Name needed: Baby girl, initially named Lumi, needs to be renamed

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I was contacted recently by a reader who needs to find a new name for a baby girl. The baby was formerly called Lumi.

The reader sent me a lot of helpful information about the situation, so I’m simply going to quote the bulk of what was written below. I’ve boldfaced all the first names mentioned, for easier scanning.

Here’s the request:

Basically, without getting into too much detail, we are going to be renaming our child. What happened is that we chose the name Lumi, which I have loved since the moment I heard it, since I think the sound is beautiful and uplifting, it’s unique, but not so out there as to be hard to understand, and we also thought of it as short for luminescent or luminous–something that brings light, which I love. Also, we often call her Lulu, and liked that Lumi seemed a bit more interesting and maybe even more formal (at least to us!) for when she is in school or at a job. But, after choosing that name, we were informed that the word lumi actually is slang for prostitute in Spanish. If Spanish were a very uncommon language, we might have just accepted it, but seeing as we have some Spanish speaking family and both of us already speak some Spanish and live in a place with a lot of Spanish speakers, it seemed impossible to keep the name. So we changed it. The change was awful for me, since I was not happy with the new name, but couldn’t think of another and thought I would grow to like it. But I haven’t. I will not tell you the “new” name or how long it has been, since I don’t think it matters as we will be changing it no matter what. What matters most to me is that we find another name that suits her, doesn’t mean prostitute (or anything like it) in any language, and isn’t tied to so much negativity and stress. And, just to say, we do currently still call her Lulu, so variations on that (so long as they fit other criteria) are welcome! 

Ideally, we would like the name to be unique, but also easy to relate to an existing word so that we can easily anchor people when we introduce her, since we know how complicated having a “unique” name can be for introductions, spellings, pronunciation, etc. So, for example, one name I also really liked was Deli, since I like that someone could say, “Deli, like delight.” Or even “Deli, like delicatessen.” The problem there, of course, is that when you say “Deli,” people will hear the city in India, so that was off the list, since neither of us have any connection to that place. We also liked the name Euphie, as in euphoria, but I found out that that’s the name of a vacuum, so I wasn’t sure if that might be a mistake to choose that one. We also like Jovie (for jovial?), but this is also a bit too popular at the moment. But, if this makes sense, we’d like something unique that can even sound like a nickname, but it would be a short version of an existing word that is easy to understand and helps people quickly make the connection and has a positive meaning–or relates in some way to food (for example, Romy, for rosemary). I hope this is clear, isn’t too much to ask, and also gives you some ideas of the kind of thing we are after.
 
We really want a name that has a positive meaning or is related to food or cooking in some way. The best name in terms of meanings that I can think of is Beatrice, which, as you know, means brings joy, since that’s how we feel about our sweet girl. She is an absolute ray of sunshine, always smiling, and brings us all joy. Of course, Beatrice itself is too popular for our tastes, but if you can think of another name that means brings joy (or peace or some such) but that is much less common or a “made up” name that seems to fit this, we’d love to hear it! Otherwise, names that mean things that are positive, uplifting, or peaceful are all great. Also, we are a food-loving family, so something that has a relationship to food or cooking would also be great, especially something like an edible plant or something on the healthier or more natural side. Another name that was at the top of our lists at some point was Romy (which, again, works as short for rosemary and easy to say/spell, but it is currently much too popular for our liking).

And, finally, the name must not translate to something negative or offensive in another language (especially Spanish!). 

As for last names, to protect our privacy, I will just say her last name is Rose, which is almost exactly her actual last name and will help with those looking to create alliterations, which are fine with us. We actually considered Rosie and, as I mentioned, Romy, but they’re both a bit too popular.

I’ll start with a few quick thoughts, then move on to the names.

First, I can’t imagine the stress of trying to re-name a baby a second time. I’m so sorry that the first two names didn’t work out.

Second, regarding baby names that happen to be brand names (like Euphie/Eufy): I think this is just the new norm. So many start-ups are being given human names (e.g., Casper, Cora, Oscar, Clio, Albert, Roman, Dave) that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a name that is not also a brand. So this doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker.

Third, for those who want to comment with name suggestions, here are the names that were mentioned as being “too popular” above and where they currently sit in the girls’ rankings, just for reference:

  • Jovie ranks 763rd
  • Beatrice ranks 565th
  • Romy ranks 1,452nd (given to 147 baby girls in 2021)
  • Rosie ranks 461st

Name Ideas

Saffy

  • Saffy is a nickname for Saffron, a noun-name inspired by the name of the spice (which is made from crocus flowers).
  • Recent usage: Saffy has never appeared in the data.

Tashi (tah-shee)

  • Tashi is a Tibetan word (and personal name) meaning “auspicious.” Tashi delek, often translated as “blessings and good luck,” is a common greeting in Tibet. Tashi could also be a nickname for Natasha.
  • Recent usage: Tashi is given to a handful of babies (both genders) per year.

Meli (meh-lee)

  • Meli corresponds to the ancient Greek word méli, meaning “honey” — and, by extension, anything sweet. It could also be a nickname for the related name Melissa (“honeybee”).
  • Recent usage: Meli is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Revi

  • Revi is reminiscent of the words revelry (“merrymaking”) and reverie (“daydream”). It also corresponds to the Esperanto verb revi, which similarly means “to daydream.”
  • Recent usage: Revi has appeared in the data just twice so far.

Ceres (see-reez)

  • Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain crops (e.g., wheat, barley). Her name is the root of the word cereal. Ceres is a homophone of series, and also sounds similar to Siri (which could be a pro or a con, depending).
  • Recent usage: Ceres has appeared in the data five times so far.

Hebe (hee-bee)

  • Hebe was the Greek goddess of youth (hebe meant “youth” in ancient Greek). More importantly, she was the cup-bearer for the gods of Mount Olympus. She served them both nectar and ambrosia — so, food as well as drink. Hebe rhymes with Phoebe.
  • Recent usage: Hebe is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Minta

  • Minta is a nickname for Araminta, an English name of obscure origin. Minta sounds similar to the word mint (which refers to edible plants in the genus Mentha).
  • Recent usage: Minta hasn’t appeared in the data since the 1990s.

Rilla

  • Speaking of mint…Rilla could be short for Perilla, a genus of edible plants also in the mint family (Lamiaceae).
  • Recent usage: Rilla is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Liati

  • Liati is a vaguely Italian-sounding acronym that stands for the phrase: “Love is all there is.” (I discovered Liati in a news article several years ago.)
  • Recent usage: Liati has never appeared in the data.

Ovi

  • Ovi is reminiscent of two food-related Latin words: ovum, meaning “egg,” and ovis, meaning “sheep.”
  • Recent usage: Ovi is given to a handful of babies, mostly girls, per year.

Ridi (ree-dee)

  • Ridi corresponds to the Esperanto verb ridi, meaning “to laugh.” (The idea of the baby “always smiling” made me want to include at least one option linked to smiling/laughing.) Ridi rhymes with reedy.
  • Recent usage: Ridi has never appeared in the data.

Pomi

  • Pomi is a form of the Latin word pomus, meaning “fruit” or “fruit tree.” Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit trees.
  • Recent usage: Pomi has never appeared in the data.

Suvi (soo-vee)

  • Suvi is a Finnish word (and personal name) meaning “summer.” It sounds a lot like the French term sous vide (“under vacuum”), which refers to a cooking technique. That said, a start-up with a similar name (Suvie) does exist.
  • Recent usage: Suvi is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Kezi

  • Kezi is a short form of the Hebrew name Keziah, meaning “cassia tree.” The bark of the cassia tree (Cinnamomum cassia) is one of the sources of cinnamon.
  • Recent usage: Kezi has never appeared in the data.

Ravi

  • Ravi corresponds to both the Esperanto verb ravi, meaning “to delight,” and the French adjective ravi, meaning “thrilled, ravished.” It’s also a Hindi male name meaning “sun” (which reminded me of the baby being a “ray of sunshine”).
  • Recent usage: Ravi is given to a moderate number of baby boys per year, but has appeared in the data as a girl name just once so far.

Rava

  • Rava corresponds to the Esperanto word rava, meaning “delightful, ravishing.” It’s the adjectival form of ravi.
  • Recent usage: Rava has appeared in the data just twice so far.

Libi (lee-bee)

  • Libi is a modern Hebrew name based on the word libbi, meaning “my heart.” It also happens to be a form of the Latin word libum, which referred to a type of cake in ancient Rome.
  • Recent usage: Libi is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Pemma

  • Pemma corresponds to the ancient Greek word pemma, which referred to a type of cake in ancient Greece. It’s similar to both Emma and Pema (the Tibetan form of Padma, meaning “lotus”).
  • Recent usage: Pemma has never appeared in the data.

(Just wanted to note: Ancient cakes were made with ingredients like fruits, nuts, eggs, cheese, honey, flour, and olive oil. They were often prepared as offerings to the gods.)

Juni

  • Juni is a nickname for Juniper, a noun-name inspired by the coniferous plant, which produces “berries” (actually seed cones) that are used as a spice. It also means “June” in several European languages, and corresponds to the Esperanto verb juni (yoo-nee), meaning “to be young.”
  • Recent usage: Juni is given to a couple dozen babies, mostly girls, per year.

Rafi (rah-fee)

  • Rafi corresponds to the Sámi word ráfi, meaning “peace.” It’s also a nickname for the Spanish name Rafaela.
  • Recent usage: Rafi is given to a couple dozen baby boys per year, but has appeared in the data as a girl name just once so far.

Baya (bay-uh)

  • Baya is reminiscent of the word bay, as in the bay leaf (which comes from the bay laurel and is used in cooking). It also happens to correspond to the Spanish noun baya (pronounced bah-yah), meaning “berry.”
  • Recent usage: Baya is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Tilia (til-ee-uh)

  • Tilia corresponds to the Latin word tilia, meaning “linden tree.” Most linden trees (genus Tilia) have multiple edible parts (e.g., leaves, flowers). Tilia is also a short form of Ottilia.
  • Recent usage: Tilia is given to a handful of baby girls per year.

Yumi (yoo-mee)

  • Yumi is a Japanese name that rhymes with Lumi and happens to contain the word yum. :) It has various potential definitions, including “archery bow.”
  • Recent usage: Yumi is given to a moderate number of baby girls per year.

Because so many of these are informal/invented, the spellings aren’t set in stone. Saffy could be Saffi, Juni could be Junie, Revi could be Revy, etc. Likewise, the names themselves are malleable: Pomi could be changed to Poma, Tilia could be shortened to Tili, Ovi could be lengthened Ovia (almost like a condensed Olivia?).

(Also, in case anyone was wondering: Esperanto is a man-made language that dates back to the 1880s.)

Now it’s your turn. Do you like any of the above suggestions? What other baby names would you suggest to this reader?

10 thoughts on “Name needed: Baby girl, initially named Lumi, needs to be renamed

  1. Kiri and Tali are two names I like that fit with this pattern. It’s too bad about Lumi, though — I really like it. I would probably find a different name that is easy to nickname Lulu, if it were me.

  2. Hmm, if I were in your position, I would probably prioritize keeping Lulu as the nickname, since you seem to like it and the child might already be starting to recognize it. I’m guessing you’ve already considered Luisa, Lupe, Louise, Lucia etc, so here’s some more unusual names that you might be able to get Lulu from:
    Blue
    Eluned
    Illuminata
    Melusine
    Rallou

    I think Nancy provided a really good list of different names that fit your criteria. I would avoid Euphie – it sounds a little like euphemism, which isn’t a great association, and I think euphoria has a bit of a drug use connotation instead of just straightforward joy.

  3. I suggest Kilu>, from Swahili kilulu “little pearl”. Kilu von Prince is a German linguist. Rare to unique, and admits the nickname Lulu quite naturally. Fits in the scheme of 4-letter-2-syllable names you prefer so much.

  4. I don’t really have any recommendations for names, moreso tips that I think could help, coming from someone who is an adult with a unique name.

    Name your daughter for her as an adult. The names you’ve mentioned are very cute as nicknames but if she wants to be more formal or not use a nickname when she gets older then I’d find something that would work for her then. Find a name that you like that could last her a lifetime, that she could be 30 with, that she could work as a lawyer or a boring office job with. It doesn’t have to be a boring name, but it should allow her to not feel infantilised as an adult. Names ending in /i/ (-y, -i, -ie) automatically sound like nicknames because that’s where a lot of them come from. You can still give her a name ending with /i/ but it’s especially trendy right now for girls so if you don’t like popular names, I’d probably steer clear of those names.

    Find a name that “Lulu” works for. You clearly like the nickname Lulu and it’s a good nickname! I’d start looking at names that Lulu could be a nickname for and work from there, rather than trying to find a whole new name and nickname etc.

    I’d also recommend looking at your own culture(s), seeing as you have Spanish speaking family. If you don’t want her to have a name that would be embarrassing in Spanish, look for rare Spanish names.

    Remember that children are mean. “Deli” isn’t just a bad name because of Delhi, but because children will inevitably tease her for being named after a delicatessen. It wouldn’t be cute when that’s what she’s bullied for. I was bullied for my name and called “Saliva” even though it’s barely close. But that’s what kids do, they’ll pick anything slightly funny and keep picking and picking at you. If you have an unusual name, you’re going to deal with that, but try not to make it too easy for the bullies! That’s not fair to Lulu.

    Finally! Consider giving her a more usual name and an unusual name. That’s what my parents did for me and I’m glad – my mum wanted me to be able to choose whether I went by my unusual first name or my common middle name (or variations of it). She didn’t decide for me, she left it up for me when I was older. I like my name a lot now I’m older so I rarely use my middle name, but when I was younger I did toy with it as I got fed up with people mispronouncing/misspelling my name. I’m really glad I have both a unique name and a common name and a wide variety of nicknames to choose from! I’d definitely recommend this method of naming to other parents who want to name their child something unique! Just make sure there is always a more common name that they can use if they end up not liking their other name, or vice versa!

    I’m sorry I don’t have any names to offer, but I think that’s something only you can do, honestly. Everyone can suggest names all day long but it’s going to feel more special when it comes from you, like you serendipitously find the perfect name for your daughter. If you have ideas and guidelines in place, then I am sure you’ll find a great name! Just make sure you remember that the name is for her, not for you – that’s something a lot of parents forget when naming children because they are the ones using the name.

    Personally I think Luella is good because then you keep Lulu as a nickname and you can give her a more unique name elsewhere. I know you’re only asking about first names, but if you’re changing one…! You could also do Lucy, again, a common name, but it means “light” and Lulu is a good nickname, then you add the uniqueness elsewhere.

    This is purely my opinion and how I go about naming – I’ve never named a human before, so feel free to ignore my suggestions! I just like names and studying onomastics so I came up with these guidelines for myself.

  5. I liked Celena’s suggestion of uncommon Spanish names that could have Lulu as a nickname, so I searched user submitted names on Behind the Name and got these suggestions:
    Aluhé
    Ivalú
    Lucely
    Luimari
    Lujana
    Lulaida
    Luminosa
    Malu, Malula, Maluli
    Palutina

    Sorry if it seems like I’m ignoring a lot of what you asked for, it’s just that I think if you do want something totally different, Nancy’s got you covered. I don’t have anything better than what’s on her list!

  6. Assuming making Lulu the legal name is out, I would say to just name her something like Luisa or Lucia. They’re probably going to keep calling her Lulu anyhow, so what she needs is a formal version that will work when she’s applying to law school. It doesn’t need to be the most fantastically creative and meaningful name of all time, just a solid name that will work no matter who she grows up to be.

    Use a “boring” name and set your mind free to worry about other things.

  7. I just wanted to come back and suggest Alouette, meaning “lark” in French. I just saw it and thought it could work nicely in your situation – it’s uncommon, you still get Lulu, and the lark symbolises daybreak in popular culture/folklore. Also you get the cute rhyme (je te plumerai – good for brushing hair to?)

  8. I agree with the comments from Celine about giving your daughter a name that will be suitable for an adult. Many parents seem to focus on a fun name for a 5 year old with little regard for how that name would suit a 25 or 55 year old.

    Lulu is a perfectly fine nickname and you can certainly find a name that will work with it. You could choose a name like Lucinda or Louise or Tallulah with an easily seen connection to Lulu, but you could go a step away and choose a name with a definite, but not obvious connection. Two such names that could work are alluded to in others’ comments: Pearl which is from the meaning of Kilulu and Lark from the meaning of Alouette.

    Both Pearl and Lark are easy to spell, easy to pronounce and not overly popular. They also work well for a 40 year old woman with professional life who might not want to be known as Dr Lulu Lastname or Justice Lulu Lastname.

  9. I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that “cute” legal names are a deterrent to a serious career or life. The same may have been said fifty years ago about the names Tammy, Joni, Mazie, and Cindy, but those are all legal names of current senators. Names grow with a person and with a generation.

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