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Popular Baby NamesName Help: Choosing Honor Names from Both Sides

Name Help: Choosing Honor Names from Both Sides

Name Help: Choosing Honor NamesName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

Kristina writes:

Our first child will be here by the end of the year. We mostly agree on first names. Our current list is Violet, Josephine, or maybe Natalie – if she arrives on Christmas Eve/Day.

We’d be happy with any of the names. Our rules: one spelling (because I’ve been introducing myself as Kristina-with-a-K forever), fairly common name (because my partner’s name is truly unique and it’s a burden), and a name that’s all their own (no sharing with friends/family members).

Middle names, though, are the problem. We would like to honor our families with middle names, and we plan on two children, so it could just be a question of which side goes first.

But given our age, it is very possible that this could be our only child. I’d hate to feel like we shortchanged one side of the family.

My partner and I chose a new last name when we married. It sounds like part of my birth surname, but has a similar meaning to his birth surname: Br-plus-inn.

The middle names we’re considering:

  • Elizabeth (or Eliza, Elise, Beth, etc) for my grandmother
  • Lee (or Leigh, Leah) from my partner’s family, very common middle name
  • Michelle from my partner’s sister
  • Parker from my partner’s family
  • Thomas/Thompson from a family name from my side
  • Willa/Willow/Williams from my partner’s grandfather William/Bill

We’re kind of stuck on the whole idea of how to go about choosing an honor name, and whether there’s any way to make it fair? Because we made everyone really crazy with our last name decision, it feels like we want this one little part of our daughter’s name to be more traditional and to connect her to her extended family.

I’m not sure if this matters, but our daughter will be the first, and very possibly the only, grandchild on my side. My partner is from a much bigger family, with four older grandchildren, one more due after our daughter, and maybe more after that, too.

Any advice would be helpful. Thank you!

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

First up: there’s no wrong way to go about choosing honor names.

When I first read your letter, I was tempted to suggest a middle path – finding a name that’s significant to you and your partner, maybe something from a song you both love, a place you’ve visited together, or something along those lines.

The number of grandchildren on each side might matter if, say, you were thinking of honoring grandmothers Anne and Rose, and Anne had three granddaughters named Annabelle, Hadley Anne, and Julianne, but Rose had no namesakes. But that’s not exactly what you’re asking.

But on reflection, I think you’re most eager to cement those family connections through your child’s name. That’s a very common function for middle names, so let’s focus on choosing between the names that you currently have, rather than pushing you to brainstorm even more.

I do think there’s wisdom to choosing honor names from both sides, and deciding the order based on the overall flow.

Let’s try some combinations. If one of these feels like “oh yes, THAT’S IT,” then maybe the impact of hearing your daughter’s full name will make all the difference. (For many families, hearing their child’s name in full makes the first name click – even though we all understand that middles aren’t used in everyday life.)

The pool of names we’re working with are as follows, and we need to pick one from each set:

  • Elizabeth (Eliza/Elise/Beth); Thomas/Thompson
  • Lee (Leigh/Leah); Michelle; Parker; Willa/Willow/Williams


Violet Tamsin Lee Br1n – Tamsin is a feminine form of Thomas. I like the N ending, though if it’s too far removed to be an honor name, I think Violet Thomas Lee has potential, too. But it does sound a little more masculine with those two middles.

Violet Parker Elise Br1n – Or should it be Violet Elise Parker? I’m not sure about putting the surname-style Parker in the middle, but I do like the flow of Violet Parker Elise.

Violet Willa Beth Br1n – Especially with Beth and Lee in the mix, lots of these combos sound like you’ve actually use a double name. Maybe a Southern double name: Willabeth. That’s not strictly good or bad, just a style to ponder.

Violet Willa Elizabeth Br1n – Elizabeth is a long name. Obviously! But because it’s so familiar, all those syllables fade a little, and I think you can use it as a bonus middle – even if, strictly speaking this is a eight- or nine-syllable name in total.


Josephine Elise Parker Br1n – Okay, I think I’m stuck on Elise Parker as a middle name combination. It does make for a long name overall, but I think it’s on the right side of wearable.

Josephine Ella Lee Br1n – Hmmm … would you consider Ella for Elizabeth? With a longer first, those short middles really shine.

Josephine Thomas Leigh Br1n – Thomas Leigh sounds like it could be one name: Thomasley. But it looks like two distinct choices, especially with the fancier Leigh spelling.


Natalie Michelle Thomas Br1n – Something that I keep hearing: the Elle from Elizabeth repeats in Michelle; and Natalie ends with a strong Lee sound. Does that double your honor name mileage or cause confusion?

Natalie Elise Williams Br1n – I do like those family surnames in the second middle spot. Something else for a year’s end baby: love that her initials spell NEW!

Natalie Thompson Parker Br1n – The danger with two surnames in the middle is that your child’s full name can sound a little bit like a law firm. The upside is that they’re more clearly honor names, and choosing surnames from both sides can potentially give you some of that balance you’re after.

Overall, Elise Parker is my favorite combination. and I think it works with Violet, Josephine, or Natalie. But I suspect my ultimate choice really hinges on which first name you choose.

Readers, over to you! What combinations would you suggest for Kristina’s daughter? Any advice on choosing honor names?

More names you might like:

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