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How Can We Not-Quite Keep This Name?

Relatives of mine are about to adopt a baby girl who has been given the name Angel by her birth parents. They would like to change her name but honor it as well, by either choosing a name that sounds similar or means something similar. They do not like Angela or Angelica, and one of the parents is named Anne, so they want to stay away from Anna and all its related names. Any ideas?

- Excited Auntie

Adopting a child is a beautiful act, but an emotionally complex one. Names, with their power to represent relationships, culture and identity, are a natural flashpoint in the process. In the best case, a name can be a positive symbol of transition (or continuity) for the child. In the worst, it can become a symbol of tension between her old and new worlds.

It sounds like your relatives are approaching this with a perfect attitude.  They're both embracing the joyous opportunity to name a baby and showing respect for the birth parents who made this moment possible. Unfortunately, the name itself isn't cooperating with their good intentions. 

A mom named Anne changes the playing field for An- names. That's a straightforward, unemotional issue. If this is an open adoption, it's something the birth family should understand.

The new parents could try to get around the problem syllable by capturing the "ain" sound of Angel in a name like Ainsley. Alternately, they could choose a name with traditional angelic associations, like Ariel or Gabrielle. Neither of those approaches, though, retains the essence of the name Angel.

The simplest answer is to use Angel as a middle name. This preserves the baby's name in the form it was given, while allowing her new family to choose a new name for daily use. Even though Angel isn't to their tastes, as a middle name it could take on the unique beauty of a keepsake from their daughter's birth.


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May 19, 2014 10:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that it would be nice to keep Angel as a middle. Even if the parents don't like the name, it is a gift from the birth parents to the baby. They gave her a name and a family who will love her. She may find it a comfort later in life to know that her birth parents considered her their Angel even though they couldn't keep her.

May 19, 2014 10:42 AM
By Megan (not verified)

Evangeline is a bit if a mouthful but has many nick name possibilities (Eva, Eve, Lina).

May 19, 2014 1:43 PM
By Megan (not verified)

Agree with keeping Angel as the middle name is probably the most respectful to birth parents, and will most liekely have the most meaning for the child. Otherwise, there are names such as Seraphina, but really, explaining to the kid "we named you Seraphina because your birth parents named you Angel, but we didn't really like Angel, so we went wih something that means Angel...." ?!

May 19, 2014 2:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There is also Angelina, perhaps with the nickname of Lee/Lina to help distinguish from Ann?

Is there a middle name given by the birth parents? Another solution might be to give a totally new first name, but keep the original middle name.

Though, I agree the easiest thing would be to simply move Angel to the middle name.

May 20, 2014 1:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

How about using a name that incorporates Angel, like Evangeline. Or the meaning: Seraphina.

May 20, 2014 2:15 PM
By Madi (not verified)

Seraphina or Gabriella would be lovely.

May 20, 2014 2:52 PM
By Christi with an I (not verified)

I have two adopted children and a large group of friends who have adopted. We have used several different methods to address the name issue. Most of these kids were fostered prior to adoption which makes changing the name a little more complicated because you can't until you move into the actual adoption proces. For our two we kept the boy's first name and changed his middle and of course his last name. His first name is a classic boys name and while not our first choice it was over two years between his placement and his adoption so we had come to love it. Our girl had a first name we really didn't like so we always called her by a shortened form and when it came time to adopt we changed her name from the original to another that worked with the same nickname. We have had friends who just changed the first letter (Kamber from Amber), ones who chose a name that sounded basically the same, another who shortened a long name to what they always called him and still another who kept a form of the first name and moved it to the middle. So really, anything goes. Good luck!

May 21, 2014 9:13 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the people who suggested Evangeline. EvANGELine.

May 21, 2014 9:30 AM
By Friv 2 (not verified)

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May 22, 2014 9:10 AM
By L. (not verified)

Muḥammad, the founder of Islam, was adopted. He set the rules for adoptions in Islam and they include not changing the child's name at all. Not the first, middle, or last name. The child is seen as having a right to the name he or she was born with.

I'm not suggesting that you do that, but it's interesting to see a different perspective.

May 23, 2014 4:42 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

Just to clarify a bit, regarding Islam, the key point about adoption is that there is no "re-writing" of a birth certificate as we do in the US, obliterating the child's real birth circumstances. Adoption is not considered something that can re-write a child's family lineage or blood relationships - so the kid would keep their family name even when raised or cared for by another family. First names though can be changed without an issue, religion-wise.

In this case, i think it would be absolutely lovely to keep the name Angel as a middle name. It would be so respectful of the child's birth family, and a really special gift from her birth mom for her to carry throughout her life.

May 23, 2014 9:36 PM
By tiktok (not verified)

Evangeline? Has Angel in the middle, has a nice meaning, doesn't start with An- ...

May 23, 2014 9:52 PM
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May 25, 2014 2:31 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have adopted siblings (albeit they are from international adoption, not domestic), but we wanted to honor their birth culture and their lives prior to living with us, so we moved their chinese names to the middle, and gave them new first names and an additional middle name. For example: Sally Anne JiaoMei Smith. I think that this way, this family can name their baby with both the first and middle names that they prefer, and the birth families preference. Having two middle names isn't that big of a deal, because hardly anyone uses them, and also the child would have a great story about how their name came to be!

May 25, 2014 10:42 PM
By Mydela (not verified)

What about Gabrielle or Michaela after the angels Gabriel or Michael? Just a thought.

May 27, 2014 12:18 PM
By lara jane (not verified)

I love the suggestions of Seraphine/a and Evangeline/a. Both are gorgeous, can be shortened, and honor her birth name.

I'm just really not a fan of Angel and would not use it if I were in their shoes. It's exclusively masculine where I'm from, plus it reminds me of those who have lost babies (including myself). I just couldn't do it.

May 28, 2014 12:17 AM
By Angela (not verified)

I am an Angela, so I thought I'd pop in to help.

I like the idea of names that contain the letters of "angel"... Here are ones I've found:

- Angele
- Angelia
- Angelien
- Angeliki
- Angelina
- Angeline
- Angelique
- Angelita
- Eglantine
- Enkhjargal
- Evangelija
- Evangelina
- Evangeline
- Evangeliya
- Galena
- Galene
- Glenda
- Glenna
- Magdalen
- Magdalena
- Magdalene
- Mariangela
- Michelangela
- Nigella
- Rosangela
- Sarangerel
- Solange
- Vangelija

May 28, 2014 11:38 PM
By Divine (not verified)

WHat about Angelique? (an-ja-leek)

May 30, 2014 1:07 AM
By Otaku-chan (not verified)

For geek-cred, go with Evangelion! It's from "Neon Genesis Evangelion."

June 3, 2014 12:26 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

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June 10, 2014 2:56 PM
By Sharon (not verified)

When we adopted our son, his parents had already given him 2 names, so we just moved those to the middle so that our choices were on either side. We told the birth parents that we were doing that and they were happy that we kept the names.

June 19, 2014 1:53 PM
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July 6, 2014 1:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think that to keep it as a middle name would be the best thing and it is important to choose a name that will go with it as a first name. If the parents don't like this then maybe they could double barrel it.

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