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Monday, September 21, 2009

Baby Girl Toms

Susan writes:
I just stumbled upon your blog and would love some help coming up with names for our third child (a girl!).
Our children's names are Elisabeth (nn Ellie) and Jackson (nn Jack) and our last name sounds like "Tom's". We like names that can be shortened into cute nicknames but will also be strong adult names. We have been somewhat unlucky in choosing names/nicknames that we thought weren't too popular or trendy only to discover that the year we had our children, those names jumped up the rankings; this time around, we're hoping to do a better job! We do like classic names, which I know by definition are more popular, but as long as we're out of the top 10 or 20 list, I think we'd be okay with the choice.
So far, the only two names we can somewhat agree on are:

Catherine Rose (nn. Caty or Catie or Caitie?) This is the name my 4 year old daughter has picked out and stood by for the past 4 months, and actually it is what we almost named her when she was born.

Ainsley Rose (nn? Would Annie work? Other ideas? We don't want Lee...)

Any input or other ideas? (Rose is a family name and will most likely be the middle name.)

There is, as you've found, no good way to prevent a name from getting popular around the time you use it: we all tend to like the same names at the same time. One way to improve your odds is to check out the Social Security Administration trends: type in the name you're considering and look at, say, the last 50 years. A name like Jack didn't get popular in one single leap: it stayed pretty steadily where it was until the early 1990s when it began making a series of small but significant leaps each year.

The name Jackson went up even more dramatically starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, traveling from #521 in 1986 to #241 in 1991 to #136 in 1996 to #72 in 2000.

The nickname Ellie only hit the Top 1000 in 1992, but then went rapidly up in popularity (click to see the picture bigger):

(Picture screen-shotted from the Social Security Administration.)

Look at that fast mover!

So anyway, all that is to say that if you want to avoid the name everyone thinks is unusual but then it turns out to be pretty common, look for the rapid (or even steady) risers. Any name that hangs around looking bored for a few decades and then goes whooshing upward should be avoided.

The name Catherine looks pretty safe, losing popularity steadily year by year. The nickname is another story, and harder to figure out. The spellings Cate and Catie and Caitie aren't in the Top 1000, but Kate is rising. Also, there are many, many, many Caitlyns, Katelyns, Kaitlyns, etc. already using that set of nicknames, so it's a little tricky to tell how many you'll have in your area.

Ainsley doesn't have much data, but it hit the Top 1000 for the first time at #481 (in 2001), and that's a big jump. It's pretty much stayed in the 400s since then, but I've been hearing it disproportionately often on people's name lists so I wouldn't be surprised if it was poised for another big leap.

Okay! On to the suggestions:

Anna Rose Toms, nickname Annie
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Anne; Ellie, Jack, and Annie

Joanna Rose Toms, nickname Jo
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Joanna; Ellie, Jack, and Jo

Mary Rose Toms, nickname Molly
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Mary; Ellie, Jack, and Molly

Margaret Rose Toms, nickname Meg (the nickname Greta is rising)
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Margaret; Ellie, Jack, and Meg

Sarah Rose Toms, nickname Sally (the nickname Sadie is rising)
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Sarah; Ellie, Jack, and Sally

Susanna Rose Toms, nickname Sukie
Elisabeth, Jackson, and Susanna; Ellie, Jack, and Sukie

Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results (202 votes total):
Catherine (Catie): 63 votes, roughly 31%
Ainsley (Annie?): 21 votes, roughly 10%
Anna (Annie): 26 votes, roughly 13%
Joanna (Jo): 5 votes, roughly 2%
Mary (Molly): 16 votes, roughly 8%
Margaret (Meg): 38 votes, roughly 19%
Sarah (Sally): 11 votes, roughly 5%
Susanna (Sukie): 22 votes, roughly 11%

Name update 10-19-2009! Susan writes:
A huge thank you to you and your readers for all of the naming advice! Catherine Rose was finally born on Oct. 14th and our older daughter is thrilled that we used the name she picked! We, too, love that there is a "story" behind her name.


Marla said...

Okay, so this is truly my favorite name ever and hopefully I'll someday have a daughter and use it:


Elizabeth, Jackson, and Tessa sound great together and you can shorten it to Tess.

Sarah said...

Tessa is lovely!

I also have liked living with the name Sarah. It's pretty timeless so you avoid any 'time stamp' that can occur with popular/trendy names. I also liked Susanna. It's a soft and strong name and works well on a little girl and an old lady. Very nice, indeed.

Anonymous said...

I like Johanna, and nn Hannie is pretty cute.

My favorite nn is Annie, and it would go so well with Jack and Ellie. The full name Anna is nice, and I also like Annika.

Anonymous said...

What about:

Caroline/Carolyn, nn Carly

Margaret nn Maisie or Mara

Evelyn nn Evie

Abby@AppMtn said...

Tessa is cute, but I think the sibset would be Elisabeth, Jackson and Teresa, nn Tessa or Tess.

Have you considered Louisa? Elisabeth, Jackson and Louisa - Ellie, Jack and Lulu.

tracynicole22 said...

I agree with Swistle on Catherine, with Kate on the rise and all the Katelyns around I think Katie will be pretty popular on the playground. As much as I LOVE the name Ainsley, I just don't see Annie as a natural nn for it and can't come up with one either. Here are some other suggestions:
Olivia nn Livi (Top 10, I know, but a great classic name!)
Lorelei nn Lori
Lauren nn Laurie
Anneliese or Annabelle nn Annie
Lillian nn Lily (too much w/Ellie?)
Charlotte nn Lottie (love this one!)
Gabrielle nn Gabby
Genevieve nn Jenny or Eve/Evie (like this one a lot too)
Vivienne nn Vivi or Viv

Catie said...

I just want to chime in and say my name is Catherine, but I go by Catie. I'm so excited to see someone else considering it! I've never known anyone else with my spelling. So, of course, I think you should go with that. Plus, I think Ellie, Jack and Catie is CUTE!

Jane said...

How about Annabelle Rose? Nickname could be Anna.

Anonymous said...

Joanna, nn Anna?
Catherine, nn Cat? (I love Cat).
Margaret, nn Maggie?

Meg said...

Since I'm a Margaret nn Meg, I have to go with that from Swistle's list. I LOVE my name!!

If you like the nn Molly, it's also a cute nn for Millicent and Mathilda, but I think I'm in the minority for loving those! LOL

Good luck!

Karen said...

Given that Ellie and Jack are already popular, maybe it's even better if this baby has a similarly popular nickname but a classic full name, like Catherine nn Cate.

I like the suggestions of Margaret (nn Meg or Maggie), Theresa (nn Tessa), Genevieve, and Charlotte.

How about:
Josephine nn Josie
Victoria nn Tori
Penelope nn Penny
Phillipa nn Pippa
Alexandra nn Lexi
Abigail nn Abby
Beatrice or Beatrix nn Bea

flycat said...

My name is Catheryne Rose so I love the idea of going with that...

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I love Anna, as long as "Toms" is not their actual last name. It makes me think of "anatomical".

I also love Lucinda (Lucy). Almost used it for our second girl. I also LOVE Josephine (Josie, Jo) and from time to time like to daydream that we chose it for our first.

Patricia said...

There is an Ann-sounding name similar to Ainsley (from


Gender: Feminine

Usage: English (Modern)
From a surname which was a variant of AINSLEY.

A niece recently told me she would use that name if she has a girl. I thought it was probably related to Ainsley, looked it up, and it is. I think I've seen it spelled with two 'n's' too - Annsley, which is how I pictured it when I first heard the name. Annie would be a natural nn for Ansley/Annsley. However, Ansley is not a classic, traditional name like Elisabeth.

I agree with Catie above that Catherine would be a superb choice for the little sister of Elisabeth and Jackson. I think Catherine is one of the finest names ever and chose it for my first daughter (nn Cathy, but as an adult she goes by the full name), and she, in turn, named her second daughter Catrina, nn Catie.

Elisabeth/Ellie, Jackson/Jack and Catherine/Catie would be a very compatible trio of names.

mechi said...

I adore Catherine Rose, and I think it's so cute that your daughter is sort of set on it. The nicknames you've chosen for it are quite popular, but how about spelling it with a K and calling her Kitty. I think that would be really cute, and you don't meet too many other Kitty's on the playground. You could also call her Kit, which I actually love more than Kitty. I think Kit is really cute, very spunky.

From Swistle's suggestions I like Margaret. That's a lovely name that fits with your childrens, and there are so so many nickname possibilities. I personally love Maisie or Midge. I know a little Margaret nicknamed Midge and I think its just adorable. You could also do the less common Marjory (or whatever spelling you like) with these nicknames.

I love the nickname Annie, I think its so cute and there are less and less Annie's nowadays, but I don't like it as a nickname for Anna, because Annie is technically longer than Anna. I think you could use it for Susanna instead.

I also really like Rebecca "Becky" (as opposed to the more common "Becca"), Beatrice "Tris" or "Trixie/Trissie", Christine "Chrissy", and Adeleine "Addy"

TweePopACap said...

One thing I'd like to mention is that having a little Meg and Jack reminds me of the White Stripes. The band members are Meg and Jack White, and they were married. If that's not weird to you, go for it, but be warned that some folks might make the connection.

Frazzled Mom said...

I'm a little late to the party. I have been overwhelmed with other obligations - tired all the time, and can't keep up with Swistle like I used to. Is this poll still open?

I feel Catherine is a great choice. I would spell it with a C too. I used to prefer the K spelling, but lately I have been growing to like the C spelling more. And my great grandmother was Catherine with a C. Ok - if you are concerned about Catie becoming popular, what about Cat as a nickname? I'm surprised no one else suggested it. The only down side is when you say Ellie, Jack, and Cat, Jack and Cat sort of blend together because one ends and the other begins with the K sound.

There are so many great choices here. My favorites of Swistle's choices are Mary (Molly) and Susanna (Sukie). It is tough choosing between the two of them. But if you really want to avoid too popular - I say Mary is the way to go. It was so popular for so long that so many people perceive it as more popular than it really is, and therefore avoid it, writing it off as boring. Hence the name has been steadily declining. But Mary is a classic and will never go out of style.

But then again, I’m drawn to spunky little Sukie – I just love it, and no one uses it. I used to not care much for Susanna, but it has grown on me, and would work well in this sibling set. And again – you would think Susanna would be super-popular, but no one ever uses it.