How Not to Steal a Baby Name

How Not to Steal a Baby Name

Rebecca and her sister share many things in common – including a favorite girl’s name. Let’s talk about avoiding name theft, and finding a name you love.

Rebecca writes:

We are expecting a daughter in February. We love the name Margaret, with the nickname Maggie. The trouble is that my sister has always loved the name Maggie, too.

She says we can use it, but I’m not sure. It still feels like we’re stealing her favorite name, and I wonder if I’ll regret it – or if she will regret agreeing to it.

The Name Sage responds:

Remember the 2002 Friends episode when Ross and Rachel welcomed their daughter? They couldn’t agree on a name until Monica shared her favorite – Emma.

The new parents initially said they couldn’t take it, but Monica insisted. She loved the name, yes – but she cared about her friends and family more.

It sounds like you and your sister are re-playing this scene. And that’s a happy outcome!

You’re sensitive about avoiding name theft. But your sister is equally reasonable about her feelings for you and her new niece.

Here’s why:

There’s no guarantee your sister will ever use the name. Maybe she’ll never have a daughter. And even if she does, her partner might not agree.

Giving up the name preserves your sister’s options. Imagine if you pass on Margaret because avoiding name theft matters to you. But a year later, your new niece arrives – and your sister would really rather choose a different name. That’s harder to do if she knows you sacrificed your favorite name.

A nicely-named niece is a great outcome! You’re assuming that using the name results in a loss for your sister. But she may see it as a chance to hear her favorite name forever.

I think you should almost certainly name your daughter Margaret and call her Maggie.

But before you do, let’s explore more classic choices with sparky, upbeat nicknames. Because if you happen to find a name you love better, then avoiding name theft isn’t an issue at all.


BEATRICE – As smart and capable-sounding as Margaret, Beatrice shortens to Bea, but also Trixie – though perhaps you’d like the spelling Beatrix better if you go that route.

ELIZABETH – Nicknames for evergreen Elizabeth abound, and I think Betty could be the new Maggie.

FRANCES – Sweet and straightforward Frances becomes spirited Franny or Frankie.

GENEVIEVE – Margaret and Genevieve both sit outside of the current Top 100, instantly familiar but not heard all that often. Genevieve could be Gigi, Gen, or Vivi to name just a few.

JOSEPHINE – Another traditional pick rich with nickname options, Josie seems like the leading choice, and a great alternative to Margaret-called-Maggie.

KATHERINE – Every bit as classic as Margaret, Katherine shortens to Katie and Kate. It sounds like a sister for Margaret, or a great alternative.

TERESA – One of my favorite Meg/Maggie alternatives has to be Tess and Tessie. Teresa is the traditional formal name. (Or Theresa or Therese, of course.) But Tessa works, too.

VICTORIA – Regal Victoria shortens to Tori, though maybe that feels a little 90s. Vica, Via, and even Queenie work, too.

If this list leaves you feeling flat, then your answer is clear.

Don‘t think of it as avoiding name theft. Instead, you’re embracing your sister’s loving and generous gift by naming her niece Margaret.

Readers, have you given up a favorite name for a sibling or close friend? How did it work out? And are there other Margaret/Maggie alternatives you’d suggest?