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How Can We Compromise on Baby Names?

I'm currently in my second trimester with twins, a boy and a girl. We settled on our son's name easily, Nathaniel James. However, we can't seem to find the perfect girls name. I would like to find a name that matches our son's. I'm in love with old names like Agatha and Celina, but she's more into modern names like Ariel or Harper. Any suggestions as to where we can find a good compromise? - Mom of Nathaniel +1

Compromise is a tricky word when it comes to baby names. What's the midpoint between Agatha and Harper -- Agaper? Harpatha? To find real middle ground, you have to understand the styles on each side.

Your question shows just how hard defining baby name style can be. Ariel strikes you as modern, even though it's straight out of the Bible and Shakespeare. Meanwhile one of your "old names," Celina, hit its all-time peak in the 1990s. Placing names on the style map is complicated. So rather than finding middle ground, most parents just look for a name that one of them likes and the other doesn't totally hate. Worse yet, compromise often gives way to a contest of wills.

You, though, say you want a real compromise. This seems like a good time to take up a challenge from our sister site, They invited me to put some new name-finding tools to my toughest test. I entered the names Nathaniel, Agatha and Harper into their "Name MatchMaker" and dared it to find not-too-common sister suggestions that bring the three styles together.

Here are some of the MatchMaker's top suggestions; the comments are my own.

Naomi - A biblical classic, but quirky and individual because of it's distinctive look and sound. A cute match with Nathaniel, without being too cutesy.

Scarlett - Bolder than Nathaniel, like a brassier, more feminine Harper.

Juliet - Like Ariel, this is a Shakespearean classic that somehow sounds fresh and new. Great balance.

Camilla - Perhaps a bit frilly for the Harper fan, but it walks the contemporary/traditional line quite neatly. Would the nickname Cam help?

Felicity - We have enough distance from the TV series by now that this name gets to be a name again. It stands up well to Nathaniel, but it's a mouthful.

Piper - A clever choice, as the one occupational surname that even traditionalists love. A tougher pairing with Nathaniel, though...unless you call him Nate, in which case it's perfect.

The fascinating thing to me is that those names, taken together, do seem to share a style -- but I dare you to pin down what that style is. All we can say for sure is that it sits at the center of Nathaniel, Agatha and Harper. To my eyes, the names look a very appealing stylistic compromise, traditional but fresh and lively. Perhaps a contest of wills isn't inevitable after all.


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November 1, 2010 10:59 AM
By Julie (not verified)

Harpatha LOL All I could think of is
the nickname "Harpy" and the myth of the monster with a woman's head and body and a bird's wings and claws...

November 1, 2010 12:10 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

How about Miranda, Charlotte, Cassandra. these all sound like old fashioned names that could also be new. I also like a 3 or more syllable name with Nathaniel.

November 1, 2010 4:45 PM
By RobynT (not verified)

I think Ariel and Harper have a spunkiness and so the suggestions have that with a bit of tradition and weight.

November 1, 2010 11:37 PM
By Sebalek (not verified)

If you pronounce Ariel "are-ee-el" instead of "air-ee-ul" like the Little Mermaid, it sounds lovely with Nathaniel. It would even share the same -iel ending which gives their names a less obvious connection.

Short and spunky is a bit of a mismatch with the longer, more formal Nathaniel. So an longer first name with a spunky nickname would work well, particularly if you're calling Nathaniel "Nate".

You could also try: Genevieve, Georgiana, Georgia, Caroline, Valentina, Victoria, Veronica, Elizabeth, Savannah, Penelope, Alexandra, Jessica, Arianna.

November 2, 2010 12:19 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I suggest you use something like Amelia. It's old, but has a cutesy quality and it pairs well with Nathaniel. You want to be careful about too old of names because those kinds of names will come into style somewhat quickly and then become very unpopular just a fast. You don't want to stick your child with too old or too fancy of a name because you're much more likely to pick something that is too big to match their personality. Something so fancy would only seem like a good name for someone who is very extroverted, like an actress or singer. Amelia can be bouncy and excited but can also be calm. This will pair well with whatever personality your child has.

November 2, 2010 12:43 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like the Amelia suggestion with Nathaniel. Also wonder if you'll do Nate or not. For what it's worth, we have an Emilia in the family, and she also goes by Emi, so she has a long/formal and a short/sweet version to choose from.

November 2, 2010 12:49 PM
By You Can't Call It "It"! (not verified)

Ooh, Georgia, Juliet, Penelope and Amelia are great suggestions. Mom, what do you guys think of those?

I like the idea of an old name that feels fresh. What about:


November 2, 2010 12:54 PM
By Roland & Conrad's mom (not verified)

I love the name Scarlet but definitely not paired with a brother named Nathaniel. The association of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne screams out. I agree with the previous posters that Charlotte or Amelia are good choices. I would also suggest Virginia. It's an underused classic. Nathaniel and Virginia stand strong together.

November 2, 2010 1:15 PM
By Cara (not verified)

How about Natalia? I really like the Nate/Nat sound together, and think that they sound very well matched, whether nicknames would be used or not. I always try to picture myself calling kids at the park and can "hear" myself calling "Nathaniel and Natalia!!", as well as something shortened like "Nate and Natty!!" :) Good luck!!

November 2, 2010 1:17 PM
By Allison Margaret (not verified)

What about these (at least to me) fresh-sounding traditionals and traditional-sounding modern names?
Phoebe, Alix, Elspeth, Elsa, Una, Zara, Elodie, Cassidy, Caroline, Mara, Nora, Katherine "Katya", Juliana, Julienne, Claire, Chloe, Anya, Cora/Coraline/Coralie, Sadie, Zoe, Meredith, Maya, Isobel, Jillian

November 2, 2010 1:17 PM
By LovingLuci (not verified)

I like Cassandra as a compliment to Nathaniel. I think its romantic and classic. It balances with his name length & syllables. If nn's is a concerns the nn's options of Cassie or Sandy also balance his more serious Nate. Perhaps a middle name of Jane to match is James?

November 2, 2010 1:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Nathaniel James...


Jessamyn/Jayne/Jessica/Jaqueline/Jenna/Janine/Janelle/Jeanette/Jillian/Johanna/Joanna/Josephine/Jocelyn (Josie)/Julia

I like the idea of pairing their initials up and a similar sound...

Natalie Joanne (Nattie or Jo)
Nora Jessamyn (Jessie or Nora)
Nicola Jocelyn (Nikki or Josie)


November 2, 2010 1:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I named my daughter Ariel Caterina. I had a hard time finding a name to fit my VERY Italian last name. I gave her my name in Italian as her middle name. I agree that if it is pronounced correctly, the name has a beautiful flow to it. No, she was not named after the Little Mermaid. I loved its meaning, which is "Lioness of God". It is the ancient name for Jerusulem, and it is cross-gender. Many boys in Israel are named Ariel. She loves her name and never hears anyone with the same name. It is not trendy, if you keep it within it's original roots. I just got tired of all the Jessicas, Brittanys and Morgans. Remember, she will have it for life!

November 2, 2010 3:08 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like Amelia Grace with Nathaniel James. Evangeline is another good one that can be elegant and old fashioned but also shortened to nn such as Eve, Eva, Angel, Angie, Elle, Linny, Lee... So many choices! GL! (don't forget to be cautious around a pregnant lady with twins!! ;) )

November 2, 2010 4:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm with Cara. When I saw the name Nathaniel, my first thought was Natalia. You could use the nickname Talia if you wanted (no idea what your ethnicities are), or Nat, Tali, Lia, etc.

Then I thought of Noemi. I just love that name. Unfortunately, I fear I'm destined to have only boys, so I will never be able to use it. I think Noemi is such a great name, it sounds unique to me (even though I've heard other people called it, it's not overly common), it sounds fresh, it has 3 syllables like Nathaniel. I'm not usually the kind of person who goes for the matching first letter names for multiples, but the two names just have such a great ring, Nathaniel and Noemi.

November 2, 2010 4:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I would caution against Amelia. I don't think it is a name that ages well. I can picture little girls named Amelia, but I don't think a 25 year old with that name would receive as much respect as say a 25 year old named Kathryn.
I really like the Natalie or Natalia idea. I think Charlotte is my favorite, but having the same initials would be cool for the two of them (with a J middle name also). I know a family with three daughters and all three girls have the same initials and its not weird for them. Just make it something that connects the kids.

November 2, 2010 5:11 PM
By with an E (not verified)

Chalcedony (cal-sid'-ney or cal-si'-duh-nee) Anne

November 2, 2010 5:36 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

I like Naomi paired with Nathaniel for the quirky biblical sounds, but caution against it simply because a lot of people will find it very difficult to pronounce and spell (Niaomi, Niomie, Noemi). As pretty as it is (and I have a friend named Naomi) it is perhaps more trouble than its worth - unless, of course, you absolutely LOVE it, in which case do what feels right!

Amelia and Nathaniel are gorgeous together (kudos to the person who suggested it). The common As, Es, Is, and Ls give a lovely, sweet lilt when the names are said together. They both sound fresh with vintage roots. Harper and Amelia sound stylistically similar.

Ariel and Nathaniel technically pair together because of the "iel"s, but Ariel sounds more airy than the earthy Nathaniel.

I'll add Evelyn to the suggestion box. Evelyn and Nathaniel sound quite different but have soft, rounded sounds vs Evangeline and Nathaniel.

Caroline and Savannah (as previously suggested) are also lovely. Along the same lines as Harper, but quaint and classy enough to pair with Nathaniel.

November 2, 2010 6:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I wouldn't worry about the spelling - most of us have to spell out either our first name or surname.

I love the name Sibylla, and also Calypso, both of which are Ancient Greek names, but have a lovely fresh feel to them.

Or you could go looking for inspiration overseas - we ended up choosing a very French name for our first daughter that had a old-world resonance to it, but feels very modern too, since its roots aren't in our culture.

November 2, 2010 8:12 PM
By Arielle (not verified)

My name is Arielle and it's a never-ending source of aggeda to me that nobody pronounces it correctly. It should be pronounced like the letters "R-E-L," not like "Air-ee-uhl." It makes me crazy that so many people have trouble with my name. When telemarketers call, they always ask for Arlene, Areola, Alari, Arillia, etc.

When choosing a name for your little girl, please keep in mind how easy it will be for others to pronounce. It's so annoying to have your name constantly butchered. But hey, if we all get together and start using the name more and pronounce it the way it was meant to be pronounced, maybe we can reclaim it!

I think that nice, old-fashioned names would sound great with Nathaniel. There are some really beautiful choices from some of the above posts! (Although Amelia Grace sounds lovely, I think it's a bit overused nowadays.)

November 3, 2010 6:42 AM
By shakespearediva (not verified)

Just thought I'd throw Norah/Nora into the mix...

November 3, 2010 6:43 AM
By shakespearediva (not verified)

Just thought I'd throw Norah/Nora into the mix...

November 3, 2010 1:39 PM
By Tirzah (not verified)

In Little Mermaid, Sebastian the crab pronounces it ARE-eh-el. I believe the rest of the characters pronounce it AIR-ee-el.

November 3, 2010 4:30 PM
By Acolorfulworld (not verified)

Oh the pain and joy of picking your babies a name they can wear at all points in there life. No matter what you pick they will love and hate it at different times. The great thing is that you care and are finding names together, so only good can come of this. I just had twin girls last month and know just how hard finding names that "go" together is. I like quirky names and my husband likes traditional names. We finally both fell in love with Maëlle Alta & Lillian Elise. We liked them as a pair, but that's not to say every one does. I know Lillian is a name we used, but it does fit the traditional and has a more "cute" nickname. So does Vivian. We liked it, but it was of limits because a dear friend of mine had a daughter several years ago and called her Vivian, her nickname is Vivi. If the twins had been boys we were considering Samuel, Benjamin, Nathaniel with the middle names James, & Robert. So I can happily say I love your choices.
Good Luck!
PS Our eldest daughter is Claire. Don't know if it goes with your tastes, but I thought I'd offer it as an option.

November 3, 2010 5:27 PM
By Genie (not verified)

I'm liking the MatchMaker's suggestions, especially Naomi and Juliet! Going with the Shakespeare theme, I would suggest Miranda, Beatrice, Bianca, Portia, Cordelia, Emilia, Helena, Ophelia and Viola which could suit the classic but contemporary-sounding theme.
Other biblical names (like Naomi and Nathaniel) include Miriam (Martha/Mara/other variants), Abigail, Delilah, Eden, Esther, Phoebe and Tabitha.
As a compromise you could find variants of names that one of you likes, that you both love. For example instead of Celina you could use Cecilia, Cecily, Celia, Cicely etc. and instead of Ariel you could go for Alba, Aria, Arienne, Arabel etc.
I also agree that Caroline or Charlotte could work well.

November 5, 2010 4:19 AM
By Natalie (not verified)

Wow, love the number of people who suggested pairing Amelia with Nathaniel! Our daughter Amelia is 3, and she chose our 7 month old son's name...every time we asked she picked Nathaniel, so that was the name we went with. I do think those names go together very well and we get compliments on their names all the time!

November 5, 2010 6:16 AM
By lothelena (not verified)

My two cents, when naming twins don't try to make their initials match. It seems cute but practically speaking it's a real pain. We have 3 kids, our oldest has the same initial as one of the twins and while I love the names I wish they had different initials. I also think Nathaniel and Natalia are too similar, you'll end up annoying yourself saying the wrong name with the first sound being the same. Although I admit, I think the name Natalia is fab. You've got to allow for the brain fog that comes with raising twins!

November 10, 2010 7:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that you shouldn't go with the matching first initials. My husband is from a "cutesy matching first initial family" and he insisted that our three children have distinct first initials.

January 6, 2011 3:35 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not a fan of Amelia, I think because I knew a girl I didn't like with that name. If you have no negative person associations with it, it's probably cute. I do love the name Amelie. I have a friend with that name and it sounds more updated than Amelia, even though it's probably just as old. I also like Evelyn. You could call her Evie (the E V is pronounced like "ever" instead of "even"). That was my great aunt's name and nickname. Overall, lots of good choices. Good luck narrowing it down!

November 30, 2013 4:15 PM
By Fernando Cavendish (not verified)

Lots of nice comments! I'm checking out everyone of them and the opnions are really great.

November 16, 2014 12:34 PM
By StephJ (not verified)

Great suggestions so far. I was going to suggest Evelyn, but someone else beat me to it.
Here are my faves from the previous posters:
Evangeline (Eva)

How about Amelia Claire or Evelyn Grace?

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