A Sibling for Felix, Raphael, and Xavier

I have a Raphael, Felix, and Xavier, names chosen because speakers of English, French, and Spanish would all recognize and feel comfortable saying, albeit giving Xavier four different spins (the incorrect English "Eggzavier," as Ohio journalists mock people in print when they mispronounce the university's name, the proper English "Zavier," the French "Zahv-yay," and the Spanish "hav-ee-air"). The kids are binational as well as biracial, and I want their names to flow in any of their likely surroundings. They also coincidentally are Top 20 names in Quebec, lol.

Now for #4. Having three boys, I have a couple of girl names I loved and never got to use. But it's been quite a while, and I am not sure I am still in love with them. I am open to your suggestions for something that fits harmoniously with the group and preferably goes nicely with Jane or Jeanne (family names) for a middle name.
Please nothing too French, as the name does need to work for Spanish speakers, too, and the French girl names tend to be oh so pretty. And I'm not sure I want "pretty" to be the first adjective that comes to mind. In other words, nothing too soft or "Frilliana."

As for a boy, many names fit the above criteria but are too common or Old Testament-y (David, Benjamin), the French and Spanish versions are too different from each other (Julian/Julio), or I just don't like them. I found one that has been on the relatively short list the last two rounds of baby naming, has the same spelling in all three languages, and the same pronunciation in Spanish and French: Hugo. I'd rejected it before for seeming too offbeat/quirky, but now I am really succumbing to it. (Yes, the Scorcese family film of the same name and rediscovering "Les Miserables" have helped put the name front and center in my head again.) My only issues are 1) not as religious as the other three (we're Catholic), 2) I'm having trouble finding the perfect middle name (they all begin with J, per my matrilineal family tradition, and we've already burned through three!), altohugh I will note that middle names are much more open about other qualities as long as they begin with the correct letter, and 3) I'm concerned it doesn't sound as good with our surname, which begins with H, too, like Hugo Hendrick (not our real surname). Thoughts? Other suggestions?


April 13, 2013 6:16 PM

Boys-Ambrose, Sylvester, Clement & Sebastian.  Some slight spelling variations, so you'd have to choose the one you liked the best, but none are as drastic as Julio/Julian.  I also think the pronunciation differences are minimal. No, more than what you exerience with Xavier anyway.  FWIW, I do like Hugo for you.  In fact, I had thought of it before you mentioned it in your post.  As for it not being as religious as the others, weren't there at least a couple of saints named Hugo?  I'm not Catholic, so I could be wrong, but St. Hugo seems familiar to me.

Girl names with similar requirements, but not too frilly.  Lucia, Marie/Maria, Rose/Rosa, Sabina, Marguerite, Valentina, Estela, Sofia, Claudia, Anabel.  Girls seem easier to me.  Crossover names are more common with girls.  If you can find one that works in French & Spanish, it's much more likely to also be familar with English speakers.

April 13, 2013 10:08 PM


Good ideas, as Ambrose is a current fave, and Sebastian was on the very short list for sons #1 and #2 (rejected for being too popular). Yes, there is a St. Hugo/Hugh, but he's not as big a name as a saint who co-founded the Jesuits (and might have inspired the first Jesuit pope to take his first name), a name that has several saints and five popes behind it, and one of three archangels officially accepted as canonical, who also has saints and a Renaissance master who painted many religious works. ;) People hear my kids' names and ask if I'm Catholic. I don't think Hugo will add (or detract) from that association when they hear the group named. But it does have the connection of being used as both first name and surname, as the other three are.

ITA about the girls being easier on the language requirements, but somehow they never capture my imagination. I feel kind of like a woman who buys her bridal gown too soon and has to keep it for years so that by the time it's time to get married, of course fashions have changed and so have her tastes and it's no good anymore. (I'm sorry if you are not a devotee of TLC's bridal-gown shows, so that this metaphor makes no sense to you. ;-) ) But the previous loves (and technically no one has come along to replace them) are Zora and Cleo.

I know Zora is Slavic, but its spelling and pronunciation are fine for other languages. I like that it had dual African-American literary (well, one Af-Am, one a hybrid Af-Am/Afro-British) in author Zora Neale Hurston and the character Zora in Zadie Smith's, "On Beauty," who I've always imagined as being named by the character's mother in honor of the author Zora. And the Slavic "dawn" meaning and goddess associations are lovely. It sounds vibrant and strong to me.

Cleo just sounds sharp and strong to me. I fear it taking off, as it keeps popping up in the same kind of hip circles where I find anglo Felixes like an artsy kids' show on CBC (although a CBC show might have wanted the lead character to have a name that worked in French, too) and Sofia Coppola's last film. I know multiple name books say they prefer the Greek muse of history Clio, but I figure 1) most people will hear "Cleo" and there will be spelling issues, and 2) I did not know that Clio was one of the muses until I read it in a baby-name book. I figure Clio is more for people who already knew her mythological associations before considering it as a child's name (and probably know all of the other eight by name as well). ;-)

TY for the feedback!

April 14, 2013 11:55 AM

Thanks for the information on Hugo!  I grew up in a very Catholic area, but am not Catholic myself.  Sometimes I'll have an impression of a name as being "Catholic" but am not sure why.  Something I must have subconsciously picked up on I guess.

I really like the idea of Ambrose for you.  It was one of my favorites from the names I suggested.  Sebastian I hesitated to even offer, because it is quite a bit more popular than some of the others.

I love both Cleo & Zora.  I agree that Cleo seems like a name on the verge of being really big.  My first thought was to pick a more uncommon name and use Cleo as the nickname, but I can't really think of anything where Cleo would be an easy nickname.  Cleopatra seems like a bit much for a wee-one, and it's such a different feel than the brother names.  There is the Irish Cleona/Cliona, but that might be straying too far from what you are looking for. 

Zora is fantastic!  Familiar, easy in all the languages and with great namesakes behind it.  I'd encourage you to at least keep it on the list.

April 14, 2013 1:33 PM

The great British jazz singer Cleo Laine's birth name is Clementina.  It may be worth noting that Cleo is sometimes used as a male name.  The most familiar to me after living 25 years in New Orleans is a sleazy local politician named Cleo Fields.  However, there have been a number of other notable men with the name Cleo, sometimes short for Cleophus, and sometimes just Cleo.  I pesonally prefer Clio, the muse of history.  Again having lived in New Orleans, I am very familiar with the names of the Muses, since there is a set of streets named for them.  New Orleanians jocularly pronounce Clio as Cee Ell ten, but of course no one else does.  Harking back to another thread, in New Orleans Calliope is pronounced Cal-ee-ope (ope as in hope), once the name of an infamous public housing project located in the vicinity of Calliope Street.

By hyz
April 15, 2013 12:33 PM

I was going to vote for Zora over Cleo on the basis of personal preference, but after your comment I think Clementina or Clementine nn Cleo would be pretty tempting from the Catholic perspective, since it could count as a nod to the various Popes Clement. 

May 4, 2013 8:39 AM

Miriam, I find the New Orleans pronunciation of Calliope really interesting, because that's how my Greek colleague pronounces her name.  

April 15, 2013 5:10 AM

I have always been keen on using Clementine with the nickname Cleo, if that is an option you are interested in? FWIW, I don't think Cleo has becoming too trendy yet. I have yet to come across one and I haven't seen it pop up on many peoples lists. If may be different in your area though.  Zora is great and I like that right along with Cleo.

I'm not particularly up on Spanish-French-English cross-over names but I also thought of Ambrose and Hugo.  Both are on my boys lists and both have been mentioned as having Catholic undertones, something we are trying to avoid. It sounds like the feel you are going for. I also don't think Hugo is a problem with your surname.

Sebastian definitely works but feels way to popular for your sibset (although Felix is very popular in my circles anyway).

By mk
April 14, 2013 1:42 PM

The flower Cleome (Clee-o-mee) could be a name with the nickname Cleo.

I like the name Zora. An alternate name is Zara; I once met a Zara and loved her name.

March 19, 2014 7:43 PM

I know a little Zelda, too, and that has a similar artistic/literary vibe as Zora (due to Zelda Fitzgerald), but lacks the same religious bent as your boys' names. It is, however, not "pretty" so much as substantial, but surprisingly cute and charming on a little girl.

What would you think about Philomena? It was rejected by us in part because it felt a little too Catholic for us, as well as the association with the (very sad) movie by the same name, but it's a fantastic name that seems like it would cross borders well. I know that Philomena is no longer on the Catholic Saints calendar, though, so perhaps that is no longer a relevant association.

Hugo would give me pause with an H surname, but otherwise I quite like it with your boys.

April 14, 2013 1:40 AM

I love the name Cleo when I mentioned it most people told me it reminded me of the name of a pet, or this woman named Miss Cleo who had a late night infomercial for tarot card readings!  So, I let myself be swayed against it.  I love the literary references to Zora.  You may also consider Nella for Nella Larsen who was another writer around the same time.

I like the suggestion of Hugo for a boy.

April 14, 2013 8:31 AM

Have you thought about Victor or Alexander? The latter has different forms in Spanish and French, but the nickname Alex is used by speakers of all three languages.

April 14, 2013 8:46 AM

For a boy, what about Vincent? The pronunciation is different in the various languages, but I think that they all sound similar enough that they would kind of give the kid an alter-ego feeling without feeling distant from his name, if you now what I mean.

April 14, 2013 2:47 PM

I just posted this on the main page, but having found you here, thought I might as well copy my reply!


AJwith3boys- I love the names you have chosen. We've sometimes referred to these kinds of names as 'pan-European' on this blog.The boy's name that came to mind was Nicolas- any good?  I also second Lucas and Sebastian. I would also suggest Marius and Matthias as possibilities, also Roman, Valentin, Max, Elias, Daniel.

Girls' names are harder. Maybe Katia, certainly Lea, Laura, Matilda, Flora, Elisa, Dora, Nina, Clara, Beatrice/Beatriz, Alicia could work in all three languages (i.e. although not particularly French, the French would be able to handle them).

April 15, 2013 12:09 AM

Would Lorenzo work?

I love the nn Enzo,and I think it would be great with your boys' names.

May 14, 2014 11:08 AM

I also love Enzo! I think it goes well with the siblings. 

April 15, 2013 8:56 AM

I love your taste! I have five boys, including Xav!er, and we also like pan European Catholic names. Before reading your post, my immediate suggestion was going to be the name of one of our other boys -- Thadd3us -- but that doesn't work in Spanish.

I love the suggestions of Ambrose, Victor, Sebastian, and Matthias -- all on my list. Hugo's not a favorite of mine, but to address your particular concerns, I do agree it doesn't come across as "religious" as your others (but if you love it, I wouldn't let that stop you, since it is a saint's name); not knowing what J names you used already, I like how Hugo James, Hugo Joseph, and Hugo John sound (probably the three you already used, right?); I don't mind Hugo with an H last name.

Other suggestions include Clement, Dominic, and one of my very very favorites -- Joachim. As a fn, I think it's amazing; as a mn, it might be a J name you'd consider with fn Hugo? It's got great Catholic pedigree and a decent amount of use in Europe, though perhaps not as recognizable nor as easy to pronounce as your others. (How do you pronounce Raphael btw?) I will offer you my husband's big problem with the name -- Joakim Noah, the basketball player.

Another name we keep trying to use is Augustine/Augustin -- you might interested in that? Pronunciation issues have stopped us from choosing it -- we want the au-GUS-tin pronunciation (hence the consideration of the Augustin spelling, which I believe is both French and Spanish).

As a final thought, I must disagree with you that "egg-ZAY-vier" is incorrect! That's how we say our son's name, as (other than the saint) he's named for my grandfather, who said it that way. We know another local family with an Xav!er who says it the same, and even Laura herself in the BNW calls the "egg-ZAY-vier" pronunciation the "Catholic and X-men" pronunciation! I do agree that Xavier University uses the ZAY-vier pronunciation, so saying egg-ZAY-vier University is incorrect.

Good luck! I'm eager to see what you'll choose!

April 15, 2013 9:39 AM

I forgot to offer girl name suggestions! Zora and Cleo are both cool names, but neither strikes me as particularly Catholic in feel -- do you have different taste in girls' names than in boys'?

Some of the names I've seen popping up in Catholic circles that might work for you are Zelie and Avila -- I think they would both work in all languages. I saw recently a family with daughters Clairveaux and Vianney, which I kind of like. Susanna is our top pick if we ever have a girl, but a close second for me (my husband would need some convincing) is Jacinta. Kateri is a recent favorite among so many American Catholics, especially those in the Northeast (but talk about pronunciation difficulties! I know four different people with that name -- and they each use a different pronunciation. The most unusual/difficult by far also seems to be the most authentic: GAH-duh-lee, allegedly the authentic Native American pronunciation. I've also heard kah-TERR-ee, KAT-eri, and my favorite kah-TEER-ee [though the KAT-eri I know is so sweet, and her nn's Kat, which I love]). Genevieve is another I quite like. I've seen Karoline a lot, in reference to Bl. John Paul II, and I know a Polish Karolina, which has the prettiest sound to me (though maybe too frilly for you?). 

April 15, 2013 2:41 PM

Another thought: Adrian?

May 3, 2013 9:04 PM

I was reading my copy of BNW (first edition, fallen apart into pieces) tonight, and saw a few names that might work for you: a brother listed for Hugo was Cyrus; a brother for Raphael was Roman; and a brother for Cosmo (I prefer Cosmas for you) was Felix.

Cyrus, Roman, or Cosmas?

May 4, 2013 9:27 PM

Also, Emmanuel?

May 4, 2013 4:49 AM

Oscar seems like it would work.

May 6, 2013 1:59 PM

Lawrence or Louis could work for a boy also maybe roman and demetri

for girls, Ramona, Simone, Tatiana, Tabitha, Esmeralda

May 9, 2013 11:30 PM

Boys: Matteo, Sebastian, Luca, Enzo

Girls: Romy, Camilla, Esme, Lola, Paloma


January 7, 2014 10:50 PM

Li'l update: We are having a girl, so the boy options are moot. I felt so great about Zora until this Mexican American woman on nixed it on a different naming board (in response to a different woman's question about the name--I only post here) because this Slavic name makes her think of the Spanish word "zorra," which literally mean "female fox" (or "vixen" if you prefer), but in her Spanish slang means "slut." You can Google it. I noted that the women who agreed with her were also Mexican Americans, so I'm crossing my fingers that this is limited to Mexican Spanish, and that Spanish speakers from, say, Spain or Bolivia or Guatemala stick to lovely terms like "puta." :-P

It made me afraid of the name, for the first time, making me doubt it. :-(
Fortunately, my husband is still head over heels for it, and sent me links to correspondence with friends written by Zora Neale Hurston, which are all quite lovely. 

Would this scare you off?

January 8, 2014 10:17 AM

If I were naming a baby Zora without any consideration for other languages, I wouldn't worry at all about. But, since you want a name that works well in all the languages you mentioned, including Spanish, I admit the similarity to zorra would make me hesitate big-time.

A husband in love with a name is equally compelling to me though!

January 8, 2014 11:22 AM

It might be good to ask relatives what they think about the name, if you feel comfortable with that. Zara, Cora, and Nora and similar sounding names, though different enough that you may or may not like them. I love Clementina nn Cleo.

My suggestion, which may be too popular for you, is Eva. I know a little girl who was named Ava so that her hispanic grandmother could prounounce it. Her parents also liked how uncommon it was at the time... At least people will always think she's about 7-8 years younger than she really is! Eva is similar sounding (can be either EH-vah or EE-vuh), has both a French and Spanish feel, and is definitely not unfamiliar in America. It's currently in the top 100, wth around 1000 girls named Eva each year, and with Ava as popular as it is, it may well go up further. 1000 kids is definitely not a lot though, and she's not likely to have many frieds with the name until she's an adult and socializes with people further from her in age. I can certainly understand not liking the poplarity, though.

January 8, 2014 11:55 AM

I don't speak Spanish, but I believe there is a noticable (to native speakers) pronunciation difference between Zora and Zorra, right?

In any case, I would maybe do some asking around with your Spanish-speaking relatives to see if they have the vixen=slut connection. If not, or if it's just a vague one -- "yeah, some people use that word that way" -- then I wouldn't worry about it.

If the people that matter to you do make the vixen=slut connection, then I'd want to think harder about the name, and maybe switch to something like Zara instead. But it really depends on how much Spanish "exposure" you expect your child to have. If it's just that there are some (geographically distant) relatives who speak that language, then I really wouldn't worry about it. Slang changes, sometimes very quickly. Besides, there are other names (especially nicknames) that have even worse sound-alikes (Dick, Sissy -- and the Spanish version of George, which sounds like whore-hey), but nobody thinks twice about them when they're used as someone's name.

If this is the name you both love, use it!

January 8, 2014 3:16 PM

Yes, those are all points I've been using to comfort myself. I am African-American, now living in Canada (now with dual citizenship) fairly permanently. I have no Spanish-speaking relatives, but enjoy a lot of Latino-American culture as someone who went to school in LA and worked for four years in Washington, DC. I used to be a Spanish speaker myself, but have lost a lot in the past decade in Canada! I have taken the kids on trips to both cities, and definitely had them experience some Latino cultural opportunities that are simply not present in Canada.

I am disappointed because I had been planning Zorro (the character, not the Spanish word meaning "fox") jokes and puns, because Zora sounds so close to anglophone ears. Yes, technically "zora" and "zorra" are different, which some of the Mexican-Spanish sepakers noted..but also noted that it was too close for their tastes.

Realistically, the issue only comes up in a serious way if we move back to the US (unlikely) or if she goes to school there. French, Chinese, and the languages of South Asia are the main non-English languages spoken around here, and we probably encounter more people with ancestry where they would recognize Zora as Slavic than Spanish speakers. But it's just makes me so sad, when I have wanted to use the name for almost a decade, really thought it was so perfect on so many levels, and then to see some people post that they would hear "slut," KWIM? 

I like Zara, but feel it is too common--I can get pencils and mugs and stuff at a few stores with Zara pre-personalized on them! Not in love with it being the name of a chain of stores, either. ;-)

We probably will still use it, but it's with a shadow it didn't have before. I really wish I had never read that message board!

January 8, 2014 5:56 PM

I would struggle with it, but most of my Spanish training has been Mexican/Central America Spanish. My friend was in Spain for the same time I was in Costa Rica, and when we got together to speak, it was hilarious. She'd say things that meant something totally different to me and once I used a word that she cracked up about as it was a slang swear in Spain. They really are different.

Have you thought of Zola or Zona? Zorica? Isadora nn Zora?

January 9, 2014 11:26 PM

OK, new suggestion that might be completely silly and solve nothing: As mentioned in my OP, the middle name is Jane, and I have been calling her Zora Jane in my head for a long time. Two months ago, I even considered making the name Zora-Jane, because I think of the names together like that so much...and because there are three more middle names she will have. (All familial. This is what happens when your husband is an only child, your one sibling has decided to not reproduce, and you have only the one granddaughter for four family lines. The male family names--and even one female family name--have been nicely spread around my three sons.) But I decided against it because of our compound family (sur-) name. If it helps, pretend we are the Smith-Jones. So, she would have two hypens in her everyday, school-document, basic-forms, introducing-yourself name: Zora-Jane Smith-Jones. Too cray-cray? Too OTT?
The hope here in January after discovering that other board's Zora discussion is that it would lessen the "zorra" tie if she were Zora-Jane. Nn would be ZJ, which is what I had planned before any of this issue came up. Yes, I'm AJ (like, for reals, IRL), and this child, my final one, would be ZJ.

Does hypenating help with the "zorra" issue, or is it putting lipstick on a pig? ;-) Is the double hyphen insane?

January 10, 2014 10:23 AM

I like Zora-Jane very much, but I do think the hyphens are a bit jarring visually. I don't think people just hearing Zora-Jane Smith-Jones would necessarily find it to be odd though, any more than they would Mary Beth Smith-Jones or Roseann Smith-Jones -- and I'm sure there are loads of women with compound first names who have hyphenated their maiden and married names -- the only difference here is that your little Zora-Jane would have a head start on feeling comfortable with all her names, and she'll never know anything different.

An easy fix in my mind for the visual issue, if it bothers you, is to drop the first hyphen. She could just be Zora Jane (like Mary Beth, Mary Jane, Sarah Kate, Ellie Mae, etc. -- so many female names offer a precedent for this). Or ZoraJane (I have a friend whose given name is RoseAnn; I've also often seen MaryBeth written this way, and I have a cousin MaryLeigh). Or Zorajane, which is my least favorite, but also has precedents: Roseann, Marylee, Maryann, etc.

As for several middle names, I still don't think it's a problem. Zora Jane Mary Kate Annette can still go by Zora Jane (my favorite of the double-name options I listed).

I personally think, based on what you said, that Zora-Jane (or whatever spelling) is *the* name. You've referred to your daughter as that for a long time, and the initial connection (AJ and ZJ) is sweet, especially for the only daughter/granddaughter in the family. I like it a lot!

(Also, if this helps, there was a professor at my college who had a hyphenated surname -- think "Burn-Farr." I think I was a senior in college before I realized it was two names -- I'd only heard "Burnfarr" -- and several of my friends said they too were surprised to discover it. I think a hyphenated surname comes across aurally as a single unit for many [most?] people, so whether you hyphenate ZJ or not, Zora-Jane Smith-Jones will likely register for others as first name, surname -- not first first name, second first name, first surname, second surname. Does that make sense? Does anyone else agree?)

I can't wait to see what your final decision is!

January 10, 2014 10:25 AM

Ah sorry I didn't address your question re: zorra -- I think Zora-Jane/Zora Jane is a nice way to get around the discomfort you have with the zorra/Zora issue.

January 11, 2014 8:56 AM

I think that's an excellent observation about the different between people's aural vs. visual experiences of the name, and I've had experiences like yours where I heard a name a lot before seeing it in print. (Although one time, it was the reverse, where I heard the name as either first-and-middle or maybe I assumed it was a hyphenated name, when it turned out to be one word, no hyphens, no second capitalization.)

Thanks to Elizabeth T, we're pretty happy to return to Zora Jane. :-)

January 10, 2014 2:52 PM

My married surname has a hyphen in it. (It's all one name, it just happens to be spelled with a hyphen. Think Saint-George, only not in English.) I refer to it as "that dratted dash", or worse.

There is some difference in how computer systems (and the human beings using them) treat hyphens in given names versus surnames, but I don't recommend using your daughter's name as a test case. Of course, double names like Mary Beth come with their own headaches, especially when it's a more unusual pairing like Zora Jane...

All in all, I recommend sticking with Zora as her given name, and Jane as her middle name (or first middle name, if you feel so inclined -- just be aware that any further middles will almost completely disappear after the birth announcement is sent out). You can then call her Zora, or Zora Jane, or ZJ, or all three, alternating. It really sounds like Zora is _the_ name for you, and I don't think you need to complicate things because of a (possibly fleeting) bit of Mexican slang.

January 11, 2014 8:40 AM

Thanks, HNG. As all the children have multiple middle names (to us), we know no one uses them. Even the federal Social Insurance Number (tihnk Canadian Sociial Security Number) and our provincial health-plan cards will "only" list two middle names. The names are for our enjoyment, not something we expect official recognition of, other than at their baptisms.

All of the lovely responses have helped me returnto the original plan of Zora Jane. :-)

January 10, 2014 5:32 PM

I am a fluent Spanish speaker and teach Spanish. I've never heard of the zorra slang (although admittedly my relatives are Venezuelan, not Mexican). My reaction is threefold:

1) You're not in a Spanish-speaking area. Those who do speak Spanish are as likely to come from other parts of the Spanish-speaking world as Mexico and are not necessarily going to be familiar with the term.

2) There is a pronunciation difference. Kind of like how Charlotte rhymes with harlot, but that hasn't stopped thousands of parents from choosing it.

3) Slang terms are fleeting. I knew a little boy named John Thomas who went by both names. In the UK, this used to be slang for the penis and was akin to calling a child Dick (which plenty of people did). But I mentioned that on this board one time and several posters from the UK said they had never heard the term. Moll used to be slang for a prostitute. It has fallen out of use, but the name Molly is still going strong. There are Spanish slang terms for 'whore' that are much more universally accepted. Were you considering Puta, I'd have to put my foot down.

In short, go with Zora. It's a beautiful name that has significance for you, has wonderful literary connections (Neale Hurston AND Zadie Smith? Hard to top that!), and sounds great with your sons' names. Zora Jane is a winner! 

January 11, 2014 8:50 AM

Thank you so much, Elizabeth T. I showed this reply to my husband, and we are both quite pleased and heartened by your words. I LOLed at "Were you considering Puta, I'd have to put my foot down." And yes, for the record, the Spanish speakers at my kids' school I know are Argentinian and Colombian and then one Spanish girl (like, she is still learning English, having just moved here six months ago) at my youngest's daycare.

Zora it is. :-)

March 19, 2014 2:52 PM

UPDATE: Last week, my kids had a playdate with their Colombian-Canadian friends and their mother, born and raised in Colombia (as was the father). I asked, "What do you think when you hear 'Zora?'" trilling the "r" a single time, like a proper "ere" (not an "erre"). Her eyes got large and she said, "That's a bad word!" then two beats later she said, "But isn't it also a name?" So, I was pulling my hair out again.

I broke my strict embargo rules and confessed in a three-person FB chat to my gringa-but-bilingual Texas friend (who claims to be better versed in Mexican-Spanish slang than proper classroom Spanish) and a Seattle friend who is the bilingual daughter of Bolivian immigrants. They both loved the name. Then I pointed out, "But what about its Spanish-slang meaning, 'zorra?'" Then they both went, "Oh, yeah, you're right. I have heard that a few times in my life, but it's not common." So that sorta calmed me down. I was ready for the Texan to be like, "That's full-on unacceptable." We kept chatting, and the Seattle friend confessed that she had name regret in that people talked her out of her top choice because a number of people might get the pronunciation wrong--something she had already experienced with her older child. Now, despite loving the distant-second name she went with, she wishes she had followed her heart and stuck to her favorite name.

So, I'm still staying the course for now, in part because despite starting sincere searches for a replacement, nothing else feels right. The names are too frilly, too soft, not fierce, don't sound good with either of the two middle-name options (Jane or Jeanne, both family names), don't sound good with the brothers' names, and so on.

March 19, 2014 7:14 PM

I have been silently following your naming saga & I'm so glad for you that you are feeling able to stick with the name you really love!  

March 19, 2014 7:30 PM

TY. That's really sweet.
My friends understood when I vented that it's not like "zorra" is some random Spanish word for funny puns, like if it meant "chair" or something, but instead a vulgarity--and not just any vulgarity, but the kind you would most hate to see someone call your daughter. *SIGH*

April 25, 2014 3:07 PM

UPDATE; My husband told one friend of our name issue and I told another. Both suggested ZOLA (as some have done here). Why can't I fall in love with it? We're amused that, like the boy name we would have used (Hugo), Zola is a surname of a French author (Emile Zola). It is only one letter different, keeping the other letters' pronunciation and which syllable is accented. It has international flair, and is easy to pronounce for English, French, and/or Spanish speakers. It's got no minues. Except my lack of connection.

Wanna talk me into it? :-)

It doesn't help that I've been calling this baby "Zora Jane" forEVER, so trying to flip to "Zola Jane" feels strange still on my tongue. I feel the threat of name regret either way, with me either always longing for Zora and kicking myself for not just going with what I love, Spanish slang be damned OR me seeing red and hating the world if anyone makes a comment to me or her in the future about "zorra"/slut. I think Zola sounds softer, too, where I want a name that has some fierceness to it, which is why most French girl names don't work for me. So pretty, so femme, so gentil. Not for me.

I have less than five weeks to figure it out!


Also, for the video-game minded, turns out that there are NOT two different characters in the Legend of Zelda, one named Zora and one named Zola, but rather problems translating it from the original Japanese manual, with the Japanese using the names interchangeably, since they don't sound different to their ears.

"Zora or Zola?

When The Legend of Zelda was released, the game's manual spelled "Zora" as "Zola", taking its cue from the Japanese manual. The Japanese language does not distinguish between the letters "L" and "R", leading to the confusion. With the exception of the Nintendo Player's Guide for Link's Awakening, every instance that mentioned the Zoras after The Legend of Zelda manual has spelled the name with an "r", confirming that "Zola" was a mistake, and Oracle of Ages directly references the two varieties under the same name. Some of the Western fan community still use "Zola" and "Zora" to distinguish between the hostile and the friendly race, a development likely instigated by Zelda.com's encyclopedia.[2]"

April 25, 2014 5:40 PM

I say stick with Zora. It'll probably sound like Zola when she says it at first, so you can use that as her family/childhood nickname, offered thereafter as an alternative to anyone who objects to the vixen etc. association. (I doubt there will be anyone. People continue to use the name Dick, after all.)

Another suggestion: read some Zola, see if it's an association you want to perpetuate on your daughter.

I can see why Japanese and some other Asian languages don't distinguish L and R -- they're similar enough to make for some killer tongue-twisters -- but to me, they feel very different. L is a soft sound, R is ...rougher? more assertive? So I can understand why Zola would not necessarily appeal to someone who likes Zora. (One sound really can make all the difference: think Cora versus Cola.)

(Hmm... Hugo and Zola do make a lovely sibset!)

April 25, 2014 11:45 PM

Thanks, HNG. Yeah, I forgot my one minor squabble with Zola is that itreminds me vaguely of Zoloft. ;-) But yeah, ITA that Hugo and Zola would be a nice set. We're totally done after this baby, so it will have to be left to someone else. But if someone found the ultimate perfection in sibset Langston (Hughes) and Zora (Neale Hurston)--seriously, when I read that, I was Orson-Welles-slow-clap impressed--someone with a love of French literature should arrive at Hugo and Zola. :-)

By EVie
April 26, 2014 10:08 AM

I agree that L and R are very different sounds. My understanding is that Japanese has neither of those sounds, but a third one that is somewhere in between the two, which we don't have in English. So Japanese speakers aren't actually mixing up L and R—they're just replacing both with the same intermediate sound, which we hear as the wrong letter because we're not used it it. With transliteration from Japanese to English, that sound could be transliterated either way, hence Zora/Zola.

Regarding the original question, I think you should just stick with Zora. It's the name you keep coming back to—I think you would regret not using it more, and really, the odds of her encountering this particular bit of Spanish slang sound pretty low.

April 26, 2014 3:46 PM

Here's a slow clap for you: Zora! Zora! Zora! Seriously, Zola was a great writer, but you can't trump Zora Neale Hurston, and with the middle name Jane, you've got an Austen reference thrown in. Since this is a girl, I think you should stick with the female writer. 

May 13, 2014 12:30 PM

Working My Way Through the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief
First, I simply must thank everyone who has responded once again. You guys have been WONDERFUL and so helpful and supportive. It has been so good to have people to talk about the issue without involving friends and family, so the name can still be a surprise, especially disinterested third parties who think deeply about names. :-) 

I'm still working through the five stages of grief at losing a name I've held in my heart and in my head, a name I felt so certain of for my eventual daughter that I bought aan initial charm with "Z" on it to go with the charms I already have for her brothers and father, a name I've been living with for seven years. When waiting for gender information during pregnancy, I did not think, "Is it a girl?" I thought, "Is it Zora? Is it Zora Jane?" That is a lot to overcome, especially in such a relatively short time frame.

Nameberry.com's entry for Zora now includes the note:"Before you choose this name, however, you should know that the Spanish word zorra means the kind of woman you would never want your daughter to grow up to be."

Spanish is not just another language. It's the biggest language (most speakers) after English for N. America, one of the four dominant languages of the entire Western Hemisphere (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French). I also think non-Canadians seriously underestimate the ever growing population of Spanish speakers here as Canada purposefully takes in 250,000 immigrants a year for a population the size of California. Additionally, I have personal connections. I was born into English, but I adopted Spanish, I chose it as my second language. I lived for five years in Los Angeles. I own Spanbish-language music CDs, watch Cuaron and Almodovar movies. It's not just another language to me--and Zora does not sound so very close to just any word in it.

When I was a child, I loved looking up my name in baby-name books to discover the meaning. This century, my children will conduct an Internet search. What would she find? Entries in Urban Dictionary, discussions on baby-name boards (including also people concerned, BTW, that "Willa" sounds too much like "huila," yet another name for wh0re). And now that oh-so-delicate note on Nameberry. How long until Laura feels compelled to include it in the fourth edition, before someone adds a note to Namipedia?

I can't do it.

I've done the Denial ("Not that many people know that slang!"), the Bargaining ("Maybe we won't come into contact with too many people who know! I'll call her Zora-Jane so it sounds like a different word!"), and ranted through Anger as I think about how "Zorro," the male form, is bestowed upon a folk/action hero, but using the female form, instead of being a fun future Halloween costume for her complete with dashing hat and sword, instead of being a fun way of teaching her how to write the first initial of her name, is a deeply derogatory term. (Like, I'd almost prefer it meant "bitch," and I could Bargain over "reclaiming" the term and its potential strength. ;-P )

Now I'm in Depression ("People Suck") and working toward Acceptance as my DH and I spent the past week poring through the Internet for our two also-rans: Zola and Clio. Actually, I've realized how much I did NOT know about the names before, and like them both more as I discover more about them. Thank you, Wikipedia disambiguation! I feel we're in a "Can't Go Wrong" position with them, but I also feel they are different in tone.

Zola sounds softer, prettier, like a flower to me. I love the combo of Raphael and Zola. (I like the other two with it, as well, including the alliteration of Xavier and Zola. Maybe it's that R and Z are both names of famous artists. ;-) ) I like the sounds of "Zola Jane" over "Clio Jane," although a Google search will reveal that Brits alone mean both combos have been used by others, so how bad can it be? ;-) Like her brothers' names, Zola is used both as a personal name and as a surname. This dual-usage is partially explained by its dual roots, another thing I like about the name, as both an Italian surname and a Zulu word for "peaceful." Towns on three different continents bear this name. It also has the advantage of keeping my necklace and its charms accurate. :-)

Clio sounds sharper, with the brisk and "brio" Laura writes in the books that Felix has. In fact, "Felix and Clio" are my favorite partners, even though, again, I like the name with Raphael and Xavier, too. I feel Clio has more moxie than Zola. I also like that the Muse has a role more complex than simply "history," also being the proclaimer, among other things. As you can see, I've switched over from "Cleo" to "Clio," caving to snob appeal of the Muse over the Egyptian queen (not that I necessarily agree, but that's the demographic with which I roll, for better or for worse), even though both spellings are from the same Greek root and thus share meaning. But it was also because one of my "things" has been pronunciation. "Clio" is "KLEE-oh" in every language most important to me, but "Cleo" can be "KLAY-oh." Five U.S. towns bear this name.

Please weigh in, dear name enthusiasts! (And thanks both for the past and in advance!)

May 13, 2014 12:39 PM

I'm so sorry, but I applaud your decision. ((hugs))

I personally like Zola better. Both as a name and with the sibset. While softer than Clio, I think the boys also have softer names (Felix is the "hardest", but I still think soft spoken, bookish geek when I hear it). Clio seems too abrupt with the rest of the siblings. 

I also like the flow of Zola Jane far better, and you would still get to use that charm. ;-)

By EVie
May 13, 2014 1:47 PM

I hate to do this to you, but Clio, the name of the Muse, is most correctly pronounced CLIGH-oh in English. It follows the same pattern as other Greek names--Io, Ione, Diogenes, Dionysus, Calliope. Cleo is CLEE-oh like Eo, all the Theo- names, Leonidas, etc. 

Of course, Clio would be pronounced CLEE-oh in Spanish, Italian, etc., so it's not an incorrect pronunciation per se, and honestly most English speakers probably would guess that pronunciation anyway, given that most people aren't so familiar with the classics these days. But it's not the unambiguous spelling/pronunciation that you were hoping for.

If it means anything, Cleo isn't just the Egyptian queen. It's a fairly common element in both masculine and feminine Greek names, from the root kleos meaning "glory." It's the second element in Herakles/Hercules and Pericles, as well as Cleopatra, Cleobule, Cleoboea (feminine) and Cleodaeus (masculine). 

I'm a huge fan of classical names, so I would vote wholeheartedly for Clio/Cleo, but if you want the CLEE-oh pronunciation, I do prefer Cleo.

May 13, 2014 2:16 PM

When you say "in English," do you happen to mean British English, where, among other differences, the Greek letter chi is "key" rather ther than the "kai" in N. America? Just curious. It's good to know there are some who will see "KLAI-oh" rhymes with Io; I appreciate it. :-) I feel confident that our local anglophones would read either spelling as "KLEE-oh." (And I can't promise not change spellings on a whim, or because I feel more anglophones will assume the "Cleo" spelling.)

I know! I just meant that the average person under age 50 thinks of "Cleo" as a nn for "Cleopatra" (like the alpha mean girl on "Clone High"), even though yes, Cleo/Clio have that same kleos root, Cleo was used as a male name out right a century ago, and yes, other longer names share "cleo."