Hi Duana,

I am a single female physician in her early 30’s - having my first child, a girl. I am still stuck on naming her and since I don't have a partner there is no one to help me come to a solid conclusion. For the longest time when I pictured by daughter I wanted to name her Isabella. I am Russian by blood but obsessed with everything French and I wanted my girl to have an international name -- the kind of name that evokes an image of an intellectual beautiful European girl. Isabella, Isobel, Sabellina...Sable... all so so good. But now it has been hijacked by the masses and I have no alternative back-up that I have been happy with.

I am afraid to go very "Russian" like Olesya because from my personal experience, having a truly "Russian" name invites a lifetime of people mispronouncing and butchering it. We will travel a lot and so I would like the name to be more European sounding...elegant and possibly cool.

Nico (after THE Nico) is something I've thought about but I am worried how that will go with Alexander (the name I have chosen should I eventually have a son, and I am not changing that one no matter how popular it gets). I want a unique cool name that can be said in many languages. I can go vintage (or even super ancient) or super modern - as long as it fits the criteria above. Literary references are even better :)

I am due in September so please please give me some suggestions - I need a critical mind to help me.


Remember those ‘International Coffee’ commercials? The premise, as I remember, is that the POWDERED coffee flavoring makes you remember the international guy who would never be here in Maine or Idaho or wherever these women were drinking their coffees.  “….Jean-Luc! (hysterical giggles)”

The idea that Jean-Luc would never be here is kind of my point (but also an excuse to repeat that commercial from memory). If you want a name that is going to work anywhere, I think you should stop overthinking the international extraction of it, if that makes any sense. The current trend for names that are fashionable, like Isobel/Isabella that you so loved, are able to go anywhere. If this were 20 years ago, I’d caution you against what I consider ‘gymnast names’ – Kelsey, Lindsay, Chelsea – but those aren’t the way you’re going anyway, so don’t overthink the ‘international’ thing.

When you said you were a Francophile, I immediately thought of Claire, and then Clarissa, and then Larissa. Russian influence, super-elegant, and it can go wherever you want it to, especially in places where they might make the ‘I’ more of an ‘e’ sound. Or what about Nadia? True, it kind of makes a mockery of my whole ‘gymnast name’ thing above, but it’s great, short, and works all over the world. Nadine, the French version, is a name I’ve always loved as well.

I love Nico, and I don’t see why not, but your daughter may want a ‘full’ name, whether that’s Nicolette (serviceable, but not my favourite) or Nicodema, or what.  In fact, I love Nicodema, and I heartily endorse it. The reason I suggest this is the reason you’re thinking it doesn’t go with Alexander (and really, let’s take it easy on the hypothetical sibling for a second – you don’t know for sure you’ll have a boy, you know?). Alexander is full and formal, Nico is patently a nickname. I strongly recommend fleshing it out.

But in another contradiction, a nickname for Alexander is Sasha (often Sascha for boys), would you call a daughter Sasha? How about Natasha? Or how about Mathilde? Ottilie, as a reader sent me recently? Genevieve, which is so long-looking and elaborate, but rolls off the tongue quickly and easily? Or, if you want to continue an international ‘where-exactly-are-we-from’ sort of vibe, I’ve always really liked Geneva.

If some of these are too elaborate, consider Sylvie, Simone, Agnes (yes, I’m serious, I think it travels really really well, and is so stylish), Helene, or Anouk.

You’re going to let me know, right?

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