Baby name consultation: Baby girl needs strong name that can be shortened to something fun

Happy sixth day of Christmas, and the feast of the Holy Family!!

Today’s consultation was a fun one to work on because the parameters are pretty broad! Emily (middle name Jane, which is important) writes:

This is our first baby and we are having a baby girl … My husband and I want to make sure she has a strong name, one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life … We also are wanting her to have my grandmothers name, Ruenell, in there somewhere. I am southern so I am partial to traditional names that can be shortened to something fun, but that is by no means a must.”

When I asked if Emily could give me a sense of what names she and her hubby like or don’t like, so that I had a better idea of what part of the name universe to focus on, she replied,

I went back over the list of names we have compiled over the years and there is a good healthy mix of traditional and quirky so we are happy to stand back and let you do your thing!

SO EXCITING! And also terrifying! Haha!

To start, I really love Emily’s middle name, Jane, and thought it fit the exact kind of name she said she and her hubby are looking for: “strong … one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life.” Jane is gorgeous! So Jane Ruenell would be my first suggestion. It honors Emily by using her middle name (how nice for a mom and her daughter to have a connection like that!), which is a great name for a little girl and for a grown woman of all ages, and it includes Emily’s grandmother’s name. Janie is a sweet nickname too.

Ruenell is such an interesting name! I’m guessing that they don’t want to use Ruenell as a first name, but Rue and Nell are both such great nicknames that I thought something like Mary Ruenell nicknamed Rue or Nell might be a good option for them to consider.

Since Emily said she’s partial to names that can be shortened to something fun, I tried to come up with some interesting nicknames that combine sounds from my first name suggestions with sounds from Ruenell as a middle name — one of my favorite strategies for coming up with interesting nicknames — as I thought the middle name spot was where they’d prefer to put Ruenell. However, before I get to those ideas, I was also thinking that Ruenell could conceivably be a nickname that results from combining elements of two other names — which I’m sure is not the kind of idea they were hoping for, but I had fun coming up with some ideas in that vein, so I thought I would share them just in case. Like:

Ruth Penelope nn Ruenell
Ruby Eleanor nn Ruenell

But back to my other first-name ideas. You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents like in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Since Emily and her hubs wanted to hear fresh ideas without providing parameters, my usual methodology wouldn’t be helpful, so I basically just combed through my mental files for names that I consider to be strong and able to grow with a girl into womanhood. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the ones that came to mind:

(1) Catherine/Katherine
I’m not starting with C/Katherine because it’s my own name (haha!) but because it’s definitely one of the names that I think works at all stages of a girl’s life. The full C/Katherine is serious, sophisticated, and dignified, and there are a bunch of nickname options that fit any kind of family and personality. Some of these are: Cate/Kate/Catie/Katie/Cady, Cass, Casey, Cat/Kat, Cathy/Kathy, and Kit/Kitty.

(2) Margaret
Like C/Katherine, Margaret is appropriate for all ages, and has a bunch of great nicknames as well, like Maggie, Meg, Maisie, Daisy, and Peg/Peggy. Variants that can be used as nicknames or given names on their own include Greta, Rita, and Margo/Margot. An unrelated name that nevertheless has some history of usage as a Margaret nickname is Molly. Lots of cool options here!

(3) Elizabeth
C/Katherine, Margaret, and Elizabeth are considered the classic English trio of girl names — they’ve been used by royals and non-royals alike for centuries in many different European countries and there are a bunch of patron saints for each one. Elizabeth is perhaps the mama of the nickname-rich girl names — there are SO MANY! Liz/Lizzy, Beth, and Ellie are probably the most expected, but I love some of the quirkier options like Elsa, Libby, Libbet, Lily, and Tess.

(4) Anna, Anne
Anna has a sweeter feel, I think, and Anne is maybe more stern — but then again, what girl doesn’t love Anne of Green Gables? Annie is a darling nickname.

(5) Julia
Julia is feminine and lovely while also passing the “Supreme Court Test” (that is, Julia would be fine and appropriate for a Supreme Court justice). Julie and Jules are familiar nicknames, but I’ve seen Jilly and Lia, and Juliet actually started as a diminutive of Julia, so it can be used as a nickname for Julia (though it’s rare to do so these days. I also love Juliet as a given name).

(6) Madeline, Madeleine
I love all variants of Magdalene, but I think Madeline and Madeleine are the ones that come across as the most “professional” maybe. Maddy is always a cute nickname for a little girl — whether she’s super feminine or a tomboy — and I think Molly can work too.

(7) Susanna
I love the name Susanna (the girl name we’ve saved through all our boys!) — I think it’s a strong, feminine name, and I love that it has a bunch of nickname options, like Susie/Sue and Anna/Annie as well as the quirkier and sweet Zuzu, Sassy, and Sunny! A reader just recently suggested Sam/Sammie as a nickname for Susanna(h) plus an M middle name, which I thought was great.

(8) Lydia
One of my favorite things about the name Lydia is that the Lydia in the bible was a seller of purple cloth — how cool that the name comes with its own color! I love the nickname Lyddie, SO charming!

(9) Frances
I think Frances could border on seeming too severe for everyday use for a little girl, but if so, its nicknames save it: Frannie, Francie, and Frankie are spunky and fun!

(10) Gemma
Gemma is probably the most offbeat of my suggestions, but it’s traditional and saintly and I think it fits in as well on the playground as it does in the boardroom.

(11) Cecilia
If Gemma is the most offbeat, Cecilia might be the softest of my suggestions, but it certainly works for any age and any kind of girl/woman, in my opinion. Cece and Celia are great nickname possibilities.

(12) Teresa
I can definitely see Teresa on both a little girl and a woman (and I know Teresas of both age groups!). I mentioned Tess earlier as a nickname for Elizabeth, which I do love, but Tess and Tessa are originally and usually nicknames for the Teresa names. Reese and Resa can also work.

(13) Bridget
I couldn’t end the list without adding Bridget — it’s such a familiar name, but I don’t hear it in real life too often. I’d be pleasantly surprised to hear it on a little girl, and it certainly has enough weight for a woman. Bridge/Bridgey and Bridey are adorable nicknames.

I think there’s a good bunch of styles and ideas above that fit Emily and her husband’s hope for a strong name that can fit their little girl at all stages of her life, and there are some really fun nickname options too. I mentioned above that I toyed with nickname ideas that involve combining first name elements with Ruenell as a middle — they include:

Catherine Ruenell nn Carly
Julia Ruenell nn Junie
Susanna Ruenell nn Zelie
Lydia Ruenell nn Lyra or Lynnie
Bridget Ruenell nn Bell or Bella
Madeline Ruenell nn Marnie or Marley
Katherine Ruenell nn Katie-Rue or Katie-Nell
Teresa Ruenell nn Tessa-Rue or Truly

It’s fun to try to come up with some fun and quirky options!

And those are all of my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Emily that fit her hope for “a strong name, one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life,” that might also be able to be shortened to “something fun”?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

23 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: Baby girl needs strong name that can be shortened to something fun

  1. I would suggest veering away from Rue actually. Maybe just my personal opinion/experience. But I had a student whose sister was named Rue. Cute name. Then one day the screen saver popped up on my computer – it picks random words from the dictionary to highlight – and the word rue came up: to bitterly regret (think “I rue the day…”). Ouch. I can’t imagine naming a child that and have them look up “what does my name mean?” one day. Maybe spell it Roo? Like in Winnie the Pooh? Haha. I think Ruenell is fine, nice ring, and I like/considered Nell or one of the ways Kate suggested to get to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Of the names you suggested, I most love Cecilia, Julia, Gemma, and Lydia. Another name that sounds strong to me is Octavia/Octavie, which can be shortened to Tavie. Though if Emily and her husband end up having eight kids, they might prefer to keep Octavia in mind as a birth order name!

    If they go with C/Katherine, they might also consider the nickname Rina or Ina. So many nicknames are formed from the first syllable, which leaves the ones formed from the second half of the name rather neglected.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love all these suggestions! I know you suggested Lily as a nn for Elizabeth, but I could also see Lillian working really well, too, as a strong name that carries through different seasons of life. I also love the idea of the nn Lily Rue. When you said Southern, my first thought is always a first name ending in the “ee” sound and a one syllable middle name (for example: Katie Grace, Susie Jo, Barbie Jean, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ruby Eleanor nn Ruenell 😍😍😍 I love it so much!!

    Of your other ideas, Margaret stands out to me most as so sophisticated but the nn possibilites are lovely and fun! I like Margaret Ruenell!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How about Philippa – pippa or pip or poppy for a nickname? Or Veronica- and a nickname could be Vivi or Veri or Nick …. Thomasina could be Tamsin…. Gwendolyn is also strong but has a variety of nicknames.
    I love Ruenell – such a distinctive name! I hope she gets to use it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think if Emily and her husband want a name that has a huge nickname potential, and moreover a lot of fun and very diverse nicknames, there’s just no better option than Elizabeth. Plus it definitely is strong and very professional.
    Ruenell is beautiful, as is Nella as a nickname, and I personally am sure I would use Nellie a lot if I had a little Ruenell. Perhaps indeed Roo is a better idea than Rue. I absolutely loved your creative ideas of getting to Ruenell via a combo of similar sounding names and all those spunky nicknames of the combos with Ruenell as a middle name. I think if I wanted to get Ruenell as a nickname of a full combo, my choice would be Ruby Helen(a), but even if they wanted to go this way to get to Ruenell, Ruby could probably be a little too informal for them, I feel.
    Carrie-Anne has a point in that the second part of Catherine/Katherine tends to be so badly neglected. I think the nickname Trina is also interesting.
    My favourite of your suggestions are Madeline and Cecilia, and the latter has indeed many nickname options.
    Some ideas off the top of my head: Marianne (Annie, Minnie, Ria, Mia, Mimi), Alexandra (Sandie/Sandy, Andie, Allie, Alex(a), Lexi(e), Sanny), Agatha (Aggie, maybe Hattie, oh and actually why not Harriet nn Hattie or Hetty?), Dorothy (Dodie, Dotty), Josephine (Fina, Jo, Josie, Posy, Fifi, Sophie? I guess I’ve seen one of the baby name bloggers writing about Sophie as a nickname of Josephine, perhaps even you, I’m not sure, anyway I love the idea), Esther (Essie, Hessie, Hetty), Edith (Edie), Christina (Chris, Chrissie/Chrissy, Tina, Stina, Kiki), Martha (Mattie/Matty, maybe Molly or Mamie or such).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rue is also a lovely healing plant, of course. I think Rue or Nell are excellent by themselves. I also love: Betty Ruenell and Ruenell Marie. Strong names with excellent nicknames: Virginia/Ginnie, Mathilda/Tillie, Seraphim or Serafina/Fifi, Fina; Rosalind/Roz, Rosie, Rose, etc.; love the Esther suggestions and would add “Dot” to the Dorothys. Also Maude/Maud for any Mary form, Etta for Loretta or Marietta (in addition to for Esther); and Nan for any Agnes combo…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think my first comment got lost in the interweb! First time commenter; I love your work, Kate!
    This is such a great category of names! Margaret, Anne, Jane, Tess(a), Bridget (so Irish!) are all favorites of mine. And I love Ruby Eleanor for Ruenell! I also think Jane would work very well as part of a double name with some of Kate’s suggestions. Jane-Anne, Jane-Frances (after St. Jane-Frances!), Katherine Jane (Katie Jane) Teresa Jane (Tessa Jane) or Eleanor Jane (Nellie Jane).
    I like the n.n. Birdie for Bridget. And I second eirlysgwenllian’s Josephine, Edith, and Martha suggestions!! Some other ideas:
    Caroline (Callie/Caddie)
    Adeline/Adelaide (Addy)
    Helen(a) (Hallie or maybe Lenchen as a little at-home nickname? Queen Victoria had a Helena called Lenchen.)
    Sara (Sadie/Sally)
    Scarlett (Sally)
    Amelia (Amy/Millie)
    Genevieve (Genny/Genna)
    Liberty (Libby/Birdie)
    Elaine or Magdalena (Laney)
    Mary (Molly/Mae/Polly)
    Matilda (Millie or Mattie)
    Constance (Connie It’s dated, but I actually think it’d be sweet and love the Pilgrim feel.)
    Philomena n.n. Phil or Pip
    Happy New Year everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

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