Ask Liann: Baby Name Advice for Abbey

baby name ideas

Abbey needs some baby name advice, and Liann is here to help —

Hi Michelle and Liann,

I love the new post idea!  So we don't know the sex of our baby and are coming up with both boy and girl names.

Our original boy name was Leo, which would be for my husband's grandpa Leon and my dad, Scott Lee, plus my husband's middle name is Lee and my middle name is Leeanne. So there was tons of meaning on both sides of the family. This is the name that my mom called me and said "LEO! I can't have a grandson named Leo!"  So we have thought about Lee as a first name or a middle name  but we don't have much for boy names. My grandpa was John and we would like to perhaps honor him if possible. (We thought about Jack because it was my grandpa's nickname as a little boy.) My husband likes traditional names for boys and we are having a hard time coming up with one that we both really like. He is really set on some form of Lee but I can't get my mom's criticism out of my head — pathetic I know, but that's the kind of stinger that sticks with you for awhile.

My favorite little girl name is Emma but it kills me that it is the most popular name right now. The baby's godmother will be Aunt Emily and my grandma's mother was Emma. So again, family meaning on both sides. We like Emma Kathleen as her full name. So we both love this name but I don't want her to always be one of five Emmas in her class. I really want to use the name Kathleen as the middle name (it's my mom — even though she dissed my boy name I still love her dearly.)

To give you an idea of alternative names we have considered:

So, as you can see, our first picks have a ton of meaning to them, but our back-ups are just names we like. Pretty much we have no clue and would really appreciate any advice/insight.


Hi Abbey!

First I’ll say that you do have a clue! These are some great names you’re already working with, and I know we can find something that works for everyone — but most of all you and your husband.

I love the use of family names, so I’ll start there.

Lee is wonderful and covers so many people that you love. And it’s super versatile. It stands on it’s own, makes a great middle, and is also the beginning or ending sound of many great names — so you really have a lot of options with Lee:

Leo: I understand, but don't give up on it yet.

Leon: The best way to honor, in my opinion, is to use the name straight up

Leander: A more obscure choice that would honor your family quite closely, but maybe as a middle name.



Wesley: I love this for you.

Jack and John are simple, classic, and strong — and variations would work really well with Lee as a middle name:

Jonathan Lee

Johnson Lee

Jackson Lee

Based on your other choices — Benjamin, Owen, and Colton — here are some others you might like:











Theodore (Gets you to Theo – like Leo — and you could use Lee in the middle. Theodore Lee is uber handsome.)


Graham or Graeme











A few combos:

Archer Lee

Lucas John

Wesley Jack

Miles Leander

Isaac Leander

Brody Lee

And if you find that you just can't let go of Leo, despite your mom's reaction, here's an awesome list from the always amazing Appellation Mountain of longer names that would get you to Leo as a nickname. Maybe part of the reason your mom is having trouble with it is because it's so short. Maybe using a longer name on his birth certificate would make Leo sit better with her. With a longer name, there's also the chance that your mom could pick another nickname that she's more comfortable with. It could give your mom and son a special little bond because she has her own nickname that only she calls him. And you would get your Leo! Yay! Everybody wins! Of course, you would also have to like the longer form, so check out the list and see if anything jumps out.

 Now girls.

Emma and Emily are so lovely and I love Kathleen in the middle. It's my mother's name also, and it would have been a contender for us, had we had a girl.

Two names I thought of immediately were Gemma and Esme. They're both great with Kathleen in the middle.

Keeping with the Em-names, how about Emmeline, Emerson, or Emery?

You didn't mention wanting to use Lee anywhere in your girl's name, but I think Lee/Leigh is an understated and elegant name that is often overlooked or relegated to the middle spot for girls. I have a friend Lee who never had to share her name with a girl or boy in school, and it's distinctive and wears well with age. Lee Kathleen is a lovely name.

There are also many, many names that have -lee/-ley/-lie in them:

Leonie (You would get your Leo in a feminine, underused form)

Brinley (Brynn AND Lee!)




Other names based off your list of Scarlett, Ava, Lucy, and Brynn:


























A few combos:

Brinley Kathleen

Audrey Kathleen

Eliza Kathleen

Tessa Kathleen

Maren Kathleen

It's a tricky business — this naming a person. Some of the names I suggested might be outside of your comfort zone, and I don't expect you and your husband to like them all. But based on your situation, these are just some of the name that might be a good fit. Mix and match the firsts and middles. Try some combos that are unexpected. Now is the time to experiment.

Use this list and your own lists as a starting point to continue your search. The right name is out there and sometimes you just need a fresh perspective to find it.

Good luck, Abbey! I hope this helps and I would love to hear your final choice.

- Liann.

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Read more about Liann and Early Mama's baby name column.


Photo of Liann: Tamme Stitt Photography