How to decide on namesakes (a/k/a choosing between friends and family)

I am 17 weeks pregnant with our first child, and DP and I are having a hard time agreeing on names. It doesn’t help that I’ve been a name nerd forever and that he thinks I’m completely over-thinking it :slight_smile:

One of the biggest challenges we’re having, though, is with deciding whether or not our baby will be named for anyone. I am from a southern family where tradition runs deep. I can’t think of anyone in my family who isn’t named for at least one relative; I’m named for four! DP’s family has less naming traditions and is pretty flexible. I’d really like to honor someone with naming this baby, but I can’t figure out how to balance our desire to have a namesake and also a name we really love.

We do have a few people we’d like to honor, but we either don’t like their names enough to use them as-is or don’t know how to choose between them. For instance, we have two very dear friends that we would love to honor. They will likely be the baby’s godparents. They are a couple, and I’d feel awkward “choosing” between them. I can’t come up with a way to combine their names without using both of their surnames, giving the baby four surnames total since we’ll be hyphenating last names. Their last names are [name]Merritt[/name] and Towne, both of which are generally my style, but [name]Merritt[/name] Towne [name]Greene[/name]-[name]Ferguson[/name] sounds like a lot of surnames. Unfortunately, their firsts and middles aren’t our style at all. I also worry that naming our baby after friends instead of relatives will cause a big uproar in my family due to choosing friends “over” family despite the fact that we are actually closer to these friends than we are to my family.

We also have a couple of grandparents who would make good namesakes, but we don’t love their names as they are and DP doesn’t think we’re “really” naming a baby after someone if we change the name too much. Material to work with includes [name]Betty[/name], [name]Ruth[/name], [name]Geraldine[/name]/[name]Jerry[/name], [name]Warren[/name], [name]Phillip[/name], and [name]Allen[/name]. All of these names are from my side. Family names that do pass muster as middle names if we can find first names: [name]Denham[/name], [name]Jude[/name] (though a bit overused), and [name]Garnet[/name] (not a family name but a family connection).

To give you a general sense of our naming style, we like modern but not made up names - often gender neutral or nature based. Some of my our favorites are [name]Baird[/name], [name]Arlo[/name], [name]Greer[/name], [name]Pace[/name], and [name]Shiloh[/name].

Thank you for your help!

Re: friends vs. family. If the friends are going to be godparents, I’d say that’s honor enough and use names for family. I think that way everyone wins. Especially since you’re having a hard time deciding between the friends’ names.

As for the family: you say it’s OK to change somewhat?

[name]Betty[/name]: [name]Elizabeth[/name] is a classic. [name]Even[/name] if she wasn’t an [name]Elizabeth[/name], was “just” [name]Betty[/name], it’s the root. So many nicknames to choose from! [name]Elizabeth[/name] G-F is long, but works, esp with a nickname. Or [name]Eliza[/name] or [name]Elise[/name]? I realize these aren’t so modern but maybe [name]Eliza[/name] feels that way a bit? [name]Bethany[/name] is actually a Biblical place name, too, like [name]Shiloh[/name], and feels close to [name]Betty[/name], although I recognize it’s got more of an 80s feel than [name]Shiloh[/name]. [name]Beatrice[/name]/[name]Beatrix[/name] also works as an indirect for [name]Betty[/name] for me, though again, not exactly modern. Hm.

[name]Ruth[/name]: There really aren’t names related to this much, although [name]Rue[/name] is one that sounds like it that feels kind of modern. Although meaning “regret” always gets me down about that name. [name]Thurston[/name], on a boy, contains all the letters of [name]Ruth[/name]. [name]Ruth[/name] and [name]Naomi[/name] is a beautiful story in the Bible and [name]Naomi[/name] is a more attractive name than [name]Ruth[/name] - maybe somewhat more modern given Ms. [name]Campbell[/name] and Ms. Watts? Still not super modern though. The meaning of [name]Ruth[/name] is friend or companion, and I don’t know if you could find a name with another meaning that would relate? [name]Amity[/name]? That’s an old virtue name that feels contemporary a bit. [name]Truth[/name]? Rhymes with [name]Ruth[/name] and is cool, although not conventionally attractive.

[name]Geraldine[/name]/[name]Jerry[/name] - [name]Jericho[/name]? Seems up your alley style-wise? And maybe close enough? [name]Greer[/name] takes letters from these two. Although I might stay away from [name]Greer[/name] if one of the two last names will be [name]Greene[/name]…

[name]Warren[/name] - [name]Arwen[/name]? [name]Warner[/name]? [name]Just[/name] playing with letters here.

[name]Phillip[/name] - means “lover of horses”, and I’d think a cowboy name would work well enough, although I’m blanking on any and it might be too far for your partner. R(h)oslyn and some other girls name with [name]Ros[/name] have meanings to do with horses, although I’m not sure that’s modern enough for you. [name]Ross[/name]? Rho? [name]Pace[/name] seems vaguely horse-related and starts with P…

[name]Allen[/name] – [name]Nella[/name]? [name]Leland[/name]? Again, playing with letters.

[name]Hope[/name] this is helpful! [name]Arlo[/name] shares some letters…

For what it’s worth, I always feel like older relatives (or indeed older friends) are best prioritised over friends the parents’ age, mainly because it’s that bit less likely that the child will get to have a close relationship with them for decades to come - whereas, hopefully that will be the case with their godparents. Also, I’d say that if you’re already honouring someone with the godparent position - which is such a big deal - then they know how much they mean to you, and how much you want them to be a part of your child’s life. For that reason, I personally would choose to honour someone else with the names.

As for the family names being not your style - I often think this is the test for whether they’re a good person to honour or not. Your grandmother could have a really godawful name, but enough happy memories of, and respect for, her will probably negate it - or at least make you determined to find a variant you don’t hate. Some of the family names you’ve mentioned would be great to ground your fun, creative, modern choices.

[name]Hope[/name] I’ve made sense!
[name]Auburn[/name]

Definitely family…unless a friend has a name you love more than any other. Your friends now may drift away and in 10 years you may not be close at all. That is just life. We picked first names for our kids that were individual and gave family middle names.

Thank you for your feedback. While I think that choosing friend names might actually be more appropriate than family names in our case (due to very complicated relationships with our families of origins), I do think that my family will feel the same same way about family names needing to be privileged over “just friends” - even if the “friends” are the ones who have provided everything from emotional support to shelter to financial support during tough times. We may just choose to not have a namesake instead of starting a family argument, but not giving this baby the name of someone special makes me sad, too.

I’m 17 weeks, too! Having a terrible time coming up with how to work in a relative’s name too but that’s another story!

We named one of our sons with his own unique first name, and two middle names – one from each side of the family. The names were short and we managed to arrange it so all the names flowed together well, something you have to really be careful about! It was HUGE SCORE because both families were happy. [name]Both[/name] middle names were from great-grandfathers to our child, in my case I had always been very close to my grandfather and he was the oldest living relative; for DH’s side we both respected his grandfather very much and our son was the first child born after his death. My sister recently had a baby and used a great-grandmother’s name for the middle – either she is the oldest relative still living, or her name went with the first name better, not sure which.

At any rate, choosing a much older relative can be a good way out if you have a lot of family. Who can argue with age? Grandma [name]Betty[/name] is the oldest, so the baby is [name]Willow[/name] [name]Bette[/name], end of story.

Incidentally, [name]Ruth[/name] seems to have been making a bit of a comeback the last few years, just thought I would throw it out there!