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Ask BabyNames

Name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder & CEO of

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How Dare you Have Foreign Names!


I have been looking for baby names for a while now and most of your names our foreign! I am English and would nice to see some nice English baby names that I can all pronounce! Awful sight!

You should advertise elsewhere except England!

Sophie W.

Dear Sophie,

See that WORLD in our logo? There's a reason for that.

See that WORLD in our logo? There’s a reason for that.

The staff and name experts at pride ourselves in providing a database that is ethnically diverse.

A culture that may be “foreign” to you is not foreign to others who may be seeking names within their culture or of another culture.

I’m sorry you feel our sight [sic] is awful because we don’t just limit our database to Anglo-Saxon Euro-originated names. Let me know if you find a website of “Non-Foreign Baby Names,” as I’d be curious to see it.

Jennifer Moss

Ethnic and Non-Ethnic Sib Names

Hi Jennifer,

Let me start by saying I absolutely LOVE this site and reading the Q&A section. Though I’m not a parent yet, I love looking up possibilities for when the time comes.

I recently read a question submitted to you about cohesive sibling names. You replied that you don’t like “matching” twins names or all names beginning with the same letter…and I totally agree with you! However, my question is about siblings with names from different cultures.

I’m Irish, living in Ireland, with a completely Irish background and a future Irish surname, McCormack. I have my heart set on Tuiren for a girl (Tuiren, in Irish legend, is Fionn MacCumhaill’s aunt, famed for her beauty). My problem is Tuiren is the only Irish name I love and my favourite boys names are DLittle_Women_1933_posteraniel, Matthew and Reese. Another favourite girls names would be Lexie. So my question is, would it be weird to name one child such an Irish name and use names from different cultures for her siblings?


Hi Lauren,

No, I don’t think it would be weird. Your children will have their own identities and their own lives. Like I’ve said previously, their names don’t have to match and they don’t have to form a “theme.”

My mom use to say, “If I had known I was going to have four girls I would have named you Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.” (A reference to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.) Well, I’m happy that we’re Sue, Kate, Jennifer and Mallory!

The only problem I see is that Tuiren is not easy to spell or pronounce, unless it’s different in Ireland…?


Thanks, BN!

Dear Jennifer,

A few months ago, I emailed you a question about names. To recap: my husband gets to choose our second daughter’s name and I was concerned because his front runner was Annabelle and our oldest is named Noelle, nicknamed Noelle-bell.
He ultimately decided against Annabelle and has chosen Lily Christine. I really like the name and was flattered that he chose a variant of my name for her middle name as Noelle’s middle name, Elizabeth, is a family name from his side (my side has several Christians and me, a Christy).

Our little girl is due at the end of June but this is pretty much final as it is written on his “to do” list as “buy a light for Lily’s room.” When I searched the name, Lily Christine was a burlesque actress in the early 20th century but I am pretty sure that will not affect her later in life.

Thank you so much for your help!

lvDear Christy,

You are very welcome, and I don’t think the burlesque actress will have any affect on your child at all. Congratulations and thanks for the update! Lily is one of my favorite names! I’m born in May and Lily of the Valley is my flower. :)

I also think Lily goes well with Noelle. They both have the double-L without being matchy-matchy sibling names. Tell DH good job!


First/Last Name Makes a Phrase

Dear Jennifer,

My husband and I just found out that we’re expecting. We don’t know what we’re having yet, but I’ve been thinking about names for a while and really like the name River for a girl. The problem is that my husband thinks it’s more of an actor name than a good name for a kid and doesn’t like the way it sounds with our last name which is Walker. Is there a way to convince him that she’ll be fine with that name growing up and won’t be teased for having the name River Walker?

Thanks for reading my question,

Dear Janice,

Because “River Walker” is a phrase with two English words, it definitely has connotations. To me, conjures up an image of someone walking on water, I would lean toward “don’t do it.” But I wanted a little more input so I asked our community. The responses I received to the post pretty much agreed with me.

Here is one such response in particular, from a girl named River: River

“Don’t do it. I can’t even begin to express how many people try to make river related jokes upon first meeting me, and then so many people ask for my surname as well to see if they can continue to jokes with that. Relegate River to the middle name slot for this one.”

Other comments:

“The problem to me is that their surname is a word. When your surname is a word, even an innocuous word like “walker,” you have to be careful about using a word name, or else it will sound like a phrase.”

“[No.] River Walker sounds kind of… hippie-ish. That’s like naming her Rain Dancer or something!”

Sorry!  I wish I had a more positive response for you.


Baby Name Briggs

Hello Jennifer!

My husband and I are looking to adopt an infant boy. Last year we had the pleasure of developing a wonderful relationship with a birth mom that grew up with my sister. Her baby was born 8 weeks early and we got to be there with them in the hospital. We named the baby Owen Briggs and spent 24 magical days with him before his mom decided to parent and keep the name. We still maintain contact with them and they are doing well! Anyhow, my husband and I are still considering using the name Briggs for our future son. I’d really like to see the name added to your site! Thank you!


Hi Jessie,

What a nice gesture. I researched the name Briggs, which is actually an English surname. It literally translates to “Dweller by the Bridge” and was used for families who lived near or by a bridge! It comes from an old Scottish word for bridge: Bryggia. Related to the place name Brigham (city with Bridge).

We have added Briggs to the database.


Rural Bridge

Two names, Different cultures.

Hi Jennifer,

I am a transgender man and one of the greatest joys of transitioning was getting to choose my own name so that I would feel more “me.” I am now legally Aaron Kai. I chose Aaron because 1) I liked its meaning (exalted, strong) and 2) it is gender neutral when spoken but masculine on paper. Its popularity also coincides with my birth year. I chose Kai because it means “Ocean” and one of my biggest passions is surfing.

I am very happy with my name, however, do you think it is strange to combine a traditionally Hebrew name and Polynesian name as a non-Jewish white guy, or have these names become Americanized enough so that they sound appropriate for my background? For example, I think it might be socioculturally inappropriate for a white man to be named something like Muhammed Enrique or Ezekiel Keoni. Thoughts?


Aaron, Oh Aaron

Aaron, Oh, Aaron!

Hi Aaron,

In this day and age it is not culturally inappropriate to combine name ethnicities. Because many people are now culturally combined! Regarding the name Aaron, it is being used across the board by all faiths and cultures in the U.S. Although it is a Hebrew name, it is not perceived as a primarily “Jewish” name in this day and age. As for the name Kai, I actually know a (Caucasian) family who have named their children Hana and Kai because they were enamored with Hawaii and its culture.

I have spoken before about the Native American backlash at white people taking their tribe names as given names. But as far as I know, Polynesians do not take offense. If there are any Polynesian/Hawaiian readers out there that could shed more light on the issue, please write me.

I’m glad you have found a name that suits your passions, interests and personality! Enjoy!


Graham or Jared?

Dear Jennifer,
My husband and I are trying to decide on a name for our baby boy. It’s between Graham or Jared. We like Jared because we would use Leroy (which is my dad’s middle name) as the middle name so the initials would be JLB which is my husband’s father’s initials. So we would have both families represented.

We are also considering Graham which seems like it’s a softer (less rigid) name. Part of the problem with Graham is that my husband doesn’t really like the initials GLB so we were thinking about having two middle names Leroy and James (which is my husbands father middle name) so again…both families represented but my husband doesn’t really want two middle names.

Do you have any thoughts on this. Thanks for your help!


Jared Fogle of Subway fame.

Jared Fogle of Subway fame.

Dear Louanna,

I’m not a fan of two middle names. I think it’s clunky for a person to bear three given names and just looks like the parents could not decide.

Between Graham or Jared, my personal preference is Graham. Jared has become very popular lately, and I like more unique names. Also, I identify Jared with the Subway guy and the jeweler (“He went to Jared’s!”).

But like I said, that’s just a personal preference–and assocation–and not given from the perspective of a name expert. Ultimately, it’s your decision.


Beyond the Meaning of a Name

Do you agree that names can have meaning beyond what the name book says?

Hi Megan,

Absolutely, a meaning and perception of a name can be very personal and different for each individual. For example if you and your partner have a special place that you’ve shared–for a romantic getaway, honeymoon, or even just a favorite spot–you may want to use that place name for your baby.

Many people will name a child after a favorite fictional character or hero/heroine, mentor or influencer in his or her life.

It’s always great to have a backstory of a name, a story to tell your child that goes beyond the onomastic meaning.

Thanks for writing!
p.s. You can ask me a question via Twitter by using the hashtag #AskBabyNames

Polish Name Roots

Dear Jennifer,

I have always been fascinated by names, especially since I have an unusual name myself. I am of part-Polish heritage and have always struggled to get information on the Polish names that I have found on my family tree. I was wondering if you could tell me the meaning of the name Feliksa and if you think it would work in non-Polish society? Also would it be possible to give me any history of the name Eugeniusz? It was my grandfathers name and although quite popular for a time in Poland I have never been able to find any reliable information on it in English.

Thank you so much for the help,

Hi Genevieve,

Both Feliksa and Eugeniusz are variations of the Latinized names Felicia or Felix and Eugene. Felicia means “Happy, Prosperous” as Eugene means “Well born.”

Just like dictionary words, most names have roots and offshoots (prefixes, postfixes) that can be traced back to Roman or Latinized names.

Hope that helps!

Polish actor Eugeniusz Bodo and his dog Sambo

Polish actor Eugeniusz Bodo and his dog Sambo

Soundalike Names for Mom & Daughter

I recently came across the name Kenley and fell in love with it. I am just concerned if I ever decide to use it if it will clash with my name, Mckenzie?


Project Runway's Kenley Collins

Project Runway’s Kenley Collins

Hi Mckenzie,

You have to decide if there would be confusion in your household between the names Kenley and Mckenzie. Since they both have the root Ken, and end with the same ee sound, they are very similar names. I also see by your email address that you go by “Kenzie.” Is there a reason you want a name so similar to your own? I usually don’t recommend that children are named after their parents as everyone in the household should have his or her own identity.

Since it sounds like this is theoretical and you are not yet pregnant, I would see what happens when you and your partner are expecting and bring some other names to the list.