Having Trouble With Baby Boy Name In Current Climate

This is kind of an existential issue. We found out we're having a boy, and are having a lot of trouble.

His big sister has an awesome name. The first name manages to resonate with my Ashkenazi background while being common, but not too, internationally and outside that community. Her middle name honors a recently deceased and dear family member. To me, her name is meaningful and resonates with female power and dignity. 

I've been trying to think of male names that have similar resonance and am coming up totally empty. I think the problem for me is the current environment, or rather the current openness about the longstanding environment, a.k.a oppressive patriarchy. Arg. 

I want to raise my son as a feminist. But what to name him? I posted a while ago seeking lilting, feminine-sounding boy names. That might be the way we go for the first name. But we'd love to find a good honor name for the middle. We're out of family honor names, at least ones we want to use. 

Any thoughts or advice? Perhaps we should look into names of historical women we admire for the middle?



November 28, 2017 2:22 PM

In the Ashkenazi tradition, if a family has run out of names of deceased relatives they would like to use, they can consider using the name of a deceased non-family member who is revered or even the deceased family member of a relative or friend who won't have a newborn of their own to name.

For example, my uncle paid his cousin to name her baby after his mother when the cousin did not have a name from her own family to use.  It is also customary to use the name of some historical figure or community member for whom the parents have particular regard. So the idea of looking at admirable women of the past would not clash with Ashkenazic tradition.

November 28, 2017 3:09 PM

There was a short thread a while back about feminist naming that you might enjoy. One option I love in there for a boy is Artemis: It is unmistakably connected to a Greek goddess (who was fairly kick-ass) but has a strong history of use as a masculine name, too. There are a lot of names with transparently masculine origins that get used for females, but not as many that go the other way around. I don't know whether this particular name would work for you personally/culturally, but something along these lines might be a direction to take.

I love the idea of looking at honor names for women you admire, either personal connections or historical figures. Do you have people in mind who you'd like us to riff on?

I also think lucubratrix's advice from the above thread is great: "Ultimately, what I think makes a feminist name is the meaning that the name has to the parents, and what story they can tell their children about their name selection." and also to be contemplative about what names are passed on. Even if you end up using a middle name after paternal great-grandfather, I think it could still be a resonant choice depending on its connections and meaning (for instance, if paternal great-grandpa fought for equality in several spheres, and insisted that his daughters go to college and his sons learn to cook).

November 29, 2017 1:45 PM

Another ambiguous-gendered Greek goddess-name: Demeter. (It's perhaps more familiar in English in its Slavic variation Dmitri.)

November 28, 2017 3:52 PM

I'm particularly curious about whether you are just out of male namesakes in your family. I am a big fan of the cross-gender namesake, generally, but especially in the naming boys after women direction which is somewhat less trodden. I don't know how this dovetails with Ashkenazic naming traditions -- I would suspect that since you're working with Hebrew names, and those tend to be clearly gendered, it's not so much a done thing generally, but I think I would certainly feel that it is following the spirit of the thing. So... are there any strong women on the family tree whom you would want to honor? If you're willing to give specific names out, I think the members of this board are great at brainstorming cross-gender ideas even if there are no immediate obvious equivalents.

I think if one child has a middle name that honors a deceased and dear family member, it's nice to try for something similar in the next child... but if no family members are available, either in your biological family or in your logical "family of choice", I'd focus on getting your son a comparably meaningful middle name which has a strong historical connection that comes with similarly good stories. 

Also, as a (very enthusiastic) mom of boys I hope you can be excited about the upcoming son. I think raising sons to be feminist is a particularly important and big responsibility and indeed service to the world. So go you! 

November 28, 2017 7:50 PM

I have a cross-gender name. My grandfather was Meyer(Meir) Wolf, and I am Miriam. However, since it doesn't matter what girls are named, no rules for girls, that cannot be transferred to boys, who must receive a name from a list of about 150 choices, but who may receive other additional names as well. I have run across males named Noa, a feminine name that comes from the same root as Noach (ark guy).

November 28, 2017 8:04 PM

My (first) Hebrew name is after my great grandfather, Yaakov, though it was pretty easy because a female version existed. It's a rare name, but it does have some use. (Cobie Smulders' full name is Jacoba, which is just a non-Hebrew version.)

Actually, my daughter's (first) Hebrew name, Shimona, is also a female version of a male name, though her name was chosen to reflect my deceased father-in-law's personality, not his actual name, since he didn't have a Hebrew name and his English name didn't have any usable Hebrew correlates. And if/ when I have a second child, it will be named after my grandfather regardless of its sex. You find a way to honour the person, even if the name itself doesn't quite work. And I actually find my daughter's name to be very meaningful because it reflects who her grandfather was, not the name his parents gave him. 

November 28, 2017 4:21 PM

Asher, Amir, Saul, Reuben, Ari, Jaron, Asa, Yosef, Jaco, Shem, Mordecai, Adin, Meschach, Admon, Amran, Boaz, Jorah

November 29, 2017 2:54 PM

Cross gender could be a way to go if you have any female relatives you’d like to use (but I suspect you’d have thought of that)- our sons middle name is for a deceased female relative. You could also honor the same relative again- my sons middle namesake was very dear to us and passed while I was pregnant, and we are considering honoring her again with our second. 

Another direction to stay biblical could be to pick, for example, a D name to recall Deborah (one of the coolest biblical women, IMO )

December 11, 2017 1:03 PM

I saw this blog post today and thought of you. Of course, a lot of these actual names likely won't work with your cultural heritage or personal preferences, but others are thinking along similar lines to you!


(P.S. I would be a bit nonplussed by having a boy myself. It's good to remember though that every son raised by a conscientious feminist family is probably a big win for society).

On the subject of first names, I consider that any male name that is not super macho (of the Gunner and Maverick variety) is fair game for a (hopefully) feminist son. Names like John or Eugene or Frederick, just to give some obvious examples, aren't liquid or feminine sounding, but they've been worn by so many diverse men throughout history that I don't see why the patriarchy should have possession of them. I do kind of share your taste for more gentle sounding names like Julian, however.