Hi Duana,

After reading your Name Nerd column today, I decided to write in. I'm expecting a baby girl in August- she is our 3rd, and first girl. My husband and I had no problems naming our sons, Jack and Sam. I know these names aren't unique, but I'm fine with it- I love them both.

This baby though has us both stumped. I love the name Elise, and would use it in a heartbeat, except...it rhymes with our last name. I can't get around that in my head, unfortunately. Other front runners are Claire and Lucy, while I like Tessa and Cara but my husband isn't sold, and he likes Violet but I can't get behind it.

I'm looking for something classic and unfussy, but not too boring? I know my name tastes aren't adventurous, and I'm ok with that...I'm just feeling stuck. Any suggestions you have would be great!


Yeah, this is a bit of a heartbreaker. I like Elise (well, I AM Elise, kind of), and it really fits with your other two choices, which are, as you accurately point out, not adventurous, but stylish.

The reason you’re feeling a bit stuck is that the names you chose for your boys are clean, unfussy, well-known, and—and this is key—they happen to be popular right now. But the girls names you mention, like Claire and Tessa and Lucy, are around, but maybe don’t feel so stalwart and right because they’re not so popular, and the names that are, like Abigail and Mia and Harper, feel frillier than you want, and also much more of-the-moment.

For what it’s worth, I love Lucy and Claire both, and feel the same way you do on Violet. I want to suggest ‘Tess’ as a variation to your husband but have to confess that I sometimes think that name feels unfinished. I’m wondering if other variations might be the answer, though? How about Clara or Lucille? Anna seems to suggest itself here, always so much prettier than Anne, with apologies to L.M. Montgomery, and now you know I can’t get out of this sentence without suggesting Maud(e). It’s short, it’s matter-of-fact, it’s pretty, but not expected. Maybe?

Is Norah on the books? You mentioned Cara, and I know Cora is the trendy name of the moment, but to me, Norah is the lovelier version. My cursor blinks at me as I wonder whether to suggest ‘Eliza’ to you—it’s short and clean and of course, reminiscent of Elise, but it might be a little more decorative than what you want?

[Sidebar: It’s at this point that it may become obvious that there’s a name I’m not suggesting, one that’s well-known and liked but not currently popular. One that would work very well for this child, but that I’m not suggesting. Before you email me all “Hey, how about ____?”, know this: It’s our letter-writer’s name! Sigh…but points if you wondered why I wasn’t mentioning it.]

Hey, what about Esther? I know two adult Esthers, neither really loves her name, but I do, and think it would be so, so cute on a little girl and young woman and, as proven, actual woman. Does it speak to you? I thought about Lana, but it might unintentionally rhyme with Sam. So Lena? Or Lara?

Finally, I have one more suggestion, one that will challenge your assertion that your name choices aren’t adventurous. Jack and Sam are clean and spare, will go anywhere and do anything. A girl’s name that is as compact but powerful, as short but not sugar-sweet, and that proves sophisticated and beautiful names don’t have to be frilly. Would you consider Eve?

While I debate how to best convey a mic drop on the page, would you be so kind as to let me know what you decide?