Bilingual baby girl name

Expecting a baby girl, my husband is Polish and we live in the US.  We are having a hard time coming up with something we like in both languages...

Our top choice is Lena, but I'm worried about mispronunciation and mis-spelling being an issue. 

Others we like:

Laura

Cecilia

Lydia

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Replies

1
January 10, 2016 11:48 PM

I have an American friend whose husband is Polish. One of their daughters is Laura and the other Karolina. Lena will get mispronounced, but that's not really a big deal. Most names get mispronounced, and the spelling you have chosen is straightforward.

2
January 11, 2016 2:23 AM

If you chose Lena as a nickname for Magdalena, then the spelling-to-pronunciation link of the nickname would be less of an issue, because nicknames are most often oral rather than written. But even if you use it as the full name (and even with Magdalena), you can approach the pronunciation as more of a "range of options", or a dialect/language thing. In most European languages, Lena is somewhere in the range of LEH-na or LAY-na; English adds the possibility of LEE-na. That's really not all that much variation, even for such a short name. Plus, the short length means that even if you have to spell it regularly, it's not a difficult task. And if your child's surname will be something typically Polish, you and she will be spelling stuff for people anyway, so what's another four letters? :-)

All four of the names you've listed are lovely choices, so I'm not sure you really need more suggestions, but I've always loved the name Agnieszka (ag-NYESH-ka), the Polish version of Agnes. I concede that it can be a scary-looking string of letters to encounter in writing, but that's kind of part of its charm.

When we were trying to come up with a boy name, I used a book containing all of the officially registerable names in Hungary from 1969 to generate a spreadsheet of Hungarian names with English equivalents. (The current list of registerable names is much too long for the purpose, and of course there's no such beast for the U.S.) If none of the choices you listed are making your heart sing (or at least hum), then I can recommend a little book titled Polish First Names by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab (http://www.amazon.com/Polish-First-Names-Sophie-Hodorowicz/dp/0781807492/ref=asap_bc) as a similar starting point for you.

3
January 11, 2016 4:02 PM

I love Agniezka and it was the first name I thought of when coming across this thread. This week I watched the Irena Sendler film on Netflix that goes on in Poland during WWII... lots of pretty names there. I did love Irena though, which I think striked me the most, followed by karolina. I loved Irenka as a nickname for Irena by the way.

Oh, and HNG, your suggestion of Magdalena was spot on! What a beautiful name!

If I had the chance, considering dad is Polish and living in America, I would try and choose a more Polish name, but one that wouldn't have too scary of a spelling.

Behind the Name has a great list: http://www.behindthename.com/names/gender/feminine/usage/polish

4
January 11, 2016 2:40 AM

I think Lena is a lovely name, and your choice of pronounciation will depend on how often it will be pronounced correctly. It is a name that is easy to change pronounciations quickly, and we say our names out loud more often then they are read out. Cecilia and Lydia are also wonderful choices but I think Lena is still my personal front runner. Cecilia will most likely be misspelt half of the time (Cecelia), so the pronounciation of Lena is really not that big of a deal. 

My first other thought was Julia (my own name, which is never pronounced incorrectly or misspelt)  - this was reassured as the top name suggestion on matchmaker

Clara, Lina (another spelling - but also could be unusable depending on your desired pronounciation), Celia, Eliza, Claudia/Klaudia, Mia and Aurelia 

 

5
January 11, 2016 7:13 AM

I think Lena is lovely, and would probably just accept all pronunciations, except at school, where it's easy enough to tell the teacher once at the beginning of the year.

Another lovely bilingual name is Sylvia, although I suppose it's spelt Sylwia in Polish? I'm not sure if wanted a name with identical spelling? Cecilia and Lydia are also lovely. I personally find Laura a bit dated and overdone, but the rest of your shortlist are great.

6
January 11, 2016 12:58 PM

Thanks for the feedback! We actually have 2 Julias in our social circle and 1 Agnes so those are out.  We wanted just Lena to balance out a longer last name.  Actually misspelling is a family trait since my name is constantly spelled Kristen and my son Philip is getting a lot of Phillip. My husband uses the Polish version of his name so it is always misspelled as well.  I still find it mildly annoying to see Kristen all the time when people assume.  But at least her name would be shorter.  I've already gotten the question of Lena or Lina.  However, with my name it was the less popular spelling.  Lena is much more popular than Lina in the US. Maybe that would help? 

7
January 11, 2016 1:02 PM

Lena is lovely and I think the spelling/pronounciation issues are really pretty minimal.  If you decide you just can't get passed them, Laura, Cecilia and Lydia are also lovely.  I personally (slightly) prefer Laura, but you really can't loose with any of them.

My first thought for bilingual names is always to go classic, becaue they are the names to mostly likely occur in multiple languages.  In your case, I'd probably consider some form of Elizabeth/Isabella/Eliza/Elizabetta/Lilianna.  I've used primarily English spellings, but you may prefer a Polish spelling.  Caroline/Karolina, Katherine/Karina/Kasia.  I think one of the benefits of this approach is that you can also mix & match given names and nicknames.  Pick a more traditionally Polish given name with a more English nickname & vice versa.

8
January 11, 2016 2:55 PM

Is it pronounced lee-na?

9
January 11, 2016 4:27 PM

Yes. Lee-na in English and Leh-na in Polish.  

10
January 11, 2016 7:07 PM

I live in an area with a high concentration of Polish speakers.  Good crossover names that I have seen are Alice, Clara, and Avalena.  I do prefer the English spellings.

11
January 11, 2016 11:14 PM

fwiw, my Polish great-aunts are Irena and Marcella.

12
January 12, 2016 5:39 PM

My daughter is named Lena. It's a family name and I thought it would be easy for everybody -- I was so so wrong. People often prounounce it Leyna (we say Lee-na), or spell it Lina. This has been true in all three countries where we have lived since she was born (Poland isn't one of them), and it's been confusing both for monolingual and for bilingual contexts. It's a great name, and definitely on the rise, but it is not a simple name to have. Though maybe Lena Dunham is helping?

13
January 13, 2016 7:28 AM

I think it's the kind of name where you do yourself a favour by adapting your own pronunciation to the country you're in. For example, if it was my name, and living in Spain, I would introduce myself as "Lay-na"; if I insisted on pronouncing it Lee-na I would have to expect people to spell it Lina.

With my own name I either have to specify "with a y at the end" or just live with it being spelt Emili, which isn't a big deal, but is a man's name here.

14
January 19, 2016 1:56 PM

Yes, that is exactly what we did when we spent a year in a Leena-is-spelled-Lina country - we kept the pronunciation she was used to and never corrected anybody's spelling. It helped that she wasn't reading or writing yet. But even among native English speakers (we are English-speaking expats in another English-speaking country with a great many people from yet other English-speaking countries), I've seen little consensus on spelling or pronunciation.  At that point you have to pick one of each and stand by it, and suffer the consequences.

15
January 13, 2016 5:06 PM

My mother's father is polish, and I was almost named Zosia as a tribute to the culture. I've always loved this one.

 

Also love Edyta; Antonina; Marcela.

16
January 13, 2016 10:07 PM

I always find myself tripped up by the Lena pronunciation, having known a Polish American who pronounced it Leh-na for years before Lena Dunham rose to prominence. It's sweet and cute, though. I also like Cecilia (or even better, Celia), and Lydia is nice. Not a huge fan of Laura, as it feels very generational in the US. Almost all the Lauras I know are now in their 40s.

 

I haven't seen anyone mention Isabella/Izabela, with Isa or Iza for short. Definitely one that works in both English and Polish!

17
January 15, 2016 10:51 PM

Just giving a plug for Karolina!  The K in Karolina helps folks with the pronunciation and not to say it like North Carolina. NN Lena?
my name is Karolyn because my parents (2nd gen slovak and 1st gen ukr) were seeking a K name and already had a Katya (Katherine, maybe, not sure what her legal name is) in the fam and are fairly genderqueer themselves so wanted a 3 syllable name not ending in a vowel. A pretty short list! I go by Karo as an adult and love that everyone pronounces it differently. Sometimes new people I meet really want me to tell them how I like it best, and I explain that different people in my fam say it differently. I say "like Karolina" with a bit of an accent if they push it and that clicks with people.   

18
January 16, 2016 12:39 AM

Ooooh, Karo is an awesome nn. Congrats on having a great name!

19
January 19, 2016 1:19 PM

I love Lydia and Cecilia.

 

I know a Polish Joanna.  It's a name I've always liked, and I think it's underused these days.