Does a hard-to-pronounce baby name hurt you?

Feb 16th 2012

Last week I suggested that we don't give the written versions of names their due. We call Chloe and Kloee mere alternate versions of the same name, as if the "real" name is what's spoken aloud. Yet in today's world, our written names do much of the heavy lifting of making first impressions and establishing our reputations.

A timely study tries to shed some light on how much influence the pure written name might have. As reported around the world, researchers found a "name-pronunciation effect": that people respond better to names that are easy to pronounce, and that this response has real-world repercussions in terms of life success. And pronounceability, in their measures, is quality of the written name.

How much store should you put in this finding?

Looking at the actual research paper, it's a series of five experiments, most of which can be thought of as initial probes into the topic. The real meat comes in the fifth and final study, the only one that looks at names at large in the real world. The authors recorded the names and positions of 500 lawyers in large American law firms. Taking some care to account for factors like educational background and "Anglo-American vs. foreign" name identity, they found a measurable effect of name pronounceability on attorneys' rank in their firms’ hierarchies.

This is a careful enough study, and an intuitive enough result, to assume the result is accurate. I do have a major reservation about the research, though. It's not about the actual experiments per se, but the way the authors describe their findings. Here's the start of their abstract:

"Names are rich sources of information. They can signal gender, ethnicity, or class; they may connote personality characteristics ranging from warmth and cheerfulness to morality. But names also differ in a much more fundamental way: some are simply easier to pronounce than others. Five studies provide evidence for the name-pronunciation effect: easy-to-pronounce names (and their bearers) are judged more positively than difficult-to-pronounce names."

Would you ever guess from that description that their study looked almost exclusively at surnames? Surely the gender, class and cheerfulness information they describe is carried primarily by the given name. (At least that’s true in the U.S., where the law firm study was done.)

Yet throughout the paper the authors adopt a "names-is-names" attitude, making no distinction between hereditary family surnames and fashion-sensitive given names. The past research they cite is about first names, the experiments the run are on last names, and their conclusions are simply about "names." Even in the few cases where the experiments might have included full names, they make no mention of the component parts. It's not clear how they would determine their "Anglo-American vs. foreign" categories for names like, say, James Nwokeji or Giovanni Smith.

It seems to me this is taking advantage of the broadness of the English word "name." In a language where distinct words apply to given names and family names, the entire paper would have been different.

There's a world of difference between American given names and surnames, in the way they're assigned, they way they change over time, and the way we all interpret them. There's also ample reason to suspect that a name-pronunciation effect could work quite differently in given names. When it comes to baby names, spelling is a cultural choice fraught with significance.

For instance, the perception of conformity to tradition -- mostly a non-issue in surnames -- is a powerful dimension in given names . Do you think that the phonetically simpler Kloee would give a girl a step up in a legal career over Chloe? Or that clarifying the ambiguous Madeline to Maddalinn would yield more positive responses and higher societal status? And that's just one factor. Spelling of given names can also signal ethnic differences and more. 

Because of the freedom of choice parents have, given names carry more dimensions of information than surnames. That means that a dimension like pronunciation fluency could well be significant in surnames but be swamped by other factors – including other written-only factors – in given names. So when it comes to news you can use for choosing a name for your baby, I'd put this particular worry at the bottom of your list.


February 20, 2012 11:22 PM

chipper28-I remember you too. Best wishes for the rest of your pregnancy and the birthing of your girls. I love some of the names and combos that EVie came up with. There are so many names that are Greek in origin that finding a pleasing one shouldn't be too hard. Some of the more common:
Cassandra; Cassiopeia; Persephone; Penelope
Xanthe; Daphne; Phoebe; Cleo are nice but I wouldn't put certain combos together for twins.

I particularly like these more uncommon ones:

Aglaia=splendor and beauty, one of the 3 graces
Ianthe/Ione=violet flower

You may want to branch out into Latin origin names too. I think it would be cute to have the twins names mean sun and moon.
Some random combos:
Daphne Aurora; Ione Skye; Phoebe Selena
Xanthe Luna; Ianthe Roxanne

February 21, 2012 12:01 AM

Many lovely names have been suggested, but fyi, Ione Skye is an actress. While the name flow is pleasing, you may want to stay away from that particular combo.
Unless you're a die hard Say Anything fan, in which case it may be the perfect tribute :)

February 21, 2012 12:29 AM

ROFL Karyn-I AM a die-hard Say Anything fan so I guess it was in my brain. Only I wasn't thinking about it when I typed it :) Thanks for catching that.

Btw, looked her up on and her half sisters name's are Astrella Celeste (beautiful name) and Oriole Nebula. Looks like they have similar tastes to you chipper28!

February 21, 2012 4:10 AM

It is my pleasure to perform my civic naming duty, preventing accidental celebrity honours, one baby at a time.

February 21, 2012 9:17 AM

Thanks for the morning giggle, Karyn!

chipper28, I have nothing to contribute to the list of names, but I echo the best wishes for a safe and healthy delivery!

By Amy3
February 21, 2012 2:26 PM

@chipper28, I remember you from before, too. I'm so sorry about Aurelia. What a lovely name you gave her.

Congratulations on the newest twins! EVie did such a great job coming up with suggestions, I'm just going to select my favorites from her robust list.

Livia, Junia, Octavia, Beatrix, Juno, Phoebe, Callisto, Penelope, Phaedra (I just met someone this weekend whose daughter has this name), and Xanthe.

I went with names that didn't begin with the first initial of your first three children's names (so no T, C, or A), although I do love Ariadne.

My favorite combos are:
*Beatrix Juno
*Phaedra Callisto

Best wishes for the rest of your pregnancy!

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 21, 2012 3:29 PM

Chipper 28, ditto Chimu in this style of names not being my forte, but I will chime in on some of the ones already suggested.

But first, if you are considering Rhea, would Silvia be an option? I like that much better, personally (that's no secret here), and the idea is still the same.

Otherwise, my favorite possible first names from those already mentioned are:
Anthea (or Althea--similar but different)
Calantha/Calanthe (nn Calla?)

These would also, of course, work as middles, but you can also get a little wilder in the middle, whereas I think all of these would be easy enough to sport in the first spot.

My tastes seem to run a bit tamer than yours--for myself, from this list, I would probably pick Silvia Charis and Beatrix Laurel, or maybe Anthea Juno. For twins, I would just try to avoid the same start or end sounds--as you said, hard to do with a lot of these names ending in -a, but if you love two of those, I would just try to avoid both ending in -ia/-ea (i.e. Phaedra and Anthea are ok, but Silvia and Anthea sound too matchy for my tastes). Best wishes for a smooth pregnancy, and we look forward to hearing more about your naming journey as it progresses!

February 21, 2012 3:44 PM

Y'all are VERY good at this. It's funny that Ariadne showed up on so many lists. My husband started advocataing for Ariadna yesterday and I talked him over to Ariadne. I like the idea of Ari as a nickname a lot.

He also is liking Rhea. I am less concerned about a name starting with A since we don't really ever shorthand Aurelia's name for any reason.

I added these to lists and then realized I should be smart like EVie and divide them between the Roman and the Greek to attempt to follow the pattern first.

I really won't have a problem deviating from it, but it does seem like a good place to start.

It's funny that I seem to be having more success in the Greek names with the girls as the Roman seemed easier with the boys.

Ariadne Cecilia kind of works for me. Rhea Octavia?

I have very strongly considered making one of their middle names Wren. There is a trilogy of young adult books that has one of the strongest heroines I've seen in the genre and her name is Wren. Through in that Falco is also Falcon in Italian and I think it could work. Rhea Wren maybe?

What's the pronunciation on Xanthe?

By Adelia (not verified)
February 21, 2012 4:16 PM

I'm interested that you have Adelia on your fn list, I've not seen it on any name choice list before. Adelia Grace makes a nice combo btw.(my actual name) I've only met one other Adelia in my life except for my g-daughter, who was named for me. When I grew up my name was unusual and I got teased a lot for it so I've always gone by my nn, which is what my family called me anyway. When I do tell anyone my full name I'm told it's lovely, but I do get some who can't pronounce it.

February 21, 2012 4:40 PM

Adelia-I think its pretty and would pronounce it Ah-deel-ya. Is this how you say it?

chipper28-Ariadne Cecelia is pretty and Rhea Octavia works. Rhea Wren however is WAY too much R for me. I like Penelope Wren; Xanthe Wren; Phaedra Wren; Octavia Wren or Cecelia Wren. Wren seems rather plain though for such flowing first names. And question-is Rhea too close to Aurelia because of the "ree" sound or do you say Aurelia with more of a "ray" sound?

Also, I am pronouncing Xanthe=Zan-thee (with a soft th)

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 21, 2012 4:42 PM

Ooh, I did also mean to mention Iris and Artemis! Iris is just lovely and I believe meets your criteria, and I don't feel quite brave enough to use Artemis, but I do wish someone would! Maybe at least as a mn? I do also like Wren as a MN. Rhea Wren is a little too short and alliterative for me (although I do like alliteration sometimes), but I could definitely see Ariadne Wren. Did I miss that Falco is the LN? That's lovely to work with, although probably eliminates things like Juno and Hero. Rhea mainly calls to mind Rhea Perlman for me--I just looked her up, and apparently her parents were Philip and Adele, and she has a sister named Heide. Lovely choices, but a different style so probably not too much there for you to work with--I thought it was worth a check, though, at least. :)

As for Xanthe, it is just ZAN-thee, which would hopefully be easy enough for people once they learned it (to get back to the topic of this post).

February 21, 2012 4:48 PM

hyz-Falco is one of the boys' mn's.
Also it's funny that you mention Rhea Perlman. When I hear Rhea I think of one of my dd's classmates and the animal that is cousin to the emu. Isn't it amazing what associations can do TO and FOR a name?

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 21, 2012 5:06 PM

zoerhenne, thanks--I should've gone back and looked. Well, I love Falco, in any event. As for Rhea Perlman, I've been watching a lot of old Cheers episodes through Netflix lately, so that might explain it. :) She is the only actual Rhea I can think of offhand, so that adds to the powerful association. My next associations would be with Rhea Silvia (good) and then the bird (neutral to good), and then it jumps to words ending in -rhea, most of which are medical (and not so good).

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 21, 2012 5:17 PM

Oh, and I realized after writing it that I used the word "lovely" about 74 times in my earlier post--oops. Please feel free to substitute synonyms at will.

And yes, I forgot to agree with you how much associations can alter a name. I hesitated to even mention the -rhea medical words, but it seems better to consider now rather than later. Maybe it's not an obvious enough connection to worry about _at all_, and of course any name can be twisted by playground bullies, but I could see this classic and otherwise uncontroversial name being hurtfully abused in the wrong hands.

I like your suggestions for FNs with Wren.

By Lady Godiva (not verified)
February 21, 2012 5:34 PM

Anything but Savvannah with two v's (it's spelled Savannah) or Garrett (boys name).

February 21, 2012 5:44 PM

hyz, since we seem to be having our own little convo here :) I did not notice how many times you said lovely earlier. Thank you for the comments about my suggestions. Funny enough, I don't think about any medical words when I think of Rhea. This goes back to the written/spoken versions of names. My dd's classmate is like Ray-uh but I think the bird and mythological uses are Ree-uh. I only watched Cheers occasionally and you are right about the playground bullies.

By EVie
February 21, 2012 6:13 PM

chipper28 - Glad we could help! I'm always happy to indulge my love of classical names. If I could get my husband on board I would be all over these names myself, but unfortunately he has much more conservative tastes than I do. I'm hoping to get him to loosen up on the middle names if I concede to a more "normal" first.

I agree that Rhea Wren is a bit much with the Rs, but luckily you have twins, so you can use them both in different combos! I like zoerhenne's suggestions for Wren combos, and I think Ariadne Wren could work as well. For Rhea, I might suggest Rhea Callisto, Rhea Bryseis (or Chryseis), Rhea Calypso, Rhea Clio, Rhea Persephone, Rhea Penelope, Rhea Thaïs... I seem to like it with middle that begins with a consonant and ends with something other than A. Regarding the pronunciation, I think the standard English is REE-ah, but you could make an argument for RAY-ah as well, as that's closer to the Greek/Latin (NB there are several figures with this name in Greco-Roman mythology; the etymology of the name is uncertain and may differ depending on which figure you're talking about) .

Re: Adelia - This name has actually been quite high on my list recently, so I'm interested in this discussion. From what I've found, it seems to be a variant of Adelaide. There is also a 19th-century Italian opera called Adelia, or the Archer's Daughter, so it's clearly a name with a history. I would pronounce it like Amelia but with a D. Adelia, do you know why your parents chose your name and where it came from?

February 21, 2012 6:22 PM

Okay, I totally need to get off the computer now and get dinner ready BUT... I love the combo of Rhea Persephone matched with Penelope Wren. The names are matchy for twins but in reverse order no one will notice ;) I also like Rhea Calypso and my previously mentioned Daphne Aurora as well.

February 21, 2012 6:36 PM

Gonorrhea and diarrhea comments may be enough to have me strike Rhea off the list. The mythological root is good, but it's definitely ree not ray in my head.

The pronunciation of Aurelia is most often or-rail-yah in my head with a bit of Texas twang. It obviously doesn't get as much use as a living child, so I wouldn't even say any of us have 100% settled down into a pronunciation, but it definitely doesn't present a problem for Rhea.

Ariadne Cecelia is just striking me as write somehow, so definitely pulling that one out. Also, the Cecelia really feminizes it up if the nickname of Ari does come up (though I have to date predicted nicknames entirely wrong).

I would prefer that their names not start with the same letter, so if we stay liking Ariadne, I'd eliminate Adelia and Aletheia/Althea, etc. just to keep from being too similar.

Xanthe works for me, but we do use X as our shorthand for Chiron. We could just stop doing that and use C or gasp, type out their whole names in texts, but I figure worth considering. And if we did do Ariadne, would the end sound similarity with Xanthe be too much?

Penelope Wren I like, but would it seem too "normal" with the other four names? I have no problem going more common, but don't want it to look too odd to the kid at some point. Maybe go to Ariadne Wren and Cecelia ?

Just for my own sake more than anything else, thought I'd pull out names that have stood out so far: Ariadne, Xanthe, Cecelia, Adelia, Aletheia, Bryseis, Iris, Penelope, Callista, Rhea (if it weren't for the unfortunate associations)

There's a quality that I'm trying to identify that I just can't quite put a finger on. For girls, there are some "unique" names that just make me a little uncomfortable thinking of doing to them. I don't remember having this issue with the boys. As an example, Ariadne doesn't give me pause, but Xanthe and Bryseis do. I'm really not sure what the difference is though.

When we were trying to come up with our second boys name, I always wanted to put Alexander (our oldest son's mn) as the middle name. I find myself trying to use Diane similarly!

February 21, 2012 6:51 PM

One more thought... On the less unique names front for girls, do any these seem to fit with the other three (Trajan Alexander, Aurelia Diane and Chiron Falco)

Cecelia Wren
Penelope Iris
Felicia Athena

And if Penelope isn't too normal, other Roman mn thoughts?

I think Ariadne Cecelia is great, but worry that Cecelia would be a good middle name and so should find something else for Ariadne.

Maybe Sarah and Ellen would be easier!

By EVie
February 21, 2012 6:58 PM

chipper28 - I can see how Xanthe and Bryseis might be a little much to take on, if only because the pronunciation is not necessarily intuitive and you'll have to clarify it for a lot of people. For that reason, I would probably keep names like that for the middle spot. Ariadne is a little more familiar, especially after it was used for a character in the movie Inception.

I adore Cecilia, but I would definitely recommend the i spelling. I know some people prefer Cecelia to get the nn Celia, but that's not really relevant if you're using it in the middle, and they're actually etymologically unrelated names (Cecilia is from the gens name Caecilius, which comes from caecus, "blind"; Celia is from the gens name Caelius, which probably comes from caelum, "heaven"). The classics nerd in me wants to keep the distinctions straight :) The i spelling translates much better across languages, because it preserves the ee vowel in French, Spanish, Italian, German and more. The i spelling is also what you'll find in most cultural reference points (the Simon & Garfunkel song Cecilia, the novel Cecilia by Frances Burney, etc.)

By EVie
February 21, 2012 7:07 PM

Oh, and more about Cecilia: if you're interested in context, there were several Roman women with this name (as it was a family name). Some of them have positive associations, some of them... not so much ;)


February 21, 2012 8:33 PM

chipper28-I am totally understanding what you mean about the middle names. I ALWAYS had Matthew as my son's middle and my daughter's was much harder to decide on. Boys names are a different breed than girls names.
Regarding your narrowed choices, I really like using Wren as a middle. If I were choosing between Ariadne and Cecelia, I actually think Cecelia Wren works best. It goes extremely well with the other children's names imo. I also actually like your nn choices by moving Cecelia to a fn because then you have Ari and Cici(cee-cee). So mn for Ariadne?
Ariadne Delia; Ariadne Gaia
Ariadne Helena; Ariadne Luna
Ariadne Selene; Ariadne Estelle
If you do go with Ariadne Wren then some other thoughts for Cecelia:
Cecelia Grace; Cecelia Irene; Cecelia Erin
Cecelia Lauren; Cecelia Iris

By Juli (not verified)
February 22, 2012 12:16 AM

chipper28, the difference between Ariadne and Xanthe is the degree of familiarity: I know a girl named Ariadne (she's about 17 now, and goes by Annie alternately with her full name), but I have never encountered Xanthe outside of Greek mythology.

I applaud your instinct against matchy-matchy names for twins, and I love the pattern of Roman/Greek names; it can serve as a unifying element without needing to twist names past all recognition to fit the mold.

I don't have any earthshakingly different suggestions, but I like:

Cecilia Agatha and Ariadne Silvia
Daphne Claudia and Laura Phoebe
Penelope Juno and Beatrix Clio

If you go for Roman-Greek for one girl and Greek-Roman for the other, you can pretty easily avoid having both names end the same way. This would also match what you already have for their brothers.

I don't have the time to actually do all the research, but it would be neat to find pairs of names with similar associations or derivations, but in different languages, to give the girls an extra but hidden bond. Going from memory: Ariadne and Penelope are both associated with threads or weaving, Phoebe and Luna both have something to do with the moon, Laura and Daphne are both derived from the laurel or bay tree.

February 22, 2012 10:33 AM

I heart the classic nerds, Cecilia actually seems easier for pronunciation/spelling,memory as well. As our oldest child goes to a school taught in French/Spanish/English, have definitely gotten used to hearing the names in different languages and that's huge to think about...

Go nerds!

So, if we take Cecilia Wren as right side twin (based on ultrasound personality, seems to fit), thoughts on twin b? I kind of like the Ariadne and Cecilia together...

Also, background for how we ended up at these names since it has been touched on. My husband is a third and when we did not want to name our oldest son IV (his isn't a big fan of being III and thinks everyone should have their own name), my husband said we needed to be careful to use no family names. And then I'd picked Alexander as the middle name and he said to make it interesting why not try to get a first name not from the judeo-christian tradition. Thus Trajan Alexander.

Liking Cecilia Wren, I thought I might write out the names to date just for summary

Aurelia Diane (stillborn, so not used as often, but definitely still part of the "sibset")
Trajan Alexander - oldest will be right at 5, male
Chiron Falco - will be 18 months, male
Cecilia Wren

This would leave us with one Roman-Greek male, one Greek-Roman male, one Roman-Greek female and one Greek-Roman female in the house which seems to have some symmetry to me.

The kids have my husband's last name of Jimenez

I looked up Italian for Wren and apprently it's either scricciolo or wren, so sticking with Wren sounds good to me ;-). I do have a friend who actually speaks Italian that I can ask today at lunch though.

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 22, 2012 11:07 AM

Chipper28, I think Cecilia Wren is really wonderful, and Ariadne is quite nice, too. Pulling from the list of names above that you said have struck you so far, Iris seems like the most fitting MN choice for Ariadne. Iris was apparently the Greek AND Roman name for the mythological figure, so it kind of works there, and it is a short, sweet, and non-frilly nature name to match Wren and Falco. The flow of Ariadne Iris isn't immediately the best for me (from your list, I like Ariadne Bryseis best for flow, but that's another Greek name, so...), but it works fine, and when I add the LN I think it sounds very good. Another way to go at the issue might be to look up latin bird names for something that appeals, as a way to keep the avian MN theme for the twins. Options that immediately spring to mind are Avis and Columba, but I'm sure there's more rich material out there to be mined if you wanted.

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 22, 2012 11:28 AM

A few more thoughts for middles for Ariadne--Aquila, Juniper (not a bird, but latin at least), Alauda/Alondra, Luscinia, Philomela (pretty, but Greek and not such a nice mythological story), Cygna...

February 22, 2012 12:09 PM

chipper28-I posted a few combos for Ariadne at #73 above. However, if you want a bird match then maybe generic names like Lark, or Paloma that are already accepted names might work although I realize they are not Greek or Roman. I also want to add Ariadne Beatrix to the list.

By Amy3
February 22, 2012 4:24 PM

@chipper28, I think Cecilia Wren is lovely (nod to hyz!). I do like Cecilia paired with Ariadne, but I'm afraid I don't have any additional mn suggestions for the second twin's name. Can't wait to hear what you choose, though.

By JenMN (not verified)
February 22, 2012 5:48 PM

I've seen talk about writing the next edition of the BNW, any idea when it will be available? I'm guessing not before my newest little one is born, we are expecting her in June.


By Gretel (not verified)
February 22, 2012 6:21 PM

Is Cecilia the "right" spelling to be Roman/classic?

I vote Ariadne Selene

February 22, 2012 6:29 PM


My husband just decided that he is thinking Ariadne Selene as well!

EVie is normally very good at these things, so seems like Cecilia.

It's funny that you question the "right" spelling. With Chiron, we went with the old school Chiron rather than the much more frequently used Kyron. WHile some argue that what is more common is "right", I just can't get behind that...

Cecilia Wren and Ariadne Selene seem like the leaders for now. And definitely have a fair bit more time, but feels good to have good strong leads!

February 22, 2012 7:17 PM

@chipper28, I like the combo Cecilia Wren and Ariadne Selene is lovely as well. So many good suggestions that it would be hard to narrow it down. If I had of used Ariadne (and I still might in the future) I was favouring a nickname of Aria.

Re Xanthe, it's definitely ZAN-thee. I find it interesting that people find it more unusual than Ariadne. I was thinking that Xanthe is more commond than Ariadne? I guess I've come across a couple of Xanthes but no Ariadnes.

February 22, 2012 7:19 PM

Yay chipper28 those seem very nice!

JenMN-Do you need help with any name ideas?

Oh and chipper28, back to the original topic, since Chiron is rather old school and CH has a different sound than a K do you experience other having problems with the pronunciation? Does Trajan's name present issues?

February 22, 2012 7:20 PM

Chipper 28 - I remember you from last time, too. So sorry to hear about your loss, but congratulations on the impending twin girls! You've gotten some amazing suggestions so far. Cecilia Wren and Ariadne Selene are a stunning combo.

I also wanted to let everyone on here know that I am FINALLY pregnant. I waited a little bit to even announce on here. We thought it could be twins for awhile, because the numbers were high, but it's just one little over achiever in there. DH is very relieved he won't have to think up twin combos with me.

I recently got cold feet about Ursula again. I just imagined walking up to other moms and introducing my baby. I just don't want people to think (Eww!) in their heads. But then I said it out loud a bunch to myself, and it does sound beautiful and strong to me. I know it's uncommon, but it's not in the Mildred or Gladys category, is it? It doesn't feel that way to me, at any rate.

It'll be interesting to see how DH will come down on Simon. That and Xavier are our top boy names. The combo Simon Xavier is my favorite, but I don't know if he'll go for it. DH is in favor of waiting to find out the gender. I'm not so much. He might cave if it means he doesn't have to explore an extra gender's names with me!

By noname! (not verified)
February 22, 2012 7:24 PM

If anyone would be willing to give me suggestions,I would be greatful. I am due without second son in about two months. We cannot find any names we like. Our first son is Brendan which we love. Our criteria are:

1. We prefer noncommon names, but not crazy unique

2. No obvious nickname (I.e William with Will as a nm)

3. Needs to sound good with Brendan

Other than that we aren't picky. My favorite name Liam but it seems to becoming very trendy. Any suggestions would be wonderful!

February 22, 2012 8:20 PM

PennyX-YAY one million times over!!!!!! I was gonna use caps but I thought that would be obnoxious. I am SOOO happy for you and dh. In my head if its a girl it is already Ursula. It is really not my style but it speaks to the case of familiarity and I have gotten used to you using it. So I don't think or or any of the other associations anymore. I also really like Simon Xavier and hope you have no other issues. I will keep my "things" crossed for you.

noname!-My first thought is Eric. I would suggest going through the top 500 or 1000 names from the ssdi for maybe about 5 yrs ago so you don't get things that are too popular. See if any catch your eye. Alternately, you could plug some names you like into and see what comes up.
When I do it I find things like:
Trevor; Owen; Keefer; Gareth; Lucas; Craig; Dalton; Cormac; Wesley

By EVie
February 22, 2012 8:35 PM

OMG PennyX CONGRATS!! When are you due? If you keep going back and forth on Ursula, I might recommend coming up with a backup or two and then waiting to meet the baby before deciding for sure (although I still like Ursula for you). Plus, then you get the fun of coming up with more names :)

chipper28 - I second "stunning" for Cecilia Wren and Ariadne Selene! I also agree with you on the "right" spelling of Chiron. In general, I prefer the spelling with the greatest historicity, which is not always the most popular spelling. In this case, even though the two names sound the same, Kyron strikes me as a made-up modern name, while Chiron is the mythological centaur.

Gretel - in Roman times, the name was spelled Caecilia, but it has come down in English as Cecilia, which I would consider the correct, historical English spelling of the Roman name. Cecelia is a variant that does have a history of use going back at least to the nineteenth century, but seeing as Cecilia was long established as the correct English form prior to that (see, for example, Alexander Pope's poem "Ode for musick on St Cecilia's Day," published 1711), the form Cecelia probably arose as a spelling error (as opposed to a variation that came about because of a language change).

February 22, 2012 8:50 PM

EVie - I'm due in October, so it's still very early.

We have Sylvie and Anya as back-up names, but DH is very strongly in favor of Ursula. He likes it WAY more than any other option. It's funny, but he seems to feel very certain about it. Odd, coming from a very non-NE guy.

February 22, 2012 10:34 PM

Yippeeeeeeee!!! PennyX, you've been a faithful member of this board for years and I've so enjoyed following your naming journey. And to think that there will finally be a real Ursula, Simon, or Xavier! What fantastic news. Best wishes from NC!

By Juli (not verified)
February 22, 2012 10:55 PM

PennyX, best of luck and congratulations! I just got home from a visit to the in-laws, which is right on topic because my stepmother-in-law is Ursula. I've asked her at various times how she feels about her name, but not being a name enthusiast, she doesn't really understand what I'm asking. But if actions are what count, she uses it as Ursula all the time, despite the option of using the Hungarian form (Orsolya [OAR-show-yaw], Orsi [OAR-she] for short) that she was actually christened with, lo these many decades ago.

I adore the Hungarian version. The English I'd not use myself, but I'd love to meet a little girl named Ursula. (The private reaction would be something along the lines of "yay, an actual NAME!")

February 22, 2012 11:03 PM

@PennyX - you have totally made my day!!! I'm so pleased for you :) May it be a very uneventful next 7-8 months.

I think my favourite of your top combos are Simon Xavier and Ursula Sabine. I have really grown to love Ursula and I'm not sure it's enough of my style to put it on my list but I'd love to meet a little girl called Ursula.

Keep us updated with the name hunt. I found I totally freaked out about names once I was finally pregnant and we didn't even really discuss them much until I was 37 weeks. You probably remember all my panicked last minute posting!

By JenMN (not verified)
February 22, 2012 11:16 PM

Yes, I'd love help with name ideas! Thank you so much.

We have two girls already and are expecting our third girl in June.
Elis3 Geneviev3
Juli3t Vivienn3

We pronounce Genevieve the French way, as in zhon-vee-ev. I'm still a little bitter because Juliet was supposed to be Juli3t Louisa (Louisa significant for family history) but my husband refused and refused. So I would have used Vivienne on this little one as a first name I think.

In any case, I feel like we have no names right now and although June is still sort of far away, but I really want a short list to be thinking about.

So our general guidelines:
- No more first names that begin with a b,e,j,p
- Relatively easy to pronounce based on seeing name in print
- Relatively easy to spell
- Not top-100 at least, but probably something somewhat familiar.
- Nothing with a nickname that I don't like
- Not too similar sounding to the other kids' names, which is hard because it seems like so many I like are similar to Elise.
- We may use Josephine as a middle name for family history, or we may not.
- Last name starts with a P and sort of rhymes with Higgins but not exactly.

Thanks again for suggestions!

By hyz nli (not verified)
February 22, 2012 11:34 PM

PennyX, congratulations from me, as well!!!! What a wonderful bit of news! Hope you are feeling well and everything is going smoothly. You already have some wonderful names picked out, so hopefully that will keep the stress at bay for the next few months until after you know the sex (I'm assuming your DH will cave on this--mine didn't want to discuss names for both sexes, either!) and it gets down to crunch time.

Chipper28, love the combination of Cecilia Wren and Ariadne Selene--really, you have a lot of interesting and (yes) lovely options, so it'll be a fun journey, but I do agree it's a relief to have strong frontrunners that both you and DH agree on!

February 23, 2012 12:02 AM

JenMN-I think your girls names are lovely. I see that you like the French names. I like Claire for you but oops that's a C name. So how about:
Amelie/Amelia; Aimee
Natalie; Noelle; Nadine
Madeline; Lydia; Lucia

Midlle options: Evangeline; Celeste; Renee; Collette

By hyz
February 23, 2012 12:22 AM

noname, going from your criteria and mostly from your son's name, names that spring to mind are Scott, Colin, Cameron, Tyler, Ryan, Aaron, Connor, Jared, Spencer, Dillon/Dylan, Wesley, Marshall--are any of these on the right track?

JenMN, it seems like your names all lean towards the French, so I'm going to head that way and suggest Adele, Margot, Clara, Marguerite, Sylvie, Delphine, Vera, Leonie or Leonore, Amelie, Helene, Claudine, Camille, Susanna... Anything look promising here?

By Guest-2011 (not verified)
February 23, 2012 4:08 AM

A bit late, but for future use: Many minor planets are given classical mythological names (in the early times, almost only females!), and the list of minor plants reads like a name book full f very interesting names. For a start, look here:

February 23, 2012 8:52 AM

Very OT but funny--A blogger I read posted about having a dream last night in which she named her imaginary girl Apparel to match other celebrity's names. Kinda funny but it gets better. The girls whole full name? Apparel Ella Graham (her surname is Graham) LOL! So of course in the comments people were making sibsets with:
Penta; Insta; Tele; Anna; and Holly

Too funny! unless your name is Graham and you really LIKE names like that.

February 23, 2012 10:17 AM

Ok, I've trotted out our long name list to make sure we're not overlooking something. I've seriously gone through name logs from A-Z and other names just don't jump out at me. Even some on our list are "fine" but not quite right.

Sylvie/Sylvia (Sylvie is my favorite option if we don't go with Ursula. Sylvie Camille or Sylvie Mireille)
Anya (Anya Pascale)
Ursula (Ursula Sabine)
Althea (don't feel it works as well with LN, rhythm-wise)
Clara (I love, DH hates)
Nora (ditto)
Matilda (don't feel it works well with LN)
Imogen (I like, DH hates)
Thalia (don't love the pronunciation confusion)
Jane (An outlier, I know, but we like it. Probably wouldn't use, though.)

I guess it comes down to whether we have the courage to use Ursula or if we chicken out. I already know (unfortunately) that my mother and sister don't like it. Only downside to Sylvie is Sylvie and Simon are a little tough to swallow, and there might be a sibling eventually.

What is it about the "Ur" sound that people don't like? The only words I can think of with that sound are early, earnest, earth...I guess urgent.

We want a girl name that has "a little gravitas" to it, as DH put it.

February 23, 2012 10:46 AM

@Zoerhenne, it was actually the experience of Trajan's name that made me ok with Chiron. My husband actually wanted Chiron originally for Trajan and I just wasn’t on board. Because the boys’ last name is Hispanic, Trajan very often gets Tray-han. Going to an international school has been great because it has raised his awareness that his name can be pronounced different ways.

Chiron’s name has been MUCH harder for people to pronounce though than Trajan. And where people tend to remember the pronunciation of Trajan once they’ve heard it once, Chiron seems to take a lot longer. Sharon, something that sounds like Churro, Chai-ron, and more have all been said. There was one doctor who immediately knew how to pronounce it, his own first name was Byron though. Telling people it is the Greek Chi often helps.

I actually ramble in a blog and got the question of pronunciation so often that I added a little box on the side that is pronunciation!

Congratulations, PennyX!!! That is such great news. I really like your “walking up to other mom’s and saying their name” test. I use two tests, one where I yell the name in exasperation like they might be in trouble and one where I visualize on a holiday card, but I think I might need to add yours! And again, CONGRATULATIONS! I’m willing to embrace obnoxious ;-).

I have a friend named Anya and she does love her name!

EVie – I don’t think I can quite bring myself to do Caecilia. I just feel like I’d be setting her up to always have her name misspelled. My husband probably would push for it if I brought it up to him! And again, thank you so much for the classic/historical backdrop to support the idea.

JenMN – I like how you think out guidelines! I should confess that I named my first child and my husband came up with Chiron’s first name, but all the rest have been named by those in this forum. I find it amusing that our kids could someday Google and see where they were named! What kind of nicknames do you like and not like?

Hyz – you nailed it on having some names we agree on being great. It may sound a bit dark and I’m trying to phrase this positively, but I like having names for them in place in case the worst happens for either or both of them. As I was explaining to a friend, no matter where we end up and I intimately know that it is still possible we will end up with zero, one or two babies, they will be named, and so making progress on this front feels huge to me. And names seem to help with the bonding and feeling of connection.

These two are definitely stubborn to make it into existence despite battling an IUD and the fact that we thought we were done and so I really love that they have names as lovely as their existence.

Thank you all so much for your support, your help and your thoughts both about our loss of Aurelia and for the continued growth and development of these two!