Theme discussion and sibset plotting

We're not planning on having kids for another 4 years or so (we're starting grad school) but we've had a boy name picked out for years: Hudson Taylor.  He was one of the first missionaries to bring the gospel to China.  We feel indebted to that legacy as Chinese Christians and we love the name Hudson since we're New Yorkers as well.  The problem is we have no agreement for a girl.  I feel like if we choose a powerful name like Hudson Taylor (which should be pretty recogizable in our community, he is also the founder of OMF International) we'll be stuck in a theme.  What would you do?  We want to avoid any overly religious sounding names (like Jedidiah, Levi, etc). 

Here are a list of other missionaries we admire if we do go that route:

Alice Mildred Cable, Evangeline French, Francesca French, Amy Carmichael, Isobel Kuhn, Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Elliott, Lillian Trasher.

We'd like to avoid any baby girl names in the top 200.  Of course we are not having kids for another few years but I like to pick out baby names.  Here's some other girl names I favorited: Louisa, Eleanor, Elodie, Talia, Lucia, Therese.

I guess more than advice on which baby names I should pick, I am looking for input on the theme.  Should we name them all after missionaries?  Should we just pick names that have strong meanings?  We're pretty sold on Hudson Taylor, he just needs a sister.  We're planning on having 2 or 3 kids.  We are not Catholic so I am not familiar with a lot of saints but I am open to that route.  Our last name sounds a lot like "learn."


April 16, 2012 2:07 PM

I would definitely encourage you to name daughters and any 2nd or 3rd sons after people you also admire.  I think other missionaries would be super cool.  We've named all of our kids (I have 5) after saints that we admire - the boys are New Testament evangelist/apostles.  The kids like hearing about them and knowing that they were important people.  There are a few names that hubby and I both like but without the saint connection I feel like using those names wouldn't be fair to them.  With my first couple of kids I had a list of favorites but as I've had more I've had to search a bit.  And it has actually made searching for baby names a great opportunity to learn more about awesome Christians.  We've never actually done it but dh has always wanted to do first and middle name after the same saint -- like Isaac Jogues lastname.  I'm just not so sure a kid would want to go through life with a middle name of Jogues.  (FWIW - He's a great missionary)  I think you might be in a similar boat with Trasher as a middle name.

April 16, 2012 2:25 PM

hahaha yes I wouldn't give a baby the middle name Trasher. 

By Guest (not verified)
April 16, 2012 2:31 PM

I don't think you have to go with all missionary names.  Your theme could just be people that you and your husband admire.  Perhaps leaders or educators in your chosen fields, writers you admire, etc.  That way, you'd open yourself up to a broader list of possible names but you'd still have a connection to all of them and the children could enjoy learning about the people who inspired you.  Since kids sound like they are a few years off for you still, I'd suggest just start keeping a list of people now.  When the time comes, you can go through the list and see what appeals to you most and you could get a better idea of the popularity of each name at the time it is given.  

By hyz
April 16, 2012 3:38 PM

Hmm, I like Hudson Taylor a lot (as a name--not so familiar with the man), and I think you're in luck to the extent that a lot of the female missionaries you like have great names, as well.  You could certainly do worse than Evangeline or Francesca French, or Elizabeth Elliott, for example.  None of them are bad, though (except the aforementioned Trasher).  What I'd suggest, though, is loosening up a bit to maybe combine names of favorite namesakes.  Like maybe Evangeline Alice or Lillian Francesca.  The association won't be as obvious as with retaining the first and middle name of one individual, but it opens up your options and will give you the chance to tell your daughter about the TWO wonderful women who inspired her name, and I don't think that's at all "weaker" than Hudson Taylor.  And I agree with the others that you don't have to limit it to missionaries--any people who are similarly inspiring, beloved, or admired would as work well, I think.  I understand you are not Catholic, but using that as an example, using Mary/Marie/Maria etc. as a first or middle name should certainly be as great an honor as using the name of an admired missionary.  Even a mother, grandmother, etc. who is/was much beloved and maybe a religious role model would seem a suitable namesake for a sister, I think.

April 16, 2012 3:44 PM

I agree that naming after someone you admire whether it be a family member or a missionary is really great. The story that can get passed down is wonderful. I also agree that you might not necessarily want to use the whole namesake. Hudson Taylor to me (not being religious) sounds like two names you loved put together. I would encourage you to do that for the others. Mix and match combos I like that would go well with Hudson Taylor:

Francesca Evangeline; Lillian Alice; Lucia Isobel; Talia Elodie

April 16, 2012 4:58 PM

Thanks everyone for your input. I'm glad you guys agree that Hudson Taylor doesn't sound like a namesake (like Romeo or Lincoln would).  Our Hudson Taylor will probably have a second middle name as well.

It's my generation's tradition to give a legal English name and a second Chinese name for family members who don't speak English and it's a way for the family to bless the baby with good intentions and hopes.  In my family, we use an English spelling of one of the characters as a middle name.  For example, my niece's middle name is Jung and her Chinese name sounds like Jung Ahn.  The two characters usually play off each other and inform the other and so in Chinese the name is one name although in English it may seem like two since it is two characters.

My father-in-law will select our babies' Chinese names and that is traditionally how you honor the family patriarch. 

It is not part of our tradition to give the same name or similar name as someone in your family because the Chinese name format gives you first generational character and then an individual character.  Usually all the siblings in your generation (sometimes paternal cousins as well) will have the same first character.  I asked my mother (who has the adorable name Mamie) if she would like it if we named the a baby after her and she said that was wierd.

So with that Chinese middle name in mind, would you guys suggest two middle names for all our kids?  Hudson Taylor _____ L.?  Or would that be too much?

April 16, 2012 5:05 PM

To me it's all the same. Hudson Taylor Jung L. sounds the same flow wise as just Hudson Taylor L.

hyz may have more worthy input since she has had a similar situation.

By hyz
April 16, 2012 11:12 PM

Yes, as zoerhenne mentioned, we have a somewhat similar situation with Korean names.  We've chosen to give our kids one Korean name, one English name, and a surname.  I was very tempted to do two middles, largely as an opportunity to use another English name I loved, but in the end we went with the simpler, more common 3 name route.  Once we picked that for our first child, I felt compelled to stick with the same thing for our second.  I felt that giving one kid more names might end up making both kids dissatisfied with the situation--one has the administrative hassle of dealing with an extra name, and the other feels left out because they didn't get a family namesake like the other (both of their English names are ones DH and I liked, and the Korean ones were chosen mostly by his family, so I was thinking of using a family name from my family as the second middle).  I actually considered legally changing my 2yo daughter's name to include a second middle when our son was born, just so we could give him a second middle and still keep things equal, but in the end it all seemed too crazy and complicated.  

Long story short, I think if you are committed to two names for the first child, I'd stick with that going forward--others may disagree, but that was my personal decision.  Also, if the Chinese name is likely to be one syllable, I think it will most likely sound nice as a second middle with most names, so that's a helpful factor (e.g. Lillian Francesca Huan L?  Evangeline Isobel Ming L?).  That was the other complication with us--most Korean names are two distinct syllables, which can make the four name list sound long and choppy, and in any event my DH wouldn't be happy about having that name shuffled to second middle regardless of any flow issues, so it just wasn't working for us. 

April 17, 2012 12:39 AM

Thank you so much for your experience and insight!  We might not include the Chinese name in their legal names (husband is simply William L. so his family will not care).  Like you, the opportunity to give them two English names is appealing to me. 

I hadn't realized that Korean names are usually two syllables.  I actually don't know any Koreans who have Korean names as their middle names!  I'll keep syllable count in mind when we decide.  Our last name is one syllable, as you may have guessed, so having a string of given names might not be so clunky.

Do you know if it is an issue when filling out legal documents? 

By hyz
April 17, 2012 11:20 AM

Other people can speak more to the administrative experience of having four names--a lot of people find it to be no problem and no big deal, but especially for our daughter, who has her korean name for her first name but goes by her middle name almost exclusively, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible.  As for Korean names, common examples would be things like Young-ah, Min-sun, Yu-bin, Hyun-joon, Kyung-jae, etc.  As it happened, our kids' names do not follow that standard pattern (daughter's is two syllables, but flows together and we chose not to hyphenate, son's is just one syllable--which is what made the second middles so tempting), but like in your case, the names are largely picked by my husband's family, so there's nothing saying that the next kid (should we have one) wouldn't follow this typical pattern. 

If you like Warden, does Shepherd do anything for you?  I love its somewhat subtle but very positive and lovely religious connotations.  We are not so religious, and my husband wasn't excited about it, but I think it's pretty neat, and would fit nicely with Hudson.

April 17, 2012 1:08 PM

Oh yes I know a few Korean-Americans and Koreans who go by their Korean name.  What I meant was I didn't realize it would be incorrect to call them by just one of their syllables.  Technically Chinese names are both characters (two syllables) and the one syllable would function as a nickname (either one is chosen).  I know one Korean man who has a one syllable first name and a two syllable last name, which he assured me meant he was from a higher class. 

I do like Shepherd!  The soft syllables might work for a girl's middle name too.  I also like Chandler (meaning "candle maker").

By Guest (not verified)
April 16, 2012 8:35 PM

I've long thought Watchman would make a cool middle name for a boy, a la Watchman Nee...more of a Chinese church leader than a missionary, but a worthy namesake nonetheless.  Just an idea. 

April 17, 2012 12:30 AM

I admire Watchman Nee but we are in Brooklyn, home of the Watchtower, the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters.  Stylistically it's not my taste, even without the JW association.  I did a quick meaning look up and there are a few names that have similar meanings, including Warden.  I think Warden might go on our list.

April 17, 2012 12:38 PM

Hudson sounds like a perfect choice for you two, meaningful on many levels plus being stylish and sturdy. Being a surname, it is very flexible as far as fitting a kid of whatever personality he grows into and also for matching sibling names with it of a variety of styles.

Like others, I agree that using two given names from different missionaries (along with the Chinese name if you go that route) for your daughter gives you the most flexibility and is a meaningful if more subtle homage, like your son's name. You have some lovely names to choose from, and they mix and match well together. I'm guessing many of these women are of the same generation, though I am not familiar with them and didn't check, so that's not too surprising. Any of the names would help you tell your kids stories about your values, hero(in)es, etc.

Evangeline seems especially natural given the meaning "evangelist" i.e. missionary. Just so you know, this name has a strong connection to Louisiana and Cajun culture given the famous poem, but it is becoming more well-known and -used of late. None of this would put me off; in fact I'd call the literary connection a plus.

I like the idea of keeping a list of inspirational namesakes during the coming years, and expanding the circle from missionaries to saints, scriptural figures and also secular heroes.

I always enjoy hearing about naming cultures and traditions different from my own, so thanks for sharing!

April 17, 2012 1:41 PM

Thank you!  When we play at picking baby names, we say we like the names to suit a pro-athelete or lawyer.  I hope the name we pick will be flexible to suit their personalities.

Evangeline is one of those names I feel like is too big for a person-- four syllables and an obvious hefty meaning.  If we go with Evangeline French, who was also a missionary to China and a force to be reckoned with, we would probably use a permanent nickname like Evie or Eva.  I've never associated it with the poem, but you're right I'd consider it  a favorable one. 

I grew up with an Evangeline and I can't disassociate the religious meaning.  We are very religious (my husband is on track to be a pastor) but I don't want their name association to supercede their individuality.  I'm not sure if Evangeline passes the pro-athelete/lawyer test.

April 17, 2012 1:54 PM

As a non-Christian who is aware of the meaning but not directly connected to the emotional heft of the name Evangeline, I can tell you that I think that it's a beautiful name and can easily see a lawyer or athlete with it. (Although, for some reason, more with the ending of LINE than LEEN; EvangeLINE feels somehow tougher to my ear, and toughness is definitely a positive attribute for a lawyer or athlete.)

That said, people meeting a girl whose father is a pastor might ascribe more layers to the name's meaning.

April 17, 2012 2:47 PM

Maybe because LINE sounds more American than the French influenced LEEN?  I've always prounounced it e-VAN-jel-een.

April 17, 2012 3:18 PM

Oh, that's funny... I tried saying Evangeline completely in French (i.e., not in English with the EEN ending) and sounds perfectly suitable for a laywer or athlete.

Yup, overall, I think that it's a really pretty, graceful name :)

April 17, 2012 2:07 PM

Our daughter is Evangeline. :-) My husband happens to be a pastor. Our last name's root meaning is "Shepherd".

We call her Evie (we were on the fence with Evie vs. Eva, but personality-wise, she's an Evie), but one of the reasons we like the name is all the different nn that can come from it (Angie, Vangie, Lina, Eve, etc.).

Because we have roots in the South (on both sides), no one has really commented on the "religious" aspect other than to comment that it's a great name for a little girl born on Easter morning. :-) Most of our friends actually associate it with the North Star in "The Princess and the Frog" movie from Disney (which we had not seen until after she was born) or with Evangeline Lily the actress from Lost (which we never watched) depending on whether they have kids or not. ;-)

I think it's a fairly versatile name, and we've always gotten compliments on it. The only one who struggles with it is my dad who has trouble saying her name, so just calls her Evie like the rest of us.

We did give her a pro-athlete/lawyer middle name also just in case for some reason Evangeline didn't fit her later (Katheryn), and I've ended up calling her (Southern-style) Evie Kate most of the time. :-)

Our son is Alexander, which we have gotten *way* more comments about it being a "big name for a little guy" than we have with Evangeline. We have the 4 syllable thing going at the moment. ;-)


April 17, 2012 3:12 PM

That's funny that people think Alexander is a big name-- is it uncommon in your area?  I suppose they associate it with "the Great?"  I have a cousin Alexander and he always just went by Alex.  I'd forgotten all about the Evangeline association in the Princess and the Frog.  I love that!  It will make such a pretty lullaby.  You guys are really selling me on Evangeline!

April 17, 2012 5:36 PM

Nope--Alexander was number 11 for boys in our area the year he was born.

We did get a lot of "Alexander the Great", but the comments usually came with his whole name (Alex@nder J@mes Sh@---), especially when he was almost three and introduced himself with his whole name. ;-)

Evangeline is an awesome name! :-)

April 17, 2012 3:01 PM

I definitely don't think that by using Hudson Taylor you have committed yourself to a theme of any kind, other than "name with personal significance to us, not merely something that sounds good."

But many of the other missionary names you have listed are quite attractive as well!  However, if you do use one of them for a second child, then I think you'd want to carry the pattern through to a hypothetical third child, so that s/he isn't the odd one out -- so you will need a couple of desirable backups for each sex!  My only fear would be that you may find that your third-choice missionary isn't as personally compelling to you as Hudson Taylor, and that in your heart you'd ultimately prefer a different name.  And it would be a pity to feel stuck, I think.

If you don't stick with missionaries, though, then I think you have a ton of leeway -- you could pick a name whose meaning appealed to you, or you could look to namesakes who were dear to you personally, or to other public figures whom you admired, etc. etc. 

I am in favor of using the Chinese name as an official second middle (unless you want it as the sole middle, which is great too).  I think second middles do frequently get left off legal documents for bureaucratic reasons (actually, even single middle names do!), but if that doesn't bother you too much, go for it.

April 17, 2012 3:21 PM

If we do have another boy after Hudson Taylor, my choice would be to name him after James Elliott.  Jim Elliott was a missionary in Ecuador who was killed by the people he was trying to reach.  His wife, Elisabeth Elliott, continued his ministry after his death and had a great impact on the community.

I have cousins named James and Elliott but we hardly see Elliott and he's older than me.  James is two years younger than me and I see him a couple times a year.   We'd probably just switch the first and second names and he'll be Elliott James ____ L.  If we have a second daughter than I'll be in the same place that I'm in now!  I think we'll give them first names of missionaries and middle names with special meaning. 

April 17, 2012 7:15 PM

I LOVE Elliott James for a boy and think it matches nicely with Hudson Taylor even though it is a different style. I also love Chandler that someone mentioned upthread. I think it could be used as a first or middle.

April 17, 2012 8:00 PM

I completely agree!

April 17, 2012 11:26 PM

I like it for a girl's name.   Do you love it as much for a girl?  I think it would temper the Victorian era names and give panache to the less ornate names.

Evangeline Chandler, Lillian Chandler, Theresa Chandler, Chandler Alice, Chandler Amy

April 17, 2012 11:54 PM

In a middle name spot, I think that I would assume that it was a familial surname that was given as a middle name - which isn't a bad thing, just what I would think.

April 18, 2012 11:44 AM

I would also think it was a passed on surname. For either gender it works. I also keep thinking Chandler Shepard sounds awesome matched with Hudson Taylor.

April 18, 2012 2:41 PM

i agree, it does look like a surname.  But we're both Chinese so her name will be something like Lillian Chandler Wei L.  None of our friends or family will think it's a passed down surname and if anyone asks she'll have a nice story to share.

Chandler Shephard makes a great name too.  I really like the last names as first names trend.

By hyz
April 17, 2012 4:00 PM

I generally say Evangeline with the -een ending, and I agree with the others that it is a beautiful, versatile name that I could easily see on a lawyer, doctor, author, whatever. 

Glad you like Shepherd!  You have lots of good choices to pull from, and it sounds like you are going to end up with some beautifully and meaningfully named children one way or another. :)

p.s. for Korean names, I have known some Korean Americans who go by one syllable of their names, because people seemed to have too much trouble remembering and/or pronouncing both syllables, and I sometimes hear Koreans in very familiar settings (like parent to child) being called by their non-generational syllable plus the suffix -ah (so Yu-jin might be Jin-ah, or Bo-hun might be Hun-ah), but otherwise I think the two syllable name is generally treated as a single unit, and one part is not usually dropped off. 

By Guest (not verified)
April 17, 2012 4:31 PM

I love your choice of Hudson Taylor for a boy -- it sounds like it's absolutely the perfect fit for you and your husband and your future family. Since it's a name that you say will be recognizable in your community, I would take care to make sure your girl name isn't completely unconnected to your religious and ethnic heritage.

Of the female missionaries you listed, I do love Evangeline and Francesca, and Elizabeth Elliott as a fn/mn set (even without the religious connection, it's a very cool combo!). Elizabeth Elliott is actually my favorite of all, and seems perfect as a sister to Hudson Taylor. I'm not a huge fan of how Amy and Corrie sound as sisters to Hudson -- they don't sound as weighty and serious (though, for a second boy, I think Cable, Carmichael, and Elliott would all be interesting fn options as a brother to Hudson).

Since you said you're open to saint names, there are loads of Chinese saints that you might be interested in considering (mostly male, many listed here:; of the women listed, a couple jumped out at me -- St. Lucy Yi Zhenmei (she has her own entry,, St. Lucy Wang Cheng, St. Teresa Chen Jinjie, St. Teresa Zhang, St. Elizabeth Qin, St. Lucy Wang. You said you like Lucia and Therese, so it's very cool that Lucy and Teresa were chosen by so many brave and faith-filled women. I think Lucy/Lucia and/or Teresa/Therese sound fine as sisters to Hudson. Mary/Maria also makes the list several times, and it's very traditional to use Mary/Maria as a fn and have a mn of significance that might not be doable as a fn, e.g. Mary Cable, Mary French, Mary Carmichael, etc., or Mary + the first name of a male missionary you like.

April 18, 2012 2:50 PM

That's really cool-- I hadn't realized there were Chinese saints.  I'll see if I can find a book on the role religion played during the Boxer Rebellion.  It seems like those Chinese saints took the names of pre-existing saints as their English names, so if we pick one they'll actually be named after two saints. 


May 2, 2012 8:50 AM

Esther E. -- I'm the Guest who posted about the Chinese saints. Yes, it  does give them two saint namesakes, or even more -- John for example could be after John the Baptist, John the Evangelist (Gospel writer), John Bosco, John Fisher, etc. -- you can choose which you like best. My son J0hn was actually named for his great-grandfather, but we took time to go through the various Sts. John to see which we liked best as his saint namesake -- sort of retrofitting a meaning, like what Laura talked about in a recent blog entry. We decided on St. John Bosco, and my J0hn is tickled to hear/talk about "his" saint.