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Has an In-Law Outlawed My Baby Name?

I've loved a certain name since childhood, and planned on giving that name to a daughter. Recently, my brother married a woman by that name (though she goes by a nickname) and caused a lot of tension in the family. Is it strange for a girl and her aunt to share a name, especially if it's not traditionally a family name? And will people think that we named the girl after her aunt? Should I let them?

- Want to Keep the Family Happy

My usual advice about name duplication is to be straightforward and cheerful and simply ask the people involved. But in your case, there are quite a lot of people involved, aren't there? A lot of people you care deeply about and want to "keep happy." Not just you and your partner, not just your brother and his partner, but other relatives embroiled in the "tension" in your family.

I'm a little hesitant to proceed without a map of your family minefield. But there's enough pain beneath the polite words of your letter that I'm going to make a guess, one you won't be happy about. I don't think your beloved favorite baby name can survive this situation.

Yes, the name will make people think of your daughter's new aunt. No, you can not go around explaining that you would never, ever name your daughter after that woman.

Sure, if someone asked you directly you could laugh and say "I know it must seem like 'name theft,' but I've been in love with the name all my life!" Most people won't ask directly, though. They'll just read what they want into your name choice. Will it seem like you're making a statement? Taking sides? Or at the very least, being insensitive to the tender feelings around you?

If you're not yet pregnant, you can give the situation some time to settle down. But as things stand now, choosing your sister-in-law's name could put family discord front-and-center at a time that should be about love and togetherness. To focus attention where it belongs -- on your beautiful new baby -- you'd do best to put the name aside. You have my sympathies.


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February 3, 2014 6:40 PM
By JenJen (not verified)

Will the baby have the same last name as the aunt? If yes, then choose a different first name. If no, then go ahead with the first name you like.

If anyone asks if the baby is named after the aunt, you can say no and that you loved the name since childhood. Don't bring it up yourself though.

February 3, 2014 7:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah, totally disagree with Name Lady here, especially if you're not pregnant. Different last names and nickname vs full name make a big difference. If you aren't, then do not bring this up and give it time to settle down. Hopefully it's not an issue when/if you have a daughter.

February 4, 2014 10:49 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

For me, I think it would depend on what the problem within your family is. Is your sister in law a horrible person? Does everyone hate her? Is this the kind of problem that is unlikely to ever be resolved? If you answer yes to any of these questions, I agree with the NameLaday. The name should probably be taken off the table. Perhaps there is a similar name you could that is just different enough that people won't automatically connect it with your SIL.

If the problems are the type that they'll likely blow over in a couple of years, go ahead and use the name. But you'll have to be OK with people assuming your daughter is named after the aunt.

February 4, 2014 1:19 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Does everybody know that this is a name you have always loved? If you've been talking about this name since childhood, then everybody in your family will know that the sister-in-law's name is a coincidence.

February 4, 2014 4:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My daughter shares a name with my sister-in-law, though my daughter was born several years before my brother's wife came into the picture. There has never been any undue confusion with the situation.

February 4, 2014 8:51 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I always thing its a good idea to ask the baby what her name is...I think babies can communicate both before and after they are born. Your favorite name should be a fine middle name without causing problems, in any case.

February 4, 2014 10:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Are you pregnant now? Do you know you are having a girl? If not, I would definitely not waste any time worrying about it. I had a named I have loved for a long time too and I always thought I would use it for my son. My husband liked it as well. I ended up having twin boys, but did not use the "favorite" name for either one, not even as a middle name. When the time came, it just didn't seem to fit. So if this is not an impending decision, don't worry yet. You may change your mind, the aunt may be out of the picture by then (sad, but entirely possible), or you may only have boys so it may not be an issue at all.

February 5, 2014 1:42 PM
By Rusty (not verified)

Another thing to consider is how familiar your family is with the name. If the name in question is a long standing classic like Alice or even a name that was once pretty popular like Iris, go for it. Your SIL obviously won't be the only person they know with the name. But if the name is very unusual... like say Narcissus... and your SIL is probably the only person your family will associate with the name, well then it's time to walk away.

February 13, 2014 2:24 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We had the same issue, and the name of the BIL's girlfriend is a common name. But we had to let it go. It is not fun, you have my sympathies.

February 18, 2014 6:22 PM
By Anonymous Namer (not verified)

Seems like the comments are split and the ones still in favor of name usage are trumping this game with: it is your baby name and your choosing. While that is true as the bottom line, you are being aware that while you agree you see there is more that takes effect. I say all things considered, you walk away from that name for now. That's the risk picking a name for a future baby/family with our future prince charming. And as mentioned, the name might not be a fit when you get to finally meet her. Best Wishes for your circumstance.

February 24, 2014 7:46 PM
By Red (not verified)

Maybe you can privately tell your family that you've always loved this particular name, and you're very bummed that this person has spoiled it for you. That would give the family a chance to either thank you for your thoughtfulness, or encourage you to use the name anyway. Then you'd have a better idea of whether to use it or not. Your future children will be equally themselves with whatever name you give them, and the family relationships take priority.

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March 2, 2016 10:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My sister is named Annabelle. We have a cousin Anna and an aunt Anna, as well as great aunts Ann and Anne. I also have two uncles named James, a Grandpa Jim (short for James of course), and cousins James Daniel and Jamison.

I don't know what your family dynamics are, but based on personal experience, you'll probably be just fine.

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