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Name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder & CEO of
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Isla and the name Peniel

Hi Jennifer,

My husband and I will be having our first child in November. He wants to give her the middle name Peniel, a place in the bible. We both agreed on Isla being her first name but, I don’t know how to feel about Peniel as her middle name. Isla Peniel. Please let me know what you think. It has a great meaning but i’m afraid ppl won’t be able to pronounce it right.

Thank you!

Hi Stephanie,

One thing I always remind parents about middle names is that they are rarely used. Your daughter is not going to walk down the street introducing herself as Isla Peniel. What’s most important is that the first and last name gel and are coherent together. From the last name on the email (I will not disclose for your privacy) I believe Isla [Lastname] would be a spectacular name and very musical with the two LAs in it!
Peniel is an interesting Biblical name, a variation of Penuel, which means “Face of God.” I found we did not have it in our database and have added it. Although it’s historically a masculine name, it could be used for either gender. It is currently used as a name for churches, ministries and Bible camps.


My Best Friend’s Baby


My best friend is due with her first baby, a boy, in May. She has chosen the name Alyksandr because her husband insists that has to be the name. If that wasn’t the only problem, his middle name was going to be Matthew until her dad passed away in December from cancer. Her husband would not let her get rid of Matthew as the middle name and use the middle name James (her fathers name) instead. So the baby’s full name will now be Alyksandr Matthew James. Is it just me or is this name A LOT for such a small person? What about the spelling, too much? Does Alyksandr have an origin or is just a made up spelling of the normal Alexander?

P.S. The baby will be called Alyk or AJ.

Thanks for the feedback!

Alyksandr Kerzhakov

Alyksandr Kerzhakov

Dear Courtney,

I am not a big fan of two middle names, but it is not unusual. The real roblem I see with the name is the alternate spelling they are planning for Alyksandr. Because it is not a standard spelling here in the U.S., it puts a burden on the child to have to spell it for people the rest of his life.

Alyksandr is an Eastern European spelling of the name Alexander, but rare in the U.S. for American-born children. There is a particularly famous football (soccer) player from Russia named Aleksandr Kerzhakov.

Feel free to share this with the couple, but bottom line, it’s the parents’ decision.

Onyx Objectification

Hey Jennifer,
I went on your site and looked up my name.
I didn’t get a real meaning except “black gemstone.” I’m sorry, I just think I should have a sincere meaning considering I can’t find my name anywhere. I don’t like being referred to as an object.

I love the fact that you have my name, though.

Sincerely, Onyx

Dear Onyx,

I’m sorry you are not happy with the meaning of your name. On, we don’t make up the meanings of the names, we research and report them.



Your name comes from an object, as do many names like Meadow, Axel, Iris, and Crystal! That does not necessarily mean you are that object or that it’s objectifying you. But I have to say, if you have a problem with it…take it up with your mama! Or you can always change it when you turn eighteen.

For what it’s worth, the gemstone Onyx is a strong, beautiful stone. I even named my first band Onyx when I was 11 and wanted to be a pop star. You should be proud to be identified with it!


Keiran – Boy or Girl?

Hi Jennifer,

My husband and I are having the hardest time coming up with a name for our first child…a baby boy! We like unique names and originally were looking for something to accommodate both his culture and mine. He is Indian (from India, but is Catholic) and I am white, American.

Originally we were looking at Indian names that are easy to say since our son will be growing up here in America but now we aren’t sure what to do and I am due in 5 short weeks!! The middle name is picked out (Charles) as this name is a family name on both sides and the last name is D’Sylva. The only name we have both liked so far is Keiran but I have been told that many people associate this with a girl’s name.

Kieran Culkin

Kieran Culkin

I am becoming very discouraged and am finding this to be very difficult. Do you have any suggestions? My husband want the name to have meaning and not just sound good. Any advice would be very much appreciated, my original goal was to have 5 names on the list and decide when we meet our son but now there is only one and most people tell me it’s a girls name! Not sure what to do….

Thank you so much!

Dear Heidi,

Actually here in the U.S. Keiran/Kieran is considered a boy’s name. I don’t really see an issue with Keiran Charles, so if you love it, go for it! Stop listening to “people” as sometimes too much name input can confuse you.

Kieran Culkin (brother of Macaulay) is an actor. Kieran Bowtell is public diplomacy adviser at the British embassy in Madrid. Kieran Gibbs is a soccer player. The name comes from the Celtic Ciarán (Irish) or Ciaran (Scottish) meaning “little dark one.” The female form of the name is actually Ciara.

If anything, I would use the traditional spelling of “i before e” – but that’s up to you!  Let me know what you decide.


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!