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. Check the book called The Baby Name Wizard. You can look up a name and it gives you "brothers and sisters" names. It was spot on when it listed my boys (Simon and Max) as brothers of Isabelle (my daughter). Crazy.

  2. our first is a 'II' or 'jr.' or whatever you'd like to call it. his name is jake. not jacob, just jake. we knew we wanted an equally 'all boy' name for the next. so…our second's name is pete. just pete, not peter. on our third go round, we got a girl. i saw the name betsy in movie credits, and we both loved it. people told us that our kids had retirement home names. and, actually, i dig it. when our fourth was bakin' we had a really hard time deciding. we wanted to go with a nicknamey girly name. at first, it was going to be maisy, frankie, or tilly. in the end, we named her after my mom, and she's rosie. it totally fit. she would have been gus if she was a boy. if we ever have more, i am nuts about nellie (my grandmas name was mary nell) or tilly. i, also, love arnold (arnie) for a boy (my grandpas name). but, gus, ned, or al (my dad's all time fav boy name for very sentimental reasons)for a boy. happy naming. it is one of the best 'bonuses' among many to having a new little bundle to love.

  3. I've tried to resist, I might as well play along with this name game. It's a fun topic. A name is such a big decision–it can be a blessing or a curse (or a little of both if you're me). :)

    My picks for you are:

    Vivian/Genevive (Viv)
    Elaine (Lainey/Laine)
    Penelope (Penny)


    Good luck! You seem like a wonderful mom!

  4. naming people is hard!

    I'm a nut and after I had my first baby I decided that all my kids have to have the same # of letters in their first names.

    Daniel Joseph – named after my dear sweet cousin who passed away at the age of 5 from Lukemia. He was buried the day I gave birth to my baby, his parents gave me the blessing to go ahead and use the first name of Daniel. Joseph is my father's first name and my brother's middle name.

    Amelia Elise – I pushed hard to have her first name be Elise but hubs didn't like it. We wanted to call her Abigail but after a while I ended up not liking it so we switched to Amelia. Now after we named her we came back to visit my family (we lived across the country at the time) and had a party for her baptism. We came to find out that Amelia Elise was the real name of my great grandmother. She went by Julia! But my grandma, who was 85 at the time, was so pleased that we named the baby after her mother but we really had no idea!

    Hannah Lenore – We actually had three names picked out for her: Hannah, Lorelei, and Adelaide. We were really stuck on Adelaide for a while but everyone around us sort of hated it we got a lot of "are you SERIOUS?" so we nix'd it. Then I realized that my other two kids both had six letters in their first names so that took care of the decision for me! Her middle name is another story, my husband told me I could pick her middle name on my own. Now it takes me so long to order at a resturant that I've taken to reading the menus online before we go so I'm prepared, so naming a person by myself was an issue for me. I had no idea what to name her and about a week before she was born I just started praying and the name Lenore came to me. Later on I looked up the meaning and found out that Lenore = light. Hannah means Grace. I thought the two went well together.

    So those are my stories (and thank you for asking!) I love your kids names, they are all very classy.
    boys: Wesley, Tristan, Riker
    girls: Matilda, Ruby, Grace

  5. Ok, I too LOVE your name choices and wish I would not have given one of my kiddos a middle name. Our last name is Love, so I have always "cutened up" the names, because I did not want them to sound like stripper names. :)
    We have a Gabrielle Amelia. Do you get called Gabbie? I really like nick names, but I pictures her name, in full, on a business card and liked it.
    I also have a girl, Finley Elisa. The actress, Angie Harmon has a Finley and I have liked it for a long time. The funny thing is my second choice for her was Emory and Angie Harmon now has an Emory that was born on Finley's first birthday. WIERD!
    Name suggestions:
    Thanks for a great post and have fun deciding on a name.
    Do you share your picks or wait till baby arrives?

  6. Hey congrats on baby #6! And I loevd reading your name stories. Our four children are Grace, Jeremiah, Charlotte and Willa. Betty Blair is a stroke of genius, btw. I hope the pregnancy goes well.

  7. We named our boy Kilian as I always found it a sweet old-fashioned name for a boy. In addition it was the name of a relative who died long ago during WWII. We also found out that it was the name of an Irish missionary who came to Europe in the Middle Ages – hence you find some small villages in Southern Germany and Austria called St.Kilian.
    We live in multi-lingual environment now and Kilian works well in several languages (e.g. English, French, German).

  8. we named our 2 girls rory and alix. my husband wanted some name that were a little more gender non spcific, but i think they are a little feminine as well

    rory is one i've always liked for a girl, ever since watching a documentary on RFK's kids-his last child (born after his assasination) was a girl that was named rory.

    alix is the name of a relative who we love and hardly ever see. since we livein new england near quebec, many people want to pronounce it like 'aleex' (the proper frenceh way), but we pronounce it like 'alex'.

    we also had quinn or harper (for a girl) on reserve and milo or owen for a boy.

    the right name will come to you when the time comes…i think you've done a great job with the names so far!

  9. How about Elizabeth, Evelyn, Vivian, or Helen?
    For a boy maybe Turner, Jack, or Jonas?
    Baby names are the best. I am a bit obsessed with it. Maybe because I have 2 kids, and my husband got to name both of them. Hmph! Although I do love my Stephen and Elizabeth.

  10. Oh my goodness! I can't believe how much I'm loving the comments on this post. Keep them coming, please!

    Tons of great ideas. Plus websites and books I want to check out.

    I especially love getting a glimpse of how people approach naming. The patterns they pick. The stories behind the names.

    Thank you!

  11. We have several lovely family names to use for a girl, but are having a boy. Anyway, here were our ideas for a girl:

    Lida (makes me think of the song Lida Rose from The Music Man)
    Viola (my Grandmother's name, although everyone eventually called her Vi)
    Cadence (as a drummer, my husband loved it, but it was a family name as well)

  12. My daugher Lila Frances (Lila is my sister's name and Frances is my mother in law's middle name) was alllllmost Beatrice. I still really love Beatrice, although Beatrice Frances is kind of a mouthfull. Such good nick name potential too. (BeBe Blair? Cute!!) My son's name is my maiden and my husband's middle, Miller Lee. I like how it rolls off the tounge. I grew up with a boy name Silas Moon though, and have always thought that was the coolest name. I wonder where he is.

  13. You didn't mention that all of your kids' names are 5 letters long but I'm assuming that's not accidental.

    Here are some 5 letter name suggestions that might fit for you:
    Sally, Frank, Edwin, Clara, Alice, Joyce, Grace, Chuck, Lewis

    I have a huge running list of baby names I've been collecting for years. But, I'm not sure it will make it any easier once I get pregnant!

  14. mymcmlife – Fun 5 letter suggestions. And oddly enough, our 5 letter names did come about accidentally. We didn't have a 5 letter plan. But now that my kids noticed the pattern they're pretty sure the next child needs 5 letters too.

    Of course, my instinct is to purposefully pick a name without 5 letters — just so I don't feel forced into the 5 letter thing.

  15. Oh this is SO fun! I've loved reading all these comments because my husband and I are in the midst of trying to come up with a name for baby boy #2. Our older son is Lucas which we just love. I've been lobbying hard for Oscar for #2(I think those names sound so good together with the "s" and hard "c" sounds) but for some reason my husband just doesn't like Oscar. We've been leaning toward biblical names but I've loved some of the ideas people suggested in the comments!

  16. Clyde?

    Just some ideas I had!

    P.S How do you manage 5 soon to be 6 kids… especially when they were younger? What is a typical day in the life of Mrs. Blair…

  17. Julian would fit with Oscar and Ralph for a boy. I love using family names but unfortunately I was blessed with a family with horrible names. My Dad is Melvin Roy. My Grandfather is Odie Ray.

    But we do love using family last names for our kids. My youngest is Lillian but we named her Lillian Day, Day being my Grandmother's maiden name. She was Dorothy Day and one of those wartime beauty queens, her little town had a big parade at the end of the war and crowned her Miss D-Day because she was, of course, Dorothy Day.

    Dorothy would be a good match for Olive and Maude now that I think of it.

  18. Based on your current names:

    Della (from O'Henry's "The Gift of the Magi")
    Hazel (others have mentioned)


    I like, too!

  19. I only have one child so far, and she's Aine (AHN-ya) Lea (LEE) Douglas. Douglas is my grandfather, who passed away just before she was born. It's also my father's name. Aine is a very common Irish name (translates to Anne or Anna) but unique here in the US. It popped in to my head when I was pregnant and just seemed to fit. Lea is an alternative to Lee or Leigh as a name, but it is also a word that means 'meadow' or 'grazing pasture.' It is used in a Robert Burns poem that my husband and I both LOVE. (Sweet Afton….which, by the way, I think Afton would be a great name). Also, my first name means 'hill' and (married) last name means 'valley,' so it seemed appropriate to give her a geological name too!! She gets called Aine Lea quite often. The 'Douglas' is reserved for when she's in BIG trouble ;o)
    I'm hesitant to share any of my other name ideas for future children of mine because I like unique names :o) But they are also all combinations of traditional Irish/Celtic names and family names.
    (Afton is not one of them…so it's fair game!!)

    P.S. Thanks for sharing your stories! I love well-thought-out names and the stories that go behind them!!

  20. We have two boys, Andrea and Maximiliano. I wanted Maximo instead, but my husband didn't like it. I regret it and call him Maximo anyway ;-)

    Name suggestions?
    I love the name Grace for a girl but we are an international family and where we live they would pronounce it grass.

    Charlotte, Louise, Henry, Jack?

  21. All these stories remind me of one my parents tell about naming me (my name is Whitney). They jokingly told my great-grandmother Mabel that they were going to name me after her, thinking she would be flattered.

    She was horrified! "Don't you dare name that child Mabel! I hated that name! When I was a child, every farmer had a cow named Mabel and it was awful!"

    It still makes me laugh. And no, Mabel is a fine name, I just like mine better.

    (I have one son, Nate, and we chose it because it was the only boy's name we could agree on. If we ever have a girl, it's going to be very hard, but we like Sophie and Megan.)

  22. I love Whitney's comment. My mother and grandmother were both named Maude. My mother hated it — and also said every cow around was named Maude. She forbade my sisters and I to name our babies after her. I rebelled and named my 2nd "Sophie Maude." She loves her name so much that she prefers to be called Maude.

    A friend of mine has a baby name art business and is constantly into baby names. Her blog is You and your readers might like her point of view.

  23. We named our kids Felicity and Alexander. Felicity was unusual without sounding like we made it up, and it means "happiness". Alexander is a family name – 8 generations! – and it's classic, and I loved the meaning, so it was a no-brainer. If we were to have more children I like Oliver for a boy and Juliet for a girl.

  24. There are some great suggestions here – I love Alice, Hazel, Della, Sadie, Henry, and Jasper.

    Sybil is my grandmother's name, and I've always thought that it's classic and lovely (and could be spelled a number of different ways). Susan is my mother's name, and I think it's got a nice old-school vibe.

    I love love love this discussion and can't wait to hear what you and Ben (and kids) decide on for the newest Blair.

  25. Seems like my life revolves around baby/kid names – it's like a hobby collecting the most interesting ones. I'm a PT vision screener (and PT baby name artist) and every day I hear the most amazing names ever. Today I vision tested a class where the kids were named Success, Precious, Furtuna (not a typo), and an Absolut. Never a dull day name-wise!

  26. we have an olive too! It was my husband's favourite name, i wasn't entirely sure when pregnant but it so suits her and I love it!

    I also love Kitty, Mabel, Minnie, Adelaide and Loulou. Mabel goes particularly well with Maud and Olive I think!

  27. Of course I love my kids' names:

    Charles August ("Charlie")
    Juliet Annise
    Emilia Rae

    But I didn't get to use a couple of favorites: Helena for a girl and Bo for a boy. I also like Shea and Campbell for a boy or girl. A friend just named her baby Lisette and I like that too.

    Can't wait to hear what the Blairs pick out! Do you ever let the other kids chime in?

  28. I love your children's names. I love names! When a baby is born I don't care anything about it except what the name is. LOL. In choosing our names we want them to have special meaning to us and still be unique, but pronounceable. We also love when names concur a visual.
    I have two daughters:
    1. Flower Opal: My nickname has been flower for over 10 years because my friends thought I was a flower child. I have always loved it and new that would be the name of my first daughter. opal is my mother's name. i love picturing a flower with and opal center.
    2.River Dawn- River signifies our love of nature and camping. Dawn is my middle name. I love the picture of the river in front of a sunrise.

    Our next child will have the middle of my husband's grandfather's middle name of Freeze. If it's a girl it will be Juniper(freeze) for our love of movies. Juniper is the name of the main character in my favorite movie. If it's a boy it will be Lennon(freeze) for our love of music. Obviously lennon is from the beatles. :)

  29. We always try to incorporate family with our children's names:

    Hailey Sue
    for my grandfather, Robert Hale
    and grandmother, Susan

    David Michael
    for my husband's father, David
    and my husband, Michael

    Nora Lynn
    for my husband's grandfather's sister, Nora
    and my mother, Lynette

    Good luck coming up with the perfect name for your new little one!

  30. We named our daughter Brighton after our favorite snowboarding resort. We got to know each other there when we were dating. So we named our daughter after the place that made her existence possible. I love names with significance. Not necessarily for anyone else, but between you and your partner.

  31. My favorite names of all time (which I cannot use because my DH disagrees) are Agnes (girl) and Ari (boy). Totally different styles, totally unique, and perfectly lovely.

    I second the Baby Name Wizard, and Nymbler (same author, I believe). GREAT sites for name help!

  32. I already commented with the name Matilda and The Baby Name Wizard book (it really is a great book), but I love names so much I had more to share.

    I love the name Jack because it makes me think of an old timey news reporter. It would also carry on the J names in our family (he would have cousins Jacob and Joshua).

    I also love any name that gives nickname options and names that have a family connection. I would even go so far as to pull up the names of ancestors and choose just from those and not even look at a baby name book.

    Another thing I like is to ask the siblings (or cousins) what names they like. My sister named me (from a list of names my parents liked) and one of my brother's sons (8 years old) offered a totally new suggestion for my sister's youngest boy (now 20 months). They were struggling to find a name that felt like it fit and Jacob fit just right. Of course, the 3 year olds were all for naming him Elmo Diego so there's that to consider.

  33. Our first son is name Alexander, Xander for short, after the character from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and from my husband's mission in Russia. I still love the name, but get tired of correcting the Z to and X. Our second son is named Atticus from "To Kill a Mockingbird". My husband named him and I am still coming to terms with it. I do love that he is named after a great literary character. I think that these names would fit in very nicely in your family:



  34. I think the hardest part about choosing a name is that you and your husband have to agree. I have often chosen name I thought for sure he would love and get turned down flat, and the same for him. We always start at books and ancestors, along with friends.

    We have 2 boys and 2 girls, Karissa Rose, Warner Andrew (goes by his middle name), Alexis Kathleen, and Spencer Christian. We tried to pick names that people had heard of, but there weren't too many around. I have 2 hard and fast rules, 1 – their initials can't spell anything (hence a son that goes by a middle name since his initials would have spelled "AWE"), this has been a challenge since our last name starts with an "E". 2 – Their first name can't end with a long "e" sound because it gets confusing to people who can't tell where their first name ends and their last name begins (I have this problem, hence the rule). All of our children also have a middle (or first) name of an ancestor.

    2 after paternal grandmothers 1 after 2 great grandfathers and My oldest son is named after my father whose first name is Warner, but also goes by his middle name. It was fitting since I come from a family of all girls, and Andrew was the first grandson. That said, I tried to convince my husband to have him go by Warner, but lost that battle.

    As for name ideas I always loved, and will never have

    for a boy:

    for a girl:
    Addie (Adelaide)
    Kathleen (for a first)

  35. We named our daughter Vivienne and call her Ivie (pronounced Ivy) for short.

    I love Josephine, Ruby, Pearl and Lucia for girls.

    Our son's name is Samuel. Also on our list is William, Malcom, Asher, and Arthur.

  36. Very interesting. I'm snobby about names, and always wonder why people name their children certain names. Knowing the story behind the name makes me a little less judgmental.

    A little less.

    Not that I have room to talk. My children have what others probably deem very strange names. And they all start with S, which was not intentional.

    To each his/her own.

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