My husband and I are expecting our second child, a girl, in early December. We have a two year old son named Arlo Harrison. We actually came to a consensus on our daughter's name very quickly due to early concerns that she might have a very serious birth defect (which thankfully was later shown not to exist!) We decided on the name Matilda Kate. We very much like the name's meaning: "mighty in battle," and were drawn to it when it looked like she might have some early battles to overcome.
So why am I writing? We are planning to call her "Tilly," but I have no idea the correct way to spell it, and I am very much one who likes to spell things THE correct way! I've looked around google to see if I could find a consensus on Tilly vs. Tillie, but have yet to find a concrete answer. My initial thinking was that "Tillie" was correct, but then I read somewhere that it had too many parallel lines, and now I wonder if that's not the case. I don't find that I have a strong preference for either one, and I realize that having her name misspelled is not as big of a deal as it would be if Tillie/Tilly were her given name, but I'd still love your and your reader's thoughts on which is most commonly accepted!
Many, many thanks!
It is times like this I wish for a giant shelf of name encyclopedias. Well. I do have The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, and that is a start. It has a listing for Tilly but not for Tillie. Tillie is mentioned within the Tilly listing as a "variant." So according to The Oxford Dictionary of First Names (the book I trust most for name origins and meanings), Tilly is the main spelling.
The Baby Name Bible lists both nicknames in the same entry, with the -ie spelling first: "Tillie, Tilly." (This choice may be alphabetical: Abby/Abbie is also listed "Abbie, Abby.") Then in the description, when one or the other spelling needs to be chosen, it chooses Tillie: "Tillie is cute, frilly, and sassy all at once."
The Baby Name Wizard lists nicknames for Matilda in this order: "Tilda, Tillie, Tilly, Mattie." In the description, when one spelling needs to be chosen, it chooses Tilly: "It's also rising in the U.K., along with the nickname Tilly." Under the listing for Abby, it says this: "In the 19th century, Abbie breezed along happily with names like Tillie and Mattie. Today Abby is the most common spelling..." (I include this because perhaps it indicates that the dominant ending changes with fashions.) Tillie is listed as a sister name for Lottie and Roscoe; Tilly is listed as a sister name for Maisie, Pippa, and Roxie.
Tilly is the one I would have guessed was the main one; in general, I think of the -ie ending as less standard for most names, although of course there are exceptions (Carrie, for example, or Hattie or Maggie or Elsie).
For the specific example of Tilly/Tillie, I prefer the look of Tilly---but that of course would be purely subjective. I think one reason I prefer the Tilly spelling is that -lly/-llie words seem to more often end in Y: Billy, chilly, dilly-dally, filly, frilly, hilly, Holly, Kelly, Milly, Molly, pilly, Polly, Sally, Shelly, silly, Willy. In favor of the Tillie spelling: Billie, Callie, Ellie. (Other -llie/-lly examples to add to the list?)
The Social Security Administration's data base can't tell us how people are spelling it when it's a nickname, but it can tell us that in 2011, there were 51 new baby girls named Tilly and 36 named Tillie.
I think the answer here is that there is no answer: both spellings are valid, neither one is "right." You can choose the spelling you prefer. And she will probably spell it both ways in junior high!
If it would be helpful, we can also have a poll over to the right to see what most people consider the correct spelling. [Poll closed; see results below.]