The other names

24 March 2022

This is a post years and years and years in the making.

It will likely come as no surprise that names are one of my favorite topics to think and talk and write about, but though I’ve devoted many words to discussing the names we actually chose for our three children (June, John Shepherd, and Susanna), I’ve never talked about the runners-up. Like, not ever. We hold our names close to the vest – even speculatively, and even in casual conversation, I’ve kept pretty tight lips when discussing future children’s names… forever.

But now that we have closed this chapter and all our names have been given out, discuss this topic we shall! I’m excited to talk about some of the other names we considered for our kiddos, and other names I love.

A few days before Annie was born, I clicked over to Nameberry to pull a few details for her name post. While there, I got sucked into their Baby Name DNA quiz, which labels your naming personality. (Take it here, if you’d like!) I was labeled a Charmer-Romantic, and I found it to be quite accurate:

This description reflects a lot of what we valued when choosing our kids’ names: that they are easy to spell and pronounce, that they’re not too “out there,” that they are “slightly rarer with a touch of whimsy,” and – ding ding ding! – that they are “personally significant to you in some way.” Here are the names Nameberry suggested a Charmer-Romantic might like:

I do, in fact, like most of these names in a general sense, and as you’ll see below, a few of them were even on my short list! Interestingly, I wouldn’t have chosen most of the names on Nameberry’s list of “names similar to Annie” (though I am, of course, partial to my own :))

With that background, what names were on our short list? Boys first, since, as you know, that was a much shorter short list!

William | This one was on my radar since high school. It’s classic, friendly, simple, sharp. I like the nickname Will. However, we had little personal connection to it, and it is a bit more common than I’d like.

Robert | My beloved Dad’s name! We would have gone with his nickname (Rob) over all the other options. However, it can sound a little harsh (you know, bank robbing and stuff), and is one of those names that sounds kind of funny on a baby :)

Hugh, Tate, and August | I’m lumping these together because they all fall into the same category for me: friendly-sounding, simple, classic names that I liked and jotted down over the years. I have no negative connotations with them, but also no personal connection to them. And August was pretty much out since we knew we’d have a June.

Washington | Before we knew Annie was a girl and we were kicking around potential names for a second boy, this was our top pick. It’s pretty bold, and we couldn’t really figure out a good nickname (Ash? Asher? Neither are really our style), but we loved its unabashed patriotic flair. (Of course everyone knows about George Washington, but I gained even more appreciation for him after I read His Excellency. Highly recommend!)

Aaaaaaand… that was it! Onto the gals!

Here are a few other names we considered for our daughters:

Mae | I absolutely love this name – sweet, simple, classic, lovely – and it would have been my top pick for a second girl if our first had not been named June. Without going full-on calendar theme for our kids, though, this one was unfortunately out.

Glory | We didn’t seriously consider this as a first name (a little too out there for our taste) but it was down to the wire as a middle name for Annie – we even had a pros and cons list debating our final two options. We loved the resonance for our faith, similar to Liberty, and just thought it was such a bold, confident, elegant choice that could guide our girl as she grew into her calling.

Sadie, Sally, and Scout | These three ring similar bells for me! Throwback in feel, sweet, fun, confident, simple, cheerful. Scout, of course, is plucked from my favorite book of all time, which makes me adore it, but in the end it was a little too off the beaten path for us. I think Susanna definitely fits in with this crew!

Claire | Another favorite! Lovely, simple, and strong, this is “one of those special names that is familiar yet distinctive, feminine but not frilly, combining historical depth with a modern edge,” as Nameberry puts it. I couldn’t agree more! Happily, my sister- and brother-in-law chose this for their daughter, so I still get to enjoy it in our family.

Eliza and Liza | To me, these could be described the same way as Claire – familiar yet distinctive, feminine but not frilly, historical depth, etc. Both get bonus points for nodding to my beloved Mom (though she spells her Elisabeth with an s). Since being added to my list Eliza has inched ever closer to the top – in an alternative universe, if we were to somehow have another child in a few years, I might put my money on this one.

Louisa | This one has such strong literary associations, which endears it to me. It feels elegant and strong but also lends itself to bubbly nicknames.

Swannanoa | A total wildcard to round this list out! We never seriously considered naming a child this, but bantered it around as a whimsical option :) It’s inspired by the Swannanoa River that runs through Asheville, a place that holds so many memories for us, and the poet in me loves its lyrical sound. Just try saying it out loud! So lovely. Annie could have been a nickname here, too.

And there you have it! This feels a little like baring my soul, ha. If you’d like to bare yours, please comment with some of your top name contenders for future children, your name runners-up if you already have children, or just plain names that you love. (Of course, from personal experience, I’d also understand if even typing them in the comments of a random blog post feels too revealing! :)) Let’s have at it!!

Photos from Annie’s newborn session by Anagram Photo

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March 24, 2022 6:40 am

It’s so sweet to hear all of these ideas and stories! I have loved thinking about names since childhood, and reading about others’ name choices is so fun. My girls both have their own first names and family-inspired middles, and I love how their middle names can add a little “weight” to their names and connect them to their family.

Our girls are Ava and Kate, and for a future baby we would think about Charlotte, Isla, Lydia, or Eleanor for a girl, or James, Bennett, or Louis for a boy. Always a mix of “newer” and somewhat more vintage, with a heavy British influence, I think—and usually with great nickname potentials!

March 24, 2022 7:46 am

Oh wow this was so fun and I just spend approximately 30 minutes searching all my name favorites on NameBerry! Some names that I know we’re not going to use, but I have always loved are Molly, Phoebe, and Daphne for a girl, and Collin, Henry, and Jack for a boy.

March 24, 2022 8:10 am

I’m so thrilled to see William on your list – that is our coming-in-August son’s name! For us, it holds immense significance as my beloved grandfather’s first name as well. :) what a fun post!

March 24, 2022 8:11 am

Baby names! Oh this is one of my FAVORITE conversation topics! First off, thank you for sharing that quiz — it was eerie how accurate it was for me. I am a leader-charmer, which basically means I like classic, formal names with more casual nicknames. So true!

We share a few favorite names: William (my husband’s name that I loved long before I met him!) and Mae (my grandmothers middle name and a strong contender for a future middle name for a girl).

My current favorite names are Nathaniel for a boy and Madeline for a girl. My all time favorite girls name is Eleanor/Ella but a family member beat me to using that one. It’s likely for a boy that we will end up following my husband’s family’s tradition though, which is to name a baby after their paternal great grandfather and maternal grandfather. For us, this name would be Joseph Timothy. I love that this tradition incorporates names from both sides of the family, and in our case, it does result in a classic name with good nickname potential so I’m okay with it!

March 24, 2022 9:00 am

Beautiful names! Though my name is Annie and I have a daughter named May, so I may be partial :) Love how short, sweet and a little spunky May is, just like my girl. I’m in the throes of naming a baby boy due in two months…hoping my husband and I will come to an agreement soon! Like you, my girl name list is much longer! Also, crazy how accurate the Baby Name DNA quiz was! Names I love and probably won’t use: Warner, Graham, Whit, Teddy, Wells (big on Ws I guess!) and Millie, Kit, Jane, Nell, Rosie, Merritt, Grace.

March 24, 2022 9:10 am

I found this post so interesting as, like most women it seems, I’ve loved thinking about names since I was a teenager. I loved hearing the ‘why’ behind your style and your name choices! And you are very right – it does feel oddly vulnerable to share! I think I would categorize my style as traditional/southern with meaning. I can’t wait to get to use family and maiden names for our future kiddos, which feels like a southern thing to do? Our top choices for girls are Lucy Sides (Sides is my mom’s maiden name) and Annie Winfield (Winfield is my dad’s middle name.) I also love Ellen and Jane (both family names) as well as Mary and Charlotte. For boys we love John Tyler (my husband’s name is Tyler) and Samuel Welles (Welles after Welles Crowther who was an American hero during the 9/11 attacks). I also love virtue middle names for boys like Noble, Loyal and Wright (a not-so-obvious name to symbolize righteousness). If we did those we would probably put them with common biblical names to keep it traditional, like Joseph Noble or Daniel Wright. We are expecting our first little one in October so it will be exciting to see what we end up picking from our list!

March 24, 2022 9:16 am

As you know, I LOVE thinking about and talking about baby names, and I’ve had some favorites since 6th grade!! I just clicked through to this Baby Name DNA quiz for the very first time, and the list of names it suggested for me are SPOT ON. I gasped out loud when it produced a list of my top suggested baby names, because every one of them (minus my secret one that I made up in 6th grade that no one would ever guess) is on that list… consider me very impressed (or very predictable?!)!!! Like every single one of our favorites are listed on this Baby Name DNA list it generated for me!

March 24, 2022 9:18 am

Just got soooo sucked into the Nameberry quiz, ha!
Sharing my own favorite names definitely does feel too vulnerable right now, especially since we’re just a few months away from meeting our boy, but I will pass along a recommendation for other fellow name nerds: Swistle’s baby name blog. I LOVE reading through the questions that people write in and trying to decide what I’d do in their situations!

March 24, 2022 9:39 am

Lovely names! I got “leader-noble” on the quiz, but really my name style is just “Catholic!” All of my kids are named after a saint (first name) and a great-grandparent. Their names are Claire Camille, Margaret Joyce, Beatrice Jacqueline, George Warren and Patrick William. The next names are on list are Edith Anne (girl) and Thomas Paul (boy).

March 24, 2022 10:38 am
Reply to  Caitlin

I got “leader-charmer”, but I also think my name style is just Catholic! I love saint names; some of my favorites are Lucy, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Patrick, Anastasia, and Margherita (Rita). Lucky for me, many of these names are also family names!

March 24, 2022 10:17 am

I have a friend with children named June and August! And Asher was on our boy name shortlist.

March 24, 2022 10:29 am

I love this post :) My husband and I are native North Carolinians, however we no longer live there. We wanted a little piece of NC in naming our daughter, so we chose Caroline. My husband and I met at UNC-Asheville, so we borrowed from that when naming our son Asher. Asher is also a character in one of our favorite books, My Name is Asher Lev :) Other girl names for us were Esther (my Grandmother) and Claire. Our other boy names were Reed, Parker, and George.

March 24, 2022 10:54 am

Our daughter was born last year and took our top names: Atlas, a gender-neutral pick we would have used regardless of sex, + middle name Ruth, in honor of her grandmother and the illustrious and inspiring RBG!
If we were to have a second daughter, I’d love a Poppy Lucille after the incredible Lucille Ball who like RBG broke down barriers for women her entire career. Plus, then both girls would have rhyming middle names (Atlas Ru and Poppy Lu)!

March 24, 2022 11:29 am

Loved this post and hearing your other favorite names! I’m 13 weeks pregnant tomorrow, so we are pretty much constantly talking about names. We *think* we know the gender through doing the Sneak Peek test, but we’re waiting on our genetic testing results to confirm. I had a real light bulb moment for a middle name this week, so I’m about 99 percent sure we’ve settled on a name if Sneak Peek was correct!
I’d never seen the Baby Name DNA Quiz and my results just tickled me… I got “leader-star,” which is fitting because I’ve always said aside from leaning toward family names, one of my first name tests is, “Would this name sound appropriate being sworn in as a judge/governor/president?” :) Thanks for sharing!

March 24, 2022 11:54 am

OK this naming thing was spot on for me. Even I’m impressed! I am “Star-Influencer” and one of the key phrases “you use some name nobody’s even thought about” and the names are unique. And I’m all about that! My parents named me Jewel after all, and my husband and I ended up naming our daughter Ripley :) This profile suggested several of the names we had as backups: Milo for a boy, and Aria for a girl. I’m also very partial to Raven.

March 24, 2022 2:27 pm

Thank you for sharing. I love this prompt. It feels gutsy to share since I’ve only been trying on the idea of parenthood recently. But it would mean the world to me to give each of my kids grounded and fun names that come directly from our family trees, as all the ones listed below do.
For boys: Anders, Patrick, Carlos, Rasmus (my personal fave!), Clemente
For girls: Lilia/Lily (found on both sides!), Micaela, Mae, Maria (found on both sides!)
non gender specific: Jubilee, Paz, Matea/Mateo, Antonio/Antonia, Luis/Luisa (found on both sides! with different spellings)

March 24, 2022 2:50 pm

Thank you for this fun post! It’s funny how vulnerable favorite names are. I definitely fall into the category of I can’t even share my favorites here! :) still a bit away from having my own babies, but I looooove reading other’s favorites. My fiancé and I have only one girl name that we both like so we have made a pact not to breathe a word of it to a single soul since we cannot invite opinions on that, ha!

March 24, 2022 7:21 pm

So fun!!! My favorites: Louise and James (both multigenerational family names)

Kelly Strawberry
March 24, 2022 7:27 pm

Funny so many like you are hesitant to put the names out there! I was/am the total opposite…full-on share mode! Sadie is my top girl name for sure and so happy to see it made your list, because if Em approves then I know it’s a good one, ha! For boy, my fave name is Brooks.

March 24, 2022 8:34 pm

Taking the quiz was so fun!! Thanks for that :)
Choosing names for our kids was a little extra tricky since I wanted them to exist in both of our cultures/languages. I would have even preferred names that would be pronounced the same in both English and German (why names like Lydia, Linda and Ella were on our list, but we couldn’t agree on any, ha!). My husband was very set on Kathleen and I do really love the name, I just don’t care for the German pronunciation of it. But I got my favorite as her middle name and I think Kathleen Mae sounds lovely :)
Had we had a second girl, we would have named her Ruby!!
As for boys, we knew we wanted Christoph (after my dad) as a middle name, and therefore a shorter first name. We ended up naming him Amos – I love how it is somewhat rare but not too „out there“. Although I am surprised how many people mispronounce his name, haha. Runner ups were Pete and Theo. There you have it – feels personal indeed :) But since our family is complete, it’s fun to share! Thanks for sharing yours!!

March 24, 2022 9:38 pm

This was so fun to read!! I adore the name Mae – however, my husband isn’t a fan, so it will remain a name that makes me smile when I see/hear that it is someone’s name! We have a Samuel and Leah (pronounced lee-uh). I think there’s likely one more baby in our future, so we still get to play the name game. For a boy, Peter and Benjamin top the list. Current girl faves are Paige and Naomi, though my girl names definitely fluctuate more than the boy ones.

March 25, 2022 8:38 am

This is so interesting! Quite a few of these names (Claire/Eliza in particular) were on our shortlist for names for our baby. We also love the name Sadie – we actually named our dog that and I kind of regretted it because I would have loved it as a baby name, ha! While we ended up picking something a bit less classic, it’s definitely along the same lines!

March 25, 2022 9:09 am

I found this post fascinating. I think my lane for names is just ‘Hebrew-origin’! I was committed to our kids having Hebrew names as have my husband’s non-Jewish last name. Interestingly though we went super traditional for our son, Benjamin and very outside the box for our daughter, Zetta. I love both names and can’t imagine them being called anything else (even our back up names Nathaniel and Orli).

March 25, 2022 6:53 pm

Oh, that I could have a hundred babies just to name and snuggle them all! But my body, small house, and grocery budget disagree entirely! Ha. Louisa, Edith, Sampson, Nell, Margot, Tennessee, and Sullivan (Sully for short!) were some of our (my) favorites! We have a Hazel Ruth and a Finley Rosemary. I love the patriotic flair to your list and kiddos’ names. That’s so special!

March 25, 2022 7:59 pm

We already had an Abigail (Abby), but for our second Mae (spelled that way) was going to be a first or second name if it was a girl (but we had a Levi instead!)
I love Nova. And Eleanor.
Levi was my favourite for a boy and I don’t really have any others that I love!
We are done at 2, but thinking through names (and seeing others lists) is one of my favourite things to do. I was just on Nameberry this week and my youngest is 7…!

March 25, 2022 10:56 pm

Oooh this is fun! I love your list and all of the thought behind it. Here’s mine:
Current children: James (a very meaningful family name that we also loved) and Claire (no family connection, except that it was going to be my husband’s name if he was a girl, and it’s my all-time, hands down favorite :) )
Our first two were super easy and clear, but we want one more child. If it’s a boy, we’ve already decided he will be Charles and go by Charlie, after my great-grandfather, who was an important figure in my mother’s life and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. We also adore the name and honoring my mom’s side would mean we’ve given a nod to each of our parents through our children’s names. If it’s a girl, I’m gunning for Rose, with the nickname Rosie (husband is not on board…yet). Also a family name, but a tad less meaningful, so that’s more of a bonus in this case. Mostly I just like the name and how it goes with our other names.
Others on my list:
Boys: Only one left after Charles and James- Edmund with the nickname Teddy! Edmund is my husband’s middle name and a family name. I love it and feel it is so underused! In my opinion it is much preferable to Theodore. We may use it as a middle name, but there’s unfortunately a serial killer named Charles Edmund…so maybe not
Girls: Lily, Margaret, Katherine, Elizabeth (no nicknames for any of these! Love the full versions)

March 28, 2022 1:38 pm

The quiz was so fun and I found it to be SO spot-on! I had my doubts when taking it because some of the names were very out there and I rejected more than I liked. My result was Charmer-Star. Of the recommendations I got, a few stood out to me… Caroline, the name we just gave our first born, and Harrison, my husband’s name that I adore. Thanks for sharing!

March 28, 2022 8:54 pm

Love this! I always thought names for girls would be easier, but maybe because I never had to seriously consider one! I love Noa for a girl. We thought we’d have a Lincoln and I like the nickname Linc, but it ended up not feeling right. I also love Micah, for Micah 6:8. :)