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Can I Recycle a Middle Name?

My older son's middle name is Everett--a family name. I am currently 7 months pregnant and the only name my husband and I agree upon as a first name for the new baby is, of course, Everett. We have both agreed that we would call the new baby Rhett as a nickname, but my husband does NOT like it as a proper name. I can't help wondering if it's too weird to use the name for both children. Advice please! - Mom of Everett(s)

Ah, the middle name trap! So many of us fall into it. We happily confer BOTH of our favorite names on a first child, only to realize that we've left ourselves slim pickings for baby number two.

Can you get away with "upcycling," turning an old middle name into a new first name? It's not an ideal situation, as you well know. That's why you wrote to me, after all. But is it totally out of bounds? No, not really. In fact, quite a few parents give in and reuse older kids' middle names. You never know it, because they carefully avoid mentioning their children's middle names at all.

That's the price of this choice. You have to consign both kids' middle names to your keepsake drawer, taking them out only for occasional trips down memory lane. If you're in the habit of addressing your eldest by both names at stern moments ("Ignatius Everett, I want you down here by the count of three!"), you'd best break that habit now.

Is naming your new baby Everett worth giving up the everyday use of middle names? Only you can answer that. If your answer is yes, feel free to proceed without guilt. Just don't try to even things out by using your older son's first name as little Everett's middle name. Brothers with all three names the same, even in a different order, will face a lifetime of paperwork mixups and mistaken identities.


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May 7, 2012 10:50 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know a pair of little girls in this situation. I think it's kinda weird (and thought of the parents as not very creative), but the girls don't seem to mind. The older girl even uses both first and middle name on her facebook page. The middle name in question is extremely common as a middle name, but not so much for as a first name right now. You will not ruin your kids' lives, I promise.

May 7, 2012 11:11 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This exact situation occurred in my family decades ago. One brother is Neil David and the other is David Lawrence. I don't remember why my parents used the name David again, but one would assume they really liked it. This situation has never caused the slighted blip in any way over the years. It's no big deal! So, my advice is to do what you'd like; and liking a name so much that you want both your children to have it, is a good thing, isn't it?

p.s. I personally know very few people who still use first name, middle name on a regular basis to get their child's attention; in any case, that short-lived practice shouldn't affect the choice of your son’s name.

May 7, 2012 11:30 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know several families that did this. I don't think it's odd or a problem.

Just don't call them both Everett and you're fine.

May 7, 2012 1:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Why not just tell your sons that the younger brother is named after his loving older brother? Then make sure he has a middle name that is all his own, not shared with any immediate family member.

May 7, 2012 1:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Why not just tell your sons that the younger brother is named after his loving older brother? Then make sure he has a middle name that is all his own, not shared with any immediate family member.

May 7, 2012 1:20 PM
By Another Anonymous (not verified)

I think it depends on the strength of the family connection-if we're talking about your maiden name then is seems like it could be the start of a nice tradition. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'm a fan.
That said, I've known siblings who shared middle (family) names and sisters all named Mary Something who went by the Something, so I don't think it'd be horrible to reuse the name-just not my preference.

May 7, 2012 3:14 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have to say I think it's a bizarre thing to do. That name is already used. If the first child is still young enough not to care, you could perhaps change his middle name, freeing it up for Baby #2. (He might enjoy helping to pick out his new middle name!) But as it stands, Everett was already used, end of story.

May 7, 2012 3:47 PM
By Anonymouse (not verified)

I don't see why you just don't use Rhett by itself? It's already established as a name in and of itself. If you feel you need a fuller first name without recycling, why not try Garrett or Barrett? You'll still get to use Rhett, and your second boy will have a full first name of his own.

May 7, 2012 4:20 PM
By mk (not verified)

I know lots of sibling pairs like this, and have several relatives who share names with their siblings. I don't get what the big deal is, personally.

The only time I thought it bizarre was when child #1 was called by both names, like Mary Anne and Anne (not their real names). So if you are already calling son #1 FirstName Everett on a daily basis, I'd find a new name.

May 7, 2012 5:34 PM
By Kerri (not verified)

My husband is the oldest of his siblings, his middle name is Christopher. Then a sister, brother, and another brother who's middle name is also Christopher. Has always seemed to me that mom and dad ran out of ideas on that one. Along with the energy to fill in the baby book, which is very, very empty.

May 7, 2012 8:36 PM
By Petra (not verified)

I was thinking exactly what anonymouse above was thinking. Just name him Rhett, and if you feel it's too short give him Garrett, Barrett, etc..

May 7, 2012 10:58 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My middle name is my younger sister's first name. I rarely use my middle name for anything so it's not a big deal. I don't understand why people worry about middle names when they're mostly hidden from everyday life.

May 7, 2012 11:15 PM
By AngelaAiea (not verified)

I know brothers named Michael Steven and Steven Michael.

May 8, 2012 9:45 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think it seems lazy. There's got to be at least one other name somewhere in the world that you both like.

May 8, 2012 11:57 AM
By kathryn (not verified)

I don't think this is weird at all. I have cousins who's family tradition was to give boys got their dad's middle name no matter how many sons. They had 4 sons, 3 with their Dad's name (Robert) as their middle name, and one son named Robert Thomas Jr. They thought it was great. Guys especially seem to care more about having a family name than some random name in a babyname book.

Most people rarely use their middle names. I think namenerds think it's a missed opportunity to use another name we love but most people, a middle name is something used at graduation and then it's just a middle initial on a resume.

May 8, 2012 12:01 PM
By ValenzMom (not verified)

I can't believe neither of you like any other names in the entire world other than "Everett." I believe if you both put your minds to it, you'll come up with another two names you both can agree on.

May 8, 2012 12:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with a pp; make sure your sons see it as a loving, somewhat private connection between brothers and I think you'll be fine. The most important question missing here, imo, is what does older brother think of this? If he's old enough, you can explain what you plan to do and why. Get all sappy and explain the love siblings share, give examples of your own siblings or your dh's, etc. I don't think it's weird. I think it would only be an issue if the brothers ended up having a very bad relationship (which sometimes happens among siblings, as much as we believe it won't). I also think that if you bounce it off older brother and get a very negative reaction you're back to the drawing board. I'd say a child as young as 7 or 8 years old ought to have some say. At least at first, people will be asking constantly about baby's full name, you may send out birth announcements, etc. The name will be very much in older brother's face for the first few months, so if he really hates the idea... I'd drop it without further fuss.

May 8, 2012 12:46 PM
By Julie (not verified)

My older brother (Nicholas) is about 19 years older than my younger brother (the only boys in the family). When my younger brother was born, with the Nicholas' blessing, my parents named my little brother Eric, Nicholas' middle name. Eric loves that he has a connection with Nicholas, since the large age difference means they aren't very close.

There is family tradition in play here too though. My mom's brother has Dennis as a middle name, and their sister's name is Denise. And of the 9 boys in my dad's family, 7 of them have the middle name of the brother just older than them as a first name.

May 8, 2012 12:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I third the suggestions of Anonymouse and Petra. It sounds like Rhett is actually what you want to name him, so why not go for it?

May 8, 2012 1:08 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My father's name is John William, his older brother was William John. They were from a family with ten kids, but only three of them were boys, JW and WJ being the youngest two. (The oldest was named the same as my grandfather...)

May 8, 2012 1:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When we were naming my oldest daughter, we had our choice down to a first name and one of 2 middle names. I told my husband there was a chance I'd want to use the one that was a family name for a second daughter if the opportunity presented itself. He told me that if we used it as a middle name, that it would be off the table for the future. And thus, Caroline Abigail was named. :)

May 8, 2012 2:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I went to high school with a boy named Erik. We were actually not close until we got to college (separate universities oddly enough) when I found out that his older brothers middle name was Erik also. I had known both boys in my youth and didn't find out 'the family secret' until I was an adult. I thought it a little odd, but they had no problems with it, and most people had no idea.

May 8, 2012 2:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Depending on the age of your older son, you could legally change it and no one would ever have to know. My older sister & I share the same middle name. I remember asking as a kid (with no baby book because my parents ran out of steam after kid #1) and I was told they just liked it and couldn't think of anything else. Terrible answer and I always felt like an afterthought. I changed it legally as an adult anyway, my mom was creative with spelling and I was tired of correcting people, so I legally took my nickname as my first name, created a new middle name, kept my surname. Phew. I gave both my kids two middles, one we liked with their first, and one to honor deceased friends. Everett is a great name, and I think if you either change the older boy's name, or sell it as how much you grew to love the name, it'll be fine.

May 8, 2012 2:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Have you thought about Garrett, Emmett, or Elliot?

May 8, 2012 2:57 PM
By Rachael Marie (not verified)

While it's probably not something I will choose to do, it's not unheard of. My husband Michael Gary was named after his father, Gary Michael , and grandfather, Michael (not sure of the middle name) . My husband's younger brother is also named Gary. So there's all sorts of recycling & name sharing going on. HaHa.

May 8, 2012 3:29 PM
By deborah (not verified)

I had a co-worker whose mother gave her and her four sisters all the middle name of Marie. It wasn't a family name, her mother just liked it. I thought it odd, but who am I? Name your kid what you want to name it. With that said, I'm sure you can find another name you like as much as Everett. You have some time - keep looking!

May 8, 2012 6:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The only problem I see (and it may not BE a problem to you) is that baby Everett might surmise his name is "second best" because, "if Mum and Dad had liked it BEST it would have been Firstname Everett's FIRST name rather than his second." I don't share names with my elder and only sibling, but I always faintly resented it that she not only got a third (family) Christian name while I had only two names, buts he also got a classical first name (Anne) while I got a permanent pet name (Sally). I'm sure my parents didn't think of it that way, but in my experience children notice these things.

May 8, 2012 10:05 PM
By Wally (not verified)

My father-in-law is named John Peter after an older brother named Peter John who died as a toddler. My brother-in-law is Richard John and my husband (the youngest child) is named John Peter Jr. I thought it was I little odd, but my mother-in-law was sure my husband would be a girl and didn't even choose a boys name.

May 8, 2012 10:45 PM
By Sebalek (not verified)

Okay, so you "can't" use Rhett as a first name for DS #2 by itself b/c your husband doesn't like it as a stand alone...but what would you're younger son's middle name be?

While I don't necessarily think it's a problem, if you're planning to give your 2nd son a middle name, you're obviously going to have to come up with another name besides Everett that you both agree on, so why not reverse the order and use Rhett as a nickname?

May 9, 2012 12:28 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

How about Everest? Or Ever? Or just go with Rhett.

May 9, 2012 12:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When my dad was growing up they had 2 names for dogs that they alternated. First dog Lad. Second dog Skip. Third dog Lad. Fourth dog Skip. No thought necessary.

This reminds me of that. It's not naming the kid in honor of someone, and it's not in memory of someone who died. It's just that you don't feel like figuring something else out because it's hard. That's not an awesome message to send to a kid.

May 9, 2012 7:05 PM
By Diana (not verified)

My father's name is Brian Paul and his brother's name is Paul Brian. My uncle passed away before I was born so I didn't get to ask him if he thought it was weird, but my father doesn't have an issue with it.

My husband and his brother share the middle name Hugo, and his two sisters share the middle name Bolena. No one seems to mind.

May 9, 2012 9:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's more common than one may think and it's not a big deal.

And baby Everett may very well think his name is the best because mom and dad used it twice, and he gets to have it as a first!

May 10, 2012 11:19 AM
By Mo (not verified)

Everett is such a great name no wonder you both like it.
I too know a family with the same situation, my cousins. The brothers share the name John (a name that is significant in their family.) The older one has it as a middle name and the younger as a first. This family did what you are proposing by calling the younger son by a nickname. As an adult he now goes by John. It's never been a big deal. I remember someone making a comment about it when the youngest was born but after that I don't think anyone thought about it again.
There will always be at least one person who doesn't care for your name choice no matter what it is. I think you should go for it. I wouldn't tell him he was named after his brother but the truth that it's a wonderful family name that you loved so much you wanted him to have it. Good luck

May 12, 2012 7:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I also know two sisters with the same situation. The older one never uses her middle name as far as I know and the younger one goes by a nickname. The older one doesn't seem to mind her little sister having her middle name as a first. I have never heard of anybody saying its weird but I also don't know how many people know what the older ones middle name is.

May 13, 2012 8:11 PM
By Maggie (not verified)

I know two families where this is the case. Older brothers middle name is younger brothers first name. It's boys names... they are so tough!! For the record, neither set seems to mind at all or find it strange. Middle names aren't used so much, and it's seen as a "connection" between them. So go for it. Especially if you're calling him Rhett most of the time.

May 15, 2012 5:41 PM
By Baby Toys (not verified)

I think you can, a middle name is also one of those names that people never hear and some close friends dont even know your middle name half your life!

I say go for it, do it if you like it.

May 16, 2012 8:57 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Hi, I can completely understand how you feel, I am in the same dilemma, I only wanted two kids and this third one was an accident. Now I'm in the same dilemma, my oldest is Jamie, the second is Jacob and I really want to name my third Joshua but iv already used it as Jacob middle name. I can think of other names but prob sounds better if the third a J too. I didn't name my Jacob josh cuz of family ownership over the name which I always regret so in my opinion don't listen to anyone else do what you want to do, it's your family.

May 17, 2012 12:53 AM
By shadelit (not verified)

Several other posters have given examples of people they know who have this same naming situation, so apparently it's not unheard of. I, however, had never met or heard of anyone choosing this for their kids, until now. I have to admit, I find the idea of giving Younger Son one of Older Son's names because the parents just couldn't think of anything better does strike me as kind of...uninspired, lackluster, lackadaisical. It's hard for me to imagine that of the thousands of names out there to choose from, this couple really can't find just one more that they both like the sound of. This is something I would NEVER choose to do, with my own children, no matter how much I love my son's middle name (and I do love it, and it is also a family name).

That being said, the name in question here is a nice name and there are ways to spin it that will highlight the connection between the boys rather than putting the parents in a bad light. Things could certainly be much worse, and obviously there are people who don't find anything weird about this at all.

I would caution against the thinking that middle names are not so important and nobody ever hears them, however. Many, MANY people eschew the use of their first/childhood names and choose to use their middle names instead as their main identifiers in adulthood. Several of the families I know were careful to keep that in mind when naming their kids, choosing each child's middle name carefully with the understanding that it could give them some flexibility later in life if for some reason they didn't connect fully with the first name. I'd venture that it's way more common than some would think, and using the middle name of one child as the first name of the first child takes that option away from child #1.

May 18, 2012 5:54 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My husband has two older brothers, and one of them has my husband's first name as a middle. He doesn't mind at all - in fact I think he likes it as a sign that his mom loved his first name so much, she gave it before (as a middle) - even 8 years before his own birth.

Who uses middle names regularly, anyway? I think the brothers will come to like this (almost-secret) connection.

May 19, 2012 11:59 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Have you ever thought that your oldest child might want to go by their middle name when they get a older and discover some individuality? I know a lot that do this, their first names are perfectly fine, but prefer the middle. I would suggest against this.

May 21, 2012 10:14 AM
By Tara (not verified)

I faced this same dilemma. My oldest son was named Carter Jacob. I later remarried and my husband and I both loved the name Jake but I really wanted to use a more formal first name. We went back and forth as to whether it was appropriate to use Jacob as his first name. We finally decided to go with Jakob Dylan but we call his Jake. I think it perfectly fine. In our situation it gives Jake an option when he's older to go by Jake or Jakob. We love both!!

May 21, 2012 10:15 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My father is James Michael and my uncle, his younger brother, is Michael David. We're Scottish and often reuse names.

May 21, 2012 10:34 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have to say I HATE the idea of two siblings sharing a name. It seems lazy and lacking in creativity, and as though the younger child is getting the short end of the stick. Like you didn't have the foresight to realize that you might have another child you'd want to call by that name. There is no way that Everett is the only name in the entire world that you can agree on. It's already been used for one child, pick something else and move on. Let your younger child have some individuality, and show him that you cared enough to pick a name just for him, all his own.

June 3, 2012 3:56 PM
By I'm not sure what my name is (not verified)

My husband's family did it that every son had the father's middle name and every daughter had their mother's middle name. Granted, the middle names in question were Lee and Ann and not something as distinctive as Everett, but I still think that this could only be a problem if you treat it like it's a problem, and not just simply a family connection.

Of course, it's not like you have a definite deadline. I'm sure that if you choose to not stress about names, not feel like you have to decide right now, and wait until after the baby's born or until one of you has a dream which reveals your baby's name to you, you all will be okay.

June 4, 2012 1:27 PM
By BekahJane (not verified)

This child is already going to grow up with all of his brothers hand-me-downs (I assume, unless you're insanely wealthy.) Does he really need a hand-me-down name too? This says to me that he isn't special enough to have his own name, he has to share his brothers, as an afterthought. At least that's how I would take it. I am the youngest of four girls, but at least I got my own well thought out name! This seems a little messed up to the new baby... If it is really incredibly special to you to use this name twice (if it's a family heirloom name) then I would use it as a middle name. Better for brothers to share a middle name than for the younger one to get a name that was apparently not great enough to use for the older brother's first name.

June 28, 2012 2:08 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

So many boy names seem to end in N. I would like to share what I do and do not want in a name for our son due in November. Please help us name him!

1. Can't end in an "n" His brother's name already does...

2. one or two syl. to go with our Irish last name of 3 syl. Our last name is something like "McTarry"

3. I would like it to be fairly rare. Like maybe not in the top 800 I don't want to know anyone with this name for any associations, good or bad. I know a TON of people!

4. I want ANYONE to be able to look at the spelling of the name and be able to pronounce it. My first and last name have been mispronounced my WHOLE life, and I just want to spare my little guy from the pain that is.

5. Nothing that has an obvious nick name. BUT we're not opposed to naming him that shorter name. ex: If we name him Griff, instead of naming him Griffin just to call him Griff.

Some names I like but can't use for some of the reasons above include: Gavin, Silas, Tristan, Reed, Dexter, Devon, Marco, Wren, Merrit, Garrett, Chase,Caleb, Cannon, just to give you an idea of where I'm coming from. Thank you for any and all suggestions!!

June 28, 2012 9:40 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

**by the way, the reason I posted the above post is because, if I don't find a name I like better, I am sooooooo tempted to use the older brother's middle name as the next baby's first name! I want to avoid this...HELP! I feel like I'm so picky that I am sad I used my best two on our first born, and what if I can't find one that goes as well?

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