How to Name a Large Family
Whether you’re planning on it (Duggar) or it takes you by surprise (Gosselin), having a big family means choosing a lot of names. Naming with care can help with everything from reducing the possibility of you having name regret, to staving off your children’s dissatisfaction with their given names, to minimizing the craziness others will inevitably tag you with. (Maybe.)
Be forward thinking
You have a plan for your parenthood, and it doesn’t include having a big family. Maybe you’re going to have two children, and their names are both going to start with K, or they’re going to be named after your two favorite Olympic speed skaters. Then life happens—you marry a guy who really wants ten children and two just doesn’t seem like the right compromise, or you find yourself unexpectedly expecting triplets.
You used both your favorite K names and hate all the others, or after naming your first two after speed skaters you decide you’ve really grown out of that phase and you no longer want to be tied to that naming theme. We’re namers—themes, styles, patterns are important to us, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be … just, when you’re making your lists of your favorite names by theme, maybe shelve the themes that can’t be carried through a lot of kids. Just in case.
You love the idea of your daughters all having flower names, but the only ones you like are Violet, Rose, and Daisy, which you happily bestow upon your first three girls. Then daughter #4 makes her appearance—what do you do?
I think it’s so important to be flexible with naming, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your taste or your theme. Instead, consider ways of redefining them: Your love of Biblical names can expand to include Biblical places (Bethany) or ideas (Faith). Your Irishy Irish theme (Aoife) can expand to include others from the list of top twenty names commonly used by real Irish people in Ireland today (Anna, Kate). You’re committed to S- names, but you’ve used all your favorites—perhaps a hyphenated name would sufficiently jazz up an otherwise non-favorite S- option (Sara–Kate). Maybe Violet, Rose, and Daisy’s little sister could be Elizabeth with the nickname Lily.
It’s also important to remember that you’re not a bad parent if you—gasp!—choose a name you love that doesn’t fit with your already set theme, and your kids won’t be seen as one part of a sib set forever.
You’re remembering to stay flexible, you’re being totally laid back about this whole naming thing. You have your John, Samuel, Matthew, and David, but by golly, you’re just going to go ahead and name your next son Maverick.
I would just really recommend against choosing names that set your children up for feeling that someone’s the favorite or most loved. Would Maverick admire your maverick-ness or wonder why his brothers got such normal names and he was stuck with the weird one? Or would the older brothers think you must have loved the baby the most, since you gave him the most exciting name?
Of course you can’t predict all the issues your kids might have with your naming (or parenting, fashion style, career choice, you name it), but trying to be fair is a thoughtfulness you can stand behind. Maybe the next brother could be James Maverick and he could go by his middle name, or you could name him Michael Oliver Richard and pat yourself on the back for teasing out the nickname M+a+ve+rick from the boy’s given names. But even then, being able to tell your child that you gave him or her a name that you loved, just like with his or her siblings, might be all the fairness that’s required.
Be family friendly
My parents have nine grandchildren … and they’re all boys. So far, there haven’t been any duplicate names, but there will likely be a lot more grandchildren (I’m the oldest of six). My siblings and I have naming tastes that aren’t wildly different from each other, plus we have all the same beloved relatives whose names we might like to use, so the possibility of same-named first cousins is very real. Would it be the end of the world? It absolutely should not be. I’m sure we all have our own stories—or have heard others’ stories—about favorite names being “stolen,” and there are differing opinions on whether naming “dibs” are okay, but when there are a lot of people in a family it’s just common sense, never mind kinder, to name and let name.
That said, it’s always a good idea to be considerate of names that might legitimately “belong” to another—like, if your current favorite is your brother’s actual name. Respectful conversations are the best approach, and even the willingness to give up a favorite name for the sake of the relationship.
As one of my favorite philosophers said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live”—don’t let names, wonderful and important as they are, get in the way of peace.
What guidelines or strategies would you offer for big-family naming?
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Ohmygoodness | Sancta Nomina Said
on March 23rd, 2015 at 6:59 am
[…] check it out! How to Name a Large Family by Kate at Sancta Nomina (that’s me!) 🙂 🙂 […]
on March 23rd, 2015 at 9:57 am
So excited to see this post and to check out your website. I have 6 kids with great Catholic names and I am totally obsessing about what we’d name any additional children. With the girl names I find my self stuck because so many of my favorites are too close to already used names. Mary too close to our son Mark, Anne to close to baby Andrew, Caroline too close to Clare.
With the boys I’m a bit boxed in by our pattern. Our four boys all have classic New Testament names starting with different initials. If we have another I’ll have to budge and either repeat an initial, use an Old Testament name, or use a name that isn’t as classic and that we don’t like as much.
Feel like I need a support group!
on March 23rd, 2015 at 11:30 am
Yay Lo! Come on over, there are some lovely readers there — very support group-ish! 🙂
on March 23rd, 2015 at 3:40 pm
The first rule, I think, is the most important. I’ve seen families with four, five, six kids, having all same-syllable/ sound-alike names, and the youngest kids sort of getting the short end of the stick with their names. Some of them were real stretches- something like Shirley, Sherleen, Shayanne, Shonna, Shabrina. It’d probably be best not to Duggar one’s way into a naming box, and if it ever gets that bad, IMO it’s better to just go with a different theme name that you’d actually like more.
on March 23rd, 2015 at 5:26 pm
There’s definitely something to what you say headintheclouds, re: just going with a different theme name that the parents like more than whatever options are left with sticking with the established theme. I saw a sib set once where the first three all had G names and #4 had an E name … a little jarring to someone like me, but certainly not the end of the world, and all four names were lovely, which is really more important right?
on March 24th, 2015 at 7:02 pm
Theme family names are hard to keep from sounding too cutsie, contrived, or overly similar. I plan on having a large family, but so far just have one. She set the bar with an unusual but not totally unheard-of name. We don’t have a theme that we’re going to stick with, we’re just going to use names we love and make sure they work well together. I do know the more we have, the harder it will be though!
My best friend is also planning a large family, but she discovered how different her and her husbands tastes were from one another pretty quickly. It made naming their three girls extremely hard and they ended up with very different names that (in my opinion) do not go together at all. I don’t know what will happen if they have another girl. Number 3 took a long time to name and they finally just picked one at random after a lot of tense disagreeing.
I always wonder why some choose to use a certain letter for all their kids. Why that particular letter? I would never be able to limit myself like that. I really am curious, though. If anyone here does use the letter method, why did you choose to do that? Why that letter?
on March 24th, 2015 at 8:48 pm
Great question laurelrobyn! I too am always fascinated by the all-on-letter approach. I hope someone answers!
on March 24th, 2015 at 8:49 pm
Great question laurelrobyn! I too am always fascinated by the all-one-letter approach. I hope someone answers!
Reading round-up | Sancta Nomina Said
on March 28th, 2015 at 7:21 am
[…] case you missed it ( 😉 ), there’s this: How to Name a Large Family (by […]
on March 31st, 2015 at 4:02 pm
laurelrobyn: I don’t have any kids yet, but as my name is Scarlett and my husband’s name is Seth, we definitely have considered going with an “S” theme….HOWEVER, there are so many names I like that don’t start with S that I think when we do have kids we have decided to use “S” names for the middle names and go with the names we truly love as the first names. A little letter theme-y but not too much.
I have an aunt named Kim who married a man named Kenny, and they had two daughters named Klaire and Khloe. Very K theme-y. But that makes sense to me, because I’m in a similar situation with the S thing.
Other than the two parents’ names being coincidentally the same letter though, I don’t know why people decide to do a letter theme. Just thought I’d give my insight on one possible reason!
on April 6th, 2015 at 11:33 am
ShadesOfScarlett that’s an awesome way to do a letter theme without being too themey — having it for the first OR middle opens up a whole lot of other possibilities while still staying true to your theme!
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