Brother Names: Finding a Middle Ground

Brother Names: Finding a Middle Ground

He says her favorite names are weird. She says his suggestions aren’t for her. But does this couple have more in common than they think?

K writes:

My husband and I are having a boy. We are struggling with a name and could really use your help!

Our older son is Levi Henry.

Most of my husband’s favorite names don’t really appeal to me. His list includes Everett, Oliver, Kendrick, Kenyon, Lincoln, Ellis, Ezra, Truman, Spencer, Trevor, and Eli.

My list is Finn (Phinneas Wilder, called Finn), Gray/Grey, Kipton, Cohen, Rowan, and Grant. I like Felix, too, but I can’t decide if it strikes me as too unusual.

I like names that are a little less common, but I don’t want it to be so unusual that people have no idea how to say or spell it. The other type of name that appeals to me is an old name that’s new again.

My husband thinks my list is “weird.” From his list, I think Oliver is okay, but too popular. Everett, Lincoln, Ellis, and Truman are on my maybe list. Ezra might be fine, but with a son named Levi, it seems like we’re sticking with Biblical names, and that’s not the case.

Our girl name for Levi was Leah Eleanor. My husband still really likes it, and I’m still ok with it. But I’d prefer Eleanor with Elle for short.

Our last name ends with -son, so names like Grayson and Emerson are out.

The Name Sage replies:

This kind of conflict is surprisingly common. It seems like we’re disagreeing on style, but there’s actually an awful lot of overlap in the names that we like. We just don’t have one name that we both love – yet!

Let’s look at what you have in common first. This is a great strategy for any couple that feels far apart when they first look at their lists.

It seems like you both agree that you’d like a name:

– With some history and roots. You’re not sticking with names like William and John, but none of your names are truly out-there or invented.

– With current style. The names on both of your lists seem at home in 2016. If you handed me your lists and said they were the names of boys in Levi’s nursery school class, I wouldn’t be surprised.

– Nickname-proof. Maybe it’s not something you’ve given a lot of thought – especially because you seem to like nicknames – but your boy lists tend towards the strongly nickname-proof. Even names like Oliver and Kipton that can be shortened aren’t automatically shortened the way Benjamin almost inevitably becomes Ben.

– Familiar is good, but too popular is a problem – Your lists both range from the Top 200 to the much rarer. It seems like you agree that you’d like a name others recognize, without it being Aiden or Noah.

Lastly, it seems like you both like surname names – if only you can agree on the right one!

The good news is that plenty of names fit these criteria. I’ll make a list to get us started, and I know readers will have some great suggestions, too.

FinnPhinneas called Finn is great, but maybe just Finn as a first name would feel like a better fit for your husband? There are other longer forms of Finn, including Finnegan, Finley, and Fintan. Finn falls right outside of the current US Top 200.

BeckettBeckett reminds me of Everett and Kipton. It’s a surname name with history, too, just like Lincoln or Ellis. Beckett ranks just outside the current US Top 200, which seems like a sweet spot for you. And Levi and Beckett sound great together!

Max, Maxwell – One of the appealing things about Levi is that great letter V. Maybe a name with an X or a Z would make a good brother name? Maxwell comes to mind – or even just Max. The downside is that there are so many Max names in use that it might feel a little more familiar than you’d like.

Axel – If Max/Maxwell is almost the right name, but feels a little too vintage for your husband, how about Axel? It has tons of history – it’s a Scandinavian form of Absalom. Technically, they’re both Biblical names. But Levi and Axel sound very cool together.

DeclanLincoln reminds me of Declan. It’s Irish, but feels almost as mainstream as Ryan today. It’s just outside the US Top 100, which makes it familiar. But it’s not the kind of name anyone was using in the 1980s or 90s, which keeps it fresh.

CorbinCorbin comes from a French surname, but we tend to think of it as a sometimes-heard given name. Like many of my suggestions, it’s just outside the current US Top 200.

MilesEllis makes me think of Miles. Miles stands just outside the current US Top 100, which makes it familiar. But it’s a distinctive choice, too – Americana (thanks to Standish) and jazzy (thanks to Davis).

GradyGrayson is off the table because of the –son ending, and your husband isn’t wild about Gray. Would Grady work? It’s the least common name listed here – it currently ranks in the Top 400.

Overall, I’m drawn to Levi and Axel as brothers. At Number 123 in the US, Axel is more familiar than you might guess. But it has a different, distinctive sound. If Axel seems like too much, I’d suggest Levi and Miles. It’s another name that you’ve probably heard before – but not so often that it seems overused.

Readers, what would you suggest to K for Levi’s new brother?