The Name of the Future

Sep 16th 2009

New names are submitted to Namipedia every day. I'm used to all kinds, from medieval martyrs to video-game villains. But one name just about bowled me over. It's a glimpse ahead to a brave new world of naming:


Pronounce it like Riley minus the R. It may look unassuming at first glance, but read the submitter's description...

Her mother is very young and first had the idea for the name when a friend ended a text or email with the acronym ILY, meaning I Love You. This acronym is extremely popular with teens, and most of them sign off of chat or end an email with it.

A name that's an acronym! And not just any acronym, but an emblem of the modern communication age. What could be more natural for the the text and Twitter generation, the generation that talks with its thumbs, then an "acroname"?

The point of textspeak -- sorry, txtspk -- is to economize on typing. A cumbersome stock phrase like "for what it's worth" turns into a brisk FWIW, letting you respond to a text or insert your opinion in a chat much more quickly. But as these forms of communication have become ubiquitous, the abbreviations have taken on lives of their own. Schoolyards now ring out with cries of "OMG!!", even though "Oh-my-God!!" is just as easy to say.

Realistically, an immediate flood of txtspk baby names isn't likely. ("Meet my daughter L8r and my son Roflmao.") Some names may actually suffer from the connection. The Hebrew name Orly, for instance, has started to get responses of "oh really?" Yet if Ily takes off, it could open a new realm of possibilities in many parents' minds. It's one more step away from the idea of names as a predetermined set, and toward names as a creative reflection of personal reality.

Name traditionalists will doubtless cringe. To which the kre8ives reply, NOYB.

I think Ily has a real chance. Beyond its sweet sentiment and easy spelling, Ily has the sound of the moment. It's a mashup of two of the fastest rising names in America, Miley and Isla. If nothing else, Ily finally gives us the perfect answer to the question, what's a good sister name for Nevaeh? It's the same kind of loving secret message, wrapped up in a contemporary girlish name. Or, if you prefer, the same kind of craziness.

Ily. You heard it here first.


By SaraJ (not verified)
September 16, 2009 12:36 PM

Actually, I heard it from my hometown first. :) There is an Ily there, and her name means the very same thing. I, a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist, wailed about it for a while. But had to admit it was catchy.

Next up: Lylas! (Love You Like A Sister)

By PhilippaThe First (not verified)
September 16, 2009 12:39 PM

Ok, speaking of names of the future, Laura can you tell us how you came up with the list of the top ten names of 2019 in this month's Parents magazine? I am so curious. Some were pretty predictable (Violet, Piper) some seemed a little more unlikely (Juliet, Ruby). Please divulge your method!

Unrelated: I never subscribed to Parents magazine, and yet it comes every.single.month. Who is signing us all up?

By JP (not verified)
September 16, 2009 12:41 PM

Although I'm not normally a fan of made-up names, I actually kind of like this one, because it means something important. Apparently, meaningless names bug me more than made-up ones.

September 16, 2009 12:42 PM

Interesting as always, Laura!

Now I really want to pronounce it ill-ee when I read it, am I nuts? Now if it were spelled Iley then I'd hear the off-with-its-head Riley. Although of course that would lose the secret meaning! I actually think both eye-lee and ill-ee are cute sounding and also get that vibe of Miley (cute) and Isla (more sophisticated/classic to my mind) combined. So I'm not sure if I'd use it, but I don't dislike it like I do other Kreative names.

So how long til it hits the top 1000 do we think??

By Joni
September 16, 2009 12:43 PM

And going back to a previous column about names with their first letter chopped off, Ily fits right in!

September 16, 2009 12:45 PM

Hmm, plus as JP says it does have a nice meaning, who can argue with that?

Laura- I would also LOVE to hear more about your 2019 names! Now that Parenting has them published maybe you'll be allowed to share:)

By PhilippaThe First (not verified)
September 16, 2009 12:48 PM

Jenny L3igh, me too. It looks too much like Illy the coffee brand for me to pronounce it Ilse-ee.

By hyz
September 16, 2009 12:49 PM

Ok, call me crazy, but I don't hate it. I usually dislike made-up names, new names, and anything having to do with the butchery of the English language through "text speak". But I don't hate it. I did assume it would be prounounced "illy" at first, and was related to names like Ilya, but "eye-lee" doesn't bother me as a pronunciation. Well, there's a first for everything!

By LL (not verified)
September 16, 2009 12:52 PM

SarahJ, you reminded me that I actually know a couple intending to name their first daughter Lyla because it's the way they've ended emails to each other since they started dating: LYLA = Love you lots, always.

By LL (not verified)
September 16, 2009 12:53 PM

Argh, no H at the end of Sara. Sorry, SaraJ!

By hyz
September 16, 2009 1:07 PM

From the previous thread:

Lorien, glad to help! Both of the meanings you came up with are truly beautiful. I also like "increase + joy/harmony" (as in, he's bringing more joy into your life, and you to his). There's a lot to work with there, though--I could see lots of other good ones depending on what values you wanted to emphasize.

Funny about Susanna and Sylvia! I hope you get to have one or the other in the future! And I agree about the irresistibility of Susie (or Susie Q)--and I'm another non-nn person usually. I like Malachi, too. I met one at my daughter's daycare recently, and was pleasantly surprised.

By Lorien (not verified)
September 16, 2009 1:06 PM

I can definitely see Ily taking off, if for no other reason than the "off with their heads" trend, which certainly does apply here. I would expect numerous variations on it, though, regardless of the meaning of the initials: Eilee waits in the wings?


I have cross posted this from the previous thread. See post number 177 under NameCandy for the background if you so care...

Kai "Long Soon Dietrich" rather than Kwon "Long Soon Dietrich" is my first choice, particularly after looking at the meaings. Korean meanings aside, I also like it as a short variation on Malachi, specifically because of the meaning of the original Hebrew: Mal'akhi, meaning "my angel" or my messenger. So, here's another question for all of you. How would you combine the characters/meanings below to come up with a Korean combination that also emotes and/or refers to angels? (Numbers refer to the character numbers in the links hyz provided, so I can go back and copy those I'm most interested in.)

2) temple
3) good, auspicious; beautiful, delightful
7) Add to, increase, augment
12) Excellent
13) Excellent, joyful, auspicious
17) house, home, family
28) Song, lyrics; sing, chant; praise

1) Judge, Plum
3) Reason/Logic; ruling, managing
5) beneficial, merit
19) Rule
20) Harmony, Pleasure, Joy, be glad
22, 24) inside, interior, within
33) learn practice, study, toil
36) Give to, hand down, bequeath

I'm leaning toward Ka (28) and Yi (20): Song of Joy or Joyful Praise.

Also, Ka (28) and Yi (22) Interior song, which I read as "a song in your heart."

More thoughts? There is a LOT of potential here. I'm going to have some serious fun with this!

September 16, 2009 1:09 PM

"Laura can you tell us how you came up with the list of the top ten names of 2019 in this month's Parents magazine? I am so curious."

Definitely! It was an interesting challenge (especially since I limited myself to names not currently in the top 40). I'll write more about it soon.

September 16, 2009 1:48 PM

Yes, I'm more of a traditionalist, and I'm cringing. NOMB.

But, I kind of like Roflmao.

Still, I kind of expect to see Yvy and Yly, finally reaching a conclusion with Yy (that's EE-ee).

The more I see it, the more I love Ylva.

By PhilippaThe First (not verified)
September 16, 2009 2:08 PM

Yay! Thanks Laura. I look forward to it.

By Amy3 (nli) (not verified)
September 16, 2009 2:20 PM

OMG. How glad am I that my husband and I opted for Astrid rather than our other contender, Eily (pronounced eye-lee and a variant of Helen)?

I, too, wanted to pronounce Ily as ill-ee, but I obviously don't hate it, given that I was seriously considering a sound-alike (although I still prefer Eily). And the meaning is undeniably sweet.

By SaraJ (not verified)
September 16, 2009 2:24 PM


The fact that you actually noticed and corrected that H makes it all better. :)

-- SaraJ

By Jillc (not verified)
September 16, 2009 2:25 PM

hyz, I agree with you -- surprisingly, I don't hate it. Definitely better than Nevaeh, IMHO ;).

By SaraJ (not verified)
September 16, 2009 2:25 PM

Oh, and I was just kidding about Lylas. KIDDING.

-- SJ

By hyz
September 16, 2009 2:34 PM

SaraJ--ha ha, Lylas isn't a bad suggestion for sound/look (Lila+Lyle+Silas=Lylas?), but there WOULD be something very off about informing your daughter through her name that you will love her like a sister....

By Sylvia (not verified)
September 16, 2009 2:39 PM

I've met a Lylas before.

The Kylie, Riley, Miley, &c. trend is rather cutesy and annoying to me. Ily is just another one to add to the stack...

September 16, 2009 2:41 PM

Also sounds like Eileen minus the N--if you need to get an older person on board. Ily is very cute. Before reading the post, I thought it might be French. Oh yes, I think I thought of illy coffee too. Dunno if that's French, but anyway.

September 16, 2009 3:15 PM

For me, "very cute" is the exact problem.

I can only imagine in the future that Ily will have the same problems as the earlier mentioned scientist named Katie, only worse.

Imagine your boss is named Ily. Would a lawyer named Ily become a judge?

The sound is cute. The spelling is cute. Even the meaning is cute, not to mention completely divorced from a world any larger than the parents. If the child never has to grow up, then I can see its possibilities.

But as an adult with the name... I'm sorry, I have to give this name a big NO.

September 16, 2009 3:43 PM

I don't really understand this statement: The Hebrew name Orly, for instance, has started to get responses of "oh really?"

Does Orly stand for something I'm unaware of? (I hate texting!)

September 16, 2009 3:53 PM


("Oh really?" is texted as O RLY.)

September 16, 2009 3:55 PM

oh I see. Thank you.

By Eo (not verified)
September 16, 2009 3:58 PM

Amusing topic. I do think that acronym names have been around for centuries, especially in the form of nicknames... I don't loathe "Ily" but I would if it became one of those insistent, virally popular baby names of the moment that one can't escape anywhere!

The Telegraph once again seems a leader in observing name trends. Ben Leapman reported yesterday, I think, that "Mohammed" is now the most popular baby name in London, and in two or three other regions in the U.K. It's twice as popular as the second place name for 2008, "Daniel"...

As a sidebar, Leapman complains that until recently the British Office for National Statistics refused to release regional figures for name trends, but now for some reason they have. I didn't realize that until now you couldn't get regional stats on names in Britain...

September 16, 2009 4:10 PM

I too thought initially that Ily was some variant of the Russian Ilya. It doesn't seem very substantial to me, so I'm not keen so far. Mind you, I've heard worse!
I did once know a Scottish girl called Ailie (the 'a' as in Kate). I thought that was quite pretty, except that it made me think of 'ailing'.

New baby boy born to friends this morning. I'm trying to guess what they will name him. Their others are Ben, Harry, 3milia, Maya (and Lily who did not survive). British, but lived in Italy for the last seven years (which I think explains 3milia). Very common one-syllable English surname.

Anyone care to guess?
I'm going for Edward, James or Charles (Charlie). Or maybe Sam.

By Tracy H (not verified)
September 16, 2009 4:14 PM

This reminds me of the old sitcom starring Helen Hunt and Paul Riser, "Mad About You." When they had a baby, they could not think of a name for and the baby went nameless for a short while. While the grandmother (Helen Hunt's character's mother) was visiting she shared a story with her daughter and the moral to the story was "Mothers Always Bring Extra Love" or "MABEL" And, tada! The baby was named Mabel. At the time I was young and childless of course and thought that was an awful old lady name, but now that I am older and wiser, i think it is quite charming. So, not quite txtspk but still kind of an "acroname."

September 16, 2009 4:47 PM

When i saw Ily, I immediately thought 'But that's like txtspk, I love you (before I read the whole thing) that would be weird for a name.' But now that I know it's intentional, I think it's sorta cute. Nms at all, and if I met one, I'd probably say ill-ee at first, and I agree with Linnaeus that it wouldn't work on an adult that well. Oh, and to Lorien, I totally vote Kai, I know a Kai-second name (maybe not hyphenated, I'm not sure) and I really like the name, although to me it sounds Hawaiian. And to hyz, the link you sent with the picture, I love Susanna(h) and think it goes well, but not as well as the others you mentioned (if that was what you were asking).

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
September 16, 2009 4:47 PM

Re: Lylas -
is an accepted variation of Lilias or Lilas, itself a Scottish var. of Lila.

Re: Ily et. al:

Makes me think of the (somewhat) more substantial Islay, pronounced much the same (place in Scotland - and at least one in Canada!).

Also the Irish Eilish (whoa, tongue-twister there :P), pronounced "Eye-lish", var. of Elisabeth.

So, again, one of those words that seems to become a name by proxy, in a sense, because it plays on so many popular sounds - Riley, Miley, Kylie, Isla, Eilish...starts to sound like an "Aida" phenomenon!

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
September 16, 2009 4:55 PM

oops! I meant, of course, *"Aidan"* phenomenon in above post.

By Guest (not verified)
September 16, 2009 5:21 PM

On the written paged (typed screen), Ily looks not-quite-right. The I and l are confusing together, especially without many other letters to give it some flow.

And spoken, it sounds like so many other -iley names, as well as vowel-heavy/consonant-poor like many other trendy names. I guess it's just too lacking in substance for me. Needs a bit more Scrabble power.

But, of course, to each her own! Looking at my own children's names - Calvin & Duncan, I seem to be a consonant fiend.

By Jody not logged in (not verified)
September 16, 2009 5:25 PM

When I was naming my twin dogs I had all sorts of names on the list. They came from the pound as Scotch and Soda. I was considering Lilo and Stitch, Fox and Dana, Mork and Mindy, Butch and Femme (which I went with and actually morphed into Em/Emma)..but I did almost pick Rofl and Lol.

By Yolanda (not verified)
September 16, 2009 5:59 PM

Met an Ily at the park last weekend. The dad was mid-to-late-20's, tattooed, and dressed in a dark teeshirt with faded, skinny jeans. The name hit my ears as perfectly "now". I didn't make the texting connection (as in my circle "I love you" is abbreviated at 143, for the number of letters in each word). But it sounded like uber-popular Miley, with the first consonant chopped off, which is a trend you documented long ago.

September 16, 2009 6:34 PM

I kind of like Ily ^^ She's sweet...
What this post did make me think of however, is a science teacher I came across whose daughter's name was Maia, short for -Mark and Irene's Accident- :O
He actually really wanted to name her Mitochondria which he thought sounded fantastic, but they wet with Maia...

September 16, 2009 6:44 PM

I don't HATE Ily as I do some "made-up" names. Nevaeh will never get my vote as a possible fantasy child's name (since I am done irl). It is the perfect sibset though. And since I just typed it above, how about Irl (pronounced Earl) as another in the group. I did at first want to pronounce it Ill-ee but then my brain went "no that's not right it's OBVIOUSLY Eye-lee".

September 16, 2009 6:58 PM

Dearest-thats a good one! I can see these replies morphing into many different acro-names and I am reminded of La-a (Ladasha).

hyz-the apples and orange comment on the last post was too funny! I am ROFLMAO! As a name I would pronounce that (Roffle-mayo rhyming with waffle-mayo so probably not good potential there).

The 3 girls in your picture link look like Helen, Grace, and Emily to me. But could just as easily be Jane, Carol, and Susan also. I thought of Doris for you the other day but then ditched it because it ended in an S. How about Marilyn?

Lorien-I would pick #28 and either #20 or #5 if I were trying to equal a meaning close to angel. You've got a lot of great possibilities. I don't really think you can go wrong.
2) temple
3) good, auspicious; beautiful, delightful
7) Add to, increase, augment
12) Excellent
13) Excellent, joyful, auspicious
17) house, home, family
28) Song, lyrics; sing, chant; praise

1) Judge, Plum
3) Reason/Logic; ruling, managing
5) beneficial, merit
19) Rule
20) Harmony, Pleasure, Joy, be glad
22, 24) inside, interior, within
33) learn practice, study, toil
36) Give to, hand down, bequeath

September 16, 2009 7:02 PM

@ hyz: To me, the girls in the pic were (left to right) Harriet (Hattie), June (Junie), and Rose (Rosie), but they could've been any number of things.

September 16, 2009 7:08 PM

Celeb baby name news: It's a boy for seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard.
The U.S. swimmer gave birth to her first child, Blaise Ray Brown, on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The boy weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces (3.5 kilograms).

Nice normal name. However, as I just posted I noticed his initials will be BRB (be right back in textspeak. Ha ha ha!)

By Liz & Louka (not verified)
September 16, 2009 7:36 PM

zoerhenne, Roffle-mayo is funny, but I would pronounce the second part to rhyme with cow, as in Chairman Mao. Possibly even worse than your pronunciation with my surname, Chow.

By Anna (not verified)
September 16, 2009 7:43 PM


Is Ily more appealing to single parents? Wly (we love you) doesn't seem like a great alternative.

What would you name the next child - Lu2 (love you too)? With Ily and "Karen" as siblings I can easily imagine obnoxious jokes like 'didn't you love Karen too"?

Are we also gonna see 'real' name abbreviations like Xtina, Kthrn?

By sarah smile (not verified)
September 16, 2009 8:05 PM

Anna, my friend Kate regularly signs her name as K8 on notes and such things. Perhaps that will take off as a given name?

September 16, 2009 8:43 PM

Anna-I HS there was a girl named Wiley. I think she got a few coyote jokes but as we've said before, its the person not the name thats important.

hyz-how about Cynthia, Lily, and Hannah or Evelyn, Anna, and Ruthie? Btw, NONE of them look like Sylvia/Sylvie imho.

By Qwen
September 16, 2009 8:53 PM

This whole post made me 'lol'. I never saw 'acronames' coming. But I actually don't mind Ily. It's a little cutesy but there are plenty worse!

I AM a little sad that I'm not as clever as I thought I was, though. I think I mentioned to you guys a while back that I'd just finished a rough draft of my children's book. The main character in it (not human) is named Ilo - it was my Jlo-esque version of I love you.

Well at least it'll be easily identifiable for my potential readers... :).

By Qwen
September 16, 2009 8:54 PM

@Sarah Smile - I have a friend who signs his name N8. But isn't there a rule about using numbers in names?

September 16, 2009 9:19 PM

Linnaeus wrote:
"For me, "very cute" is the exact problem.
The sound is cute. The spelling is cute. Even the meaning is cute, not to mention completely divorced from a world any larger than the parents. If the child never has to grow up, then I can see its possibilities.

But as an adult with the name... I'm sorry, I have to give this name a big NO."

Maybe. But...I'm imagining a "very cute" girl's name right now. It's a simplified way of writing "loved." It has a cute sound and is just three cute letters long. Do you know a name like that?

Sure you do: Amy.

For some reason I've known a remarkable number of sharp, serious-minded, ultra-competent women named Amy.

By Reba (not verified)
September 16, 2009 10:03 PM

I volunteered in a remote Native town and met a mom who named her daughter Every Moment I Love You and called her Emily. I wouldn't have minded it if her official name was Emily, but I don't really like that her official name is Every :)

September 16, 2009 10:12 PM

Oh, wow. I think this needs some processing time for my little brain.

Ily sounds an awful lot like Eilidh and Isla/Islay, which I do quite like. Ily looks a little off as a written name, but I guess that's just because I'm expecting Ilya.

I wonder whether the prevalence of lol has something to do with the resurgence of Lola as a name? Not consciously, but just adding to the notion of it as a fun, carefree name (and toning down the sexiness factor a wee bit).

I'm just waiting for the announcement for little Haxor and Roxxor.

By Allegr@ (not verified)
September 16, 2009 10:24 PM

Love apples and oranges...brilliant!

zoerhenne, She named her baby "...Brown Beard"? What did I miss?

Roffle-mayo is great makes me think of Uncle Drosselmeyer from Nutcracker.

Valerie, re. waiting for sib to Ben, Harry, etc., I'd love to play. Can you give approximations of the parent's first names? Or just some of the sounds?