Sibling Names: Stick with the theme?

April 25, 2017 Abby Sandel

They’re looking for an E name to honor a loved one, plus they’d love to stick with their 4-letter name pattern. Options abound, but which fits best with Levi and Kali?

Hillary writes:

Help! My husband and I have decided to name one of our baby girls (expecting twins) with an “E” name in honor of my deceased grandfather.

It seems like we would have lots of great choices, but to make things trickier we want a name with just four letters.

We have a four-letter theme going because big brother is named Levi and her twin sister is likely to be named Kali.

Our current favorite “E” names are too long (Emanuelle) or too short (Eva). We like Eila, but fear dooming the child to explaining how to pronounce her name for the rest of her life. We also like Ellis, it resonates with Ellis Island where her great-grandfather immigrated through, but we worry it sounds too much like a last name when she will already have to deal with two last names.

The Name Sage replies:

There are plenty of great four-letter E names. But before we get to that list, let’s pause and consider if you really want to consider this a must-keep pattern. I know a family who just named their twins, babies three and four, sticking to a four-letter theme. The upside? It can simplify your search.

But if you find yourself ruling out great names because satisfying two rules is too much? Parents should always give themselves permission to relax one – or both – of their qualifications. There are many ways to find an honor name, and lots of ways to make siblings feel like they belong, even if their names don’t share certain characteristics.

In this case, it feels like the honor name requirement is more pressing, so let’s stick with the letter E.

Are Emma and Ella ruled out because of popularity? They do share sounds with Emanuelle from your list. I’m guessing that you’d like something slightly less familiar, like Kali.

I’ll also skip names vintage picks like Enid and Elma. They’d work well for lots of families, but don’t quite sound like your style.

Happily, four-letter E names abound!

Eden – I’d call Eden a modern name with roots. That makes it a good sister choice for Biblical Levi and current Kali. Levi, Kali, and Eden all sound distinct and different, too. In terms of popularity, Eden ranks around the 150 mark, making it less common than Levi, but a little more familiar than Kali.

Edie – If Eden is almost-but-not-quite, sweetly retro Edie could work. Keira Knightley chose the name for her daughter in 2015, a signal that it’s trending upwards in use. Edie fits right in with Sadie and Elsie. I like it because the four-letter spelling is the most familiar one, unlike, say, Elly.

Elin – Speaking of spellings, would you consider this Scandinavian spin on Ellen and Helen? It’s typically pronounced with a long ‘e’ sound: EE lin. That could cause confusion in the US. Or it might feel like an intriguing update to those traditional names, a sleeker take on the quiet Ellen.

Elle Elle makes for an obvious four-letter E name for girls. While it is sometimes short for a longer El– name, it stands on its own. Credit the hero of 2002 hit Legally Blonde, the stylish and capable Elle Woods, for the name’s rise. It has continued to gain in use steadily ever since.

Elsa – Speaking of movies, I’d be all about Elsa. It’s a gorgeous name, sleek and feminine but still relatively unexpected. Except Frozen. Sure, Elsa’s story predates the Disney blockbuster by a lot. But will Let It Go become way too annoying? I’d risk it, but it’s not for every family.

Esme Esme earns its literary status thanks to JD Salinger, and is broadly familiar thanks to Twilight. Despite that pop culture tie, I think it’s a great option, gaining in use, but still not wildly popular. A fun twist: Levi, Kali, and Esme all end in vowel sounds – but they’re all different! You already have Levi’s long ‘I’ sound and Kali’s ‘ee’ sound. EZ-may adds a third.

Ever – If daring names like Eila appeal, maybe you’d consider word name Ever. It’s a much less expected Ev- name than Eva, with some of the same sound. One challenge: if patterns matter to you, Levi and sister Ever would share a ‘v’, while Kali would not.

Evie, Evey – Take Eva and Edie and mix, and you’ll arrive at Evie. Evey seems like another possible spelling. There is a popular Pokemon character called Eevee, but since Eve names have history galore, I doubt it’s a major problem. I’d be more concerned that Evie and Levi share so many sounds.

As for Eila, I think it works just fine. Yes, it’s a ticket to a lifetime of let-me-spell-it-for-you. But Kali also comes with multiple spellings; Callie and Kallie chart in the current US Top 1000, too. My first instinct was to pronounce it like Ayla, but our database lists the name with a long ‘I’ sound. And you’d probably hear Ella or Eela sometimes, too. Since you don’t mention which you prefer, let’s poll the readers and see what they guess – maybe that will give you a sense of whether it’s likely to confuse.

If you decide to keep the E and drop the four-letter requirement, your options expand. There’s Elena, Evelyn, Eliza, and Elise, or maybe even Everly or Emery. Emery could, I suppose, be re-spelled Emry or Emri and fit your rule. But again, that’s the kind of spelling that might cause headaches.

My favorite so far is Esme. It feels a little bit unexpected, like Kali. While it has history, it’s really only become popular in recent years, making it seem fresh and new. Plus, it’s a complete name that is logically spelled with four letters. For similar reasons, Eden ranks a close second.

Readers, what would you suggest to Hillary and her family? And don’t forget to vote, and tell us how you would pronounce Eila!

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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