Compound (or Double) First Names

In my last entry, My Take on Variant Spellings, I confessed I had slightly changed my stance on variant spellings. Here’s another confession: after years of being decidedly anti-compound first name, I find myself coming around.

I’m not sure when my change of heart began, but most likely this personal taste change, as typical of personal changes, developed gradually over time.

I’m taken back to a few years ago, about a year before my first child was born, long before I even considered writing my own baby name blog, but was one of those annoyingly opinionated people where names were concerned.

My Sister-in-law gave birth to second daughter and named her Anna-Lisa. Being a minimalist, I was shocked by the choice. My first thoughts were, “I really like Anna by itself.” and “Is Anna-Lisa her entire first name or her first and middle name?”

Now that Anna-Lisa is an adorable 6 year-old, I can say that no other name suites her better. I’ve come to realize that I really like her name. But at first I simply considered Anna-Lisa an exception to my “No-compound first names” rule.

And then a couple of years later, my husband, daughter and I were visiting my parents when they lived in northern Michigan. My parents took us to a vineyard in Traverse City, Michigan, for some wine tasting.

This vineyard, started by a former Priest and Nun who fell in love, left the seminary, and got married, is called Chateau Chantal. The couple must have really liked the name Chantal because they named their daughter, Marie-Chantal.

Marie-Chantal, like Anna-Lisa, is an example of a hyphenated name that is more than the sum of its parts. Chantal is unique and sounds beautiful, but may seem too womanly for some people’s tastes. Adding Marie before Chantal sweetens the name. The result is more polished than some other compound names and definitely more polished than either Marie or Chantal alone.

Around the same time, I discovered the Freakonomics authors included Marie-Claire among their predicted top names for 2015, published in 2005. There was something familiar about the name, and then I remembered the women’s magazine.

The women’s magazine may explain why Marie-Claire has not yet hit the top 1000. In fact, I searched all Social Security name data for all names given to at least 5 babies born in 2010 and could not find Marie-Claire or Marieclaire among them.

Looks like the Freakonomics guys might be wrong about Marie-Claire. Yet, Marie-Claire might have potential, if not for the magazine. For one thing, Claire by itself is an up-an-coming name, gradually climbing the US Social Security charts over the past 30 years from 343 in 1981 to 53 in 2010. Perhaps, while wrong with a specific name, these guys may have hit on a general trend.

But what really moved me into the pro-compound name camp was discovering the beautiful young actress AnnaSophia Robb. What an elegantly beautiful name! What a great way to combine two currently fashionable names into something fresh!

Inspired, I started to come up with my own hyphenated first names:

Ava-Louise or Ava-Louisa
Fiona-May or Fiona-Maeve
Lara-Catherine or Lara-Katherine

Marc-Philip or Mark-Philip

*My personal favorites. Is Phoebe-Kate too much like Phoebe Cates? If you’re asking yourself, “Who’s Phoebe Cates?” then the association isn’t strong enough to matter.

The possibilities are numerous. If you are searching for your unborn child’s name, and you and your partner are at an impasse, if your two favorites work with each other and the last name, why not combine them?

Maybe you love a name, but the name has become over saturated within your circle of friends or the general public. Notice how I used the ever present Aidan in some of these combos. I would rather see Aidan paired with another name (especially a classic like Paul to off-set the modern style) than see some of his rhyming brothers.

While not an option for everyone, perhaps compound names can save a beloved name from being relegated to the middle slot – or worse: the fate of discarded names that might have been.

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  1. Jordon Shyanne says:

    I have a special place in my heart for combined names. My boyfriend’s sister is named Val-Mari. I really don’t think any name could suit her better! His mother is named Mari K and his grandmother is Marihoward.

  2. I am really torn apart now, I am 6 months pregnant and having a boy. I wanted to give him a compound name that is rather cute but not too common. I wanted the name to be “Kevin-Gio” but my husband thinks it’s kinda weird as a name can I get sone feedbacks about that name.
    Thank you all

  3. We’ve named our daughters Summer Rose & Winter Lily. Both are first names with no hyphens. After recently hearing about nominative determinism I’m wondering if we did them a disservice. We love their names & no one forgets them. Any thoughts?

  4. I think that double first names without a hyphen are also cute. We named our daughter Noa Skye. In the UK a lot of people (incorrectly) see Noa as a male name but I think with Skye together the name sounds more feminine 🙂

  5. I am trying to find a female name from the name Jonathan. I have thought of combination names, but not sure if it wouldn’t look or sound right.
    I thought of some of the following with parts of Jonathan:
    Christina= Christjon
    Mary= Mary-Jon, Jonamari, Jonmary
    Ann, Anna= Jonann. Jonanna
    Karen= Kajon, Karejon
    Jeanine= Jonnine
    Input greatly appreciated.

    • Johannah is the feminine form of John. Joanna and Joanne are more common versions of that. Joan is another form of John for girls.

      In fact, Jeanine is also a feminine form of John.

      Jack is a common nickname for John so Jacqueline would be a feminine version of this.

      creating something totally new, you could do
      Jonalina or Jonaline

      Or use a name that sounds similar to a name honoring Jonathan.
      Geneva and Genevieve are not forms of Jonathan, but come somewhat close in sound.

      Good luck!

  6. I am trying to find a name for a baby which will come from our combine name with my wife. My wife is Jennalyn Mae and im Lolito. Please reply as many name as you can.

  7. Natasha says:

    I had a baby boy October 2015. I chose a double first name for a few reasons- none of which are the norm like Southern roots or godparents, etc. I named him Leo Emile- no hyphen. I always loved the French name Emile but it rhymes with our last name. Leo is a family name. I combined them to give him a unique name and if someday he chooses one over the other that is fine. Of course every time I say his name everyone assumes Emile is a middle name! I love it though and can’t imagine any other name!

  8. Allaiyah Weyn says:

    Billy–Ray, Jim-Bob, Joe-Bob, Laura-Sue, Billie-Jean, Julie-Sue….


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  3. […] I feel they have potential on boys, though, which is why I was psyched when a reader asked about boy combo names in the comments of one of UBN’s pioneer posts, Compound (or Double) First Names. […]

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