Thursday, March 29, 2012


Today's name is Marcheline (MARSH-el-een) which is French, meaning "warlike" or "little warrior." It is the feminine variant of Marcel. Marcel comes from the Roman god Mars. It is also the name of Marcheline Bertrand (birth name Marcia Lynne), Angelina Jolie's mother, and the middle name of her daughter Vivienne.

I selected Marcheline for March because March would make a super cute nickname. In 2010 there were no baby girls named Marcheline, but there were 35 Marcelina, 6 Marceline, 14 Marcelle, and 8 Marchelle. In 2011 there were 5 girls named Marchella, 8 Marcelle, 9 Marciana, 12 Marceline, 20 Marcelina, and no girls named Marcheline.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reader Question: A Native American-Irish Wolf Warrior

HI there,
I saw your website and was wondering if you would be able to help. We are looking for an Irish or Native American name meaning "wolf" or "warrior". We found a few but we couldn't find any with pronunciation help.
Thank you
_ _ _

Thank you for coming to me for help!

First of all, there's always Wolf if you have a boy. It makes an interesting and straight-forward middle name option. In Irish for boys we have Faolan (FEH-lon or FWAY-lawn), meaning "little wolf," and Phelan (can be pronounced both FAY-lan and FEE-lan), meaning "like a wolf," Conan (KO-nan), meaning "wolf," or Conall (KON-all), meaning "strong wolf." There is also Canagan, which means "wolf cub," Connor, meaning "wolf lover," Maccon (MAK-kon), meaning "son of a wolf," and Conry, meaning "king of wolves." Most Native American wolf names are very hard to pronounce, but one does stand out: Mahigan/Maheegan/Mohegan, "wolf." It is important to note that at times, wolf and warrior are synonymous.

For both girls and boys we also have Seneca, a tribe name meaning "People of the Great Hill," or "old" in Latin. It can be paired with a name meaning wolf to make a wise and elegant "old wolf." There are not any options meaning "wolf" that come from Ireland for girls, though, so it might be a good idea to simply pair an Irish name that you like with a Native American name that you like. Cheyenne (SHAY-enn), Oneida (oh-NY-dah), Tallulah (tah-LU-lah) and Dakota are nice Native American names, and Siobhan (sha-VON), Saoirse (SEER-sha), Caoimhe (KEE-va), Deirdre (DEER-dreh), Fiona, Maeve, Regan, Alannah and Brigid make excellent Irish girl names that are either already well known in America or are becoming more accessible.

As far as warrior names go, here is a really good list that includes pronunciation. The names are a little more in depth than just "warrior," so you should really check it out. My favorite name here is Tressa.

Here's more on strong Irish/Gaelic names. For boys, Rowan is one of my favorite names, as are Cashel, Finn, and Alasdair. I like Rowan because I always see tree names as being strong. Adair (meaning oak grove) and Labhras (there is an accent on the second a that I don't know how to type) fall into that category, I believe. I also like Casey (vigilant in war) which has been the name of a lot of male actors, and others I have recently come across that are attractive or rare are Argyle, Lachlan (which means "warrior from the land of the lakes") and Declan, who was an Irish saint. Ryan has always been very popular, but it means "little king." Bearach is practically unheard of, but means "spear." It is pronounced BAHR-ahk/BEHR-ahk.

 For girls, some of my favorites are Fionnuala (white shoulder) pronounced finn-uu-lah, Siobhan, Saoirse, Caoimhe, Alastriona, and a lot of people are really liking Aoife (EE-fa) who was a legendary female warrior, and Aoibheann (EEV-uhn). I also really like the idea of Avalon in the first or middle name spot. Bedelia (meaning "pwer, strength") was a name popular ages ago, so it falls into today's trend of "vintage reborn." And Morrigan is the name of an Old Irish goddess of battle, meaning "great queen."

For other names that mean wolf that are not Irish or Native American, please see this list:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When does an unusual name cross the line?

Many people wonder either how popular a name can be for it to be usable, or how unpopular a name can be to be usable. When does it become too popular, or too unusual? I know my preferences are different from the next person, perhaps even extremely different. I would choose a name that is not in the top 1000, and has not been in the top 1000 for the past decade, but is not a word, place, or thing, and is not made up. In other words, a legit name that the child will likely never see on someone else their age, but something easily understandable. Definitely not something like Expo, but maybe something like Verbena. But I've always been drawn to rare, historical, and mythological names, having a naturally rebellious and creative nature. Everyone else I know, even if they want their child's name to be unique, tends to go for names on the top 1000 list, with popularity being an afterthought.

So as general advice, here's what I suggest: don't choose an unusual name that is also akward, hurtful, or will give your child trouble. In other words, don't deviate from traditional spelling to the point where no one will ever spell it right (Anejelah instead of Angela), don't make up a name (Arjaiden), don't name them after an object (Video) or product (Nivea) or descriptive word (Shine). A name like Ursa is rare and will get weird looks at first, but your child will be able to confidently tell people about Ursa Minor and that it means "little bear." A name like Oreo, Swift, or Shimmer, will just get weird looks. Keep your options between rare legitimate names, and those that are not in the top 100 to 300. The reason I suggest it not be in the top 100 is because, for example, Leah currently ranks #24, there were 6474 baby girls born in 2010 named Leah, which means there were about 130 born with this name per state in just one year. This does not take into account all the previous years and fluctuations in popularity. So, better safe than sorry.

Everyone will be different. Maple is a good example. I'm sure last year everyone would have said "That's weird for a name," but this year it has gotten so popular that even a celebrity used it, but there are still those who refuse to accept it. So, some might consider Anielka crossing the line, but it is not offensive, akward, or too troublesome.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Odessa (oh-DESS-ah) may be a Greek name meaning "angry man" or "full of wrath," but it sure does sound like a _ woman. Odessa is the female variant of Odysseus, which gives it that mythical, adventurous allure, and it was the name of a Russian port city supposedly named for the Odyssey. It is currently the 4th largest city in Ukraine, given its name by Catherine the Great, but there are many U.S. cities named Odessa as well. Maybe it's because Odessa is situated on the Black Sea, but to me it has a nautical property. In fact, it is possible the word Odessa came from was borrowed by the Greeks and that the true meaning is "marine." So, goodbye negative meaning. Odyssa and Odyssia are also legit spellings.

Odessa last ranked in 1959 at #959 after slowly decreasing in popularity, but it ranked every year since records started being kept. In 2010 there were only 48 baby girls named Odessa, and in 2011 there were 44. Nicknames include Odie, Dess, or Dessie. Just fyi, there were 19 baby girls named Odette in 2010, 10 named Odyssey, and 16,860 named Olivia. So Odessa makes a great alternative if you love Olivia.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


If you were born in late March that means you are an Aries (the ram). I chose Mars to be today's name because Aries is ruled under Mars, and there is a powerful connection between the planet Mars and the month of March. Mars was the Roman god of war, said to be as ruthless as he was handsome, with a gentle side seldom seen (he was the lover of Aphrodite, said to be most beautiful). His celebrations were mainly held in March. The red planet has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. (For you Sailor Moon fans out there, those were the names of Sailor Mars's crows.) Not only was the planet named for the god, but so was the month of March, making this a suitable name for a baby boy born this month. It is also important to note that Ares was the other names for Mars, so what a coincidence that his Greek name is one letter short of March's astrological sign Aries. The ram is also a truly fitting animal for an Aries, its hard-headed, strong-willed character matching that of the god Mars.

This is a truly testosterone driven name, much more so than Hunter or Mason. In 2010 there were only 14 baby boys named Mars. In 2011 it went up  to 23 boys. There were also 97 boys named Aries in 2011.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Aquamarine is the birthstone for March, and what a pretty springtime color it is. I've seen a lot of unusual names being considered for middle names these days, such as Reverie, Fable and Wren. Even as first names. And I cannot think of a better middle name for a March baby (especially with blue eyes) than Aquamarine, if unusual names grace your list.

In 2010 there were 6 baby girls named Aqua, but none named Aquamarine. As far as middle names, I have no way to know. (Although, my guess is that generic middle names are still the most predominant, such as Marie and Rose.)

FYI, Aquamarine was also a movie abouts Mermaids. Aquamarine is a variant of beryl, and Beryl was also used as a given name, but is now considered vintage and dated.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What would you have named yourself?

Here's an alternate way of going about choosing your baby's name...what would you have named yourself, or what would you rename yourself or your spouse (if the baby is not the same sex as you). What name fits you, or you and your partner combined? What do you "look" like?

This week I took out a few pictures of myself and my husband from varying ages (baby to adult) and asked myself if the names I was interested in looked good on us, because in all probability a baby would look like us. I found that Lina and Domenica looked very good on me and an imagined mini-me, but Minerva and Aria didn't feel right.

It's a little like waiting to see what the baby looks like before naming him or her, only without the wait and guessing instead, but I certainly think it would help narrow down the list.

Even if you're not expecting, what would you have named yourself? I would have chosen Raina Guinevere.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I find Penelope to be just the right kind of name. It's not too frilly, it's not too plain, it's just right. It's got a historical background and famous namesakes, and it sounds fresh and fun. Plus, it has super cute nickname options: Penny, Lola, Poppy, Nellie, Pen.

I think it's safe to assume we all recognize Penelope from the Greek myth Odysseus. She patiently awaited the return of her husband, Odysseus, who went to war. Meanwhile, many suitors tried to marry her, claiming that her husband was either dead or would never come back. This is one Greek story with a happy ending, as the two were reunited and their son became a man.

Her name derives from a kind of duck, which is said to have protected her as a baby. Although, it is also possible it derives from robin, or pene, and the meaning would be "weaver," which could be accurate as Penelope was said to have spent her time weaving.

Penelope ranked at #169 in 2011 and #200 in 2010, which rose from #946 in 2001. I'm not quite sure what was responsible for such a healthy rise in popularity. It could be all the P- nicknames becoming popular, such as Poppy and Pippa, or it could be Penelope Cruz, whose popularity as a celebrity is soaring. It could even be a lingering fondness for Penny Lane, although there are still more places you may have heard the name from. There's a lot going on in the celebrity world (Penelope Athena, Tina Fey's daughter), in media, and online to keep Penelope feeling inspired. There were a total of 1,535 baby girls born in 2010 named Penelope.

Friday, March 9, 2012


No, not Keanu Reeves, just Reeve, which is one of those rare names that sounds appealing, and you have to say it out loud. It is a Middle English occupational name meaning "bailiff." Not the worst I've heard, and better yet, there's no rule that says you need to go around telling everyone what your baby's name means. And if you do, no one's going to say, "Oh, how horrible." There is actually a rich medieval history (including one of the stories in The Canterbury Tales) with a long list of duties a reeve held, and it was in fact a high position. I believe in part they later became sheriffs.

An alternate spelling is Reave, and there are dozens of namesakes with Reeve or Reeves as a surname. Two familiar namesakes other than Keanu Reeves are Reeve Lindbergh and Christopher Reeves (but don't let the associations deter you, it's just one distant recollection). Reeve is very similar to the French word for "dream." It is also similar to other popular names like Reid/Reed, Rhys, and Reese/Reece.

Not on the top 1000, and I don't believe it ever has been. In 2010 there were just 21 baby boys named Reeve, 18 named Reeves, and none spelled with an a (Reave, Reaves). In 2011 there were 12 Reeves and 33 named Reeve.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reader Question: Amy vs Caitlin

I loved your blog! I'm still torn, I love the name Amy (a girl I adored in kindy), but we have chosen Caitlin, surname [sounds like furry], her middle name will be Claire or Grace. I'm just not settled with this choice yet. What to do? I feel like it's such a responsibility to name her correctly. I'm also worried about her needing to spell her name out. I do want a name that has a easy nickname and sounds good for a professional woman.

Would love to hear your thoughts!



Hi there!
First of all, it truly is a responsibility to bestow a name upon a child. It should be meaningful to you in some way, even if you just think it sounds pretty, and parents need to remember that this is a name their child will most likely carry for life.
My first concern is always popularity. I like to take into consideration the current popularity as well as past popularity. While both Amy and Caitlin rank outside the top 100, they have long been popular names. Caitlin currently stands at #340, and there are other variations in the top 100 and 1000 as well, such as Caitlyn, Kaitlin and Kaitlyn, all said the same but with different spellings, which is one of your concerns. I doubt anyone would initially spell Caitlin with a K, although that version ranks at #90, but those who are unfamiliar with Caitlin would probably assume it has the -lyn ending, and Caitlyn currently ranks at #300. Unfortunately, -lyn endings have become commonplace. Amy, on the other hand, ranks at #135, but would also make a cute nickname for a longer name such as Amarantha, Amethyst, Ambrosia, Amara, Amaryllis, Ambra, Ambretta or Amity. Amy alone does not have an easy nickname, although Caitlin can be shortened to Cait. An alternate suggestion for a name that sounds like Caitlin but is less popular would be Catalina. Caitlin is one of those Irish names that has become so mainstream that most hardly remember its Irish roots and begin to think of it as simply American, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as some Irish names will have a much harder time achieving this. I'm not sure if you want to honor a certain heritage, but Caia (kaya) and Caoimhe (keeva) come to mind if Caitlin is too popular for you.

As it is, Amy Grace sounds better than Caitlin Claire (a tongue-twister) or Caitlin Grace, and I think it also goes better with your surname. I think you should also take a few things into consideration before choosing for sure. Do you have any family members you want to honor? Do you know the meaning of each name and like that meaning? Get advice from a large group of people, like online message boards. Consider how well the name goes with your surname. Practice saying the full name out loud.

Good luck!

Does anyone have anything to add?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Hyung Jun Kim - Leda and the Swan

Leda, pronounced LEE-da or LAY-da, is a beautiful, ancient Greek name rarely heard today. In mythology she was the queen of Sparta, the mother of Helen of Troy (and others, by way of Zeus disguised as a swan), so she must have been beautiful if Helen's beauty was so well known. From the word lada, meaning "spouse, woman." Keep in mind, this is one name I strongly advise you to research before using.

Leda is also one of the moons of Jupiter, a ballet, and a poem by William Butler Yeats.

In 2010 there were only 9 baby girls named Leda, and 14 in 2011, along with 14 spelled Lida.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


First of all, thanks to everyone for over 10,000 pageviews and many email subscribers. I never imagined there would be so much interest before seven months passed. Thanks so much!

On to today's name, Sheldon. Many parents try to find girl's names with masculine nicknames, like Reggie for Regina, but not many are interested in feminine nicknames for boy's names, such as Shelly for Sheldon, although Sheldon can also be shortened to Don, Shea, Shy or Shel.

Sheldon is Old English meaning "deep valley." It has been used both as a surname and given name. Namesakes are Shel Silverstein and Sheldon Silver. It is one of those seldom heard, reserved, unassuming names that at first you think is weird, and then it really grows on you. Kind of like the nerdy little boy who grows up to be a firefighter.

There were 196 baby boys named Sheldon in 2010, ranking at #990, along with 10 spelled Shelden. In 2011 it dropped off the top 1000 with only 174 births.