When to weigh popularity with preference

Hi there! I'm 14 weeks with my first child. We're not sure whether we will find out the sex or not. Right now, we're pretty well in agreement on a boy name but have a list of similar girl names that neither of us are sure we are in love with.

I consider the name choice of utmost importance and have been interested in names for years. Over the years my tastes have always tended to gravitate to names that subsequently blow up in popularity and then I abandon them. So frustrating. I want our choices to carry meaning for our children and offer them a unique identity without being too out there. The way the name looks and more importantly feels to say are also factors I'm considering. Something with long lasting appeal is most important. I don't like names that are too trendy and would prefer something with literary or artistic connotations.

Hubby seems to share similar tastes (mostly antique charm and biblical), but definitely gravitates to names that feel familiar to him yet is very influenced to avoid names that remind him of people from his childhood.

I would like to avoid a name that reads too ethnic specific, as our backgrounds are quite mixed: I'm Norwegian Italian and hubby is an adopted Korean with a German last name. It's a harsh sounding single-syllable name starting with R, and I find it hard to make most names sound nice with it. The first name needs to have a minimum of two syllables and avoid the letter R.

In addition, we are considering the addition of a second middle name to honor hubby's heritage. The name is Lee and would not necessarily be used for a girl but hopefully for a boy.

For the boy name, we are considering Leo as a top choice. Others on the lists have included Isaac, Silas, Levi, Henry, and Milo. I like the friendly sound of names like Sam, Max, and Jack, but they feel overused to me now.

For the girl name, Olivia has been a top contender for both of us for a long time... But I'm worried how popular it is right now. Its beginning to feel too run-of-the-mill as a result, rather than special. Whereas my second choice Amelia is much lower on the popularity list, but likely climbing. I also like how the middle name Frances sounds with Amelia better than with Olivia.

Other girl names on our lists that we can't agree on are: Caroline, Isabel, Phoebe, Laurel, Grace, Hannah, Madeline, Sophie.

My question is, at what point do you ignore the name charts and how do you tell a name will continue to appeal to you over time? Also any suggestions for first/middle pairings or alternate suggestions are more than welcome!!


March 26, 2013 10:46 PM

I have a pretty standard suggestion that I make for situations like this, so what the heck, I'll just toss it out again.

You can avoid a lot of the risk of a name "going trendy" on you by going to about the 100-300th ranked names in your country, and picking one that has been falling in popularity for the past several years.  On the US name charts, there are a lot of nice names in that group -- a lot of classics, and some unfamiliar, pretty names.

Almost all the names you've mentioned...I know at least 1 of each in my son's preschool.  So I think your style is (unfortunately for you, trying to find a name!) quite popular in certain groups right now.  If a name becoming trendy would really upset you and make you regret your choice, you'll probably have to be pretty careful.  If that happening would just make you shrug your shoulders and move on...then don't worry about it now.

March 26, 2013 11:03 PM

I'll start by saying I like all of your boy names.  Many of them are gaining in popularity, but a lot of people are less bothered by this for boys.  Perhaps it's not an issue for you?  Leo & Levi are both great, but to me they would see to eliminate the 2nd middle of Lee. Something like Leo Henry Lee Reck seems repitive to me, but perhaps you don't mean to use Lee with Leo or Levi.  

For your girl names, I immediatley thought of Olive and Amalie instead of Olivia & Amelia-similar but not as popular.  If you are concerned about the popularity of Olivia & Amelia, I would suggest you eliminate Isabel, Madeline & Sophie as well.  

For me, popularity is more of an issue with names that are either more modern invetions or names that skyrocketed to the top 10 very fast.  I think these are the most likley to feel dated or trendy in a few years.  A name that has been steady in usage for a long time tends to strike me as more classic and traditional-they have staying power.  Personally, I would probably avoid Olivia (though I love it) but I would use Elizabeth despite it also being a top 10 name.  

I would also consider groups of names with very similar sounds or feels.  I'd probably eliminate Madeline  because of all the alternate spellings, plus Madison and Addison and Adeline, etc.  The whole group just starts to blend together after a while.  But Laurel would be fine.  There are Lauren & Laura, but none of those is getting a ton of use right now.

Of course, all of this is going to strike people in different ways.  I know a lot of people who consider Olivia just as "classic" as Elizabeth, despite the fact that it hasn't been super popular until recently.  

As for names that appeal over time, well, I think it's harder for a name to lose its appeal when it is actually attached to a real live baby as opposed to just a hypothetical, maybe one day baby.  :)

First/middle pairings-I think you have a lot of options. Frances sounds good with a lot of your names, I especially like Amelia Frances, Laurel Francis and Caroline Francis.  Phoebe Isabel & Amelia Caroline are also nice.  I also kind of like Phoebe Francis, even though I am not generally a fan of alliteration.  I will warn you that Grace is getting a lot of use as a middle these days, it really seems like a filler middle-but it does work with pretty much all of your names!

By mk
March 26, 2013 11:59 PM

I think Amelia Frances is a beautiful name. Caroline and Laurel are pretty and also sound good with Frances. You could also use Olivia as a middle name: Caroline Olivia, Phoebe Olivia.

What about Lydia Frances?

My feeling is that if you truly love a name and have for years, don't worry about popularity. As I've said before here, I didn't meet another person with my name until college, and my name is in the top 10 for my birth year. And I have yet to meet anyone named Madison. You just never know.



March 28, 2013 9:45 PM

I too pondered this at length when we had our children. I was disappointed to learn that the names we fell in love with and agreed upon ten years earlier when they were unusual, were suddenly skyrocketing in popularity. We abandoned our girl's name (I was sick of hearing it!) but there was no talking my husband out of our boy's name. But ultimately, I still love the name, it has significant family meaning, and - most importantly - I love the name because it belongs to he most wonderful little guy I know. I don't regret it at all. 

Our second son's name is again more on-trend than I would like, but every time I see it, I still get a little thrill.

My love for their names has become inextricably linked to my love for my boys. I say, pick the names you love to say, read and write, and don't worry about what everyone else is doing. 

By hyz
March 29, 2013 12:44 PM

Your boy names are all on-trend right now--some moreso than others--but I don't consider any of them too popular to use.  There may well be another Henry or Isaac in his class now and again, but they are classic names that don't tend to sound tired, and the popularity isn't too overwhelming.  My son's name is in this category too--we went in with eyes wide open knowing we were not making a particularly "unique" choice, but DH and I love the name, and it still feels just right.  I think in this category you should go with what you love.  I think Leo is great, but I will note that Leo sounds a bit redundant with Lee, even as a second mn--but you probably already thought of that.

Olivia, on the other hand... unfortunately does sound very run-of-the-mill to me at this point.  It is one of the three classic names that have been temporarily spoiled for me by the excessive commonness--Olivia, Sophia, Isabel(le/a).  I think you hit the nail on the head saying it doesn't feel as "special" right now--to me, it feels kind of standard-issue, meh, or stereotypical.  I've actually been to kids' parties where all of the girls present (except mine) had one of these three names.  Madeline is borderline for me, because of the proliferation of Mad- names in all their various spellings (Maddalyn, Madisen, etc.).  From your girl list, I think Amelia is great--the popularity is rising, but I don't think it will get to Olivia, etc. level anytime soon, and it still sounds fresh to me.  And Amelia Frances is absolutely darling and perfect.  I personally adore the name Laurel, and I think Caroline and Phoebe are lovely, too.  Grace and Hannah feel a little... vanilla, but sweet and nice and classic, so they are still fine choices, I think.  

March 29, 2013 4:35 PM

Thank you everyone for your insight! You all are weighing in with the advice I knew to be true in my heart but still needed to hear.

In regards to name choices, love the feedback. Amelia Frances continues to be a top choice for me and its so fun to hear to positive reception to it. Discussed names with my husband again last night and I mentioned feeling like a name such as Olivia Grace sounds truly boring to me but changing the middle name to Quinn, for instance, makes it feel fresh again. Thoughts on this combo? 

I think Phoebe is our third choice at this point, but we're not sure what direction to go in for a middle name. I'd like something that would help ground Phoebe as a first name. 

As with Frances, I'd like to keep Laurel in the pool for now, as it too is a family name.

Right now my husband's preference for firsts names is: Olivia, Quinn, Phoebe, Laurel, Amelia.

For boy names, his preference is Leo, Silas, Levi. I like Leo best and Henry is a family name. I agree though that Lee sounds repetitive if included as a middle for Leo/Levi. Any suggestions for traditional/classic middle name combinations for these first names?

Thanks so much!!

By hyz
April 2, 2013 1:31 PM

It sounds like you more or less have an agreement on a boy's name, if Leo is top choice for both of you.  I think Leo Henry is great, if that's under consideration.  If you are not saving them for future boy first names, I think Leo Silas or Leo Isaac would also be perfect.  You could also use the full form of one of other boy names you like but find too common for the first spot--Samuel, Maxwell, John, etc.  As for a second middle name to honor the Korean heritage, is there any reason you picked Lee in particular?  Is it just because it is a common Korean surname that is also a traditional English name?  If you are looking for other Korean name elements that sound good in English (since Leo + Lee is a no-go), you might consider Song, Park, Young, Sun, or maybe Dae, Jae, Bae, or Joon.  For girls, you may also be interested in some of the Korean words that are being used as names these days, including Haneul (heaven/sky), Iseul (dew), Areum (beauty), Bi (rain--could also be non-traditionally transliterated as Bee, Bea).

For Olivia, using Quinn as a middle name unfortunately does not help the situation for me.  Quinn sounds fairly trendy to me for both boys and girls (I know several of each in the under 5 set), so Olivia Quinn feels standard + trendy, not fresh.  Something very unusual and/or non-English with Olivia would help it a bit for me (Olivia Philomena?  Olivia Araminta? Olivia Oceane?  Olivia Giovanna?), but since the middle name is so rarely used and therefore wouldn't be known to most people who encounter your Olivia, I still wouldn't be inclined to use it.  It sounds like you and your husband have some good crossover on Phoebe, Laurel, and Amelia, so I'd be focused on those, which are all lovely and still very fresh to my ear.  I think Frances could work as a mn for Phoebe (the Ph/F alliteration doesn't bother me, though I know others would consider it a dealbreaker).  I would also suggest considering Phoebe Quinn or Phoebe Olivia, which sound quite nice and would give you the opportunity to use one of these names you and your husband like.       

April 3, 2013 2:09 PM

You've given me more to think about, so thanks! Have definitely toyed around with using Samuel as a middle and I think Silas is under consideration as well. What do you think of Phoebe Caroline? I think I may love that. Also, can I ask what are of the country you are in? I don't currently know of any Quinns around us (MN).

Wanted to follow up on your Korean name question. Lee is quite common, but it was my husband's Korean surname before his adoption. His parents retained it as a second middle in his name and our thought was to continue that with our children. But I think your idea of using an other Korean name is also worth considering, especially since Lee doesn't work with all our first name choices. That way, we may happen upon something that works better with our chosen names but still acknowledges their heritage. For example, Dae seems cute: Olivia Dae or Phoebe Dae?

I'm not sure how my husband would feel about transliteration, but if he's okay with it (will ask him), that opens up a whole new list of possible names i.e. Park could be Parker or Bi could be Bea, as you suggested. Joon/Jun would be great if it was a girl's name (i.e. as variant of June). We'll have to check out the Korean names more thoroughly, it sounds like...

By hyz
April 3, 2013 5:24 PM

I think Phoebe Caroline is really lovely!  I am in the US, and know male and female Quinns under age 5 in the mid-atlantic, midwest, and pacific northwest.  The Quinns I know are generally (but not exclusively) in the overeducated, urban, upper-middle class set.  I would say your naming style is on trend with this group--I have met one or more young kids (neighbors, kids of friends, my kids' classmates, etc.) with most of the names on your list--the only exceptions for me are actually Phoebe and Laurel, as far as I recall.  But with most of those names, the fact that they are on trend doesn't bother me--they are all basically classics.  Quinn, on the other hand, since it fits the surname trend, is androgynous, and has had more of a recent spike in popularity rather than a long history of steady use, seems more likely to feel a bit dated.  Quinn's not quite my style, but I don't dislike it at all--I think it sounds rather spunky and confident--but it doesn't fix the common/trendy feeling of Olivia for me.   

It sounds like you do have a good reason to pick Lee specifically, rather than just any pleasant surname like Park.  But I do think the first name elements could still be a good option.  FYI, I have only seen Dae used for boys/men, but maybe it is also acceptable for girls--you may want to look into that more.  I do like Leo S@muel Dae R.  Also, what I meant by transliteration was the choice of letters used to represent the Korean characters/sound.  So, the Korean word 비 is pronounced like "bee", and is typically transliterated into English as Bi.  However, the same sound could be represented in English with the letters Bee or Bea (still said "bee", as in Bea Arthur)--those would be non-standard transliterations.  The Korean name 박 is usually transliterated as Park, but sometimes also as Pak--Parker, on the other hand, would be your own riff on it, but not actually a transliteration.  Obviously, you and your husband could decide whether Parker (for example) would still have the desired meaning for you of a Korean name/tie to his ancestry, even though it is not a Korean name.        

By mk
April 2, 2013 4:35 PM

I like Olivia Grace much more than Olivia Quinn. I don't find it boring; it's a pretty, classic name. And nothing wrong with that. Ditto if you go with your chosen middle name of Frances. Olivia Frances sounds lovely.




April 6, 2013 7:01 PM

I like Phoebe Quinn too! I think it sounds spunky and fresh.