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I Have the Same-Name Blues

I'm sure you've gotten questions about this before, but what is the etiquette for same or similar baby names with friends and family? I've loved a specific name since childhood. My husband and I haven't been able to have children yet, but my cousin just used that name for her fifth child. And my second favorite name was used by a friend from high school. I have a HUGE family, too. There are going to be no names left that I love!

–Worried About Stealing

Wading into the waters of name "stealing" is always tricky. While it's true that no one owns a name, and theoretically you should be able to use any name you like, you specifically asked about "etiquette." Etiquette means caring about other people and trying to be considerate of them. It means not making the (arbitrary) decision that your claim to a name is more legitimate than someone else's, and that therefore you have the right to hurt their feelings.

Starting from that caveat, there are a few considerations you can use to guard against an accusation of stealing. First of all, ask! Maybe your cousin would be perfectly happy to have your baby share a name with her child's. If she's named five babies, she's probably aware of how hard it can be. Same for your high school friend: How close are you, emotionally and physically? If the answer to either of those is "not very," then using the same name should not be a problem. If you are close, then a friendly, frank discussion about name overlap is in order.

Next, let's get back to those claims to a name. Do you favor your favorites because they have special meaning to you—they are derived from a grandparent's name, say, or an important place in your life? If so, you can feel more comfortable about (re-)using them. Of course, cousins share many of the same grandparents and great-grandparents. This can lead to some repeats, especially in a large family like yours. Again, some relatives might be fine with this—they might even enjoy it. If yours just won't, consider whether a variation or nickname would be a good compromise. Your child could even have a special family-only nickname used to distinguish her from her same-named cousin. And while you didn't mention middle names, I say just about anything goes in that spot, unless you plan to call your baby by the very unusual middle he shares with a relative.

There are lots of names to go around. But that doesn't mean you should miss out on using the ones you love just because you had kids later than others in your circle. I hope they'll be generous and understanding with you when the time comes.


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August 24, 2015 11:27 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have lots of relatives with the same name. It is not a big deal, they are now simply considered family names.

August 24, 2015 3:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Unless you see your cousin all the time, I wouldn't worry about it. That's just not a close-enough connection to fret over.

August 25, 2015 5:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You can definitely use the same name as a cousin, provided two things: 1) The name isn't so memorable that it would be weird to have duplicates, and 2) The children don't have the same last name.

For example, it would be a little weird to have two little boys named Charlemagne in the same generation. But it wouldn't be that strange to have two named Charles. As long as they have different last names, it's not a big deal at all. (And bonus if you have two different nicknames-- Chet Johnson and Charlie Smith feel so different that they barely even resemble each other.)

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