Middle Name Strategy?

We are expecting our first - a girl in August - and we're keeping the name a secret. We have picked a first name, but we're stuck on how to proceed in picking a middle name. The first name just sort of landed on us. It wasn't on any list of ours, but it just felt right when someone suggested it. I had always intended for our first born to have my late father's name as a middle name, but it just does not work with the first name. Ultimately, a good first name seems most important. So we've been discussing the three following strategies:

  1. Stick with the plan to use my dad's name and just go with a clunky whole name. 
  2. Use the previous name front-runner as the middle name. My hesitation here is wanting to keep it in reserve for a potential future baby - if that baby turns out to be a girl and if we still like that name. 
  3. Pick something random that sounds good with the first name. 

Any thoughts? For the record, I'm leaning toward adapting the previous front-runner. 


By Guest (not verified)
May 2, 2012 2:54 PM

4. Use a name that you associate with your late father

5. Honour somebody else with the middle name - although I know from my own experience that in such a case, it might feel like a father needs to be honoured first before others can be honoured. On the other hand, I'm a youngest, and I never really liked the idea that just because I wasn't born first, I didn't get all that special attention that comes in the form of names, tradition etc.


1. and 2. are difficult to judge without having an idea of the names - as in, how clunky is too clunky, and what are the other choices (I do understand if you don't want to post the names). For option 3. I think 'random' is a little harsh - it's perfectly okay to go with a first and middle just because you like the sound and combination, and possibly the meaning of those two names.

If I were you, I think I would first consider options 1., 4., and 5., and if that doesn't work, consider option 2., then 3. I, for example, am considering the name my father was born with, until his name was changed 3 months later.

By mk
May 2, 2012 2:59 PM

Other options, if your father's name really doesn't work for you now:

4. Use Dad's middle name

5: Use another version of Dad's name, a name in a similar style (Jamie instead of James, Sean instead of John, etc)

6: Use a middle name that begins with the same initial as Dad's name


May 2, 2012 3:56 PM

Since we don't know the names, we can't gauge whether it sounds clunky to us (which is fine, you are entitled to keep it a secret!)  Maybe clunkiness is okay?  When birth announcements happen there's a big flurry over the full name and the sound of it, but when your baby grows up it's likely the only time she'll use it is when she's in trouble. But like the poster above me, I think you can consider a varient of your father's name or use the same initial, which keeps the door open for subsequent children (for either his real name or for the same naming pattern).

May 2, 2012 3:57 PM

I agree it's difficult to say if I think the names are too clunky together without knowing what they are (but I also understand if you'd prefer not to post them).  So for the sake of argument, I'm going to pretend that together they make something totally not doable or even potentially offensive.

I would probably first look at some other way to honor your dad.  Another version of his name, a middle name-perhaps your maiden name as the middle?  (I'm assuming your maiden name is your dad's surname).  Even a name that just reminds you of a personality trait or hobby your father had.  He liked to fish-middle name Marina.  Sang in a barber-shop quartet, use Carol, Lyric or Melody.  Don't be afraid to be creative.  I personally don't think honor names have to be obvious to everyone, so long as they remind you of the person being honored.

If finding another name in honor of your dad just isn't going to work, then I'd save his name for another child and start looking for another person you want to honor.  Someone from the other side of the family perhaps?  That way you could alternate which family you honor.

My 3rd choice would be to find a name you love-maybe it has special significance or maybe it's just a name you love the sound of.  It doesn't really matter and it won't be random.  It'll be your daughter's name, chosen with love and care to compliment the perfect, just right name you found.

May 3, 2012 2:17 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I can't post our chosen first name, but my dad's name was George. (His mn doesn't work at all.) We had originally planned to go for a more feminine first name - so, FeminineFirstName George Fin. I'd rather hold the name intact than change it to something like Georgia. The first name we've picked is old-fashioned and not terribly girly. (Maybe on par with my name - Elizabeth - in terms of girliness. Definitely a girls name, but it's never felt as girly to me as a Jessica or Emily, perhaps because it ends in a consonant.) While we're intentionally trying to avoid a super girly name, we're hesitant to go with a NotFeminine-masculine combo. The previous first name front-runner is my mom's mn. 

By Guest (not verified)
May 3, 2012 2:29 PM

I think George can work with most names, and I don't think it needs a feminine first name.



May 4, 2012 11:27 AM

Is that all?  If that's the case, I think you should just use George.  You said the new first name is recognizably girl-just not frilly.  If that is the case, I don't think you'll ever get any gender confusion.  Using your name as an example-nobody is ever going to think Elizabeth George F. was anything but a girl.  And if she goes through a princess phase and wants a frilly name, most traditional feminine names have more frilly/girly sounding nicknames-so maybe the name you have in mind has one?   I would only consider George unusable if the new first name were unisex.

By EVie
May 3, 2012 2:53 PM

Hmm... I'm going to say something that may be at odds with the prevailing viewpoint around here, just to provide a different perspective—feel free to disregard.

I know that a lot of people think that honoring family should come first and foremost in naming, but I have to say that as a girl, I would not have wanted an unambiguously masculine name like George as my middle name... and as a grown woman, I still wouldn't. (Obviously, gender identity is very complex, and there are some girls out there who might be really happy to have this masculine aspect to their name, but I think that's much rarer than standard gender conformity). Surname-names that can be gender neutral are a different story—Jordan, Taylor, Addison, even Elliott or Jameson can be "tomboy" names without being excessively dissonant. But George, Thomas, Richard, Robert, William, etc. all feel very dissonant for me on a girl... even in the middle spot, and even when they're actually a family surname. 

I totally sympathise with wanting to honor your father—my dad died a few years ago, and I'm planning on using his name on a son, if I have one. But if I were in your position (since you're on the fence), I would save George for a boy, and give your daughter a middle name that honors someone else in your family, whether it be a female given name or a gender-neutral surname.

May 3, 2012 3:48 PM

Oh is that all!  You had us imagining awful names. . .  Maxwell Harry Pitts or something.  I would definitely use George as a middle name.  I think people would be curious about it and you'll have a sweet way of remembering your father every time you tell them.  I see why you wouldn't want to dilute his name.  Boy names for girls is getting steadily more trendy and I think your daughter might grow up to think her name is really cool. 

May 3, 2012 7:49 PM

Have you considered a feminine version of George? Georgia, Georgina, or Georgette are clear namesake options, or you could go with a name that's more reminiscent than derived, like Giovanna, Genevieve, or Gloria. I also think that simply using George is perfectly fine, as namesakes in my mind trump style, especially if the person was very important to you.

May 4, 2012 3:03 PM

Just exploring another avenue.  Any chance of using your dad's surname (your maiden name, I presume) as the baby's middle name?

May 4, 2012 7:45 PM

I just have to add that I really kind of like the name Georgiana.  

By Guest (not verified)
May 5, 2012 3:54 PM

My first thought reading your question was along the lines of the first reply you got: you have many ways to honor your father's legacy to your daughter, in her name and otherwise, even if you don't stick to your original plan. 

When I got to your update about the "clunky" middle name in question, though, what immediately came to mind is that it coincidentally also is used a surname, meaning baby's name would match the very common pattern Firstname Surname Surname. There are so many naming traditions using this general form - First Maidenlast Marriedlast, First Dadslast Momslast, First Grandmaslast Dadslast, etc. - that I don't think strangers would ever blink an eye. Of course you aren't using it as a surname yourself, and if you really don't like the flow with the specific first name that's another thing entirely, but maybe this will help you feel a little more comfortable with the choice stylistically, since that seems to be your main hesitation.

From what you've told us, I'd suggest that you'll probably feel best sticking to the original plan - but of course you know the names involved, and whatever you decide I think the important thing is to try not to bsecond-guess yourself and find confident reasons to love your choice. Your option 2 also gives you a name with family significance and still leaves you the opportunity to use your dad's name if you have more children. As others have said, a middle name that sounds good doesn't have to be "random:" there are a lot of ways to seek and create meaning as you consider other options. You might enjoy reading Laura W.'s recent blog post on "The Meaning Construction Zone" and especially the comments; there are several touching stories about honoring namesakes and tradition in thoughtful and creative ways.

I'm sure you are missing your father very much as you look forward to parenting your daughter, and no doubt he would take great joy in his newest descendent, no matter her name. You and your little girl, and any kids to follow, will find many ways to ensure that his spirit and memory live on. Best wishes to you.

- kalmia (not logged in, and reposting after several days because my comments keep going to "moderation," which now seems to mean not getting published at all)

May 11, 2012 6:37 PM

Lizziefin-At first I thought I would make up an example to express my thoughts. Then you updated about the mn you wanted to use. I think I am still going to give an example to clarify. I think something like Samantha George would be fine though it doesn't flow or sound girly quite like Samantha Georgina does. However, if the name you are picking is a less flowing first name such as Edith, Hazel, Ruth then those sound like century old authors that were trying to fit in. They aren't BAD names per se just not as flowing as you might like. I think going from George to Georgina helps. 

Also, I've given the advice before about maybe finding another relation to your namesake. Admittedly its easier with girls names thank goodness. Is there a favorite flower, color, perfume, place name, etc that you could relate to him and use that? Say he loved birds=Samantha Lark; he loved Cal Ripken=Samantha Callie; say he loved sports cars=Samantha Mercedes. These are obviously extreme made-up examples but I hope it gives you some ideas. Good luck!