Deadlocked on a baby name.
April 8, 2016 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Eleanor or Lousia? Tell me more.

We are hopelessly deadlocked on our daughter's name, and time is running out! We've narrowed it down to Eleanor and Louisa. (I would also love Alice, but partner has vetoed that suggestion.)

So instead of actually choosing, I am asking the opinion of wonderful internet strangers. We like both names. We live in the US currently, but are probably moving back to the UK at some point. We want a name that is not too cutesy (my partner thinks Alice reads young, i.e., Alice in Wonderland), and not too too popular. (I always went by my name plus initial in school, annoyingly.)

Eleanor is elegant, but we're both worried it's too long for every day use and will get shortened. I like Nora as a nickname, but my partner thinks it's sounds REALLY old lady in not a good way (like Gladys) or that it does at least in the UK. Nora also reminds him of an old ugly woman like Nora Batty. I can see this concern, especially in the UK. He would like to use Eleanor all the time, but I think that might be too much, or that everyone else will shorten it to Ellie, which I think is a bit babyish and overly popular (no offense if that's your name!) Also, both Eleanor and Nora are creeping up in popularity in the US.

Louisa, I've always liked. I don't like Louise (again, no offense! it's just someone I know and dislike) but for some reason I really like Louisa. (Is this strange? Are Louise and Louisa the same name to you?) It is not popular at all in the US or UK, which is good, but also makes me wonder if something is wrong with it! Also, my husband and I pronounce it a little differently (I pronounce the "S" as a Z, and he pronounces it as an "S" -- but his mother is Spanish, so maybe that's why.) That's not a dealbreaker -- we can agree on a pronunciation -- but maybe that will just be a lifelong annoyance. My mother also hates this name (said so in the past) -- whatever, but I'll have to hear it from her forever.

Help us with any thoughts that may help to decide. Would love to hear both US/UK perspective. At the very least, reading the comments will help us procrastinate more!
posted by heavenknows to Grab Bag (106 answers total)
Ok, I'm an idiot and spelled Louisa wrong in the headline. Maybe a sign? :)
posted by heavenknows at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

No insight here, but I like Louisa and Eleanor feels really old to me.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:06 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Combine the two? Elisa?
posted by Sassyfras at 12:07 PM on April 8, 2016 [23 favorites]

If you choose Louisa, I'd advocate for spelling it Luisa (Spanish/Italian spelling) to cut down on people misreading it as Louise or wanting to nickname her that due to spelling similarities.

Eleanor shortened to Nora is quite popular here in the US - lots of old fashioned names are *very* popular now, so that "old lady-ishness" your husband is worried about is not much of an issue as many of her peers will have old lady-ish names as well.

On preview, I do like Elisa...
posted by quince at 12:09 PM on April 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

Eleanor is one of my all time favourite names so maybe I'm biased.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:09 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I prefer Eleanor, but I'm also a no-nickname type person... Another combo idea: Eloise.
posted by Jacob G at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would go with Eleanor, nickname Ellie. I think Ellie is really cute.

But this is important: which name sounds better with the last name? That would be a big consideration for me.
posted by JenMarie at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

Why not both? My eldest ended up with both the names we were discussing, plus the name of her godmother. It is a mess. But when I recently asked her, she was quite happy with the mess of names. The name we use in the family is somewhat unusual and sometimes she is happy to be able to use a more "normal" name in public spaces. No one uses the third name, but she is fond of the association with her godmother, who is distant but loved.
posted by mumimor at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

US native here--I actually love the name Eleanor! Another shortened version could be Ella. I don't have any "old lady" connotations for Nora.

I like Louisa too, and really have never thought of it as a form of Louise until right now! Be warned that if you do go with Louisa, it may get shortened to some form of Weezie.

For what it's worth, I feel that Louisa has a more older feel than Eleanor.
posted by bookmammal at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

US perspective here: Eleanor feels really old to me. I do like Nora, and it makes me think of Nora Charles -- young, beautiful, chic, sexy, fun. I would pronounce Louisa like this: Lou-wee-sa. It's pretty, and if she's a tomboy, she can be Louie, if she's a bombshell she can be Za Za, if she's girly she can be Lulu. It gives her personality a way to shine through.
posted by OrangeDisk at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your daughter will redefine the name.
posted by amtho at 12:11 PM on April 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

Good point about last name. But we have a weird double-barrelled last name that no name seems to go with (but neither of us wants to give up our last name!)
posted by heavenknows at 12:12 PM on April 8, 2016

Your daughter will redefine the name.

True! Several people have named their daughter after ours - not because we are friends, but because they found her, and her name, cute. (A bit weird, that)
posted by mumimor at 12:14 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I work with very young children and can tell you that both Eleanor and Eloise (as suggested by Jacob G) are becoming popular names. Not totally ubiquitous yet but increasingly common.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:16 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Louisa, if you're looking for something that's trendy, but off-the-beaten path. Louisa but has not cracked the Top 1000 yet in the US, whereas Eleanor is ranked #256 most-common in the US and the name looks to be continuing to rise in popularity.

Anecdotally, I know three baby Eleanors born within the last three years, but zero baby Louisas.
posted by PearlRose at 12:17 PM on April 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have friends with babies/toddlers named both Eleanor and Nora, and it suits them just fine. I love Louisa too. I agree your daughter will define the name herself and you won't be able to imagine it any other way. You can't really control for nicknames - we picked a name that was short and has no nicknames and my daughter has a bazillion nicknames anyway - so you may just need to let that go. But you can control for shortenings - friends' kids are "William" "Joshua" "Nicholas" "Andrew" "Katherine" etc in full. Basically you can't go wrong. Why not just wait until your daughter is born and see which one you feel like naming her, once you see her?
posted by nkknkk at 12:17 PM on April 8, 2016

I prefer Louisa.

As far as popularity goes, in the US according to the SSA, Eleanor ranks in the top 100 (78th in 2014) names and has been growing in popularity. Louisa ranks 973rd.
posted by Kriesa at 12:18 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The fact that these names sound old to you means that you don't have kids in daycare; I've met multiple Eleanors (and a Nora who is not an Eleanor), and at least one Louise (I agree different name but Louise used to read as even older to me.) So now I think of them as kid names.

The nicknames are the kicker, really. People will never say those whole names. Will Louisa be Lou or Lulu or Wheezy? Will Eleanor be Ellie or Nora or Lena? If you hate *any* of those, go with the other one. My kid has a common name with several possible nicknames, none of which I mind, but he HATES one of the nicknames, to the point where I now put his preferred nickname on any form that isn't legally binding.

I'll also say that we had more than one name going into the hospital, and when he was born it became clear. Then we said it to him, he opened his eyes and looked at us, and the deal was sealed. It's okay to leave it a little open before they've arrived.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Amongst my friends who've recently had kids, there is a baby Nora, a baby Eleanor, and a baby Elisa. I have adult acquaintances/coworkers named Ellie, Eleanor, and Elena. I assure you, Eleanor and close variants are quite popular, beautiful names.

Louisa sounds old and southern to me. Alice just sounds old.

Eloise and Elisa, as suggested upthread, are both beautiful names!

Also, you will never, ever be able to control someone shortening your child's name (or them deciding to shorten it themselves). A neighboring family shortens my son's name to its first syllable (like, if his name was Julian, they'd be calling him Jul) and it makes me cringe, but in the grand scheme of things, I just don't care. I just use his full name often when I'm around them.
posted by erst at 12:22 PM on April 8, 2016

Eleanor. nickname: Ella.

You'd be giving her some great namesake history too.

I read a theory once that names kind of skip generations of popularity. So, while Eleanor and Louisa might seem "old" now, they'll seem a lot fresher than Cheryl or Hillary or Jennifer in a few years.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:25 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Louisa was on our short list. I love it. Eleanor is nice , but much too popular for my tastes.
posted by sulaine at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2016

Eleanor is cuter to me. Could be shortened to Ella or El as well.

Louisa seems like asking people to mispronounce or misspell. It is also the feminine version of Louis which I think may end up being bullying territory or thoughtless mistakes. I could see kids calling her Louis to annoy her.

(Ask me how I know. My username is my name, sooo.)
posted by Crystalinne at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2016

I'll also say that we had more than one name going into the hospital, and when he was born it became clear. Then we said it to him, he opened his eyes and looked at us, and the deal was sealed. It's okay to leave it a little open before they've arrived.

Ditto. We pared our list down to 4 names before our daughter was born, and as soon as we saw her there was no question. Everyone still says how well it suits her. I don't even remember what the other 3 names were.

I do think we could have done better with her middle name, but we barely use it or think about it.
posted by Kriesa at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would guess Eleanor sounds "old" to UK respondents because of the many medieval queens named Eleanor, and Louisa sounds "old" to US respondents because of Louisa May Alcott.

I think they're both pretty and old-timey names do recycle and become young, and both are due. Generally names that belonged to your grandmother's mother are poised to come back because they've crossed the line from "old lady name" to "dignified and pretty historical name."

(Also do not attempt to fight name popularity. You cannot fight it or outwit it. If you decide to pick something lower ranked because something else you like is "too popular," A MILLION OTHER ENGLISH-SPEAKING PARENTS will make exactly that same decision and you will suddenly have a name nobody's ever heard of that jumped into the top 100 the year you picked it. Pick what you like and is beautiful and meaningful to you, do not attempt to fight the name zeitgeist, it is too sneaky. And anyway, when your kid is in preschool there will be a famous person with the same name who does a horrible thing and the name will trend in the media for a while and everyone will comment on it. CAN'T AVOID. So pick something YOU love without worrying about externals like that.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2016 [16 favorites]

I vote Louisa, as I prefer names ending in a. Both sound similarly old-fashioned to me, but not in a bad way.

I know an Ellie who is actually an Eleanor. I also know an Eleanor who never shortened her name (I'm in the UK, where people are a bit more respectful and don't immediately shorten your name without your permission, thankfully.)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:29 PM on April 8, 2016

Eleanor is definitely getting popular - I know a couple of girls with that name under 4 and it's my 2-year-old's middle name. So I'm biased but it's a great name. Agree, think about ALL the possible shortenings of the name. I hate one of the shortenings of my daughter's first name, oh's not the one I thought people would go with!

I really like the name Elisa but didn't put it on our list because I know someone with that name and it would've been weird. But she always has to deal with people mispronouncing EE-lisa as AH-lisa, fwiw.
posted by john_snow at 12:31 PM on April 8, 2016

You should choose Louisa because Eleanor is my secret someday baby name and I don't want it to somehow become the new Isabelle or Kaitlyn or whatever in the couple years till I have a kid.

Less selfishly, they're both beautiful names.

Re "too long for everyday use" and the dislike of Nora, Eleanor shortens nicely to Ellie or Ella or Elle or Leni, as well. However, one thing to know about choosing a longer name for your kid and having Opinions about nicknames is that your kid is going to come home from preschool one day with a thing people call them, and it might not be what you would have preferred people call them. My brother Christopher went to daycare as 100% Long Form Christopher Forever, The Name Chris Totally Sucks (per my mom's taste and choices) and came home that afternoon as Chris. And never looked back. So if you want a high degree of nickname specificity, don't pick Eleanor.

Re Louisa, it's a great name and I see absolutely no problems with it whatsoever. Re the pronunciation thing, I think your husband needs to understand that it's going to be her name and through the many years of her life and the many people she will interact with, there are probably going to be some variations, and he's not really in control of this. Kind of like the Eleanor nickname issue.
posted by Sara C. at 12:32 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it matters, Eleanor is significantly more popular in the US right now than Louisa/Louise, though my instincts tell me that Louisa/Louise are trending upwards, but I don't think will be as popular as Eleanor and the accompanying versions of Ella/Elly/etc. Nora is also significantly more popular in the last few years.

Nora was the 83rd most popular girls name in the US in 2013.
Eleanor was the 106th most popular girls name in the US in 2013.
Louise and Louisa did not have enough to be ranked (I think the name site uses the top 1k per year, not sure).
posted by vunder at 12:34 PM on April 8, 2016

My wife and I have a 6 month old named Eleanor; her name comes, in part, from the fact that she has two great aunt Eleanors, one on each side of the family. We expected that her nickname would be Ellie, but so far we tend to call her either Elle or Elle Belle. Or Eleanorasarus if she's being fussy. The name lends itself to lots of different shortenings; who knows what she or her peers will ultimately choose for her. And anecdotal, she's the only Eleanor we know (we are in our 30s, Denver), but I expect that will change based on the other comments here.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whichever name you go with, both would sound lovely with Alice as a middle name.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:37 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nora is a fabulous name, so I'm for Eleanor. ;-)
posted by NoraCharles at 12:37 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eleanor, because then she can be Elle, Ella, Ella Belle, Ellie, Leah, or Nora if she wants.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2016

Why not wait until she is born and try the names on her? We did that with our son, we had a list of 10 names and decided on the name when we held him for the first time and started talking to him.
posted by LightMayo at 12:41 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

When we were naming our baby girl, I downloaded a bunch of the name data from the social security administration and I have the docs available now. (I did this because I wanted to understand some name trends, and also because I enjoyed perusing the lists of names going back to 1880.)

Here's what I can tell you about recent US trends for those names:
- Eleanor was the 78th most popular girl's name in 2014, which meant there were 3700 baby Eleanors. In 2013 is was 106, so it rose 28 places to break the top 100.
- Ella and Ellie are similar names in the top 100 as standalone names (with ~13k baby Ellas+Ellies in 2014).
- Nora as a standalone name was 49th most popular in 2014 (up from 82 in 2014), with 4700 baby Noras (plus an additional 2k Norahs).
- Louisa was ranked 973rd most popular baby girl name in 2014 with 271 kids, and was not in the top 1k in 2013. Louise does not rank in the top 1k either year. The closest other names I see are Lucy and Lucia, with about 5.5k combined instances in 2014.
posted by vunder at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2016

1. we had a bunch of names for kid #2 and when she popped out the name did too.
2. i like eleanor.
3. she not you will define who she is and what people call her
4. why not just go with eleanor louisa?
5. this will help with the ellie vs nora vs eleanor debate.
posted by chasles at 12:53 PM on April 8, 2016

I like Eleanor much better than Louisa. If you don't like Nora as a nickname (I don't!) I would suggest Ellie or one of the variations Hermione suggested.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2016

Louisa! They're both old-fashioned (not a bad thing!) but Eleanor also sounds kind of formal and stuffy to me. Also, Louisa is a lot less common. And you can nickname it to Lou or Louie, and that would be just the cutest thing ever.
posted by ostro at 12:56 PM on April 8, 2016

Louisa is on my someday baby name list so I vote for that. It also reminds me of Louisa from Sound of Music more than Louisa May Alcott.

And that's good, because the Von Trapp girls were spunky. Well, except that pill Liesl.
posted by zutalors! at 12:58 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about Eloisa? Otherwise, I love both of your choices. You can't go wrong.
posted by cecic at 1:00 PM on April 8, 2016

Funny story. My aunt absolutely hates the name Mary with a burning passion. But she wanted to name her child Meredith. She was terrified that people would call her Mary as a nickname. While pregnant, she informed everyone she knew that the child was to be called Meredith, full stop. Not Mary or Mare. Mer-e-dith. Fast forward 30 years and the only person who calls her Mary is her mother. It started as a joke and actually stuck. Everyone else calls her "Mare." So nicknames are pretty much not something you can control, sorry to say.

I personally would lean toward Eleanor, though I must admit that the name makes me think of that horrible Nellie Olsen from the Little House series. But I tend to prefer names that have tons of shortening/nickname choices (El, Ellie, Ella, Nellie, Nora, Leah, Len, Lenny, Nori, etc.) so that kids have some agency and control over their identity.
posted by xyzzy at 1:02 PM on April 8, 2016

I like both your names as unique but not odd. People can say and spell them with ease.
I think that the nickname options for Eleanor make it the winner though. Note though, at least in the US, Ella has been a very popular name recently.
posted by k8t at 1:04 PM on April 8, 2016

Louisa and Louise are not at all the same to me. However, I know someone named Diana who gets called Diane surprisingly often. To her, and to me, Diane and Diana are completely different names and Diane is clearly not a nickname for Diana. But a lot of people seem to think shortening Diana to Diane is equivalent to shortening David to Dave or Steven to Steve - something so commonly done that it's reasonable to assume it's okay without even asking the person. (I'm not saying I think it's reasonable to assume that, but lots of people do.) So if you use Louisa, I'm guessing she'll get called Louise more often than she'd like.

I like Louisa. I generally think 3 syllables is too long for everyday use, but Louisa can be said quickly and easily enough that I think it could work. I wouldn't use it if you don't like Lou or any other nickname, though. If you like Lou, I think that's a cool nickname.

To me, Eleanor has way more of an old lady sound than Nora. I think very few people in the US would see Nora as an old lady name. I would never use Eleanor as a kid's everyday name - it's too slow to say and too formal sounding. If you'd rather not use a nickname most of the time, I think you'd better go with Louisa.
posted by Redstart at 1:05 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

To add to those assessing the relative popularity of the two names, I teach high school in the US (New England), and in the past 15 years, I've had several Eleanors (only nickname Ellie, never Nora), but no one named Louisa.

And I agree, if you want it to be a -s- and not a -z-, spell it Luisa (but still be prepared for many people to use -z-).
posted by lysimache at 1:11 PM on April 8, 2016

Agreed with folks saying Eleanor is becoming more popular - I always wanted to use this name (it's a family name) but am now starting to lean away from it because I know so many people using it and don't want my child to have a super popular name (I am cursed with one of the most popular names of my birth year and don't love that experience).

I would not focus so much on nicknames -- you really have no control over which nickname your child will choose to go with as a teenager, and they are just as likely to choose one that you hate just to spite you at that age. :) And then they may choose a different one in college or after college or whatever -- nicknames change over time and in my experience parents don't have a huge amount of control over it after their kids start school.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2016

n=1: the one Eleanor I know irl is a lovely woman in her early 20s and I've never once thought "oh she has an old lady name," only "that's a pretty and unusual name."
posted by en forme de poire at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2016

Both names and all variations on them are old names. That said,

Eleanor all the way. Badass, groundbreaking First Lady who continued to be a pioneer long after her husband quit existing! Ellie is the adventurous little girl from Up! Nora is Nora Charles, wisecracking lady detective! You can't lose with Eleanor.
posted by kimberussell at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

From the Old French form of the Occitan name AliƩnor. It was first borne by the influential Eleanor of Aquitaine (12th century), who was the queen of Louis VII, the king of France, and later Henry II, the king of England. She was named Aenor after her mother, and was called by the Occitan phrase alia Aenor "the other AENOR" in order to distinguish her from her mother.
Latinate feminine form of LOUIS.
French form of Ludovicus, the Latinized form of LUDWIG.
From the Germanic name Chlodovech, which was composed of the elements hlud "famous" and wig "war, battle".
posted by zinon at 1:15 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

For something different, why not wait until you meet the baby and see what name fits? Your child may be born and you may be surprised to think "No way is this an Eleanor!" or vice versa.
posted by purple_bird at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm in the UK. I'm not a fan of Eleanor which is more old-fashioned. Also bear in mind what part of the UK you might be in and how the name will sound in the local accent. El-a-nor or El-ner? I like Louisa, in fact I suggested it to a friend who had a baby girl recently when she was asking for inspiration (I didn't win!) - it's a nice word to say and sounds graceful. But I actually came in to offer you a share in my future baby's name (Eloise) but I see I have been roundly beaten to it. And congratulations!
posted by billiebee at 1:23 PM on April 8, 2016

For what it's worth, I'm an Eleanor nicknamed Nora and I have only met one other person with the same combo; in my experience (in the US), people tend to think of them as separate names. (The names' popularity is super weird to me; I didn't even meet another Eleanor or Nora until I was 20 or so.)
posted by ferret branca at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Love Eleanor. I know someone with that name and I've only ever heard it shortened to "El" by close friends, but most people say the whole name. It feels easier to say than Louisa, which is totally silly, but that was my first gut reaction. I do like Louisa at any rate.

Lastly, we found a name we loved for our son and liked that it wasn't terribly popular and then... he's 3 and we've met a bunch. It's so hard to control for that. Best of luck and congrats!
posted by jdl at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2016

My daughter got a short, 4-letter name because her dad and I liked it and it solved the nickname problem. Then as she got older and started school she complained about not having a nickname. You can control what you name her and what you call her and everything else is out of your hands, including how she feels about her own name. They are both beautiful names, so you can't go wrong. Toss a coin to decide and if you don't like the results, then you've got your answer. Choose the other name.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:48 PM on April 8, 2016

Louisa would become weezie-butt in 2 minutes in my home. I say that's a great thing.

(I am a "Do", my siblings are "Men," "Skinny" and "Boog." Also Men just had a baby nicknamed Nug.)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 1:50 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Both are very nice names! There is in fact only one terrible baby name and all other names are great, even the weird celebrity fruit names and Kardashian kreativity.

Toss a coin if you truly are are deadlocked.
posted by vespabelle at 1:50 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Toss a coin if you truly are are deadlocked.

Old trick: when you see the result of the coin flip, your immediate reaction to the result will tell you what you really preferred, and thus whether you really liked both names or not.
posted by aramaic at 2:09 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like both names, but I prefer the Luisa spelling -- it could also be a nod to your husband's Spanish ancestry. I think Eleanor will definitely be shortened to Ellie by everyone in two seconds, unless you enforce a different nickname (my preference would be Lenny/Leni). I know several baby Noras, so I don't think it will sound old, but may be quite popular. Some other combo options include: Lenore, Eleanora, Eloise, Eloisa. Similar sounding names: Lucy, Lucia, Liesl, Ellen, Helen/e/a, Elsie.

I would pick the pronunciation that will be the guessed/default pronunciation for the majority of your close relatives - correcting your MIL on the pronunciation of your child's name for the rest of your life becomes quite tedious after a while.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:13 PM on April 8, 2016

Both are nice name, but my late mom and my late sister-in-law were both Eleanors, so I have to go with that one. Also, it sometimes shortened to Ellie, not Nora. Agreeing that so many old lady names are back in style, Emily, Sophie, Sarah etc
posted by mermayd at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2016

When in doubt, consult Jane Austen: Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility is a far superior character to Louisa in Persuasion. Just sayin'!
posted by smirkette at 2:27 PM on April 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

Not to, y'know, introduce bias or anything but: my wife and I faced a similar quandary three years ago. We settled on Eleanor (current set of nicknames: Ellie Bean, Ella Bella, Els), and the future is so bright this kid has to wear shades.
posted by Mayor West at 3:05 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eleanor all the way. It's a lovely name, and she could go by Elle, Ellie, Nell, Nelly, Laney, Ella, Lenore, Lenora, Nell, Nella, Nellie, Nelda, Nora, Noreen, Nonie... and more! She has a wide variety of options. As Louisa, she's Louisa, Lou, maybe Lulu. Or Wheezie.

(I sometimes think that every girl baby should be named Elizabeth. Then she's got a gazillion options.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:12 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's funny - I'm pretty sure Alice and Eleanor are the names John and Sarah Green asked President Obama to help them choose between. He deferred, saying that he never wanted a child to grow up knowing that, if they went with the opposite of his choice, that "the president didn't like her name."

They went with Alice.

I would vote Eleanor. Partially because I read Eleanor and Park this year, and I only hope a child with that name could live up to the beautiful strong woman in that book.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:12 PM on April 8, 2016

If you have an aversion to Louise and really wouldn't want that to be the kid's nickname, I wouldn't go with Louisa. Too risky.
posted by delight at 3:28 PM on April 8, 2016

Decide after the baby is born. It will be clearer than who she is meant to be.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:29 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you like the Elisa suggestion, know that it will lead to eternal misspellings and mispronunciations. There's a family of names including Elisa/Elissa/Alisa/Alyssa/Alicia/Alecia (and occasionally Melissa) that are really not the same, but seem to be just similar enough that many people have trouble distinguishing them.

It's not the end of the world--I have one of these names, and while it's occasionally a pain, I still like my name. It's worth thinking about, though.
posted by snorkmaiden at 3:45 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Louisa is not appealing to me. Ouisa is a really icky nickname.

Nicknames happen in ways it's difficult to anticipate, I think Noor is a beautiful nickname and Nora is sweet as well.
posted by 26.2 at 3:47 PM on April 8, 2016

I am an Elinor, I go by Ellie. My parents swore that I would only ever be Elinor, but you're right - it's hard to call a child something so grown up when they're so little. I like my name well enough, though it is annoying that there was a good 5 year stretch around the millennium in the UK where Ellie was the number one girls name (it's subsided a little now).

I know a few Louisas who go by Lou, which I like. It's on my list, even though I don't like Louise much either. It's like my mum's name Carola, which just has a different ring and feeling to it than Carol, y'know?? (Of course, I would never recommend Carola, pretty as it is, because NO ONE pronounces it right and it drives my poor mum up the wall.)
posted by dumdidumdum at 4:00 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eleanor was on our short list. My close friend just named her new daughter Eleanor. Old lady names are the new hotness, at least in the US. (My daughter ended up Margaret - haven't found another one yet her age but I'm sure there are plenty) I don't know any Louisas.
posted by olinerd at 4:06 PM on April 8, 2016

When we were naming our baby over five years ago, I was partial to Elyse or Elisa. In my cohort, though, we had an Eli, Eleanor, Ellison and...someone I'm forgetting. The E thing does seem popular. In her pre-k class, she had three different girls with different but similar enough names that a couple of them were going by "Ellie."

I like the suggestion above of Luisa. I also like the nickname "Lo" or "Lou." She'll come up with her own nickname eventually. You can always wait and see what feels right. Best of luck! She'll be amazing no matter what.
posted by amanda at 4:07 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

In my head, Louisa is pronounced "Louiser," because my main exposure to the name has been through the show Doc Martin and that's how they pronounce that Louisa's name. Which is cute and all but I think if you go with the spelling Luisa it will encourage a more elegant pronunciation.
posted by HotToddy at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2016


One of my favourite songs is called Eloise, and they kinda expand it to Elouisa, and I think it's a pretty name.

Having said that, one of my best friends is named Eleanor, and she just goes by El, which I like too.
posted by Diag at 4:27 PM on April 8, 2016

I vote for Eleanor Louisa Hypen-Lastname!
Putting it together is great. I want my next totally hypothetical, and no doubt never to happen grandchild, to be Eleanor Louisa.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:53 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The only Louisa I know is known universally as "weeza". It's still a nice name though.
posted by w0mbat at 5:01 PM on April 8, 2016

I like Louisa and haven't heard it as much as Eleanor and all the nicknames that come from that name.
posted by smirkyfodder at 5:05 PM on April 8, 2016

Eleanor is very popular in the US and Ellie is close to Ella, which was a number one girl name and is still very trendy. They're all gorgeous names and Eleanor was actually one of my favorite baby names, but if uniqueness is a big priority, I would avoid Eleanor. I do feel obliged to defend Nora. I think it's lovely, classic without being trendy and actually far less "old lady" than either Eleanor or Louisa. Louisa is quite pretty and does fit in with the names that are on trend. I think you have great taste.
You could check out the Duana Names column on She has great name insights!
In my experience, the way to know which name you truly prefer is to pick a name once baby is here, write it on the form at the hospital and announce it to family. Then if you instantly feel, "oh that's wrong, I really wanted Ramona," you'll know your true feelings and can call the nurses and get the form back. Ask me how I know. Good luck with the baby!
posted by areaperson at 5:09 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eleanor Louisa just rolls off the tongue in a pleasing way.
posted by Ruki at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eleanor is my 7yo's middle name and yes, it's way more popular than Louisa.

It's only her middle name bc we narrowed it down to two names and couldn't decide, thus, Madeleine Eleanor.

Both of your names read to me to be equally "old ladyish" which is still popular and will be in line with her peers. They are both elegant and feminine. Nora is also popular, at least in my circles.
posted by gaspode at 5:52 PM on April 8, 2016

Overall, I'm going to say:
(a) Pick what's easiest to spell (your comment *ahem*), especially if she's already going to be dealing with a double-barreled name spelling. Okay, so both of those aren't super hard to spell, but if you're already mixing one up, that's a orange flag.
(b) Pick something less popular rather than more, says the Jennifer.
(c) People WILL nickname your kid, guaranteed. If you can't stand a particular nickname variant of the name, then don't name your kid it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:53 PM on April 8, 2016

Just a couple of data points: A bit of cursory googling reveals that the currently most "popular"/prominent Eleanor (aside from Eleanor Roosevelt) is probably Eleanor Calder, age 23, model formerly romantically linked with one of the members of One Direction. The most popular Louisa is probably Louisa Johnson, age 18, singer and the 2015 winner of the UK series, The X-Factor. Interestingly, both of these women are based in the UK.
posted by mhum at 6:05 PM on April 8, 2016

Lu, Lulu, and Za are great fricking nicknames. I'm so jealous of good single syllable names, and even better one that can be repeated as in Lulu. Bonus, Lou could be gender swapped, which can be a fun and sometimes necessary option.

As an alternative to Eleanor, what about Iliana? It has the "feel" of Eleanor without the popularity, avoids the growing popularity of E names, but still has a nice ring to it. And it ends on the 'ah' of Louisa. (In the interest of full disclosure, I may be watching too much Broad City.)

I personally would avoid Eleanor if that is the new hotness for this age group. I know a lot of woman who hate that their name is so common.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:19 PM on April 8, 2016

"Having said that, one of my best friends is named Eleanor, and she just goes by El, which I like too"

OP, how about "Elle?"
You could still use Ellie as a nickname, it's less trendy than Eleanor and it's pretty freaking cool.
posted by areaperson at 6:58 PM on April 8, 2016

Beautiful names, both of them, with history and dignitas. But people are dingbats, and if you name her Louisa, she is going to get called Louise a lot. (This sort of thing is one of the reasons I didn't name my girl Juliet - to me it was obvious the accent was on the first syllable, but I realized in time that many people would put it on the second, which was not what I had in mind.)

Eleanor has easier, prettier nicknames than Louisa does; but it is also a lot more common than Louisa... Overall I'd say Eleanor. Just because I wouldn't want people to call your baby Louise, and they will, if her name is Louisa. If you do go that route, by all means spell it Luisa to give her a fighting chance. And get in there early with her nickname as Lu, otherwise it'll be Weezie.

By the way, what do you think about Lenore? A little less common than Eleanor, less likely to be shortened, similar feel, so beautiful. Only the Poe association makes it a little weird.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:07 PM on April 8, 2016

I love the name Eleanor and hate the name Louisa (weirdly, I kind of like the name Louise, so they're definitely different in my head), but all of the baby names I've ever loved have pretty much exactly tracked the most popular names for babies of any given year and I've gotten sick of them five to ten years down the line (I don't have children and don't want children, I just like picking names). So based on that and the fact that you want an unusual name, I'd go with Louisa.

Also I suspect your mother will not continue to object "forever" to Louisa, unless your mother is particularly toxic, because it will stop being an abstract name and become her grandchild.
posted by lazuli at 7:16 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

My opinion -

Eleanor seems like an elegant and traditional name. It's kind of old-fashioned but pretty, and can have numerous abbreviations - Elle, Ella, Ellen, Nora - all also very pretty-sounding to me.

Louisa and Louise both make me think of a homely busybody or an obnoxious know-it-all tattletale. Not sure where this stems from, but that's what I associate that name with.

Eleanor all the way.
posted by atinna at 7:16 PM on April 8, 2016

Prediction: She will not be the only Eleanor in her kindergarten class, if in the US.
posted by deadcrow at 7:18 PM on April 8, 2016

Don't give a name a natural nickname of which you dislike for which there is no clear substitute. That should plain rule out "Louisa" because it will go to "Louise" very easily.

Eleanor actually gives you a lot more control, because you can choose the nickname. If she shows up at school called "Ellie" people aren't suddenly going to start calling her "Nora."
posted by MattD at 7:23 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think if you spell it Luisa people won't call her Louise. Also if she really loves her name she will correct people. It's annoying but it's better than naming someone out of fear of "people are stupid." The people who care for her will know her name.
posted by zutalors! at 7:28 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eleanor and Ellie are so absurdly common. They're the Jennifer/Jessica of the 2 year old set.

I love Louisa. It's strong and pretty and unique. However, I also like Louise (my paternal grandmother's name). But I don't think anyone will call a Louisa Louise--Lou or Lulu or Weezie, sure, maybe. I really, really dig girl's names with masculine nicknames, and Lou is darling.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:39 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I prefer Louisa because I think it's a name that will travel better than Eleanor - to me Eleanor feels like a name that's exclusively for English-speaking countries, while Louisa (or Luisa) is a name that works in Anglophone and Romance-language countries.
posted by needled at 7:48 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm also partial to Eleanor, which is on the popular side but not overused I don't think. I think Luisa would be better than Louisa if you go in that direction, though. Have you considered the name Elnora? (Also, nickname wise, Norie is an option for Eleanor or Elnora.) As a point of information, I have a 3 syllable first name, with a sound not unlike Louisa/Luisa, and I ditched my nickname as soon as I could in middle school, and have stuck with an unshortened name ever since.
posted by gudrun at 7:50 PM on April 8, 2016

My baby's middle name is Eleanor so I'm biased, but that gets my vote.

I think Eleanor Louisa would be a lovely name.
posted by makonan at 8:48 PM on April 8, 2016

As for nicknames, by the time she starts school, she's going to have a solid idea of what her name is. I was five months pregnant when the mister and I decided our daughter would be named Rebekah, called Bekah. In school, she's been called Becky once, in first grade, I think, and she responded with a sassy, "That is NOT my name. I'm Bekah, B-E-K-A-H." Even though I was shy as hell as a kid, my name was serious business and I would not hesitate to correct people when they got it wrong.
posted by Ruki at 8:55 PM on April 8, 2016

I don't think most people would nickname a Louisa as Louise. They might mistake one for another, or call her Lou or Weezy in either case, but it's not a nickname like Tim for Timothy.
posted by vunder at 11:28 PM on April 8, 2016

How about waiting until the baby is born, and then see which one fits the baby the best?

My mom was completely dead set on me being a Samantha. Like, that was the #1 name in her entire world, no other name came close, she didn't even entertain other names at all - no way, no how, I was going to be a Samatha. Until I was actually born. She took one look at me, and decided that it just wouldn't fit at all - and I became a Sara instead.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:29 AM on April 9, 2016

Eleanor was the name of Sam and Rosie Gamgee's eldest daughter in Lord of the Rings, so that might be a plus or minus depending on your affinity with LOTR nerdery. (Other than that I think they're both lovely, combinable and customisable names)
posted by runincircles at 1:48 AM on April 9, 2016


It combines phonemes from both names, and it sounds enchanted rather than frumpy to me.

If you're worried about "Nora" there's always Lenore.
posted by tel3path at 2:36 AM on April 9, 2016

I have a kindergartner and there are so many girls with El... names including my kid. Names include Eloise, Ella, Eleanor, Elise, Elsie, Ellie... There's a Louisa too. One small thing is that it's nice for kids to be able to easily write their own name. I love the name Eleanor but I think it could be a little tricky to write for a 3-5 year old.
posted by JuliaKM at 4:10 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coming back to add that if you like Alice maybe consider Alicia (or Lyssa), if he would like those better?
posted by gudrun at 5:40 AM on April 9, 2016

Lenora / Lenore is a little close to Lenor - a fabric softner on sale everywhere here in the UK.
posted by She Kisses Wyverns at 7:19 AM on April 9, 2016

My daughter's name is Elena and we call her Ellie (or Els bells, or jelly, or you know, tootsie). It got immediately shortened to Ellie at daycare but I ascribe that to the fact that Elena is technically tricky to pronounce correctly: I'm Italian and it's EH-leh-nah not e-LAY-nah and everyone here in the US gets it wrong on first (and second and third...) try. We love that she'll be able to use her full name later if she wants to. Eleanor is similarly wonderful!

Coincidentally, my middle name is Luisa and, while I don't personally like it all that much, it's a pretty name with a solid history and is similarly international. I don't think there's a wrong choice here!

I'd pick based on what nickname you find least offensive because, in my experience, nicknames for nick-nameable name are essentially inevitable.
posted by lydhre at 8:50 AM on April 9, 2016

I've had both in my life and here's the scoop. My Mother was Eleanor. Here in the south her name ended up sounding as Elner. No one took the time to pronounce all three syllables. I have a friend Louise and and niece Louisa. They are both Weezy. Cracks me up and they are both funny and cute, so Weezy works. Go figure. Just pay attention to whats popular. When they get to school there will be three or four per class or grade.
posted by PJMoore at 3:44 PM on April 9, 2016

I came in to vote for Louisa and say this:

I prefer the Luisa spelling [or pronunciation]-- it could also be a nod to your husband's Spanish ancestry.

I feel surrounded by babies named Elle and Ellie (in the US), but that's possibly because we almost named our daughter that.

I also think L(o)uisa Eleanor sounds lovely.

Finally, my daughter's name has two pronunciations and we decided on the one my husband preferred. Now (2 years later) the way I used to prefer sounds completely weird to me.
posted by Latifolia at 7:42 AM on April 10, 2016

My name is actually Louise, but most of my family ended up pronouncing it Louisa. I am from Australia, and I have never been called any of those horrible sounding "weezer" nicknames - I get shortened to Lou infrequently, and I like it better, personally, when that's a very short vowel "Lu" rather than a long vowel "Lou"; and I gather the nicks this name attracts depends heavily on where you are, so that might influence you. It seems to be understood and said nicely by people from different language groups, and there certainly don't seem to be many of us, although at one point at school, I was one of three Louises and one Luisa :)
posted by glitter at 6:07 PM on April 10, 2016

I like Eleanor but not Louisa, which sounds old-lady to me.

As far as nicknames go--I think Louisa is much more likely to become Lou (especially in the UK) than Eleanor is to become Nora. Even in being introduced by their full first names all the Louises and Louisas I know get called Lou at least on occasion but the Eleanors I know are only ever called Eleanor (this is raised in the US, living in the UK). I also have a first name that is very easily turned into a nickname but my mother very staunchly refused to ever let me be called or introduced as these names by family and so they never stuck. I very much would have preferred a nickname and if your child is more strong willed than I was and would like a nickname, they will just tell people to call them whatever they want anyway.

Maybe wait until the baby is born to see which name suits her better and then make the final choice.
posted by Polychrome at 4:33 AM on April 11, 2016

Eleanor and Ellie are so absurdly common. They're the Jennifer/Jessica of the 2 year old set.

It's not exactly the same thing, because Jennifer was used about 3x as often as the most popular name today. There's more of a diffusion of names nowadays than in earlier decades. Eleanor didn't crack the top 20 in the last year SSA has figures for, 2014 (Ella comes in at #17, with 8400 occurrences). This is also somewhat regional, as my son is three and has been in multiple music classes, library groups, a moms group, a daycare, and two different preschools, and we have never come across an Eleanor (or Louisa).

So basically I'm saying take the popularity argument with a grain of salt, as it's unlikely your daughter will be in a class with six others sharing her name, as was not completely uncommon for me.
posted by JenMarie at 10:15 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

(oops, I meant to link to the SSA page for popular baby names: here)
posted by JenMarie at 10:59 AM on April 11, 2016

A guy at my office just had a beautiful baby girl named Elouise, if you wanted to split the difference.

But I'm on Team Eleanor here. It's classic, it's versatile, it rolls off the tongue, and it's a beautiful name. If you're worried about too many Elle's or Nora's in the works, you could go for the SUPER old school diminutive and call her Nell or Nellie.

Louisa is a beautiful name, but there aren't as many attractive abbreviations available (no disrespect to the Lou's, LuLu's, or Weezy's out there).

I'm nthing all of the "Eleanor Louisa is a fantastic first and middle combo" comments. Also, if your kid grows up and ends up feeling more like a Louisa she can choose it in a way that's defensible in a classroom setting ("Actually miss/mister, I go by my middle name, Louisa.")
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2016

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