There's More Than One Right Way to Spell Some Names

11/08/2010 09:14 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The idea for this blog arose, as so many good things do, from the nameberry forums. This forum focused on names that had more than one legitimate spelling, and asked visitors to pick their favorite of the two (or more).

With so much talk these days about yooneek spellings of names -- variations invented to make a name more "special" -- it's interesting to explore those names that have more than one bona fide spelling.

Of course, there may be some controversy over what constitutes bona fide. On the forum, some people took issue with spelling variations springing from different origins of a name: Isabelle as the French version and Isabel the Spanish, for instance, and so not really pure spelling variations in the way that Katherine and Kathryn are. Others argued over spelling variations that might more accurately be differences in a name's gender or pronunciation.

There are obviously a lot of ways to split this hair, but here are some girls' names with more than one spelling that we consider legitimate. Sure, Debra might be a modern variation of the Biblical Deborah, but it was so widely used in mid-century America it's now legitimate.

  • Annabel and Annabelle (and Anabel)
  • Anne and Ann
  • Ariana and Arianna
  • Briony and Bryony
  • Brooke and Brook
  • Claire and Clare
  • Cleo and Clio
  • Deborah and Debra
  • Eleanor and Elinor
  • Elizabeth and Elisabeth
  • Gillian and Jillian
  • Greer and Grier
  • Hailey and Hayley and Haley (Same name? Hard to say... )
  • Isabelle and Isabel (plus the Scottish Isobel)
  • Jean and Jeanne (In the U.S., they're pronounced the same)
  • Juliet and Juliette
  • Katherine and Catherine and Katharine and Kathryn
  • Leila and Layla
  • Lilian and Lillian
  • Madeline and Madeleine and Madelyn
  • Margo and Margot
  • Marjorie and Margery
  • Maud and Maude
  • Rachel and Rachael
  • Rebecca and Rebekah
  • Sarah and Sara (some people on nameberry think that these are pronounced differently, but not necessarily)
  • Sophia and Sofia
  • Susannah and Susanna
  • Teresa and Theresa
  • Vivian and Vivienne

Other spelling variations of the same name often signal gender differences. Sure, there are boys named Jessie and Shawn, but the first variation here is more usually used for girls, the second for boys.

  • Jessie and Jesse
  • Leigh and Lee
  • Payton and Peyton
  • Remi and Remy
  • Renee and Rene
  • Shawn and Sean
  • Sydney and Sidney

Some unisex names have more than spelling variations now divided along gender lines.

  • Devon and Devin
  • Dylan and Dillon
  • Riley and Reilly
  • Wiley and Wylie

There are many fewer traditional boys' names with more than one legitimate spelling, but here are a handful we think count.

  • Brian and Bryan (Bryan, the variation, is more popular now)
  • Dominic and Dominick
  • Edmond and Edmund
  • Elliot and Eliot and Elliott
  • Geoffrey and Jeffrey
  • Glenn and Glen
  • John and Jon
  • Mark and Marc
  • Stephen and Steven
  • Stuart and Stewart