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Are These Sibling Names Too Similar?

August 16, 2016 Abby Sandel

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.

Caley writes:

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?

Do you think the sibset of Owen and Gwen would be no big deal or a naming faux pas?

The Name Sage replies:

This is a tough one! Owen and Gwen pair perfectly – at least when I say them together. They’re both Welsh heritage choices with great meanings and a sound that is modern, but not at all new.

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.

Kate and Nate, Wren and Glenn, Owen and Rowan are all challenging as sibling names. But Kate and Nathan, Wren and Maren, Owen and Logan would work just fine.

That’s because sound matters more. Despite sharing lots of letters, Owen and Gwen don’t sound overly similar.

Because Owen and Gwen both have long histories of use, we instantly recognize them as separate names. That’s very different than, say, Ayla and Taya, which might rhyme – or not.

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.”

It’s also worth noting that many families do choose names because they’re similar. Think of all those siblings with M or J names, or families with girls called Lily, Daisy, and Rose.

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.

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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