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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Is Emma Too Common?

Kristin writes:
I really hope that you and your awesome readers can help me. My husband and I are expecting our second child, a girl, on July 26th. We have a two and a half year old son named William (Will), which is a family name on my side. We are just at a loss for naming her. Of course this is how it happens, right? When I was pregnant with Will, all I could think of were girl names. His middle name is my husband's name (extremely unusual, and starts with an N.).

Our main problem is that we both actually loved and agreed on a name...and then found out that it was one of the most common names in the U.S. last year. Yes that's right, Emma. I have always loved that name (you know when you are in middle school and you name all of your potential children? I have a notebook from 1986 that lists Emma as my top name.) and my husband loves it because it was his mother's middle name (she passed away). So it has a lot of sentimental value for both of us. I also think it goes nicely with Will, and works well with our last name. We didn't realize that it was so common because we live in a community where it is much more likely to give your kid a unique name. We go to the park and have playdates with kids named Finn, Harper, Lucienne, Penelope, Liam, Huck, Evelin and Moritz. Not an Emma in the bunch.

So if we live here forever I won't worry about her being one of five Emmas in her class. However, if we move anywhere else, I fear that I'll be naming her the equivalent of the Jennifer, Heather or Stacy of my school years, and I don't want to do that (no offence meant if that is your name).

We are having a hard time agreeing on other names. All that my helpful husband can come up with is Gabriela. I think that name is ok, but I hate the nickname Gaby. My list is a little more extensive and I really like all of them, but neither of us feel an instant love for any of them.

Lucia (Lucy)
Ella / Ellie

I also LOVE the name Beatrice but my husband said over his dead maybe a middle name. In addition, our last name starts with S and I've eliminated pretty much all of the S names because I don't like the alliteration.

Names that we liked but have rejected due to close family members or friends having the name (or sounds weird with our last name) include:


I guess I am looking for your help in two areas:

1. Is Emma too common? Are we condemning her to a life of being known as Emma S.? Should I really care if we both love the name?

2. Can you think of any other names that we might like? We both seem to like more of the classic, timeless names. We're not into strange spellings or naming your kid something so unusual that she's the only one ever with that name, and we're also not into the super trendy (although Emma apparently fits into that category now).

Help! We didn't name Will until 3 days after he was born, and I don't want to do that again!

I think it's too hard to predict future classrooms, and that the best name for your daughter is the name you both love. I've written about this before, and I stand by it: the Top 10 is not the kiss of death. Only 9/10ths of 1% of female babies were named Emma in 2008 (source: Social Security Administration); that's not even 1 Emma per 100 girls, and a classroom has in the range of 10-15 girls. Compare that to the 1974 Jennifers: over 4 Jennifers per 100 girls. Still, if popularity will bug you, the name Emma is about twice as common now as the name Stacy was in the 1970s.

Here are a few names that are similar to Emma:


Let's have a poll over to the right, for Emma and the Emma alternatives. [Poll closed; see results below.] Other name suggestions can go in the comments section.

Poll results (224 votes total):
Emma: 110 votes, roughly 49%
Amelia/Emelia: 33 votes, roughly 15%
Anna: 10 votes, roughly 4%
Emlyn: 10 votes, roughly 4%
Emmaline/Emeline: 35 votes, roughly 16%
Gemma/Jemma: 26 votes, roughly 12%


Jan said...

I would go ahead and go with Emma. I doubt you would have more than one additional Emma in a classroom. If you count lifetime Williams I'm sure there are more of them than Emmas. Emma Beatrice sounds lovely.

If you go with Gabriela another nn could be Brie.

Other suggestions (helped by Claire, Ingrid, Johanna, Claudia, Ivy.

Frazzled Mom said...

I voted for Gemma because that is my personal favorite of the names listed, but it sounds to me like you really want to use Emma and I think you should use it. Emma Beatrice is really cute.

I've found naming trends really are localized. Emma may have been #1 in the US last year, but for years before then, #1 in the US was Emily, but I only know 1 young Emma, aged 2 and I don't know any young Emily's!!! But every time I turn around, there's an Ava. How could this be? Well I looked at the stats for my state and Ava was #1 in my state and several others.

Remember the US rankings are for the entire country which encompasses a large land mass and a very diverse population of people. I say trust your gut more than the stats.

Christina Fonseca said...

Go with Emma - you've always loved it - use it! It goes great with Will, it honors family. No reason to settle for a different name when it's the one you both want and it's a classic.

amanda said...

Gaby doesn't have to be a nickname for Gabriela - you could always call her Ella.

Anonymous said...

How about Jemima? Her time has come!

Katie said...

I agree with Swistle -- the best name for your daughter is the one you both love.
Also, Emma may be popular, but it's classic. Jennifer is definitely dated -- most of them are in their 30's and 40's. But Emma could be a newborn, a grandma or anything in between. I think that makes a big difference. I vote for Emma!

Sarah said...

If you love Emma, I would go with Emma. I like Gemma and Jemima, too, but I really think you should go with what you love. I also think that Emma has been such a steady favorite that it will avoid the 'time stamp' of more unusual names. I named my own daughter Anna because of this same reasoning.

I'm a Sarah and while I was one of THREE Sarah's in my small, rural school, I can't say it bothered me much. Remember in elem. school? Having the same name as your friends was COOL--you were practically TWINS! There was a girl named Petronella in my class and you can't imagine the teasing. No personalized pencils for HER. As an adult I like Sarah because there is limited spelling confusion, people find it familiar, and it has been, you guessed it, popular for so long that it avoids the time stamp of the 70's.

So, run with the wild horses--name her Emma! :)

Katie said...

I LOVE Emmaline (I pronounce it Emmalynn).

You can call her Emma and she has the longer name to use in school if Emma is too popular.

Either way, go with the name you love. It goes great with Will, and who cares if it's popular.

Good luck!

tracynicole22 said...

If you love Emma, go with it! I love what Sarah above had to say about a popular name. Totally agree that Emma is a classic, not a trend. Go for it!

Susan said...

I vote for Emma, too. I do think that children with popular names tend to love their names, as do everyone else. There are worse things in the world than having a name that's loved by all. I agree with you, that it would be even more ideal to have the name you love be one that's not quite so high on the list, but there it is. You love it. Your husband loves it. Your baby will love it. And you probably would have a hard time thinking of your baby as anything else.

jt said...

Ditto to all the above posters. Emma is not time-stamped. Yes, it's more popular now than it has been, but it didn't just pop up recently. I know old women named Emma, a woman in her 30s with the name, and little girls and babies. I also agree that it's not as big a deal as we (the namers) make it out to be that someone else has the same name as our child. You may want to check your state's stats for the name Emma, but because you love the name and it has significance for you, I would use it, because I think you'll regret it if you don't.

erin said...

also ditto, it was already said well above, so just count me as another vote. And like Swistle noted, a popular Emma still doesn't touch the Jennifers of 70s, so don't worry about that!

Blueberry said...

for what it is worth, my daughter's name is gabrielle and we call her ellie. why? because my husband hated the nickname gabby as well. we also considered the nickname "bree" for her.

but if you love emma use it. it is a lovely name!


Kristin said...

Thank you so much for your comments. You all have really good points and made me feel much better about wanting to name her Emma. I have a feeling that's what we'll do, but I want to wait until I see her.

Also--Ellie or Ella for Gabriella is brilliant! I did not think about that at all. Hmmm....

Barb @ getupandplay said...

Go with Emma!!

I also love Ella for Gabriella.

Jennifer said...

I do understand why you wouldn't want to name your child something that everyone else is named. (My name is Jennifer as you commented in your post, and I could personally kill my father for that one.) I personally like unusual names but absolutely LOVE Emma- I would name my child Emma whether everyone else had that name or not. I think maybe some of the alternative names to Emma would work well too, but if you plan on calling her Emma anyway, you might as well name her that in the first place. There is a photographer in my area that does amazing newborn photography and she posts the first names of the children that she photographs. I came across one the other day named Emmarie. I loved it. Just a suggestion. Good luck!

Karina said...

Evalynne/Evaline (pro "eevuh-lynn) is one i heard the other day that's pretty, my sister & I are Karina (similar to Corinna) & Lia (sort of flows w/the Lily/Lucy vibe) . . .

Anonymous said...

I say go with Emma. I'm in my mid-twenties and had never met an Emma my age until my first year of University -- where we had two Emmas on our small residence floor. It's not at all a common name for my age-group but they still had to go by nicknames... meanwhile there wasn't a single Jennifer or Sarah on the floor (two EXTREMELY common names in my classes growing up). It really is just luck of the draw with that kind of thing.

Amy said...

Use what you love! I didn't research names at all for my DS and now it turns out there are 3 other Nathan's in our mommies group. BUT - I wouldn't have changed my mind had I known that prior to naming him.

Fossila is my word verification - maybe that could be on future lists of baby names. LOL :)

StephLove said...

You love it. You've always loved it and it had a family connection to boot. I'd go with Emma. said...

Go with Emma. Especially because it was part of her grandma's name. It's perfect. "Popular" now isn't as popular as "Popular" was when we were growing up.
It's lovely with Will, too.

Anonymous said...

Go with Emma, because you love it. Also, even though it's popular, it's a gorgeous classic. You can't go wrong with it. It's great on a little girl, and it will age beautifully.

taylor said...

i agree that you can't predict the names of your daughters classmates! my name is Taylor, which didnt get really popular for girls til the 90s...well i was born in 1982 and there were 2 other girl Taylors in my class in elementary scchool and not a single Katie or Sarah. Who would've known? Go with the name that has significance to you.

Anonymous said...

Just popping in to comment that I know two little girls named
Emmeline/Emmaline who pronounce it with a long /i/ sound, so that it rhymes with "fine".

I think names with the "line" ending, such as Caroline, Emmeline, and Adeline are very classic and elegant sounding.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Love Emma, I say you go for it. It's just a beautiful, classic name.

This is coming from a Stephanie, and I've said it a million times here before, I actually have two best friends named Stephanie... but I'm letting you know, it's not an issue EVER and it's actually really nice having a name that is well-known and always pronounced and spelled correctly.

So go for it! Emma is beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I had to leave a comment as I am in the same boat. I love the name Emma. I named my 1st daughter Hannah in 2002 and it was #3, but I had wanted a daughter named Hannah since I saw "The English Patient" (even though she spelled it Hana in the book). So I named my daughter Hannah and she loves her name! She is the one who suggested the name Emma to me (and she is 6). Whatever you do, don't go with an unusual name, people always say they love unusual names but I grew up with one, Lavinia, and I have always hated my name. Seems a lot of people who grew up with common names give their kids strange names and vice versa. And it's strange because where we live, in California, I never hear Emma. It seems every little girl running around is named Ava. Good luck!