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March 21, 2019 01:16 PM

All of these choices are lovely.  I especially like Juliette Roisin since it seems like it honors both sides of your family.  The slight style contrast between the two names is pleasing too.

Juliette Rose is my least favorite of this list (although I still like it), because it is very Shakespeare.  My strongest association with the name Juliette is the play "Romeo and Juliet" and the line "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Since Rose would be a middle name, I don't think this is a deal breaker though, and could even be a plus if you are a Shakespeare fan.  Amusingly, Roisin would literally be "a rose by another name," but in this case, I think the reference is subtle enough to add to the fun (like a little naming Easter egg), whereas Rose as a middle name feels a little too "on the nose."

November 30, 2018 09:22 AM

I like a lot of the suggestions above, and I'd like to add another contender from a recent story that is all about a name.  In the last week, the name Abcde (pronounced AB-si-dee) has been making the headlines. This story is much more than simple outrage that a gate agent would mock a five-year-old for her name.  It touches that cultural nerve where modern creative naming traditions collide with traditional expectations. The name Abcde has featured in blog posts here in the past (e.g., January 2012 and January 2015), but it was still unknown to most of the rest of the world until this week.

April 26, 2017 11:40 AM

Thanks, everyone for the great suggestions!  There are so many good ideas, it's going to be hard to choose.  Luckily, for an in-utero name, I can use as many as I want to.

I think my favorites right now, in no particular order are "Meriwether" (which sounds like "merry weather" which is pleasant), Odysseus, Peregrine/Pippin, and Gulliver.  Max is super cute but sounds too much like a real name--which might make it harder to make a switch later--and I'm afraid Nemo might confuse my almost-three-year-old.  She doesn't know I'm pregnant yet, but she is getting very jealous that her friends have baby brothers and sisters and she wants some too!

I'll have to run these by my husband and see if any of them catch his fancy too.

April 20, 2017 07:47 PM

I keep running into dead ends. I haven't been able to find any record of military awards or ribbons for 1935 Caster, although I did find out a few other (unhelpful) things about him--like he went by Dale.  Another Caster I found went by Cass, so apparently the namesake isn't so strong that it has a natural nickname.

April 20, 2017 12:09 PM

1935 Caster's obituary said he was a Command Sergeant Major in the Army--which is the highest enlisted rank.  His job would have been to represent all of the enlisted soldiers in his command to the commanding officer.  I briefly considered whether "Caster D" could have been a military leader/hero of some sort, and some soldiers coming home from the Korean War in 1953 might have chosen to name their sons after him.  I suppose this is still possible, but the 1935 Caster would only have been 18 in 1953--definitely not a Command Sergeant Major yet and probably not influential enough to inspire a lot of namesakes unless he did something really heroic in Korea that saved a lot of lives.

The middle name is the most interesting part of this mystery, I think.  I also looked for evidence that the original D_r_l was a surname adapted to form a middle name (like all of the Robert Lee Surnames floating around the South), but I haven't found any evidence yet of a Caster with a compelling "D" surname on any of the numerous geneology and gravefinding websites that I've checked.  (I don't have an account with any of these websites, so my search capabilities are limited there.)

If the D_r_l name was originally a surname, then it's also reasonable that there might be a spike in the use of that name as a first name too.  Most of the D* names listed on Nancy's blog are already trending up in 1953 and peak in the sixties.  Dell and possibly Derald show a bump in 1953.

Dell is generally trending up before it spikes up in 1953, staying up until 1960 then declining dramatically in the sixties and seventies .

Dell  1948  59

Dell  1949  61

Dell  1950  62

Dell  1951  46

Dell  1952  67

Dell  1953  84

Dell  1954  69

Dell  1955  70

Dell  1956  77

Dell  1957  84

Dell  1958  74

Dell  1959  77

Dell  1960  80

Dell  1961  66

Dell  1962  64

Dell  1963  62

Dell  1964  59

Dell  1965  52

Derald looks to be generally trending down from a high in 1929 before it spikes a little bit in 1953 and again in 1957 before petering out again:

Derald  1948  32

Derald  1949  30

Derald  1950  30

Derald  1951  29

Derald  1952  21

Derald  1953  44

Derald  1954  32

Derald  1955  26

Derald  1956  31

Derald  1957  46

Derald  1958  33

Derald  1959  39

Derald  1960  26


I'm not sure if either of these names are the key to the original inspiration for Caster. If so, Dell seems like the more likely candidate.  It potentially explains the three or so people named Casterdell that I've found, but not the consistency in spelling for "Caster" and inconsistency in the D middle name.

April 20, 2017 07:59 AM

Lucubratrix, thanks for sharing this name mystery!  I'm thoroughly enjoying this name-sleuthing thread.

I don't have much to add, but I did find a "Caster Dale" that was born in 1935 (before Caster showed up on the SSN list).  His obituary lists a son named "Caster D. Jr" who plausibly could have been born between 1953 and 1956.  

The similarity of Caster Sr's name to all of the 1950s babies could just be a coincidence, or it could suggest the Caster D_r_l combo goes back a few decades, with some spike in prominence in the early 1950s.


I'm most familiar with the name "Mara" from the Biblical story of Ruth where Naomi which  says "Don’t call me Naomi," she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter."  I'm neither a philologist nor a Hebrew expert (though I love the great tidbits that Miriam and others provide on here about name derivations), but this looks like a clear link between "Mara" and "bitter" to me.  I've always assumed (wrongly perhaps) that baby name books got the meaning for the Mary-family of names from Mara.  Once I learned that Mary probably has an alternate etymology, I've imagined (wrongly perhaps) that Mara is an unrelated sound-alike name.  I'd be delighted to be educated differently if I'm wrong though.

That said, I agree with everyone else that a name's "meaning" has little impact on future happiness--unless that name meaning is readily obvious and inescapable every time the name is used.  For example, a child named "Hitler" or "Despair" would probably come to resent his name.  In the case of Hitler, the problem isn't the original derivation but the what the name has come to mean to modern ears.  In the case of Despair, the problem is the meaning of the word itself.

Mara just sounds like a name.  It's historical use (meaning bitter or otherwise) is not at the forefront of people's minds when they use the name--at most it is a curiosity.  At some point growing up, I read in a baby-naming book* that my middle name (from the Mary family) meant "bitter."  I asked my Mom why she gave me a name meaning bitter.  She pointed out to me that her Mom (my grandmother) gave her two names the Mary family (first and middle).  (Neither of us know if Granny meant to do that on purpose or not.  Her first name doesn't sound like it comes from the Mary family.)  We had a laugh and moved on.  No lives ruined.

Far more important is the significance of your daughter's name for you.  What you tell her about why you loved her name and gave it to her can imbue her with more than enough pride in her name to overwhelm any external "meanings" that are largely unknown by larger population.  If you are choosing between two equally loved names, then name derivation can be a good tie-breaker, but I wouldn't use it to rule out a favorite that works for your family in every other way.

*Many thanks to those on these boards that have opened my eyes over the years to the massive inaccuracies in baby naming books.

July 12, 2016 03:28 PM
In Response to Last-minute meltdown

Just in case, I should add that there is a difference between your Mom calling your daughter H3ura or H3ura-Ivy because that is what she is most comfortable with and your mom call her H3ura or H3ura-Ivy to passive-aggressively make you feel bad for not doing what she wants (or what she expected). 

In the first case, she just can't mentally adapt (culturally or otherwise) to calling a child a name that is not on her birth certificate or a traditional (in her mind) nickname of the birth certificate name.  If she likes H3ura, then it's not a problem because you like H3ura too, right? 

In the second case, every time she says your daughter's name, she sends thought daggers of guilt for what you've done to her and your daughter because you didn't give her the name your Mom preferred.  That's not okay.

July 12, 2016 03:18 PM
In Response to Last-minute meltdown

Congratulations on nearing the end of your pregnancy!  I hope your labor and delivery go as smoothly as possible, and the doctors respect your wishes to avoid an induction.  I am sorry about the trouble your mom is giving you—it’s a rotten time for it.  I’m agree with the rest—your mom already had a chance to name her child/children, and now it’s your turn.  She doesn’t have to like your choice, but it’s not okay for her to passively-aggressively try to guilt you into doing it her way.

I love your H3ura/Ivy solution to cross-cultural naming and I think you should keep to what you had planned.  Calling your daughter H3ura-Ivy in the hope that she will pick one seems counterproductive to me:  it’s like expecting a Rosemary or an Anna-Sofia to choose to go by Mary or Anna.  She’s likely to think the double-barreled name is her name.  If you want her to pick one (or to go by both in different circumstances) I think your original plan is perfect—with perhaps one small tweak.

One anecdote that may encourage you:  my daughter’s name is Eleanor and her nickname is Nell.  I suspect, from a two-year-old’s perspective, these two names might as well be as different as H3ura and Ivy.  We originally intended for her to go by Nell most of the time, but when we signed her up for daycare, the form asked for first name and last name but did not have a place to put “goes by.”  So, when she showed up to daycare her first day (as a six-week-old) they called her Eleanor.  Even though we filled out the daily sheets (how she slept, how she ate that morning, etc.) with Nell (apparently causing them some confusion—I’m continually surprised by how few people know that Nell is the traditional nickname for Eleanor), they continued to call her Eleanor.  We didn’t insist because we like the name Eleanor and were really okay with them using it.  Now all of her teachers and friends at school call her Eleanor, though it typically comes out as "Nanor" in the toddler crowd.  Most everyone else we introduce her to (family, friends, church, etc.) call her Nell.

I went through a period wondering if having two names would confuse her, but she has adapted just fine.  If we ask her where Eleanor is, she’ll point to herself (or to a picture of herself).  She does the exact same if we ask her where Nell is.  She totally gets that they are both her names, without us ever having to explain it to her.  It probably helps that we address her as Eleanor about half of the time and as Nell the rest (in addition to all the usual endearments like “Sweetheart” that have nothing at all to do with her name). 

When we introduce her to new people (or when people notice that we call her two different things and ask) we tell them that her name is Eleanor but we mostly call her Nell.  Then we reassure them that both options are correct and we (her parents) use both names regularly.  (I.e., they shouldn’t be embarrassed if they’ve been calling her Eleanor and they hear someone else calling her Nell.)

Side note:  I’ve wondered about other’s experiences with kids with part-time nicknames.  I don’t think the fact that we use two names for our daughter would be as comment-worthy if people were more familiar with Nell as a nickname for Eleanor—e.g., an Elizabeth that is sometimes called Liz or a Michael that also goes by Mike.

Long story short—my daughter’s situation is similar (in some ways) to what you want for your daughter.  She goes by two variants of one name, the relationship between the variants is not obvious to many people, and the use of each variant is somewhat situational (e.g., family vs. daycare).  My daughter has adapted well (so far—she’s only two) and doesn’t need to be called Nell-Eleanor to figure out that they are both her name. 

You might find your mom a little easier to deal with if you embrace the position that both H3ura and Ivy are correct, and your mom can call her whichever she prefers.  If you always call her Ivy around your family, most of them will probably adapt to calling her Ivy too.  Your mom may go along or not—and you can decide that it doesn’t matter which she calls her.  You can object to H3ura-Ivy as a call name, if you think that will confuse your daughter into thinking she has a double-barreled name, but if your mom is the only one that uses it, I doubt even that would be a problem.  I definitely think "H3ura-Ivy" doesn't belong on the birth certificate unless you and your partner actively want that (and aren't just caving to Mom).

June 20, 2016 12:25 PM

Elizabeth/Elisabeth - (mostly copied from Bess, Bessie, Beth, Betsy, Bette, Bettie, Betty, Buffy, Elisa, Eliza, Ella, Elle, Ellie/Elly, Elsa, Elsie, Elyse, Libbie/Libby, Liddy, Lilian, Liliana, Lilibet, Lilibeth, Lillia, Lillian, Lilliana, Lisa, Lise, Liz, Liza, Lizbeth, Lizette, Lizzie/Lizzy,
Isabelle - Izzy, Belle, Bella, Isa/Iza, Ibbie/Ibby, Libby,
Charlotte - Lottie, Charlie, Carla, Carly, Char/Shar, Chaz, Lotte, Tottie
Katherine - Kate, Kit, Kitty, Kathy, Rin/Wren, Kay, Kaylee (lots of spellings)

Juliette - Julie, Jules, Li/Lee/Leigh, Jewel/Jule, Etta, Ettie,
Julianna - Julie, Jules, Jule/Jewel, Ann, Anna, Annie, Lianna, June
Henrietta - Etta, Ettie, Hattie, Hettie, Nettie
Eleanor/Elinor - Nell, Nelly/Nellie, Elle, Ella, Ellie, Nora, Lenore, Lenora, Leni,
Gabrielle - Gabby, Elle, Ellie, Bree, Briella, Brielle
Adelaide - Addy, Ada, Leia, Della
Jacqueline - Jackie/Jacqui, Jaci, Lynn, Jaclyn
Cassandra - Cassie, Sandy, Sandra, Cass
Caroline - Carrie, Carol, Callie, Lynn, Line, Rolley
Rosemary - Rose, Rosie, Romey/Romy, Roxie, Zoe, any of the mary nicknames
Penelope - Penny, Nell, Pip, Pippa, Elle, Ellie
Tabitha - Tabby, Tibby, Bitty, Bitha
Michaela - Mickey, Kayla, Kay, Kaylie,
Madeleine - Maddy/Maddy, Lena, Leni
Josephine - Jo, Josie, Joey, Effie, Posy/Posie, Jody, Fina, Sophie
Anastasia - Ann, Anna, Annie, Stacy, Anya, Sasha, Stasia, Tasha, Tacie, Tasia, Asia, Nadia, Nastia

January 13, 2016 12:17 PM

Since I named my daughter Eleanor (nn Nell), I definitely like Nora Louise, and I think it ticks off a lot of your want list.  If you like the idea of using a nickname, then I would suggest picking a longer version like Eleanor or Lenora and using Nora as a nickname.  I do think Nora works well as a name in its own right though, so it doesn't require a nickname if you prefer Nora by itself.

I definitely prefer Nora spelled without an "H."  Norah feels a bit like an affectation; as if the name is trying to mimic the Biblical style of classics like Hannah and Sarah, without actually being Biblical.  (I'll defer to the experts on where the "ah" ending comes from—I assume it largely comes from translating Hebrew names to English.)

Since you seem to prefer vintage names, I did a search for US girls' names that were a) in the top 250 in 2014; b) not in the top 10 in 2014; and c) were given to at least 0.026% percent of girls in at least one year between 1880 and 1920.  (0.026% was Ava's highest popularity during that period.)

There were quite a few names that made the cut.

These are the "timeless" names (their popularity never drops below 0.026% in any year between 1880 and 2014): Alice Amy Anna Caroline Catherine Cecilia Elizabeth Esther Eva Evelyn Grace Julia Katherine Lillian Lydia Margaret Maria Mary Naomi Nora Rachel Rebecca Rose Ruby Sara Sarah Victoria

These are the "vintage" names (their popularity drops below 0.026% some time after 1920): Adeline Amelia Angela Angelina Annabelle Audrey Bella Callie Chloe Claire Clara Cora Daisy Eleanor Elise Eliza Ella Ellie Genevieve Georgia Gracie Hannah Hazel Hope Iris Isabel Isabelle Ivy Jacqueline Josephine Kate Leah Leila Lila Lilly Lily Lola Lucy Madeline Madelyn Maggie Melissa Molly Natalie Sadie Savannah Sophie Stella Stephanie Violet Vivian

From the first group, I like Evelyn, Nora, Ruby and Victoria to go with Louise and Clyde.  Victoria could easily have the nickname Vivi and I think Ruby Lou is very cute.

From the second group, I like Eleanor, Eliza, Georgia, and Hazel to go with Louise and Clyde.  (I know you already rejected Genevieve and Vivian/Vivienne.)

Of course, I like all of your original choices too (Ava, Evelyn, and Olivia).  I think you are right to try on a name at a time for a day or two.

January 11, 2016 11:12 AM

I am very sympathetic to your struggles to make a decision.  I think this is a case where you have too many really good choices, so picking one necessarily means you have to give up the qualities that make the other choices great picks too.  I once faced a similarly difficult choice between three really good options (in this case, I was blessed with three great job offers) and in my case, tossing a coin just made the opportunity cost more painful.

Others have weighed in on the actual name choices themselves, so I won't do that except to cast another vote for Ava Louise and to say that the repeated "L" in Evelyn Louise and Olivia Louise adds to the combination rather than takes away.  I think L-sounds can repeat easily without a problem (e.g., Lily, Lillian, Lola, Laila, Loralei, Luellen). Maybe searching for "Ava name art" or "Ava name calligraphy" on Google will help you to see Ava written out in a more positive light.

I don't think you are "overreacting" to how the name Ava looks in terms of how its length bugs you.  You might be overreacting if it bothers you because you think  other people see a three-letter name the same way.  The popularity of short names like Ava, Mia, and Zoe suggest that many (probably most) people don't think three letters is a problem.  In short, there isn't anything wrong with preferring a longer name, but there might be something (objectively) wrong in assuming everyone else does too.  Recognizing the source of your annoyance with Ava might help you identify whether it's really a deal-breaker for you.  The same applies to how you think about the -lyn ending and Olivia's popularity.

I will say that, in my case, while I was pregnant, the thought of introducing my daughter was mostly about introducing her name (and hoping for pleased reactions).  Once she was born, however, she became less of a "concept with a name" and more of a person I loved with her own face and personality; introducing her became more about introducing her and not her name.  (This is a forum filled with name enthusiasts though, so my experience may not be typical.)  For comparison, it may help to think about how you introduce your husband, someone else you (hopefully) love very much--how much does his name affect your experience?

I wonder if it will help you to think about talking to your daughter about her name when she is ten years old (say).  When she wants to learn why she has her name, and what her name could have been, how do you want the conversation to go? 

"I named you Ava because the name just rolls off my tongue and I loved to imagine calling you my sweet Ava Lou.  I thought about naming you Olivia or Evelyn, but Olivia was too popular, and while I thought Evie was a sweet name, I just couldn't fall in love with the -lyn ending."

Or "I named you Evelyn because Evie is cute, unique, and Evelyn looks beautiful when it's written out in full.  Ava just felt too short, and Olivia just felt too popular."

Or "I have loved the name Olivia since I was a teenager, and when it came down to it, I just couldn't give you any other name.  I also considered Ava and Evelyn so your name could be a little less common, but Olivia was just too beautiful to pass up." 

Of course, you can substitute in the story and justifications you think is the most appropriate.  Do any of these speak to you?  Which do you think will help your daughter love her name the most?


January 7, 2016 05:26 PM

I think Draco would be a hard name to live with, especially since there is only one really strong association with that name.  Hermione is both a very admirable character in the Harry Potter series, and a name with Shakespearian connotations (at least for some).  Also, it's hard for me to imagine a Draco surviving through middle school without being called "Malfoy" or "Ferret" at least a few times, since these are both names the character is regularly called in the books.  


A lot of the rest of the names you mentioned seem to have an epic quality.  Here are some other names that might work for you.  (Many of these are drawn from a list I found online of "epic boys names." I didn't look up their backgrounds, so it's possible some of them may have even more problematic associations than Draco does.)


Apollo, Apollos, Corbin, Cole, Nico, Otto, Otis, Orrin, Osiris, Osias, Rico, Marco, Homer, Tobias, Wilco, Roman, Philo, Jacoby, Griffin, Godric, Fawkes, Cornelius, Cato, Bruno, Atlas, Aurelius, Ambrose, and Arrow



December 31, 2015 01:55 PM

I think Lydia is a great name to go with the rest of your set.  Of the middle names you listed, Lydia Rosalind is my favorite because of the tribute to your great grandmother.  (I like Lydia Rose even better.)

I don't think you need to keep looking for first names, but some other names I tend to think of in that same general underused Biblical category are Joanna, Tabitha, and Bethany (though this last is a place-name).  You might also be interested in Lydda.  It's a Biblical placename (mentioned in Acts 9) that sounds very similar to Lydia.  I know a couple whose oldest daughter goes by Lydda [virtue name] as a double-barrel call name.  It sounds very similar to Lydda Faith.

December 11, 2015 03:01 PM

I'm thrilled to bits that I might have helped you find the right nickname!


Depending on your accent and where you are from, you should be aware that people might confuse Len with Lynn.  In my accent, I would pronounce them the same, but I am pen/pin merged.  I don't think this should reduce your enthusiasm for the name, especially for a nickname, but I do think you should at least be prepared for the possibility.  (I don't think there is likely to be similar confusion for Lenny, though, since there isn't a simarly pronounced Lynny that I know of.)

December 3, 2015 12:42 PM

The traditional nickname for Eleanor is Nell or Nelly (from the medieval endearment "mine El" which sounds like "my Nell").  Nell is my daughter Eleanor's nickname, and I love that it's classic, friendly, and feels right on a small child or a grown woman.  I also love Nell's derivation; it's basically a nickname with an endearment built in. (I will occassionally call my daughter "mine Eleanor" too.)  Nell also feels a bit timeless to me--I wouldn't be surprised to meet a Nell of any age, but it also fits in well stylistically with the Ellies, Ellas, Belles, Isabels, etc. on the playground.

If you  like Charlie, how about Lenny (from Lenore or Lena)?  I think Nora is the most popular nickname for young Eleanors today and is actually more popular than Eleanor as a given name.  (6,702 girls were named Nora or Norah last year, compared to 3,704 Eleanors.)

Lily from Eleanor does feel like a stretch to me, but I think it's doable if you love it.  While I wouldn't pick it as a nickname for my daughter, I would get over it very quickly if I met another Eleanor nicknamed Lily and wouldn't mind at all if my daughter decided to use it as a call name when she's older.

Others have better suggestions for Beatrice, but I'll add Triss, Trissa, Bia, and Tree in case they suit your taste.






November 18, 2015 11:12 AM

I would also like to cast a vote for Ava Louise nn Ava Lou, because I think it's darling.  I don't think the shortness of it is a problem at all--it's short in letters but not in syllables or sounds.  I this case, I think the shortness of Ava and Ava Lou (with you last name) is more of an benefit than a detriment.  It will be easier for your daughter to learn how to spell, easy for others to recognize, and easy to fit on nametags and labels. I have a similarly short name (a five-letter, two syllable first name and a one-syllable four-letter last name) and I've never had issues with it's length.

Ava has some fun characteristics for a girl to play with too: it's a palindrome, and the shape of the letters lends itself well to some interesting logos.  (Try drawing AVA where the right stroke of the first A and the left stroke of the second A make up the V.  It looks like a mountain range!  You can even add in Lou by drawing a giant L around it to make a "frame" and the O can be a sun.  I'm not sure yet how the U would fit in, maybe as a cloud, bird, or crescent moon.)  These characteristics (palindromes, logos, etc.) aren't essential for a good name, but it can help a little girl learn to love one.

In terms of popularity, I think Ava is a name that might feel more popular than it actually is.  Notwithstanding the fact that popular names today are much less popular than the popular names were a few decades ago, I still see the name every year on the Top-10 list. So even though I haven't actually met an Ava yet, the name still feels familiar because I keep seeing it... but on a list instead of on a child.  I think this can make it harder to internalize the true popularity of the name.  That said, I don't think popularity is necessarily a bad thing.  It means the name is well-loved by many. 

I also think you should avoid using Vivienne.  While your friend doesn't own it, you could end up robbing her of the joy of it (or her desire to use it).  I don't think it's worth risking a friendship for the the sake of a baby name, especially when you already have one.  (It would be different if you had independently considered it and decided you love it before she told you about her plans to use it.  Then you could have said that it was one you were seriously considering too--neither of you would have "prior claim" in that case, at least in an emotional sense.)  I personally wouldn't care for the potential spelling and pronunciation challenges of Vivienne (it's too close to Vivian).

It might help to make sure you aren't second guessing Ava because of the opportunity cost (i.e., using one name means you have to give up use another).  In my experience, it's a lot easier to be happy with an "okay" choice with lots of unappealing alternatives than an "outstanding" choice with lots of similarly great alternatives, even though the outstanding choice might be objectively better.  If this is the case, it may help to remind yourself that Ava is a great name, and you and your family love it for a reason.  Falling in love with Vivienne doesn't make Ava any less of a great name, it just makes it easier to notice the qualities that the name Vivienne has that Ava doesn't.

If you are still interested in other names, Avril is another one you might consider.  It's French like Vivienne and could be shortened to Ava.  Others that could lend themselves to Ava as a nickname: Octavia, Maven, Mavis, Aviva, Avila, Evana, and Avonna.  Some other names inspired by the names you like are Vanessa, Violet, Sylvia, Ada, Ivy, Adelaide, Veronica, and Victoria.



November 13, 2015 12:25 PM

"Great list of floral girl's names" technically suggests there is one "floral girl" (I'm envisioning a girl wearing a lot of flowers) with many names that are about to be listed.  It should say "girls' names" or "girl names."

In practice, however, the apostrophe-S construct seems to be so ingrained that people use it when grammar rules suggest that they shouldn't.  Your example is probably a special case of the greengrocers' apostrophe.  It's considered wrong now, but in another 100 years, the use of the greengrocer apostrophe may be so common that it will be considered okay.  (Compare, for example, the second definition of "literally" in the Meriam-Webster Dictionary which is the opposite of the traditional definition of literally:  "in effectvirtually <will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins>.")

In short, the safest option is to write "girl's names" or "girl names."  "Girl's names" is technically incorrect (for now), but most people probably wouldn't notice.

November 13, 2015 11:37 AM

I think this is a case where there are multiple ways to correctly* say the same thing. For example, I believe all of these sentences are gramatically correct:

I am looking for girls' names that start with A.

I am looking for a girl's name that starts with A.

I like that girl's name, and I like those girls' names.

I like girl names more than boy names.

Beth a.k.a. Libby has two names; I like that girl's names.  (Better phrased as "I like both of her names.")

They have the same name; those girls' name is Ava.  (Better phrased as "Their name is Ava" or "Their names are both Ava.")


I think "girls' names" and "girl names" are interchangeable and refer to the broad category of names traditionally used by females.  "Girl's" should be used when you are talking about one person or one name specifically.  "Girls' name" is appropriate in the rare case where you are talking about multiple girls who have the same name.

For example, in this sentence "I am looking for ___ for my daughter that start with A" I would use either "girls' names" or "girl names" in the blank but not "girl's names" because it is referirng to the category of names that start with A (from which you would pick one for your daughter).


I also think about these things way too much.


*By "correct" I mean in terms of standard, prescribed English grammar like you might find in a style guide.  What is correct according to descriptive linguistics (how people actually use the language) may be quite different. 


November 11, 2015 01:46 PM
In Response to Hester: disaster?

I don't immediately associate the name Hester with the novel, largely because I didn't remember the character's name until I read your post.  Importantly, it's a reference a little Hester probably wouldn't understand until she is in high school, giving you a lot of time to teach her reasons to love her name. 

Personally, I like the name Esther better. It doesn't sound especially Jewish, Christian, or racial and wouldn't feel any cognitive dissonance to find it on a non-Judeochristian ambiguous Eurasian.

Some other names you could consider are Hestia (sounds alike, but different derivation) or Stella (sounds different, but means star like Esther and Hester).