Baby Name Dilemma: Honoring Your Mom

A reader is trying to help a friend with a not-so-easy baby name challenge:

My friend would like to name her baby girl after her deceased mother, but her mom hated her name. She is looking for a variation but we have had no luck helping her brainstorm. Her mother’s name was Ernestine, no middle name. Any suggestions?

I can understand not wanting to pick Ernestine itself—it’s still plagued with a bit of a clunky vibe, and hasn’t been in the top 1000 in nearly 50 years. Its international variations and common nicknames, like Erna and Ernesia, don’t exactly sound as “wow” as your friend would probably like. Plus, since her mom hated her own name, it may not be the best way to honor her mother’s memory.

So here are my suggestions:

1. I could make a case for Nessa or Tessa being nicknames for Ernestine. Nessa is a Scandinavian name that means “headlands,” and Tessa means “to reap.” I think both names seem fresh and modern, and worth a look. Other variants on the name include Tina (which just fell out of vogue earlier this century) and Nettie.

2. Pick a name with a similar meaning to Ernestine. Ernestine is the feminine version of Ernest, which means serious or resolute. Along those same lines are Severine, Wilhelmina and Willa. Willa is a red-hot name, and Wilhelmina may follow suit, too—especially as it’s been picked by a few celebrities recently.

3. Honor her by choosing a name with the same initial, and even the same number of syllables. There are so many wonderful E names—I love Eleanor, Edina, Elena, Ellery, Emmeline, Eveline,  and Everly.

4. Consider making Ernestine the middle name, and picking another name for the first name. That way, her mother is still honored, but her daughter isn’t stuck with a clunky name.

5. Is there a name that her mother wished she had? If your friend knows what her mom’s dream name would have been, that could also be a valid way to honor her mother.

What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions for names that honor Ernestine without actually using it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

And don’t forget to use our Baby Name Finder on your own baby name hunt, or share your baby name dilemmas with me at lamilbrand@gmail.com.

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