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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baby Name to Consider: Rilea

Sarah writes:
My hubby and I have debated the name Rilea (RYE-Leah) Elizabeth as a name for a future daughter. Does this sound like a normal name? Obviously, she could have the ever trendy female "Riley" nickname, but do you think that name is bound to be too become too trendy in the next 10 years? We love the name, but have found many family members/friends wondering why we are "making up" a name. We are both teachers, so this is one of the few names not wrecked (or sweetened) by past students. But, being academics, we are hoping to have a name that could also sound educated without being stuffy. Does the name have too trendy of connotations? Or does the Rilea pronunciation give it (like we hope) an ability for the name to carry into adulthood?

What are your first impressions?

FYI: other kid names are already mostly decided on. We just like to have though this through and "lived" with the names for awhile first before kids come.
Others: BOY: Ethan David; Lincoln James; GIRL: Reese ________ (something biblical to be decided on)

-Sarah-- a girl with a common name, married to a guy that has that conversation "Where did you get your name from, can you repeat it again for me" every day.

I have two first impressions:

1. I would have pronounced it ry-LEE-ah on the first attempt.

2. I'd put it in the category Modern Invented Name, with names such as Kiana and Kiera, Brylee and Caleigh.

There's nothing wrong with multiple possible pronunciations OR with being a modern invented name. My name has been pronounced Kirsten and Kiersten and Kristine, even though I would have thought there was only one sensible way to pronounce the name Kristen, so there are few names that DON'T have to be corrected now and then. And every name has to be a modern invented name at SOME point in its life---and it makes sense to use one when the parents are teachers and more likely than other parents to encounter their child's name elsewhere...and elsewhere...and elsewhere....

AND, I think that if you LOVE a name, other issues are usually well worth it.

I think if you're looking for a name that sounds academic, I would recommend Leah instead. It's more common, yes, and you may have already had students with that name, but I think ROOTS are one of the things that can give a name academic heft. Modern Invented names tend to sound Trendy, because they tend to be formed from sounds and spellings that are currently trendy.

A much less common choice would be Amalia. It sounds similar to Rilea, but has ROOTS. And I'm hoping the "oh, it's a typo for Amelia" problem will be slightly lessened by a Malia living in the White House.

Or Cecilia: again, similar sound, but more academic.

I'd like to add a third impression of Rilea:

3. I spelled it differently every time I typed it in this post, and had to keep scrolling to the top to remind myself. I spelled it Rylia, then corrected it to Rylea, then corrected briefly to Rilia, then corrected to Rilea.

But of course all my impressions come from my own experiences with children and my own tastes in baby names and my own region of the country, so what we need is a much wider set of responses. Comments section, do your stuff!


MC said...

My first impression of that name was RILL-ee-uh. I would say that naming a child that would mean that she would spend her life correcting both the spelling and pronunciation of her name. I am not a fan of "made up" names like that, so I would call this one a "no."

Rereading that paragraph, I think it sounds a little harsh/snarky, which was not my intention. Sorry if it comes across that way!

Giselle said...

My first reading of the name was as Rylee...I didn't even notice the "a" at the end, and my brain jumped to the first known name I have.

Once I read further, I kept pronouncing it ry-Leah...until I read Swistle's comment on that very thing.

I don't think this name sounds bad, but I definitely don't think it sounds academic. I think it could work if you explain that you are both teachers and needed a name that wasn't ruined for you ;)

Patricia said...

(I've not yet read Swistle's comments or those above.)

I don't have a positive impression of the name Rilea. It looks like a made-up name, based on nothing but sound. I was surprised to read that both you and your husband are teachers. I would have guessed parents with just high school educations might come up with this name. Too, had you not revealed the pronunciation, I would have had no way of knowing how you're pronouncing it.

One of my concerns about naming styles today is that so many parents choose traditional male names for their sons, but feel a need to give their daughters a "unique", "unisex" or otherwise non-traditional female name. In your case, I find Ethan David and Lincoln James far 'classier' than Rylea or even Reese.

There are many girls' names that are lovely and not overly used. I would suggest that you read through the YCCII series on choosing names from the lists of names ranking lower in the Top 1000 to see if you can find some girls' names that appeal to you and would go well with the boys' names you like. Here's the link for names in the 200s; you should be able to easily access the results for the rest of the SSA Top 1000 by going forward in this excellent baby name blog.

Please don't take offense at my concerns about the name you're looking at. I'm just giving you my honest opinion. I think a name along the lines of your name -- Sarah -- but far less popular would be a good choice for you and would go well with Ethan or Lincoln.

Best wishes!

Sarah said...

I'm not a fan of invented names, though I know there are a lot of people who like them and think they sound fresh. I certainly think that your reasons for wanting a new name are valid.

THAT said, I like Swistle's suggestions on alternatives. These are off-beat choices with some cultural context which keep them from being difficult for people to adjust to.

Also, I have an Anna and a Thomas. I've known Annas in the past and my FIL is Tom. At first, in the very beginning, there was some connection to others who had the name 'first', but it quickly disappeared as I became used to the name and got to know my child. I meet other little girls named Anna now and it doesn't even cross my mind that they share a name with my daughter past the initial "Oh! My daughter is an Anna, too!"

I say, pick a name you both like for itself, but hasn't been utterly destroyed by a nose-picking delinquent, and run with it. That "I once knew a student. . ." feeling will fade, I promise. If you pick a name that is more common, like Katherine or Elizabeth, it will fade more quickly because "That One Student" won't be your only association, too.

Good luck!

beyond said...

For me this name is in the invented category as well. Pronunciation is an issue (I thought it was rye-LEE-ah), as is spelling. As someone with a name that is butchered at every opportunity I can say that this might be a problem -for you when she is a baby, and for her when she gets older.
I understand that you have fallen in love with this name, and if you do love it, you should go for it.
I wonder if Elizabeth Rilea might be an option for you? That way you could call her Riley (or any of the many Elizabeth nicknames) and she still has a timeless name.
Good luck.

Jan said...

My first thought was that it was pronounced Riley and was simply an alternate spelling. I think Ethan, Lincoln, and Reese seem to call for a different sib name.

Jen said...

I pronounced it the same way as Swistle when I saw it. I would also add to your consideration that Riley is a male name as well as female, which is neither good nor bad, but something to keep in mind. I would also say my first impression is that it is of the invented category.

Carla said...

I love it.
Academic? Perhaps not but the name itself has a pretty sound and flow to me. If you are okay with mispronunciations and misspellings I suggest if you love it - use it!
I'm not one who gravitates toward traditional names so this "made up" agrees with me.

Patricia said...

I like Swistle's suggestion of Leah Elizabeth which would go well with Ethan David.

Another suggestion -
Rosemary Elizabeth "Romy"

British American said...

I would class Rilea as trendy, rather than academic.

I read your desired pronunciation before trying to figure it out on my own. But I think I would be inclined to read "RILL-ee-ah" or "Ry-LEAH".

Personally I prefer Leah or Reese.

Anonymous said...

You could use both unisex names Riley and Reese for your first two children:
Riley Elizabeth or
Riley David

Reese Elizabeth or
Reece David

There are several spellings of Riley in the SSA Top 1000:
For boys:
Riley - ranks 107
Rylee - 796

For girls:
Riley - 38
Rylee 116
Ryleigh - 242
Rylie - 339

With 2 boys, you could use James or Lincoln as the middle name for the second boy -- Riley James or Reece Lincoln.

Patricia said...

Swistle's emphasis on "ROOTS" got me wondering about how Rilea may have evolved. Here's background on Riley from one of my favorite name references, "The Great Big Book of Baby Names" by Cleveland Evans, Ph.D., President, American Name Society:
"Riley - Irish Gaelic 'Raghailligh', perhaps "valliant"; or Middle English 'Ryeley, "rye field," a place name. This surname boomed in popularity as an American first name during the 1990s as parents searched for alternatives to the extremely popular name Ryan. Riley was the 102nd most common name for boys in 2004... However, just as happened with Ashley during the 1970s, Americans began to use Riley extensively for girls only a few years after it became popular for boys. By 2004 there were twice as many girls as boys being given the name."

Rylea (most used spelling) first shows up in SSA Beyond the Top 1000 Names for 1993, when 8 American girls were given the name. Last year 43 girls were named Rylea; 8, Ryleah; 5, Rilea.

Thus, Riley as a surname;
Riley taken up as a boys' name;
Riley being used for girls as well;
Riley more widely used for girls than for boys;
Riley's spelling for girls being open to any spelling due to the name not being a traditional name - Rylee being one of these "creative" spellings;
Rylee being altered to Rylea, which could be pronounced several different ways and probably is;
Ryleah evolving, perhaps to stress the 'a' ending or to tie in with the established name Leah;
Rilea, a tie to the original surname spelling "Riley"

Interesting, but I wouldn't recommend this trendy name.

appellationmountain said...

My first thought was that the name was just a respelling of Rilea, with the "ea" standing in for a "y," as in Chelsea.

But Swistle wouldn't have posted it with "Name to Consider" if it wasn't different. Without that cue, I wouldn't have realized you were looking for a three-syllable sound.

I like Riley. Riley and Reese seem like sisters. Rilea and Reese sound like a sister and brother.

Without knowing your other names, I'd say Rilea Elizabeth is fine, assuming you don't mind explaining the pronunciation.

I'm just not sure it fits the other names you like.

StephLove said...

I'm always a little hesitant to pile on when the comments are all going against a name, but it does sound made up to me.

I liked the suggestions of Leah and Cecelia.

Or if you like R names with a Gaelic feel-- there's Rhea, Rhiannon, Riana or Rowen.

I also want to suggest Lydia, though I don't have a good justification. It just popped into my head.

Anonymous said...

I live in Oregon and there is a military training location on the coast that is named Camp Rilea. Everyone in my are is familar with it's pronouciation, and so it doesn't strike me as made up at all, because it's not! If you love it, use it!

rachel said...

Hmm. I thought was pronouncing it like Riley before I read through. Without the "h" from Leah on the end I didn't you you wanted another syllable. Do you not like Ryleah? Rileah?

I also agree with other posters about it not having the same style as the other names you like. I prefer Riley/Ryleigh or Leah, especially in combination with your other choices.

This, coming from a Rachel who constantly has to correct name spelling and once even had someone look at my name and call me Rachelle. I can't imagine life as a Rilea would be very easy in that regard!

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I too, am having trouble with this one... I can't seem to pronounce it any other way that Ry-Leah... or, like the name Riley, with the sound "UH" at the end... and that doesn't really appeal to me. I also see the RILL-ee-uh pronounciation based on the spelling Rilea.

OH! And... the "Chelsea"/"Rilea" -ea ending sound connection is a good point, it looks like an invented spelling for Riley again.

I'm just not sure about this name... I like StephLove's other R name suggestions... or Swistle's idea of Cecilia or similar much better. Sorry!!

Kayt said...

I'm sorry, I don't care for 'invented' names, and I don't think Rilea looks or sounds academic. It sounds kind of low-rent to me, to be perfectly honest. I think Ramona, Daniela, or Linnea would be nice alternatives that sound more academic. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I don't think its academic, either. I am from Missouri, and I know its harsh, but there are dozens and dozens of Riley female children in our schools and usually the parents haven't been to college. They also spell it RyLee, too. It reminds me of the way I think about the name Misty or Dusty. I know some nice Mistys and Dustys, but I don't love their names.

Why don't you select your favorite author/researcher/academician and name your child that? I think that would make a lot of sense and would hold a personal meaning to you.

I like the name Leah a lot, too.

Megz said...

Sorry but I agree Rilea seems made up and trendy, and would get confused with Riley all the time.

If the Leah part of the name is important to you, how about Thalia instead? As one of the Greek muses it is a much more academic and uncommon name.

Susan said...

I thought I figured out how the name was pronounced, then found out I was wrong, and now I'm not sure how it's pronounced. In my opinion it's a hard name to say, no matter how it's pronounced.

Patricia said...

Interesting about Camp Rilea (pronounced the same way) in Oregon: "Camp Rilea (1927-Present) - Established in 1927 as an Oregon National Guard summer training area named Camp Clatsop. Name was changed to Camp Rilea in 1959 after Maj. Gen. Thomas E. Rilea, Adjutant General of Oregon. Still active. " Thus Rilea is a surname in its own right, not just an offshoot of the surname Riley.

So what is the etymology of the surname Rilea? According to, that's unclear: "Rilea Name Meaning and History
1. It could be a respelling of Irish Riley.
2. Alternatively, it may be of French origin, perhaps a respelling of Rillieux, a habitational name from Rillieux-la-Pape in Rhône."

Googling "Rilea," I came across
Rileah Vanderbilt, professional name of Rileah Elizabeth Hayes, an actress and amateur film producer.

I have no idea how she pronounces her name, but for me, ry-Lee-ah flows best and seems the most natural pronunciation.

Other than this one Rileah, the other Google finds for Rilea were either surnames, the military camp in Oregon or Rilea's Pub in Colorado Springs.

Patricia said...

I also came across a UK moms' discussion of creative spellings for Riley -- Rilea (pronounced as Riley) included -- which illustrates how non-academic this name seems to be:

And here's a similar discussion among American moms:

Other links give me the impression that the spelling Rilea is usually considered as a more feminine appearing spelling of Riley.

Christine said...

I wouldn't use it, because it just isn't my style of name... and it does sound more trendy than academic to my ear, ...But if you love it use it! I will say that I thought it would be pronounced Rill- ay (like yay!)- if you want it pronounced the way you indicated I might try spelling it Ryleah.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

We actually do live a few hours away from Camp Rilea. That's where we initially heard (and decided we liked) the name.

We love the name Riley, but think that the full name Rilea would clue people (and teachers) into her being a female and also give her some options and an unusual first name like her dad.

Thank you all for the suggestions and information about the name.

For the record, I do love the name Cecelia, but the hubby and family do not even though it was a family name.