Which parent to honor?

I was raised by two amazing women, my mother and her partner, who I also consider to be my mom. I'm now expecting another baby and after naming my eldest children after my father and his mother to strengthen ties with that side of my heritage that I grew up away from, I'm having trouble with honoring my moms.

My father and moms never got along very well and he and his side are against me naming my baby after my step-mom. I really don't want this to drive a wedge in our relationship because it took us so long to rekindle it. At the same time, my step-mom is so very special to me that I feel I'm obliged to remember her in my baby's name after all she did and does for me.

My dad is pushing me to name the baby after a very dear aunt (it's a name I have always loved and she was also very special to me), but a part of me thinks that my mom trumps all, even if her name isn't the prettiest in the world.

Help please?


February 7, 2016 6:20 PM

I strongly agree that meaning trumps all. I also believe strongly that your parents (all three of them) had their time for naming children, and are now out of the picture, final decision-wise. These are YOUR children, to be named by YOU (and your partner, if you have one). This goes double for your dad, who already got an honor-named grandchild.

If you wanted to share your moms' names, perhaps we could help you come up with some variants that you would like, style-wise? If you'd rather not share, think about family and middle names as well as first names, and international variants plus names that share some sounds or have similar derivations. 

Another option, if your moms are still around, is to ignore my first paragraph, and involve them more significantly in the search for a non-family name. I know my own mother is more excited when we take her advice about naming than she would be if we used her actual given name (which she doesn't really like--after all, it reflects her mother's taste, not hers).

February 7, 2016 6:33 PM

I am really into more obscure "grandparent" names, that are still recognizable enough and cross well into the Latin-derived languages, because of my family and heritage.

For this baby I really love Ulysses, Joachim, Iago and Caetano, but am concerned if these will be considered difficult to spell and pronounce or not.

My mom's name was Ir3ne, which I love but have been receiving a lot of eye-rolls and criticism for in public settings... (I've mentioned it at work, at the grocery store and at the library for instance) and my step-mom was Olg@ which seems to be even more cringe-worthy to others.

February 7, 2016 7:18 PM

Well, I wouldn't be concerned about random eyerolls at the grocery or the library.  What about Irina which would be a little more fashionable than Irene in terms of sound and would be a sort of Russian nod to Olga?  I would say that at the moment Olga is deeply unfashionable which may be a burden for a schoolgirl to carry.  I had a great aunt straight from the Russian Empire who was Tante Olya (as Olga was pronounced).  Don't know if that would be easier for a child to handle, although if Olga in any form were in te middle your daughter's peers would never know of it.

As for the boy names, Ulysses and Iago are familiar literary figures and should be well known to anyone with a high school or better education.  Joachim is a bit of a problem because it is pronounced differently from place to place.  Jo or Yo? -ch- as in Bach or -k-?  Or something else?  I think the uncertainty in pronunciation has limited its usage in English compared to other biblical names.  Caetano may be confused with Gaetano.

I will say that there is no name so simple and straightforward that someone won't screw up the spelling and/or pronunciation.  I have a very common and straightforward surname--think Brown or Johnson or Smith, and people still get it wrong.  I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that can be guaranteed mistake-proof, so I wouldn't worry too much about it  I would also say that your father's family already has been honored twice over, and now if you choose to honor your moms, dad's side needs to keep out of it.

February 8, 2016 2:52 AM

@Miriam: Olya is the diminutive form of Olga, suitable for use on an adult by familiars. (As opposed to a diminutive like Olyushka, which would likely only be used to refer to a child Olga.) It's one of the many odd times that the Russian "nickname" is no shorter than the formal name. An example like Yura as the diminutive for Yuri also springs to mind. I imagine your great aunt was likely still referred to as Olga in formal Russian-speaking contexts (assuming she continued to encounter them in the U.S.).

February 8, 2016 2:56 AM

She wasn't Russian-speaking and was never referred to in Russian.

February 8, 2016 3:01 AM

Oh, yes, I see: Tante!

February 7, 2016 10:29 PM

Oh, I love Ir3ne! I think it's really lovely. If O1ga is not to your taste (and again, I would only be concerned with what YOU and your partner's feelings are), you might consider asking your stepmother whether there are any names that she might find an honor -- perhaps there is a concept or a favorite place or artist or whatever that she might find very meaningful. I think giving her input might be as meaningful as using her name.

I think using both names together would be really sweet and meaningful, and a less fashionable choice like O1ga might be nicely tucked away into the middle name slot where other people's cringe responses will be minimal... but frankly, "it's an honor name" is all the response you need to give. Even names that are not otherwise to my taste become much more charming and lovely when I find out that there is a family connection behind it, and I'm quite sure that this will be the case for your child as well.

February 7, 2016 11:53 PM

Thank you for your insight! I actually love Olg@ for her unfashionably clunkiness, in my opinion it actually makes the name stand-out more. I also really love Ir3ne.

That's an excellent idea you gave me, of sitting down and allowing Olg@ to participate in the process! It would make the name more special, I think.

February 8, 2016 1:37 AM

I really like O1ga, too, for the same reasons, too! (It's a form of Helga, which is also a family name for me and which I have always loved.) I think it would be a great name and I'd be thrilled to meet a little O1ga... but I do think it would be a very bold choice in the first name spot, especially if you are living someplace where girls' names are mostly lacy confections being generally prioritized for their "prettiness". O1ga is out of step with many of the current trends, which *I* find refreshing but which also means that it will not be to many peoples' tastes. Still, I would find it eminently usable, and your daughter could, if she ever wanted a more on-trend name to carry her through a period of wanting a more conventionally pretty name, go by a nickname like Ollie.

All of the potential pitfalls really disappear in the middle name spot, and you can just enjoy the advantages. :)

FWIW, my cousin-in-law is an O1ga of current-mom age and as far as I know she likes her name.

February 7, 2016 10:56 PM

I know a school-age Ir3na. That one little letter makes a world of difference in how people react to this name.

One avenue to explore is honor-by-etymology. This could disguise the honor from your dad, preventing an unnecessary rift, while still allowing that nod for your moms.

Ir3ne derives from the Greek for 'peace'. Other 'peace' names: Frida, Salome; Solomon, any of the Slavic -mir names, and many English names with -fre- or -fri- in them (Frederick, Geoffrey, Godfrey, Humphrey, Wilfred, etc.).

0lga is from the Norse for 'holy'. Other 'holy, blessed, sacred' names: Ariadne, Gwen, Gwenda, Beatrice/Beatrix; Benedict, Jerome.

I especially like Ariadne and Frida/Frieda for you: they're the same source languages and words as Ir3ne and 0lga, but flipped (Greek and Norse, 'peace' and 'holy').

Of your boy's names, I think Ulysses may be easiest and/or best-known in English, but I wouldn't let possible mispronunciation or misspelling hold you back from any name -- I can attest from personal experience that people can get Julia and David wrong.

February 7, 2016 11:58 PM

You've given me some really great ideas and suggestions! Believe it or not, I had been pondering Beatrix and Salome, purely due to personal taste and aesthetics, I hadn't realized until you mentioned, how the etymology relates. Makes these names even better!

Also, Ir3na is so beautiful! It would be hard to decide between this one and my mom's spelling of her name...

Ulysses for a boy would be perfectly adaptable into my native tongue, the pronunciation doesn't change that much and even adds an extra dose of charm. An Ulysses would go by Uli--it's the boy name I'm leaning the most towards.

February 8, 2016 12:19 AM

I think HNG makes some great suggestions for you.

I also noticed 1ago uses almost all the same letters as O1ga So that could be a way to use a name you love with a subtle nod to O1ga and it would not be obvious to you dad.

February 17, 2016 9:40 PM

What if you put the names together some how... Like Irena or Olena and you could use it as the middle name if you love the aunt's name. Then you could honor them all.

February 8, 2016 1:18 AM

How about an under the radar way to honor your mom and her partner? Opaline starts with the same sound as Olg@, ends with the same as Ir3ne, and has a unique (but not unfashionable) sound. Isolde starts with mom's "I", and has Olg@'s "ol". 

You can use the aunts name as a middle and everyone could be happy. 

February 8, 2016 9:07 PM

Opaline and Isolde are both lovely to my English-speaking side of the brain, but in my native tongue sound the opposite and are completely butchered. Thanks for the suggestions though!

By rooo
February 8, 2016 2:10 AM

Do you know the gender yet? If it's a boy, perhaps you would like Ira as a mash-up up your two moms' names. It's also easy to spell/pronounce but pretty rare in the US at least.

February 8, 2016 3:10 AM

Congrats on Baby #2!  I am in agreement with the others -- your dad is ALREADY covered with an honor name, and he does need to gracefully bow out of this.  And I think it's lovely to name your next after your two moms.

My thinking echoes a lot of the other posters re: mash-up or updates on Irene and Olga.  Yes, Irina is the obvious one, and very beautiful.  I also think Irene is terrific these days.  You can't go with crowd opinions on a name AND hit on something unusual. 

And yes, would be helpful to know baby's gender.

Other girl name combos evoked by Irene and Olga: Glorene, Gloria Ren (or Ren Gloria), Orlene, Lena (2 letters from each name), etc.  If Olga is a variant of Helga -- what about Helene or Helen?  Gilda has a lot of Olga sounds as well - you could pair it with Ren or another Irene-y name.

For a boy - none of your suggestions evoke your moms' names.  Are you looking for a middle name?  What about Galo?  All the same letters as Olga, but in a different order.  And that of course brings us to Galileo.  Aaron, Erwin, Irvin, all sound a lot like Irene... I admit that I am really crushing on the name Galileo Aaron or Aaron Galileo right now.  Garen could also be a good mash-up of Olga and Irene for a boy, as are Llaron and Galen which are bona fide names I didn't even make up.

Keep us posted, momma!


February 8, 2016 9:13 PM

Thank you for the good wishes! This one's actually Zeli@ and Tobi@s' little brother or sister. I've been trying very hard to fight the urge of knowing before baby arrives, but since this naming process has become so stressful, I think I might just ask my doctor.

February 8, 2016 7:31 AM

I love Ir3ne! It's one of my favourite names and I would have it on my list if I didn't hate the pronunciation where I live. I don't understand the public disenchantment with it. The sounds are perfectly lovely and it has everything from Sherlock Holmes' Irene Adler to that lovely old song "Goodnight Irene" to recommend it. Irina/Irena are also lovely. Another similar name I really like is Iria, which has the name number of letters as O1ga....

I definitely think your father needs to take a back seat on this decision. It's your MOM and the woman who helped raise you, whatever relationship he has with them.

February 8, 2016 9:18 PM

I had completely and regretfully ignored those awesome Ir3ne associations! Thanks for reminding me.

Iria is lovely, like the perfect blend of Iris and Aria. How do you say it? On first instinct I read it as ee-REE-uh. On second thought, EER-ee-uh as well.

February 9, 2016 6:35 AM

I had a great-aunt with that name, and it was EE-ree-a. Just checked on forvo.com, and a Mexican is pronouncing it the same way, so that seems to be standard.

February 8, 2016 10:49 AM

I'd say what your father and his family are doing is emotional blackmail.  They may not like the relationship you have with your step-mother, but they should accept that she is an important part of your life.  

I'd say that Irene & Olga are not ready for a comeback for most people, but I can see both names working in certain pockets of the U.S.  I particularly like Olga and would be tempted to use it as a first name, both ecause I like it & also to make a statement to your father's side of the family.  But that sounds more confrontational than you want to be.

You could also consider using their middle names, if those are more to your style.  Or variants of Irene like Irina, Iria or Arina.  I also like the suggestion of using names with similar meanings.  Though there aren't really as many workable variants of Olga. You could also consider using their initials, which would open you up to any I & O names that you like.


February 8, 2016 12:14 PM

^This! I say go for Olga and Irene/Irena. You're the mother, you decide!

February 9, 2016 1:07 AM

If you have a boy, Ira might be a good fit for the middle name slot.... combines Irene and Olga well.  I think it would be very odd to have a little boy first-named Ira these days (although why not, eh?) but as a middle name, it covers both your moms gracefully.

February 9, 2016 1:18 PM

My cousin just named her baby Irene Bernice after two great-grandmothers, but they call her Ibby as a nickname. 

My kids have middle names that come from our family but first names that simply fit our style and instincts (Declan Valentine and Zoe Elizabeth). We never use my son's middle name, but call my daughter Zoe Liz all the time. 

I think nicknames add nice versatility to older names. I also like the first commenters advice to simply involve your mom and her partner (mom 2?) in your process.

February 9, 2016 3:18 PM

Ibby as a nickname for Ir3ne is adorable! I also really like the name Bernice, but spelled Berenice, as it's how it's spelled in my native language... I wouldn't use them both I think because they share a couple of similar sounds.

Your cousin was very brave and inspired and it's good to know that I'm not the only one out there thinking of naming my baby Ir3ne.

Oh, and your children's names are very cute! I love Valentine for a boy. In my country, Valentina has become fairly common for girls, but not to the point where it's not usable.

By mk
February 9, 2016 3:18 PM

Honor the person you want, not the person your dad wants. This is your baby, not his and they are your moms, not his. Ugh, this kind of stuff makes me so angry.

Irene is a lovely name, by the way.

February 9, 2016 4:13 PM

If you have a boy, maybe the middle name Logan (anagram of Olga) would work? I don't know if Logan would work where you're from. I second the suggestion of Ira for a boy to honour Irene.

February 9, 2016 9:26 PM

Irena is a lovely way to honour one of your mom's, but I also like Irene. And just a suggestion but how about a more modern/pretty name for Olga, like Olivia, which also translates really well.

Olivia Irene has a nice sound to me.

Irena Olive is good too imo :-)

Irena Olga, though both very Russian to my ears, is the most honouring your moms, but the middle name isn't as pretty, and potentially a source of embarrassment for a girl of today, no offence to Olga.

February 9, 2016 10:21 PM

My step-mom Olg@ and I got to spend some quality time together and we got to discussing names. She told me that if she could have had another daughter, she would have named her either Helena or Florentina. The first because she is passionate about the Helen of Troy story and because she and my mom felt like it was the perfect crossing name between the English and Portuguese languages.

The second, because they met each other in a sort of book club/discussion on "Love in the Time of Cholera" which was their favorite book (and was always a source of debate between them... and heated discussions around the dinner table). My moms were literature nerds, particularly when it came to Latin-American literature. Florentina would be after their favorite (and most controversial) character in the book, Florentino Ariza.

I am personally quite fond of Helena as a name, but not sure if enough as to use it as a daughter's name. And Florentina I guess fits in with my love for names ending in ina and ena, but I'm most inclined to use it in the middle spot. Other names she said she likes: Jessamine, Florbela, Dalila, Lilia, Daisy, Cynthia, Yuna, Adele and Nara (not usable since this rhymes with my name). I very much think my mom's choice of names match her sort of hipster, nature-y phase that's going on...Not that I don't like it.

My husband has shared that he's really into the name Philomena lately and that he leans more toward Irena and Irina than Irene, purely due to sound. Thoughts?

February 10, 2016 1:46 AM

Those are some really great choices -- your step-mom has good taste in names! I think that putting either Helena or Florentina into the middle name spot would be terrific - beautiful names, and nicely honoring. I especially like Florentina because it honors both your moms and how they met, which is really nice if you decide that do not wish to use both of their names. On the other hand, Irena Helen (or Ir3n3 Helena) could be qanice combination honoring both (your mom and your stepmom), though, if you and your husband both like the first name enough to use it as a call name.

February 10, 2016 12:01 PM

I agree that Florentina would be a lovely way to acknowledge both your moms. It's a wonderful story, and it sounds like it would have meaningful memories attached for you as well as your step-mom. It also has a lot of sounds in common with Philomena, so perhaps your husband could warm up to it? (Full disclosure: we have a cat named Josephina Philomena, nn Eena, so I'm kind of drawn to combinations like Philomena Florentina or Irena Florentina, even though I realize they're maybe not super-usable on people.)

I also think Ariza sounds very usable as a given or middle name for a girl.

February 10, 2016 12:18 PM

Sounds like I would get on with your moms. :) I third the support of Florentina in the middle spot. What a great way to acknowledge both of them. Irene proabably looks best with Florentina, but since the middle name isn't used much in day to day life it doesn't matter if it's a bit rhymey. My favourite of the three at the moment is probably Irena, just because it gives you the number of syllables you're looking for.

February 13, 2016 2:57 PM

I was reading this thread and loving lots of the names mentioned… and then you got to Florentina and the story behind it, and it was so lovely that I now want to name *my* baby that, too! You have such a great story to go with the name, and it absolutely honours your mums (and I love that book, too). 

February 13, 2016 3:32 PM

Oh wow! That's unbelievable! I'm so glad Florentina is what you were looking for! Wow, this is so awesome it's crazy!

February 16, 2016 9:39 PM

I was just thinking that instead of Florentina for Florentino, how about Florentine or Florentia? I personally like the sound of Irena Florentine or Irina Florentia. But Florentina would be an exciting choice! But Irina Florentina is way too rhymey for my taste, but could suit a whimsical type, depending on what you like. Whatever floats your boat! I think that Irene Florentina works better, in a more serious way. Irina Helena is also not too bad imho, despite the similar endings. Helena is beautiful. Reminds me of beauty, and the fabulous actress Helena Bonham Carter. Which name does your other half prefer?

February 17, 2016 7:37 PM

I love your ideas! At this point we're going with the version of Florentina that will flow best with the first name. I love Helena too (especially associated to the actress who is AMAZING!) My other half as you put it, he studied English Literature, so he really loves literary names, especially the names from Shakespeare and books he reads for his students and our kids.

Our son's middle begins with O- and is the name of a famous Shakespeare character, with a play of the same name. Zizi's middle name is Coraline except with an "a" at the end instead of an "e". It's a nod both to American literature through the Neil Gaiman book that my husband likes very much (I loved the animation film), but is also the name of a Brazilian poet, Cora Coralin* who became famous for her poetry in 1978, at the age of 89.

What do you think of Iris as an alternative to Irene/Irena/Irina?

February 14, 2016 11:40 PM

A mash-up of Olga and Irene could be Green.  Might not be your style, but I really like it.  Maybe goes nicely in the middle, with Florentina or Philomena.

March 22, 2016 10:33 AM

We have named our daughter Irene Florentina!

Thank you everyone for all of the help brainstorming names. Irene is very different than today's fashionable and popular names, for her clunkiness especially, but really it was a name that this time around resonated with us more than Iris or Olga when we met our baby. I pronounce her name the Portuguese way and my husband and his family the standard English way, EYE-reen. I don't mind it at all. When it comes to my father's side of the family, I had to make it clear that my mother are very special and nothing he said would change my mind. So far no complaints. My step-mother was honored through the middle name Florentina, which she chose. She is just so delighted and that really makes me even happier with our choice.

If she were a boy, Irene would probably be Otavio Florentino or Ulysses Balthazar as Balthazar was my mother's last name.

And before I forget, Irene was born on the morning of March 17th and is a beautiful, healthy and very big baby. Her name means peace and I think it suits even more this moment of political turmoil in Brazil. Democracy is at a serious risk and the thing we need most in this world is peace.

Once again thank you!

March 22, 2016 1:27 PM

Congratulations! I remember this thread well and am so glad that Irene Florentina was something you chose and even happier that everyone is pleased or at least keeping any negatives to themselves.

It is a beautiful name and meaning. I agree, as I'm watching the news, that peace is needed everywhere.

March 22, 2016 11:58 PM

I agree completely with everything iel nna had to say here. Your daughter's name is a beautiful, meaningful choice and I think it's so fantastic that everyone is coping graciously with the name choice. More peace in the world, indeed!

March 22, 2016 11:05 PM

I love it! Your daughter has a beautiful name. And yes, the world needs more messages of peace. Boa sorte!

March 22, 2016 11:48 PM

Congratulations, and thank you for letting us know! I think you made a lovely choice: Irene hits the familiar-but-uncommon sweet spot, has never completely fallen out of use and thus isn't likely to become datestamped, and has impeccable family credentials, while Florentina is a gorgeous name made even more so by the story behind it.

March 25, 2016 9:17 PM

Parabéns and congratulations! What a beautiful name for your little one, I love it and I'm so glad you stuck to your guns to honor your mothers.

March 26, 2016 8:36 AM

Yay, congrats! Her name is lovely, as I am sure she is. :) 

March 26, 2016 1:14 PM

Congratulations! Beautiful name!

March 23, 2016 2:29 PM

Good choice !