We have three boys and are expecting our fourth child, a girl, in early March. My name is Julia, my husband is Greg, and our surname is Holloway.
Our boys are Leo Sebastian (7), Asher Hugo (5), and Simon Frederick (2). We consider ourselves pros at naming boys. My husband and I are equal partners in the naming process and really enjoyed it with our sons. We absolutely adore their names and think we did a pretty damn good job with them. But we're starting to doubt our naming prowess with our daughter.
The problem is that we suck at naming girls. This is our first girl, and probably our last (we aren't sure if we want another child after this one), so we want her name to be absolutely perfect. If this baby was a boy he would have been Jude Atticus or Felix Alasdair, depending on what he looked like. Done deal, give me the birth certificate so I can sign it already. But this wee lass is a giant pain as we are absolutely stumped on her name.
I suppose the problem is that we're very conscientious about names. Like, we really like Ivy (it's honestly the only one we've found that we like), but discarded it because of the long "i" sound it shares with Simon's name. We don't want her name to begin or end the same as any of our sons' names and we don't want any of the same dominant sounds. And this rules out a lot of names.
We also don't want a name with an easy nickname, nor a name above two syllables.
Also we would like her name to end in a vowel, though it's not mandatory.
We know that we want her name to be feminine but not frilly, soft but strong, elegant yet playful. Does it even exist? Are we being way too picky?
We did look at the meanings for our sons' names when choosing them (Leo means "lion", Asher means "lucky/happy one", and Simon means "the listener") and while it's not TERRIBLY important we would like the meaning to be at least nice, if not wonderful.
Thank you, Swistle!
You are just as good at naming girls as you are at naming boys. The problem you're encountering is that you're setting up unnecessary requirements. "Not sharing a vowel sound with any siblings" is too strict when combined with "no more than two syllables," "no nicknames," "no sharing either beginning or ending sounds with a sibling," and "having four children."
It's important when choosing a baby's name to note the differences between requirements and preferences. A requirement might be something like "not creating a silly phrase with our surname." A preference might be something like "not starting with the same initial as a sibling name." Of course it will vary from situation to situation: in some families, different initials might be the requirement and making a silly phrase might be a goal. The main difference is that requirements must be VERY FEW, or else they create a logic puzzle that not one single name in the universe can satisfy. Preferences, on the other hand, may come in the form of long lists, because it is understood that any of them can be abandoned if a name meets most of them, or if a name is wonderful enough to be worth ditching them.
The first step, then, is to divide your long list of requirements into two lists, one of actual requirements, and one of preferences. With two or three children, I think it might be reasonable to want not to share any beginning sounds, any ending sounds, any dominant sounds, or any vowel sounds. With four children, I think it's time to re-evaluate that for actual importance. A family of Leo, Asher, Simon, and Ivy does not make me think "OMG, they repeated the long-I sound!! Don't they realize their children are INDIVIDUALS??" On the contrary, I'd think what a good job the family had done finding such completely different names that nevertheless went together well.
One way to separate out the requirements from the preferences is to ask yourself whether you think the rule is more important than the name---that is, whether you should dismiss a name you agree on and love, just because you've made an arbitrary rule and now the name doesn't meet it. Which is more important, the name or the rule you made? If you reluctantly say that the rule is more important (as you might if your surname were Dover and your favorite name were Ben), then what you have is a requirement. If you think, "Wait. No, that would be silly: if the name of our dreams, the name we can't bear not to use, is a name that has three syllables even though we said it couldn't have more than two, we don't actually have to let that rule boss us around," then what you have is a preference.
Preferences can be a helpful tool for sorting through enormous piles of names. And it's very satisfying to find a name that meets most or all of the preferences, which you might still do. But when preferences start running the show or making you feel frantic, or when every name you like is at the mercy of the preferences, that means the preference list is now the unreasonable boss rather than the helpful tool. You're the one setting the standards for what qualifies as perfection, so you are also the ones who can re-set those standards.
It sounds to me like the name you're looking for is Ivy. It doesn't have more than two syllables. It doesn't have an easy nickname. It ends in a vowel. It's feminine but not frilly. It's soft but strong. It's elegant but playful. It's wonderful with your surname, and with the sibling names. Eliminating it because it shares a single sound with a brother's name is not conscientiousness, it's pickiness. (And the name Felix would have repeated not only the long-E but also the only consonant sound of Leo.)
Now, if you don't love the name Ivy, that's a different story. In that case, we still need the section about requirements vs. preferences, but you also need name suggestions.
My first suggestion is Clara. It doesn't share the first or last sounds of any brother names. It's feminine, non-frilly, soft, strong, elegant, playful. It's not as good with your surname as Ivy, but it's still good: Clara Holloway. I suggest Felicity as the middle name, unless that would eliminate Felix for a future baby. Clara Felicity Holloway.
My second suggestion is Rose. It's gotten common as a middle name, but is still surprising and fresh as a first name, while also sounding classic and traditional: a very nice combination. Rose Holloway is wonderful. Leo, Asher, Simon, and Rose. I suggest Eliza as the middle name to emphasize the Z sound of both names: Rose Eliza Holloway.
My third suggestion is Phoebe. Elegant but playful. Two syllables. Ends in a vowel. Great with the brother names. Etc. I suggest the middle name Louise: Phoebe Louise Holloway.
My fourth suggestion is Beatrix. It has three syllables, or maybe more like 2.5, and it doesn't end in a vowel---but I reject those preferences in favor of this name. Talk about elegant but playful! Talk about feminine but non-frilly! BEATRIX, baby. It's similar to your boy name choice Felix, but without being as similar to Leo. I suggest the middle name Philippa: Beatrix Philippa Holloway.
My fifth suggestion is Greta. Look at how gorgeous it is with your surname. (I like Margaret even better, but that has tons of established nicknames.) I suggest Magnolia as the middle name: Greta Magnolia Holloway.
I think I'll stop counting my suggestions. Next up is Meredith. Three syllables, true; if that turns out to be one of the truly important requirements, then never mind. But man, what a great name with your surname and with the brother names. Leo, Asher, Simon, and Meredith! Meredith Holloway! Maybe put Ivy as the middle name, if it turns out not to work as a first name: Meredith Ivy Holloway.
Next is Ruth. Ruthie springs to mind as a nickname, but I love it with the brother names. Leo, Asher, Simon, and Ruth. A much more serious spin on the group than something like Phoebe, though. I'd put something light and feminine as the middle name; maybe Clarissa. Ruth Clarissa Holloway.
To maintain a lighter touch, maybe Ruby: Leo, Asher, Simon, and Ruby.
Ruby would make me think of Lucy, but I suspect that won't fly with Leo. But Lucy makes me think of Darcy, which I think fits better anyway: Leo, Asher, Simon, and Darcy.
Name update! Julia writes:
So um I just had the baby eight hours ago but I'm so excited about her name I just had to give you an update!
We went to the hospital with three names: Phoebe Juniper, Clara Beatrix, and Eloise Ivy (which was a miracle in itself seeing that when I first begged you for help we had absolutely nothing). We loved them all equally and had no idea how we were going to pick. Like, I was expecting the decision of her name to be harder than actually giving birth to her.
But. When I held her the first thing I noticed is that she had this little scrunched-up look on her face and when our son Leo held her for the first time she punched him in the nose; our three-year-old Simon didn't want to hold her after she pinned him with a tough glare. So her personality helped us narrow down the names. She wasn't a sunny, sweet Phoebe. She wasn't a soft, playful Eloise. This baby was a no-nonsense, I-may-be-a-only-a-few-hours-old-but-I-am-already-the-boss-of-all-of-you Clara Beatrix.
We're all doing great and HOLY MOTHER we named our daughter a name we actually adore to pieces. Thank you, Swistle! It was your suggestions of Clara and Beatrix that made the names click with us. And the preferences vs requirements post for us was extremely helpful. So thanks again!
Anyway, I'm sorry if I'm insensible. I just needed to share my happiness about Clara's name and couldn't wait!