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Name Sage: Naming Nora’s Twin Brother

September 1, 2015 Abby Sandel
twin names

Miguel and Shawn are expecting twins this fall! They agree on a name for their daughter: Nora Rose, a choice with significance for their family.

But they are stuck on a name for Nora’s twin brother. The challenge: Finding girl-boy twin names with family meaning.

Miguel writes:

We agree on our son’s middle name: Manuel, after my father and both my grandfathers.

First names we have considered include:

Gustav – We like the European feel, and the nickname Gus. My family likes the name, but my spouse’s family does not. Our families have said that ultimately it is up to us, but we do value their opinion. We’ve ruled out other Gus names, including August, Augustus, and Angus.

Aron, Roan, Oran – All anagrams of Nora’s name. I’m not sure, since the spellings aren’t the more popular spellings of any of those names, and I feel it may be too cutesy.

Olin – But will it be mistaken for Owen?

Orion – Is it too different? Too close to onion?

Camilo – Another family name from my side, with possible nicknames Cam or Milo.

I’m 100% Portuguese, and my spouse’s background is Irish and German. We hope the names for our twins will have similar origins, and it’s important that the name be pronounceable in Portuguese.

Because we live in a part of the US with many native Spanish speakers, people often assume that I speak Spanish. Not really a problem, but it’s something to consider.

We have a four-syllable, double-barreled last name, so we’d prefer to keep our children’s names two syllables or less. It ends with a ‘go’ sound, so that tends to rule out names like Hugo and Santiago.

Lastly, we’d like something that’s not very popular and not too strange.

Can you give us some ideas? Thanks!

The Name Sage replies:

Congratulations on your twins!

Let’s focus on what you want in a name first:

  • Short – one or two syllables.
  • Easy to pronounce in English and Portuguese, but not too conventionally Spanish.
  • Not too common, not too out-there.

And here’s the problem: the boys’ names on your list don’t fit those criteria.

They’re longer, more unusual, or would likely strike others as conventionally Spanish, creating potential confusion.

Based on your criteria, I’d probably suggest Ian (Number 77 in 2014 in the US, compared to Nora’s ranking of Number 49), Xavier (Number 88 in the US), or maybe Christian (Number 42). All are popular in Portugal, so even if the pronunciation is different in English, I assume they’d work well in both languages.

I think your boy name style is just a little different than your girl name style. That’s perfectly fine – it happens all the time. But since you’re naming a brother and sister together, it feels like there’s more pressure to match.

But here’s what matters more: you should choose two names that you love, and be absolutely confident that your enthusiasm for the names and love for your children makes them a perfect pair.

When your last name is complex, it can be helpful to make the first name simple – but simple doesn’t always mean short. Sebastian, Alexander, and Jeremiah are all long names. But because they’re widely recognized as given names, it doesn’t matter if the last name is Kukowski or Clark.

I think there are some options on your list that work really well.

Orion Orion is out there – literally! The constellation means that most people are familiar with the sound of Orion, even if, at Number 382 in 2014, it’s a little more daring than you might otherwise choose. Nora and Orion share the ‘or’ sound, which is a subtle link between the two names.

Camilo – It seems longer, rarer, and more conventionally Spanish than you planned. And yet, Camilo has family ties, shortens to the very short Cam or Milo, and is a name that you haven’t ruled out. I think it works well in English, too, so it deserves a place on your list.

Roan – Gone are the days when twins are named Tracy and Stacy or John and Ron. But anagrams can be subtle, and I think Roan has potential. There may be some pronunciation confusion. Do you plan to pronounce Roan like the much more popular Rowan? Or are you thinking of Roan, rhymes with zone? I think it’s typically pronounced with just one syllable. I also think Roan and Nora feel very different from each other, and it’s not obvious that they’re anagrams. A bonus? The Secret of Roan Inish is a 1994 independent film based on a legend, and since it’s set in Ireland, Roan might feel like a nod to Shawn’s heritage.

If none of those feel quite right, I would also suggest:

JulianJulian could be a more conventional alternative to Orion. The name ranked Number 47 in the US in 2014, about as popular as Nora.

Luca – At Number 185, Luca is less common than Nora, but it hits many of your notes. It’s short, has a certain pan-European appeal like Gustav, and while it’s originally Italian, it works in Portuguese.

Kai – I know several families who chose Kai because it’s so culture-spanning. The name can claim Hawaiian, Scandinavian, Welsh, and German roots, as well as ties to Arthurian legend. I’m not sure if Kai works well in Portuguese, but Caio seems like a reasonable equivalent.

AxelAxel is a medieval form of the Biblical name Absalom. It’s originally Scandinavian, but is used in German, and it appears to have some use in Portugal, too. At Number 145, it seems like a great stands-out/fits-in name.

Milo – You’ve mentioned Milo as a possible short form of Camilo. While the sounds aren’t exactly the same – I hear Camilo with a long ‘e’ sound and Milo with a long ‘i’ sound – it would work. Or, if keeping your son’s name short matters more, Milo is an option. It has Latin and Germanic roots, so again, it hits the right heritage note.

My favorite from your list is Roan. From my list, I’m leaning towards Luca. But I do think the secret to finding the name that you love might be to forget about matching Nora’s name and start with a blank slate – because you really do have some great possibilities already!

Readers, what would you suggest as a name for Nora Rose’s brother?

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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