Name analogies

Aug 6th 2009

Want to play a game?

Recently on Twitter, I pointed to a new name that a user added to Namipedia: Narelle. The submitter explained that it's a mainstream Australian women's name that was popular in the 1960s-'70s. A quick web search confirmed this. My description for non-Aussie readers was, "Think Michelle, but only for Australians."

An Australian reader agreed that she thinks of the two names as similar, so the analogy worked. And -- name geek time -- it was fun to think up. What other kinds of name analogies can we make?

How about time? Perhaps Riley = Kelly + 30 years. Or Messiah is to 2009 as General was to 1880? Try nicknames. Bob is to Rob as Bill is to Will. (Now try to work in Liam.) Or stylistic relationships, like Lacey is to Lindsey as Mckenna is to Mckenzie.

Better yet, pose them as puzzles. Mickey is to Brady as Debbie is to...?  That one's tougher than it looks, a little nameteaser to keep you up late on a lazy summer evening. Post some of your own, and I'll play along!


By Adopting Mom (not verified)
August 6, 2009 2:41 PM Liam is to Xander

Amelia is to Mia (2009) as Amanda is to Mandy (1980)

Still thinking on Mickey/Brady/Debbie

August 6, 2009 2:49 PM

(an aside)

The director of my daughter's preschool has a son named Messiah. No judgement, no snark, however it truly is the most jarring name I have ever come across. I have a hard time hearing her say it, much less calling him that myself. I have to remind myself it's a tribute, not a description.

Mickey is to Brady as Debbie is to Miley
(boys are nickamey sports star tributes girls are nicknamey cute actress tributes 1950s vs 2000s)

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
August 6, 2009 2:57 PM

I'm not sure I'm enough of a NE to do SAT style name analogies. I'll have to think on it.

But I am SUPER impressed that Phillipa got the Mickey/Brady/Debbie analogy so quickly. Nice work!

August 6, 2009 3:17 PM

Qwen, I don't think there's a definitive answer- just a hypothesis!

August 6, 2009 3:35 PM

Fun game Laura!

Dakota, Skyler, Mackenzie, and...Parker besides all having a K in them what else do they have in common?

August 6, 2009 4:27 PM

I have to say Namipedia is proving very amusing at times. Sibling spotted on the Mattox page: Butox.

August 6, 2009 4:27 PM

Hmm I agree I'm not a good enough NE to answer lots of these, but do enjoy that I understand a lot of them!

zoerhenne I don't have enough time to look this up, but I'm guessing maybe they all became popular first in one of our "frontier" naming states out west?

August 6, 2009 4:39 PM

PhilippaTheFirst -- Yep, Miley was the name I was thinking of too, though I wish it were a surname to make it really click.

also, Valerie wrote:

"Sibling spotted on the Mattox page: Butox."

:-) Most of the sibling vandalism is just juvenile (Poopyface) or random (Qww4e5df, ILikeCheese). But every once in a while they're creative enough that I'm a little sorry to have to delete them. I was rather fond of Trasheigh, for instance.

August 6, 2009 4:53 PM

Ooh, Laura, I love Trasheigh! Maybe we should come up with some more of these just for our own amusement (i.e. not on Namipedia!)...

How about Cheeseigh to start us off?

August 6, 2009 5:48 PM

Jenny L3igh-That may be true (I didn't look it up), but it wasn't what I was thinking. You're close though.

By HMF (not verified)
August 6, 2009 5:49 PM

My cousin just named her daughter Isabella. I tried to explain to my mom that Isabella is to 2009 what XYZ name was to 1979, the year my cousin was born, but I realized nothing quite worked -- not my cousin's name, Ashley, not any name from my mother's generation, nothing. My email:

"Isabella was ranked #2 in 2008. But that's not as bad as it sounds. There were 18,377 Isabellas. In comparison, Jessica was ranked #2 in 1984 -- and there were 45,837 Jessicas. Likewise, there were 34,040 Melissas in 1979, when that name came in second. As recently as 1990, the #2 name Ashley was bestowed on a a whopping 45,549 babies. Oh, and #2 in 1949? Mary. 66,824 of 'em. (Behind 90,936 Lindas!)"

So, any ideas? 2009 : Isabella :: 1979 : ?

Or is this analogy inherently flawed?

August 6, 2009 6:06 PM

Since we've taken to embracing the bits and pieces of ourselves that are from interesting naming cultures (no judgment, of course... don't think I won't be parading around my 1/8 French lineage when I start naming non-fictional children), we've gotten Irish-er and French-er and Old English-er, and otherwise extreme-er, when naming the kids, especially the girls.

Thus, 1985's Megan, Shannon, and Erin are 2009's Maedbh, Saiorse, and Aoife.

1985's Stephanie, Michelle, and Nicole are 2009's Sophie, Manon, and Nathalie.

1985's Ashley, Kimberly, and Courtney are 2009's Abigail, Kensington, and Coraline.

Want classic? 1985's Cassandra is 2009's Calliope.

How about shiny? 1985's Crystal is 2009's Ruby.

How about after-dinner-ish? 1985's Brandy is 2009's Bailey.

Oh, and 1985's Katherine, Sarah, and Elizabeth are 2009's Katherine, Sarah, and Elizabeth. And, incidentally, 1885's and 1935's and 1960's. Seems like you can't go wrong there if you want to stay away from trends.

August 6, 2009 6:27 PM

Well done meganromer!

HMF, your analogy might be a bit flawed because we already know that there ar more names to choose from these days then compared to 1979. The "invention" of invented spellings, more "borrowing" of boys names, and greater use of words as names has widened the name base especially for girls where I think more leeway is given.

Kelly or Stephanie (15/16) comes closest in percentage.
Yet number-wise, the closest would be Elizabeth(11). So maybe comparatively-Crystal would be a good comparison. All in all, Isabella may be date stamped as Crystal is. It reached #9 in 1982 with 19,095.

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
August 6, 2009 6:44 PM

Look, my name is SO dated it's already come up twice (in just 11 comments) as examples of out of date 80's names. In addition, my husband's office just hired a Crystal which makes it official that there is no place in my life where the name isn't completely over-saturated. Sigh.

August 6, 2009 7:28 PM

Bob, Rob, Bert and Robert go with Bill, Will, Liam, and William. Any others that fit this pattern?

August 6, 2009 8:03 PM

Qwen-LOL so sorry! Stacey is pretty dated too though!

Valerie-What about Breeseigh?

August 6, 2009 8:05 PM


August 6, 2009 8:56 PM

Wow Laura I'm astonished! I thought the name had to be way more esoteric than Miley, I thought that had to be wrong for sure.

I think it was becuase just yesterday I watched Everyone's Hero (a kids movie about the Yankees of the 1950s) that I got the first one.

August 6, 2009 10:55 PM


They're all originally last names made popular by celebrities with them?


Interesting observation! I wonder why the Irish/French/English angle is so popular. Why not, say, German, Dutch, or Italian?

By Chiming In (not verified)
August 6, 2009 11:02 PM

I have a friend whose family that might work (x + 25 years).

Grandma and twin sister: Myrna and Marion
My friend and her sister: Jennif@r and Allis@n
Friend's daughters: T@ylor and Bail@y

Not perfect (Jennifer more popular than the others, I know). But each name is very tied to its era.

August 6, 2009 11:46 PM

I thought, Mickey is to Brady as Debbie is to Hailey. Not too far from Miley I guess.

Julie - that's a good one!
The closest I can come to, and it's not the same, is:

Alf, Alfie, Fred, Alfred.
Lex, Alex, Xander, Alexander.
Liz, Eliza, Lisbet, Elizabeth (too many variations to count!)
Daisy, Maggie, Greta, Margaret? (drawing a long bow with that one).

Okay, I'll try to think of some more in the vein of Laura's suggestion....

a) Horace is to Jack as Myrtle is to ...?
b) Landon is to Charles as McKynzee is to....?
c) Avery is to Noelene as Piper is to...?

Oh, this is too much fun.

August 7, 2009 12:00 AM

Wow Clemency-those are some good thinking analogies. I will have to write them down as I will be busy these next few weeks and therefore not able to post as much.

Linnaeus-Not sure about that. What I was thinking is they are all firstnames-as-surnames (with a western vibe) that are being used by both genders. You and Jenny L3igh both get 1/2 credit.

August 7, 2009 12:09 AM

Quick follow on from last post..

jenmn - In the birth announcements in yesterday's Isla Elise!!!

Adopting mom - Another beautiful A name which has a nature-ish feel to it....Astrid. Although it doesn't sound as if Nana will go for that one either, but it's one of my absolute favourites.

August 7, 2009 12:09 AM

Speaking of analogies Laura and recent posters Adopting mom, jenmn, Guest18, etc. check out the girls list from 1909! Wow!

By Esme (not verified)
August 7, 2009 12:27 AM

Debbie is to Izzy. Deborah started rising in the late 40's, peaked in the 50's, perhaps because of the actress Deborah Kerr? But then maybe as the Deborah's got older, they started calling themselves Debbie when Debbie Reynolds was America's sweetheart? In the same way, moms chose the elegant Isabella for their daughters, some influenced by Isabella Rossellini, and then their daughters become Izzy at some point, for various reasons. Fun idea, Laura, thanks!

August 7, 2009 10:09 AM

zoerhenne- Woo half credit!

Re:Crystal and Isabella, I don't know about that, I think of them being totally different kinds of names. Isabella has been the name of Queens so I think of it as more along the lines of Elizabeth (and not just because the names are related also). It's a lesser used name than Elizabeth over time, but still a historically classic name that has become very popular. Crystal while also have a decently long history is just from a different naming philosophy (that I can't find a way to articulate). Does that all make sense?

Margaret: There are lots but I was thinking
Peg/Peggy 1950s/60s Meg/Maggie 1990s
At least for the people I know:).

August 7, 2009 10:52 AM

Horace is to Jack as Myrtle is to AVA? [I'm thinking old-fashioned names that have and have not come back into style.]

re: Irish/French/English vs. German/Dutch/Italian: Hrm... I feel like French is seen as high status, there seems to be a lot of Irish pride in the U.S. (e.g. tattoos of Celtic knots, shamrocks, interest in Celtic culture). Do German and Dutch names have harder sounds? I guess there should be times when those harder sounds are in style though... maybe anti-German sentiment leftover from WWII? ooh, that could work for Italian names too... I'm surprised to see Italian on the "bad" side of this list though. Hrm... does this list work equally well for girls and boys names?

By Guest (not verified)
August 7, 2009 11:40 AM

Way off the topic but I'm just wondering how you all feel about the name Xavier for a little irish red headed boy. The chances of my little boy coming out with really white skin, freckles & red hair are pretty great. We like the name Xavier but are afraid of the name being well I guess just not what one may expect for a little irish boy. We thought maybe if we spelled it Zavier that when someone read it at a dr office, school roll or a resume they would at least not be completly shocked to see him. What do you all think about all this?

August 7, 2009 11:53 AM

This is completely off topic...but I was doing my bookkeeping this morning, and found a check from a woman named

Em3l1ne M1dgett Ang3v1ne

It was the eMeLine aNgEviNe that caught my eye first--very turn-of-the-century French to me--and then the mIdgeTT middle name just topped it off!

(Sorry for all the weird spelling...since it's a real person I wanted to disguise it really well!)

August 7, 2009 11:56 AM

guest #28,
i do not have any particular nationality or ethnic group associated with xavier, so i would not be at all surprised to see a little irish boy named xavier. i personally perfer the spelling xavier over zavier.

August 7, 2009 11:58 AM

@Clemency: I'm stumped by

c) Avery is to Noelene as Piper is to...?

The closest thing I could think of is Charlene? (-ene ending on a French boy name?)

By Amy3
August 7, 2009 12:13 PM

Guest #28, I'd opt for Xavier too. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a red-headed Irish boy with the name. As a saint's name, it seems fair game for loads of people.

By Amy3
August 7, 2009 12:16 PM

Anne with an E, wow. That mn is something else. I could see the fn taking off today, though. Sort of a smoosh of Emily/Emma and Caroline.

August 7, 2009 1:11 PM

Yeah, 1/2 credit!

Guest #28: Xavier's a fine name. I agree with Amy3 and emilyrae, I don't really associate Xavier with any ethnicity--it's an excellent choice.

Of course, with my pondering of Mahendra or Toshiro as names for a possible son, I don't think too much about heritage.

August 7, 2009 1:20 PM

Guest#28-I may be in the minority here, but I do think its a little off. I have a love for Americanized Irish names though so Brian, Ethan, Colin and the like seem better to me. However, I know LOTS of blond-haired, blue-eyed Brians and Colins so I guess anything is possible. I'm sure once I got to know the child it wouldn't make a bit of difference what his name was. As far as spelling goes I think I'd pick the Z because it's so "in" right now. Plus I like Z's better than X's.

August 7, 2009 1:52 PM

I'll respectfully disagree with zoerhenne and recommend the X over the Z, for pretty much the same reasons--Z is "in", so X is the better choice. I also like that you can choose to say ZAY-vyer, eks-ZAY-vyer, or KSAY-vier as you like with the X. Other guy-geek bits: X is an awesome initial (although Z isn't bad, either), and a teen nickname of Xav kicks all kinds of butt.

How will his initials look?

August 7, 2009 2:01 PM

re: Xavier: I don't think it would be shocking or anything for me to see this on a red-headed kid. I don't think I really thought about Xavier being French (it is right?) until I started reading this board. I don't understand really how Zavier will help.

August 7, 2009 2:18 PM

I checked the Namipedia page, and it says Xavier is Spanish by way of Basque.

It's interesting because Xavier was the old way to spell it in Spanish, but it's since changed to Javier (incidentally now at #166 in the USA vs. #71 for Xavier--I personally know more Javiers than Xaviers).

August 7, 2009 2:32 PM

i prefer the x-spelling just because to me it is the "right"/original spelling. i also just like the look of it better. just my personal thoughts though.

also, i would say that technically, z and x are BOTH "in."

By Guest (not verified)
August 7, 2009 3:17 PM

Wow thanks ladies! You're input has really helped me wrap my mind around a red headed Xavier! The spelling is still up in the air for me. For the reason that Linnaeus pointed out; "I also like that you can choose to say ZAY-vyer, eks-ZAY-vyer, or KSAY-vier as you like with the X." With a Z spelling its pretty clear how it is to be pronounced.
Thanks again!

By meppie (not verified)
August 7, 2009 4:03 PM

Fun post Laura. Thanks!

Adopting Mom - My cousin has three "A" daughters: Ath3na, Astr!d, and Arw3n.

Thanks for all the suggestions on my future little Margaret, Claire, or Margaret Claire. I'll keep you posted over the next 9 months.

I couldn't resist an analogy using my oh-so 70s name: Marcie is to Kelsey as Jason is to Aidan.

BTW Laura, my brother and sister-in-law just found out they are expecting their first. They called me on the way home from the bookstore the other day saying, "We found this really neat baby names book called BNW..."

August 7, 2009 4:21 PM

set of 8 month old quadruplets in the office today:
dahlia (or dalia?)
lucia (pronounced lu-see-uh and called lucy)


August 7, 2009 4:25 PM

Eight month old quadruplets?! Phew...

I met a cute 6 or 7 year old girl today, Amaris.

August 7, 2009 4:44 PM

emilyrae- love those quad names! Thanks for sharing...

By Alr (not verified)
August 7, 2009 4:53 PM

There's a little 1 year old at my church who is also Ameris (but with an e). Her older sibs are Ian, Silas, and Alexandra (Alex). I'm dying to know more about the name... any insight?

August 7, 2009 5:32 PM

Alr-hmm, it could actually be Ameris, I was just asssuming Amaris based on the way it was pronounced. I don't know anything about the name though, today was the first one I'd ever met.

By knp (not verified)
August 7, 2009 6:00 PM

Amaris is Hebrew..."Promised by God"

By KatherineMarie (not verified)
August 7, 2009 6:55 PM

My mother works for a school district, and swears that she once came across some files for a girl named Trasheigh. Or maybe it was spelled Trashae. My mom and I both assume that the mother of this poor kid intended for the name to be a mixture of the syllables Tra and shay, nothing having to actually do with trash.
Or maybe the father's name was Oscar (the grouch) and it was an almost-namesake? haha

August 7, 2009 8:25 PM

Adopting Mom, an "A" name that I very nearly used is Aria. It literally means "air" in Italian, but refers to a solo melody, especially in an opera. Tapping into my Asian heritage, I like that it is both a word and a name that references nature and music. What nixed the name for me is that my daughters' last name is a short A name. "Aria A__" has a lot of A's!

Someone asked what Chinese name means "peaceful swimming." The woman I met is actually Korean. Her name is Hwa-Young. When I asked her if her name had a meaning, she said that the two Chinese characters mean "peace" and "swim," i.e., "peaceful swimming."

August 7, 2009 9:40 PM

@Linnaeus - I just happened to rattle off some Irish/French/Old English names because that's what came to mind first, and because there were matching examples from the '80s, and that's the time period I happened to be rocking... I think there are German/Dutch/Italian names that are hot right now, too, but they weren't as popular in the mid-'80s.

I think people still had some anti-German naming tendencies as late as the '80s (many people who were children in the '50s were having babies in the '80s, right?). I think that Italian names sound very similar to Spanish names, and many people (no judgment, just trying to find some logic) may worry that they're giving their child a name that sounds too "Latin." Remember that we had no love for the Italians in the War era, either. As for Dutch names, I think Dutch-American parents tend to choose more Anglicized spellings (in order to avoid all of the wacky-looking vowel combos), which end up looking either German or English, and then you just can't really tell the difference. All that's going away now, though, but here's a few examples that I can think of, if I go pre-war for the comparisons:

German Origins: 1925's Erma, Hilda, and Gertrude are 2009's Elsa, Heidi, and Gretel.

Italian Origins: 1925's Sylvia, Theresa, and Loretta are 2009's Sofia, Tatiana, and Luisa.

While we're at it...

Spanish Origins: 1925's Dolores, Juanita, and Roberta are 2009's Dorotea, Jacinta, and Rafaela.

Welsh Origins: 1925's Gladys, Enid, and Owena are 2009's Gwyneth, Efa, and Olwen.