Hi Duana,

I love your column and your writing. Hoping for the grace of your wisdom here..

My second child, a baby girl, is arriving in May. We have a taste for what we see as stylish, euro, slightly mid-east-influenced names. Naming our son was super easy - but I'm finding it hard to find a girl's name that is beautiful, stylish, sassy and most importantly *strong* when she is a grown woman. I find a lot of the pretty girl names that are sweet and delicate in infancy grow to be too girly and flimsy in adult life. This chick is going to be a *force* and I want it to start with her name.

My son's name is Aidan for the following reasons: Aydin means "enlightened" and "lit by the moon" in Turkish, which is my husband's background. I love how it combines intelligence and poetry, my husband loves that when we go back to Istanbul his family adapts easily and cheerfully to his name. The Gaellic meaning is "of fire" - my name is also of Gaellic origin and I love the feisty, fiery connotation.

For baby 2, if it was a boy, we have Luca, Emre and Noah. For girls, we're just not hitting the mark. The following discarded names occurred either because my husband found them too boyish (and I absolutely loved them), or husband would get wildly attached to Turkish origin names that to me, just didn't work gracefully in English. The rest were just 80% there. We've gone through Riley, Noa, Dahlia, Leyla, Mila, Lila, Grace, Audrey, Claire, Eva, Maia, Olivia, Ayla, Selin, Eylin, Jeyda and Alev. What is left!! We're just not hitting it. Hitting only a big, stone, Turkish wall. Hoping for a miracle recommendation from you, dear Name Goddess.

Thanks so much,



You know, I’d like to start by quoting you: “This chick is going to be a *force* and I want it to start with her name.”

I love this. I really do—because, even though I believe, and have often said, that there’s nothing that’s not strong about ‘traditional’ names (if you need proof, please investigate the flames coming from the incredible pieces on this site written just today by women with traditional names like Sarah and Kathleen and Elaine), there can also be a feeling that either a ‘regular’ girl’s name isn’t strong enough, or conversely, that we have to worry that a name might be too ‘tough’…

Here’s the problem with the names I see above. First of all, they’re all short. That’s not a problem in itself, but to me, sometimes a strong name is one that lands on several syllables. Harriet is always my go to. ‘Araminta’. ‘Sandrine’. ‘Xanthippe’. By contrast, the beautiful and culture-crossing Ayla is… well, it’s soft. Lovely and evocative and soft, but not giving you feelings of strength.

Yet I’m aware that this might be partly because the shorter or simpler the name, the easier it is for it to cross language barriers, the way ‘Aydin’ and ‘Aidan’ flow into one another.

I think the key for you here is to get a name that has vowel sounds to help with pronunciation, but enough heft for you to feel like there’s something behind it. Like Rania. Or one of my favourites, Zara. Or maybe something like Paloma, or Petra, which crosses many cultures.

Then, of course, I thought of the Gaelic name Niamh, pronounced Neev, which definitely doesn’t translate. But Nia, which is African, does; however, it’s light on consonants. So… Noor, or Noora as I heard the other day? If you wanted to stay more central, Nora? There’s an Arabic and Hebrew name that I love, Aphra… or what about Rufina? Zelina? What about something that is as short as your other choices but carries more heft, like Leda? Depending on who you are, that may also call to mind the wearable Helen… or Helena, both of which I love. Is there something in a name like Saffron or Sage or Emer that don’t automatically evoke a ‘girly’ feel but still have a place to stand on their strength and style? (No, you’re not missing something, Emer is not a spice—it just made sense to me in context.)

You’re going to find it. She’s going to be strong no matter what you do—but I can’t wait for you to tell me what you choose!