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Name Sage: A Brother for Ivan Lawrence

December 29, 2015 Abby Sandel

Jacqui writes:

I hope that you might be able to put some fresh eyes on a debate my husband and I are having about the name of our second child!

Our first is named Ivan Lawrence. I liked that Ivan is different, but not too different. I also liked the nicknames Ives and Van. My husband studied Russian Literature in college. Lawrence is from our family tree.

If this baby is a girl we have a couple of strong contenders: Ingrid, Josephine, or Eloise, all with the middle name Hannah.

We cannot seem to think of a name for our second if it’s a boy.

My husband loves the popular classics: William and Alexander, maybe James or Benjamin. I like traditional names, but prefer mine a little less common: Abram, Abraham, Abel, Malachi, Arthur, Theodore, Leo, Alistair, and Louis. He’s willing to consider Lewis.

We’d love to find an older name that feels contemporary, but not trendy. We like names with nicknames and don’t like last names as first names. Our middle name is already set: Richard, another family name.

I am starting to feel like the name we need doesn’t exist!

The Name Sage replies:

Ivan Lawrence hits all the right notes. It feels familiar to your husband because of his studies, but it isn’t the kind of name you hear every day, which pleases you – a nice compromise!

Finding another name that hits the sweet spot is a challenge.

But it’s very doable. First, there are more traditional names than you might imagine. (We had fun coming with up with a list for this post – the suggestions in the comments are great!)

There are two approaches you can take:

  • You can automatically rule out any name in the current US Top 25. Yes, that means forgoing some great names, like William and Alexander. But if finding a less common name is a concern for you, that’s not an unreasonable approach.
  • Or maybe you would consider a very popular name only if it comes with an unusual nickname. Alexander called Dex or Xan? Benjamin called Jamie? James Richard called J.R.?

If the unconventional nickname approach doesn’t work for you, let’s see if we can find some possibilities outside of the US Top 25 that would make a great brother name for Ivan.

Leo – My first thought was going back to Russian literature for another traditional-with-a-twist name: Maxim, Sergei, Viktor, Nikolai, or Anton, maybe? Or Leo – as in Tolstoy – which seems like a perfect brother name for Ivan. Ivan Lawrence and Leo Richard. You’ve mentioned that your husband has already rejected Leo, but I wonder if pointing out the literary connection between the two boys’ names would change his mind. There are plenty of longer names for Leo, too: Leopold, Leon, Leonardo, Leonidas.

Wallace Wallace strikes me as an impeccable classic, and far less common than William. (Wallace isn’t in the current US Top 1000 – crazy, right?) I suspect Wallace doesn’t make the cut because parents worry about Wally as a nickname. There’s also Ace, which is a sporty short form, or maybe even Walt. I’m not sure it’s the best match for Ivan, but it’s undeniably an under-the-radar classic.

Gregory – Along the same lines, there’s Gregory. Most Gregorys I know are 40-something or older, but I do know one school-aged Gregory, and it wears well. It also shortens to Rory or Grey – very unexpected possibilities, and far more contemporary than Greg. Over 1,000 boys were given the name last year – a big drop from its peak in the 1960s, but still familiar.

Omar – I can easily imagine brothers called Ivan and Omar. They’re both names that are portable, international, surprising. Of course, unless your husband also studied the poetry of Omar Khayyam or maybe World War II history and General Omar Bradley, there might not be a logical reason to choose this name.

Axel – When I think about traditional names that feel very contemporary, Axel almost always tops the list. It’s the Scandinavian form of Biblical name Absalom. In terms of popularity, it’s about as common as Ivan and Leo. It shares sounds with your husband’s favorite, Alexander. Nicknames are few, though I can imagine myself shortening this name to Zel. Another traditional, x-ending boy name is Felix – though I think Felix might be truly nickname-proof.

Miles – Because you’re both interested in Louis/Lewis, I wonder if other ‘s’ ending names might appeal? Lewis is traditionally the surname spelling of the name, though it has a long history as a given name, too. Miles shares the ‘s’ ending with Lewis, and a little bit of the name’s classic, but not too common style. Milo might make a fun nickname.

Julian – It doesn’t get much more classic than Julian, a name with roots in ancient Rome. And yet, Julian feels completely contemporary, too. The name is currently at its most popular – Number 47. Julian seems like the logical halfway mark between William and Malachi, and it’s got nicknames galore. Ivan Lawrence and Julian Richard sound like brothers.

August – Let’s take a look at another name in the key of Julian: the ancient August. At Number 242, it’s less common than Julian, Miles, or Axel, and fits right in with modern nature names and word names. But August feels traditional, too, with a long history of use.

If your husband isn’t willing to reconsider Leo, I think Miles and Julian would be my top recommendations. They’re traditional, but have plenty of current appeal, too. And neither of them is in the Top 25!

We have an update from Jacqui! She writes, “It turns out all our planning for a little boy was for naught! We welcomed a beautiful little girl earlier this month. I was leaning strongly towards Josephine, but when I met her she was an Ingrid Leona … so far we’ve been calling her Ila (EE lah), which is a combination of her first and middle names. Thank you for your suggestions, and the suggestions of your readers!

About the author

Abby

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 namesage@nameberry.com.

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