Ask Design Mom Week — Baby Names

I’m wondering about baby names. I love love love your kids names and wonder where you got them. Is there a story behind each one or are they just favorites? Also, do you have any favorite resources for baby name finding? Ideas for baby #6? Thanks!Sarah

photo credit here

For Ben Blair and I, baby names have sometimes come easily and sometimes taken forever to decide. What we look for: well-recognized names (not invented ones), easy to pronounce, possibly fallen out of fashion — so that they’re relatively unusual. If they have family connection, that’s even better. Our baby name stories in brief:

-During my first pregnancy, once we knew it was a boy, he was instantly Ralph Wallace Blair. Ralph is my dad’s dad. Wallace is Ben’s dad’s dad (and Ben’s middle name). We really liked the name Ralph. And my father passed away while I was pregnant with Ralph, so we like honoring his family.

-Once Ralph was picked, we felt like our future kids’ names should fit with it — maybe come from the same time or generation. We decided on the name Maude at a family funeral on Ben’s side of the family, where we discovered it on two family gravestones (Ben’s great grandmother and great aunt). At the last minute we added Emma as a middle name, because there was some nervousness that the name Maude would be too unusual. So she’s Maude Emma Blair. (Sometimes we regret the Emma. It’s a little random.)

-The name Olive we found in a book. It was the name of the mother of a great man (can not remember for the life of me what the book was). I could imagine two old ladies named Maude and Olive playing canasta at a card table and I knew it fit. Olive’s full name is Olive Jean Blair. Jean is my mother’s middle name and a popular name on Ben’s side of the family as well.

-Oscar was suggested by our friends. It was on their short list, but they ended up not using it. The full name is Oscar Stanley Groberg Blair. (Stanley is my maiden name. Groberg is Ben’s Mom’s maiden name.) Once, someone (mis)heard the name and said, wow, Oscar and Grover? You guys must really love Sesame Street.

-I have no memory of where or when we decided on the name Betty. But we deliberately did not give her a middle name. Because Betty Blair sounds so great — like the name of the alter ego of a superhero.

-We don’t know what we’re naming baby #6. We’ve decided we won’t even think about it till we know if it’s a boy or a girl. Any suggestions?

I’d love to hear your name stories, Dear Readers. How do you come up with names? What are your favorite name sources?

137 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom Week — Baby Names”

  1. I don't have any kids yet, but I have fun checking out names and their popularity (I don't want my kids having as many friends with their name, like I did). This is the best site I've heard of for looking up baby names. It also has a neat feature that tells you the peak of the name's popularity, which states it is the most common in, and what siblings of a kid with that name have (keeps names similar if you are going for that).

    Here's the site:

  2. I grew up on a farm and we had a small herd of cows and my dad actually kept a baby name book in the milkhouse so that I could refer to it when picking out names for the new calves. Since then, I've acquired a few more name books, and have always loved to name things. We don't have any children (yet) either, but when we do I'm convinced they are each going to have 11 middle names because I won't be able to narrow them down. One of the things that first drew me to your blog was your kids' unique names! My husband and I both have some fun ideas for names…but my worst nightmare is that some film star will name their kid that name and then it will become too popular. :)

  3. i always loved alice (my maternal grandmother's name), which my sister has claimed for her first girl. I'm also fond of emmaline and rose.
    for boys nicholas and charles (and of course, samuel, which we used earlier this year).

  4. We have Paige Donovan and River Warren. Paige was just a favorite name and the Donovan came because she was born 3 weeks early on my Grandfather's birthday (Lawrence Donovan), so I took it as a love note from heaven! River was just what my husband insisted on naming our son…but he has turned out to be our calm, peaceful, nature loving boy…totally a River, and Warren is my husband's middle name.

  5. I've already decided to name a daughter Matilda (after my mom's mom). My Grandmother has "hinted" that she would love a great grandchild named after her so I'm doing it. I'm leaving all my other preferences open just in case my future husband hates the name Matilda and I need some bargaining chips. haha.

    Having said that, I couldn't possibly name one daughter Matilda and name the other Heather. It just doesn't work. I have the baby name wizard book (it's amazing) already and love to look through it. Olive is definitely on my list.

  6. I have a 5 month old baby boy, and my husband and I decided on the name Cy Jason. We knew that we wanted the middle name to be Jason after a good family friend, but it took us months and months to come up with a name that we both loved. I am an artist by profession, so while stumbling through names, I came upon Cy Twombly (an artist). My Red Sox fan husband agreed, thinking of the famous Cy Young. We think Cy is the perfect name for our baby, not common, but not unheard-of. We love it, and we even like the option for an easy nickname, CJ.
    All of the other names on our future-baby-name-list come from family: Ivy Ellen, Evelyn Suzanne, and POSSIBLY Serge Paul. We both love the idea of honoring family, and not having really weird names.

  7. I was convinced I was having a fourth boy this time around and his name was to be Oliver (Ollie). I love that name, and it fit with our other boys' "old man names": Louis Victor(Louie); Benjamin William(Benny); Charles Thomas (Charlie); and our surprise girl, Meredith Ann. Your names are fabulous! But my unused name probably won't fit with your family since you have an Olive :) Good luck!

  8. I love the sites that predict what names your children's siblings might have–we've found that all three of our kids have "recommended" each other's names, if that makes sense (Abigail Grace, Juliet Elizabeth, Isaac David).

    As far as selection goes, I like names that are unusual, but not odd. After we named our first daughter Abigail, I belatedly realized that it was one of the most popular names in the country–hence Juliet as the second baby.

  9. We have Finn William and Maeve Mary. William and Mary are my in-laws' names. My husband and I both wanted to honor our Irish heritage, so we picked Gaelic names. We couldn't agree on Finlay or Finian or Finnegan, so we stuck with plain old Finn. It means "fair-haired/fair-skinned" in Gaelic, which is exactly what he is.

    Maeve means "intoxicating". She is only five, so the jury is still out on that one!

  10. our current favs:

    paige olivia
    katherine (kate) mae
    lola grace
    taylor joy
    josephine (joie)
    lauren campbell
    gwyneth (gywn)

    boy names:

    levi ryan
    luke james

  11. I love your thought process, as well as your kiddo's names. We're expecting as well- and have a James currently. So the generational thing ("two old ladies playing cards" idea) is on our minds, too. Fun post. Thx.

  12. My cousin also prefers old-fashioned names for his children – and because they live in DC, I have no qualms about sharing them since your kids will probably not be in the same class at school :) They are Margaret and Theodore (Teddy).

  13. I love the name Lulu. My husband refuses to ever let us use it if a little girl ever comes along…so I hope that at least someone I know will name their daughter Lulu so I can enjoy it with them!

    I also love for boys:
    Jorgen (how's that for scandinavian?)

    and for girls:

    good luck and can't wait to hear what you're having!

  14. I have a Benjamin and a Jackson. I liked both names because they were from the early 1900's and a little old-fashioned. Jackson has become more popular lately, but seven years ago it wasn't known at all. Both are strong male names. The only obstacle we ever faced with either name is that Jackson is often a last name, and Scott (which is our surname) is often a first name so he's usually called Scott Jackson (at school and such), I love the names of your children, especially Olive. If I were to have a girl I'm naming her Georgia. I've been sitting on that one for nine years with hopes of using it someday. It would go well with your children's names as well…you can steal it if you like :)

  15. We have very similar criteria for choosing names for our children. My husband was insistent that it wasn't in the top 50 most popular list of names. I fell in love with Audrey and we chose Louise after her great grandmother that I never was able to meet.

    We are 5 months pregnant again. If it is a boy, I really like Henry and Alvin for a middle name again after the great grandfathers.

  16. Our daughter Alexis is named after my grandfather, Henry Alexis. It's a bit unfortunate that the name is so common now, because it really is a family name that I'd always planned on naming my daughter, even when I was a child, but oh well! I also have always loved boys' names for girls, so we call her Alex.

    Her middle name is "Rhys," pronounced "Reese." The spelling is Welsh, to honour my husband's United Kingdom homeland; also, it's a boy's name, so again with the boys'-name-for-a-girl thing.

    Also: as I do with every pregnant woman I know, can I suggest the name "Karen" for your little one? When I was a kid, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a "Karen." Now? NO ONE NAMES THEIR KID KAREN. I fear it is becoming an old-woman name! :)


  17. My 9 year old is Sloan Abriel Sloan. Yes you heard me right, Sloan Sloan. Sloan was my maiden name & marriage didn't work out with her biological father so that is how she got such an unusual name.

    My 4 year old is Zoe Evelyn Swanson. Zoe because my husband & I have always loved that name. Evelyn is my Grandmother on my fathers side name. I wanted to honor her. She is one of the sweetest people I know.

    My almost 3 year old is Aris Paige Swanson. We were watching the movie "The Holiday" & we thought people in the movie were calling Kate Winslet's character "Aris". I thought what a pretty name! Her name ended up being "Iris" but due to accents it sounded like "Aris". So Aris it was. Paige has always been another name I loved & that is why we choose it for her middle name.

    Sloan's Last name hasn't become Swanson yet. However my husband says she's still a Swanson :)

  18. We just decided we are trend setters because a year or two later, whatever name we had picked makes it to the top 5 most popular names, even though we try to go with family names (Ethan is the exception because my dad didn't want anyone to use his names, Edward Eugene, but we wanted to honor him and went with and 'E' name). We are hoping we bucked that trend with our fourth. We've got a Jakob, Ethan, Sophia and Clara.
    As for yours, I think a Pearl (if it's a girl) would fit in perfectly. She would fit in the little circle of canasta players, Maude, Olive and Pearl…As for boys, I like Edwin (that was my second choice for and 'E' name).

  19. Fun to read that there's another Maeve! When we chose it, we'd only heard of one other, and now we know of several. I don't know if Maeve and Maude work, though! Our other daughter is Elena, though everyone mispronounces it. I do like other reader suggestions of Evelyn, and Evie. It's a nickname, though, so if I was to choose a non-shortenable name, it would be June for a girl, or Harmon for a boy. Back on the family tree.

  20. We like to honor our family but not give them the exact same name. Our first is Lucas Scott, we loved the meaning of the name Lucas (bearer of light) and Scott is my husband's name. With our second our friend suggested the name Asher. We both really kind of liked it. We told my husbands family and they hated it, I mean HATED it. That was the end of Asher. He is Joshua Patrick instead. Sometimes I still wish we had gone for Asher. The Patrick is for my mother, Patricia. Our baby girl is Kate Elizabeth. Kate is for my mil, Kathleen, and Elizabeth is for me (my name is Lisa, but I like the name it is derived from much better.) I love naming babies! It is so fun and so stressful at the same time!

  21. I just wanted to say that I'm truly loving the "Ask" segment. It's so personal and fun and interesting and community-ish.

    I'm hoping for a baby girl next time, so I can use "Celia", a derivative of my name (Cecilia) and a little bit old-fashioned.

  22. I love your kids' names–they are beautiful and go so well together! My daughter is Juliet–we choose it because it was beautiful and relatively unused. My favorite sites for name-searching are:

    Can't wait to see what you choose!

  23. I always thought looking at baby name books or websites was silly, because I wanted my kids' names to have real meaning and value. Then, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband stumbled across the name Bria, and we knew it was perfect (it means strong, valiant, and courageous in Gaelic). So even though you have to spend a lot of time wading through names you would never choose, baby name books and websites really do help.

  24. So funny…tonight at dinner we were trying to figure out names for your baby-a girl one, and a boy one. Also, the kids wanted to keep it to 5 letters since all the other kids are 5 letters as well. We came up with Bruno ( a cool smart guy at Sam's school) and Fiona. There you go 5 letters each! Do I win a prize? Love, Kathryn C.

  25. I've named all of my kids family names. I love for them to have someone to look up to, and a story to tell about how they were named. My younger brother's name is JAMES. My parents were living next door to an older couple who were never able to have children. They took in my parents like their own family and when my mom had a boy, they decided to name him after their neighbor, James. Love it.

  26. As soon as you announced that you were pregnant I had the PERFECT name!

    Penny. Five letters–just like the rest of your kids. Fits in that generation. So darn cute.

    I don't have a great boy name picked out.

  27. I also, like old fashioned, classic names. So our two little guys are Milo Franklin & Oliver Sam. My husband picked Milo, and Franklin is my grandfather's middle name. Oliver was my pick for a boy name, I thought it sounded good with Oliver, and Sam is my husband's grandfather's middle name.. So they each have a grandfather's middle name. If we have another boy next, he will be William Roland. But I want him to be called Liam. I haven't done a nickname before. William is my Dad's first name, and Roland is my father in law and Husband's names. So every single name is after a grandpa or great grandpa.. Maybe William or even Milo would go along with your family's style of names!

  28. I am not yet a mother, but have always been in love with names. My baby name list is ever-changing, but my favorite girls name ever is Cora. I also really enjoy reader's comments of Evelyn, Pearl, and Matilda. My favorite boy's name is Griffin, but I also really love Sullivan. Also, I have to thank you for not changing your kid's names on your blog in the name of anonymity because I think that's just dumb. Happy name picking!

  29. Oh, I'm so glad you asked, because the minute I found out you were expecting, my mind IMMEDIATELY went too….WHO is going to predict the name. To me, your kids names CLEARLY go together. I love this. I love it when names are unique but go together. My sisters and I are cheerleader names: Lindsay! Kristy! Courtney! I like that. My kids names are both unique and all three of their names are 5 letters each, on purpose. This is how they go together.

    For you, I have been thinking:

    Stanley (can you use it as a first name even though Oscar has?)

    I have come up with a few winners for friends, so I am hoping I win!

  30. I love the old school names. I was torn between naming our youngest daughter Lucy (a family name) or Jane (which you never hear anymore). We decided to name her Lucy Jane. It fits her to a tee.

  31. We named our children after trees. It started as an accident, and then once you start it's hard to stop. We also made sure that there is one family connection, somewhere. We have Aspen Metta (Metta is my paternal grandmother's name.) Jonathon Cedar (my husband's name is Jonathon and we call our son Cedar.) And Olive Samantha (Olive is my maternal great grandmothers name and my hubby has a grandfather named Oliver.) It's super fun to have slightly unusual names. I never thought I would like the "Theme" route, but I do.

  32. My daughters names are Greta Mae and Jade Rosalind. Their first names are just ones that we both liked and were able to agree on and their middle names are family names.

  33. We tried to keep our names out of the top bunch, then we named our daughter Sophie May, and Sophia exploded… and everyone thinks her name is a nickname for Sophia… May is for my mom and her mother. OUr next daughter is Violet Ann for my husbands great grandma. We think they go pretty well together, but thank heavens we haven't had a boy, we never agree on boy names…

  34. We tried to keep our names out of the top bunch, then we named our daughter Sophie May, and Sophia exploded… and everyone thinks her name is a nickname for Sophia… May is for my mom and her mother. OUr next daughter is Violet Ann for my husbands great grandma. We think they go pretty well together, but thank heavens we haven't had a boy, we never agree on boy names…

  35. I love the name Hazel, and it would fit right in with the "5-letters" thing you guys have going on, but it's become super popular of late.

  36. I only have the one, her name is Ivy Emily Jean. I always loved the name Ivy, Emily is my mothers name and Jean is my Grandmothers name. I would love to have another little girl called Edith after my great-grandmother. People have commented that my daughter has an "Old lady" name…But as a much older Ivy reminded me, Old ladies were little girls too. I adore your childrens names!

  37. I am single and at an age that I know I won't be having my own children, even if I do get married at some point.

    Here are some of my favorite names:



  38. I have good stories about my kids' names. When I was pregnant and working with my son, I had to do some research on the inventor of Gatorade, James Robert Cade. Did you know that man has done a TON of wonderful medical research? So much more than a sports drink. My husband and I fell in love with the name "Cade" (as did thousands of other people that year, but not so much the year before…) and his middle name is for my brother who died as a child, Eric. Cade Eric is five and a happy kindergartener.

    For our daughter, my husband and I differed in opinion about the best name. I was enamored with Claire. My husband liked Cara (Care-a not Car-a) and while I liked it, it wasn't LOVE for me. My husband said that I could pick and Claire was "fine" but I didn't want him to feel "fine" about her name. I finally came up with the idea of putting the two names together and came up with Clara (sorry, Sally!). Her middle name, Anne, is for my husband's beloved and passed grandmother. Clara Anne is seventeen months old and a sweet little spitfire.

  39. Our children both have a first name we just simply liked, paired with a middle name that is a family name. Our oldest daughter is Reilly Hayes (Hayes is a family name on my husband's side & it is his mother's middle name (Lida Hayes), his middle name (Owen Hayes), and his brother's middle name (Joseph Hayes)- although his brother goes by "Hayes". Our second daughter is Reese Amelia. Amelia is on my sid of the family. Her grandmother's name was Amelia. I love choosing baby names. I have a very strange name that people cannot spell or pronounce, so names have always intrigued me. Good luck!

  40. We were going to name our now 14-month old son Ryken. 7 months in everyone had talked us out of it (I still love it tho) So, we changed it to Kaiden, then a week before he was born lying in bed (while I was on best-rest) we had the tv on, but we weren't watching it- we heard the name Brecken. Instantly looked at each other and smiled. We both knew that would be his name. His middle name had already been picked the moment we knew it was a boy. Del, for my brother, dad and grandfather. So, now we have our beautiful Breckan Del Canada. :) Olive is a beautiful name, it's on our list if we have a girl!!

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