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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Ellie !llingworth

Erin writes:
I am in need of some unbiased opinions.  I would love if you could do a poll for me.  I don't want to ask family or friends because I think I will not be able to take their opinions separate from what my opinions of them are.

My husband and I are expecting our first baby in March - a girl.  Our last name is !llingworth.  One of our top girl names is Ellie.  I love the way it sounds and it means shining light.  My husband and I are Christian and many of our favorite Bible verses talk about being a light.

However I am worried about the Vowel - double L - I combo that would be in both her first and last name.

Other girl names that we like are (this is probably the order of what we like)


Her middle name will be Kay after me and my mom.

For reference, if we were expecting a boy we liked the names

Matthias (family name)
Jamieson (family name)
Augustus (would go by Gus)

We are hoping to have three children

So can you help us?  Is Ellie !llingworth to much of a mouthful?


My own opinion is that the Elli-Illi of Ellie !llingworth is definitely highly noticeable, but that it might land right in that zone of Distinctive/Memorable rather than Silly/Difficult. I think you're right that we need a poll; I've put one over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

The name Ellie doesn't have a meaning, per se; the name Ellie started as a nickname of other names, so it would have the same meaning as whatever name it was a nickname of. For example, if the full name were Elle, the name and its nickname could both be said to mean "she"; if the full name were Elizabeth, the name and its nickname could both be said to mean "God is my oath"; if the full name were Penelope, the name and its nickname could both be said to mean "duck." (Meanings taken from The Oxford Dictionary of First Names.)

One possibility if the meaning is important to you is to take a name that is said to mean light, and then use Ellie as the nickname; this would in some cases also reduce the Elli-Illi effect. Elena, for example, is the Spanish/Italian version of the name Helen, which may mean ray, sunbeam, or sun.

Another possibility is to use a baby name book or website that sorts names by meaning (I have Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names) and look in light-related sections for other options: Clara, Lucia, Lucy, Neve, Phoebe.

I'd double-check with a reliable guide such as The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, however: many baby name books use meanings they found in other baby name books, so the meanings are only as reliable as the sources used---and of the sources THOSE sources used. Often I'll find that a name's connection to its reported meaning is so slim as to be almost completely irrelevant, and that it would be just as accurate to make a similarly tenuous link to a completely different meaning. Entire categories of names without meanings of their own are sometimes assigned the meaning of a similar name. And some names have an assortment of meanings from the different languages that came up them.

To give an example, Baby Names Made Easy says the name Etta means "light" from Yiddish and "little" from German. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says it's a feminine diminutive---that is, letters added to a name to make it cute and girlish.

To give another example, Baby Names Made Easy says the name Kira means "light" from Latin and Russian, and "sun" from Persian. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says Kira is a variant spelling of Kyra; that Kyra is from either the Greek and means "lady," or else a feminine version of Cyrus, or else a feminine version of Kyran. Kyran turns out to be a variant of Kieran, and Kieran turns out to be an Anglicized version of the Irish name Ciarán, and Ciarán turns out to be a diminutive of the Irish word for "black." Hm. So that's not "light." Let's follow Cyrus instead. The origin of the name Cyrus is not known, but it was associated with the Greek word kyrios, or "lord." So that doesn't give us "light," either. Even if Cyrus or Ciarán DID give us the meaning light, would that mean the Anglicized feminized version Kira means light as well?

Which is not to say it would be wrong to use the name Ellie and go with the source you found that said it meant light. Meanings are not inherent to names---that is, no one is Lord of Name Meanings, giving each name its Real True Meaning of What It Really Truly Means. The name Ellie is a collection of letters we traditionally use as a name for girls; if you like to think of it as meaning "light" and of that meaning as having a pleasing connection to your religious beliefs, there will be no Name-Meaning Police coming out of the shadows to verify the source and give you a ticket if that source isn't traceable back to a stone tablet.

If I were you, though, I might prefer to go with Annie/Anna, which through its connection to the name Anne, and the name Anne's connection to the name Hannah, is said to mean "God has favored us with a child."

Or the name Grace can of course be connected to the biblical concept of grace, if you like.

Or Isabelle comes to us from Isabel, which is connected to the name Elizabeth, which is the usual English spelling of Elisabeth, which as we've mentioned is said to mean "God is my oath." However, I think Isabelle !llingworth is a little tricky to say.

If name meanings were important to me, I probably would not choose Cora, with its connections to the goddess of the underworld; Persephone/Cora was a nice girl, herself, but Hell is not a good neighborhood. I'd choose Clara instead, with its connections to light and brightness and clarity. Or I might choose Eleanor (nicknames Nora, similar to Cora, and also Ellie), which could also be connected to Helen (ray, sunbeam, sun).

All right, enough chit-chat. To the poll! [Poll closed; see results below.]


Leah PS said...

"Persephone/Cora was a nice girl, herself, but Hell is not a good neighborhood."

Maybe the best advice I've read on this blog. HA!

My vote is for Eleanor. A beautiful, classic name with several NN options, including Ellie for a little girl but also more grown up choices for later in life. I cannot imagine a professional Ellie !llingworth introducing herself at a business meeting.

Fourandcounting said...

Hmm...this is a hard one. If I were Ellie !llingworth, I think I'd like the repetition and rhythm of that name, but I think I would want a full-out non-nicknamey name to use for resumes and to have in nice script on my graduation announcements and wedding invites. Something like Eleanor or Ellen or Elena or Elizabeth or Elise (the possibiliteis are endless)...

I think Swistle's right- the name is more distinctive than silly. I think kids and teachers will remember an Ellie !llington.

(btw, my husband is a teacher and he had a middle schooler named Theresa Terrible. Isn't that a memorable name?)

If you're unsure, though, I say go with Annie (with Anne or Anna or Annabel for a full name.) Annie has the same friendly quality as Ellie, but you avoid the double-l repetition.

Wendy said...

I really like Eleanor, nn Ellie, which gives you the name you like but eliminates any difficulty with the repetition. I also agree with the commenter above that mentioned introducing oneself at a business meeting. I'm a stay-at-home mom now, but back when I was a college professor, I wished I had a more professional name to go by than Wendy (oh how I wish I could have introduced myself (or published) as Gwen professionally even though I go by Wendy).

Congrats on your pregnancy!

Liz said...

Ellie !llington is cute for a kid and as a nickname, but I (as an adult) would absolutely not want that as my full name. I would want something like Eleanor, Elaine, Elena, etc to fall back on. Just my personal take.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Ellie !llingworth is borderline too silly, but leans towards cute & memorable just enough to make it usable.
My biggest concern is that Ellie sounds too much like a nickname/too little girl and that it may not age well. My preference would be for something a little more formal on the birth certificate, with the nickname of Ellie.
Isabelle nickname Ellie would be the obvious choice, but Isabelle !llingworth is a mouthful. Since you also have Annie on your list, I'll suggest Annabelle with the nickname Ellie. As a bonus, you'd get to incorporate 3 of your favorites into one name!
If you decide not to go with some version of Ellie, I'd suggest Anne/Ann/Anna instead of Annie (for the same reason I would prefer for Ellie not to be the given name). The Biblical/religious meaning is much more reliable & accepted and it's a sweet, classic name.
Charlotte & Grace are nice, but they are very common where I live. I don't think either of them stand out as much as Ann/Anna/Annabelle.
Isabelle is also very popular, but my main concern here is really the flow with the last name.
Cora is a very sweet, vintage name and it isn't nearly as overdone as some of your other options. Despite the Hell reference so rightly pointed out my Swistle, I'll suggest this as my 2nd choice of your longer list. Cora reminds me of Coral, which makes me think of the sea and nature in general. Cora could also be related to the word Corazon, which is heart in Spanish. As a symbol of love for your daughter, or even religious love/God's love, etc. This would be a nice meaning to attribute to the name.

Carolyn said...

I like Elena with nn Ellie. My sister had a friend who would formally introduce herself as Allison Lastname, then among friends would go by Allie. However no one ever referred to her as Allie Lastname. It worked.

Jenny Grace said...

I think Ellie is okay, but only as a nickname for a longer name so that your adult daughter doesn't have the burden of a name too cutesy. Ellie !llingsworth is a cute little girl but as a professional woman she might prefer to have Elena or Eleanor or Elizabeth to fall back on.

Cara said...

Appelation Mountain just did a really good post about long forms of Ellie that might be helpful for you.

Anonymous said...

My friend is considering Brielle or Gabrielle, nickname Ellie for her baby. Personally, I prefer Eleanor or Elinor as the birth certificate name. If you imagine you're naming yourself would you like to be Ellie always with no longer name to fall back on for variety? I have a 2 syllable name with absolutely NO nickname potential and it always made me a little sad. I imagine having a name that was only a nickname would feel the same way. When it comes to the rhythm of the name Ellie !llingworth, I think of a heroine in a girls' chapter book. Like Junie B. Jones! Its not necessarily a bad thing but now that Junie (technically) is in college I can't imagine her name aged well.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I had to do some sleuthing because it started to bug me that Junie B. Jones's full name was never fully explained. And I found out it was! Oops, so disregard my comment about her name aging well, apparently her name is June! I remember her middle name was Beatrice "but she didn't like Beatrice". So June Beatrice Jones is probably pretty college-appropriate ;) All the more reason to at least consider an El-name that you can get Ellie from.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, when I saw the middle name Kay, I thought... "Ellie Kay... that sounds so familiar" and then I remembered: . Not a bad association, I don't think, and not a super popular woman, but maybe others thought of the same? I think Ellie !llingworth is cute. It doesn't bother me!

Alexandra said...

I agree with the commentators who say that having a full/ professional name is important for formal or official use. Though I go by Alex or Zandra with my family and friends, I really like having the option of using my full name. I always use it on paper and when introducing myself to someone for the first time. To me it feels a lot more solid (and it clears up any questions about my gender- plus I like the way my full name sounds!).

Megz said...

I always thought the name Ellen meant "torch" so perhaps that's where the meaning of Ellie being "shining light" came from?

I don't think Ellen !llingworth is really any improvement, but agree that Eleanor would work.

Have you considered naming her Ellie-Kay as a first name to break up the El-Il sound? I have personally not heard of so don't know if it would bother you either?

Lucy said...

Ellie is cute as a nickname, but I would use a longer name as her given name. It is pretty popular right now, so I would personally choose another off your list before Ellie. I like Annie (though I would use a give name that could be shortened to Annie). I actually happen to have a sister named Annie & a brother named Matthias-- such a rare, but strong name! I hope you have a chance to use it on a boy some day. Congrats on your pregnancy!!

StephLove said...

From your list I like Charlotte best with the surname. For me, Ellie is too cutesy with it.

Michelle said...

Another example of how names and their meanings morph- I understand that Anna comes from Hannah which means 'grace' and is probably associated with being 'graced' with a child because Hannah was the Biblical figure who prayed for a son with the conditional promise that she would give him back to God. God told her she would have a son and she did. She named him Samuel (told by God) and sent him as a child to live in the temple.
Like the name Ava- if you consider Eve to be the root, it means 'life'. If you think of aviation, avian, aviary, then it comes to mean 'bird'.

I agree that if you're going for 'light', I would choose something less varied in meaning like Clara. Ellie sounds fine to me with the surname, but I don't read 'light'.

Kay, by way of Katherine, means 'pure'. You could look at the many forms of this name and put that in the front- Katherine/Kathryn Lucia would literally mean 'pure light'.

Claire Wessel said...

There are tons of girls called Ellie now, but if you are fine with that, I'd encourage you to give her a more formal name (like Eleanor, Eloise, Ellen, Elizabeth, etc) so it isn't a tongue twister with the last name and so she has something less cutesy for when she is grown. I had a very hard time saying Ellie aloud with your last name and I'm usually really good with tongue twisters!

Angela said...

I voted no for Ellie llingsworth, firstly because I don't like nicknamey names as given names and secondly I do think it is too silly sounding. As a substitute teacher, if I saw that on a roster I would laugh. There are plenty of longer Ell names that have already been mentioned that would solve your problem completely!

Kelsey said...

I absolutely LOVE Ellie ?llingsworth!! I agree that it is definitely noticeable but I think it is a good noticeable. It actually reminds me of a name that you would see in a classic novel. The combination is unique but the individual names are classical... If this was me, I would definitely go with Ellie :)

As for a boy, my favourite is Augustus and then Lincoln would be my second.

Congrats and good luck! Hope you go with Ellie!!

T said...

I agree that Ellie is better for a nickname. It could be a nickname for Isabelle? I don't find it too hard to say Isabelle !llingworth. I also like Eleanor and Elizabeth or even just Elle!

Also, I'm not sure if this is your style, but seeing Ellie and Kay reminded me of the name Kaylee.

Butterflyfish said...

ivoted YES but I am firmly in the "use it as a nickname" camp -- for a Elanor or one of the other suggestions

Anonymous said...

I really like Eliza, nn Ellie, with your surname.

Eliza Kay !llingworth. Lovely!

Good luck!

Tori said...

I know of a little girl with the name Evangeline nn Ellie. So another great name meaning option to consider.

Eva.G said...

I voted no. I like the flow of Ellie !llingworth (and what a cool last name), but I don't like Ellie as a given name, or other nicknames for that matter. I do like Eleanor, Elinora, Elena, etc. Or what about just Elle....or Elaine? Clara is a great suggestion.

What about a Bible name? Anna, Elizabeth and Hannah are great women in the Bible. Other Bible names I like are Leah, Lydia, Phoebe, Rebekah, and Sarah.

Leslie said...

I voted no, but with reservations. I am another person in the camp who thinks Ellie Elling_ would make a distinctive nickname, but not a full name. It's not just the double L that repeats, but the entire first two syllables. I would have a momentary chuckle if I saw Ellie Elling_ on a class roster (the same for a Sam Sampson, Charles Charleston, etc - though also note that with any of these, Ellie Elling_ included, I would quickly get over it). At the same time, though, if I discovered an Eleanor or Elizabeth (or whatever) Elling_ went by Ellie, I would find it to be a brave choice with a certain superhero-comic-book or children's-book type charm. If it was me, I'd leave it entirely in the nickname category, but I don't want to discourage you too strongly if you and your husband both love the name. Best of luck, and let us know what you decide!

Anonymous said...

Helena, nn Ellie or Nellie, is a very pretty but strong name.

Hell-n-ah is my preferred pronunciation but Hell-ay-na is nice too.

Helena Kay !llingworth! Lovely!

Good luck!