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Your Baby's Name Is Not a Battleground

Last time, I wrote about the desperate need for baby name manners among strangers. Today, I'd like to bring that closer to home. The most heated -- and saddest -- baby name conflicts I hear about happen within families.

Name choices are personal and powerful. They can strengthen bonds, but they can also drive wedges. When broader family conflicts are at work, they can even be used as weapons. The deeper problems are far beyond the scope of a baby name column. But within my name realm, I make this plea to parents: whatever your family issues may be, please, never put your baby's name in the middle of them.

Every child deserves a name given in the spirit of love, one that will build bridges, not burn them. It's not fair for an innocent child to grow up with her name standing as a symbol of resentment. It's not responsible of you, as a parent, to knowingly give her a name that will hurt those around her. And if others do make the mistake of choosing a hurtful name, it's up to all of us grownups to look past the name and accept the child behind it.

Here is a sampling of letters I've received, as a reminder of the effect that callous name choices -- and overreactions to them -- can have. Let's all try to do better. (All names that follow have been changed to protect the children's privacy.)

"My sister had a child named Matthew. My friend started seeing my ex brother-in-law. She got pregnant and my ex brother-in-law did not marry her. She knew my sister had a Matthew with the same guy but she had the baby and named him Matthew. So now we have half brothers with the same name!"

"I had picked out my baby's name first. She was born one month before my cousin's. She named her baby the same name. I was angry and foolish. My cousin died shortly after, and her baby girl was left with no mom at the age of four. I felt so guilty for being so petty."

"My husband left me when my baby was two months old. Later I discovered that he's living with his affair of many years and he named my daughter after her name. Could I legally change her name? It is an agony to call my baby her name."

"We were in the long process of foster-adopting our two year old daughter Victoria Rose (who had lived with us since she was three days old) when my husband's brother and his wife gave birth to their daughter and decided to name her Victorya Rose. Since the fathers are brothers, our girls have the same last names too. My mother-in-law didn't intercede on our behalf because the newest granddaughter was 'blood related' and 'we weren't sure if you were keeping her.'"


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

June 22, 2010 8:38 AM
By Abby@AppMtn (not verified)

Wow. And wow again. I'm speechless.

June 22, 2010 10:39 AM
By Joni (not verified)

Oh, what agony behind these stories! I really hope that people take these words to heart.

June 22, 2010 12:03 PM
By Paula (not verified)

In spite of the adults' insensitivity in the Victoria/Victorya Rose situation, an easy solution would be for each set of parents to call their daughter by a different nickname. Vicky for one, Tory for the other, for example. And both sets of parents need to put their own conflict aside and let these cousins grow up together - chances are they will LOVE knowing their share a name! Adults, keep a sense of humor about it and the girls should be fine!

June 22, 2010 1:01 PM
By Katsy (not verified)

My mom and her sister are the only two out of four kids in their family with kids. My cousin and my brother are both named after our grandfather. My cousin is John David "Jack" and four years later Thomas David, my brother, arrived. To this day Jack's mom refuses to acknowledge Thomas' middle name as David becuase it is "her name". Since David was used as the middle name by two sisters who wanted to honor their father, I see no reason why any one has a claim on the name. Neither boy goes by David, so when we recieve cards addressed to "Mary Katherine and Thomas" it is especially hurtful to my brother. This isn't near as bad as the stories above, but I thought it went along with the topic.

June 22, 2010 1:40 PM
By Anny (not verified)

If new parents can't make a kind and generous decision about a baby's name, how are they going to face the bigger, more wrenching decisions that come with being a family? Stories like this seem like the tip of the iceberg--surely there are bigger problems under the surface, with the naming issue being just the visible part. The narrow-minded grandmother who wouldn't consider an adopted child's name to be as "real" as a biological child's isn't going to stop there--she's going to make distinctions between these two children every chance she gets.

There are so many wonderful names to choose from--why waste time on the few that will cause pain and anger? Be more creative and less possessive.

June 22, 2010 1:47 PM
By Daisy (not verified)

After I read all of those stories, I realize that my husband and I did something similar, but not on purpose. We named our son Erik. After the birth, his parents gave us a list of family addresses that they would like birth announcements sent to. After sending the announcements, we got a card from his cousin (same last name), signed by their whole family, including their son, Erik. Until we got this card, we had no idea that his cousin had a son, let alone with the same first name and same spelling of our son. It really isn't a big deal to us. The two Eriks live a few hundred miles apart and are about 17 years apart in age. They might meet each other someday, they might not.

I do think the worst story on here is the one where the husband named the baby after his mistress. I would want to legally change my daughter's name under those circumstances too.

June 22, 2010 2:09 PM
By Jenna (not verified)

wow... people suck sometimes.

June 22, 2010 5:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Why do people not realize that spelling the same name differently DOES NOT make it a different name?!

June 22, 2010 6:32 PM
By Amanda (not verified)

The saddest thing I've learned about growing up is that a vast number of people still act just as mean and immature as they did in high school. Each baby deserves to have their own name!

June 23, 2010 6:39 AM
By CP (not verified)

I am saddened but not surprised. I have a cousin who is divorced & both he & his ex-wife are remarried. My cousin has 2 year old daughter "Olivia" & his ex is pregnant. She pointedly told their children together that she is sure her child is a girl & she will be naming her child Olivia too.

June 23, 2010 7:50 AM
By with an E (not verified)

I have 3 sibs, and all of us named one boy John in honor of our father. John III goes by John, and we have John William (Will), Jonathan, and John Benjamin (Ben). Even if they all went by John--so what?

My kids also have 3 "Uncle Davids"--David with the goats, Aunt Carol's David and Aunt Sue's David. No problemo.

June 23, 2010 8:22 AM
By ED (not verified)

It's surprising that jealous mothers believe that giving their child the same name as their partner's previous child will mean the younger offspring will replace their namesake in the father's affections. Instead, it reveals that the new mother is psycho and petty.

June 23, 2010 12:23 PM
By Pamela S. (not verified)

My sister-in-law is from Spain. Her father has 10 brothers and each of them has named his first born son after their father and eldest brother, Marcelo. Her father is the only one who has no son named Marcelo. She says it's very confusing at family reunions. You call out "Marcelo" and half the men (and several small boys too) turn their heads. It's something the family jokes about and there are no hang-ups or hurt feelings.

June 23, 2010 7:01 PM
By MMM (not verified)

My husband is one of 7 children and has over 100 first cousins. I come from a small family and this has been totally new for me. Because there are so many McConkies, names are being "taken" so quickly. I'm worried that some of his siblings or cousins will take names that we love and are planning on using....

One name that my husband has liked since he was a teenager, for a little boy, is Redd (pronounced like the color red). It is a family name. He would like the full name to be Redd Fielding (also a family name) McConkie. I like the whole name and think it goes well together. I was unsure about Redd as a first name for a while, but it is growing on me. If we had a redhead, we definitely wouldn't use it :), but otherwise, we're planning on it (I'm not even trying to get pregnant yet so it's still a long way off). What do you think?

June 24, 2010 10:43 AM
By Erin (not verified)

This happened to my sister! She has been in love with the name Molly since she was pregnant with her first child (who happened to be a boy) and was saving it for her little girl. Then her sister-in-law got pregnant and found out she was having a girl. The sister-in-law and my sister don't get along. So, as a "war maneuver" the sister-in-law named her daughter Molly--even though my sister was also pregnant and it had been made more than clear that my sister planned on using the name. Ultimately, my sister decided to drop the name because the two cousins would be attending the same school and would be in the same grade and it would be too confusing.

June 25, 2010 4:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My nephew in his late teens had an out-of-wedlock child and the mother of the baby would not acknowledge his paternity. I am not standing up for my nephew's reputation; however, what the baby's mother did was deliberately name the baby after my nephew's BROTHER, if you can follow that. She did this because the two young men do not get along and it's a small community and it would get around and hurt the baby's father even more, not to mention his innocent brother.
To me, this is regretable and disgusting behavior by both the parents but the child suffers for a lifetime! Anyone ever hear of this type of story before?

June 25, 2010 5:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My aunt and I have the same first name (not the same situation as the half-brothers Matthew, I know) and I have developed a sixth sense as to when they were talking to me or my aunt. I have a total of 4 Aunt Marys, and my family refers to them by their maiden names to tell them apart.

Families find ways to tell apart people with the same first name. It's just too bad when people get offended by someone "stealing" their name, when these names are just trendy - there might be 2-3 other Matthews in Matthew's class when he goes to school.

June 25, 2010 7:20 PM
By GeorgiaPeach (not verified)

Erin - that's awful! I can somewhat relate, as my sister in law and I also don't get along, and I wouldn't put it past her to do something like this. I've just been trying to tell everyone that I love a particular name, and it's kind of become a "known" fact in our family that, if we have a girl, she will be named XXX. While I don't necessarily like "claiming" names, it was the only way I could think of making sure she doesn't take it.. because if she did, then everyone would know she only did it to get back at me and ruin the image she tries to portray (as being the nice, innocent daughter in law in the family).

June 26, 2010 4:36 PM
By Hilary (not verified)

I find it extremely odd when extended families get into petty arguments over names. Does it really matter if two cousins name their children the same thing? In my large family there are many names that are repeated in the same generation and in different ones, and it's never caused any issues. In fact, I like the fact that we have family names.

June 26, 2010 8:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I feel so bad for the kids in the above stories.

My husband's mother died quite a while ago and her name was Nancy. It's a very outdated name and I don't want my baby girl (due in august) to have her name. So we made a compromise. Since Lorelie is a more modern name (and I've always loved it) we're naming her Lorelie Nancy Brewer. He gets his mom's tribute but our daughter doesn't get made fun of for a dated name. Can't we all just get along?

June 28, 2010 1:49 AM
By Bebe (not verified)

Ummm... anonymous - kids don't get made fun of for having a dated name.

Be honest.

June 28, 2010 4:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous: No one is going to make fun of a kid because her name Nancy is considered "outdated". Besides, I know of 2 Nancys under the age of 10.

I also don't get why families are so bothered about the reuse of names. Names are repeated over and over in my family. No one cares since no one owns a name.

June 30, 2010 3:18 AM
By MMM (not verified)

I'm nervous some one in my family will use a name we love, because more unique/family names are common. It's one think to have to Johns and have them go by John and Jonathon or something, but two Redds? That is where it gets weird. Also, I know it would bother my in-laws if we used a name they used and since I would want to offend THEM it would become "off-limits" for me.

Any thoughts on Redd?

June 30, 2010 3:19 AM
By MMM (not verified)

*It's one thing to have two Johns....(sry for the typos)

June 30, 2010 10:17 PM
By <3sgc<3 (not verified)


As the wife of a redhead, I will have to warn you that oftentimes the red hair isn't present at birth, and doesn't even show up or become really truly red until much later in life (sometimes 2-3 years)! Redd itself is a cute name, and if you don't know of any redheads in the family, then you're probably safe. Of course, I think if you DO wind up with a redhead, probably most people will think the name "Redd" is a nickname, not that that's a bad thing. My father had red hair, so his mother named his younger sister "Cherry", thinking she'd have red hair too. Her hair is as blonde as can be! So naming/not naming a child based on hair color is hopeless, because ultimately you never know. Also, on "claiming" names for children that aren't even conceived yet, I think that's a bit silly. Who knows if you'll even get pregnant, or if you do, that you'll have the specific gender of the name you're "claiming"? First come, first served has worked for me so far.

July 1, 2010 1:14 AM
By MMM (not verified)

My husband and I both have dark hair (as well as my parents) but my 2 brothers are both redheaded (one is especially bright) and my niece on my husbands side is a bright redhead. There's definitely a chance we'll end up with one. I haven't even really thought about it taking a while for the red hair to show up-good point. Everyone in our family was born with it.

We've never "claimed" names, I'm just saying we'd be really sad if we couldn't use our favorite names--that's why I'm worried about it.

July 2, 2010 11:44 PM
By T.R. (not verified)

Bebe & Anonymous: I knew kids who were teased for having old-lady/old-man names that were unpopular for the time.
FWIW, Nancy wasn't one of them, and I think it was partly a cool/uncool thing rather than ONLY an issue of name being associated with a certain era -- but still, I can understand the poster's concern.

July 5, 2010 11:28 PM
By Amy (not verified)

Wow! Some of these stories are amazing! We had a tricky situation with names too - when we fell pregnant with our first child, my husbands grandfather had only one great grandchild and her hame was 'Lilly'. Problem was, lilly was the name i had had my heart set on since i was little (in honour of my grandmother & great grandmother) After teh death of my gandmother i had my heart set on using it, but in the end i just couldn't bring myself to leave my husbands lovely old grandfather with his only two great-grandchildren (in a small family) having the same name! in the end, we picked something else, and I'm really glad we did.

July 5, 2010 11:30 PM
By Amy (not verified)

note: instead, we gave our daughter a family middle name that is just as special, but less of an issue!

July 6, 2010 10:27 PM
By Kara (not verified)

Oh wow. My sister-in-law and I are both expecting in December, and we have both declared Carter as our favorite boy name. Since it was my grandfather's name, it's hard not to feel like I have "dibs" on it, but seriously... we can pick another! Yikes. It's just a name!

July 9, 2010 12:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Yikes, I have a very close family member who INSISTED that "everybody" named their boy the same name after she named her child. While I had told her that she was WRONG and explained to her that my best friend had that name picked out long before she was even married, she didn't believe me. This boy and another boy with the same name aren't family members and will never see each other. Ridiculous!!!

July 10, 2010 2:50 PM
By Rachel (not verified)

I don't understand what the big deal is. I mean I understand in some of those stories, like the new wife naming the daughter the same name as the "old" wife did, or the husband naming the daughter after his mistress, but just using the same names? I wouldn't be mad at my sister if she used a name I liked, or even a name I had used. I like the name Mila, and so does my friend, and we have already talked about how cute it would be to have kids with the same name. Its just a name, use what you like and everyone can get over it! If my SIL used a name I liked I MIGHT not use it, just to keep the peace, but I wouldn't be mad if I named my baby something and then my SIL used the same name. Some people name all of their own children the same thing (George Foreman).

My dad's name is Ricky Allen M.(yes its really Ricky). When his birth announcement went out a lady (I'm guessing a distant relative) called my grandma and told her she had to change his name, because apparently she had named her son that (I guess they were related and just not close enough to talk to each other, I don't know). My grandmother didn't. It did become something of a problem because the other Ricky grew up into something of a criminal and my dad was once taken to jail because there was a warrent out for "him".

July 12, 2010 3:32 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I am 5 months pregnant and was recently told I couldn't use my beloved Grandmother's name because a cousin who has her middle name doesn't want to be called xxxxxx senior. Am I really supposed to actually listen to this woman? All my life I have known I would name my daughter after her and all of the sudden I am supposed to change my life's dreams? I don't care if every girl in the family after me takes the same name. I would never ask someone to give up their dream for a petty reason.

July 18, 2010 4:02 PM
By montserrat (not verified)

@paula - two kids, same town, same age, same names... classic identity theft scenario. Failing that, massive confusion. Even father-son same names can be cumbersome when official (poorly inputted) data is involved. It usually takes months of convoluted paperwork and endless phone conversations.

If possible, try to invididualize the name (spelling, extra middle name). Saves a lot of hassle in the long run.

July 24, 2010 10:33 AM
By Yam Erez (not verified)

Our neighbors-at-the-time name liked the name Idan, but you "can't name" a girl Idan, so they chose a "girls' name" for her. Two years later, we named our daughter Idan (after my grandmother, Ida). Four years later, they had a son, but didn't name him Idan "because the neighbors have an Idan". So they named him Aidan. Fast forward a decade, they've since moved away, and no one is certain how to pronounce Aidan. Moral: Name your kid what you want to name her, and don't twist yourself into a pretzel trying to follow all sorts of self- or relative-imposed "rules".

July 26, 2010 8:33 PM
By Julie (not verified)

If you like the name and know that it's the right name for your baby, who cares who else has that name? Unless you randomly type out letters on a keyboard, pretty much everybody shares a name with somebody. No one thinks its confusing to name a boy after his father, why should having two cousins or friends with the same name be any different? What if you avoided the name Emma and chose Ivy instead...only to move next-door to an Ivy later on?

July 29, 2010 11:53 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I remember being 8 years old and telling my friends at school that we had just had a baby brother we had named David.One of the older girls in my class said we had stolen her brother's name as he was called David. This comment and one other, much more hurtful, comment the same girl made have tainted happy memories of a beautiful baby brother who died aged 15 days because of a hole in his heart. Some people should realise that being posessive over baby names achieves nothing in the long run and that the child you are naming is likely to come into contact with others who share the same name in life whether within their own family or out in the wider world.

July 31, 2010 9:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I just want an opinion on what right other family members have to tread on the naming process of your child. Most of these stories are about people being offended because other family members have copied the names they chose, but my story is about family members being offended because I didn't want to choose the name they thought I should. My husband's older sister is not married and has no children -- by her choice, but is a very wonderful aunt to our three boys. I recently found out that our fourth (and last child) is a girl. My husban's mother hints at least every week that we should name our daughter after his sister. My oldest son and I had been loooking up the meanings of names and found out that his aunt's name meant "sorrow". Everyone came to our house for Mother's day and the name subject came up -- Yikes!! Again the pressure to name our daughter after her aunt, who was sitting to my left, came up. With no intended malice, my son matter of factly told the table what his aunt's name meant -- since we had just looked it up. After he finished, you could have heard a pin drop!! My mother in law huffed and said, "I don't believe that," and my sister in law got up and left the table. That was the end of our meal and neither of them spoke to me for weeks. When I talked about it with my husband, he sided with his mother and sister. I love both his mother and sister, but I feel like they have no right to interfere with what I name my child. Where are the boundries on this issue.

September 4, 2010 10:06 AM
By Hermowninny (not verified)

I'd like to agree with all of the posters who said you shouldn't pay any attention at all to the fact that friends or relatives have already picked the same name.

Re: family My grandma was Liz, my Mom is Beth (in fact they are both Elizabeth). My cousin named her first daughter Elizabeth after grandma - while I really love that name too and feel that it would be more meaningful even to me as my mom is Elizabeth too. The kids would have different surnames, and will never be going to the same school, they are 8 years apart. If it is a girl, I plan on using that name.

Also: my dad is Francis, his 10 years younger cousin is Francis, same last name, they were names after their grandad (also same last name). No one ever thought this was confusing or weird 0 the other Francis was just little Francis to begin with or Francis of Mark (his dad) when he got older. When my dad married my mom, who's brother is named.... Francis! One of them became Uncle Frank and the other became Uncle Cis.

Also, how about this one: my name was supposed to be Cassandra - three weeks before I was born, a couple of my parents' friends named their daughter Cassandra. My mom was in a frenzy because she wanted something that was "special". They named me Hermione, a name they first heard from a guy dad knew from work, he had friends with a one year old daughter who had that name, friends my parents didn't know, so they went with it.

30 years on, I met the other Cassandra only once in my life, at a reunion with mom and dad's old friends and never again after: they dissappeared out of eachother's lives alltogether shortly after me and Cassandra were born - my parents named my 4 years younger sister Cassandra. Later on, I did spend three years in music school with, you have guessed, the other Hermione. Who didn't let any chance go buy to tell everyone I was a bogus Hermione and that her parents were first. I hated this girl. But I do love my name and I pretty much love every other Hermione I have ever met, including the one in Harry Potter (at least now people know how to pronounce it!).

Moral of the story: go with what you like.!

September 14, 2010 1:26 PM
By Angela (not verified)

A set of cousins in my family both gave birth to daughters within one month of each other. The two girls have the same first AND middle names. (The girls are therefore second cousins, and they live in different states, so it's not that huge of an issue... but I remember everyone in the family thinking it was weird when the second girl was given exactly the same name as the first.)

September 14, 2010 10:08 PM
By cathymac (not verified)

the last two stories in the article are too sad. Not sure if you were keeping your daughter!!!!??? Naming your child after your mistress??? wtf

October 30, 2010 10:32 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My son's name is Red Jameson S*****, we just loved it. I know it's normally a nickname. When announcing his name we got a lot of "Is that a family name?" and it's not, but yours would be. I love it and I'm glad we used it.

March 15, 2012 3:21 PM
By Moroni'a (not verified)

I have 3 aunts named Karol/Carol. My dad's sister, my Mom's sister, and my Mom's brother's wife. Furthermore, my sister LaErica married a Colton. My brother's name is Kolton, who dated a Derica. More to the story- my name is Moroni'a(more-oh-nee-uh), and Kolton's middle name is Moroni(more-oh-nye)

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