sibling names

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Do These Baby Names Go with the Flow?

My sons are Hunter and Tanner. I am having a third son soon and would like the baby's name to flow with theirs and not be very popular (in the top 100). What do you suggest I choose?

–My Three Sons

The idea of sibling name "flow" is a new one for me. Name flow typically applies to a single name's different components—to the smooth sound pattern of first-middle-last name combinations rather than to an easy verbal transition between three sibling names. But whether you're worried about the three brothers' names falling trippingly on your tongue or have the more common concern of wanting your kids' names to "go together"—to sound like a matched set—you've got the same major issue at stake: To –er or not to –er?

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Are These Brother Names at War with Each Other?

I have a 3-year-old son named Pax (meaning "peace"). I'm now pregnant with another son. This time around, I want a name that's simple, classic, easy to spell and recognize. I like the sound and simplicity of Mark, and how it sounds with our last name. Problem is, Mark means "warlike." So we'd have "war and peace" in our household! Big deal, or not?

–Peaceful Mama

The meanings are not a big deal. Most people don't think of Mark as meaning "warlike" for several reasons: It's too common and classic a name for anyone to recall its etymology. The meaning isn't immediately obvious, as it would be in a word name; it comes via the Roman war god, Mars. Above all, the notion that Mark truly means "warlike" isn't terribly accurate. Yes, Mark comes from the Roman name Marcus. No one really knows the origin of that name, but scholars assume it indicated a connection or dedication to Mars.

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In Search of a Sibling Name with the Right Ending

We're having trouble coming up with a name that pairs well with our son's name, Easton. Names that end in the –on sound, such as Greyson, Ashton, Hudson, etc., are not what we're looking for. Our last name begins with R, so names ending with the –er sound are also out. Suggestions?

–Easton's Mom

Many parents who are drawn to this style of name run into this problem. Today's fashionable surnames for boys almost all end in –n and –r. That gets repetitive as your family grows. And then you have the added complication of a surname starting with R.

To preserve the style of Easton but break out of the ends-with-N pattern, there are a couple of other groups of surname-style names with different ending sounds to try.

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Will Vikings Ransack My Daughters' Names?

My husband and I fell in love with the name Thora. We like that it's feminine, unique, traditional, and from his family tree. My only hesitation is that our first daughter is named Freya, which is the name of the Norse goddess of love and beauty—and Thora is the derived from the masculine Norse god Thor. I don't want people to think my husband and I are Norse mythology fanatics! Or think my daughter has a masculine name. Are those too many strikes? We had reservations about Freya too, but we're so happy we decided to choose it for our first daughter after all.

–Freya's Mom

It makes perfect sense that parents who love Freya would also be drawn to Thora—and not, as you point out, just because they face the twilight of the gods together. Both names are short and impactful, clearly feminine but full of brisk, strong sounds, and contain a mix of soft and harsh elements. They fit together beautifully without rhyming or obvious repetition. Their shared Scandinavian heritage is a point of obvious union, but no more remarkable than a pair of sisters named Francesca and Gabriella or Bernadette and Jacqueline.

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Is This Sibling Name Pair Unbearable?

My son is named Amos, and I am now pregnant with a daughter. My husband and I both love the name Annie, and would be ready to commit to it except for one problem. When you say "Amos and Annie" together, it sounds an awful lot like the old radio show "Amos 'n' Andy." That show was blatantly racist and is now considered outrageous and offensive. Would it be in bad taste to name our kids something so reminiscent of the show's title? Or are we overthinking it and it's really no big deal?

–Claire

I do think it's a problem. A cultural connotation that links a pair of names is hard to shake, even decades after the fact. "Amos 'n' Andy" went off the air in 1960—likely well before you were born—yet you know about it, and it comes to mind right away when you hear the similar-sounding combo of Amos and Annie. Each name is just fine on its own, but put them together and you have an issue.

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Has Disney Doomed These Brother Names?

My oldest son is Flynn Elias. I'm having another boy soon and love the name Rider. But I see a problem because of the Disney character Flynn Rider. Should I be concerned? Would spelling it differently help? My children's names would be Flynn, Beckett and Rider. Does it work, or would people think it's strange?

–Soon-to-Be Mom-of-Three

First, let's forget about spelling the name differently. How many people even know for sure how Flynn Rider's name is spelled? More importantly, how often will people first encounter your sons as a pair on paper, vs. spoken aloud—where the spelling doesn’t matter? So unfortunately, you can't spell your way out of this dilemma.

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Is This Nickname Unstoppable?

I love the name Harrison for our baby boy (big brother is Henry). But we're worried that people will call him Harry, a nickname we're not too fond of—my husband despises it! Do you think the nickname is unavoidable?

–Not Wild About Harry

No nickname is truly unavoidable, especially these days when plenty of boys are named Thomas and Michael—but never go by Tom and Mike. We're quite used to hearing full names instead of nicknames, and both parents and children are comfortable saying "It's Daniel, not Danny" until they get their point across.

But some nicknames are more likely than others. There are a few risk factors that come into play. One is when a name has a single, obvious nickname, like Chris for Christopher, or Beth for Bethany. Another is a formal name of three or more syllables.

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Is This Name One Lee Too Many?

My two girls are Mylee and Kynlee. Now that I am pregnant with daughter #3, everyone wants to know if we will give this one a –lee name as well. I am partial to Hadlee, but is it weird to start a pattern with name endings?

–Surrounded By Girls

Reality check time: By choosing two similar names for your older daughters, you already have started a pattern. But that doesn't mean you need to continue it. Other contemporary names would flow nicely with Mylee and Kynlee. Picture a sister named Braelyn, Skyler, Jayla, Jaycee, Larkyn, or Pyper. Names like these would fit right in with your baby's big sisters, and avoid a sudden swerve in style.

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When Does a Pattern Start to Matter?

I have two young daughters named Paisley and Paige. I am about to have a son and can't decide on a name. Should I stick with a "P" name for him? I like a few names that don't start with "P" but everyone tells me I should stick with the "P" theme for him. What do you think?

–Two (or Three?) Peas in a Pod

Usually, two names are not enough to set a letter pattern in stone, and your third baby is your big chance to branch out to a new letter. But in your case, I see two more factors to consider. First, your daughters' names don’t just have the same first initial; they share the same first three letters.

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Do These Names Fit to a "T"?

I want to call my son Kit, but I already have a daughter named Harriet. I once met a family with children called Scarlett, Wyatt and Noah, which I thought was too many T's (despite Noah having a different ending). I don't think Kit and Harriet are as jarring as Scarlett and Wyatt, but I'm afraid my perception is biased due to my love of both names. This will be my last child, so there won't be another name to break the pattern, like Noah.

–Harriet's Mom... and Kit's?

I've written many times before about the particular complications that come with naming a second (or later) child. The universe of available names narrows once a limiting factor is introduced. The meaning, nation of origin, cultural associations, and sounds and letters of an older sibling's name all dictate, to an extent, what the younger will be called.

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