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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Esme or Eliza?

Britt writes:
I'm hoping you can help me. My husband and I are adopting and so are in the process of weeding through my 300 names-long list to find the perfect fit for our new little one. We seem to be doing fine with boys, but are having more trouble with girl names. We have a short list to choose from - all classic but slightly less-used names. Here's the problem: we're thinking ahead and trying to plan which names we would use in combination with each other for future children. Both Esme and Eliza are at the very top of our list, but we would not want to use both because they seem very "matchy". The only factor that might help us decide which to use is the popularity of each. Right now Eliza is at #328 and Esme has not broken into the top 1000. However, I have been seeing Esme more and more and am worried that it will become the next Emma. (Not to mention the Twilight series and its impact on the name!) So, with all your experience with names (and maybe with the help of your readers) maybe you can help us figure out the future popularity of these names? We appreciate your help and love your blog!

I am pretty sure it was The Baby Name Wizard that brought to my attention the way an unusual name can FEEL more common than it is. That is, if you hear the name Maverick two times in a year it seems like it must be WILDLY POPULAR, but you can hear the name Jacob twenty times without hardly noticing. A less-common name can make more of an IMPRESSION, and so a name like Maverick, which was #511 in 2008 (source: Social Security Administration), might get tiresome on the ears sooner than the #1 most popular name in the United States, just because it is more noticeable.

(This can also work the other way, incidentally: a name can feel all boring and used up when actually no one is using it anymore and it's less common than the "unusual" names.)

My guess---and I hesitate even to guess---is that Esme won't get as popular as Emma, but I think there is the possibility of it being more noticeable than the more familiar Eliza (which I would have guessed was more common than it is) and therefore SEEMING more common. And there is the danger that a generation of teenagers is going to grow up and start using the names they've "always loved," and that some of those names will be from the Twilight craze.

I'd choose Eliza, and it's because Eliza seems so much more stable to me: Esme seems more likely to make a sudden startling move. I also prefer the easier spelling/pronunciation of Eliza. But my main reason for choosing it is that it would go better with other names I like, so it's not a fair comparison.

What do the rest of you think about the futures of the names Eliza and Esme?


Christine said...

Oh I like them both. I really like Esme, but can totally see your concern with it becoming another very popular name especially because it is cute, different, but still not so out there, sounding similar to names such as Emma.

I really do like Eliza and think it depends on what your other future names might be.

Good luck with the adoption! although there won't be any babies for my husband and I for a while, we were thinking about adopting as our number one choice, so it's always nice to hear of a family choosing to go through it. Best wishes.

Miss Emily said...

Perhaps this is a little off topic, but I have a dear friend who was adopted as an infant. She was given a name at birth by her birth mother, and her adoptive parents changed it to Renée - a French word meaning reborn. I think it's a beautiful name, not a very common name, and it holds a lot of meaning for her.

I don't mean to tell you that Eliza and Esme are bad names (love Eliza!!), but I just thought I would share.

Carolyn said...

Maybe Eliza May? Sort of a compromise between the two names, yet really beautiful.

beyond said...

I would not shy away from Esme. I don't think it will reach the popularity of Emma, and I don't think many people will associate it with the Twilight series. (I read the series and didn't make the connection until you mentioned it.)
I like Eliza as well. The name Eliza is perhaps a bit more ... predictable than Esme. That can be good or bad, of course.
I know you didn't ask for suggestions, but here are a few associations I made:
Amy is another form of Esme, do you like that?
How about Esmeralda or Alda?
What about Lila or Leah?
Good luck with everything!

StephLove said...

I vote for Esme. Eliza's pretty as a nickname for Elizabeth, but it doesn't seem complete to me.

MelissaInk said...

I like Eliza for the reasons that Swistle states. It's stable.

I'd also guess that we'll see a surge of popularity in Esme, but I can't imagine it'll ever be the new Emma. I'd be shocked to ever see it in the Top 10. Esme has a unique flow to it - something that isn't so simple as Emma or Emily and probably will never appeal to the masses.

You can't go wrong with either one :)

(I favor Esme a bit - I have negative associations with Eliza ... personally.)

Kayt said...

Yeah, I really really like both of them, and I can see your concerns with them both. I would love to know what else is on your lists for both genders. If I had to pick just for ME, I would go with Esme. My middle name is Elizabeth, and I don't like the idea of naming a child after myself. Either one is a great choice!

Anonymous said...

I like both names, but if I had to pick one, I would go with Eliza--but I tend to favor names that are easy to spell and pronounce.

Susan said...

I vote for Esme. I think it's fun to say, and I love the "z" sound. It seems like a perfect name -- simple and sweet yet not common -- and one that would only sound better and better with time. I don't think the spelling is a problem, since so many currently-popular names have a similar ending (Zoe, Chloe) that it seems normal and not at all weird.

Fiona said...

This is just me, but I'm not a fan of Eliza - some old fashioned names are beautiful, but this has always sounded too "Aunt 'Liza"ish to me.

How about Elsie? I think it has the classic sound of Eliza with the softness and spunk of Esme. (I like Esme too but I would also worry about the Twilight influence..darn vampires!)

good luck deciding :)

Esme said...

I love the name Esme, and well it is my name! I always get lots of compliments on my name, and its nice to have a somewhat unconventional name. Good luck with your adoption!

Anonymous said...

I personally prefer the name Esme. It sounds a bit softer than Eliza and I think Esme is just generally nicer. I also like Eliza though and it's a pefectly nice and normal name. But if it were up to me (which it isn't) I would choose Esme. And I don't think it's to much of a "Twilight name". And I think that Esme is so much cooler to so because Eliza can turn into "Lizzie" or even sometimes "Lisa". It often annoys people I know that are called Eliza when some one calls them Lizzie.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Esme to Eliza, but love them both. (Both are currently at the top of my list.) I prefer Esme because it is less common, but not unusual. And I highly doubt it will become as popular as Emma, I think it's unique (but beautiful sounds) would not catch on to the masses taste. If this baby is a boy, do you mind typing the name? Maybe if it is a boy and you can use Esme or Eliza as a future baby name (If it's a girl) then you can choose judging by which name sounds better with your sons name. Good luck with the adoption process!

Anonymous said...

Hi, my daughters name is Esme, & she's two now but I didn't get the name off twilight, infact I didn't even no this name was off that but I have always loved the name esmerelda but wasnt too sure so I just shortened it to Esme. I think its a beautiful princess name, & it fit my little girl perfectly! :)