Naming Baby Number Two

July 20, 2014 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Let’s face it : the blank slate of naming your first child can be intimidating.

Will you stick with the classics?  Or would you be happier with a Cricket instead of a Charlotte, a Wylie rather than a William?  You’ve always liked your mother’s maiden name, Davis, and then there’s his fabulous Great Aunt Marguerite – but do you want to hand down family names, or is it better to start fresh?  Is Wyatt too trendy?  Is Cordelia too obscure?

It’s a riddle, but despite dire warnings of name regret, most parents seem to choose a perfectly suitable name for their firstborn.

Welcoming a second child means that you’ve got a crib and car seat already, but when it comes to names, you’re back at the beginning.

Or are you?  Because not only will you revisit many of the questions from the first round, you’ll also have to consider whether baby #2’s name matches, clashes – or matches too much – with the big brother or sister-to-be. When we were expecting our second, I had a moment of panic.  I’m Abby, and my husband is Arthur.  Our firstborn was named after his grandfather, Alexander.  That makes three A names – and suddenly it felt like everyone was asking if our daughter would have an A name, too.  She’s Clio, but I went through a few days of wondering if she ought to be Anya, instead.

This week was all about sibsets – the struggle to name your second, and the patterns that we set when we name our older children.  From high profile arrivals to stylish families from the real world, they prove that patterns are easy to fall into, and that rules were made to be broken.

The baby name news this week was all about:

Rocco, Rafael, Rivka, and the newest RitchieGuy Ritchie must be a huge fan of alliteration.  He and ex-wife Madonna are parents to adopted son David, as well as Rocco.  Now Guy and fiancee Jacqui Ainsley have welcomed a third.  Their children are Rafael and Rivka – both names with Old Testament ties and a certain international feel.  Here’s guessing that the newest Ritchie will also have an R name, but which one? Rowan? Rhea? Rialta?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Olympia Drexel and Force Hanley – Did you spot the Forbes story on America’s Richest Families?  The annual update caught my eye thanks to the couple pictured in the online edition – Matthew and Nicole Mellon, as in the bank, together with their two toddlers.  We all went to high school with kids called Nikki and Matt, but how many of us know an Olympia or a Force?  The names feel grand, maybe a little too much to live up to – but then again, it looks like they’ve got a Warhol in the dining room.  And I love the use of family surnames in the middle spot.

Meilani AlexandraHow did the Jersey Shore alumni end up being such decent baby namers?  So far there’s Snooki’s Lorenzo and Pauly D’s Amabella.  Now Jenni Farley – better known as JWoww – and her fiance Roger Mathews are parents to Meilani Alexandra.  It’s an elaborate name – the kind that would have fit right in on last week’s list!  It’s a little bit like Melanie, reinvented, but probably counts as Hawaiian.  Leilani is big in Hawaii, and Oahu-born actress Janel Parrish of Pretty Little Liars has the middle name Meilani.  It might be tough to name future baby JWowws – but then again, the Obamas have the Hawaiian-named Malia and her sister Sasha, a duo that works really well despite different name origins.

Eli DaneThis Swistle post perfectly demonstrates how the name we choose for our firstborn can rule out future sibling names.  If your son is Eli, you probably can’t name his sister Eliza.  I love Swistle’s rule of thumb: “I don’t really consider it a theme until the third child matches.”  So Rocco and Rafael don’t mean that baby #3 has to have an R name, but once you’ve added little sister Rivka, chances are that future kiddos will also share the same first initial.

Ida and Amy – Oh, but rules were made to be twisted.  Ask me to suggest names for Ida’s little sister, and I would think vintage: Cora, Rosie, Lula.  But this Living with Kids tour visits the home of Leah Stapleton’s family, including daughters Ida and Amy.  Amy was huge in the 1970s and 80s.  (It’s my first name.)  But when matched with big sister Ida, it feels short and sweet, more Little Women than Flashdance.

Lincoln and her little sister or brother – Kristen Bell says that she and Dax Shepard are “completely stumped” on a name for baby #2 – they’ve already used their absolute favorite!  This happens all the time – if you love, love, love your first child’s name and have had it in mind for a while, sometimes nothing else clicks.  Kristen, how ‘bout Parker, Bennett, or Adler?

Malina, Keller, and their little sister or brother – Scott Foley of Scandal and his actress wife Marika Dominczyk are expecting a third.  Keller must come from Scott’s middle name – Kellerman.  Marika is a Polish diminutive for Mary – I thought Malina might be another one.  But it is actually the Polish word for raspberry.  What an interesting pair of family-inspired names!

Ella Kole, Kennedy Faye, and Rebecca Klein – Country singer Justin Moore and wife Kate are already parents to Ella and Kennedy, and now they’ve added a third girl to their family.  Rebecca honors Justin’s grandmother, but the couple plans to call her by her middle.  Ella, Kennedy, and Klein – it makes a nice trio, even if Klein strikes me as clunky.

Jackson James, Etta Jones, and their little sister – Television and radio host Carson Daly reacted to Nameberry’s most popular names update last week.  He and fiancee Siri Pinter are expecting baby #3 – it’s a girl! – and he mentioned a common dilemma – both Jackson and Etta have family ties, but there’s no obvious heritage choice to give to their new addition.  We’ll have to see if the couple chooses something from the Nameberry Top Ten – Carson gave the thumbs up to Cora, Claire, Amelia, and Eleanor, and ended by asking his producer to “Send me that list!”

Was it harder to name your second child?  Do you think that matching sibling names is important?

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

View all of Abby's articles


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