Baby Name Theft: Are We the Bad Guys?

She named her son, but didn't share it. Now a cousin has chosen it, too.

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

They found the right name for their son, and he’s due soon. But in the meantime, a cousin gave the very same name to her son – and she probably won’t be happy to share.

S. writes:

I am due in January, and after months (really years) of deliberating had finally settled with my husband on a baby name for our son. We had come up with several girl names that we liked but when we found out that we were having a boy we could really only agree on one name.

My cousin had a baby today and used the same name and even the same middle initial. We are not very close with her, but we live in the same area and our families are close.

She can be extremely competitive and petty. If we keep the name, she will say we “stole” it and it will certainly lead to a few raised eyebrows in the family. But if we choose a different name now it will feel like we couldn’t use our perfect name because she just got there first.

I’m only six weeks away from my due date and already our baby feels like our chosen name fits him. We’re heartbroken and starting over doesn’t seem possible given how long it took us to settle on this name. What should we do? This falls somewhere between sister’s kid and distant acquaintance.

The Name Sage replies:

Use the name you love.

Yes, even though your cousin got there first.

Imagine you both went into labor on the same day, and filled out your sons’ birth certificates just hours apart, without realizing the other child had been born. Then you’d have two second cousins both named Oliver or Everett or Wilder or James.

Your boys would have to share, and maybe there would be some occasional confusion. Your mom might refer to your cousin’s son as, say, “Ashley’s Oliver” to distinguish him from your kiddo.

Might your cousin be upset? Sure. But that doesn’t seem to make you and your husband like the name any less. If anything, the prospect of losing your favorite choice has emphasized that it truly is The Name for your son.

You can’t control your cousin’s reaction. Your only choice is whether this name still belongs to your child. If you’re answering with a resounding yes – and I think you are – then it seems like some possible bad behavior from a relative shouldn’t dissuade you.

I’d address it head on: “Hey, Ashley, congratulations on your baby! We’re so happy for you. As it turns out, our son is Oliver, too. It’s a great name.”

After all, you could change your son’s name from Oliver to Owen, and six months later, your cousin and her family might relocate to Australia. Or maybe one boy will prefer a nickname, or even his middle name as he grows up. Anything could happen.

Use your son’s name. It’s already chosen. Now it’s just a matter of sharing the good news that you both have great taste!

Readers, I’m curious to know what you would do!

Would you still use the name, if your cousin just gave the same name to her baby?

  1. AYes!
  2. BMaybe ...
  3. CNo. I'd find a new name!
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About the author


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
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19 Responses to “Baby Name Theft: Are We the Bad Guys?”

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lesliemarion Says:

December 18th, 2018 at 11:53 pm

Yes, absolutely, I agree. Your child (and hers) will meet many, many people with that name and if it’s an uncommon name, they’ll have the comfort of knowing at least one other person with that name.

Naming your child what you want is your right. It’s taking sensitivity too far to worry about other parents’ choices.

alexandrah Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 7:31 am

I’d be curious to know what the name is. If it was something as common as Oliver, then they’ll be sharing the name plenty. But if it were something really unique, and there happened to be two in the family (I”m not sure if the last name is the same), it might seem like a personal attack and also get confused a lot.

I took my husband’s last name when we got married. A few years into it, he has a distant cousin with the same name as me now. We both live in the same city, and even my college transcript got temporarily mixed up with hers.

benjamelissa Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 8:03 am

When I had my first son, even from the beginning of the pregnancy, I knew I wanted to name him Jamin. I got a lot of comments, some negative. So, on the day of his birth I considered naming him something else. But, in my heart he was Jamin. If I changed his name now, it would seem like a different child and I’d lost Jamin somehow. I felt that strongly about his name. Jamin is now 13 years old. My cousins, they’re sisters, both liked the name Haley. Nicole gave birth first to Haley Autumn, Melanie gave birth 3 months later to Kaylee Nicole. There’s always a way around any obstacle.

owllover96 Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 8:53 am

I have the same problem as you except they chose the name years in advance of me having a child. My step-cousin named his first child Liam (according to my grandma he wanted a “unique” name. Should have done the research to realize how popular it is.) and my boyfriend has a nephew named Liam. We are out of luck there. I love the name Liam so much. The second I found out the name on my aunt’s Facebook page my heart broke a little. It was my chosen boy’s name for years.

Abby Sandel Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 10:15 am

@owllover96 – Oh, that’s just SO rough. I’m sorry!

BluebirdBlossom Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 11:06 am

I would still use the name, but I would probably give her a courtesy heads up so she isn’t surprised by it. Just let her know that it was your chosen boy name too, and that you don’t plan on changing it. Tell her what great taste she has! haha She might be mad for awhile and that’s okay. She is allowed to feel that way, but it’s not worth messing up your son’s perfect name, in my opinion. For what it’s worth, I have the same name as my first cousin. It’s never been an issue. It is what it is.

SparkleNinja18 Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Personally? I’d find a new name. However, I agree with the Name Sage that it doesn’t seem to be a problem for you and you’re more worried about her response than whether or not you like the name. If someone in my family used the same name I’d picked out, the name wouldn’t feel special anymore which is why I’d scrap it. Since it doesn’t seem like the name has lost its shimmer, I’d say go for it but I’d recommend giving your cousin a heads up. If she wants to be competitive and petty about it, then it’s her problem now.

peach Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 12:49 pm

I support your feeling that you have found your son’s name and still want to use it. I would consider the middle name and maybe changing it to a different initial, to reduce confusion, especially if the last name is the same. I would also prepare for confusion within the family with a ready-made nickname or first-middle combo that you put forward as the name that’s used within the family. I have a similar family situation with two people with the same first and last name: one is known by the full first name and the other by a nickname. Especially with the cousins being so close in age, something like this will help the family feel more comfortable.

elanorelle Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 1:18 pm

I agree with @BluebirdBlossom. It will seem less like you ‘stole’ the name if you let your cousin know in advance. Definitely make it clear that it was your chosen name long before you knew of her son’s name and that it’s very important to use the name you love, even if she’s annoyed by it.

Amanda1866 Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 1:51 pm

My husband and I are waiting for the arrival of our son! I have a huge family and we have multiple Debbie’s and Tyler’s. My husband and I had a hard time decided on a name and the one we both love has already been used by my cousin for his son 2 years ago. We decided the name was right for our baby anyway. I announced the name ahead of time and a few family members brought it up. I just said we have other people with the same name in the family and they do okay….it isn’t the name that makes people unique anyway. It seems like everyone in my family is on board with the name and if they aren’t oh well!

LiliMorgana Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 5:36 pm

The older generation in my family is full of James, Elizabeth, Mary, Chris, and John variations. Many even have the same initials. It was never an issue. With my generation and their kids, there has been more diversity, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use the same name as one of my cousins (in fact several of those names have been my favourites for years). We are not close enough for it to feel like a big deal and I would just say “I love it too, I was so happy when you named your child that, since I didn’t know if I ever would”. If it was my brother’s child, I would probably try and go with something else, but if there wasn’t anything, I want to love my child’s name always. I would never want to feel like I couldn’t use it because of a relative. That would make me really resentful. If you love it and there’s nothing else: use it. Your new little family should take precedence imo.

Claire1013 Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 5:50 pm

My dad and his first cousin were both named Allen with the same last name. And they grew up next door to each other! If you really love the name, go for it. Families are full of repeated names!

Claire1013 Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Also, my cousin has a Logan. I’ve always loved that name, if I had another boy, I’d still consider using it.

justthinkin Says:

December 19th, 2018 at 7:03 pm

Go for what you like. I have a second cousin with the same name as me, born six weeks later. I’ve seen her less than ten times, even though she grew up probably ten minutes away.

Unless you see each other quite regularly, I don’t see it being any different from sharing names in school. We never know who we may end up friends with either.

I would look at it this way: If it were an honor name, would you be questioning it nearly as much?

WiseBird39 Says:

December 20th, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Absolutely agree with what @alexandrah says–if the name is common, it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s easy to pass off two Ellas, Mias, or Masons as a happy accident with a common name. Doing the same for two Theodosias or Hephaestions would definitely prove more challenging.

WhiteGardenia Says:

December 22nd, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Name Sage, I wasn’t sure how I would handle that situation but after reading your comments, you make so much sense! Great advice.

cameronmarie Says:

December 22nd, 2018 at 10:55 pm

I- Cameron- have a female cousin named Cameron. Granted, we aren’t remotely close, but it’s not a big deal at all. Definitely use the name you love!!!

lightasafeather Says:

December 23rd, 2018 at 6:14 pm

I am a bit late late to the game and the previous comments have been great. Both my sister and I have had similar situations. I changed the name, she kept hers. I try to break down the reasons

We had picked out Johannes. While it is extremely common with Dutch speakers (which was what we spoke at home), I don’t hear it much in United States. I really liked that it was a bit different, and when my cousin used it, it lost its luster for me. My sister had picked out Samuel. She knew lots of people used it and it didn’t bother her one wit.

With me, I wasn’t extremely attached to the name. We thought we’d probably name him Johannes but never started calling him that. My sister did. He was Samuel from the day she found out he was a boy.

It sounds like you are more like my sister. You are still very much attached to the name. I would be upfront with her just to try to prevent her feelings, but even if she is upset about it, I wouldn’t stress.

Thia-823 Says:

December 30th, 2018 at 6:41 pm

If you settle for another name I think you would regret it. This is important enough for you to post so it’s important enough for you to keep it. If she says anything. I would simply say how extraordinary that we both have such great taste in names. How can she argue with that? My sister and cousin both have the same name. They don’t and never did see each other enough for it to be an issue. Keep the name your heart tells you is right

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