Monday, July 6, 2020

I Have A Common Surname, What Baby Names Should I Pick?

Jones, Smith, Miller, Davis, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Moore, Taylor, Anderson... At least in America, these are some of the most common surnames.  There's no right or wrong in naming, but you definitely have a variety of options. In fact, you could choose anywhere from an incredibly popular name, to something nobody's ever heard of.  That's up to you!

But here are some ideas for each of the surnames I listed above.  I am basing this on the presumption that we are naming a baby in 2020 and want to follow modern styles and popularity.

Popular Names:

Your surname is super popular, might as well go the whole nine yards and choose a super popular first name, too. There's nothing wrong with that. It happens often. There's something about the anonymity of being one of many if you value your privacy.  Here's some ideas for the ten surnames I listed.

Mason Jones
Liam Smith
Noah Miller
Oliver Davis
Ethan Johnson
Aiden Williams
Sebastian Brown
Lucas Moore
Owen Taylor
Carter Anderson
Emma Jones
Olivia Smith
Ava Miller
Isabella Davis
Sophia Johnson
Mia Williams
Camila Brown
Grace Moore
Chloe Taylor
Layla Anderson

Modern Choices:

These names are at the top of the charts. They're sort of a new wave of popular, not including traditional names or biblical names. They are rising fast and people seem to love them. These names are newly popular enough to be considered unique in the sense that it's mostly the younger generations will have these names. These weren't used as often in the past.

Jaxon Jones
Grayson Smith
Jayden Miller
Hunter Davis
Arlo Johnson
Finn Williams
Hudson Brown
Beckett Moore
Atticus Taylor
Wyatt Anderson
Mila Jones
Harper Smith
Aria Miller
Madison Davis
Luna Johnson
Avery Williams
Kinsley Brown
Genesis Moore
Nova Taylor
Zoey Anderson

Traditional Names:

These are names that have stood the test of time. Everyone knows someone with these names. They're everywhere and cross all generations, they even have many international variants and work well in other languages. Even with a common surname, you can't go wrong with these solid firsts.

William Jones
Alexander Smith
James Miller
Michael Davis
Samuel Johnson
David Williams
John Brown
Henry Moore
Daniel Taylor
Joseph Anderson
Elizabeth Jones
Charlotte Smith
Evelyn Miller
Amelia Davis
Emily Johnson
Victoria Williams
Gabriella Brown
Lillian Moore
Eleanor Taylor
Caroline Anderson

Biblical Names:

This is a whole genre of its own. The names below are common and familiar, and translate well in other languages. These are all handsome, solid picks.

Gabriel Jones
Elijah Smith
Levi Miller
Isaiah Davis
Ezra Johnson
Zachariah Williams
Josiah Brown
Ezekiel Moore
Micah Taylor
Jonah Anderson
Hannah Jones
Abigail Smith
Ruth Miller
Naomi Davis
Anna Johnson
Sarah Williams
Esther Brown
Keturah Moore
Miriam Taylor
Tabitha Anderson

Trendy, Bold Names:

This is a bit subjective, but based on what is currently stylish and somewhat on the unexpected side, here are some names that are hot and interesting, and speeding up the charts:

Milo Jones
Kai Smith
Declan Miller
Hugo Davis
Silas Johnson
Maverick Williams
Atlas Brown
Asher Moore
Rowan Taylor
Bodhi Anderson
Iris Jones
Amara Smith
Elodie Miller
Freya Davis
Penelope Johnson
Imogen Williams
Astrid Brown
Thea Moore
Seraphina Taylor
Esme Anderson

Uncommon Choices:

These names are ranked within #800 - #1000 in popularity in the US, making them familiar but uncommon enough that you won't run into too many of them, even with a common surname.

Toby Jones
Decker Smith
Creed Miller
Boden Davis
Vance Johnson
Heath Williams
Landry Brown
Keagan Moore
Gerard Taylor
Dayton Anderson
Zora Jones
Whitley Smith
Janessa Miller
Scout Davis
Bellamy Johnson
Tinley Williams
Ellison Brown
Luella Moore
India Taylor
Mavis Anderson

Nature Names:

A little outside of the box, nature names are a great way to contrast against a common surname. If you want something different, try one of the names below:

Reed Jones
Huckleberry Smith
Fox Miller
Robin Davis
Stone Johnson
River Williams
Aspen Brown
Peregrine Moore
Wolf Taylor
Frost Anderson
Azalea Jones
Magnolia Smith
Primrose Miller
Juniper Davis
Dahlia Johnson
Flora Williams
Venus Brown
Clementine Moore
Pearl Taylor
Willow Anderson

Obscure and Unique:

These names all rank outside of the US Top 1000 names in 2018, meaning there were fewer than 250 births per name total throughout the country. Coming across another person with this first name is rare; coming across someone else with the same first and [common] surname as you is even more rare. These are great options if you want your kid to really stand out in contrast to the common surname.

Leif Jones
Callahan Smith
Channing Miller
Evander Davis
Legacy Johnson
Osiris Williams
Ulysses Brown
Dashiell Moore
Finnick Taylor
Montgomery Anderson
Winnie Jones
Lenora Smith
Emerald Miller
Magdalena Davis
Ireland Johnson
Fallon Williams
Persephone Brown
Kensington Moore
Darcy Taylor
Harriet Anderson

There are plenty of other options, but the most important thing is to choose something you love, no matter how common or unusual it is.

Monday, June 1, 2020

What Should I Name Emma's Little Sister?

Emma was at the top of the pack in 2018. We will find out very soon if she's managed to hold on to her tiara, or if, perhaps Olivia, has dethroned her.  Emma has always been a popular name. Well, at least since Ross and Rachel chose it back in 2004. She was destined for greatness though, and has proved it over the past decade.

Even without "Friends," Emma was already climbing the charts. Emma ranked within the Top 100 from 1880 to 1941, decided to take a little break from her popularity before she reentered the Top 100 again in 1993. By 2002, Emma ranked as the 4th most popular name in the country. She snagged #1 in 2008, and again from 2014 to 2018. Girl is popular, but with good reason.

Emma comes from a Germanic element "ermen" which means "whole" or "universal", which helps give this name her appeal.  So much so that Emma isn't only a top name in the US, it has also received plenty of usage in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and The Netherlands.

Is Emma the name for you? Popularity isn't always an issue for new parents. When a name is as beautiful and well-liked as Emma, parents will continue to use it! But the question then arises:

"What do you name a younger sibling for Emma?"

Surely, if you've fallen in love with the name Emma, you will want to find something just as lovely for her future sisters. This is where I come in. Below are 20 name suggestions that take different criteria into account.

1.  Ava

Ava offers the same popularity as Emma, and both names are also palindromes. Both Emma and Ava are old-fashioned names that sprang to fame in the early 2000s.  Similarly, a third sister could be named Hannah (#33), another palindrome name, just in case you find yourself stuck in a pattern.  Ava and Emma are two peas in a pod!

2. Nora

Nora and Emma are both 4-letter names that offer a soft, sweetness. Nora is not as popular as Emma, but she can definitely keep up. Nora also has a strong history of usage behind her, dating back to the 1880s in the US. Today, Nora ranked at #30 and would be a lovely sister for Emma.

3. Stella

Stella + Emma = one sophisticated sister-set. These two names have a great balance together, perhaps it is that they both boast double-letters and an "a" ending, but they vary in sound. Stella is not as popular as Emma, but she does rank at #38 in 2018 and may continue rising in popularity. Stella was a hot choice back around 1920, just like Emma was. These sassy sisters make a great pair!

4. Adele

Adele has that similar sophistication vibe of Stella, these 3 together would make a terrific trio. Even more reason, both Emma and Adele have German, English and Italian usage, making both names have universal appeal in multiple cultures. What's nice about Emma and Adele together, is that they are comprised of differing but trendy sounds.  Both Em- and Ad- names are hot right now. Unlike Emma's popularity, though, Adele is less common, ranking at #898.

5. Everly

For some alliteration, Emma and Everly are a dynamic duo. Pairing these together gives them the similarity of the letter E, but they are different in style. Everly brings a more spunky vibe to Emma's girly sweetness, but both are very trendy and posh in their own right. Right now, Everly is a fast rising star, plucked from obscurity! She entered the Top 1000 as of 2012, and broke in to the Top 100 by 2017. I see her rivaling Emma for the throne in a couple years.

6. Sadie

Sadie brings a variety in sounds, when compared to Emma. Some parents don't want names that are too similar, so the rest of the names on this list differ in sound. Style-wise, Emma and Sadie are both very sweet, old-fashioned names. I could picture them on modern-day sisters, and sisters from the 1920s. They have a charm about them as a sib-set, similar to the reason I chose Nora above. Sadie is not as popular, but still holds her own at #87.

7. Vivian  

To continue with names that differ in sound, Vivian seems like an obvious sister name to Emma. While Emma means "universal", Vivian means "life", so their meanings go hand-in-hand. They have the same old-fashioned vibe, but also could be the names of starlets on the red carpet. Vivian has been on the rise, currently ranking at #96.

8. Sophie 

While sister-name Sophia has been swapping popularity ranks with Emma for years, sweet Sophie has stayed more under the radar in the US, ranking at #98. However, in England, Sophie has been quite popular, ranking at #1 in 1996. I could definitely see Emma and Sophie as sisters walking the streets of London. These posh names deserve to be used together.

9. Paisley

Emma could also go well with more modern names like Paisley (#52) or Kinsley (#63), or Riley (#28) too; similar to what I wrote about Everly, above. If you are leaning more toward this style now for your second daughter, it can definitely work. Emma and Paisley seem very sassy and cool together, especially if you want your girls to have their own style with very different sounding names.

10. Harper

To go even one step further, unisex choices like Harper, Piper, Avery or Quinn can provide a very interesting contrast to Emma. Emma tends to be considered more cute and girly, however, names like Harper can have a feminine charm of their own despite being considered more unisex. Emma and Harper work very well together even though they have very different sounds and styles.

Of course, these are just MY top 10 picks to pair with Emma. It's completely subjective. You may even disagree in your perception of some of these names, but that's the beauty of naming! There are no right or wrong answers. I just wanted to offer my thoughts on these names to give you some inspiration when choosing a name for Emma's little sister.   Which names would YOU pair with Emma?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Elisabeth and Julia Are Getting A Baby Sister! What Should I Name Her?

Brenda wrote to The Art of Naming on Facebook recently inquiring about name ideas for a third girl. She already has Elisabeth "Elsa", and Julia. I promised I would find 10 name ideas for her to consider.

First, a bit of background info.  Elisabeth is an alternative spelling to Elizabeth; some may even find the "s" to be even more feminine than the standard "z". Both variants are gorgeous, in my book!  Elizabeth comes from  the Greek form of the Hebrew name אֱלִישֶׁבַע ('Elisheva') meaning "my God is an oath".  I have written about Elizabeth's longevity in the past because she has proved to be the most enduring female name.

Julia is one of my favorite names. I used Juliet for my own daughter's middle name, and I have always been drawn to the Jul- names. Julia is the feminine form of the Roman family name Julius that was possibly derived from Greek ιουλος (ioulos) meaning "downy-bearded" which implies youthfulness. It can be said that the Jul- names mean "youth".  Julia is also a time-tested name, enduring from Ancient Roman times until today.

Now, as of 2018, Julia ranked at #93 in the US.  This spelling of Elisabeth ranked at #789, and Elizabeth was #13.  Both of these names are true classics, one Hebrew, one Latin.  I will attempt to find 10 more names with a similar, romantic classiness without using any of Elizabeth's many, many diminutives (like Isabella, Liliana, etc). 

So, here is what I might name a sister for Elsa and Julia:

1. Caroline or Charlotte

These two names are related and similar enough that I couldn't decide between them.  They both come from the Germanic name Karl meaning "man". Right now, Charlotte is the more popular of the two, ranking at #6 in the US in 2018. Caroline follows at #55.  Both of these names are in line with the classic vibe of Elisabeth and Julia.

2. Helena 

Helena is the English form of the Greek ‘Ελενη (Helene) probably meaning "torch" or "bright light".  With Elsa and Julia, I would probably pronounce it  heh-LAY-nə, but there's also HEH-li-nə, heh-LEE-nə.  This name choice is a bit more unexpected than some of the names on this list, but it is a romantic and beautiful choice. It's also less common, ranking at #458.

3. Vivian or Vivienne

Whichever spelling you choose, this name means "life" and is certainly a lovely choice. It has come a long way from the old-fashioned vibe it once had. Nowadays, it is quite modern. Elsa, Julia and Vivienne would be a gorgeous sister-set!  Vivian is more popular, ranking at #96, while Vivienne ranks at #268. If you ask me, there's something extra special about the longer, French spelling.

4. Katherine or Catherine

Where there's an Elizabeth, there's almost certainly a Katherine nearby. These two seem to go very hand-in-hand. At least in my head. Since you have an Elisabeth, I would suggest Catherine as the spelling choice. These two names have their etymology debated heavily, but the name-nerd world has seemed to decide on the meaning "pure" from the Greek  καθαρος (katharos). Right now, Katherine is more popular at #112, while Catherine ranks #204 in the US in 2018. Elsa, Jules and Cat would be cute and spunky nickname options for this trio.

5. Arabelle or Annabelle

These two names are similar in spelling, and might actually be related. It is said that Arabella is probably a Medieval Scottish variant of Annabel. Annabel was influenced by the name Anna, but comes from the Medieval name Amabel meaning "loveable". Annabelle is more common, ranking at #141, while Arabelle is uncommon at #1734. These are both beautiful options that would pair nicely with Elisabeth and Julia.

6. Scarlett

Reminiscent of the deep, romantic shade of red, and the popular character O'Hara, Scarlett is a bold choice. Yes, it is quite popular these days at #20, but it is a little more outside-the-box compared to classics like Elisabeth and Julia. The name itself is possibly derived from the Persian سقرلاط (saghrelat) and referred to a kind of cloth, or a person who made clothes from that cloth.  It's an interesting angle that you could take if you wanted something popular but different from your current sibset.

7. Valentina

Queue the romance. As a feminine form of the Roman name Valentinus, this name means "strong, vigorous, healthy" in Latin. Due to the association between Valentine's day and love, Valentina would be a gorgeous, romantic name option. It is also quickly gaining popularity, climbing the charts to #81 most recently. Valentina would be a bit bolder of a choice, but at the same time, it would pair nicely with Elisabeth and Julia.

8. Marianne or Margaret

When you think of classic names, Mary has to come to mind. However, it's a bit dated. With Elisabeth and Julia, I might look for a variant of Mary, such as Marianne, Marigold, Marilyn, Marie, Mae or even Miriam.  The other alternative is similar name Margaret (or Marjorie or Maisie) meaning "pearl". Plenty of options here that may go well with Elsa and Julia.

9. Seraphina

If you want something that sounds like it should be popular, but is actually still very under the radar, look no further than Seraphina. With the popularity of Sarah and Sophia, which sound similar, you'd think this name would be used more. It actually has never ranked within the Top 1000. It currently sits at #1098 but I could see it catching on soon. Seraphina is the feminine form of the Late Latin name Seraphinus, derived from the biblical word seraphim, which was Hebrew in origin and meant "fiery ones".  Elisabeth, Julia and Seraphina make a beautiful trio!

10. Camilla

Camilla comes from the Ancient Roman name Camillus which seems to have an unknown meaning. It may refer to a young religious or ceremonial attendant; someone employed in a church. Camilla has been in use for a long time in the US, but it has never been as popular as it is today. In 2018, it ranked at a high peak of #302 and I suspect it will continue to climb the charts. Elsa, Julia and Camilla sound just lovely together!

I suppose that was more than just 10 options, but you can use these ideas as inspiration!  Let me know what YOU would name a sister for Elsa and Julia.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020


Today I want to take a closer name at a very rare and fantastical-esque name. I recently had the opportunity to recommend it to someone who had never heard of it before. They instantly fell in love with it and decided it might just be THE name they have been searching for. Perhaps you will enjoy it too!

It is a rare feminine name of Scottish and English origin. It comes from the Medieval Gaelic name Forbflaith which means "overlord, ruler, or sovereign". There was an heiress in 13th-century Scotland who was named Ferelith. Aside from that, this name is very rare.

According to the US record, there has never been at least 5 babies given this name in a single year. That means that the chances of you running into someone with this name are slim to none.  If you are looking for a beautiful, rare name, this would make your child truly one-of-a-kind! With its Medieval origins, it has a Renaissance vibe, and also feels fantastical.

There are some other names that have a similar feel to them such as:  Aerith, Allifair, Caisséne and more.  If you're a fan of Ferelith, here are a variety of middle name ideas:

Ferelith Maeve
Ivy Ferelith
Ferelith Rose
Nola Ferelith
Ferelith Riley
Tieve Ferelith
Ferelith Rhiannon
Kathleen Ferelith

What would you pair with Ferelith? I do like mainstream Irish names like Maeve to go with it. Is this a name you might add to your list?


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