Category: Naming Siblings and Multiples
It’s long been a precept of Nameberry, and of our books—dating back to Beyond Jennifer & Jason and more recently in Beyond Ava & Aiden– that names of siblings should ideally share a similar style and feel, not matchy-matchy, certainly, but complementary yet distinct. And thus the concept of sibsets was born.
We still feel that way, but we’ve been seeing something of a backlash emerging lately. For instance, for the past couple of months, there has been an interesting thread on our forums, posted by a berry expressing concern about ‘breaking the mold’ set by her first daughter’s very feminine name, wondering if she was locked into choosing an equally feminine name for her second or could use a completely different kind of name that she has fallen in love with. A number of interesting points were raised, some people feeling that the whole sibset obsession has gotten out of hand and is unnecessarily restrictive. Where do you stand?
Twin names pose special challenges and special pleasures, for the namer and name enthusiast alike. Here, Nameberry intern and guest blogger Hannah Tenison chooses her favorite twin pairs and tells us why they work so well.
Since the days of Ancient Rome and Greece, when the stories of Remus and Romulus and Castor and Pollux circulated among the public, twins have been a source of intrigue; but when Mary-Kate and Ashley burst onto the screen in the 80s sitcom “Full House” as the lovable Michelle, they became positively marketable.
The Olsen twins gave way to “The Parent Trap,” starring Lindsay Lohan as twins Hallie and Annie; Tia and Tamera Mowry, who starred in the 90’s Disney show “Sister, Sister,” and later, Dylan and Cole Sprouse in “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” There’s “Harry Potter”’s Fred and George Weasley as well as Padma and Parvati Patil, along with “A Series of Unfortunate Events’” Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, and in music, there’s the duo Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, and indie pair Tegan and Sara.
But of course, the most interesting thing about twins is their names – at least from a name nerd’s perspective. Here, a list of my personal favorite twin name pairs, from starbabies to royalty, and why I think they work well together.
Thornton and Theophilus Wilder (Thornton wrote the play “Our Town”): Unusual, distinguished, and somewhat stodgy, these names sound old-world cool, and the shared “th” sound makes them similar without taking it over the top. I like that Thornton, whose unfussy surname vibe couldn’t be more different from the antiquated sound of Theophilus, still manages to sound like the latter’s twin.
One of the most interesting blog posts we’ve done – interesting from a research standpoint, I mean — was on individual names with the same meaning for twins.
So today I decided to spin that idea a bit differently and look for compatible names with contrasting meanings, for twins or for siblings.
I tried to come up with pairs in a range of styles. This is an exercise with near limitless potential, of course, so if any of you are inclined to search nameberry by meaning for other pairs that fit the bill, we’d love to hear your ideas.
Here, the opposing meanings and names that go with them (and each other):
Beautiful & Brilliant
Humans love patterns. Just look last year’s list of popular twin names:
|Jacob & Joshua
Daniel & David
Jayden & Jordan
Ethan & Evan
Taylor & Tyler
|Gabriella & Isabella
Isaac & Isaiah
Madison & Morgan
Elijah & Isaiah
Ella & Emma
Eight pairs start with the same letter. Seven have the same rhythm. Another seven end with the same letter (and many of these nearly rhyme).
For twins and other multiples, name patterns are easy. You know the number of children and their genders ahead of time. But what if you want a name pattern for an entire sibling set? That can make things tricky. You don’t know how many children you’ll have, or what their genders will be. You also don’t know how your tastes may change over time.
If you’re thinking about a name pattern to cover all of your kids, here are three pieces of advice to consider before you begin:
Don’t lock yourself into something limiting.
Let’s say you like flowers. You have a daughter and you name her Lily. You have another daughter and name her Rose. Then another, Jasmine. And then a fourth, but…you don’t like any other flower names. Iris? Too old. Poppy? Too young. Zinnia? Too weird. Amaryllis will never be spelled correctly. And Daisy is the golden retriever down the street.
Or, let’s say you have a son named Alexander. Then you have another boy, and you decide to name him Xavier so they both have that X in common. Then baby #3–a little girl–comes along. Well, you can’t do Alexis–that’s too close to Alexander. You won’t go near Maxine because you fear maxi pad jokes. Roxanne reminds you too much of that song. Xena reminds you too much of that show. And Beatrix makes you think of rabbits.
When you play chess, you have to think ahead several moves. Look at sibling name patterns the same way. Think ahead as many kids as possible. If you can think of 10 or more usable names that fit the pattern, it’s probably a safe pattern. If you can’t, the pattern may be too limiting to be sustainable.
Consider the pros and cons of visibility.
Have you heard of the Duggars? They have nearly 20 kids, and all of those kids have a J-name. This type of name pattern is one of the easiest to spot. (Especially in large families.)
Twins offer a rare opportunity for parents to choose two related baby names at the same time, but also multiply the potential difficulties of sibling names. With twins, it can be more tempting to use rhyme, sound play, and same initial names, but in our opinion pairings like Eddie and Teddy, Faith and Charity, or Nicholas and Nicole should be relegated to a time capsule.
While same-initial names that are clearly distinct from each other – Garrett and Grace, say, or Susannah and Simone – are okay, different-initial names are consistent in style and tone are preferable.
Some celebrity examples that work: Brad and Angelia’s Knox and Vivienne, Julia Roberts’ Phinnaeus and Hazel, Patrick Dempsey’s Sullivan and Darby, and Marcia Cross’s Eden and Savannah. Although each of these sets of celebrity twin names is very different in style and feel, they all embody the qualities that matter most in twin names. Each name in the set is distinct from the other yet they make a harmonious pair – exactly what most parents would wish for the twins themselves.
Gender compatibility may be more important for twins than it is for siblings. One pair of starbaby twins whose names don’t quite work as well as they should: Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ Jessie James and D’Lila Star. Both are girls, yet Jessie’s name seems thoroughly boyish while D’Lila’s is feminine to the point of frilly. Melissa Ethridge’s twins are Johnnie and Miller – but unless you know their middle names, you wouldn’t guess that Johnnie is a girl, Miller a boy. Such gender confusion seems needlessly, well, confusing.
Style consistency is also important. Most of the examples here work really well, from the traditional Lucy and John to the quirky Juno and Rex. The pairing of John and Juno would not be so sweet: too close in sound, yet too far apart in style.
One idea: Look for twin names that are distinct from each other and yet have a unified meaning. For specific ideas, see our twin names blog.
The most popular twin names tend toward the matching sets. While most of these read like a list of Don‘ts, there are a couple that work: Gabriel and Michael, for instance, or Isabella and Sophia. Here, the current Top Ten for each kind of pair. For more popular pairs, see the Social Security site.
POPULAR TWIN NAMES