British Baby Names vs. American Baby Names, Part 2

Aug 10th 2011

Last time, I described how I compared baby name stats in the United States vs. England and Wales to look for stylistic differences. (Take a moment and read that part first!) The distinguishing characteristic of contemporary British naming turned out to be cuteness. The most-British list was packed with old-fashioned diminutives (Alfie, Ollie) and sweet li'l cuddly names (Poppy, Ellie-May).

The irony is that that nicknames, especially with hyphens attached, used to be stereotypically American names. Once upon a time, Americans were supposed to be Chuck, Steve, Nancy, Randy, and Hank...or Billy-Ray and Peggy-Sue. Clearly, those days are gone. What are the Americans up to now, then?

There turn out to be multiple answers, some which fit other American stereotypes, and some which might surprise you. Here's the top-10 list:

Most American Baby Names, 2010

1 Landon Addison
2 Anthony Avery
3 Gavin Hailey
4 Angel Allison
5 Andrew Kaylee
6 Brayden Aubree
7 Jose Natalie
8 Elijah Brooklyn
9 Christian Ashley
10 Hunter Lillian

Compared to the most-British list, you'll notice a strong formality. In place of Alfie and Lily-Mae, we have Anthony and Lillian. Even when a name ends in the -ee sound typical of diminutives, as much of the girls' list does, it's a full, formal name.

That formality plays out in several overlapping themes. First off, we have surnames -- lots of surnames. Names like Addison, Landon, Hunter and Hailey have strong surname style, and several names with longer histories as given names, like Avery and Ashley, also have surname roots. (Note that the surname spelling Allison makes the most-American list, while the classic first-name spelling Alison doesn't come close.)

Surnames like these are a contemporary name style, but a relatively conservative and formal one. On the girl's side, you especially see surnames that had a tradition as male names -- yet a farther step from Lily-Mae and friends. It's as if America wants to dress up its little boys and girls alike in pinstripe suits.

Other themes: Jose and Angel represent the Spanish traditions of parts of the American population, the counterparts, you might say, to the Celtic names on the E& W list. Next come the modern inventions packed with long vowels (Kaylee, Brayden). These fit some American self-stereotypes about modern naming, that our nurseries are filled with newly created names that sound like teen idols.

And then we have the Western pioneer names. You see hints of the style in Elijah and Landon (picture actor Michael Landon in Bonanza), and it hits its stride just outside the top 10 with names like Wyatt, Jackson and Jeremiah. Yes, Americans really do choose cowboy names! Yee-haw!

In the remainder of the list, the formality resumes...and our American stereotypes abruptly cease. Gavin and Christian are old, traditional names that Americans consider to have a certain formal elegance (and maybe even a British edge). And how about Anthony? Andrew? And lurking just beyond the top 10 you'll find names like Christopher and Jonathan. As in Anthony Trollope, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christopher Wren, and Jonathan Swift. All impeccably tradional names, all with plenty of British tradition, and all now overwhelmingly American.

It's an interesting group. They're all classic men's names without the slightest whiff of the exotic about them. Even the most conservative namer would approve. Yet none of them are part of the traditional core of English-language names, the kingly names like John, James, William, George, Edward and Robert that reigned for centuries. One hundred years ago, none of the four "all-American standards" ranked among America's top 30 boys' names. Today, they all do. That makes for a neat little balancing act: classic, traditional and formal, but not old. While Americans may not share the British love of child-like names, they're on the lookout for the new and fresh. Americans want to sound youthful, but not young.


August 10, 2011 10:25 AM

oooh, there were definitely some surprises in that list. and the variety is probably what fascinates me the most. we sure do have a lot of distinctly different styles, don't we...

i'm sorry to go off topic this early, but i was about to post a reply on the previous thread, but then i saw there was a new post, so i thought i'd copy and paste it here:

haha, i'm glad everyone enjoyed the ella/zelda story. i'm afraid i might have sounded a little huffy when i informed him that, no, in fact, i DID mean zelda fitzgerald.

my understanding is that ardith is a traditional name, just super uncommon. i think that it is hebrew. it shows up on name voyager in the 1900s and peaks in the 1930s (ranked 521). so far, the main examples on wikipedia are: the middle name of a playboy centerfold (born in 1931), and the first name of the plaintiff in the court case rankin v. mcpherson (took place in the 80s, but it looks like she was born in 1961 or 62).

regarding simon: haven't we run across husbands with that attitude on here before? it sounds familiar. in my opinion, it's just a matter of not understanding what is currently fashionable. maybe a simon would have been a geeky name a few decades ago, but no more. as laura says somewhere in the baby name wizard, "elegant gentleman are in." simon is currently ranked 251, which isn't common, but it certainly isn't unheard of. and it fits in perfectly with other "elegant gentleman" names that are currently very stylish and well-used (julian, sebastian, oliver, miles...). in other words, simon won't get beat up. he'll fit in very well with his peers. i think people just aren't aware that what is stylish has shifted. and maybe men are extra sensitive to the idea of "geeky" names? to me, simon is very intelligent sounding. and i love that long 'i' sound (or broad 'i' or whatever--someone on here once tried to explain why the concept of "long" and "short" vowels was defunct, but i'm afraid i was a poor student).

alistair! love that name. i'm also coming around to arthur. and i like nell, but as a nickname for something longer (penelope is great, but i think nell can be short for lots of things, right?). i think i could also get behind georgiana (but i also prefer one 'n,' as EVie says, as in P&P). i was won over to the nickname georgie by georgie henley, the adorable little girl from the chronicles of narnia movies (i just looked it up, and her first name is georgina).

maybe instead, i'd decorate ursula's bedroom with photos of ursula andress. juuuuust kidding. :]

oh, and i'm with you: hollis is all boy to me(name voyager shows that it has been historically male). the ssa numbers say that there were 47 girls and 86 boys named hollis in 2010.

August 10, 2011 12:06 PM

I think there's more going on regarding whether style has shifted. You can have different groups of people with different styles, and I think that's the bigger clash. In one corner, you can put Simon and Oliver and Miles and Elliot, but then you've got another corner that's Jack and Max, another that's Wyatt and Jeremiah, and yet another has Aiden and Jayden and Caden.

Bringing it back to the blog post, we're seeing a Latino group, a Cowboy group, and a Gentleman group. Perhaps one parent is looking for a Gentleman name, while the other parent is looking for a Cowboy name. This doesn't necessarily mean that one side is out of touch, it just means that the parents have different hopes for the child.

This causes a bit more existential issue with regards to "beat up on the playground" names and the families that worry about them. I think what the husbands are objecting to is the very thing that attracts the wives: the soft silkiness of the name. I'll be honest here: it bugs me, too. But is it possible that the mother and father are also projecting different desires for their son? The mothers want their sons to grow up to be gentle, while the fathers want their sons to grow up to be rugged? And both sides want to make sure the name reflects those qualities?

By Coll
August 10, 2011 12:05 PM

Fascinating! I can't say I'm surprised to see that Kaylee and Bailey and Brayden are distinctly American: that is what I think of when I think of contemporary "American" style. But I'd never have associate those names with formality if not for the comparison to the most British names. It's a curious reversal of the long ossified stereotypes about relations between our two countries--formal, reserved, stand-offish Brits and outgoing, loud, utterly casual Americans. Yet the stereotypes do still have currency, on both sides of the Atlantic (I can't tell you how many times people marveled that I was neither loud, rude, nor obese when I lived in the UK. Very complimentary of them to point that out). Do the respective naming styles imply some sort of cultural change? Or is national character (if such a thing even exists) too much to pin on a baby name?

Thanks to those who commented on our (totally hypothetical at this point) sibling list. Arthur was my husband's grandfather's name, and is growing on me more and more. Alistair and Georgianna are long-time favorites that my husband doesn't much like and I will likely never get to use.

I agree that Nell is best as a nickname for something longer, but I find Eleanor a bit too over-done, my husband can't stand Cornelia (my preferred route to Nell), and weirdly I'm not a fan of Penelope. There's nothing objectionable about the name and I can see why others like it, but it rubs me the wrong way. Any other paths to Nell than those three? While I'm generally not a nickname on the birth certificate kind of girl, for Nell I think I could make an exception (oh, and my husband loves Nell just as it is, so that's a factor, too).

August 10, 2011 12:12 PM


Here's a list of girls' names from Namipedia containing "NEL".

A few I like on the list:


Perhaps it helps?

By hyz nli (not verified)
August 10, 2011 12:22 PM

Coll, what about Helen, Helena, Ellen, or Elena to get to Nell? Or you could go a bit further afield with something like Petronel, Peronel, Petronilla, Pernilla, Parnel/Pernel, Prunella, Antonella, Fenella/Fionnuala....

I actually knew an adorable little blonde girl of Swedish heritage years ago named Pernilla, and although it seemed a bit odd at the time, it stuck with me and I always kind of loved it.

By hyz nli (not verified)
August 10, 2011 12:23 PM

Oops, didn't see Linneaus' post before I hit "save"--I guess great minds think alike! :)

By mk (not verified)
August 10, 2011 12:29 PM

I think Nell is fine as it is as it is a full name on its own. I've known two Nells and that was their full name. Plus both Nell Carter and Harper Lee have Nell as their full first name.

But if you want another name, perhaps Danielle would work?

By Sukey (not verified)
August 10, 2011 1:01 PM

Just curious - what names would you say have the biggest overlap? It seems some of the names are equally popular here and across the pond.

August 10, 2011 2:27 PM


oh, of course. i definitely agree. obviously smooth elegance is not the *only* style. there are plenty of rugged OT names that are quite popular as well, and it may well be that parents just have different tastes. if someone personally doesn't like that gentlemanly style of names, that's totally fine. i just meant that for someone to insist that their son will be picked on or beat up or ostracized in some way because of it, to me, indicates that the person is a little out of touch. because those names are now common and acceptable and, generally speaking, stylish. for example, maybe the father thinks the name sebastian is prissy, and maybe the grandfather thinks the name sebastian is prissy, and that's totally fine, but the classmates aren't going to think twice about it, because the fact remains that sebastian is ranked at #68 right now. you still don't have to like the name, but i feel like you should acknowledge certain facts, namely that your son will not suffer from it. (er...that's a general "you," not you specifically, you got that right? heh.)

also, i hope i don't sound condescending toward someone who is "out of touch." because if you're not constantly around children or obsessing over name stats, how could you possibly know these things? it's very natural and understandable.

also, i found a couple amusing name quotes which you may or may not already know:

LUCY: I'm not going to settle on just any old names. I want them to be unique and euphonious.
RICKY: Ok, Unique if it's a girl and Euphonius if it's a boy.
--The Ricardos on what to name the baby (i love lucy)

"You do have an interesting name, don't you? I always thought that a veruca was a sort of wart that you got on the sole of your foot! But I must be wrong, musn't I?"
-Willy Wonka

By AAADDD (not verified)
August 10, 2011 2:24 PM

"It's as if America wants to dress up its little boys and girls alike in pinstripe suits."

SO SO TRUE!!! I KNOW some little boy names are CUTE on girls but that doesn't mean they should have them!
Us moms of boys are RUNNING out of NAMES!!
but if we were to name our boys a girls name (a boy named Sue) we would be laughed out of anywhere and anything! SO NOT FAIR! Even if we wanted to give our boys a ORIGINAL boys name (Ashley) we would be laughed at!

I'm not saying that boy names aren't cute when thought of for a girl...I am saying if you are willing to name your little girl a boys name you BETTER name your little boy a girls name then!!!

August 10, 2011 3:11 PM

No trouble at all, emilyrae. I think it's an important issue, and one that looks very different when viewed from multiple angles.

Oh, and I LOVE the quotes.

Part of the style difference issue does come from a lack of exposure to current styles. Men in particular never receive the opportunity, because of all the social stigmas of a man doing his business around children. So they might never meet lots of young children and see lots of children's names. So, yes, a man can quite easily by "out of touch."

However, that should be reasonably simple to correct, right? Take a list of names from the local school or whatever, share them with your husband, and see what he says after that. He might say, "Well, I guess those names are relatively normal," and problem solved. If he's coming from this mainly fearing perceived weakness in his son, but he is unaware of style changes, this should be all it needs.

But he might look at the list and say, "Wow, that's a lot of kids with weakling names." Then, it's definitely no longer a problem of being "out of touch," but of measurable style differences. In this case, no number of Olivers will soothe him. Will Oliver become the star quarterback? Can Oliver pilot a helicopter into a hot zone? Would Oliver last a week in the Alaskan wilderness? It's the man's version of the Supreme Court test. Ignore it at your peril.

Ultimately, I doubt that many men actually think that a boy will be beaten up on account of his name, and might just fear that the name is "weird." Certainly I never knew of any kid growing up that was ostracized because of his or her name. Thankfully, though, fears of that sort can be easily dispelled through some education. It's the second set, the one where the parents' dream for the child diverge, that account for some of the "beat up" discussions I've heard.

August 10, 2011 3:11 PM

@KellyXY re: comment moderation. We have spam filters set up on both and by necessity. When you post an item the spam filter thinks might be spam (it may be because you've included a lot of external hyperlinks, or lots of repeated terms or keywords it flags like "Viagra" or "Cialis" or "Cheap Nike Sneakers.")

Laura and I troll through on a somewhat regular basis and "publish" comments from the Spam filter that are clearly not Spam.

If you ever find yourself in that situation, and want your comment published perhaps quicker than we would find it on our own, you can get in touch via the Contact form to let us know something you wrote is caught in the spam filter.


August 10, 2011 3:34 PM


agreed, on all counts! although i would argue that if a name such as oliver (or sebastian or julian or whatever) is common, then of COURSE there are going to be quarterback/figher pilot/mountaineering olivers. the more common a name is, the less it's going to be pigeonholed into any particular personality, right? for example: is michael bookish or athletic--who knows? but i realize that this argument probably won't hold water with someone who truely perceives it as a "weakling name"; probably nothing would persuade them otherwise. oh well. to each his own, i suppose. i'm one of those that generally thinks the name molds itself to the personality to the person, so the idea of weak/strong or feminine/unfeminine names is largely lost upon me. i may have some perceptions ("oh, that name sounds smart"), but they're very flexible and seem to be constantly changing.

as a side note, i actually find oliver a bit athletic anyway, which seems a little odd based on other people's feelings. i think it might be due to oliver wood in the harry potter series. it's so funny what shapes our perceptions of names.

August 10, 2011 3:48 PM

Exactly, it's all about the perceptions, not the reality! Any name can ultimately go with any proclivity.

As for my personal look at Oliver, I've got that little kid from the Brady Bunch, and Oliver Twist. And I don't necessarily mean the protagonist from the Dickens novel, I mean the scrawny waif who gets beat up because he asks for more. Or, as the high school joke went, gets beat up and asks for more.

I know, it's totally unfair to the name. Everyone, please feel free to ignore this when you name your sons Oliver.

August 10, 2011 4:30 PM

yes, perceptions are key, definitely. and it only takes one person to change your perception of a name, so i mostly don't see a reason to pay it much heed.

but i get that it's like...A Big Deal, it's the name you're sending your child out into the world with, so i do understand why people do worry about it. i bet i'll be eating my words by the time i actually have kids. i'll probably be a total mess. ha!

August 10, 2011 5:48 PM

Another wonderful post! From a British perspective those 'gentleman' names - Anthony, Gavin and Andrew are all very 1960s/70s. Hailey and Allison (which we'd spell Hayley and Alison) too.
Surname names are mostly for the boys in the UK - we don't really go for androgynous names for girls, although we're keener on them for boys, funnily enough.
I can't believe that Brooklyn is a girl's name!

By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
August 10, 2011 7:31 PM

@KellyXY - re: Canada stats Quebec also lists the names of all births, like Alberta. You can find it here: Just click on "banque de prénoms" and you should be able to figure it out from there. It's a great resource for those who like French names. Obviously not everyone in Quebec is Francophone, but it's very interesting to see which names are popular everywhere and which aren't.

Also, I believe that the 2010 stats for BC are up.

By Beth the original (not verified)
August 10, 2011 11:01 PM

Am I the only one who hears those names ending with "-ee" as ending with a scream, as in "Aieeeeee?" Seriously. It's like the older "i" ending, which I hear as a short "i" in my head, like "Kristih" or "Lorih." I just think the letter y belongs at the end of names that end with the ee sound (I'll take -ie in a pinch), not in the middle of names trying to be unique (Madyson, I'm talking to *your* mom).

OK, rant over. It's a good thing I don't run the world, or everyone Anglo would be named those king and queen names.

On that note, I love Helen nn Nell. Helen is a beautiful name; I recently saw it on a 7-year-old and was charmed. And Nell is adorable.

By EllP (not verified)
August 10, 2011 11:02 PM

I can't speak for the Latino community, but in our family, cowboys win over the gentlemen! It must be the southern/midwest mentality, to use a name that conjures up a rugged yet gentle man-name. One of our kids is named Jub@l, and I feel like a few good sibling/brother match names would be Tandy, Garrett, Orin... (of course Louis L'Amour books play big into this setup!)
Now, as for a sister name to the cowboy, I am a little stumped... Dinah? Hannah? Parmalee? Not a fan...

August 11, 2011 12:18 AM

beth the original,
i also don't love "ee" endings, but i love your scream. :]

i love jub@l! i've always wanted to meet one in real life. but it's really funny because, to me, jub@l IS a gentleman name. ha! like linnaeus was saying, i guess it's all in the perception! but either way, i think it's great. do you mind me asking your other kids' names?

By Anna S (not verified)
August 11, 2011 1:09 AM

@beth the original - it's not just you! I have tried in vain to explain the world the ginormous difference between -i and -ie and -ee and ey... but alas, my orthography OCD does not rub off on the rest of the world ;-)

August 11, 2011 3:14 AM

I do know a little Simon, and it seems like a very noncontroversial name here. (Simon's sister is named the girl's name currently ranked #2 in the US, so they don't seem particularly risk-taking namers.) I can understand where the "too soft" is coming from, too, though - it's a very lilting, melodious name. While I like Simon very much for other people, I don't think it would appeal to me for my own child for that reason - see Patricia's point about names you like that you wouldn't actually be able to use from the previous post! (I think upon reflection that the softness of the sounds may be why I don't like Milo for a kid of my own, either, even though I find the name delightful on others.)

I had never really cared for the equally lilting and even more gentle Julian... so I really have no idea how it is that I fell madly in love with the J0ly0n variant, except to say that it's a totally different name to me. Something about swapping the U and A for O-sounds definitely changed it: the sound of J0ly0n feels far more rugged to me, even though the spelling totally violates Beth's "no random Y in the middle of the name" rule in a flagrant way*. I think that the "Joe" = typical guy's guy association probably has a lot to do with that transformation, though... also ending it on more of an "uhn" sound than an "an" brings it further away from the Julie-ann sound. So, in retrospect, I guess that in spite of a very gentleman-ly style in the names I like, I don't seem as immune to the "rugged manly names for boys" trend as I thought!

*I think this makes everyone assume it's a creative spelling, which is a fair assumption to make. I'm grateful to the Jayden craze for making the y in the middle less flagrantly feminine, though!

My father in law totally flipped out when we relayed in front of him that a coworker encountered another J0ly0n in the field:
Father-in-law: "No way! How is that even possible?!"
The Spouse: "Well, it is an actual NAME, you know."
F-in-L, super adamant: "But not spelled the same way?!"
Spouse, a bit peevishly: "Yes, spelled the same way. We didn't make up the spelling either."

By Coll
August 11, 2011 1:56 AM

Hmm, the Nell complications keep growing. Ellen is my MIL's name and my husband is Ashkenazi, so he's very reluctant to name after living namesakes. Plus, it's my mother-in-law. I love her dearly, but that's *her* name, not a darling baby's. So that rules out Ellen, Helen, and Elena.

I honestly like Nell on its own better than any of the other names mentioned as full-name options, with the exception of Cornelia. Maybe time and effort will wear my husband down and he'll finally agree that it's beautiful. But if not, it looks like girl#2 (if we ever get a girl #2) will be just plain Nell, simple and sweet. We could still call her Nellie if we were feeling nicknamey.

By Amy3
August 11, 2011 8:27 AM

@Coll, although I love Penelope (nn Nell), I also think Nell on its own works in a way not every nn does. It reminds me of Nancy that way.

While I found many of the hottest British names too nicknamey, I'm not sold on these American names either. I like Gavin, Anthony, Natalie, and Lillian, but the -ee names grate on me, I'm not a surname-name fan, and I find the cowboy names to be just too much rugged individualism somehow.

August 11, 2011 9:21 AM

aw...sounds like i love all the girly boy names (julian/oliver/simon). i feel awkward and self-conscious. ha! oh well.

LOVE your story about your father-in-law. hilarious.

August 11, 2011 10:03 AM

a bit off topic:

does anyone else wonder why the name lazarus isn't coming back amidst all the other OT names? it seems like it fits style guidelines to me...fashionable sounds...a 'Z'...a fun nickname. i'd like to see it on a little boy.

By izzy nli (not verified)
August 11, 2011 10:21 AM

@emilyrae: those are some of my favorite boy names, plus Luca, which has a 'girly' a at the end! Also, I've met a Lazar, but he was from France...

In general, regarding surnames-as-firstnames, I have met a couple that really stand out to me:
Maguire (a boy)
Makinley ( a girl. the lack of a 'c' confused me...)
But I also find some of the British names a little too nicknamey. I like a formal name with a cute nn, in the vein of Lucas/Luke, Jacob/Jake, Elizabeth/Ellie and so on.

@Coll: How about Helena, pronounced Hel-ay-na? That might take away some of the closeness to your MIL's name, possibly, with the different sounds? Nell is such a cute name, and I think it works by itself, as well.

August 11, 2011 10:35 AM


Would Leonella be a possibility?

By hyz nli (not verified)
August 11, 2011 11:19 AM

emilyrae, you know I love all the soft boy names too, so you're not alone. :) And Beth the Original, I generally feel the same way about the vowel choices as you do. Depending on the name, I can be agnostic about whether I prefer -ie, -y, or -ey at the end, but -i and -ee are right out. -eigh gets a pass where it is traditional (i.e. Leigh), but otherwise, no.

Off of this American list, I do rather enjoy Landon, Gavin, Andrew, Elijah, Christian, Avery, Natalie, and Lillian, so I guess my tastes are more "American" than I thought? I think I've told you all before that, shortly before I was pregnant for the first time, I was watching old episodes of Little House on the Prairie and thought, hmmm, Landon. That could be a good name. Never heard of anyone called that before, I'll put it on my list. Wasn't I disappointed when I looked at the SSA list, and realized I wasn't nearly as original as I thought. lol. I still haven't met a Landon, though. I feel the same way about Hudson--I really kind of love it, and it feels very fresh to me (a rare rugged, outdoorsy, but *not* non-traditional nature name for boys, if you think of the Hudson Bay, or Hudson Valley and River, the Catskills, etc.), but I know in some areas it's tired already.

August 11, 2011 11:51 AM

ah, yes, luca is a nice name as well. here's to hoping it stays on the boy side. :]

it sounds like you prefer nell on it's own, but i'll throw out some ideas just for the fun of it:
how about...


i'll also be an advocate for eleanor because even though it's not terribly uncommon, i still think it sounds crisp due to the -nor ending (i feel like not a lot of girls' names have that sort of hard ending), so it still seems distinctive to me. and also, i imagine many of the little eleanors out there are ellie or ella. i suppose there's also the less common eleanora.

i wouldn't personally use nell as a full name since i'm positively anal about using nicknames on the birth certificate, but i definitely agree with others that it works much better as a full name than, say, somthing like billy (no offense intended to all the good upstanding billys out there (i know of three)).

August 11, 2011 11:50 AM


ha, i do know, thanks. :]

also, i'm with you on endings. i used to hate the -eigh ending (well, i still don't like it it some cases, like emmaleigh (harumph!)) and was rather bothered when my mom used it for my sister's name (haleigh). but then, when i was reading north and south (1855), there was a place name that was haleigh, and that made me feel *much* better about it.

(actually, i'm now wondering if the place name in north and south wasn't "hayleigh"....either way, i felt a little friendlier to the leigh ending.)

dang, your comments about hudson made me look it up (because to me it still sounds very crisp), and it's higher than i thought--ranked 138. not super common of course, but more so than i would have guessed. i still like it though. landon does seem a bit tired to me just because there seem to be a looot of them here in indiana. but your little house on the prairie story amused me; i think we've all been there at one point or another!

August 11, 2011 12:09 PM

Re Lazarus

A lazar house is a leper colony, and St. Lazarus, the beggar at the rich man's gates, is the patron saint of lepers. And in addition to that, St. Lazarus of Bethany (a different Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha) was raised from the dead and is depicted iconographically wrapped in a shroud. Perhaps not the most appealing associations when choosing a name for a newborn....

Lazarus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Eleazer, and there is another etymologically related name Eliezer. The Z not withstanding, I am not expecting either of these to start climbing the charts anytime soon, if for no other reason than that names beginning in El- seem to be well on their way to going girl (e.g., the use of Elisha and Eliot for girls).

By Coll
August 11, 2011 12:13 PM

emilyrae, I'm fond of the girly-man names, too :) I embrace it.

Thanks everyone for brainstorming on Nell. Eleanor is lovely and classic, and I agree that most Eleanors I've come across these days are Ellies (or very occasionally Noras), so Nell would be a change. It's a possibility. But I actually like Nell on its own better than Eleanor. And something about it feels less constraining than other nickname names. I would never name a child Daisy rather than Margaret, for instance, and thus deprive her of options. But Nell strikes me more like Eve or Pearl--a little old fashioned, short, difficult to nickname from, but nice.

The way Gwyneth Paltrow described choosing her daughter Apple's name because apples are sweet and lovely and wholesome--that's how I feel about Nell. While names like Antonella or Petronella or Penelope or Helena, nice as they are, don't conjure that feeling for me. It seems counterproductive to saddle my kid with "a lot of name" when ultimately all I want is the sweet simplicity of Nell.

(Of course, all this goes out the window if the husband ever comes around on Cornelia, a lot of name be damned).

Thanks for indulging this fit of hypothetical naming, since I'll probably have all boys and none of this will matter in the end. I think the discussion helped solidify how much I don't want to find a Nell substitute just for the sake of my no-nicknames-on-the-birth-certificate principles. Rules are made to be broken, right?

By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
August 11, 2011 12:49 PM

@Coll - If it's any consolation, I always thought that Nell was a name in itself. I knew that it could be a nickname from some of the names mentioned, but it seemed to me to be a full name, like you mentioned--Pearl, Ann, etc.

August 11, 2011 1:24 PM


yes, i do know of the biblical lazaruses (lazari? :]), but for me the name is tied much more strongly to the one who was raised from the dead than the leper, and the former seems a rather positive association to my thinking (didn't know about the shroud iconography). i mean jesus raised him from the dead: that's a good thing, right? but perhaps the leper association is the most prominant one for most people. regardless, i think it's a fairly snazzy name.


"(Of course, all this goes out the window if the husband ever comes around on Cornelia, a lot of name be damned)"


August 11, 2011 1:45 PM

I wonder given current pop culture, would young people equate "raised from the dead" with zombies? A possible nickname for Lazarus, Lazy? Still seems to me a name with a lot of problematic baggage.

August 11, 2011 2:20 PM


hmm, yeah maybe. it's hard for me to say what anyone else would think. i grew up in church, so to me it's just a nice OT name with the natural jazzy nickname of laz (it reminds me of ezekiel, nn zeke). sure, lazarus isn't totally baggage free, but that issue doesn't seem to have stopped people from naming their sons cain and abel (that association would bother me much more) and delilah has overcome a lot of pretty negative associations as well (although i know that the character has her defenders here (and elsewhere too, of course)). but i don't know--obviously those are just my personal feelings. clearly a substantial amount of people disagree or the name would be more popular!

By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
August 11, 2011 3:48 PM

To go back to the nickname/full name discussion, I was wondering what you thought about Benno? From what I understand it's a full name (German origin), but to my ears it sounds like it must be short for something--Benjamin, Bennett, etc.

August 11, 2011 4:01 PM

yet another guest,

hmm, benno... i think it would make a nice nickname, but could also probably swing it as a full name, like milo does.

By hyz
August 11, 2011 4:09 PM

I know Benno has historically been a popular name for German and Swiss dogs, and for that reason if no other it feels nicknamey to me--I've seen it called a nn for Benedict, or for the Old German names containing the element Bern, which means bear (like Bernhard). I do like it, and considered it as a name for our male pup (who is part St. Bernard).

August 11, 2011 4:21 PM


how do you feel about ariadne? am i way off the mark?

August 11, 2011 4:30 PM

I went to school with a Nell, sister to Maud. I'm not sure if Nell was short for anything.

With the exception of Aubree, I can almost get behind every one of the American names. I wouldn't use most of them on my own kids, but like them on other children to varying degrees. I taught a wonderful girl named Aubree two years ago, but still just can't like the name. It sounds like an audio typo for Audrey to me.

I can't say the same for the British names. Osian? Just reminds me of the Ossian poems or the word 'ossified'. Alfie? Too much a muppet creature. Archie? Obnoxious cartoon character. Olly and Ollie? The former looks misspelled and the latter seems like a dog's name. And on the girls' side I only like the names Lily and Mae, but without the hyphen.

While the lists didn't surprise me (having been a daily reader of this site for years), my reaction to them did as I thought I would like the British list a lot more than I do.

August 11, 2011 5:04 PM

Hmmm, Emilyrae--

Eleazar=Hebrew scriptures
Lazarus=Greek scriptures (not OT)

August 11, 2011 5:14 PM


oh, ha, you're right! that's embarrassing. i don't know what i was thinking. i guess i just think "old timey bible name!" and lump it into the general OT catagory of names. oops!

By Anna S (not verified)
August 11, 2011 5:47 PM

@Yet Another Guest

Benno is the name of the IKEA DVD/CD-tower that goes with the Billy bookcase series ;-) It's a very rare name in Sweden - Benny would be the obvious alternative; it's common-ish but outdated. Also, the -o ending does not traditionally imply a male name. Don't know about Germany, though.

August 11, 2011 5:56 PM

Other names leading to a Laz nickname showing use:

Lazaro - Spanish form of Lazarus
Laszlo - Hungarian form of Vladislav

First, Laszlo would work with styles today. I did a little digging to learn more about the root name. Vladislav (Ladislav, Vladislaus) means "great and powerful". It is the name of Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, Dracula.

Back to the All-American names... I like Gavin, Andrew, Angel, and Jose on the boys' side, and Natalie and Lillian on the girls' side. I think Lillian's interesting, because it's an L name that follows the Lily rules, but isn't Lily.

August 11, 2011 6:32 PM

LazarO is a well-known bridal fashion label, and I think that might be part of what is keeping Lazarus back. Anyone who is planning a wedding (at least in a way that involves looking in any bridal magazines ever) before they name kids will have Lazaro's ads in the back of their head somewhere, I think, and that makes the name a bit less rugged.

Frankly, I think the ever-so-slight zombie-overtones of St Lazarus being raised from the dead probably would be a point in favor with many of the parents I know, rather than a strike against. It's not like it's screamingly obvious. And leprosy - not the sexiest of things to be a patron saint of, granted, what with its associated social stigma... but it is now treatable, so I think it's not so much on the radar of the average person. When I play "let's name bacteria you know!" with students, no one EVER comes up with leprosy and they all look bewildered when I mention it, suggesting that it's now a very low-profile disease.

I do know a grown-up Lazar, and I thought his name was very stylish... and the pared down version might appeal more broadly, just like August/Augustus. I do agree with Miriam that nearly any unusual El- names will be mistaken as girl (in the mad dash to get the coveted Ellie/Ella nickname) that the other related names are probably not going to catch on for boys, in spite of the cool z.

And, lastly, want to pipe in that my favorite of the Nell-names is Fenella, which doesn't strike me as too much name. But, I agree that Nell works far better as a birth certificate name than many other nicknames, and I think some rules are meant to be broken. :)

August 11, 2011 6:42 PM

Emilyrae: No, you're not way off, actually. I brought that up to DH, along with Arianne. He thought I was crazy. I guess both seem "too much" and too exotic to him.

August 11, 2011 8:24 PM


Perhaps another viewing of Inception is in order for him, if you wish to convince him of Ariadne.

Elizabeth T.:

I went to school with an Aubrey. It was interesting when I learned later (watching the BBC TV show version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) that the name was more British and male.

August 11, 2011 8:36 PM

Yes, the vibe I get off of Aubrey is of a British man in the late 1800s wearing a smoking jacket.