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Why So Few Girl Juniors?

posted by: sanctanomina View all posts by this author

By Katherine Morna Towne

I read an online comment recently from a name enthusiast arguing that “lots of men” give their own names to their sons (whether as Juniors—using their exact names—or using variants in the first or middle spots), while “very few women” do the same for their daughters.

This argument didn’t seem quite right to me, based on my limited experience, so I posed the question on my blog and indeed, my readers produced quite a lot of examples of girls named after their moms. Nevertheless, it is true that the idea of specifically “Junior” girls—girls with at least the same first name as their moms, never mind the same first+middle combo—is an unfamiliar one to many of us, and I wondered why.

Several of my readers expressed the thought that moms have a greater involvement in the naming process than do dads. If this is the case—if mothers really have more of a say in their babies’ names—then “more male Juniors and less female Juniors” could be Mom’s doing rather than Dad’s. It was interesting to hear that one person has been trying to convince her husband to name their son after him, and another has also “tried to convince my husband to use his name on a son, and he is always opposed.” I was reminded that my own mom also wanted to name a son after my dad, but he didn’t like the idea either (she did bestow her name as one of my sisters’ middle names).

Assuming for the moment that naming rests primarily with mothers, here are some theories my readers came up with to explain why moms might be okay with Junioring their sons, but not their daughters:

Moms prefer to honor the women important to them

More of my readers suggested this idea than any other: that they’d prefer to name daughters after the beloved women in their lives, especially their own mothers or grandmothers, and sometimes also sisters or dear friends, than to name daughters after themselves. One even said she’s “in the middle of this discussion with my husband right now … We are 33 weeks pregnant and hotly debating names. My husband is adamant that a daughter carry my first name as her middle name. I’m pushing to use my mother’s name because I want to honor her.”

Creativity in honoring Mom (middle, variant, etc.)

While a Baby Boy, Jr. is obviously named after his dad, baby girls named after their moms don’t tend to be so obvious as various creative methods are used. Little Miss could have her mom’s first name as her middle, or her mom’s middle name as her first name; she could have her mom’s maiden name, or her same initials; or, as in the case of one of my readers, a name with great meaning that’s baffling to any who don’t know the name story:

“Both my sister (Andrea) and I (Sara) were named after our mom (Carolyn).

Say what?” I hear you say….

     Carolyn is a feminine form of Carl, deriving from Old High German karl ‘man’, Old English c(e)arl, ceorl ‘(free)man’. Andrea is a feminine form of Andrew, from Greek, ‘man’. So that’s that one.

     Sara comes from Hebrew ,‘princess’. You know the fairy tale the Princess and the Pea? It’s a running joke in our family that my mom is that kind of princess. So, that’s the other one.”

(It’s clear where Sara gets her love of names from!) (It’s also worth noting that, obviously, the same methods used to honor Mom are often used to honor Dad as well—straight-up Juniors aren’t the only way.)

Fashionable names for girls change faster than for boys

While many moms might prefer to honor the women in their family tree with their daughters’ names for sentimental reasons, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Grandma Emma’s name is now at the height of fashion. One of my readers made the good point that, now that “the Ashleys and Jessicas of my generation are old enough to have children, their names feel dated and they’re less likely to pass them on to daughters. The Michaels and Matthews don’t have that problem; their names still feel current. This is all changing with the new generation of babies. Boys’ names are becoming just as varied and subject to trends as girls’ names, but traditionally it hasn’t been that way.”

Moms don’t like their own names OR like them too much, or simply want uniqueness

Related to the idea of what names are in fashion, one of my readers said, “[T]here are hundreds of names I like better than mine which is why I wouldn’t choose to name a daughter after me,” while another said, “I wouldn’t like to share my given name. I’m selfish like that.” And in true namiac fashion, one of them said, “I actually think it’s kind of a waste of names. I mean you never know how many children you’ll get to name … rehashing an old one seems like a missed opportunity!” For those men who actively want to name a son after themselves (rather than the idea that moms might be the driving force behind such decisions), another wondered if “maybe men tend more toward the sentiment of having a son take his name instead of having lists of names they simply like?”

An interesting bunch of theories! What about all of you?

Is it your experience that fewer girls are named for their moms than boys are named for their dads? Do you agree with the suggestions here for why there are less female Juniors than male? Do you have other explanations?

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About the author

sanctanomina

Kate is a writer, lifelong lover of names, wife to a really good man, and mama to their six boys ages 2 to 11. She shares her thoughts on Catholic baby naming at Sancta Nomina.
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16 Responses to “Why So Few Girl Juniors?”

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alyssum Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 1:47 am

I actually kind of am a female junior- my mom wanted to name me after herself, but she’s not a huge fan of her name (among other things, there’s some awkward family history attached to said name), so she chose a first name that started with the same letter. Which means that, effectively, we’re both (First Initial) (Lastname), so sometimes our mail gets mixed up- I wouldn’t know why, because we still have different first names, but it does, and it’s a minor pain.

Also, I didn’t get her maiden name and, if I ever get married, I’ll lose the last name I have now (which is OK by me, because my last name is a bit boring). So it’s difficult to impossible to keep a mother-to-daughter Junior name intact, whereas a traditional Mr. Father’s Name, JR is likely to keep his name all his life. Basically: you’re likely to get some confusion even if you don’t pass your exact name on to your daughter, and people are going to have a hard time recognizing her as a Junior, either because it doesn’t happen very often or because she’s had to change her name (or you’ve had to change yours).

AldabellaxWulfe Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 7:04 am

I’ve always known that my middle name was after my mum’s grandmother. But only recently did I find out that my first name (which I’ve always hated) was chosen after a friend my mum once had during her travels through Europe. So she obviously went down the ‘honouring other people’ route. I, on the other hand, feel no inclination to follow the same path.

I will also not be partaking in the ‘Jr’ practice, as the thought of naming a daughter after myself seems pretentious and actually quite narcissistic. Having said that, at the end of the day I love far too many names, and there’s no way I’d be able to justify passing them all up in sake of inflicting my unattractive first name or bland middle name onto a new generation. I value the unique and innovative, and passing on an exact replica of my own moniker onto a daughter appears to be anything but…

TeacherLady Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 11:18 am

There’s one more thing that comes to mind when I think of male Jr’s… I find that often the naming tradition goes beyond just the father-son connection, sometimes a name can be traced back through several generations. So, by naming a son after his father, you’re often also naming him after his grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. I know it’s not tradition in all families, but I think it definitely plays a role in the decision to use the same name in several generations.

chilly9296 Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 11:43 am

My daughter shares my middle name (along with roughly half my family – Marie) and I have a good friend Stephanie (born 1984) that was named after her Italian grandmother Stefania, and then Stephanie named her daughter Stefania last year. It does happen but i find it more confusing than anything. I think its easier to figure out nicknames for male juniors to distinguish them from seniors

GreenEyes375 Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 2:47 pm

There are lots of male Jr’s in our family (most every man named his son after himself), but I’m the only female Jr, amd technically I’m named after my grandma, not my mother, but a lot of my family calls me Helen Jr or Little Pocahontas (my grandma’s nickname). (I also have a great Aunt named Margaret Juanita after her mother Juanita Margarita, and she named her daughter Juanita Lynnette).

If/when we get to having children, I’d like to name one of our sons after SO (he’s still not onboard with this idea) and I also really like the idea of naming a daughter Helen M (M is the middle initial), because me and my grandma are both Helen M, and I’d love to name a daughter after her.

Middle names are also commonly passed down by the females in our family, from one generation to another. I also know three girls named Carley who were each named after their respective father’s (Charley, Arley, and Harley), and I know another girl named Billie Dawn after her father Billy Don.

gjkp2010 Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 8:20 pm

I joke that my daughter is a junior because she shares the same first and last name as my grandmother. But in reality, she didn’t receive any of my names.

SoDallas3 Says:

November 18th, 2016 at 8:37 pm

The most accurate theory here for me is the changes in naming trends for girls. I love Jessie Pearl, my name is Jessica and while it’s not got much to do with me, I am kind of hesitant to commit to something similar to my own name. The attitude that you’re being narcissistic for carrying on a family name is very uncomfortable. Meanwhile, my SO is named Jonathon and we plan to name our first son John or another J name, John has been in both our families for generations, so it feels like a more established honour name. If we have a girl, here first name will be Anna (most likely Annalora or Annabeth) in honour of her father.

lesliemarion Says:

November 19th, 2016 at 9:14 am

I can’t speak for others except to say it is hard to imagine a woman naming her daughter Mary Charlotte Smith III or Amy Caroline Jones Junior.

Personally, I love so many names that the thought of using my own, as much as I love it, would only occur if I had something obscene like 25 children.

I do know a Bernadette who named her daughter Etta and a few other women whose daughters’ names somehow echo their own.

clairels Says:

November 20th, 2016 at 10:41 am

I’ve always been secretly tempted to do this if I ever have a girl. I can’t explain why, but the idea appeals to me, maybe exactly because it’s such a comparatively rare phenomenon.

I think the idea first occurred to me when I read the Vicky Austin series by Madeleine L’Engle, in which which Vicky is named Victoria after her mother, but always goes by Vicky whereas her mother is known as Victoria. I always thought this was very cool.

I wish I’d been named after my mother OR grandmother, because their names are awesome, but instead of getting family first name, I got a family last name as a middle, which, meh. Or maybe because I love so many girl names that I could never decide, why not go with the one I know best?

Annithyn Says:

November 20th, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Interestingly enough, I have a female student in my class this year (5th grade) who is named for her father. First Name Middle Name Last Name the Third
Think of a name like Perry Joe Last Name III
I had never heard of a girl being named that way before! I guess, if she chooses to change her name at marriage, the III association goes away? But if she has a child and carries on the tradition, would the child then be the III again, or a IV?!?

holly6174 Says:

November 20th, 2016 at 4:01 pm

My name is Rachel, which means “ewe” and when I was younger I always wanted a daughter named Oona, which means “lamb”. Now that I’m older, I feel like I’m more likely to name my daughter Daphne to honour my mother, Loretta.

Danielle1243 Says:

November 23rd, 2016 at 7:29 pm

I’m kind of a Jr. to my dad, which I don’t see a lot either. His name is Steven and have me the middle name Stevette. It’s funny I was just talking about this last month and had decided that on the off chance I had a kid (in the far future) that I would pass down the “Steve” some how in either the first or middle name, no matter the gender.

charlesokuku Says:

November 30th, 2016 at 7:43 am

Very true indeed, I wonder men are always given the nema so and so junior. Women not yet. Like to have a simple baby name with unique meaning, head to http://www.suggestbabynames.com/meaning_of_african_boyname_efunsegun%20(efoon-shay-goon).html

charlesokuku Says:

December 13th, 2016 at 4:11 am

Thanks for your piece of article. Othrwise for any parent looking for a better name for her baby, head to http://www.suggestbabynames.com/meaning_of_african_boyname_dume%20(du-may).html

amie1la Says:

February 17th, 2017 at 2:41 am

I am sort of a junior. Mum didn’t name me after herself, but I’m the third Amy in my family. My great, great grandmother was Amy Grace, her daughter was Amy Ellen and I am Amy Lorraine, after A.E. and her daughter, my grandmother, Lorraine.

universeinme Says:

May 24th, 2018 at 2:54 pm

I think it’s a culture thing- I’m Spanish and the only girl in my family not named after my mother.

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