Baby name needed: Merrick or Katherine for baby girl?

A reader named Tracy recently wrote to me with an interesting question:

I am debating between naming my daughter Merrick Jane or Katherine (Kate) Jane. I love Merrick because it is different and strong, plus I’ve always had a thing for boy names for girls. Kate is very classic and I know it won’t be a topic of conversation for her whole life. Do you have any advice?

“Kate” JaneMerrick Jane
Flows well

If it were up to me, I’d play it safe and go with Katherine.

I don’t dislike Merrick Jane. It’s punchy, memorable, and has a nice rhythm. But it would make me worry about two things:

Gender Mix-ups: A female named Merrick would be addressed as “Mr.” in millions of mailings and by countless telemarketers. Her name might also cause confusion among teachers, coaches, camp counselors, college administrators, hiring managers, etc.

Unwanted Distinction: Some people love having an unusual name, but others hate it. Unique names tend to elicit strong reactions (…especially from their bearers). There’s no way to know how a newborn will feel about her name 10, 20 or 50 years from now.

What about you — which name would you prefer?

13 thoughts on “Baby name needed: Merrick or Katherine for baby girl?

  1. Between the two, I’d vote Katherine (for the same reasons as Nancy).

    But I’d like to suggest Meredith as well. Similar in sound to Merrick, but has the more traditional feel that Katherine carries. Just a thought.

  2. Katherine is 150% better that Merrick…

    My biggest problem with Merrick is that it’s also the name of the “Elephant Man,”(and I won’t be the only one who makes that association.) Checking Wikipedia, I see that Merrick is also the name of a vampire in an Anne Rice novel, which just makes me feel even less excited about the name. Mercy, Marguerite, Berit, Merit, Meredith, Annick, Tanith are other names with similar sounds, maybe these would be a possibility for your child.

    Katherine is classic, lovely and has numerous fun nicknames. She can be Kit, Kat, Kate, Kitty, Kay, Kaylie, Kari, Katja, Rina, etc. Katherine Jane is fabulous!

  3. I can’t cast a vote, because I want a middle option, something between the two extremes of completely unusual and completely overused. (One year, I realized as I was writing out my 100+ holiday cards that all of my friends with small daughters had “Kates”, except the two that had “Victorias” instead.) Merrick could choose to use “Merri” or “Jane” as a NN, if she felt the need. I like that Merrick’s unusual, but I would be warmer for its use if it were a family name or something like that.

    Meredith used to be a boy’s name, if that helps with Angela’s argument.

  4. Thanks to Julie that gave me the answer to where I had heard that name before and that it wasn’t exactly the most awesome point of distinction.

    I completely dig the Meredith idea.

  5. Thanks for the feedback/suggestions so far!

    @C in DC – I considered adding other options to the poll, but then decided against it. I think that forcing people to choose one name or the other will ultimately be more helpful to Tracy. Sorry if that’s a little frustrating.

  6. Ok, until the elephant man, I was with Merrick. (Like my Remedios problem…when you don’t have all the info…). My sister has a rare name and has liked it her whole life. It’s Bevin, and she does get confused with being a boy in her spam and junk mail. But she manages.

  7. Katherine was on our list for our daughter … as a middle name. Like C in DC, we noticed the plethora of Katies and didn’t want to go there.

    Merrick is great but IMHO seems abrupt with Jane (kind of depends on the surname). The nickname possibilities are good–Merri, Ricki … seriously, I think it’s an unusual enough name that most people have no gender association with it.

  8. Easy vote for me – Katherine, hands down. There was no contest. I know that Merrick is not a common name for boys or girls, but, to me, it’s still a boy’s name, and I’m really not a fan of boys’ names on girls. For those of us who have boys, our list of potential names that don’t border on unisex are growing fewer and further between. What parent wants to name their son something that might be considered feminine? So with every boy’s name that goes to the girls, it gets more challenging. Some names have pretty much made the complete transformation … Kelly, Shannon, Meredith, etc. Others are just starting (Ryan comes to mind :\).

    Depending on which part of the name Merrick you like best, here are some suggestions for unique, strong, mostly feminine names:

    If you especially like the M-r sound at the beginning, why not try?:
    – Mariah
    – Marisol
    – Maribel
    – Marin (technically a boy’s name, but only on the charts for girls at this point)
    – Meredith (a surname, and then a boy’s name; now fully a girl’s name)
    – Merit (another boy’s name, but it kind of goes along with other names like Faith, Joy, Pride, etc, in my mind)
    – Miriam

    If you like the stronger sounding “ic” sound in there, how about?:
    – America
    – Erica
    – Erika (from a male name; but the female equivalent)
    – Danica
    – Lyric (ends in “ric” like Merrick, but is softer & more feminine sounding)

    Emery & Emerson both have the “mer” in there as well. I don’t really love -son names on girls, but it seems that Emerson has gone to the girls, as it starts like the more common Emily & Emma.

    Interstingly enough, Emerson means son of Emery, and Emery derives from the name Emmerich, quite similar to Merrick.

  9. I would not want Merrick to be my name. Boyish, trendy choices like this only suit a very small percentage of people. If she’s a mousy bookworm, Merrick is just going to be a problem for her. Katherine could suit someone of any type.

  10. Well I have to comment here because I just named my 6 wk old son Merrik and we love the name for a BOY! Thanks to those of you who are sticking up for the traditional gender specification of names. Merrick is traditionally a male name and one meaning or translation of this name is “dark skinned man”. Please think of this before naming your girls Merrick and save this unique yet traditional name for those of us who still want boys to be boys and are struggling to find a name that doesn’t remind us of someone we already know. Thanks for the info about the elephant man – this doesn’t bother me in the least. I know my son will have his own challenges in life and he should be so lucky to share a name with someone who has inspired others with his life’s story.

  11. I just closed the Kate vs. Merrick poll. Here are the results:

    Katherine “Kate” Jane – 70 votes (66%)
    Merrick Jane – 36 votes (34%)

    So…the 100+ people who voted preferred Kate to Merrick by a ratio of about 2:1.

  12. I’m a 45yo male named Merrick.

    I agree with some of the sentiments above that Merrick should be left to the male gender. Indeed, it’s more identifiable for the boy or man. That said, there has been occasion when people have told me they thought the name meant a female, but that has been infrequent, and they realize the mistake when they finally meet or talk with me on the phone.

    The association with the Elephant Man has happened on occasion, but I just quickly respond that, no, DAVID Merrick, the Broadway impresario. But, really, they’re referring to a surname, so, logically, there really is no correlation and, in my opinion, the association to John Merrick is somewhat of a lazy joke.

    Yes, when I was young, the first day of class was always the hardest when the teacher called out “Merrick..?!” from the roster and the other kids would find it strange. But I haven’t been scarred by that, folks, and it passed quickly after that first day because my parents gave me the nickname Rick, which became the norm for me, and which I like and used up until my early 20s when I started working professionally (ironically, a kid in the next town over was also named Merrick, with the nickname Rick).

    Now, as an adult, I absolutely love my first name. As a 180 degree turnaround from my childhood, people are always complimenting me on my name which is always a nice little recognition. And, as my parents told me in their thinking when choosing my name, it looks great on letterhead — or in movie credits, which I’ve been fortunate to be in a few times (behind the scenes).

    As a adult, I am completely grateful to my parents for having the foresight to name me Merrick.

    I do hope the name never becomes popular, so that those who have it can remain a little extra special amongst their peers — although I do hope that some parents here and there find it to be a great name for their baby!

  13. Funny that I’ve come across this as I have always wanted to name my daughter “Katherine Merrick”.. Merrick being the middle name. I like it because it sounds like a designer/designer’s name. And Katherine can be shortened to Kathy, Kate, Katie, Kitty, Kat.. several versions as she likes.

    Julie> I thought Merrick was the name of the half-caste witch (not vampire) in the Anne Rice novel (it is explained that it was originally Merrique I think but I think that doesn’t look so great on letterhead). The half-caste part is applicable to me so I like it.

    All things aside, I’d largely pick a baby name for how viable it would be for them as a working adult, if they’re trying to “make a name” for themselves. Hence the “designer name”.

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