The Short(er) List

Hello again!

I'm now rounding the corner into the third trimester, round being the operative word, and wanting to have my name lists figured out. Hubs and I have had several name discussions and agreed on shortlists for each gender. Ideally I'd like to have these whittled down further, just 2-3 names each when the baby arrives. Here's what we have right now;

Girls - Adelaide, Beatrix, Freya, Hazel, Matilda

Boys - Alistair, Colwyn, Emrys, Tobin


Hoping you all have some thoughts/suggestions for narrowing these down a bit. Not looking for more ideas right now. Middle names will be family names.



October 3, 2018 3:00 AM

I like the girls in this order Matilda, Freya, Hazel, Beatrix then Adelaide

Boys Alistair,   Tobin,  Emrys, Colwyn

To narrow down look at what works with surname,  what is easier to spell and pronounce,  doesnt have same initial as another family member,  is it well known?


October 3, 2018 3:15 AM

Thanks. I believe all of these names are ok with our surname, which starts with W and rhymes with ear. None of them have problems with repeated initials, spelling or pronunciation that I can tell. We've narrowed it down to names we feel work well and would be comfortable using. Now it's more a matter of finding the right fit I guess, but part of the reason I asked for feedback is that there may be problems I haven't noticed - in which case I hope someone will point them out.

October 3, 2018 9:16 AM

From experience, I can tell you my E's name is almost never pronounced correctly on the first try in the Midwest. People generally want it to sound like the plural of Emery, with stress on the second syllable (em-REEZ). Some people even stick a third, unstressed syllable in the middle (Emma-REEZ). 

It's not hard to correct, and obviously I love the name regardless, but wasn't something I would have predicted before bestowing the name. Of course your experience may differ, especially depending on how popular Emery is in your neck of the woods (it's trending pretty strongly around here). And I expect it will  get better if/when the name itself becomes more popular.

Also, I remember discussion here that Alistair can cause pronunciation problems in terms of stare vs stir in the last syllable. One of our regulars has a child with this name, so hopefully they'll chime in.

October 3, 2018 1:35 PM

That's good to know about Emrys. I haven't met any little Emery's around here, or heard it on the playground, so I don't think it's that popular locally. I'm in the Pacific NW so that may have some effect on pronunciation. 

For Alistair I feel like the stare vs stir pronunciations are more to do with the same name said differently by people with different accents or speech patterns. It wouldn't bother me, but it's good to be aware of.

October 5, 2018 6:43 AM

I really like Emrys (it's on my longer list). What pronunciation are you hoping for Lturtle? I'm Aussie so I think here it would be more em-riss but I've not met one in real life to be sure.

Alistair has always had the -stare pronunciation for me.

It is really hard to predict what people will mishear a name for until you use it or know someone with it.  My Astr!d gets misheard as Ashley more often than I would have predicted, that one never crossed my mind. S0ren gets Zor-an a fair bit, I guess that is closer but still not something I would have guessed when choosing their names.

October 5, 2018 11:24 AM

Agree on random pronunciation mishearings: I thought my older daughter would be misheard and Laura, but instead it's misheard as Aura.

And my S!byl got misheard as Cyril the other day...

October 3, 2018 3:21 AM

I forgot to include in the original post that our last name starts with W and rhymes with ear. My older children are;

E1ena, nn Lulu used occasionally

Rosa1ie, nn Rosie used almost exclusively 

Ju1ian, nn Jude used about half the time

We tend to be nickname people, so would prefer a name with options in that regard but it needn't be a very obvious name-shortening type of nn.

October 3, 2018 4:12 AM

I'd pick Matilda and Alistair - to continue the 3 syllables,  I prefer Adeline to Adelaide



October 3, 2018 5:26 AM

I rescued this post from the spam filter, and think it deserves some consideration and top billing!

I think my favorite of the boy names is Emrys. I tend to get really tongue-tied and tend to prefer overlapping endings and beginnings especially with a larger sibling group (AListair is close enough to EL___, with the stress cadence especially, and I think I would prefer not to use Colwyn if you call Jud3 by his full name much because the similar ending and internal near-rhyme). Tobin seems less problematic because -n endings are so common as to be less remarkable, but Emrys seems easiest to say somehow.

Beatrix also seems more crisp and distinctive, sound-wise,more than Hazel and Adelaide, both of which are dominated by the el sound for me, which you've already got represented. Freya is another good one from that same consideration. 

Would you use Matilda with a nickname? Tilly is sweet, Mattie is much less exciting to me given the number of Maddie and Addies running around but I think the flexibility in the name is neat.

October 3, 2018 1:51 PM

Thanks for the rescue Lucubratrix!

I'm really liking Emrys lately as well. For me Alistair is AL-iss-ter and E1ena is eh-LAY-nah, so they don't seem to overlap too much. Likewise with Colwyn, I say COL-win and for J I say JOOL-ee-in, so the stressed sounds are different and the syllable count. I think my tolerance for name similarity is higher than yours though - your kids names are SO distinct, while mine all have some repeated sounds.

Yes on the nicknames! Matilda would likely be Tilly, I'm not fond of Mattie but who knows what she may choose later. For me the lack of obvious nn options is a strike against both Freya and Hazel, though I do like both names. Beatrix would be Bea, Tris, or Trixie. Adelaide would be Ada (as in Lovelace). On the boys side I'm less sure about nicknames for Alistair. I don't like Al as a nn for instance. Tobin could be Toby, Emrys could be Emmy or Reese, and Colwyn obviously shortens to Cole or Wyn.

October 5, 2018 6:48 AM

Laddie/Lad is a traditional nickname for Alistair/Alasdair, if that appeals?

Matilda is very popular in my parts and most go by Tilly rather than Matty/ie but I do adore Tilly.  None of the Freyas I know have nicknames (well at least any I'm aware of) and likewise with Hazel, although I did know an adult Hazel who went by Haysie.  

By EVie
October 3, 2018 9:25 AM

This whole list is gorgeous, so I see why you're having trouble narrowing it down :)

Is your E1ena pronounced Spanish style (uh-LAY-na), Italian style (ELL-eh-na) or other? This is my own name and I'm actually completely untroubled by any similarity to Alistair, but I use the first pronunciation, so I mainly turn my head at other names that have a stressed AY sound, not the El part. If you use the second pronunciation, it's closer, but unless you have a non-rhotic accent and Alister is AL-is-tuh, there's still enough difference there that it's not an issue.

I don't see any first-last combos with issues, either. I know you were initially hoping to not repeat initials, so that's a strike against Emrys, I guess—I don't think it needs to be a dealbreaker if Emrys turns out to be The One, but if you're looking at reasons to whittle the list, there's one. Are you still planning on doing the alliterative middles, and if so, do you have ones chosen for each letter option?

So I guess my personal top 3 picks for each gender, if forced to choose, would be Beatrix, Adelaide, Hazel and Alistair, Colwyn, Tobin; but I actually think this is a pretty manageable shortlist already, and my inclination would be to let your feelings when you meet baby be the tiebreaker.

October 3, 2018 2:03 PM

Aw, thanks EVie!

My E1ena is pronounced more Spanish style I guess. Definitely with the stress on the second syllable. We didn't want to repeat initials, but decided it would be ok with an E name as the the baby will be 15 years younger and a different gender (if given an E name).

We do have middle names picked out, and yes they are alliterative family names. Good memory! Middle names are;

April, Barbara, Frances, Hellen, Matteson

Abraham, Charles, Edgar, True


October 3, 2018 3:04 PM

Oh! Knowing the middle names actually changes the order in which I rank the names. Namely, Fr3ya Fr@nces is SO much fun to say that it gives that name a great boost (and I say that as someone who doesn't even care for the name Fr@nces!). On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of Hazel in general, and I find the HH combination quite difficult to say, so that one gets pushed lower down the list, in my opinion. The AA name has a nice contrast between names; the BB isn't the easiest to say but isn't a dealbreaker, I don't think. Plus, Beatrix has such great nicknames. Does it bother you at all that the MM names both begin with "Mat"? Surprisingly, I really don't mind it. (Maybe because I quite like Matilda.) I guess because when said aloud it sounds like Matilda Madison, and when the Mat is changed to Mad, it feels less repetitive, even though it sounds more or less the same. Maybe? 

For the boys... I quite like the name Alistair (I say it AL-iss-tair) and Colewyn has really grown on me through reading this thread and I really like the CC combo -- especially because the two Cs make different sounds. Two excellent nicknames, too. Oh wait, it's Colwyn, isn't it? I'm probably not the only one who would make that mistake.

I know a little Toben and, as far as I know, they don't have any trouble with people mishearing or remembering his name. The only trouble I have is remembering that it's not spelled Tobin. The TT combo is really snappy! 

By EVie
October 3, 2018 3:30 PM

Yes, I agree with Karyn that knowing the middles does help a bit in narrowing down, at least with the girls. I prefer Adelaide April, Beatrix Barbara and Matilda Matteson (I don't have a problem with the repeated Mat- because in Matilda it's unstressed, so not so obvious). I find Freya Frances and Hazel Hellen both more awkward, probably because the 2-2 meter in addition to the alliteration makes them kind of singsongy in a way the others aren't. I would probably rate Emrys Edgar a notch below the other boys' combos for the same 2-2 reason, although there are more distinct sounds happening there, so that helps. 

October 3, 2018 3:47 PM

Yes! Of course it's the different stress patterns that help the MM combo. 

October 5, 2018 6:54 AM

Knowing the middle names would change my preferences slightly too.

I like Freya Frances and Adelaide April.  The BB and HH combos I find more awkward although not dealbreakers.  I normally don't like repetition between first and middle but Matilda Matteson seems to work for me.

For the boys Tobin True is the snapiest although Alistair Abraham is probably my overall favourite. The EE combo I find a little awkward but I still like it.  

While knowing the middles would narrow it down for me I would still go for the first name that you love the most.

October 3, 2018 9:31 AM

My ranking for girls: Beatrix, Adelaide, Hazel, Matilda, Freya

Boys: Emrys, Colwyn, Tobin, Alistair a distant last. 



October 3, 2018 11:48 AM

I'd suggest Laura Wattenberg's principle of narrowing _up_ -- but I'm finding it hard to help with that, because I think your entire list is great, with similar pluses for almost all of them: mostly known but not overused, reasonably lacking in potential for aural or visual confusion and spelling or pronunciation ambiguity, good associations and derivations, etc.

I think on the girl's side, I'd go with Beatrix or Matilda, because they're the most distinct from the siblings.

On the boy's side, I think I'd choose between Alistair and Tobin, because they're the ones that have made the top 1000 at least once, and thus are marginally more familiar.

October 3, 2018 8:37 PM

I agree in principle, narrowing up is the way to go at this point. But it's hard! The criteria you list is exactly what I look for in a name. Honestly I think I could be happy with any of these names, but I don't want to overwhelmed by options in the delivery room either.

Thank you for your thoughts!

October 3, 2018 9:35 PM

I'm sure at this point you know this and it was probably just a turn of phrase, but you don't actually need to choose the name the moment the child leaves your body. You will have time to get to know the kid and figure out which name feels right. I know that most people are very anxious to name instanly, but you don't *have to*. I don't know the rules where you live, but where I am, we have 30 days to decide on a name and file the paperwork. 

October 3, 2018 10:07 PM

Lol. Yes I do know that I don't need to pick a name instantly. We usually choose in the first 48 hours or so. But I also know myself well enough to know that I'll be in a bit of an altered state for several days, that's been the case with each birth so far. Thanks though. :)

October 5, 2018 6:57 AM

We have 60 days here and I fear I may use all of them this time around!  I guess I like the idea of announcing the name when the baby arrives but I've not really had a problem taking my time. It was 4 days for my first born but 14 days for the second!  It does drive other people mad though and I do understand not wanting to make a decision when you are tired and emotional, hence why it takes us days as I can't possibly decide before meeting them.

October 3, 2018 1:04 PM

I like Adelaide, Matilda, and Hazel best from your girl's list. I have personally never been a fan of Freya- not sure why, but I just don't like the way it sounds. Beatrix is heavily associated with Beatrix Potter to me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you are looking for any reasons to narrow down the list, that would be one for me. I also feel like Beatrix would be misheard as Beatrice quite often, so you may have to do a lot of correcting, as I would definitely think Beatrice is more familiar to the average person's ear. I like Matilda best because of the nickname possibilities.

For your boy's list, none of them are my own personal style, but I would choose Alistair over the others, mostly because it is the most familiar to me. I feel like you may run into the same issue noted above for Beatrix with Colwyn and Tobin.. People may not be used to hearing them, and therefore, will hear other names (Coleman, Toby, etc.). I honestly find Emrys to look SO feminine in writing that I just feel like he would be mistaken for a girl super often in this naming climate. 

October 3, 2018 8:44 PM

The Beatrix Potter association is a definite plus in my book. She was an amazing woman. 

I wouldn't mind a son Emrys being mistaken for a girl, and since we homeschool I think most people will encounter the name first by ear rather than in writing. But it's a good issue to be aware of, thanks.

October 4, 2018 8:15 PM

I am able to be the voice of experience that confirms that weird names with a y definitely get read as girl on paper. I am also the voice of experience saying that it’s not really a big deal, especially in the Pacific Northwest, especially if the parents are able to model unflustered matter-of-fact corrections. 

October 5, 2018 2:07 AM

I agree completely. My middle child has been misgendered many times, and it's never been a big deal. If it's someone we won't see again we often don't even correct them. When a correction is needed it is easy to do.

October 3, 2018 4:06 PM

I prefer the AA combos - Adelaide April and Alistair Abraham. Both first names fit in beautifully with your other kids, and I like the flow between first and middles. Love Ada as a nn for Adelaide (you also have the option of Dell or Della, which I also love!) For Alistair you could use Ali or maybe Alix, or even Ari.


I do like some of your other choices - particularly Beatrix and Tobin - but in the sibset and with the middle names, Adelaide and Alistair would be my choice.

October 3, 2018 10:17 PM

Adelaide nn Ada or Matilda nn Tildy are my favorites of the girls.

I was acquainted with a little Tobin who was a very sweet boy. I like it best of your list. Colwyn is better each time I read it so I see why you like it.


October 3, 2018 10:41 PM

Adelaide is on my own short list (hubby approved for girls).  I personally feel like it's more middle name material for us, but it's a fabulous name and I love it. I love Beatrix too, and Matilda.  Hazel has grown on me.  I've never really been able to get behind Freya for some reason.

Alistair is absolutely fantastic and Emrys is intriguing.  I've never ever heard Colwyn before (not a bad thing at all), nor have I ever heard Tobin.  My own feeling is that I don't love them as much as the first two so if I was going to eliminate a few, that'd be what I'd pick.

October 4, 2018 12:01 AM

If my daughter had been a boy, she probably would have been Emrys.  I love that name.  (And for the record, she got another antique Celtic name with even trickier spelling).  As for it looking feminine - I can see that, but the occasional "Oh it's Welsh" explains a lot.  Ha! Fun to bring up the Arthurian legend bit too.  (if I remember correctly Emrys was either Wizard Merlin's first name or his pre-wizard name, depending on which version of the story).  I'm not sure where you live, but Emrys is much more familiar a name in the UK than my home (USA) -- and apparently there was a short-lived and unremarkable '90s television cartoon there called "Emrys the Boy Wizard."

And I don't think it sounds too femnine, especially with resurgence of Emmett and various boy names that end with S (Silas etc).  I do think that with an unusual first name, if they want a "normal" name (like at age 12) it's good to have an alternative nickname in there that fits that bill -- for me, Rys/Reese was a good backup -- and also to pair it with a "normal" middle name with no gender ambiguity.  I don't think that Emrys necessarily sounds/looks feminine per se, but if someone is unfamiliar with it, random assumptions happen.  So in an email signature at work, for example, "Emrys Robert Jones" or somesuch will ensure that he is pegged correctly.

October 4, 2018 12:55 AM

Thank you all for your feedback!

I'm realizing that since no major problems have been raised with these names I just need to narrow it down by how I feel about them. They meet all of my criteria and are husband approved, so I'm choosing now based on what feels right. Here are my top three for each gender;

Adelaide, Beatrix, Freya

Alistair, Emrys, Colwyn

And now we'll wait and see who pops out in January. I'll be sure to come back and let you know! 

October 4, 2018 2:03 AM

cool,  I'd still go with the 3 syllable names like the others - Matilda and Alistair - and so much fun waiting and finding out the gender 100% for sure at birth

October 4, 2018 11:35 AM

Adelaide and Beatrix are both three syllables the way I say them; are they not for you? And if not, how approximately do you say them? (I love learning about the different ways names are pronounced in different parts of the world; I really wish we had a way of including recordings of name pronunciations here!)

October 4, 2018 12:05 PM

I say Beatrix with 3 syllables, too, but definitely know people who say BEE-trix.

As for Adelaide, it does have 3 syllables. It also has the benefit of a strong Australian connection and is thus well-documented on Forvo in that accent!

October 5, 2018 2:50 PM

After sitting here talking to myself, I discovered that I do indeed say Beatrice as 3 syllables (BEE-uh-triss) and that I do say Beatrix with 3 syllables (BEE-uh_trix), but that when I say Beatrix Potter, it becomes BEE-trix. I guess that's how I grew up hearing her name. 

October 4, 2018 3:15 PM

British accent here and I'd say Adelaide with three syllables (Add-UH-laid). Beatrix would be three syllables if I was saying it "properly" (Bee-uh-trix) but honestly I would have to make an effort to do that in normal conversation because my lazy inclination is to squash the first two down to one (Beer-trix). As a further question is Beatrice also three syllables for you then? 

October 4, 2018 8:06 PM

Pacific NW accent here; both Beatrix and Beatrice have three syllables for me. I can't remember ever hearing them with two, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear the first two syllables squashed together. Adelaide is three syllables for me as well.

October 5, 2018 7:03 AM

Another Aussie and Adelaide definitely 3 syllables (it's pretty universally 3 syllables here as that is how the city is pronounced). Beatrix and Beatrice are almost universally 2 - Bee-trix and Bee-tris/beer-tris.  It's one of the reasons I like that name more in theory than in practice. Somewhere it's prononced with 3 syllables I'd like it much more!

October 5, 2018 2:23 PM

Yep, Beatrice and Beatrix are both three syllables. I think I'm putting primary emphasis on the third syllable and secondary stress on the first syllable, Bee-uh-TRIX/TRISS. If I say them reallyfast I can sort of squeeze down to 2.5 syllables, but it's not natural.

(In contrast, Violet is two or 2.5 syllables at most (VIE-luht), and I have a hard time making it three. But Violette and Viola are both three (VEE-oh-Let and vie-OH-luh), so I have no idea whether there's any system to all of that.)

October 5, 2018 6:42 PM

Yeah see Violet is three for me the same as Violette and Viola (VIE-oh-Let), I don't think there's any real rhyme or reason to it.

Getting more off topic but at the top of my list of 'American name pronunciations that are baffling' is Graham, I have no idea how anyone can look at that name and say it in one syllable. Honestly for years I thought that the things for making s'mores were gram crackers as I only ever heard it said on TV/movies and never saw it written down, I was so confused when I finally visited North America and tried to find them in a shop. (Here it's said GRAY-am, with the h kind of voiceless at the start of the second syllable, I don't know the technical term for that.) 

October 5, 2018 7:25 PM

Yes Violet 2 for me, Beatrice and Beatrix 2 and Graham 2   Vi-let, Bee- trice, Bee - trix, Gray - am,  Aussie here

October 5, 2018 8:48 PM

I'm so completely and totally with you on Graham! I thought that Teddy Graham cookies were Teddy Grams. Canada is such a funny mix of British and American when it comes to terminology, spelling, and pronunciation.

I think that I say Violet as 2.5 syllables. It's definitely more than 2, but I don't think that it quite makes 3 like Violette does.

October 5, 2018 9:05 PM

Yes, Graham is definitely 2 syllables for me. Another name I don't get: Craig. It's Cray-g here, but Americans (and Canadians?) seem to say Kreg, to rhyme with Greg. Why?



October 5, 2018 9:30 PM

For me (American) I read all your examples (Craig, Kreg, Greg) with the same vowel sound AY in the middle. I'm thoroughly merged here, I suspect that's the cause. I can't even hear what the difference is.

Graham is one of those names that I like but would never use, because I like the British 2-syllable pronunciation but couldn't enforce it here, and I wouldnt like the "gram" pronunciation a bit.

By EVie
October 5, 2018 11:09 PM

I totally agree with you on Graham. I think my weird dissonance between the more attractive British pronunciation and the way it actually comes out of my mouth is in large part what has taken it out of the running for me for Boy #2. Similarly: Martin (but that's more an accent thing than a pronunciation thing).

Craig is definitely not the same as Greg for me, though. Craig = crag, the same vowel as in "cat." Greg = the vowel in "bed." But I've definitely heard American accents where that "cat" vowel becomes more of a "kett" (the Great Lakes shift, maybe? and maybe others?) so that might be what's going on there. 

Vowels are so squishy. Notice how rarely we have these conversations about consonants? 

ETA: I don't think I realized before that graham crackers are an American thing. But that makes sense to me now, because they're basically the same as digestives, which until recently were hard to find in the States.

October 6, 2018 6:48 PM

Oh my gosh yes the Kreg thing is also confusing: 'ai' does not = e people! :p 

My other one is Aaron and Erin being said basically the same, again with watching tv shows I will sit confused going 'wait is that man called Erin?? That's just weird' and it always takes me a minute to remember that it'll just be Aaron. (I say Ah-Ron and Eh-Rin where the Ah is like the start of Apple and the Eh is like the start of Elephant) 

October 6, 2018 10:12 PM

THAT is due to the dratted marry-merry-Mary merger. Ugh.

As for Craig=Kreg, the best explanation I can offer is that I repeated what I heard around me. I was friends in high school with a Craig and he, too, said his own name as Kreg. It's just how it's said here, for some reason. However, if I put on a (likely terrible) Scottish accent and say Craig Ferguson or Craigh na Dun, it's definitely KRAYG. But, you know, Padraig is PAW-drig, so perhaps we can be excused? Even though Craig is Scottish, not Irish? Maybe? But it isn't a vowel merger or shift; it's just a one-off quirky pronunciation of one name.

October 6, 2018 10:51 PM

My brother is Craig = crayg

October 4, 2018 6:10 PM

Bee - trix, Bee-trice