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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Spellings of Riley

Allyson writes:
I gave DH a list of lovely girl names (in no particular order: Madeline, Lauren, Alexis, Kaylee, Amelia, Emmaline, Hallie, Haley, Sydney, Riley, Addison, and Ashlyn) and there were two names he didn't veto- Riley and Addison. I prefer Riley over Addison, so that's the name we are currently debating. The problem is I think it should be spelled Riley, since it's the most common spelling. Having to grow up as Allyson, aka "that's Allyson with two Ls and a Y," I greatly value using the common spellings. He thinks Riley is a boy's name and it should be Ryleigh. I hate it, I think it looks too contrived. I suggested Rylee as a compromise, but he thinks "lee" makes it a boy's name. Sigh. So I guess my question is two parts: 1) Are there any other obvious spellings for Riley other than Ryleigh, Rylee, Reilly (which would be my second choice), and Rylie (which is listed as an option on Baby Name Wizard, but it makes me want to say Ri-Lie? 2) What do you do when you agree on a name but not the spelling?


Well, if you're Paul and me, you abandon the name, feeling bitterly resentful about the other person's ridiculous stubbornness. We both liked the name Elliot, but I ONLY liked Elliot and he ONLY liked Eliot, so we didn't use it at all and I'm still a little crabby about it.

This question reminds me of the Ivy vs. Ivee question we did awhile back. Our basic consensus was that the spelling is an important part of the name: if the spelling has not been agreed on, the name has not been agreed on---and often this ends in needing to move on to another name choice.

As with the Ivy/Ivee question, I'd start by using facts to see if I could break down resistance. Riley is not "a boy's name": according to the Social Security Administration, in 2010 it was given to 5,506 girls and 3,606 boys.

Nor does "-lee" make it a boy name: in 2010, the spelling Rylee was given to 2,957 girls and 314 boys. Now, if he would like to say that it FEELS like a boy name to him when it's spelled either of those two ways, he may do so (though it seems like he would be eager to attempt to adjust his feelings to reflect reality), but he may not argue that it IS a boy name.

The only spellings of Riley I don't see on your list are Ryley and Ryli. (I also saw Rylei, Rilei, and Ryliegh in the Social Security data, but I'm chalking those up to misspellings or different pronunciations.) I'm not going to recommend Ryli but maybe Ryley has potential: changing a vowel to a Y is a common feminizing device, so perhaps this would be a good compromise spelling. And considering how many spellings there are of Riley, I think she's going to have to spell it each time no matter what.

The other option is to use Riley as a jumping-off place for finding a new name:



Kim said...

I think it is a beautiful name for a girl or a boy (like many other great unisex names like Dylan, Taylor, etc). But to be honest I do not like any of the other spellings. If you cannot get your husband to go with Riley, then I wouldn't suggest using the name. The other spellings look way to contrived in my opinion.

Jessica said...

For a girl, I like Rylie. I also know a little girl named Rylee, but have always thought that spelling was a bit of a stretch.

I do think, though, if one of you won't be comfortable with the spelling it would be better to find a new name.

Anonymous said...

ditto the above comment- if you can't find a compromise, I'd keep looking.

Personally I would go for Riley or Rylie as I think these are the two most common spellings.

Addison, with the son in it, would seem more masculine to me than Riley.

Some other ideas:


Anonymous said...

You both like Addison, so why not go with that? Addie is a cute nn.

StephLove said...

I admit to being a spelling snob and I only like it spelled Riley. It might be time to go back to the drawing board. I did like some of Swistle's suggestions: Bailey and Keely in particular.

Or how about some other unisex names: Jordan, Quinn, Sydney, etc. I usually don't like the add-a-y-to-make- it-feminine strategy but it doesn't bother me in Sydney for some reason. Maybe the city makes it feel more like a genuine spelling to me. If your husband likes those ys it could be a good consensus name.

Anonymous said...

How about the spelling Reilly? I like traditional spellings normally, but I know a little girl named Reilly and it seems normal and feminine on her :)

Erin said...

Ha! I have a Riley (girl) and my husband and I had the exact same argument. I ended up winning because I REALLY didn't want to have to spell her name to everyone her entire life and he agreed that Ryleigh has a much different feel than Riley does (gosh, I hope that makes sense). We love her name and we are so glad we did it, though we have had a few issues (doctors appt. and such) where they thought she was a boy but we knew that one going in. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Swistle, why didnt you tell her to consider using Addison? Do you have something against this name? Based on what she said, Addison would be the remaining one by default that her and her husband agree on, yet you suggest Addilee? Did you make that name up? I can understand suggesting the other list, but you make no mention of using Addison, which makes it seem like your trying to steer her away from the name. As far as Riley, I think the husband is being silly, Riley should be spelt Riley regardless of gender.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add, if you were trying to steer her away from the name Addison, what your reasons were? Thanks!

Swistle said...

Anonymous- If you'll look at the letter, you'll see she said that she prefers Riley over Addison, so that is the name they are currently debating. Then she asked me two questions: (1) are there other spellings of Riley, and (2) what do people do when they can agree on a name but not a spelling. Those were the questions I was answering.

If you would like to suggest she give up on the name she prefers and use Addison instead, this is the perfect place for it---but I suspect that idea has already occurred to her, since she specifically says it's the other name she and her husband agree on.

Anonymous said...

No Im not suggesting that she choose Addison over Riley, but she did say that her and her husband only agreed on two names, Riley and Addison, and yet you mentioned nothing about them going with Addison, instead you offered Addilee as well as other suggestions (I think its great that you made extra suggestions)...but was curious as to why you were ignoring Addison which was the other one they were considering.

vanessa said...

I like Riley more or less as a name, but truly only spelled Riley. Otherwise I find it too made up seeming--wow that was a terrible sentence! I like Swistle's suggestion of Bailey, or theres Carly, Adrienne nn Adri (reminds me of Addison and Riley ;)

Swistle said...

Anonymous- Because she said they had two names they agreed on, and first she was working on Riley; if the Riley ideas failed, Addison was already in place as the second choice. There's no need for me to suggest to her something she just told me.

Anonymous said...

My son had a Riley (boy) and a Rylie (girl) in his preschool class.

FWIW, they ended up getting called Riley-boy and Rylie Jo. Needless to say, Riley-boy's parents put a stop to that pretty quick.

Ryleigh looks like you're trying too hard to be kre8ive, imo.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Swistle for your clarification. And I apologise to you for my snarky response to Jana, bullies need to be put in their place, and she was exhibiting bully behavior...mocking etc.

Anonymous said...

Addison is going to be the next debate. How would you spell the nickname? Would it be Addy? Addie? Is the full name spelling up for debate? Addison? Addisyn? Addyson? Adyson? Yikes!

If the spelling debate drives your nuts, here are a few others. How about Ainsley? Kaya? McKenna?

Beth said...

I have a great unisex name for you: Evan. I love the way this sounds on a little girl (came across it on a girl in my daughter's school). It's feminine, but kind of spunky. It has the same "feel" as Riley (which I also love for a girl).

Natalie said...

Although I'm not a fan of the name itself, I would rank spellings for a girl-Riley like so: 1. Riley, 2. Rylie, 3. Ryleigh, 4. anything else.

I doubt that anyone would actually say "rye-lye" for Rylie, but if you see it that way in your head, I suppose I can understand nixing it. I guess as a Natalie myself, I'm used to "-lie" making the "lee" sound.

christine said...

I only really like it Riley; with Rylie as a distant second. I like a lot of the suggestions above!

Best of luck!

StephLove said...

I want to amend that I do like Reilly as well. I said I only liked Riley.

The Mrs. said...

I know a baby Briley, and she is a cutie pie! I like Briley over Riley because (A) Riley is still a name for boys and (B) Briley is only for girls... I personally prefer gender specific names.

Riley (and Addison) feel more early 2000s and less 2010s to me as well. But a "newer" name like Briley or Rylynn seem more current to the trends.

The names you and your husband agree on seem to lend toward the spunky, sporty end of the spectrum. Rory (can be short for Aurora), Mia (can be short for Amelia), Cleo, and Kira remind me of your style.

Don't know if my comments are helpful to you at all, but hopefully they are! All the best to you and your husband as you pick the perfect name for your daughter!

Claire said...

I'm of the opinion that Riley is a perfectly acceptable name for either a boy or a girl - but I really only like the spelling of "Riley" - to me it is the most intuitive, and I think any of the other options would turn into something your child will end up spelling out to others for the rest of her life. I don't mind "Reilly" as much as the other variants, though it would make me assume that you either REALLY liked Frankenstein or that it was a surname from somewhere in your own family tree.

I like the other suggestions of Evan, Kylie and Zoe. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I can see where Riley may be viewed as more early 2000's but the above poster is WAY off on Addison being early 2000's verses more current. Addison didnt even come onto the scene until 4 years ago, 2006-2007 (look at the statistics from the SSL website) so it is most definitely current, which is why some people say its trendy, because it came into popularity fast, thanks to Grey's Anatomy who had a character named Addison. With that said, Riley is definitely still current and on trend, its been steadily climbing the charts.

Anonymous said...

Sorry someone posted before me, so that person is not the poster I was referring too, its the one who was trying to say that Riley and Addison dont feel as new as the others she suggested. Again, I stick with both names being current and not labeled as 2000 names, they feel newer then that.

Swistle said...

Anonymous 12:11 a.m.- I've got Addison hitting the Top 1000 hard and fast as of 1994. According to the Social Security Administration:

1994: #800
1995: #677
1996: #546
1997: #475
1998: #403
1999: #369
2000: #322
2001: #270
2002: #220
2003: #190
2004: #160
2005: #106
2006: #28
2007: #11
2008: #12
2009: #12
2010: #11

So you're right that it's been more PRESENT since 2006, and that the boost may have been from Grey's Anatomy---but it's been on the scene for quite a bit longer than that, way back in the 1990s, and was already climbing quickly and steadily before the TV show.

I'd credit its popularity more to parents who loved the name Madison but felt it was too popular to use. This could also explain why the name might feel a little more "last decade": it feels like it's tied to Madison.

Frazzled Mom said...

I also immediately thought of the Ivy vs. Ivee debate and also agree if you can't agree to the spelling, it's time to find a different name or fall back on Addison.

For what it's worth, I really only like the Riley spelling on either gender, and find Rylie just barely acceptable for a girl only. The other spellings look too contrived to my eyes.

For other possibilities, I like Swistle's suggestions of Ellie, Callie, and Keely. I second the other poster's suggestion of Ainsley, and thought of it as well. I also like the suggestion of Rory, which made me think of Romy.

I don't think any of these have been suggested (sorry for any repeats):


Good luck.

Patricia said...

In 2010 combined spellings of Riley placed the name at #14 most popular name given to baby girls:

14 (rank) 12362 (girls given the name): Riley (5506), Rylee (2957), Ryleigh (1663)Rylie (988), Rileigh (207), Rilee (173), Ryley (147), Reilly (137), Rhylee (106), Rylea (69), Rhiley (58), Rylei (49), Ryli (40), Rhylie (28), Ryliegh (23), Reiley (18), Rhyleigh (18), Rhilee (13), Riely (12), Ryeleigh (11), Ryelee (10), Rilie (10), Rilei (10), Ryllie (9), Reily (9), Rieley (9), Ryliee (8), Rhylei (8), Rhyli (8), Rhylea (7), Rielly (7), Reileigh (7), Ryliee (8), Rylii (6), Reilley (6), Rilea (5), Rily (5), Rhileigh (5), Rhyley (5), Ryle (5)

In 2010 combined spellings of Riley placed the name at #103 most popular name given to baby boys:

103 (rank) 4465 (boys given the name): Riley (3606) Rylee (314) Reilly (162) Ryley (161) Rylie (55) Reily (35) Rhiley (23) Ryleigh (15) Rhylee (14) Rilee (12) Reiley (10) Rielly (10) Reilley (9) Riely (8) Rhyley (7) Rylei (7) Rilley (6) Ryelee (6) Wriley (5)

Anonymous said...

Swistle, I disagree that the name Addison feels last decade, it may have started coming on the scene a while ago but it was a rare name then, so really no one was hearing it. As you said its been present in the last few years, which means to most parents it feels fresh and new, because they werent hearing it when it was a less used rare name. I agree it is a Madison alternative for parents, as well as a Allison alternative. Its really a combo of the two. Im curious Swistle, how long of a run do you think Addison will have, before it starts falling on the charts? Madison has been considered a popular name for about 20 years now and has started a recent slight decline in the last couple of years. Allison on the other hand has been steady (popular but not super popular) for around 30-40 years, and I have to wonder when this one will fall off the popular charts? Curious what your thoughts/predictions are.

Anonymous said...

Also wanted to add, that Im not trying to argue with you Swistle, I think exchanging different points of views can be a good thing.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I'll add it to the post idea spreadsheet!

Anonymous said...

Oh darn, I was hoping to get your feedback because Im considering the name. Plus I would assume it might be helpful to the original poster of the question who may end up using Addison, now that everyone has been discussing the stats etc. But if you dont have time then I understand.

Michelle said...

I like the Riley spelling best, but I also think Rylie would be okay. Kiley is my second choice. And I like Addilee because it's like Addison + Riley. I might spell it Adeleigh, though.

Anonymous, Swistle didn't say she didn't have time, she said she's putting it in the list. That's how it works: people submit questions, and she answers a selection each week. If you want your question answered, you have to submit it. Otherwise it's unlikely anyone would see the discussion, buried in a comments section. There are instructions over on the right.

Anonymous said...

Swistle, you can disregard my question to post on your blog. Because if your going to answer a question about Addison, I might have some other things to ask you regarding that name, as well as extra suggestions you might have for me. So anyway I might submit a question about it later and then have you address it.

Swistle said...


Riley said...

I know I'm a little late but I want to weigh in because my name is Riley. I'm 27 years old and growing up I always had to spell my name for people (it was a very unusual name in the 80s and 90s). Only in the last few years have people begun to figure out how to spell it on their own. Riley is the most common way to spell the name and because it is becoming more popular these days this is how most people will initially think to spell it. I think you will encounter many more problems if you use a different spelling.

Anonymous said...

I grew up with a girl who's name was "Reilly." Maybe it's because that's the first "Reilly" I knew of, I think of it as a girl's name. Then as I got older, I met a boy name "Riley." These two spellings have stuck in my head. So consider spelling it Reilly.

Anonymous said...

I know a girl named Rhylie. I think it seems more of a girl's name if it's spelled this way. Hope that helps!