Dear Jennifer,

What is your opinion on legally changing your name simply because you don’t like it? I’m 30, and I’ve never liked my name. It just doesn’t feel like “me.” 

I was born “Chelsea,” and started spelling it “Chelsi” when I was 13 in an effort to improve how I felt about my name. My family legally changed the spelling for me when I was 16. Now not only do I still dislike the name, I think my spelling looks immature. 

I’m planning to make a career change this year, so I think if I’m going to change my name, now is the time.

I dislike my name for a couple reasons. First, it doesn’t sound good with my last name, which starts with an “S.” People tend to mispronounce my last name, giving my name a “Chelsi-See” sound. And second, I’ve never met a “Chelsea” I liked. I’ve even had friends throughout my life tell me I’m the only nice “Chelsea” they know, so I think the name might be perceived negatively when I introduce myself.

I’ve been considering a variety of potential names for myself. I’ve always been partial to “Sara,” but question how it sounds with my last name. (I also happen to have a cousin I’ve never met, and probably never will meet, who is named Sara.) I also think the names “Anya” and “Isla” are beautiful and would pair well with my last name, but I know the latter is trending today, which might make it sound too young for me. “Caitlin” or “Cayla” would allow my initials to stay the same.

Any advice on renaming myself, and if I should even do it at all, would be appreciated!

-Not a Chelsi

p.s. I’ve also been trying to come up with possible nicknames as an option, since I don’t have one. I’ve never liked “Chels.” I thought “Ellie” could be a kind-of nickname, but I don’t love it. “Elia” or “Ellia” is the only (stretching it) nickname I do like.

Dear Chelsi/Chelsea,

As I wrote in my quick answer to your letter, it is your name, tied to your identity, and now that you’re an adult you can absolutely use whatever name that you want (within legal limitations). You can change it casually, which means just tell friends/family that you are going by a new name; or you can change it legally.

If you choose to change your name legally, you will have to verify why you are changing your name, fill out a lot of paperwork, and possibly appear in court. It’s different depending on the state in which you live (assuming you’re in the U.S.) They want to make sure that you are not changing your name to evade debtors, legal proceedings, or committing a crime.

If you really feel that your name is not a fit at all and that you would be so much happier with a new moniker, and feel that the time and expense is worth it, then go ahead. I’ve known people who have changed their first names casually and legally.

Obviously, it would be easier for you and those around you if you just change the spelling back to its original Chelsea rather than choosing an entirely new name. It probably would be easier for the state, too, since that was the name on your birth certificate. But you’re the only one who can decide what feels right to you.

As for nicknames, Elsie or Ella are both viable for the name Chelsea, and I’ve also heard Chels.

Finally, for what it’s worth, Chelsea is the name of a part of London, UK known for its artistic culture and “posh” shops. It carries with it a connotation of wealth, arts, and society. At least for the Brits 🙂

I hope that helps, and please follow up and let me know what happens! We’re going to produce a podcast episode this year on the subject of changing your name, so I’m definitely interested in hearing back.






Jennifer Moss (she/her) is the founder of, author of The Baby Names Workbook, and Producer of The Baby Names Podcast. Jennifer is widely regarded as the leading expert on popular baby name trends and the naming process, serving as the authoritative source on the subject for national and international media.

Jennifer entered the tech arena in the 80s as a software developer and database architect, and became a pioneer in the Internet industry. In addition to operating, Jennifer owns a web development agency in central California.