Name Help: Remembering Jennifer – Appellation Mountain


Name 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!

Amanda writes:

My partner and I are expecting our first daughter in April. Our plan is to be one-and-done, so it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to get her name right.

We have a list of names that we like, but we’ve both agreed to name our daughter after my older sister, Jennifer. She was almost like a second mom to me, introduced me to my partner, and then passed away much, much too young.

But naming a baby Jennifer seems kind of like calling her Linda. Instead, we’re considering:

AVA JENNIFER – Maybe nicknamed AJ? Ava is my partner’s favorite. I think it’s okay. There are other names we could use with Jennifer as her middle name, but I don’t know if that feels like “enough” to remember my sister.

JENNA KATE – This might be my favorite. I think Jenna feels less dated than Jennifer, but it’s still connected. And there’s a Kate on my partner’s side who means a lot to us both. (Though maybe it’s too much to try to make the whole name after other people?)

GENEVIEVE – This seems to be the name everyone suggests instead of Jennifer, but is it too different? Or too long with her last name?

We keep going around with these three names, and I think we just need someone who isn’t us to help us decide!

Her last name will be hyphenated, two pretty ordinary last names, kind of like [email protected]@[email protected], but a lot of name when they’re put together.

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your daughter! And I’m so sorry for your loss.

There are many good reasons to hand down family names. We connect our children to their past. It makes any name instantly meaningful. And it changes our feeling about the name, too. How could you ever regret remembering your sister with your daughter’s name?

Except … you still have to love the name. And I’m wondering if that’s the missing piece here? So before we get to my suggestions, I have a few questions:

Is your partner on board with Jenna?

While Jenna entered the US Top 100 in the 1980s, lifted by the runaway popularity of Jennifer, it remained a Top 100 pick into the early 2000s. Is it fading today? Yes. But does it still fit nicely with Emma and Nora and Stella? Also yes. So I agree with your assessment, but wonder if your partner is as enthusiastic about Jenna as you are?

Are you on board with AJ?

Ava Jennifer sounds perfect together. But do you like the name Ava? Or AJ? Or, I suppose, do you like it enough to go with your partner’s favorite name?

Because here’s what I’m thinking: you agree that you want to honor your sister’s memory, which is meaningful and right. But it sounds like you’re not focused enough on what you’re actually going to call your daughter, day after day. 

It’s an easy trap to fall into! You’re thinking about all the right things. But the practical piece of how a name is actually used is the key to deciding. And it sounds like that’s where we need to do some more thinking.

I’m going to assume that you’re not wild about Ava and your partner isn’t sold on Jenna. It sounds like Genevieve isn’t a name that makes either of your hearts race.

So what if we agree that Jennifer is probably your daughter’s middle name, and we try to find a first – preferably one that could be a nickname with J? That means we’re looking (mostly) at names starting with A, C, D, J, K, M, P, R, and T … though I’ve heard SJ and other initial combinations, too.

Because you’re concerned about name length, let’s look at shorter, two-syllable names. Lastly, it seems like you’re leaning towards more mainstream picks – Ava not Andra, Jenna not Gioia. So we won’t venture too far outside the US Top 500 or so.

ANYA (#658)

Well, okay, my first suggestion is on the rare side. But it’s familiar-ish, too. Anya is a Slavic take on Anna. (Spell it Anja, and it’s Scandi.) It’s almost like Ava, but just a little different, so I’m wondering if it might feel like a compromise?

CHLOE (#24)

There are lots of Chloes, but not quite as many as Ava. Plus, CJ is every bit as great a possible nickname as AJ.

DAISY (#164)

A summery, cheerful name. More girls are Lily or Violet, but Daisy is just as wearable.

GEMMA (#198)

If your partner loves how current Ava is, but you’re wild about Jenna, I wonder if Gemma – originally an Italian name meaning jewel – makes a great compromise? The only hitch is that Gemma Jennifer might be a little repetitive.

MAEVE (#244)

A traditional Irish name with a sharp and distinctive sound, Maeve has been on the upswing in recent years. It’s a logical substitute for Ava.

MILA (#19)

A mini name that leads to the nickname MJ. Perfection if you’re fans of Spider-Man.

RORY (#464)

Rory is slightly more popular for boys (at #358), but it’s been a unisex possibility ever since Gilmore Girls was must-see TV.

TESSA (#260)

Originally short for the so-traditional Teresa, Tessa now stands on its own. It feels like a successor to Jenna, with the same sort of sound, but a little more current.

So what name works best with Jennifer as a middle?

I think they all have potential!

That said, Maeve Jennifer [email protected]@[email protected] is my favorite. It checks every box and MJ is a great nickname. But Maeve could also be Mae – and really doesn’t need a nickname at all. 

But I do have a dark horse to suggest: Kate!

Kate Jennifer [email protected]@[email protected] works every bit as well as Jenna Kate. And while Kate isn’t at peak popularity right now, it’s a timeless, classic name that works well with a longer surname.

Again, this might be too much honor name. But the sound is so great, I felt like it had to be considered.

Readers, over to you! What are the best ways to honor Jennifer with their daughter’s name? 

More names you might like:

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