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Does My Baby’s Name Have a Pronunciation Problem?

I've always regretted my daughter's name. It's Esme, pronounced Es-ME (as in "me, myself, and I.") People regularly say Es-may. I really am struggling with the guilt of giving her a problem for the rest of her life. Is it worth changing her name when my husband loves it so much and it would hurt him a lot for me to change it?

–Me, Please!

You haven't mentioned how old your daughter is, which could make a big difference in how you respond here. Many parents experience pangs of regret or namer's remorse when their babies are little, and these fade as children grow into their names. And if your daughter is old enough to know her name, it is more difficult to change it.

But your case is a bit different, because instead of feeling guilty or remorseful about the name itself, your concern is with the pronunciation. Yes, many people will read Esme as "ez-may." That's the more traditional pronunciation, though both are used. Many people go through life with names that can be pronounced two ways. I can see that it is annoying and frustrating for you, but it does not need to be as big of a burden as you fear. Just like Sarahs take a few seconds to clarify "with an H," you and your Esme can quickly and simply point out the preferred pronunciation of her name.

Still, if this is really bothering you, there may be some middle ground. Unlike parents who feel like they totally chose the wrong name, you have the option to tweak either the spelling or the pronunciation of your daughter's name for clarity. Then you wouldn't have to give up the name that your husband loves. But I urge you not to feel guilty about your choice. People can find a way to misspell and mispronounce the simplest of names, so don't reject a name that you and your husband love over this small annoyance.


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June 12, 2017 7:37 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is easily mispronounced. It used to upset me greatly. I've learned it doesn't matter a whit in short term contexts (cashier reads my name off my credit card) but is mildly helpful in long term contexts. People either try very hard to get it correct or don't try at all. The people who don't try aren't ever really people I want in my life - they don't care. It's a nice, quick marker.

June 12, 2017 9:00 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is commonly mispronounced and misspelled. At most, it is sometimes annoying, but it really is not a big deal. Certainly not enough of a big deal that my mother should feel guilty about giving me a problem for the rest of my life.

You & your daughter will learn to simply correct people "I say it like Es-mee." People will then adjust and everyone will go on about their business I'd also suggest that you learn to not sweat the small stuff. Only correct people who matter, friends, family members, teachers, etc. In the great scheme of things, it absolutely does not matter if the receptionist at the doctors office or the barista at Starbucks says it correctly.

June 12, 2017 6:00 PM
By Kathleen Jones (not verified)

I pronounce it "es-may." I just looked up the name, and that is indeed the correct pronunciation. From what I found it is of French origin, and pronounced the same way that you would say Rene. I think changing your daughter's name is a joint decision with your husband and should only be done if your daughter is still a baby. Do you and your husband not like the traditional pronunciation? That would be the easiest solution. Another solution would be to spell it Esmee. Although this is still traditionally pronounced as "es-may", to the English speaking eye the pronunciation of "es-me" would be the inclination.

June 12, 2017 11:32 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Pretty much every name has different ways to pronounce it. Even something as simple as Anna- is it Ann-ah, ah-nah, or other? You may prefer one way but your daughter another when she gets older. Just leave it and correct people.

June 13, 2017 12:28 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree, my name for some has an "h" and even if I'm called the wrong name altogether in one-time settings I don't correct or get my feathers ruffled. I do think it to be a good compromise as mentioned, if you and your spouse are absolutely sure, is to add another "e" because your closer circle will understand why so immediately... Then again she will still have to spell it out to most and still have to correct in one way or another but you may have known when you'd set your heart on a somewhat uncommon name to start. It's beautiful so: just stare into her eyes and relish in her name. That's what matters, work on the belief. Peace.

June 13, 2017 10:12 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Many people have names pronounced all sorts of ways due to language differences or regional and accent differences. My name is pronounced differently among Spanish speakers and it really is not a big deal. It is still my name. Leave it alone and correct people as needed.

June 13, 2017 11:15 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Do you like her middle name? You could keep her name as-is, but just call her by her middle name. I've known quite a few people who go by theirs. When she is older she could always choose to go by whichever one she prefers. :)

June 16, 2017 10:20 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I, too, have an anusual pronunciation of a fairly common name. Honestly, it was miserable for me as a fairly timid kid. My parents very firmly corrected people, insisting that the common pronunciation is NOT my name. So from an early age, the standard pronunciation was wrong, and therefore annoying whenever it happened.

It would have been much more helpful for me to get used to answering to the standard pronunciation in public. I would recommend continuing to call her Es-ME, but not correcting it to Es-may unless necessary.

June 17, 2017 1:15 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a commonly misspelled name, and over many years and sometimes tears, came to the realization that those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. So I correct those I love and who matter to me, but ignore from people like Starbucks barista.

June 19, 2017 5:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I call my son by both pronounciations of his name, I'm not attached to either, they're both beautiful. Whatever ends up being more natural for people to say will be the name. Tell your husband, is it okay if we just call her both Es-me and Es-may and let her make the call on how it will be pronounced? Then you are even. He'll probably root for Es-me and you'll say Es-may and she'll decide. What you don't want is to turn your daughter into a rude little name brat: it's Es-ME, get it right people!!! It's a great opportunity to teach her how to deal with others gracefully--however I'm rooting for allowing her to go by both pronounciations.

June 27, 2017 2:24 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You've given your daughter a huge advantage in life. She will always be able to tell who her true friends are. They will spell and pronounce her name correctly.

She won't be kidnapped by someone reading off her name and pretending to be a family friend.

She won't get scammed by telemarketers. They never pronounce unique names right.

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