Our unicorn babe Penelope is getting a sibling in late June and we need name help. If it's a boy, we will name him either Nicholas or Sebastian, middle name Howard (family name). The girl names are proving to be a bit more problematic. 

I was trying to lean in hard to Greek names to complement Penelope but there are very few female Greek names that I love and the ones that I do are too similar sounding to Penelope (Persephone, Calliope). For the most part, I tend to prefer longer, more romantic names - I think they will pair well with my husband's hard-one syllable last name (sounds similar to Scott). My husband generally does not offer any names; just vetoes my suggestions.

We both really like Anastasia and, weirdly, it's been suggested independently by both sets of grandparents. Here's the catch - my niece's name is Anna and Anastasia feels too similar (although no one else seems to think this is a problem). Longer names that I like but are off the list as first names because they belong to living first degree relatives: Katherine, Julianna, Caroline, Elizabeth, Margaret. I also don't like Josephine although I'm not sure why.

I am also finding myself drawn to shorter, similar names Lena, Mena, Nina. Husband has nixed Mena but is okay with the others. I recognize that any of these are acceptable names in themselves, but I would prefer to have these as nicknames (I know how you feel about planning nicknames, i.e. it can't be done, and as someone who has gone by a nickname my whole life, I will respectfully disagree). So, are there longer forms of "Lena" or "Nina" that I can consider? Note Carolina, Evangelina, and Helena are not options for Lena. We also like Nora but a good friend of mine is naming her little girl that and we won't go there. 

Another potential contender is Louisa; but then we would have Louisa & Penny. It's just too Armand Gamache fanclub, right?

Middle name will be one of the family names above, Frances or Mary.  

You sold us on Penelope. I know you will strike gold twice :) Thanks!!!


Hello! No pressure on striking gold twice, huh? 

The great news is, of course, that you like awesome names and that your style is super, super clear, especially across genders. I do hear from a lot of people who will be like, “We want to call her Araminta or Fionnula, but him Jack (Jackson is too fancy, lol)”.  But what I love is that Nicholas or Sebastian (or Bartholomew or Nathaniel or Frederick, just in case you need a few suggestions) are right in line with your current style – and so your girl’s name task is gonna be easier as long as you stick to what you love. 

First of all, I too love Greek names, especially for girls and women, but I will admit that my favourite, Daphne, is too short for your style, and also you might also not love the matching –e sounds at the end. I can offer you a few more – Desdemona or Hermione or Pandora are all favourites of mine (shout out to anyone who immediately thinks of Adrian Mole!) and I’d love any of them in your family, especially with a short, ‘Scott’-esque last name. 

But I’m waylaid because Anastasia is SO WONDERFUL. You know it is. It’s beautiful and perfect and it can be so SO many things. First of all, to get really deep into name semantics, I think it would be different if your niece’s name was ‘Ana’. I know, but stay with me. In my experience, and in one of the few times I’ll admit to being wrong, when I first encountered the name, via Anastasia Krupnik (GOD I LOVE HER) and as a direct result of Stacey McGill, I always assumed the name was pronounced “AnnaStaceyA”. Which, frankly, is still a great name. 

But much more often, I find, people pronounce it “AhhnaSTAYja”, which yes, has a passing resemblance to Anna, and obviously similar roots, but is distinctly a different name. Obviously in this case you might not go with Ana as a nickname – and especially with a glorious name like this I don’t think you need one, necessarily -- but Stacey or Asia or Tasia are all there for you. In particular, based on your other name thoughts below, you might like the ever-intriguing Anya, which looks way more similar to Anna than it sounds. 

Now on to those other short forms. I understand Mena’s out of the running, but I submit for you and your husband the wonderful Wilhelmina and Filomena just as food for thought. As for your other choices – of course you can get to Lena (or Lina) from Carolina, or from Magdalena, or Helena, or other, more unusual choices like Galina (which I’ve always loved since I first heard it in Center Stage) or as a short form for Leonora, which is unexpected and beautiful. And in a surprising overlap, Nina (which is one of my favourites) can come from a whole host of places; it’s originally a nickname for Antonia, but you could get there as a nickname for Serafina, or Janine, or Leonine – there are no rules. A lot of people apparently use it as a nickname for Angelina (which also lends itself to Lina/Lena), or Evalina, and Nina Dobrev, arguably the most famous Nina right now, was born Nikolina (with apologies to Nina Garcia, whose full name is Ninotchka). 

Look, your possibilities are so endless, and almost all of these are beautiful with Penelope – I know you wouldn’t have four more just to use all these names, but please let us know!