Goodbye, Marylou: The New Generation of Combo Names

May 4th 2012

Sometimes, a little bit o' name just feels so right. Back in the 1920s and '30s, morsels like Lou, Mae and Bell were so pitch-perfect that parents tried to work them in wherever they could, combining them with other familiar elements. They peppered the country with girls named Idabell, Bettylou, Maebelle, Luberta and Idamae.

By the 1950s Luberta and friends were forgotten, as parents swooned over namelets like Jo, Ann and Beth. Together, MaryJo, Bethann, Joellen, Suanne, and JoBeth summon up a generation.

Then combo names settled into a bit of a lull. The hot sounds of the '60-'80s leaned more toward French imports (Michelle, Denise, Danielle), K's (Kimberly, Kristen, Kelly), and -i endings (Lori, Kerri, Jodi).

But today combos are back, in a big way. A new collection of pairing-friendly names has met a generation of parents eager to innovate. The result is an explosion of new name mashups that Bettylou and Joellen could never have imagined. Meet the major players:

A hit name on its own, Bella is also paired with other name roots, new and classic, to create a traditionally feminine sound. (Belle combos are rising too, but parents seem wary about anything too reminiscent of the Idabell era.)

Examples: Avabella, Carabella, Elizabella, Miabella, Rosabella, Sarabella
The extreme that proves the rule: Adorabella

Past generations made good use of Lyn/Lynn as well, as a modernization of traditional names. In the 1910s Madeline turned into Madelyn, in the '40s, Rosalind became Rosalyn, and in the '60s Jacqueline produced Jaclyn. But starting in the '90s, parents started to see Lynn more as a separate element, revealing two-part combos hidden in plain site. Caitlin = Kate + Lynn. Brooklyn = Brooke + Lynn! Even Madeline isn't just Madelyn, but also Maddylynne. With that shift, Lyn declared its independence and began combining freely with all sorts of one and two-syllable names.

Examples: Amberlynn, Angelyn, Avalyn, Brycelyn, Gracelyn, Jazlyn, Jessalyn, Skylynn, Starlyn
The extreme that proves the rule: Dazzlyn

A popular full name in the 1970s, Leigh is now turning subservient -ly endings into equal partners with root names.

Examples: Adaleigh, Amberleigh, Blakeleigh, Brynleigh, Karaleigh, Lynleigh, Maeleigh, Starleigh
The extreme that proves the rule: Paisleigh

Brianna was one of the hottest names of the 1990s and 2000s. Just as it began to slow down, parents started taking more notice of the elegant old male name Aubrey for girls. Add in the hits Gabrielle/Gabriella and a smattering of girls with the given name Bree, and you have a recipe for recombination.

Examples: Bria, Brielyn, Brianne, Briella, Brielle, Brienne
The extreme that proves the rule: Brie (perhaps the only name I'll ever call "cheesy")


May 4, 2012 10:38 AM

Fun to read this, Laura, as always- and it did strike me as particularly American. Growing up in England, I never encountered any of these names. I can't think of one childhood friend, or even friend's mother who had a combo name.

However, it's always been very popular in France, where I have spent a certain amount of time- Marie-Hélène, Jean-Christophe, Jeanne-Louise, etc. I know a Hans-Peter in Germany, and a Karl Johan (who now as a teen styles himself Kalle) in Sweden. I wonder why it never took off in the UK.

By reallye (not verified)
May 4, 2012 10:52 AM

Dorbelle, Maudlynn, Parsleigh, Breeches

May 4, 2012 11:23 AM

I guess combo names are really not my style. None of these trends appeal to me at all. But maybe it's more of a Southern thing? I always associated double names like Lee Ann and combo names as part of that region.

By JennP (not verified)
May 4, 2012 12:22 PM

My Grandma's name sounds like a combo, but isn't really: Donnalean. She dropped the "lean" as soon as she moved out of her parents' house, but never changed it legally. She's 84 and hates it still. I'm afraid some of today's parents are dooming their daughters to the same fate.

And reallye: hilarious!

May 4, 2012 12:53 PM

Agree with Valerie that combo names weren't very popular in England when we were growing up, but they're a lot more popular now. Lily-May, Louella...I met a Chelsea-May the other day.

May 4, 2012 12:59 PM

By the way, did you know about this?


May 4, 2012 1:09 PM

Wow, Keren! That UK name-voyager tool is really interesting. The first name I clicked on (by accident) was Lucy-Mae. I looked briefly at the Lucy- and Lily- name combinations and almost all of them were non-existent in 1996. Now there are a ton. The hyphen seems to be the most common way to create these combination names.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 4, 2012 2:58 PM

This is just me being snooty, but to my ear most of these sound more cobbled than combined.

I think some of these may also come out of the desire to pick both the child's name and nickname.

It seems like polls these days frequently announce both the choices of fn as well as the intended nn-e.g." We're deciding between Gabriella and Brilynn. Gabriella would go by Briella and Ella and Brilyn would go by Bri."

I've also seen combo names intended to allow for a particlular nn-eg. Avery spelled Avarie to allow for Ava as a nn. Sort of a solution for parents who can't choose between two favorites (That I do sympathize with)!


By Angela Dawn (not verified)
May 4, 2012 3:21 PM

My niece is named Anna-Lisa, sort of an alternative to Annaliese. Recently the family has started writing the name without the hyphen - Annalisa, which I prefer. 

Double names must be catching on, because I never liked them and find myself coming around to them. I made up (meaning I'm not aware of anyone else using these but I'm sure someone has) some of my own:


 Ava-Louise or Ava-Louisa










 Fiona-May or Fiona-Maeve




 Lara-Catherine or Lara-Katherine

























 Marc-Philip or Mark-Philip







By Tishia (not verified)
May 4, 2012 3:23 PM

My middle name is Bell, as is my mother's, grandmother's, her mother's and her grandmother's, back six generations and I passed that middle name down to my daughter. I'm glad my family left it a middle name only, not trying to invent a new name using Bell as part of it. 

May 4, 2012 4:38 PM

Thanks for that link Keren!  I can't believe that my daughter's name Indigo has cracked the top 1,000 there in the UK.  It hasn't in the U.S. yet.  I've been seeing a lot of fashion/decorating collections using Indigo as the theme (e.g., Restoration Hardware), so maybe it's in the zeitgeist.  I wonder if it will rank in the new U.S. data released for Mother's Day!

By Kari
May 4, 2012 5:25 PM

I've seen a lot of the -lyn's lately and I also have a preschooler in my class named Sarahanne.

May 4, 2012 5:43 PM

I thought this was a big trend in the UK?  Though to us combined names sound disctinctly American (Idabelle) I thought Lily-May was climbing the charts in the UK.  I don't know if I would do a hypen or combined name.  I have a hard time picturing Lily-May on a business card.

May 4, 2012 8:07 PM

I just remembered that a friend's sister named her daughter Corabella last year.

By It's Beth (not verified)
May 4, 2012 10:17 PM

I have a neice named Brooklynn... we call her Brooke, but her parents wanted her to have a 'long name' for more formal interaction.

I also have a friend in her late 30s named Bryann and I haven't heard of any others. She pronounces it like your Brianne (Bree-ahn), but her grandfather insists that it's spelled wrong and calls her Bry-anne (like a femenized version of Bryan). That way it reminds me of Briony... one of my favorite girls names...

One nice thing about these combo names is that there is some choice for the person in deciding how to present themselves throughout life, but I agree, they do carry a southern sound with them in my mind.

By Amy3
May 4, 2012 11:02 PM

My mother-in-law is Mary Lou (born in the 30s) and I've known any number of Baby Boomers with Mary ___names (Mary Elizabeth - went by Ma'lis, Mary Anne, Mary Kay, Mary Betty - eventually went by just Betty). I know a woman my age (early 40s) who's Annmarie and a woman probably 10 years younger who is Ruthlea (said Lee). I don't think I know any kids who have combo names. 

May 5, 2012 2:39 AM

In Germany combined names have been popular for years, but mostly in some very specific combinations, like:

Anna-Lena (or Annalena)
Ann-Kathrin (Annkathrin)
Marie-Louise (the shortened version Malou has become a popular first name as well)

From two or three generations ago:

By Tamil Baby Names (not verified)
May 5, 2012 7:09 AM

I think this was so nice blog ......because most of these names can assist the person how to be in life like the name meant

By Beth the original (not verified)
May 5, 2012 9:56 AM

Hysterical, reallye!  Reminds me of a very funny exchange I read where two people were vying for the stupidest "-er" boy's name (i.e., Cooper, Tucker, Asher, Sawyer, Washer, Dryer).  The winner?  "Whatever."

Dear god, who would name their daughter Dazzlyn, Starleigh, or Adorabella?  Are they trying to compete with My Little Pony?

I have, strangely, known two women named "Brie."  For neither one was it a nickname.



By billl (not verified)
May 5, 2012 10:06 AM

i too know a Brie, short for Brienne


By mac (not verified)
May 5, 2012 1:09 PM

I was feeling superior until I realized that technically, my daughter's name fits right in with this trend! Georgiana. Although in my defense, it might be one of the original combo names...

There is just so much I hate about Paisleigh, I don't even know where to start.

By Guest
May 5, 2012 1:11 PM

A friend of a friend has a Kaisleigh. Because she loved Paisley, but all of her kids have K names.

May 5, 2012 9:48 PM

This reminds me of a name I found on Toddlers and Tiaras: Alycesaundra, which I can't help reading as three syllables, but is pronounced like Alessondra.

By Rhodolady (not verified)
May 6, 2012 12:09 PM

I have a niece named Carol Louise.  Affectionately, her grandmother and others frequently called, and wrote, her whole name slurred as Carolouise.

By Guest99 (not verified)
May 7, 2012 3:53 AM

I know a brand new Evalynn, right on trend!

May 7, 2012 5:26 AM

I also know a Brie (her full name). She would be about 30 now. I always thought it was an odd spelling, far too cheesy!

I also don't know any kids with double names. I guess it isn't as common here either. I have come across the odd '-leigh' and -'lynn' variant in the local announcements but they don't seem that common.

By sharalynsh (not verified)
May 7, 2012 12:57 PM

Amusingly, despite her real name, my daughter has ended up being called "Evi3 K@te". The first is a nn for her fn and the second is a nn for her middle name! 

May 7, 2012 1:16 PM

I don't get the -lyn trend at all.  It makes names feel so dated.  A girl I went to high school with just named her daughter Brynndelyn.  Pretty sure that's made up.  They call her Brynn.  I'm not sure why they didn't just go with Brynn alone.


Alycesaundra is unforgiveable.  As is Paisleigh.



By hyz
May 7, 2012 1:26 PM

I find double names rather charming and quaint (either in the southern vein, or the Catholic vein--all the Mary Beths and Mary Margarets and such--or in the classic continental European tradition).  I don't have any problem at all with the combination of two existing names, although I do prefer when they are written separately and not smushed together (e.g. Nora Belle is nice as a double name, while Norabelle is still fine but seems a little too flowery and cute to me).  On the other hand, I find most of the new mash-ups to feel contrived and off-putting.  I also don't care for the respelling of standard words to look like mash-ups (e.g. Ireland-->Irelynn or Paisley-->Paisleigh), or the respelling of standard names to yield specific nns (in the case of the aforementioned Avarie, it seems so unnecessary, because Ava is a fine nn for Avery even without respelling, and the new spelling makes me think of ovaries or aviaries).     

May 7, 2012 7:57 PM

I agree with you hyz. I quite like double names like Mary Beth or Cora June. The smash ups not so much though.  I also agree that you don't need to respell the name just to get a derived nickname. Look at how many traditional nicknames don't resemble the original name anyway!

May 7, 2012 10:11 PM

Apparently this is happening in Cuba too!  Along with many other seemingly American naming trends that make us shake our heads and wonder what the parents were smoking.

They even list a Cuban equivalent of Abcde!

I knew a girl named Leydi in high school, it didn't strike me as odd at all until reading this article.  I always figured it was short for something.

May 8, 2012 11:22 AM

Great post and a lot of nice names. But unfortunately most of them cannot be used in PL, because of the law.

May 8, 2012 12:56 PM

Wow, fancynancy! What a fascinating article. I have family members in Venezuela and can report that the same thing has been happening there for decades. The names are quite inventive. Yotuel might just take the cake, however!

By Kasey (not verified)
May 8, 2012 1:37 PM

Re: Maeleigh...


Don't parents realize that melee is a real word, one that doesn't have connotations you really want for a kid?!?!  

These are not my style of names, so I wasn't expecting to like them, but that one stopped me dead in my tracks.

All I could think was Ugh. 

May 8, 2012 3:14 PM

Kasey, I took Maeleigh to be a very creative spelling of something approximating Miley, since the name Maelle is pronounced something akin to Mai-elle. I could be wrong, but since this trend seems to play off familiar names, it seems more likely that they parents were going for Miley than Melee, no?

And that article about Cuban naming was great! I know that it is quite popular in Filipino naming culture to combine parents' names into a new creation, so that one didn't surprise me. The Leydi, Olnavy and Usnavi did, though! (And, as much as I hate to admit it, some of those backwards names actually sound really pretty to me...)

May 8, 2012 7:43 PM

Growing up in the deep south, there were always lots of double names--Ann Marie, Mary Beth, Leigh Ann, Rose Marie, Molly Jo, Joy Louise, John David, Paul Thomas... We never thought anything of it. If anything I think of them as charming.

Paisleigh, though. Paisleigh?!

May 9, 2012 9:20 AM

I thought melee was pronounced more of a may-lay and Maeleigh would be more of a may-lee. But I suppose it is only a subtle difference. In any case I'd rather see them as a double barreled name than a smashup.

May 9, 2012 11:34 AM

"In Cuba, also, there is a tradition of using names from other cultures, resulting in many children bearing names such as Yuri, Boris, Tatiana, Yordanka, Katia...."

The article doesn't make it clear, but there was (I don't know if it's still the case) a trend of using Russian names or names associated in other ways with Communism in Cuba for political reasons--lots of Carloses after Karl Marx, for example.  The examples given above are not just a matter of adopting names from "other cultures," but of appearing to support the Castro regime, whether out of conviction or with an eye toward deflecting suspicion/criticism.

May 9, 2012 11:56 AM

Quebec's 'Name Bank' was updated with 2011 data a few weeks ago. Scrolling through just after reading this post, I did a double-take seeing Marilou at #57 (142 girls given that name). Marylou was down at #186 (35 girls), but that's exactly the same popularity as Elise, Eliana, and Clemence. It's also more popular than Isabelle (#199, 32 girls), Bella (#236, 26 girls), Samantha (#242, 26 girls), and even Ava (#256, 24 girls).

You can only see six years of data on Quebec's site, and while both Marilou and Marylou are down a bit from last year it's hard to tell if it's a steady-ish name or on a slow decline.

Quebec's predominantly francophone population (and the anglophones who live there are almost all bilingual) means that they have a distinct set of names in North America-- if you look at the data from other (anglophone) provinces in Canada, the mix is much more similar to the the US (Alberta and BC are the only other ones with good data). Quebec's site is quite a fun one, the english version is here. From their top 25 or so, I'm a big fan of Laurence and Coralie for girls, and Raphael and Loic for boys :)

...and if we're looking at combo names, they've got some good ones, from Lily-Rose (more popular than just Lily), to Sarah-Maude and Alexanne.

May 9, 2012 12:24 PM

Blythe, I actually started a forum post about the Quebec name list a couple of weeks ago becauase I am also fascinated by the differences between my local name culture and that of North America at large. And since the Quebec list includes every name, not just those with at least five instances, there are some *really* interesting names on there. It's definitely funny that Marilou ranked so high, given this post's title :)

May 9, 2012 1:01 PM

Haha- I gave up looking at the forums because I thought they'd end up soaking up my time...perhaps I should go check again :)

May 9, 2012 2:53 PM

Oh, they totally do, but I think that the fun is worth it :)

By Elizabeth1971 (not verified)
May 9, 2012 3:01 PM

mac's comment is an example of why I always enjoy reading Laura's posts, but usually don't bother with the comments.  Too many people here like to feel superior.  Many educated, intelligent people like names that are not archaic, yet many people who post comments (who also very likely claim to be "tolerant" individuals) look down on those names.

May 9, 2012 3:12 PM

When I lived in California and met lots of people from Latin America, I also noticed a tendency to abbreviate double names. For example, I knew a Mavi (Maria Victoria) and a Mate (Maria Teresa). Unfortunately, I kept wanting to call the latter friend Mate (to rhyme with Kate) when I saw her name written down!

May 10, 2012 10:21 AM

Elizabeth1971, I understand your point, but in all fairness, I think it's downright cruel to name your child Dazzlyn or Paisleigh or Alycesaundra.  Educated or not, it's an unfair decision that will affect the child.  If that seems stuck-up, so be it.

By Elizabeth1971 (not verified)
May 10, 2012 12:32 PM

Elisabeth Rae, I agree that really unusual names or unusual spellings are a bad idea, and yes, it is usually done by uneducated people.  Extremely bizarre names are one thing, but many of the people who comment here just cannot stop complaining about modern or trendy names, such as Carson, Jaydon, Brielle, or anything that wasn't on the naming lists of 1900 or before.  Just because someone would choose a modern-sounding name over Mary or Melvin doesn't mean they are lacking in education or intelligence.