Are These Sibling Names Too Similar?
They’ve found the perfect name for a daughter. The only problem? It’s very, very similar to their son’s name. How close is too close, and does sound matter more than spelling? The Name Sage weighs in.
I have a dilemma with the front-runner name if our September baby is a girl.
The name we love is Gwen. Short, sweet, simple, standalone, no other variation needed. There is nothing we do not like about this name.
The problem arises when we see it written with our son’s name, Owen.
They are clearly similar. Pronunciation-wise they are very different. However, as we approach the due date, I am worried!
We don’t like alternate spellings such as Gwyn or long-form names. Maybe we should go back to square one?
The Name Sage replies:
But when I look at the two names?
Three out of four letters are identical, and they appear in the same order. Plus, Owen’s O is visually similar to Gwen’s G. Written quickly, I can imagine one name easily being mistaken for the other.
And yet, my instinct is to encourage you to use Gwen if your new baby is a girl.
Will others notice the shared letters? Maybe. I typically write my kids’ names together in just a few places – when we sign birthday cards, or maybe in an email to school. “Owen and Gwen will be picked up early on Tuesday.”
For the few times that someone remarks on the shared letters, feel free to smile and say, “Oh, yes, it is a coincidence” – or whatever feels comfortable – and then move on.
But since I get the sense that you’re wondering what lots of people really think about the possibility, let’s have a poll.
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on August 16th, 2016 at 11:24 pm
If you were in Wales, no one would bat an eye. A lot of names sound similar here because they share root words, but it’s fine. I say use the name you love 🙂
on August 16th, 2016 at 11:40 pm
Personally I think the names are fine on their own, but they don’t flow well together. Owen and Gwen sounds off. Maybe try Owen and Gwyneth?
on August 17th, 2016 at 1:20 am
Well, if you like the name Gwendolyn, you could name her that if you’re concerned about Gwen and Owen being too close. If you name her Gwendolyn, you could still call her Gwen.
on August 17th, 2016 at 5:57 am
I think it’s way more important how the names sound together than how they look together. I think Gwen and Owen sound cute together! I doubt many people will notice the similarities. if it doesn’t bother you, go for it!
on August 17th, 2016 at 6:22 am
i’m sorry but i would totally avoid this. one thing is if you were doing it on purpose, but if you’re already worried about it then i’m sure you can find another name for your daughter, one that doesn’t share 3/4 of its letter with her brother’s! there must be another name you like!
on August 17th, 2016 at 6:47 am
I have the exact same problem! I didn’t realize it until my Owen was a few months old and ever since I’ve been doubting Gwen, which is still my favorite girl name. Owen was my husband’s favorite name which I of course now love but I didn’t realize at the time I might not be able to use Gwen.
on August 17th, 2016 at 6:54 am
It might be me not being a natural English speaker, but they sound very close when I say them. IF you can find another name you love just as much, then use that one. If you can’t, use Gwen. It’s not that big of a deal and many sibling have similar names. I know two sisters named Fiorella and Rafaela, so when their parents call for one of them they both go because they only hear “ella” from far away. I also know two sisters named Diana and Nadia- which in Spanish are said “DEE ah-na” and “NA-dee-ah”
So again, if you can come up with another name you love as much as Gwen, go for it. But don’t wreck your brain and know that if you do use Gwen it won’t be a lot or touble
on August 17th, 2016 at 8:31 am
The names sound very similar to me. If you are dead set on Gwen, of course go with it, but I think it is worth exploring other names. Particularly with an ‘and’ in the middle, to me it stumbles on the tongue– Owen and Gwen sounds like Owenengwen. But that could just be the way I say it!
on August 17th, 2016 at 10:05 am
I tend to be pretty adverse to matchy-matchy sibling names. For example, my son’s name is Linus, so I have had to cross Alice and Iris off of our list because they’re too rhyme-y for my liking.
I agree with Name Sage that sound seems to matter more to me than the looks of the two names. You will say your kids’ names out loud together far more than you will write them together. I would also double-take Owen and Gwen once I view them written… but I think, after considering it for a bit, that because the don’t sound similar, I would green light this choice.
If Gwen is your favorite, go for it!
on August 17th, 2016 at 11:05 am
My daughter is Gwen (ours is Gwendolyn but I agree it doesn’t *need* a long form) and while I never thought about how similar it is to Owen, when she was learning to write her name, her G very often looked like an O. Obviously this is a relatively short period of time in her overall life, as is being lumped in with her brother. I would think about the point previously made about writing their names together on Christmas cards, notes to school, etc. If that doesn’t bother you, go for it. If it makes you pause or, worse, cringe then keep looking as those feelings will only get worse.
on August 17th, 2016 at 11:07 am
I think the general population would not only not bat an eye, they wouldn’t even notice. I find the people here are great, but more attuned to naming patterns, pitfalls, and nuances. They sound very different. They will also spend the majority of their lives independent from one another. If you love Gwen, do not let brother Owen stop you!
on August 17th, 2016 at 1:52 pm
I faced a similar dilemma with using Mary with a son named Mark. As fate would have it I have ended up naming only boys, but I could never shake that visually 3/4 of the letters were the same and my son didn’t care too much for the idea either.
on August 17th, 2016 at 3:06 pm
I think recycling (even unintentionally) is positive, an indication that you love those names. I say celebrate it. Who cares about rhyming or matching spellings. Your children will not walk through life as a set, they will have their own lives once they’re past the preschool years. I doubt it will come up much.
on August 17th, 2016 at 4:20 pm
Chiming in as Gwen(dolen) here:
1) I have always loved my name, both long (which is rarely used) and short. It’s rare but doesn’t cause double takes.
2) When I played team sports with an Owen as a kid, we would both come running when one of us was called. When yelled from a distance, the two names are indistinguishable; all you really hear is the ‘wennnnnnn’. If this isn’t an issue for you, go for it!
on August 17th, 2016 at 5:05 pm
I think they sound way too close, and are kind of hard to say together.
on August 17th, 2016 at 5:54 pm
If you love the name as much as it sounds like you do I say use it! I knew siblings called Owen & Anwen, & IMO that sounded much to similar to me, but at least Gwen has a different sound. Perhaps one thing to consider is if you’re planning on having more children? This might change the flow of your sibsets names, with babies 1 & 2 names looking so similar 🙂
on August 17th, 2016 at 7:05 pm
I wouldn’t use it if I were you, because the O and the G look way too similar. I’d go with Gwendolyn if you really love nn Gwen 🙂
on August 17th, 2016 at 7:30 pm
I’m a pharmacist and it fails my test of being “too close to avoid medical errors”. Being just one letter different, if they were twins I’d say No!no!no! I’ve literally seen these mixups (one time it involved twins on the same seizure meds but different doses and first names that were one letter different…oh boy) Anyway, even for siblings just one letter difference is much too close for my comfort.
on August 17th, 2016 at 9:26 pm
I would go for it, but sign all of our Christmas cards with O & G instead of Owen & Gwen because it does look too similar. It doesn’t sound clunky though, so why not? I would use a longer form of Gwen to differentiate too, but that is cause I really like Gwendolyn & Gwyneth 🙂
on August 18th, 2016 at 2:06 pm
I agree with finding a longer version that you like (Gwendolyn or Gwyneth) and then referring to her as Gwen so you can get your favorite name might be the best approach if this is worrying you. That way it avoids the doctor errors as mentioned by Orchid_Lover, and if you did need to clarify which child you mean, you have the longer form to lean on. Or name her something like Michelle Gwen and call her Gwen.
However, should you choose to stick with Gwen as the first name–which you totally should if that is the name you love–ignore the haters! I’ve known twins Marilyn and Carolyn, Taylor and Tyler, Ryan and Rian (pronounced: Ree-ann) and they managed to turn into perfectly fine adults. My name is Erica and when I was little I had friends named Eric and Derek and when one of our moms yelled for us all we heard was ‘rick’ and we’d all come running. And is it so bad that both your kids would respond at the same time?
The only thing that should really make you think twice would be if you do plan to have more children in the future, so that then you’re not worried that their name WOULDN’T match the others’ 🙂
on August 20th, 2016 at 11:57 am
I think that Owen and Gwen could work very well together. As others have said, the two names do sound different enough when you say them out loud. However, as Eizariya pointed out, the two names sort of run into a blob when you say them together, more of “Owenengwen” than “Owen-and-Gwen”. But if that doesn’t bother you too much, I would definitely say go for it!
on August 20th, 2016 at 1:39 pm
Too close for me. I would give her a longer name. Gwyneth or Guinevere.
on August 20th, 2016 at 9:43 pm
Not nearly as bad as the woman I know whose sons are named Damian and Davian.
on August 21st, 2016 at 5:46 pm
I have to be honest and say, I am not a fan of similar names; but in particular ones that share the first letter. However, your choices do sound slightly different and don’t share this problem, that can cause mail mix-ups in the household. If you really love it then Gwen is fine; but my concern is that as soon as someone points out the ‘problems’ you have mentioned you will regret it, as you are already worried and it was an unintentional choice: it may become embarrassing for you rather than something you can hold your head high about. It is worth noting the possible pharmacy mistakes others have pointed out too and the extra leg-work for your children when both respond to one call. If you want a short, sweet name maybe it’s worth considering these:
Jen or Jenna
Liv or Livvy
Whatever you decide, I hope you make the right choice for you. Good luck.x
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