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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Shorter or Longer Version?

Emily writes:
This is just a simple question but it's driving me nuts! We've decided on the name for our baby boy- Finn. It goes well with our Irish last name (O'Meera), and we both love it. So the dilemma is, if we intend to mostly call our boy Finn, then should we just name him Finn and get it over with? I like the sound of the longer and more formal Finnegan, but my husband disagrees. Middle name will be one syllable (a family name). Any thoughts?
Thank you!

I have a similar situation in my own family. With one of my children, we decided we wanted to name him X, but there was a longer version of the name---let's call it XZ---and we felt like maybe it would be better to use it as the Official Name. After much discussion, we decided we preferred the name X, so we named him X.

BUT! I'm sure there are lots of people who go with XZ and later are very glad they did: for flexibility, for formality, for nickname potential---lots of reasons. As a counter-example, with one name we were considering, we liked X but not XZ, so we decided not to use the name at all. A difference: in that case, X is widely considered to be the nickname for XZ; in the case of our son, XZ is only sometimes (narrowly, as it were) assumed to be the nickname for X, and is also a stand-alone name. And to me, Finn seems more a case of narrowly than of widely: some names are really JUST nicknames and some are shorter versions that are nevertheless full names, and Finn is a shorter version that is nevertheless a full name.

I think in your case, I would ask you which you PREFER: do you prefer Finn, or do you prefer Finnegan? Both are stand-alone names, and I think you're safe choosing the one you PREFER. Either way, I don't think later you'll think you've made a mistake.


Hillary said...

Another thing to consider is the one-syllable middle name. Does two one-syllable names sound too choppy to you? If so, using Finnegan might make for a nicer flowing name. That being said, people use their full names so rarely that two one-syllable names might not be an issue.

beyond said...

I think it depends on the name.
I know someone named Tammy by her parents. She is almost 50 now and legally changed her name to Tamara, many years ago, which I can fully understand. I think -in most cases- I would name a child Josephine, Edward or John and not the shorter versions Josie, Eddie or Jimmy even if I never intended to use their full names. I really like the "Dr. test": Dr. Tammy X vs Dr. Tamara X, you know? (Or The Honorable... )
Finn seems like a name in of itself (substantial and serious), as does Finnigan, so here I would say both are great. (Although I personally would go with Finnigan and call him Finn, it's a matter of taste, I guess.)
I hope my examples don't ruffle any feathers, as names are very personal.

Anonymous said...

I think Finn is fine, though there are other longer options if Finnegan isn't working (and if you are interested in lengthening for the sake of it). Like Finlay/Finley. Findlay...well that's all I can think of. I think I'd go for Finlay if I was doubting Finn's length.

Melody said...

This is a great question. One of my favorite names for a boy is Ned. I don't have any interest in the name Edward, but I LOVE the name Ned! However, everyone I've talked to thinks of Ned as only a nickname, and not as an actual, full first name. (They also think Ned is a terrible name, but I think they're just blind to the awesome potential.)

Fortunately, I don't have any naming responsibilities in my immediate future, so it's not something to worry about now. But I lean toward the idea that if you like the shorter name as it is, and that's how you want to think of your child, then there's no reason to name him something longer just for the sake of formality.

Alison aka Baby B said...

Comment eaten, alas!

OK, here goes. Finn reminds me of epic, handsome, brave, smart warrior of Irish legend called Finn (sometimes spelled Fionn). Since there's a Finn in mythology, I'd say that Finn has been a name on its own for quite some time. But since Finn is a common nn for Finnegan, I can see how some people might say it's not a stand alone name.

Since you and your husband both love Finn, I say go for it. If you decide you do need a longer name, Fintan/Findan or Finian would work.

Patricia said...

Finn is a popular name IN Ireland, #48 in 2009 and #57 in Northern Ireland. It's a complete name with the 2 'n' spelling, not a nickname for something else. According to one baby name website, the name comes from "Finn MacCumhail [who] was a legendary Irish hero (third century) somewhat like the English Robin Hood."'s Namipedia says of the name Finn: Popular Anglicized form of the Irish Fionn (fair, white, clear). The name was borne by the legendary Finn MacCool, the father of the famous poet Ossian and the supposed builder of the Giants' Causeway of the Antrium coast. Finn MacCool [anglicized form of MacCumhail] is the popular subject of many Irish legends and stories, which portray him as both a giant and a man of normal stature. His Gaelic name is Fionn MacCumhal."

However if you want a longer form, I'd suggest Finnian, notable bearers of the name including two 6th-century Irish bishops. I've also seen reference to several Irish saints having that name.

I just checked "The Baby Name Bible" and see that prolific baby name book authors Rosenkrantz and Satran recommend both Finian/Finnian and Finn as "best bet" names.

I personal like either much better than Finnigan because they appear to be used more as first names in Ireland.

Patricia said...

I also came across this about Saint Finnian, the father of Irish monasticism.

I personally prefer names with some history as a name of real people (not legendary) who led good lives. There seem to be a lot of Irish Celtic saints' names becoming popular recently, the foremost of them probably being Aidan. I like Finnian for that connection too. With the single syllable mn you plan to use and the added dignity of the name Finnian, I'd most likely use that as the given name. I think Finnian ____ O'Meera (nn Finn) sounds very distinguished.

Abbe said...

I agree with Hillary's point about the combination of Finn with a one syllable middle name. If it weren't for that, I'd say just go with Finn, but I've been running potential one syllable names through my head in combination with Finn and they just don't sound right. I guess the specific name could make a difference, but it's something to consider.

The Mrs. said...

When we came to naming our son, my husband and I really liked a name... it had one syllable and COULD have a longer version. I pushed for the longer version (nickname options, more distinguished, etc.). My husband pointed out something I had never considered. Women love the options, diveristy, and elegance of a longer name. Men LIKE a straight-forward, no nonsense, man's name. Case in point, my husband has a one syllable name and would never want something longer. "Men don't want to be fancy, just respectable."

Sometimes, when women ask our baby boy's name and I respond with it, they ask, "That's it? Is it short for something?" When men hear his name, they usually say, "Now that's a man's name!" and smile.

My point: Finn rocks. Embrace doing your son a favor.

All the best to you!

Emily said...

I love Finn by itself with your last name. Sounds wonderful.

I wanted it for my (now 6 year old) son, but husband did not like it. I thought I snuck it in, when we chose Griffin, thinking we'd use Finn as a nn. Despite this, he has somehow evolved into more of a "Griff" than a "Finn" now.... but it works for him.

He recently told me upon coming home from Kindergarten that he wished his name was Finn, since "F's" are easier to write than "G's". :)

StephLove said...

I usually have a strong preference for the full name (Maxwell instead of Max, Sarah instead of Sadie, etc.) even if a nickname is used, but I think of Finn as a name in itself. However, in this case, I do think the rhythm of the whole name is better with Finnegan.

Here's a related question, just for my own curiosity. Does anyone know if Fionn is the same name as Finn? Is Finn an Americanized spelling?

StephLove said...

Okay, I see my question was answered in a previous comment. Please disregard.

Jodi said...

This is a question that is dear to my heart. All four of our girls have three-syllable formal names which we use sometimes and one- or two-syllable nicknames which we use *a lot*. I feel like I often have to defend this to other parents who take the "why not just name her what you're calling her?" approach, but we have never regretted our decision.

Two factors to consider spring to mind. The first is your last name. Ours is one-syllable and common, so Finnegan would work better for flow for us. If you have a long last name, Finn might be a breath of fresh air compared to the longer version.

Secondly, as other commenters have said, there are some names that people might *assume* are nicknames when they hear them. An Ally will go through life being asked, "Is your name Allison?" while Lucy, though is could be short for Lucille or Lucia, is also a name in its own right with an established history as a stand-alone name. Finn is a name with options, so go with the one you love best :)

g~ said...

We named our son a nickname, Drew. It's not that we didn't like the name Andrew, we just liked Drew better. I say if you *really, really* like just the shorter name, go with it. It does make it easier. At most, I get, "Is that short for Andrew?" and I say, "No. We just liked 'Drew'" and that's the end of it. Go with what you prefer.
I, personally, prefer Finn to Finnegan. But then again, I like one syllable male names.

Bethtastic said...

My name is Beth. Just Beth. Not Elizabeth, or Bethany or Bethlehem. Beth.
My parents were in the camp that you name a kid what you want to call them.

I love it. Yes, I have to say, "just Beth" on a regular basis when meeting new people of filling out official forms, etc. But I don't mind. I like having a stand-alone name.

If you like Finn best (and I do, regardless of the middle name you choose), use Finn.

Congrats on the new little boy on the way!

Christine said...

I like Finn as a stand alone name, but think it might be too choppy with a one syllable middle name. (Or at least it sounds choppy to me when I add some one syllable names in my mind, like: Finn John; Finn Keith; etc.) Of course, not knowing your chosen middle, it might sound fabulous.

Up to you really. You can't go wrong! Good luck!

Adey said...

Okay, I love "The Mrs." point!

When we were naming our daughter Lana (pronounced Lawna) I found it too short with our 1 syllable last name. As a result we ended up going with Nolana and I love it.
That being said - my husband only calls her Lana and I end up calling her Lana 90% of the time now too!

I guess I would say try to think of the future. In a job setting, can you see him introducing himself as Finn or Finnegan? I really really like both names so I don't think you can go wrong with this one!!

From a girl's opinion I like the idea of being able to choose but I agree with "The Mrs." in that boys may like something more straight forward.

Elle said...

There is a huge difference between naming your child Finn instead of Finnegan or Drew instead of Andrew and naming your child Timmy instead of Timothy or even Tim.

Some nicknames are stand alone names that are appropriate for both children and adults. Some nicknames are really only appropriate for children, and should not be used as official names.

Finn stands strong on its own and fits both children and adults. Go with the name you love.