Why Does Everybody Misspell My Daughter's Name?

Filed under: Baby Names, Expert Advice: Babies


My daughter's name is Caitlin, and I have the hardest time finding anything with her name spelled the correct way. This is the traditional Irish spelling, as noted in baby-naming books. So why do I constantly see her name with a "K?" And worse Katelyn....what the heck is that?

- Melissa (one "L" two "S's")


You're absolutely right that Caitlin is considered the traditional spelling of the name. Why do so many American parents spell it Katelyn? Well, let's turn the question around. Why do you pronounce it Katelyn?

Caitlin is an Irish form of Catherine. It has been an Irish-American favorite for generations, in the Anglicized spelling Kathleen.

Yes, Kathleen is just a phonetic version of Caitlin. Depending on local accents an Irishman might say KAHT-leen or koyt-HLEEN, but not KAYT-lin. That's a modern American reading of the old Irish spelling.

Confusing, eh? It just shows how hard it is to pin down authentic versions of ethnic names. Strictly speaking, the Irish Caitlin should have an accent mark (Caitlín) or even be written in Gaelic script. Things get even more confusing with names that come from a completely different writing system like Arabic. Should you write Mohammad, Mohamed, or Muhammad? There's no one correct answer.

As a parent choosing a name, you should pick the spelling that best reflects what you love about the name. If Irish heritage is important to you, Caitlin is the way to go. If you just like the bright, girlish sound -- an updating of Carolyn and Jaclyn -- then Katelyn is a reasonable choice.

Have you struggled with creative spellings? Share your experiences! And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.