Is Any Name Better than Theodore?

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

They’ve always wanted to name a son Theodore, but now a friend has used it first. Should they forge ahead or search for a replacement boys’ name? The Name Sage ponders.

Kate writes:

My husband and I are having our first child, a little boy. We are over the moon! Before we were even married, we spoke about possible baby names. For girls, we love Adeline and Cecelia, but for little boys it’s always just been Theodore Thomas.

We love Theodore for several reasons. It’s an older name, Teddy and Theo are great nicknames, and it goes well with our very common last name – one that at least a dozen famous people or historical figures have! (That rules out a lot of names for us.)

Thomas is a family name. Other family names we might use are James and Patrick.

Here’s the problem: a year ago a friend within our circle had a son and named him Theodore. Although they currently live out of state and we see them once or twice a year, it still is bothersome to me.

My husband and I keep trying to come up with names we love as much but so far nothing compares.

We have discussed Arlo (my husband really likes named that end with o), Everett, Xavier, Harrison, and Truman. (Except our last name is common and a presidential surname already, so this might be too much.)

We both agree that if we cannot come up with something we love as strongly as Theodore, we will go with it. But with that said, do you have any additional suggestions?

The Name Sage replies:

First, let me say thank you for not being indignant that your friend used Theodore. As you know, it’s a great choice, and there’s no rule that says two boys whose parents know each other can’t have the same name. The approach you’re taking – testing out another names to see if anything can bump Theodore from the top spot on your shortlist – is exactly right.

And I do feel like Theodore is likely the name for you. It checks all of the boxes. It’s a traditional, established name that also gives you the upbeat o-ending Theo and sweet Teddy as nicknames.

Harrison almost works. If you’re not wild about Harry, you might use Hank or Hal. And Arlo is every bit as energetic as Theo, but lacks an obvious formal name.

Let’s take a look at some options that combine formal, traditional boys’ names with fun, current nickname possibilities, and see if any of these can replace Theodore Thomas.

Charles, nickname Charlie – There’s no easy o-ending nickname for Charles, but Charlie has the same friendly, accessible vibe as Theo. Now, the bad news: I counted at least three dozen distinguished men with a similar first-last combination, including Charles Addams, the creator of The Addams Family. So that’s a strike against Charlie, but I still think it’s worth consideration.

Alexander, nickname Alex, Xander, or Xan – Here’s a surprise. Despite Alexander being much more popular than Charles at the moment, there are many fewer famous Alexanders with your surname. I found a college basketball coach from the 1970s and a character on a British medical drama, both called Alex. Xander and Xan make the first-last combination even more rare.

Jonathan, nickname Jono, Jon, Jack, Nat, or Nate Jonathan is a longer name rich with potential nicknames. Jon is the default, but far from the only option.

Nicholas, called Nico Nicholas was a very popular name in the 1990s, but most of those boys are just Nick. Nico is on the rise now, a cool and edgy possibility that is sometimes heard for girls, too.

August, nickname Gus August feels like a modern word name, but it traces its history all the way back to the Roman Empire. I think you might like the alliteration of August and your surname, and the nickname Gus has the same approachable feel as Teddy.

Donovan, nickname Van – While the names on your shortlist all have some history, Xavier and Everett are currently at their most popular – ever! That makes me wonder if you would consider other names that feel more modern. Irish surname Donovan feels like a great possibility, and it comes with built-in nickname Van.

Dashiell, nickname Dash Dashiell is a literary name that remains rare in 2016, but it is definitely catching on. Dash Parr – the lightning fast superhero from The Incredibles family – is one famous Dashiell/Dash. Because the name has never been common, it works well with a more popular surname.

Dexter Everett and Xavier make me think of Dexter. There’s no o-ending nickname option, but Dex has plenty of style. Like Dashiell and Donovan, it has history without being so common that it fades into your familiar surname.

I could go on! There are dozens of names that have history and come with great nicknames, but are relatively underused. And yet, I’m still struggling to like any of these as much as Theodore.

Because of that, let’s have a poll at the bottom of the post. Is Theodore Thomas still the best name, or is it better to move on?

Readers, what ideas do you have for Kate and her husband? And please vote!

Should they still use Theodore Thomas for their son?

  1. AYes! It sounds like it's their favorite name.
  2. BOnly if they can't find another name they like better.
  3. CNo! It's taken by their friends, and who wants to share a name?
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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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24 Responses to “Is Any Name Better than Theodore?”

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katinka Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 1:43 am

I know there were other strikes against Charles, but I just wanted to point out that Arlo could be a potential o-ending nickname from ChARLes.

My favourite for you from Abby’s list is Dashiell, nn Dash. Feels very polished in full, yet super cool at the same time – very similar feel to Theodore/Theo to me.

Other ideas:

Benedict nn Ned
Leonard, Leopold or Lionel nn Leo
Edward or Edmund nn Teddy
Frederick nn Freddie
Oscar or Orson nn Ozzy
Miles nn Milo
Ezekiel nn Zeke or Ziggy

jonix Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 1:59 am

i loooove dashiell with your last name. dash addams sounds great.

i like miles/milo, leon/leo, roman, dominic/nico.

EasterBunny Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 3:11 am

Jonathan, nicknamed Jono is brilliant! I think Jonathan Thomas works as well.

Maple10 Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 5:15 am

I have had the same problem with a friend choosing Theodore. I have a big fear of copying people, and I just can’t do it. That said, it’s a great name, and you should use it if you want!
Charles nn Arlo was a great suggestion, as was Edward nn Teddy, or Ned, Ed, Ward…

Namecat Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 5:50 am

A) My reaction to the name “copying” really depends on whether or not your friend is a TIER A friend, and you only mention that the family lives far away. If it wouldn’t surprise you to learn that you will not be in touch 10 years from now, this seems like a non-issue. But if this is a lifelong friend, I would choose a different name. That said, copy naming (though I know you aren’t actually copying) is the kind of thing that doesn’t phase me as an outsider but I know I wouldn’t do it if it were me. That’s because I would be afraid of being judged, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with it.

B) if your last name really is @dams, August is definitely my favorite of the names suggested by the namesage, including Theodore. It’s not a deal breaker or anything, but Theodore with your last name as well as Theo are a bit clunky for me to say.

Titus245Mama Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 7:25 am

That’s a tough one. I’ve actually had this happen to my twice. The first time, it was exactly like you–a friend out of state whom I was unlikely to see more than once every few years. I decided just to ask her if she minded if we used the same name, and she said, “Of course not! No worries!” I will say that, of all my six children, his name is the one I’m most likely to hear on other children out in public. I’m guessing you’re probably already aware that Theo/Theodore is becoming quite popular. You may even find yourself in a similar situation in a year or two. “We’ve always loved the name Theo…you wouldn’t mind, would you?” If it wouldn’t bother you to hear it on another local baby, then maybe it really doesn’t matter so much?

The second time it happened to me, it was a more local friend, and we were pregnant at the same time. I was really glad she let her name choice slip early on, because it gave me time to freak out, mourn (But “Silas” was *the* name since the last baby was a girl!), and ultimately, choose something that we loved even better (Matthias–same ending, also a New Testament name, not nearly as trendy).

Anyway, I think you’re wise to consider whether there’s something else out there, but if you still love Theo the best, go for it. 🙂

lyndskyns Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 8:30 am

I was going to say the same thing!

What about Charles, Charleston, or Carlton with the nickname Arlo?

If I met an Arlo and found out his full name was one of the above three, I would think that was perfectly reasonable and also adorable!

AshleyLouisa Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 8:52 am

Harris is another possible nickname for Harrison

luca0730 Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 8:52 am

Since your husband likes the “o” sounding names, I have to suggest Beau (it’s literally my favorite of all boys’ names!) It’s in the same vein as Theodore, well-established but still modern. If you want to give him a more formal name and use Beau as a nickname, there is Beauregard or Beaumont or Beauford.

tfzolghadr Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 9:54 am

I’d just use Theodore. However, it is worth considering how popular this name is getting. Others that might fit your criteria…
Winston, nn Stone
Tobias, nn Obie, Toby
Lorenzo, nn Enzo, Renzo
Matthias, nn Matteo, Ty,
Marcus, nn Marco
Leo/ Leon
Quentin, nn Tino, Q, Quinn
Roland, nn Rollo
Oliver, nn Iver
Oskar, nn Skar
Jacob, nn Cubby, Jacko
Frederick, nn Red, Ed, Eric, Derick, Rick, Frey
Jasper, nn Sperry, Spero, Jazz
Casper, nn Sperry, Spero, Cash
Andrew, nn Rew
Anthony, nn Ant
Alexander, nn Xander, Anders, Xan, Al, Alexi
Martin, nn Art, Artie, Artin
Isaiah, nn Say
Vincent, nn Cent (might fit in with all the Pennys and the Cashes)
Abram, nn Ram
Edmund, nn Ed, Ned, Mundi
Benjamin, nn Ben, Jam, Jamin’, Benno
Everett, nn Rhett, Ever
Harold, nn Aro
Bennett, nn Benno
Arthur, nn Art, Aro

epowell Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 10:36 am

I say go for it. Send her a quick message/text or just call. Explain how long you’ve loved the name and it’s just THE ONE. I think it’s fine. Especially if the boys end up going by different nicknames. It’s a common name (as in everyone knows it) but not too common (since everyone doesn’t have it) so I don’t think there is anyway people would consider you “copied”. I had someone tell me after my daughter was born that her name was their “go to” girl name so I’ve always known if they had a girl they would share the name…although we’re not very close. (It’s a name in the 290s for popularity I think).

graciebeth Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 10:47 am

We had the same problem with a girl’s name we loved but was used by friends (Anna) it’s not that you’re being fussy, it just bugs you. You don’t want to be the second Theo in the group, and that’s OK.

I love Leopold called Leo, William called Will or Sebastian called Baz for you dilemma. Good luck!

Sweetchariot Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I think Theodore nn Theo nn Teddy feels perfect to you because it is versatile in all the ways we want a name to be flexible: formal name, dashing nickname, sweet nickname. So my suggestions are those that can do that too-sorry for repeats!

William nn Wills nn Billy
Frederick nn Fritz nn Freddie
Oscar nn Oz nn Ossie
Oliver nn Lio nn Ollie
Lawrence nn Lars nn Laurie
Winslow nn Winslow nn Win
Sebastian nn Baz or Sebo nn Sebbie

GinHanelle Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 1:45 pm

It is quite the tragedy that a friend used Theodore first as Theodore Thomas is absolutely marvelous. I would use that combination myself if I could, although if your surname has o’s in it, I worry that your son may have an unbalanced name. It would sound fantastic though. If your surname has a’s in it, then that’s fine, but then it will sound less perfect, but then who cares since Theodore Thomas is so lovely? (I would unabashedly nickname someone with that name as Teddy Tom–sorry, but it’s just too cute not to!)

However, perhaps the two of you may like Thornton Thomas or Hugo Thomas (or mayhaps even Thoren).

Whatever you both decide, best of luck to you!

squires8890 Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

I like Oliver with nickname Ollie!

My hubby is a Jonathan who gets called Johnny, Jon and Jono by different people in his life. I just call him Jonathan but I love the nickname potential! Jono is probably my favourite option 🙂

Essa Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

I’d like to recommend Edward. It’s a traditional name like Theodore and can easily lead to the nickname Teddy (or Eddy, Ted or Ned). The only thing it’s lacking is the O ending of Theo but there’s no reason Eddo couldn’t work.

Thomas could also be used as a first name then you have the adorable nickname Tommy and the quirkier Tommo.

Then there’s names similar to Theo. Leo, nickname for Leonardo, Leonard, Leopald, even Lennox and you could also use the nickname Lenny.

Gio, nickname for Giovanni, other nicknames could include Vanni and Van.

Penguinkin Says:

April 27th, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Or a twist on the above ideas
Edmund nn Ed, Ted, Ned
Thomas nn Thomps (prn Tomps) LOVE this

Personally I like for you
Julian nn jules, Jude
Hugh nn Hugo
Harley nn Harlo
Christian nn tian
Dominic nn Nico

Euterpe Says:

April 28th, 2016 at 12:27 am

My suggestion, if you decide not to use Thoedore, is Timothy. The nickname could be Timo, pronounced Teem-o, rhymes with Nemo. It’s the French variation. My best friend’s little brother is named Timothy with this nickname. It’s actually really odd to hear him called Tim or Timmy.

Eizariya Says:

April 28th, 2016 at 10:17 am

I second the Timothy suggestion. I went to school with a boy who also went by Timo, pronounced TIM-oh. It’s just as familiar a name as Theodore but seems less popular at the moment, if that’s something you’re concerned about. Timothy James would give you several nickname options.

All that being said, if Theodore Thomas is what you love, go for it!

BCox13 Says:

April 29th, 2016 at 6:08 pm

This isn’t helpful at all, but my best friend is due in July and is naming her son Theodore Thomas, Thomas is a family name (as is James) and she loved Arlo previously, which is how they got to Theo. Had to send this link to her because the similarities cracked me up too much.

People think the last name is Adams (which it may very well be!) but when I saw common and presidential, I immediately thought Taylor. And if it IS Taylor, Theodore Thomas Taylor is a whole lot of Ts, though Theo Taylor is cute.

If you like it, use it. Though I personally probably wouldn’t, only because I like the rarer names, so probably wouldn’t choose one that I already knew a friend had chosen.

mkk Says:

April 30th, 2016 at 7:07 am

If you really like it, I would totally still use it. Only dealbreakers for me would be if it were a nephew, or a close friend who also lives nearby.

I actually have a Theodore (called Theo) and I LOVE the name, and now that I am expecting a third thought I’d share the names I considered for a possible little brother (sidenote: turns out the baby is a girl, so if anyone has any suggestions for a little sister to go with Theo, let me know :))

Robert, nn Bo. I think somebody suggested the Beau spelling which would work too, but either way I love this as a nickname for Robert (instead of the expected Bob/Bobby). I picture Bo as a fun-loving friend-to-everyone kid/teen, but then he still has respectable, classic Robert to put on his resume. Totally gave me the same feel as Theodore/Theo. This was my favorite.

Clarence, nn Clay. I thought Clarence and Theodore sounded so cute together – like oldy-timey gentleman, but then Clay has the easy, cool vibe of Bo and Theo. Caveat though, I probably wouldn’t do Clarence Thomas lol.

Sullivan, nn Van. Not surprisingly some of the names on Abby’s list are ones I also considered. Although I liked Van for Sullivan over Donovan. Sullivan feels a little more trendy/ less classic to me than the others on this list, but not common enough for that to stop me from using it.

Alexander, nn Xan. Again, this was also on Abby’s list. Classic name with fun, cool nickname.

Good luck!

mkk Says:

April 30th, 2016 at 7:11 am

p.s. Kate – I should mention that my older son is James, and with both boys I also had Thomas, Xavier and Everett on my short list. It sounds like we have identical name taste so I’d love to hear your girl name ideas – I am so stuck on a girl name!! Thanks 🙂

Suzannah Says:

May 1st, 2016 at 9:51 am

My suggestion is to tweak Edward and Edmund and go with Edwin. Edwin and Henry sound great together and you could call him Ted, Ned or Win.

emiliafisher Says:

May 2nd, 2016 at 1:24 am

I voted that you stick to what you love, but I like the suggestions Charles, nn Arlo/Charlie and Timothy, nn Timo a lot for you if you decide to branch out. Other ideas:
Soren, nn Ren
Alistair, nn Alec

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