Duana Names: Inspiring Women, in Two Parts

July 6, 2015 17:36:17 Posted at July 6, 2015 17:36:17
Duana Posted by Duana

Dear Duana,

I am expecting girl #3 and having trouble settling on a name.

Our older daughter is Chora, and our younger is Edith ("Edie"). We want to name our daughter after a female figure she can admire. For us that means someone courageous and whose courage is tied to her faith (for us, Catholic or more broadly Christian). Edie, for example, is named after Edith Stein. I love the name Simone (after Simone Weil), whom we could call Mona, but I worry that "Simone" sounds too French next to the English-sounding Chora and Edith. My husband loves the name Dorothy (after Dorothy Day), but I'm concerned that's too close to Chora--though Dot is a super-cute kid's nickname. We also both like the name Adele/Adela (saint's name), with the nickname Della, though it's a bit popular for me. None of these names has been ruled out, but none has overcome our reservations, either. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these names and suggestion for others.

(Actually, one name has been ruled out: Julian/Juliana--originally after Julian of Norwich, but I realized that I am in real danger of having a Downton Abbey thing going on here so NO Julian.)


An update came in: 

(We're still in need of help! Even getting desperate enough to axe our "admirable woman" criterion to entertain options that seem to fit, like Muriel, Sylvia, Lydia, etc.--though I really hope we don't have to do that.)


So you’ve decided to have some inspiring women.

I’m being silly but I don’t think your name choices are. I think they’re wonderful. I sense too that you’re looking for names that, while they fit into your structure of inspiring women, also feel somewhat contemporary today. I will freely admit that courage in Catholic & Christian faith is not strictly speaking my area of expertise, but I think that others will share your admiration for these women and also have used the name. 

On first glance, I don’t share your concerns about Simone. Edith to me has always had a French air – perhaps because of Edith Piaf – and Chora doesn’t have an immediate geographic tie for me. So I think Simone would be beautiful. Dorothy does sound a little rhyme-y with Chora, but how about Dorothea? You can nickname her Thea and still honor Dorothy Day while not rhyming with Chora. Adele doesn’t strike me as popular, but if you went with Addie, rather than Della, then yes, you might run into some Adelaides who share her nickname.

There are many women who, while not Christian scholars, invoke their Christianity as abolitionists and suffragettes. Angelina Grimke, Nellie Letitia McClung. I am skipping over many many noble and accomplished women named Sarah and Elizabeth because that doesn’t seem like what you’re looking for, but if you’re reading this and your name is Sarah, know that your name boasts an accomplished history. Along these socio-political lines, specifically around slavery, Harriet is also an honorable name, whether you’re thinking of Beecher Stowe or Tubman.

If none of these are right, there are of course all the saints’ names and other biblical women. Lydia of Thyatira, a saint in several denominations, and St. Sylvia (invoked by pregnant women for safe delivery) and there’s a St. Estelle, which I think works well here, especially as she’s considered the patron saint of young Christian girls, and there’s of course St. Phoebe. I have always had a soft spot for Phoebe and think Chora, Edith, and Phoebe might suit your purposes nicely.

Let me know! Especially given what’s coming next

And, in a move that not everyone does but that I totally encourage you all to do, a woman has come back for round two after her initial letter, “Fun with Syllables”:

Dear Duana,

Can you give me your opinion on the name Georgia? I think I like it but it feels like a bold choice and I don't know if I am brave enough to go that road. But it is the name I keep coming back to.

I wrote you earlier about picking a girls name for Beatrice and Annabelle's sister (if we have a girl in July). We like your suggestion of Eleanor but I keep going back to Georgia and would love your opinion on that name.


So way back when I began this column I often wrote about who I thought a person bearing a name might be. That became not always relevant but for our purposes, here…

I think a Georgia seems intrinsically confident. She always strikes me as someone who is on the loud side but doesn’t use that power for anything but good. She’s the kind of person who might be the smallest but simultaneously the most powerful person in the room. Georgias always seem, maybe in opposition to the ‘soft southern belle’ image, to be strong and forthright and absolutely no-nonsense. I cannot see Georgia being a waffler. That’s just me. I have different impressions of Georgina and the becoming-more-common Georgiana, but I think a Georgia is strong and energetic and has absolutely no time to waste on people who don’t get it. So in that way I guess it’s a bold choice because she’s a bold person. But I don’t see it as being out there or crazy.

Does that help? Definitely let me know!

A note to name-nerd letter writers,

I love getting your letters. In order to give them the best chance of being answered in a timely fashion, could I please trouble you to include the due date in the subject line of your email? Also, please send only one email – duplicates are deleted and may result in your email not being answered. Thanks!

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