When we published our first baby-naming book Beyond Jennifer & Jason in 1988, we introduced the idea of sibling names: that the names of your second, third, and subsequent children should “go with” that of your first. Not matchy-matchy names, like Jane and Jean. But names that carried a similar style and image, that were complimentary and yet distinct.
We don’t think you have to limit yourself to a handful of specific sibling names. Sure, Delaney sounds great with Finnian and Kennedy. But it would also work as well with any one of hundreds of other options. As long as you understand the basic principle behind choosing a sibling name – think of providing each of your children with separate but equal birthday parties and back-to-school outfits and you get the idea – you’re well on your way to making the right choice.
Some guidelines to keep in mind about sibling names:
Consider sibling names when you’re naming your first child
Though you don’t have to name your entire family at once, you do want to consider whether your first child’s name is going to work with names you might want to use for subsequent children. Your first choice sets the tone for the rest of the family.
Don’t be cutesy
Beware the same-initial trap
Back in the day, many parents gave all their children names that started with the same letter. While this practice is somewhat dated today, it can be an all right way to create family unity, as long as you choose an initial that includes enough distinctive names that you like. The problem comes in when you name your first two sons Edward and Elliot….and then find yourself with Boy #5 and choices limited to Earl and Edgar. But then again, if you have Boy #5, you probably are too busy to obsess about what you’re going to name him.
Do maintain consistency of style, image, sex, and tradition
Everything doesn’t have to line up perfectly. But at least one or two factors should be consistent.
Some examples from our experience that work: Jane and William, for instance, and Max and Lily are both good pairings because the girls’ names are clearly feminine and the boys’ names are clearly masculine. The styles are consistent – Jane and William are both classics, while Max and Lily are fashionable and informal.
Two brothers we know whose names catch the right rhythm are Felix and Leo. Both are saints’ names that haven’t been overused in recent years and have an appealingly offbeat quality. The x and the o endings provide different but equally unusual sounds for the two names, and they are further related by both being feline.
Tred carefully with unisex names
If you name your son Hayden, which is getting increasingly popular for girls, can you name his sister the equally ambiguous Riley? We say yes. In fact going toward the middle for both siblings is a better call than naming your son Hayden and your daughter something elaborately feminine like, say, Gabriella. A boy Hayden would more compatibly have a brother named Brock than Robert, while a girl named Riley’s sister might be better named Delaney than Delilah.
But Hayden and Eli, a traditionally male Biblical name, might be equally compatible, as might Hayden and Lauren. And Riley could get along well with a wide range of boys’ names from an obvious choice like Conor or Declan to anything from the offbeat Inigo to the all-American Charlie.
Consider sibling nicknames along with proper names
Here’s one that even we didn’t anticipate. One of us has children named Rory, Joseph, and Owen. And so what did their nicknames morph into over time? Ro, Joe, and O. Whoa! Sometimes even the experts can’t cover every base.
Honor each child’s individuality
Just as each child will surprise you with his all-new recombination of your genetic material and his unique personality, so too should each child’s name reflect his individuality.
How far toward uniqueness is too far? When a child’s name makes him seem like a member of a different family. If your first two daughters are named Angelina and Annabella, for example, a third named Sawyer would feel decidedly out of step.