It's difficult when you love someone so much that you want to honor them but, in your mind, their name leaves little to be desired. You simply cannot picture yourself yelling at little Thelma across the playground and you couldn't handle saying Dolores a hundred times a day. These names work beautifully on your grandmother but they are not right for your modern daughter. What can you do?
Here are ten exciting ways to reinvent, revamp and retrofit your loved one's name in order to fall in love with your choice while still honoring them. These will be in the order of most relevance to the person's actual name. The lower you go on the list, the less obvious the honor is.
1. The World Traveler
Perhaps you don't hate the name Elizabeth, but your sister and two cousins have already honored grandma Betsy by using Elizabeth and you'd like to find a name that will honor her in a different way. Take a step back and look at the international variations and diminutives of Elizabeth and you'll find that you could use nicknames such as Eliza, Elise or Beth as a given name, or you could go one step further and use the French Isabelle or the Spanish Liliana which come from Elizabeth. There's also Elsa and Lisette and Elspeth that catch your eye. Don't be afraid to explore alternative origins of the same name.
2. The Cross-Gender Honor
If you love uncle Cecil but dislike his name, you could still honor him by naming a girl Cecily. If grandpa Willard's name just won't do, you could go with Willa or Willow for a girl instead. Or the other way around, name a son after great-aunt Phyllis by calling him Phillip. It's okay to name a girl after your grandpa or name a boy after your aunt. There are plenty of names that can be feminized or masculinized to honor someone even if you're having a baby of the opposite gender.
3. The Nickname Bond
Is your relative better known by a nickname rather than their proper given name? You could use that to your advantage by using that same nickname but applying a different given name to it for your child. For instance, you'd like to honor your father who goes by Harry. His real name is Harold which you don't like. Name your son Henry and let him go by Harry just like grandpa. Or name your little girl Annabelle after grandma "Annie" whose real name is MaryAnn.
4. The Hidden Treasure
You've only ever known your great-grandmother as Dotty and later learned that it is short for Dorothy. You'd love to honor her but you just don't like either name. Finally, you think to ask if she ever had a middle name. To your surprise, her middle name was Grace. You and your partner are thrilled to discover this and immediately name your daughter Grace after your beloved great-grandmother. You never know when an excellent name could be tucked away in the middle name spot. Explore all of your options!
5. The Familial Mention
You could potentially honor an entire lineage of people simply by giving your child your maiden name or another surname in the family tree. There are many surnames being used as first names today from Parker to McKinley to Harrison to Stone. Explore your options and perhaps you'll find that you can honor your whole family this way!
6. The Monogram Replica
Another way to honor someone without actually using their exact name is to use their initials. Take their first and middle initials and come up with a different name that you love for your child. This is a subtle but sweet way to give your child his own identity while still allowing him to feel a connection to that beloved relative forever.
7. The Branch-out Method
If you're honoring someone on your family tree, explore their name's family tree too. That's right, find a different but related name. For example, did you know that you could honor grandma Heidi by using Alice, Alison, Alyssa, Alicia, Ada, Adelaide or Della? Most people won't see the connection, but all of these names come from the Ancient Germanic root name "Adalheidis".
8. The Beloved's Beloved
There is a way to honor a loved one without actually using their name. Maybe your mother's favorite flower is a lily. She even had lilies in her wedding bouquet. This would allow you to name your daughter Lily or even Lillian and still honor your mother because of the sentimental connection. You could even use the name that your mother would have used had she had another child. Or you could name your child after the city that your grandparents came from, or after your uncle's favorite song or sports team or fictional character. As long as it means something to you and your honoree, the sky's the limit!
9. The Meaningful Connection
Another subtle way to honor someone is to give your child a name that has the same meaning as their name. You'd like to honor your mother-in-law Glenda but you can't find a way to do so and you dislike her name. You see that Glenda means "pure" so you search by meaning and find that the lovely Katherine also means "pure." It doesn't seem connected at all but since they have the same meaning, it works as an honor name in that regard. There's plenty of names that mean something in another language, too, that could be played with. You just have to dig deeper but this method would probably be a last resort if you cannot find a better way to honor someone.
10. The Tuck Away
After exploring all of the above methods to honor someone even though you hate their name, you come to the conclusion that there is no good way to alter it. You'd rather use their exact name than creatively change it with a work-around, but you still don't like it enough for a first name. The answer is simple: put their name in your child's middle name spot. Choose a first name that you love that the child will answer to, but let their middle name serve as an honor for your family member or friend.
What do you think about these methods? Which have you used when you named your child after a loved one?
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