celebrity baby names, choosing baby names, honouring, name combinations, plant names, products with human names, sibsets, vocabulary names
Kelly and Adam are expecting their second child in about a month, who will be a sister for their daughter Olive. Choosing Olive’s name was a breeze – the name clicked for both of them early in the pregnancy, and although they considered other names, never loved any of them as they did Olive. As soon as Olive was born, the name suited her perfectly, and both parents are extremely happy with their choice. Kelly loves her daughter’s name so much that the occasional negative comment about it doesn’t bother her at all, and she appreciates that the name is simple and easy to spell, and is neither extremely rare nor very popular.
The family surname is a one-syllable familiar English vocabulary word, such as Hall or Young, and Kelly thinks it needs a first name to match it which isn’t too common, and has more than one syllable. Ideally, Kelly would like a two-syllable name, so that everyone in in the family has the same syllabic pattern in their name, and she wants the whole name to be used, not a shortened nickname version, to keep this pattern. Kelly and Adam aren’t planning on having more children, so it would be nice if they could have a two-girl sibset which feels complete.
The middle name will be Julia, which is a family name; Olive also has a middle name which honours a family member.
At the moment, Kelly and Adam have a clear front-runner for their second daughter’s name – Xanthe (which they happened to see on the blog). They immediately had the same “clicking” feeling they had when they heard Olive, Kelly thinks that Olive and Xanthe sound good together, and she likes the way that Xanthe sounds with their surname. This all made Xanthe seem like the perfect name.
However, as time went by, they started to have a few doubts. Kelly worries that Xanthe will always have to spell her name for people. Kelly can’t stand it when she has to spell out her own name, in case people think it is Kelli or Kellie, and the lack of spelling issues with Olive was one of its main attractions. She’s also worried that people may not know how to pronounce Xanthe (which they are going to say ZAN-thee), and that Xanthe – and her parents – will get sick of constantly correcting people.
The only other name they have really considered is Clementine, and they’ve ruled this out because they think it will be frequently shortened by others, and because it seems too matchy with Olive, as both have a fruit/flower connection. For the same reason, they have ruled out other botanical names such as Violet or Ivy. Kelly really loves the name Freya, but isn’t sure about how it matches with their surname, and she also loves Stella, but Adam doesn’t share her feelings.
Kelly wonders what people think about the name Xanthe as a sister to Olive, and if it will be as problematic as she fears. She would also be interested in hearing other names which fit all her criteria.
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My initial thought on reading your email is that you have probably found the right name – it’s very encouraging that you got the same feeling from Xanthe that you did from Olive, as if the name had “clicked” into place for you. I think Olive and Xanthe sound great as sisters – they’re completely separate names with their own particular image and feel, and yet they seem to “go together” beautifully, making a rather hip and quirky sibset.
I think you’re right that Xanthe will probably have to correct people on the spelling and pronunciation of her name from time to time, and you know that’s a common thing, because you also have to sometimes explain that you are Kelly, not Kelli/Kellie. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Xanthe will find it as annoying as you do.
I’ve noticed that the people who get most irritated about having to spell out their names tend to be those who have traditional names with the standard, or most usual, spelling. Michelles and Kates don’t like to be asked if they are Michele or Cate, parents of Alices and Jaydens get a bit miffed if you spell their child’s name Alyss or Jaedyn. When you have a popular name with widely accepted spelling, you don’t expect to have to explain it to people.
However, when someone has a less common name with less intuitive spelling, they are usually fairly resigned to having to explain spelling and pronunciation on a regular basis. Niamhs and Joaquins mostly don’t feel it’s unreasonable for others to ask for clarification on the spelling and pronunciation of their name, and I think Xanthe might fall into this category – it’s more of a Niamh than an Alice.
On the plus side, I think Xanthe is much better known than it used to be: there’s some famous people with the name, it’s a celebrity baby name, and I’ve even seen it as a product name on furniture and homewares. It’s fairly easy to explain the ZAN- pronunciation too, because the names Xander and Xavier are popular for boys. There’s even the Australian grass tree, whose scientific name is Xanthorrhoea.
And finding a not-too-common name with no spelling or pronunciation issues isn’t that easy anyway. You’ve also considered the name Freya, but I’ve seen people spell that Freyja, Freja and Frea, so a Freya might have her name queried too.
The reason that Olive doesn’t present any spelling or pronunciation problems is because it is a traditional name, and also a vocabulary word, like Ruby or Hazel. Your surname is also a vocabulary word, and although teaming it with Olive has worked out, it might seem a bit obvious if you did the same thing again (not to mention how hard it is to think of a traditional name that isn’t also a colour or plant like Olive).
I’m struggling to think of another name like Xanthe that is neither rare nor common, isn’t a vocabulary word, has two syllables, isn’t a nickname form or can be easily turned into a nickname, sounds good with Olive, and with the middle name Julia, and with your surname, yet presents no spelling/pronunciation issues. Umm …. Astrid?
I think you and Adam have chosen a great name for Olive’s sister which ticks almost every box on your list. Maybe it isn’t perfect, but very few names are, if any. You got very lucky with Olive’s name, and it’s probably too much to expect that kind of good fortune again, where you both love the same name instantly, and it has absolutely no issues, and even the issues it does have aren’t really issues because you love it so much.
It would be wonderful if you meet your new daughter, and Xanthe is so obviously the perfect name for her that the choice is easy, and you love her name so much that explaining it every once in a while doesn’t bother you at all. Could you get that lucky again? I hope so! And you seem like the kind of people where lightning might strike twice.
Please write in and let us know if Xanthe was the perfect name after all, and whether the spelling turns out to be less of a problem than you thought.
Readers, what do you think? Is the spelling and pronunciation of Xanthe too much of a problem? And does it make a good sister to Olive?
UPDATE: The baby’s name is Xanthe!
POLL RESULTS: Most people didn’t foresee major problems with the name Xanthe. 42% thought the name Xanthe would need explaining sometimes, but nothing that couldn’t be coped with, while 31% thought it would need occasional explanation, the same as any other name. A sanguine 12% didn’t see any problems at all with the name. Only 15% thought there would be significant issues attached to the name Xanthe.
It was a definite thumbs up for the sibset Olive and Xanthe, with 79% of respondents approving of it – and a full 50% thinking it perfect. Only 6% of people thought Olive and Xanthe was a mis-match as a sibset.
(Painting shown is A Childhood Idyll by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1901)
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Personally I think Xanthe is perfect, and matches Olive well in that they’re both unusual but not unheard of, spunky and two-syllable. I think Xanthe is familiar enough that spelling/pronunciation won’t prove to be too much of an issue. But here are some other ideas:
Sigrid, Esther, Hattie, Mabel, Rumer, Elke (ell-KEE), Anouk, Ingrid, Nova, Lilith, Eva, Florence, Lola, Scarlett, Nico, Phoebe, Alice, Asha, Lyra, Boheme (bo-EM), Frances, Dylan, Thea, Clio.
Good luck! x
I love the name very much but decided against it because of the pronunciation issues. I do think that there is a difference between a name with two or three variants (Rebecca with a C, Sarah with a h) and having to start from scratch with a name that is completely unfamiliar with the hearer (my husband has one of those names and he dislikes it so much he goes by another name a lot of the time). Also I have found that people aren’t as familiar with the classics as you would like to think, many will never have heard of Xanthe or realise that the e is pronounced in greek names etc.
Having said all of that it is a beautiful name with lovely classical associations and I would prefer to have it over a modern made up name any day. It also meets nearly all of your requirements and you love it, that is hard to find!
PS – when I read your list I immediately thought of Zara, I know a little Zara and she is cute as a button. It has the Z sound of Xanthe, 2 syllables and is spellable and sayable.
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Rachel Emma said:
I think its a great name and cute non matchy sibset. My name is very common but is spelled incorrectly quite a bit(Rachael not Rachel). I often have to spell it out which I don’t find annoying.
Reiterating what Anna said, you would be hard up to find a name with no potential draw backs, so if you both love it that’s the most important thing sorted!
Another name ideas would be Thisbe, Anouk, Phaedra, Ilkah, Nascha.
I’m very biased as we have just named our fourth daughter Xanthe. I initially had the same reservations about the spelling and pronunciation especially as we live in an area where very popular names are common. But most people adapt and others are impressed at the uniqueness. Go with what you love!
I love the fact you have hugs and kisses as the initials xo!
I love Xanthe with Olive – there’s a subtle colour connection.
My only other suggestion is Clemence. I think that is also a great match for you
Baby Names from the Bible said:
I love Xanthe and Olive together! And the fact that Adam and Kelly would have their daughters be X’s and O’s is adorable.
I agree with previous comments, go with your gut like you did with your daughter Olive. I think they are a good match. I think Xanthe will always have to clarify pronounciation or spelling in certain crowds and situations so ask yourself has it been a huge problem for you with your name. My name is Lucy and in the last 5 years I have been asked if I spell it with a -y, -i, or -ie on more than the odd occasion. I think it is the times we live in, there is so much freedom and variation when choosing your baby’s name, which is excellent! Some suggestions: Elke, Esther, Winnie, Alice, Clara. I have an Olive by the way, and her big sister is Mary. We sought Anna’s assistance and appeared in the blog when we named Olive. Thanks for the advice Anna!
These names sound really lovely together!
Go with your gut instinct, I think these names sit well with each other.
My name is Brooke and I’m always asked if there is an e on the end… All the Brooke’s I’ve ever met where the same. It has never worried me at all.
I also think Xanthe is a traditional name, and a name that has been around for a while, I have heard it on many elderly women and newborns.
My grandmother is 76 and knows how to pronounce it, I really don’t think you should have massive amounts of trouble with the spelling or pronunciation and as Anna said, your daughter may not worry about spelling it out when needed!!
Olive & Edith (Edie for short) – I commented on the poll page but thought you might miss it –
My great grandmother was Ivy and her sister was Olive – I have never really noticed that it’s two vocabulary names! Anyway I think Xanthe is nice, and if it’s your favourite name then that’s the right one. I am Kathryn and always have to spell my name for everyone – I’ve never really cared about it.