Kissing Cousin Names: Names that don’t look related–but are

Creative Baby Names

When Matthew McConaughey chose the name Levi for his son, he was, in a subtle way, naming the baby after himself.  How so?   Because in the New Testament, Matthew and Levi are two names for the same person.

There are many other such pairs of names with close  connections that aren’t immediately evident, whether they be  different ethnic versions of the same name, double identities for the same person, having historic or literary ties, or as sharers of linguistic elements.  Being aware of this can be a useful tool for baby namers seeking not-too-obviously linked twin or sibling names or, like McConaughey, another less egoey version of your or your spouse’s name.

And of course it could also come in handy when looking for a more modern substitute namesake for a fustily-named family member.  As much as you may have  adored your Grandpa Roland, for example, you still might prefer the more dashing Orlando for your baby boy.

Here are a few examples, though of course there are countless other ethnic-switching possibilities out there:


AURORA has the same meaning as DAWN


AZENOR is the Breton form of ELINOR

CHAVA is Hebrew for EVE

DAISY is a pet form of MARGARET

CHLORIS is the Greek goddess of flowers; the Roman is FLORA

DELIA is an epithet of the goddess ARTEMIS

DOROTHEA has the same elements, in reverse, as THEODORA

HADASSAH was the original Hebrew name of the Old Testament ESTHER

HOLLY Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s was born LULA


ISABEL was originally a Spanish version of ELIZABETH


JENNIFER is a Cornish form of GUINEVERE

MAUD started as a vernacular of MATILDA

NELL and NORA are both related to HELEN

POSY is a diminutive of JOSEPHINE

SINEAD is an Irish Gaelic form of JANET



ALISTAIR is the Scottish form of ALEXANDER

ARMAND is the French version of HERMAN

ARRIGO is an Italian equivalent of HENRY

AXEL is a cognate of the biblical ABSALOM

AZARIAS was the human name of the angel RAPHAEL

BARTHOLOMEW may have been the same New Testament personage as NATHANIEL

CASPAR is the Dutch form of JASPER

COLIN is a diminutive of NICHOLAS

CLOVIS has the same components as LOUIS

EAMON is the Irish version of EDMUND

HAMISH is the Gaelic form of JAMES

JACOB, in Genesis, had a name change to ISRAEL

MARS is an ancient god of war, as is ARES

ORLANDO is the Iralian form of ROLAND

PAUL, in the New Testament, was originally named SAUL

TORQUIL is a Gaelic name based on the Norse god THOR

ZEUS is the Greek supreme god, the Roman equivalent is JUPITER


VIOLA, in Twelfth Night, disguises herself as CESARIO, and is the twin of SEBASTIAN (Thanks, Karen and Rachel)

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


20 Responses to “Kissing Cousin Names: Names that don’t look related–but are”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Karen Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 6:59 am

*Viola* disguised herself as *Cesario*, and her twin (who was frequently confused with her) was Sebastian.

Abby Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 7:21 am

Cool list! I love the Holly/Lula connection!

Sebastiane Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 9:19 am

Nell can also be a nickname for Eleanor. This was a very nice and informative list.

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 9:27 am

Yes, very cool list. I had no idea that Axel and Absalom, Torquil and Thor, and Joan and Sinead and Joan were related.

I wish more parents would pay attention to etymology. Surfing recent birth announcements, I spotted a James Seamus and a Levi Matthew. Lots of Levis these days!

linda Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 9:39 am

And we know why!

ailsa gray Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Also, Laura/Laurel/Lauren (from the Laurel tree) means the same as Daphne, although I think we have a way to go before Daphne is resurrected as a good choice for a baby.

J Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 8:26 pm

My name is Jennifer, like millions of other girls from the 70/80 era. Except I was named after my grandmother Guinevere. Now that I have to identify myself as The Jennifer S. With Red Hair Who Lives In XXXXX. Because of course there’s another Jennifer S. With Red Hair where I work. Who just moved to XXXXX, a block away from me. Gah! I wish I were named Guinevere!

Mamie Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Some of my favorites that are related are Jude / Judah and Thaddeus which are all used to refer to one of the apostles.

rachel Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 9:31 pm

sorry, but Chava is the Biblical Hebrew for Eve, not Chaya which means life.

linda Says:

July 6th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

I’ve seen both given, but looking at the most authoritative sources, I can see that you’re absolutely right–I’ll change the blog. Thanks.

PunkPrincess Says:

July 7th, 2009 at 1:39 am

Technically, Sinead is the Irish form of Janet, not Joan (which is Siobhan) – though both are related back to Jane/John.

linda Says:

July 7th, 2009 at 9:28 am

Thanks, PP, I made the change on Sinead. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names translates Siobhan as Jane–which as you say they all relate back to.

AzhiaShalott Says:

July 7th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Both Dorcas and Tabitha are used for the same person in the New Testament.

Tracey Says:

July 10th, 2009 at 8:55 am

Actually, @ailsa, I know two little Daphnes.

ailsa gray Says:

July 17th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Interesting, Tracey, I think Daphne is sweet. I work in a toyshop and daily quiz my customers on the names of their little people in their prams, so am constantly having my expectations challenged. The other day, we had twins in – Freya Rose and AUDREY Hope. Up til recently, I had thought of Audrey as one of those names that was not due for resurrection (my own godmother, Auntie Audrey, is 96, which coloured my judgement). Seeing little baby Audrey made me view the name in a different light.

ana-maria Says:

November 29th, 2009 at 10:32 am

First, I really like the list.
Second, Nell is also short for Cornelia. I had a teacher named that and everyone called her Nelly.
Also, I read somewhere that James is a derived version of Jacob. It appeared as a result of the name Jacobus sometimes being spelled Jacomus.

Martina Says:

May 20th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

What about Daphne and Laurel? they both mean Laurel tree and is by far one of the nicest sibsets (twins actually) that I have heard.

Sheila Says:

January 20th, 2011 at 10:21 am

What about all the Ann’s (Hannah, Anne, Anneliese, Nancy, Annette, Annabelle, etc.)? They all mean Grace. I really like Hannah, Grace, and Nancy as siblings.

JuliaDrucilla Says:

May 17th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Eos (EE-ohs) also means dawn, and it is one of my favorite names. One of the few Greek mythology characters that doesn’t murder their parents or something (well, her husband turns into a cricket or grasshopper or something like that, which isn’t that bad). Nameberry should add it to the database!

IzzyQ Says:

September 5th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Where did they get that picture? I want to know the website they got it from!

leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.