T-minus 6 weeks and still no name!!

We are due in 6 weeks and still don’t have names picked out! This is our first child and we do not know the gender, so we are hoping to narrow each gender list down to 2-3 names each, and pick once baby is born. We're planning to use the middle name of Ray(Raymond)/Rae for either gender. We’d prefer a name that isn’t too popular (don’t want to be Emma #4 in kindergarten), but it’s seemingly hard to avoid!

Our current favorites for each (in no particular order) include:

Owen – may be too high on the popularity list for our liking

Graham – a friend of a friend named their son this, but would probably be OK



Isla – quickly becoming more popular…

Alivia – would we regret having to correct people all of the time, Olivia is out - too popular


Harper – probably too popular


We both like the name Cameron, but I like it for a boy while my husband likes it better for a girl. We also both love the name Cohen (for a boy), but I’ve read in a few places that this name is not well received for a non-Jewish baby.


Other names that have since been removed from the list include:








I am not in LOVE with any of these names, so I guess I’m looking for other suggestions that we may not have thought of yet, or confirmation that some of our choices are solid. Any help is appreciated! 


April 8, 2019 12:56 PM

I think you have a fine list, but am a bit mystified by your concerns about popularity of some names.  Your names are familiar but nothing like Jennifer-and-Jason-in-the-70s.  The one exception is Alivia -- sorry, I just don't think it flies as "not Olivia"and yes that is a very popular name. Harper is... familiar but NOT a dime a dozen name!

A couple of alternatives: Lila and Bram (evocative of Isla and Graham, but distinctive from what you're trying to avoid).  Rowan and Roland could be Owen alternatives.  I am not a personal fan of "no" names especially on a toddler.  This has a lot to do with my cousin's son Bo who seriously thought his name was NO BO NOOOOO BO NO NO NO BO NO! 

If you're in deal-breaker land, you might consider how many children you want?  If you REALLY like one and your partner REALLY likes the other, you could play let's make a deal.  I also think it might be fun to just say Cameron regardlless of boy versus girl! 

April 8, 2019 3:35 PM

I LOVE Graham! It's such a great name. I'm with you on Owen, it's too popular for my taste as well. I like Cameron for a boy, but I could see it working for a girl just as well. As for Cohen, I'm not Jewish, but It's my younger brother's first name (he dosen't go by it, though) and we haven't encountered any problems with it. I think it probably depends on where you live and who you talk to. 

Some other girl's names you might like: Aurora, Ivy, Stella, Eliza. 

Good luck with whatever you go with! 

April 8, 2019 3:36 PM

From your list I think all are good except Alivia. Others similar

Evan, Gavin, Eamon Tristan. Grant, Grayson, Bennett, Cooper, Roland, Rohan, joel, Ryan, Rhett, rhys

Aisla, Lavinia, olivene, Norah, Harlow, piper., Addison, Adeline, madeline, makenna, Makayla, Briley, brielle

Cameron is nice for a boy what about Camille NN can for a girl. Re Cohen you could spell it the Dutch way Coen.  

By the way I don't think Emma is that popular , similar names Emily, Amy, amelia

April 8, 2019 5:31 PM


Owen - .474% of all births

Olivia - .994%

Harper - .557%



.994% was about equal to Lauren, Megan, and Kyle

.557% was the approximate popularity of Katherine and Patrick

.474 was Kelly, Paul, and Samuel


The only one that might approach "Emma #4" territory is Olivia, unless you happen to be in a name pocket.  Every now and then, there are multiple kids named Lana or Ryker in the same community and you just can't predict that.


I think Owen and Isla are your nicest options.


Nora, Amara, Gemma, Vera, Mabel

Calvin, Jonas, Malcolm, Donovan, Finley


Oh, and no no no no NOOOOOOO to Cohen.  There's just no need for that.  I'm sure my acquaintance who named her son Cohen would say it works just great for them, but believe me I've noticed and I've judged.  Most people are too polite to tell you what a rude and offensive thing you've done.  That doesn't mean they're okay with it.

April 9, 2019 12:06 AM

A caution on changing the spelling of Olivia---my kids go to a small (think about 30 per grade) private school with a 2-year old program, a 3-year old program, and then it goes pre-k to 6th.  Ace has two (one Olivia, one Alyviah) in his class, plus another Olivia just in third grade.  Kai and Ike have one each in their grades.  I volunteer up there a lot, and  I can probably name 7-8 total girls just in the elementary named Olivia or some variation of it.  Now, this could be just where we live, but Olivia's #1 or close to it still on the SSN top 100, right?  I'm not saying don't use it by any means, if it's THE name, but I'm pretty sure you're going to run into it no matter how you spell it.  

Unless you're in a high Jewish population/have lots of Jewish friends/etc., I'm not sure why this would be a concern with Cohen.  It's a fantastic name.  I think you could probably find another way to spell it, but I really like it as is.  It's familiar enough that most people will say it properly on the first try.  

Owen was on our short list with Kai for awhile.  Malakai Owen was on the combo list.  Ultimately it came down to Malakai Owen and Solomon Asher.  Then we couldn't let go of Solomon, so he was born Malakai Solomon.  When I was pregnant with Ike I actually really wished we'd gone with Malakai Asher because then Ike could've been named Solomon and it would've saved many an argument.  But long story short, I think Owen is a good solid name and I'm not sure where it stands on popularity, but surely Connor/Conner and Bennett are higher on that list?  I don't know if I prefer Owen Raymond or Owen Ray; the surname would play a big role in that choice.

Graham is a great choice.  Graham Raymond is extremely solid, familiar, and underused; I can't think of one single child I've ever met named Graham.  Much as I love Owen, I would have a hard time being talked out of this one.

Nola is SO pretty and no one ever uses it!  Nola Rae is super sweet, simple, classy, feminine---I think you may have a homerun with this one!

Isla is growing on me.  I presume you pronounce it eye-la?  We know one little girl named Isla and its pronounced ees-la.  But I don't think it's terribly popular, though again, this may depend on where you're located.  

Harper is one of those names that I go back and forth on.  But I suspect it's more widely used than Isla and Harper Rae just kind of blends together.  

Aside from Harper, I do think all the names go quite nicely with Ray/Raymond/Rae.  

So brainstorming, here are some others I think would go well with the middle name: 

Alice Rae, Brenna Rae, Lucy Rae, Scarlett Rae, Josie Rae, Eva Rae, Evelyn Rae, Nina Rae, Sylvie Rae, Nyla Rae, Mia Rae, Gwendolyn Rae, Willow Rae

Ellis Ray, Miles Ray/Raymond, Seth Raymond, Marcus Ray, Damon Ray (rhymes too much maybe?), Jonah Ray/Raymond, Donovan Ray, Dominic Ray, Wyatt Ray, Neil Raymond, Brooks Raymond

April 9, 2019 12:08 AM

Perhaps I'm missing something with Cohen?  I don't know much about the Jewish faith.  I'll have to Google...

April 9, 2019 5:31 AM

More Olivia alternatives: Sylvia and Lydia.  If not Isla.... how about Idella?  It was my great-grandmother's name and I've never heard it anywhere but our family tree, and it's a stunning name.  There is also Ida.

And how about Gowan instead of Cohen?  DEFINITELY Cohen is a no-no.

April 9, 2019 8:24 AM

Search this site for some impassioned posts from Miriam about the name Cohen. Its use as a given name by non-Jews is considered to be deeply offensive, or at the very least, very ignorant.

April 9, 2019 5:06 PM

My understanding of the Cohen issue is that Cohen is not merely a surname, but rather an earned title (which has been passed down through generations as a surname).  Kohanim is a high order of... rabbihood?... and highly respected within the religion/culture.  It is not used as a first name in Judaism.  For someone non-Jewish to randomly pluck Cohen out of the air because they think it sounds nice and bestow it on their child is gross cultural misappropriation and shows an ignorance of its significance to the Jewish people.  /non-Jew here

April 10, 2019 6:58 PM

That's interesting!  Thank you for answering my question!  So is it just Cohen or are alternate spellings out too?  There is definitely not a high Jewish population where I live, and I definitely admit to religious ignorance.  It seems like it would be the Catholic equivalent of naming your child Pope or Priest, and while I can't say people do that frequently, I also have never heard that it would be considered offensive.  

Again, thank you for answering my question and explaining why it's frowned upon!

April 10, 2019 9:37 PM

The Dutch Koen/Coen is completely unrelated.  BtN says it's pronounced "koon" though (and is a form of Conrad).  Calling your kid Coon would be a whole different issue....


I suspect that the historic persecution of Jews plays into the difference between Cohen and Pope.  Although it would really be pretty weird if someone non-Catholic named their kid Pope-Francis!

April 14, 2019 7:27 PM

Another Jew chiming in to say naming your kid Cohen is offensive!


The spelling does not matter - it's a transliteration from Hebrew letters anyway, so you will find various spellings in English. Jews with the last names Cohen, Kohen, Cohn, Kohn, Kohan, etc are all descended from Kohanim (Cohen's).

By EVie
April 17, 2019 2:14 PM

And Kahn, not to be confused with the Muslim name Khan.

I think Miriam said that Coen as in the Coen brothers is also still a variant of Cohen, so still no good. Coen the Dutch name is pronounced "koon," not the same.

April 12, 2019 11:32 AM

My understanding is that Cohen isn't an earned title, but an inherited one -- and it comes with special responsibilities. There isn't really a Christian equivalent, although titles/positions like Bishop or Deacon cover some of the same ground. And certainly, persecution history plays a large part in the perception of offensiveness: naming a child Windsor or Hohenstaufen (yikes!) would have similar inherited-privilege-and-responsibility overtones, but nobody would be offended by the choices. (Perplexed, or amused [not in a good way], but not personally offended.)

April 9, 2019 10:16 AM

I have a nephew named Owen; it's a popularity level where you probably won't be the only one in the school (and will definitely meet people who say "oh, I love Owen! That's my nephew's name!"), but probably will be the only one in class (unless you hit a particular pocket, which can happen with any name; we've found ourselves in a weird Maya pocket, for example).

If Owen is too popular for you, though, I would also strike Conner from the list. That spelling isn't particularly common, but if you add in Conor and especially Connor then it surpasses Owen.

I like Graham, but in the US it runs into a pronunciation ambiguity--is it one syllable, rhymes with ham, or two syllables, rhymes with day-um? Or maybe one syllable, rhymes with same? If you don't specifically want the gram pronunciation, you might consider Graeme as an alternative, which I think is more likely to get to a long-A pronunciation and also looks a little less expected.

I like Bennett a lot. I'm a big Jane Austen fan, so I get snappy-romantic warm fuzzies from the name. If you are on the fence about this one and aren't already an Austen fan, you might consider reading or watching Pride and Prejudice and see if that pushes you over the line.

I like Isla; it does seem to be taking off like a rocket at the moment, but whether it's destined to be a mega-hit or a nine-year-wonder I think you'd be slightly ahead of the curve.

Alivia--I'm with everyone else, this isn't really a different (enough) name from Olivia. In many accents they would be pronounced more-or-less identically, and if Olivia isn't going to make you happy I don't think Alivia would, either. On the other hand, if you love love love Olivia except for the popularity, you might consider just going with Olivia--it's popular for a reason, after all.

I really like Nola. I also like it as a nickname for Magnolia, if you like the idea of a froufier, old-fashioned long name to go with the sleeker nickname.

Harper is a genuine hit, but still popularity really isn't what it used to be. At #10 in the US in 2016 it was given to just over half a percent of babies; that's about half as many babies named Harper as babies named Emma (#1) or Olivia (#2) that year, but also only about half as popular by percentage as Jennifer was when it was #10, 50 years ago.

I don't love Cameron either way, and if one of you would always regret it on the "wrong" child I think I would cut it. I also would cut Cohen for sure; there have been numerous discussions here of why it's so problematic, and I just wouldn't want to hang a potential red flag on my child like that if I knew about it. There are lots of other lovely and meaningful names out there.

Speaking of meaningful, you have a number of surname-names on your list. I often find that the most meaningful way to use a surname as a given name is to find a name from your own family tree, so you might consider looking to see if there's a name in your or your partner's family that would fit the bill. Nola also has a bit of a Victorian feel to it, so you might also look at given names in your family from that era, if you can find them.

On the other hand, if you hate the idea of naming for family or just don't have great family options, you could also consider whether there's a personal connection to a name from some other direction--for example, the name of the street or school building where you met, or a favorite author or movie star or personal hero. That kind of connection can take a name from "I like the way it sounds well enough" to "I love it, and it's meant to be." Maybe if you think about it, one of the names that's already on your list will have this kind of connection.

Good luck!

April 14, 2019 7:36 PM

I don't think it makes sense to use Alivia to avoid the popularity of Olivia- they're essentially the same name.

My favorites from your list are Harper, Cameron, and Graham.

Others you might like: