Hello! I’m expecting a baby girl. We already have two boys - Miles and Jacob. 

We are a mixed-race family, and I’d like to honour our heritages, but I’m also leaning toward simple names - easy to spell and pronounce. We will use my late grandmother’s name, Margit (pronounced Mar-geet), for the middle name. Last name is one syllable with an “n” sound to start.

My husband is very particular with names and doesn’t offer many suggestions, so for our first two kids, I gave into his top choices. I still love one kid’s name, but with the other kid, I had some regrets about the name after the fact – but it’s his name! 

For this baby, my husband’s top choices are Norah (we wouldn’t use Persian pronunciation Noo-rah, but it could be used by the grandparents if they wanted) or Farah (I prefer Persian pronunciation of “Fah-ra”, although my husband would use “Fair-ah”), followed by Nina or Maya. He is open to Florence (nickname Flo) and Frances, but isn’t a huge fan of those final names. I‘m leaning toward Norah, because I’m concerned that the different pronunciations of Farah would be confusing.

We like the 5 letter spelling with “h” on the end (like Norah Jones), and it balances nicely with our 5 letter boys’ names. I’m worried though that people would be confused about spelling it with an “h”, that starting first and last name with “n” sound isn’t the best (too sing-songy?), and that Norah isn’t as professional on a resume as Eleanor (nickname “Norah”) might be. 

My husband doesn’t mind the name Eleanor, but doesn’t love it. I feel like Eleanor goes well with our last name, but then is Norah with an “h” a strange nickname compared to no “h”?

I am also into the names Margaret (if we chose a different middle name), Hillary, Sara (pronounced Sah-ra) and Frances, but none of those are real contenders. I prefer strong, adult names over anything cutesy.

Thank you in advance,



You know, S, you’re another relatively unique letter writer for me. It’s true that I definitely get letters from people who are running into problems with a third (or later) name, or with people who are faced with naming a child of the opposite sex than they’d been expecting. 

But I don’t usually receive them from someone whose choices seem so organized and clearly thought out, someone who’s got a lot of ideas and rationale. You have a lot of great choices, S,  but what I’m not sure I’m hearing here is a name that you love. 

Maybe you’re just protecting yourself, or your name choices, but I don’t see any insurmountable issues. Norah is a great, strong, and much-admired name, with or without the final ‘h’ (though trends these days definitely lean toward including it). As for the first and last name beginning with the same sound? Look, it’s not for everyone, but it’s personal choice. It certainly hasn’t limited Amy Adams, Marissa Mayer, Janet Jackson, Ryan Reynolds or Michael Moore (and, you know, many other people we don’t hear about in the news.) Same applies for Nina, though you might find that name is too n-heavy when combined with your last. 

There’s also no world in which ‘Norah’ seems less professional on a resume than ‘Eleanor’ – what I can’t tell, though, is whether you actually prefer Eleanor and this is a way you can have your cake and eat it too? The only caution I have, I think, is that Norah for Eleanor is an unusual (but not unheard of) nickname, so you’ll have to tell people deliberately so they don’t assume it’s Ellie or Ella. 

How does that make you feel? Are you more or less excited about Norah now? 

Where Farah is concerned, if I saw it on the page, I’d assume that ‘Farrah’ is meant to be pronounced ‘FAIR-ah’, and that the single ‘r’ indicated Far-ah – but honestly, like the pronunciation of Sara that you prefer, there’s nothing confusing about it, truly. People will hear it once, maybe need one more reminder to process it… and then it’ll be a non-issue after that. 

If I did have a note about Farah, though, I’d say that it maybe seems a bit more weighted towards emphasizing a cultural heritage than Miles and Jacob do, and maybe feels less steeped in being ‘traditional’, or, to use your words, ‘strong and adult’, instead it strikes me as seeming a bit ethereal and romantic. 

That doesn’t mean anything, and isn’t a reason not to choose it either, except that you may find people ask ‘so… why Farah?’ in a way they never did with your sons. Which, again – so what? But if you’re truly worried about which choice to make, these are other perspectives that might make one name more preferable than another… 

…is there one? Have you found the name that is your secret passion? 

I’m wondering if it’s Florence, or Frances. I wonder whether those are the names you truly love but think you can’t use for some reason. Or whether you really love Margaret but think your middle name choice prohibits it? (Could you name her Margaret but call her Margit?) 

Other names that seem like they might strike you the right way are Claire (or Clara, for those five letters) Helen, Esther, or Adele. It's not that any are better than the names you’ve chosen, especially when compared to your current choices , it’s just that I’m looking for the one that makes your eyes light up, and – electronic communication notwithstanding – I’m not sure I’ve seen it yet. I want you to love the name, as much as, or more than, your first two children’s. You’re allowed to break any self-imposed rules to get there. If you weren’t thinking about resumes or ‘confusion’ about pronunciation or the number of letters, what would you choose? Who would your daughter be if you had all the choices in the world? 

…because you do! 

Let us know!