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Ask BabyNames

Name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder & CEO of
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Providence as a Baby Name?

Hi, I’m a big fan of your website, I’ve been using it to help name characters for years!

I’m starting to brainstorm names for future kids and was wondering what you think about using the word “Providence” as a name. I would probably use it for a middle name since it’s unusual and I don’t know of it being used as a name before. (It’s the street I grew up on.) In your opinion, does it transition well to a name? Do you think it would have too much of a religious connotation? (The idea of “divine providence” is what sticks out to me.)

For first names, I was thinking Charlotte or Providence for a girl and Henry for a boy, if that helps!
Thanks so much!


Hi Maggie,

This is a new one! I’ve never heard of Providence being used as a name, however I can’t say I object to anything about it. It is similar in sound and meaning to Prudence, which I consider an “expectation” name like Justice, Honor, Chastity, etc. But Providence doesn’t really have an expectation attached to it. Literally, it is defined as “The protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power” which is pretty cool!providence

The name Providence is easy to pronounce and easy to spell so it follows all of our major “naming guidelines” As for the religious connotation, I think it would more likely be associated with the place name (or television show) rather than any religious idealogy.

If you love it, go for it! Meanwhile, I’m adding it to our database. Thanks!



Salaine from Iceland

Hi Jennifer,


Selene – “The Moon”

I wanted to let you know what a bog fan of your site I am! I absolutely love looking up the meanings of different names and reading through the Ask BabyNames blog (even though I’m nowhere close to being a parent), and it has proved incredibly helpful for my writing. I’m glad that you’ve compiled such a diverse, reliable source for names!

I was wondering if you knew anything about the name Silaine. It’s my friend’s name, but she doesn’t know the meaning of it. Her family is from Iceland, and it is very possible that it is a combination name, but it would be interesting to know for sure. Thanks for your help!


Hi Shawna,

Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad there are other writers out there that use the site.

I would venture to guess that Silaine is a Nordic spelling of the name Selene, which has Greek roots and means “The Moon.” It’s also possible that it is a variation of the Irish name, Sláine, however this name is actually pronounced “SLAW-nuh.” So I’d bet on the former.

Thanks for writing! I will add this beautiful name to our database.



Don’t Worry, Bee Happy

Hi Jennifer,

My name is Melisha, pronounced muh-lish-uh. I have looked for years and can’t find a meaning for my name. I know my mom wasn’t sure what my name would be if I was a girl until she was watching TV one day and a shampoo commercial came on. The model flipped her hair and introduced herself and my mom fell in love with the name. I am one of the few people I know that actually likes my own name. It’s unique and I feel like it fits my personality, I just wish I knew where it came from or what it means. Do you have any ideas about this? Thanks for reading!


Hi Melisha,

bee-happyI’ve actually never heard of the name prior to your letter! I love the backstory on your name. It’s always fun when your parents can tell you how they named you! Most likely the name is a derivation/combination of the names MELISSA and FELICIA. In combo names, we try to combine the meanings, as well. So Melisha would be “Happy Bee!”

Thank you for your letter and for giving us a new, unique name to add to the database.


Did we invent Charlene?

I’ve noticed the name Charlene is becoming popular and got curious…I checked to see if the name had been used before 1938. My dad and mom named my sister Charlene as a combination of their names Charles and Ethelene. My sister was born January 11, 1938. Sadly she passed away in the summer of 1948 from the aftereffects of rheumatic fever. She was born in Mansfield, Ohio. I was born at home, but don’t know if she was.

I thought you might be interested and I was curious to know if my mom and dad were the ones to introduce the name to society.

Lovina May Stinehour Dunham

Princess Charlene of Monaco

Princess Charlene of Monaco

Dear Lovina (great name, BTW!),

According to the U.S. Social Security name database, the name Charlene was already in existence in 1907, ranking at #876. So the answer would be no, your parents didn’t make up the name, but they did help popularize it!

The name Charlene was most popular in the years 1946-1952 where it actually hit the top 100 in 1949. Famous Charlenes include actress Charlene Tilton (Dallas) and Princess Charlene Lynette Wittstock of Monaco, who married the son of Princess Grace.

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…?