Baby sister for G@briel@ and Andr3

Everyone here is so helpful! Do you have suggestions or comments for me?

DH from Brazil, and I from California, seek another international name for a daughter we expect in October. We prefer established names with a long history, preferably pronounced the same in Portuguese and English. My very-Italian LN, starting with the letter A, is our kids' MN, and his very-Portuguese LN starts with the letter M. Both very vowel-heavy. I dislike the way the letter R is pronounced when it starts a word in Portuguese, and we are trying to avoid sharing initials. I also want to avoid names that are too common in either Brazil or the US, since our older daughter G@bri3l@ is one of several in her class.

Our short list: Julia (beautiful, but too common), Juliana (too much like Julia), Liliana (DH doesn't like the repetitious "Lili"), Helena (pronounced differently in the two languages-- eh-LEH-na and HELL-en-ah), Leona (DH dislikes but cannot explain why), Natalia (sounds too Eastern European to me).


DH's list would include loads of Latino names, many pronounced very differently in English.To give some samples: Diana (DJEE-ah-na), Amanda (ah-MAHN-da), Laura (Lah-OW-rrra), Joana (zho-AH-na), Fernanda (fehrrr-NAHN-da), Carolina (cah-ro-LEE-na), Erica (EH-ree-ca), Claudia (CLAH-oo-djee-ah), and Carla (CAHRRR-la), Beatriz (BEH-ah-TREESH).

My list would include a few oddball family names like Lotus or Serena. Also Isadora, Eva, Zoe, Vera or Veronica.

I thought the name Leona was a brilliant addition to the list, since it's unusual, but an established name with a powerful meaning. Neither of us has ever known (or had the chance to dislike) anyone named Leona. It has many of the sounds we like, without the repetition. It's easy to say and spell in both languages. I think it's just a little too "out there" for DH.



July 9, 2012 6:17 PM

Would your husband like Leora?  Maybe he find it less out there than Leona?

From your list, I really like Carolina, Isadora and Veronica.

No idea how these might sound in Portuguese, but here are some suggestions I think would work with the sibling names (in English at least).

Cassandra, Miranda, Isabel, Josephine/Josefina, Vanessa, Marguerite.  

Not sure about the repition of the M with the last name. I think it could work, depending on flow.

By Guest (not verified)
July 9, 2012 6:41 PM

Hazel Noelle!! 


July 10, 2012 3:32 AM

Mazel tov!

Sorry, that was a silly joke. The pronunciation of Hazel Noelle in Portuguese is pretty much a nightmare. I think it would be "ah-ZEH-oo no-EHL-ley" and then followed by my and my husband's LNs it would be a bad scene. I think this suggestion would work for some other family who lives in the US, since they are both pretty names in English.

July 10, 2012 2:57 AM

Thanks! I am most intrigued by Cassandra and Josefina. The initial M is pretty much ruled out because of the LN and my husband's first initial.

By Guest (not verified)
July 9, 2012 6:33 PM

If your husband doesn't like the repetition of "Liliana," how about "Liana"? Or, Marita, or Elina. 


July 10, 2012 1:06 AM

I really am not that familiar with Spanish or Portugese so I'm not sure how much the pronunciation issues will bother you but of both your lists my favourites would be:

Carolina, Claudia, Carla, Serena, Isadora, Eva, Leona

It would seem that the pronunciation of some of these isn't too different in different languages. I guess it depends on how much it bothers you. I don't think it is that confusing for a kid (many grow up with different pronunciations by different family members). It's more whether you don't like the pronunciation in one language or the other.

I think something like Lotus seems a bit out of place with your other kids. Zoe and Eva might be popular (they would be more popular than Gabriella I would think). Some of your husbands suggestions seem a little dated (at least in America). Amanda, Joana, Laura and Erica seem more like 20-40 year olds. They are great names though so I think they are totally usable.

I don't think Leona is too out there if it is something you both like. 


July 10, 2012 3:28 AM

I do have problems with Portuguese pronunciation. Even when I manage to wrap my mouth around the sounds, some of them feel too foreign to me for my own child. On the one hand, they have a wonderful way of pronouncing each vowel separately, so that names end up liltingly multi-syllabic more than in the US. On the other hand, almost the only position of the letter R that is acceptable to my ear is at the beginning of a syllable, positioned after a somewhat hard vowel like B or D. As a first letter, Brazilians gargle the letter around in the back of the throat and it comes out more like an H. My husband likes the name Renata but it sounds like "hhkheh-NAH-tah". And Carla sounds like "KAHHKHrrr-lah." Obviously, I just don't like it. My mother describes the sound as someone talking through a mouthful of oatmeal. My parents don't speak Portuguese and my husband's family does not speak English.

I had almost settled on Juliana, but then met about 4 local Julianas and Julias (in Rio de Janeiro), all under the age of 3 or 4. Julia is the #1 most popular name in Brazil right now, and very common among multi-cultural families. I really don't want to jump and turn around a dozen times every time we visit a playground.

It's true, Lotus will never work because it's just too harsh-sounding. It was my beloved great-grandmother's name, so I have a sentimental attachment to it.

I am going to keep lobbying for Leona, or introduce the idea of Cassandra or Josefina. What do you think of Josefina? Is the spelling too Latino? The trouble with Josephine is it would be pronounced "zho-seh-FEE-ney" in Brazil. Josefina would be pronounceable in both languages.

The most likely compromise that we'll end up with is Helena. I just cannot decide whether the different pronunciations bother me. Would I most likely call my daughter "HEL-eh-na" while everyone living around me calls her "el-EH-na"? Spelling it Elena might solve the problem, but that changes the name so that to me it seems more Russian, more like an Ellen than like Helen. I kind of like the history of Helen of Greek mythology, and Helen Keller, and the actress Helena Bonham Carter, and the fact that some of Shakespeare's heroines were named Helena. Actually, just now it occurred to me that Helena (or perhaps Cassandra too, though in the myths she was seen as insane) could be considered a very oblique homage to my late FIL, who had the same name as the most honorable and courageous defender of Troy.

This naming challenge is one of the most fun things to think about right now. I appreciate all of your input!

July 10, 2012 5:51 AM

I think if you don't like the way the name sound in Portugese, then it should definitely be out of the running.  It seems like there might be some names that work for both of you though.

Juliana and Julia do seem like options except for the popularity! Is Juliet an option? It isn't as popular and goes well with your other kids names.

Josefina isn't too latino in my opinion. I do prefer Josephine, but if it changes the pronunciation too much Josefina might be the better option. There is no reason why you couldn't name her Josefina and call her Josefine or Josie as a nickname. 

The Helena situation is a little more difficult. It does sound like two different names with the pronunciaiton change. I think the Helena spelling fits better your other kids, but Elena is a very nice name. I actually don't think it's a problem if you pronounced the name differently to your husband and his family. If you like both pronunciations, then I think it's kind of a nice quirk. Almost like your 'own' special name you use for your child.  

I do think Helena, Josefina and Cassandra all are lovely options and none are too popular!!

By EVie
July 10, 2012 2:26 PM

I was raised in a bilingual household (English and French), with a name that was pronounced differently in each language (actually, one of the names you're discussing up there). So I can tell you with authority that it is not a problem. Bilingual children are very good at compartmentalizing; my whole life, I was one pronunciation in English and another pronunciation in French, zero confusion. I identify with each name in its respective language so strongly that if a French speaker says my name the English way it sounds very weird to me, and I will probably correct them. I also pronounce other people's names differently in the two different languages, and again, it is not confusing in the least.

This is also something frequently encountered by kids who are raised in a different culture from that of their parents; for example, I have a friend who speaks Russian with her family at home, who is Corinne legally and with her American friends, but Carina at home with her family. Again, not an issue.

Also, Elena is not Russian; the Russian name is more often transliterated as Yelena (I went to high school with a lot of 1st generation and immigrant Russians and knew a ton of these). Elena is really pan-European, but most strongly associated with Italian, Spanish, and yes, Portuguese, along with Greek and several other Eastern European languages. If you want the pronunciation with the stress on the first syllable, though, I would stick with Helena, as Elena in English is most often pronounced with the stress in the middle.

July 10, 2012 3:56 PM

I agree with everything EVie wrote.

I also grew up bilingual, with a name that starts with a different consonant sound in English versus Hungarian, and yet it was never a cause for confusion.

We're raising our daughter bilingual, with a name closely related to mine, and she hasn't shown any confusion yet. (She'll turn 2 next Sunday.)

As it happens, the names in question are Julia and Julianna. The funny thing is that because my mother is also Julia, I go by the short form Juli (YEW-lee, roughly) in Hungarian -- but I have never, ever been a Julie (JEW-lee). This causes some confusion among bilingual acquaintances, and I can't explain it, but I think it demonstrates the compartmentalization mentioned by EVie.

I agree that Elena is a Romance-language name through and through: it's the standard way to write in Latin the name that's pronounced Helen in English and Ilona in Hungarian.

July 11, 2012 12:58 AM

Thank you! It is refreshing and valuable to hear input from someone who was raised bilingual. I had not expected to get such a reassuring perspective on the different pronunciations. Both my husband and I were raised in just one culture (oh, so limited!) so although we feel like we're charting new territory, it is wonderful to remember we've got plenty of company.

I also appreciate the expertise on the name Elena. I still have a gut-level hesitation about eliminating the letter H.

I am also thinking about the nickname of Lena, which can be short for Helena. It brings to my mind the old obsessive Billy Joel song "All for Layna," which is ironically a positive connotation to me.

By hyz
July 10, 2012 3:45 PM

I like Leona, and I also think Josefina (or Josefa--any thoughts on that?), Cassandra, and Helena are nice ideas.  If it helps, I don't think there is one accepted English pronunciation for Helena--you could say it as you've mentioned, like the city in Montana and Ms. Bonham Carter, but I think heh-LAY-na is just as common, if not moreso, for American Helenas--and "el-EH-na" and "heh-LAY-na" are not really so far apart.  I also don't think Natalia sounds too eastern European--it does have a bit of that feel, but the word has a latin root, and I've known Natalias and Natalies of latin descent, so I think it would fit right in with your surname and other two kids.

July 10, 2012 4:17 PM

I am trying to remember the names of all my Portuguese teachers and the Brazilian grad students and am drawing blanks. These names would not be popular now (probably), but might work as they are easy to pronounce in both languages: Monica, Loida, Sandra, Graciela.

I know a Lena whose mother is German and whose father is American. Both parents switch the pronounciation of her name, sometimes even in the same conversation. She is both Layna and Leena. I love it as they get to use both pronunciations. It doesn't seem to be a problem.

By hwar
July 10, 2012 10:32 PM

I LOVE Leona. It's on my list and my husband has also vetoed it "just because."  Sigh. Well, in its absence, from your lists I really like Carolina and Vera.  Helena is lovely too and I don't think it's unusual or confusing for names to be pronounced differently in different languages, even in the same household.

As for other names that would work in both languages, I'd suggest:

Sabina (this would tie with your Italian heritage too)

July 11, 2012 1:05 AM

I never got my husband to lift the ban on the name Felix, so I guess I shouldn't hold my breath on Leona.

I had never thought of Calista or Delia, but I like them. Although my first initial is D, and with Delia the whole sequence ends up being too alliterative. Calista has good strong consonants, and I love that its origin is Greek and means "she that is most beautiful." The other names on your list don't work for different reasons.

It occurred to me that Cassandra kind of swallows our son's name, Andr3. Are they too similar?

July 11, 2012 3:08 AM

I just remembered--the one and only Brazilian I know of in real life is named Angela.  I believe she pronounces it with a broad A--Ahngela--but otherwise similar to the English pronunciation, that is, not like Angela Merkel where the g is like the g in angle, not the g in angel.  I don't think Andr3 and Angela are too similar--I have no problem with family names that alliterate, but others seem to.

July 11, 2012 4:03 PM

Congratulations, mello yello! I'm enjoying the responses in this thread, as I hope to have my own multi-cultural, bilingual kids down the road, and the stories are both interesting and reassuring. In general, I agree that having two pronunciations isn't necessarily a problem, but if one of the pronunciations just sounds wrong or disagreeable to you (or the spouse), the name should be off the table.

Two of the names on your list caught my eye because I've met people with them. I first encountered Beatriz on a Brazilian woman (of Japanese descent) and immediately loved it as elegant, a bit dashing with the z, distinctive and memorable but also classic. It is true, unfortunately, that some people in our department never did figure out how to pronounce it as anything other than BEE-triss; she seemed unbothered by this (or at least was a good sport about it), but it would be understandable if that bugged you or your daughter. The only Leona I've met spelled her name Leiona, which I find rather pretty. She was African-American but I think, given her surname, she may have some Portuguese empire heritage (Cape Verdian, perhaps?), so I wonder if this spelling might have some basis in that background and would make the name more appealing to your Brazilian husband.

Here's a list of women's names drawn from my Brazilian acquaintance's list of Facebook friends. I've included a wider sampling (thinking other readers may find the range of names interesting, as I did), but I've underlined some that stand out to me as possibilities for you:

(Adriana, Alessandra, Aline, Ana Maria, Ana Paula, Andrea/Andreia, Andreza, Aparecida), Barbara, Beth, Biana, Bianca, Bruna, Camila, Carola, Cassia, Caterina, Celia/Selia, Cilene, Clara, Cristina, Cynthia/Cintya, Daiana/Dayana (a way to get a more English pronunciation?), Dalila, Daniela/Daniely/Dani, Debora/Deborah, Desiree, Edith, Edna, Eliana, Eliangela, Eliete, Elisa, Elisangela, Emilia/Emiliana, Esther, Fabiana, Fatima, Fernanda, Flavia, Flora, Francelina, Francisca, (Germana, Georgia, Gisele/Giselle/Gizelly, Gislaine, Glaucia, Graziele), Haline, Helda, Herica, Ilda, Indaya, Ingrid, Irene, Isabel/Isabela/Isabella, Iva, Ivani, Jacqueline, Janaina, Jane, Jessica, Joselina, Julana, Kacou, Karina/Karine/Carina, Katia/Kadja, Katy, Klaudinha, Larissa, Le, Lenimara, Leslie, Leyla, Lidiane, Ligia, Lilian/Liliane, Lisa, Lorena, Luana, Lucia/Luciana, Lucieth, Luisiana, Magda, Malu, Mara, Marcia, Margaret, Maria, Mariana, Mariela, Marilia, Marina, Marisol, Marli, Mayra, Meire, Melissa, Michelle, Mirella, Miriam, Monica, Nica, Nicia, Nilza, Nubia, Odaliz, Olivia, Paloma, Pamela, Patricia, Paula, Pillar, Priscila, Regina, Raquel, Renata, Rita, Rosana/Rosane, Rosangela, Rosely, Sabrina, Samira, Sandra, Sara, Selma, Shirley, Silmara, Silvia, Simone, Solange, Sonia, Susana, Talita, Tania, Tatiana/Tathiane, Thais/Thaise, Thelma/Telma, Tiziana, Vanessa, Vania, Vera, Veronica, Virginia, Vivian/Viviane/(Viviana?), Yara

Anything here grab you?

Edit - The underlining doesn't seem to show up for me. In case it's not working for you either, here are the names I underlined:

Bianca, Cristina, Cynthia, Edith, Eliana, Elisa, Emila, Esther, Flora, Francisca, Ingrid, Joselina, Karina, Katia, Larissa, Luana, Lucia/Luciana, Mariana, Marisol, Miriam, Paloma, Sabrina, Silvia, Simone, Susana, Vania, Virginia

Hope that helps!

July 13, 2012 1:21 PM

So funny, Laura's most recent blog post on the "Rise of Liquid Names" for girls struck very close to home. Almost all of my short list consists of such names! If ever there was a doubt of the influence of our culture, my first daughter's name follows the *bree* name trend, and now I love the sound of Leona, Liliana, Helena/Elena and their sisters.

Kalmia, thanks for the Brazilian name list. The name Tatiana was on our short list six years ago. Now it doesn't even come close. My DH and I have such restrictive and conservative tastes. It's a miracle our kids end up with names at all.

When I asked for his feedback on some of the suggestions that I liked from all these comments, he actually just laughed and refused to even discuss them. Apparently, a name that I think is lovely and somewhat sophisticated, Cassandra, is a name to be utterly disdained in Brazilian culture. Who knew? He thinks Josefina and Calista are just ridiculous. On the positive side, an unintended consequence is that he thinks Leona is relatively less strange. He still doesn't like it, though. Like I said, a miracle the babes get names at all.