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Name Sage: Can We Still Use Our Favorite Name?

June 30, 2015 Abby Sandel
baby boy names

Jasmine writes:

My husband and I are expecting our second child this summer. We thought we had chosen the absolutely perfect name. It’s the name that we have been calling the baby for months. It just felt so right. 

The name is Henry. We already have an Oliver and thought they were both good, strong traditional names.  

So what’s the problem?

My father drowned in a boating accident when I was four. Obviously, I was too young to know the details. Imagine my shock when I told my mother we were naming the baby Henry, and she replied that my father’s accident happened in Frederick Henry Bay.

I am absolutely devastated.

The other name we considered was Charlie, but it doesn’t have the same feeling as Henry did. I keep scrolling through baby name lists and nothing stands out. 

Some say it’s a good sign to use the name. I’m not sure, and yet, we can’t find another name we love as much.

I hope you can help! 

The Name Sage replies:

Jasmine, I am so sorry you’re experiencing this. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and I’m sure the shock – combined with the pressure to find a new name – is a lot to work through.

Let’s take a look at your options.

First, you could use Henry as planned.

It sounds like some have suggested that you could consider Henry a name that honors your dad’s memory. If your dad really loved the water, or if the bay was a favorite place for him, it might be fitting. And it does speak to the strong feeling you have that Henry is the right name for your son.

99.9% of the time, I think the final decision about a child’s name should rest with the parents. But in this case, I think grandma gets a vote. If the idea of calling her grandson Henry is far too painful to consider, I would reluctantly suggest you find another name.

In cases like this, you may not find a name that will truly replace Henry. But knowing that your top choice is off limits, you can find a name that you will eventually love just as much – especially after your son has arrived.

There are lots of names that are strong, traditional choices for a boy, and that work well with an older brother Oliver. Some possibilities came up in an Ask the Name Sage post last month.

Additional names that work well with Oliver:

William – I’m sure you’ve thought about William. It’s a classic among classics, never out of the US Top Twenty and equally enduring throughout the English-speaking world. If you’re after strong and traditional, it doesn’t get much better than William. I also think it goes wonderfully well with big brother Oliver.

Theo/Theodore Theodore is a very traditional name – it dates back to at least the 300s. But it’s also name that, like Oliver, feels very current in 2015. Some parents are opting for just Theo, and I do think Oliver and Theo sound good together. But Oliver and Theodore would be my pick.

Max/Maxwell – This is another case where there’s a longer form and shorter one. Maxwell has been in use as a given name for well over a century, but it’s originally a surname. That makes Maxwell less traditional than some possibilities on this list, but it has the same vibe.

August August might seem like a newer name, a friend for Tuesday and Summer. But there’s history galore here, from Roman emperors to playwright August Wilson.

Alex/Alexander Alexander is even more popular than Oliver, but maybe that’s because it’s exactly what so many parents are looking for – a strong, traditional name.

Thomas Thomas is almost as timeless as William, and it might feel a little bit softer than Alex or Max, with their attention-getting xes. And yet, I think it’s a good match for Oliver. Oliver and Thomas could be scientists or rugby players. (Or, hey, rugby-playing scientists!) Both names are traditional and versatile.

Miles Miles isn’t common, but it is heard throughout history. Myles Standish set sail on the Mayflower to Plymouth Colony in 1620. Jazz legend Miles Davis hit it big in the 1940s. And in 2011, Miles Morales replaced Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the comic series. I think Miles works well with Oliver.

Julian – Some of the names that I’m tempted to recommend might seem too short with Oliver, like Jack and Jude. Then there’s Julian. Like August, the name has roots in the ancient world. Oliver and Julian are both strong, traditional names that would be right at home in 2015.

I’m quietly hoping that you can still use Henry. It seems like you were convinced it was The Name. But if your mom finds the association with tragedy too overwhelming, there are some great options. I’m drawn to Oliver and August, but I’m curious to hear what others have to say.

Readers, do you think they should forgo Henry? What other names would you suggest?

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.

View all of Abby's articles

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