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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. "Mars-like" or "faithful to Mars" might be a more direct interpretation.

So, problem solved, right? Not quite. In my opinion, what could be a big deal is giving one child a rare, eye-catching, contemporary name, and the other a super-familiar name that was a staple of the 1950s and '60s. That's the connection (or lack of one) that people might notice.

You're considering a big shift in baby-naming style from one child to the next. Is there a way to call a truce? Of course. You could decide that Mark is your favorite name, and that's that; maybe you'd give Mark a more contemporary or unusual middle name as a subtle link with Pax.

Or, look for another name that bridges the gap between contemporary and classic, one that's still simple and works with your last name.

August has the noun-like quality of Pax and the short nickname Gus; it's a name with a popularity trend inverse with Mark's (it bottomed out in the 1960s and recently shot upward). It's also on this list of "quirky classic" names for boys, which might be just the style you're looking for.

Beau is another word-y, one-syllable choice, but it may not meet your wish for a name that's easy to spell (unless you go with Bo).

Kai is a Scandinavian shortie that's on the rise (so it's recognizable) and shares the hard K sound with Mark.

Luke, like Mark, is one of the four evangelists in the Christian Bible, but its popularity curve is closer to Pax's than Mark's. Etymologically, Luke and Lucas may be tied with the Latin word "lux," meaning light—a nice complement to Pax. Leo, too, is short, sweet, and classic, yet feels more contemporary than Mark. (And Leo Tolstoy is the author of War and Peace!)

Zane contains that high-value letter Z, a tie-in with Pax’s X. Zeke, on its own or short for Ezekiel, is another way to get to Z, along with Zeb and Zev. A Q name, like Quinn, works the same way. It's simple, yet special; and whatever name you choose will soon be as special to you as Pax is now.


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

March 13, 2017 11:34 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We have a Mark. The only comment we ever get is "like the saint"? No one has ever mentioned war or Roman gods.

I have enjoyed the crispness of Mark in an age when most of his friends have a name that ends in the -en sound.

March 13, 2017 1:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When I started reading the post, I assumed the name being considered would be an obvious "war" name. Mark never even crossed my mind as an option. I agree with Name Lady, I'd be shocked if you ever get a comment about the name meanings.

I also agree that the more jarring issue with the names are the style. Do you plan on more kids? If you plan on just the two, I think a simple "We picked our favorite name each time" should suffice should you get any questions. But if you think you may have more, you might want to consider how you'd handle a potential future sibling name. In a group of Pax, Mark, and Jack, Pax is pretty noticeable as the odd one. Using a bridge name like Name Lady suggested could work. Or you could go for a totally different 3rd style for a truly eclectic sibling set.

March 14, 2017 2:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Mark is one of those names that has more than one origin. In the Tristan story the king of Cornwall is Mark. In this case the name is the Welsh March which is a "horse" name. Compare with Marshall, a Germanic bithematic name made up with elements meaning horse and servant. So if the op likes horses better than war....

When it comes to etymology, name lady is clearly on thin ice. Kai, for example, is a Scandinavian name, presumably descended from the Latin Gaius. (See Sir Kai/Kay of Arthurian legend.) It is also a Hawaiian name with an "ocean" derivation.

Luke is not Latin; it's Greek. It's not a "light" name. It is derived from a Greek place name.

That's three instances of inaccuracy/incomplete information in one short blog post.

March 15, 2017 7:58 AM
By Sasha (not verified)

I think you're actually reinforcing the NL's point, which is that name meanings are really hard to pin down, so you shouldn't rely on them when choosing a name.

March 21, 2017 2:51 PM
By AnneeV (not verified)


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