We are expecting girl2 in mid January (actually have the same due date as with girl1, they will be 3 years apart) and we can't find a name we love as much as we love girl1's name. Girl1 is named Lilian Heather (goes by Lily 85% of the time) and she was named after both our grandmothers. She was born in Scotland, we are now living back in Canada, where both women were from and we would really love a Scottish/Celtic name for girl2 to tie both kids to Scotland. Middle name is already decided, it's a one syllable place name, and our last name is a very Scottish 3 syllable name that gets butchered all the time, but we just can't decide on a first name. I was in love with Isla for ages but it's way too popular for us now. We were going to go with Ailsa but after hearing my mother butcher the pronunciation, we were turned off it. We've have tentatively agreed on Annabel but my mum's name is Anne and I wonder if it's too close. Plus girl1 was obsessed with Frozen for a while and the intuitive nickname seems to be Anna and right now she is obsessed with Beauty and the Beast (Belle).

We are both drawn to names that are well known but old fashioned. Nothing insanely popular (Lily is insanely popular but we couldn't name her anything other than Lilian, that woman was my best friend and more like a mother then a grandmother), no creative spellings (again Lilian isn't the conventional spelling but it was how she spelt it) and something somewhat easy to pronounce. We like names that can be shortened, that transition well from baby to adult and names that won't pigeonhole or immediately stereotype a child/woman. We also want something that flows with Lilian but isn't matchy. And something that is distinctly female. If the baby had been a boy he would have been Alasdair McGregor.

Names I love that either my husband is "meh" on or we can't use due to friends and family: Marjorie, Finola, Eilidh, Mairi, Morag, Mina, Willamina, Oona, Imogen, Maeve, Nora.

Is there anything else that we are missing? I know we still have time but January is creeping up on us very fast and I would like to have a name somewhat decided before heading to the hospital unlike last time.

Thank you!


Just a quick spot of love for Lilian Heather before we get to the issue at hand – every now and again I meet a little girl whose parents still have strong ties to Scotland, and who sports ‘Heather’ in her name, and I really love it, especially in that context. I know it’s been maligned, but just want to point out that classics endure, even when pop culture seems to have hijacked them irreparably.

But looking forward, let’s look at the names you love. They’re all of a similar stripe, so I’m not likely to start recommending Charlene or Enid – but I wonder if you have to let up the reins for a minute on your super-tight restriction.

For example, Ailsa – that super beautiful, authentically Scottish, rare and charming name – is not that hard to say. Sure, your mother mispronounced it, but she’ll learn—and so will the millions of people who meet your daughter and hear the name before they see it written. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this as it’s pretty and charming and, even though it’s more rare, it works so well with Lily. 

But it’s not well-known, so if that really becomes an issue, then we move on. Annabel is beautiful, and one of those names that seemed like it was going to be incredibly hipster-popular but then somehow dodged that fate. It’s charming and I wouldn’t worry for a second about Frozen (guys, you have to remember that Anna and Elsa were names before they were characters. It’s okay that real people share those names, nobody’s going to think you were being a copycat). But if I’m being honest, I might think that an Annabel was named to honour her grandmother Anne. I don’t think it’s too close or anything like that, in the sense of them getting confused, but your mother has come up twice in this letter in a not-super-flattering way, so if you don’t want her to get the wrong idea about this particular name, well then be advised.

This leaves us with the list of names your other half doesn’t love, and the knowledge that all your names seem to be I or A names. I am first obligated to suggest Ilse, as in the Scottish name Ilse, as in NOT Isla, but you may feel either that it will be misread and mispronounced (this one I have to give you, it may) or that it’s too much like Elsa, to which I say, well…for all those who once thought Elsa was too weird to be adopted by the masses, you have your answer – or, put another way, there will soon be a burst of Moanas on the scene…

Based on your choices, I wonder if it’s too soon to go to a “new vintage” name like Alana, one of those names that was around when we were young but depending on your experience, never really hit maximum density. Or maybe Anya, or the Gaelic version Aine, fits your bill? Utterly known and easy to pronounce but not what you’d call popular? Or jumping off from Alana, maybe Lena, different enough from Lily that they might sound like a beautiful pair, or from there of course I’m compelled to suggest Nina, because when do I not?

Thinking about unusual ways to pair with Lilian leads me to wonder about  something offbeat but easy like Danica? Maybe Emily is too popular for another 10 or 15 years, but what about Natalie, which almost sounds like Lilian’s palindrome? Lastly, knowing that I’m maybe leaning too far into the Scottish trends of yore, I should point out that names like Josephine are returning, so maybe an Irene or even a Trina is not out of order?

I’m genuinely curious about what you’re going to choose and can’t wait to find out. Let us know!