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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: All the Names We Like are Too Popular

Liz writes:
My husband and I are expecting our first child in April. We didn't have any girl names picked out, but knew if it was a boy, his name would be Dominic. Of course we found out we're having a girl! We couldn't have it the easy way.

Our problem is that it seems all the names we like are too popular right now. We're talking Isabella (used to be my favorite), Sofia, Ava, Mia... all beautiful names, but they're everywhere! We're trying to find a name that's outside the top 50 girl names. By no means does it have to be totally obscure... just not super-trendy. We know that these lists change, so a name we pick now may be very popular in a couple years - but that's the risk we take.

We have a 3-syllable Italian last name that ends in "isi" and we like the more Latin or Italian sounding names, although that's not a must-have. As you can tell from our list above, we also like names that are definitely feminine. No disrespect to the female Dylans and Jordans of the world - it's just not our style for our baby.

Our possible middle names are all family-related. We'd like to use one of the following:

Marie or Mary
Catherine
Elizabeth or Beth
Jacquelyn
Carol

Can you help us? We would be forever grateful! Maybe we can name her "Swistle." ;)

I think the name Swistle goes best with Elizabeth: Swistle Elizabeth _____isi. I love it. Or maybe it's too much L?

There are a few ways to approach the issue of having popular tastes:

One is to say "Hang it!" and go ahead and use your favorite names. The number one name last year was Isabella, but so far there have only been two Isabellas total in all of my kids' classes combined (I'm including all five kids but thinking especially of the younger three, who were all born after Isabella was in the top 10). I think a bigger problem are the names that get popular in groups: in William's class last year there was a Kyle, a Kyler, and a Kylie. Or a class might have an Amelia, an Emilia, an Emma, and a Mia, which is more noticeable than a single Sophia.

A second approach, which could tie in to the first approach, is to choose a popular name, but choose one with a steadier popularity curve: something that never gets too UNpopular, instead of something that went from almost unheard-of to Top 10 in less than a decade: Elizabeth instead of Isabella, Anna instead of Ava. (And all of the names on your list are less risky than a total newcomer such as a Cadence or a Madison.)

A third approach is to think, "Having a less common name is worth selecting a name I like less." In that case I'd go to the charts, pull up the list of the Top 1000 for 2010, start at #50, and work my way down while jotting down possibilities. As you've already noticed, some of those names might be on their way up (you can search each name separately to make sure it's not going up like, for example, #364 in 2008, #204 in 2009, #52 in 2010), but it's different odds choosing a maybe-it-won't instead of an it-already-has.

A fourth approach, which could tie in to the third approach, is to find names that are similar to the popular ones: for example, Cleo instead of Chloe. This is risky: it's what leads to a Kyle and a Kyler and a Kylie, or to an Eleanor and an Ella and an Elizabeth all going by Ellie. But it can also pay off beautifully: maybe everyone is tired of Isabella, but Isadora and Annabel would strike them as fresh and different--having some of the elements that make everyone like Isabella, but not in a way that would make them the next big thing.

Because it sounds like your preference is to avoid the popular names, I'll lean toward the fourth way: finding names that are similar to the names you like, but less popular. Here's how I'd do your list (with an extra-thorough perusal of The Baby Name Wizard's section of Italian names), but "names that seem similar" is a very subjective category so this is just to give you the idea:

Instead of Isabella: Isadora, Annabel, Willa, Gabriella, Mirella, Marilena, Raffaella, Arabella, Cordelia, Elisabetta.

Instead of Sofia: Fiona, Phoebe, Bianca, Josefina, Josephine, Claudia, Lucia, Annika, Philomena.

Instead of Ava: Eva, Eve, Ada, Ivy, Elsa, Geneva.

Instead of Mia: Lia, Celia, Mila, Mira, Gia, Ria, Nina.


You probably want to save Dominic in case of a future boy, but Veronica or Danica or Annika might have a similar and appealing sound for a girl.



Name update! Liz writes:
Our beautiful daughter Stella Elizabeth was born on April 25, 2012.  My husband actually suggested the name Stella, and I loved it from the start!  It has the "ella" ending that I love, without being as popular as Isabella and the like. You and your readers did offer some great suggestions - particularly Sonia and Cecilia - so if we have another daughter, we may use one of those! Stella just seemed like the perfect, spunky name for our little girl.  As you can see from the picture I attached - she has quite the attitude!

Thanks for your help! 


19 comments:

Suzanne said...

Use Josephine! Or Cordelia! Or Mira! All beautiful, all unusual, all classic. I know one 4 year old Josephine and I am jealous of her name every time I see her.

Nicole Trager said...

I really like Bianca, Gia and Celia for you, they have a latin bias but are familiar and not too popular. Good luck!

beyond said...

If you LOVE a name that's in the top 50, I say go for it.
Otherwise, I suggest Adela, Cara, Elina, and I like Swistle's suggestions of Mila and Willa.
I just met a baby Elina and I think it's adorable. Elina Catherine ___isi.
I also like Cara for you. Simple, feminine, universal. Cara Marie ___isi.
Good luck!

Tara said...

I, also, have a very Italian last name that rules out a lot. Here are some of the names we talked about when I was pregnant with a girl: Eriana (my daughter's name), Eliana, Natalia, Annalisa, Annabella, Christiana, Margaret, Sadie, Adele, Lisbeth, Eliza, Elizabeth, Fiona, Katya, Cate, Catherine, Melina, Amelia, Emmaline.

Good luck!

Angie said...

I too have a very Italian last name. And I think this is a fun name game to play:

Instead of / try this

Isabella / Anastasia, Cecilia

Sofia / Silvia*, Serafina

Ava / Greta, Vera, Aida, Ida

Mia / Cosima

I also thought you might like Naomi.

Good luck.


* Silvia is the Italian spelling of Sylvia.

Natalia said...

I have the same problem, I tend to like highly popular names and then I hate that they're so popular! I mean, I don't care if it's in the top 50, but I really don't want a top 10 name. I used to love Isabella, and after it became so popular (even in my Spanish speaking country! names are globalized too!) I begun to prefer Isabel better (which is a very traditional name here). Then my sister-in-law named her daughter Isabella so now I can't even use Isabel (I don't have kids yet and I'm not pregnant either! I'm a planner!)

Well, from Swistles' list I really like Isadora, Elisabetta, Lucia, Eva and Mila.

Isadora Beth
Elisabetta Marie
Eva Catherine --> love this one!!

Isabella reminds me of Camilla:
Camilla Beth

Lucia made me think of Linda (which means pretty!):
Linda Catherine

Lara is another short name like Ava and Mia.

Another S- names that I like:

Serena
Sienna Catherine

Names ending with -ina are very popular in Spanish and Italian speaking countries, and sound very feminine for me. I love:

Valentina
Angelina
Seraphina Marie

Have fun thinking names! Please share your thoughts and final decision with us!

Mary said...

Isabella > Estella, Julietta, Liliana, Francesca, Christiana, Isana, Josana, Helena, Valentina

Sofia > Ziva, Athena, Julia, Natalia, Leonor(a), Sonia, Viviana (nn Vivi), Zinnia, Analise,

> you could also name her Sofia, and use Fia as the nickname.

Ava > Eden, Ayla, Faye, Maya, Aviana, Isla, Aviva, Stella, Ione, Adriana, Elodie

Mia > Mia could still be a great nickname. What about Emiliana (Emi or Mia, or Ana)? Milena, Malia, Mariana, Marina, Caramia, Miranda, Melina

You could always add "bella" as an endearment to her real name. I.e. Milena- Mia Bella. Melina - Melibella.

gail said...

A beautiful, underused and feminine Italian name is Donatella, using the nn of Tella or Dona.

StephLove said...

I think you got some good advice from Swistle and commenters so I will just throw in this. I know a Dominik with a toddler sister named Seneca. It is traditionally a male name, but sounds female to American ears because of the ending, I think. It took some getting used to but now I really like the pairing and it's unlikely to hit the top 50 any time soon.

christine said...

For those who love Sofia, Sonia is the Russian version, but I know Italians who have it too and I think it's love without the popularity.

Francesca is one of my favorite names especially with the nickname Frankie. You get a super feminine name with a spunky nickname? That's a win.

I also love Swistle's suggestion, Isadora.

OR go for what you love. I know one Isabel and one Sofia personally even though I do find these to be very popular names for blogger's kids, which might make it feel more common?

Good luck!

Angie said...

Oh - another substution idea for Isabella:

Isolde.

Anonymous said...

I really like Mira and Mila. Both pretty and familiar, but not super popular. I also like the pp suggestion of Sienna, although it is 3 syllables and maybe too long with your first name? Good luck

Laura said...

My husband and I secretly adore the name "Fiammetta" - it means "little flame" and is the pseudonym of the muse for writer Giovanni Boccaccio.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiammetta

KWILY said...

I think Annabella is a fresh alternative to Isabella. I also like Mira!

vanessa said...

Oh, Sonia is a GREAT suggestion. I know a young Sonja (prefer that spelling) with a sister named Renee. It is just a lovely name. Sonja Elizabeth or Sonja Catherine.
Isadora is also lovely. Isadora Beth! Izzy Bee! thats just crazy cute.
Cornelia is a name I never hear, probably because of the corn part, but I still like it. Cornelia Catherine or Cornelia Beth.
Veronica and Dominic would be a cool sibset.
I met an Aga today, that's like Ava...yeah, I don't love it either.
Also recently met: Sabine, prn Sah-Bean. Very cute. Sabine Elizabeth.

gail said...

Also, in the top ten in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland are Martina and Alessia. And Valentina is #11, and Chiara #13.

Liz said...

Thank you, everyone! I love some of the suggestions above - Cecilia, Annabella, and Chiara are beautiful. My husband actually just threw a name in the hat that I actually love - Stella. It has that "ella" ending, but is a little spunkier than Isabella and isn't as popular. We're thinking Stella Catherine or Stella Elizabeth... we'll see when we meet her!

vanessa said...

Stella Catherine is awesome! I've seen Stella on lots of lists but have only met one real live little Stella. It's a great, spikier version of Ella.

AirLand said...

I know this is late, but how about Aurelia?

Also, I love Stella!