 at 7:47 am
I LOVE naming things, so that might be why I enjoy getting new pets. We have a yellow lab named Velvet (I didnt have any part in naming her). I have two guinea pigs, Valentino and Oswald. I have a milk snake named Ira and a betta fish called Bartholomew. I named those four. People usually give me weird looks when I tell them my pets’ names (especially Bartholomew)
Lyla Rose Said
on April 4th, 2017 at 9:14 am
I have a little Maltese puppy too! She’s six months old and VERY playful. Her name is Pixie which is adorable considering she’s always been the runt of the litter. I had a lot of names in mind but Pixie was just so cute that I had to use it.
on April 29th, 2017 at 2:48 pm
I have a Maltese mix named Riley! He was nearly named Winston (Churchill) and Maxwell (House; he put his foot in a coffee cup, but the name was vetoed because I have a cousin whose dog is named Max and they’re playmates). Riley’s named after the author of my favorite poem, though not my favorite poet, James Whitcomb Riley.
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.