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Rule-Breaking Baby Names

Should they stick with their formula, or try something new for boy #3?

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

They have a well-established formula for naming a son, but this time nothing feels quite right. Is there something they’ve overlooked? Or is it time to break the rules?

Rachel writes:

We are expecting our third child and I am stumped on a name if it’s a boy. Our two oldest are Alexander Adlai, called Xander, and Ezekiel Bryce, called Zeke.

I love classic, multi-syllable first names with an easy nickname and the Z/X/K sound.

We have considered Dominic/Nic, Nikolai/Kole, Malachi/Kai, and Maximilian/Max but none of them seem to be the one.

What have we not thought of or considered?

We also take into account name meaning, so bonus points if it’s more significant.

The Name Sage replies:

Knowing your style can really help when choosing children’s names. And yet … could it be that your requirements are the tiniest bit too stringent?

Here’s your list:

The formal name must be three or more syllables.

It must include an easy nickname.

Both should contain the Z, X, or K sound.

You’ve found four great options that meet every requirement – and yet they don’t feel like The Name. It’s possible that you just haven’t found it yet. But it’s equally true that you might be ruling out a great name just because it doesn’t satisfy one of these rules.

Beckett – That hard ‘k’ sound appears in some great names. Beckett feels slightly different from Alexander and Ezekiel – it’s shorter, and a surname rather than a traditional first. But Xander, Zeke, and Beck sound like brothers.

Dashiell – The high-value Scrabble letters in Xander and Zeke make them instantly cool, but that’s not the only way to find a great-sounding boys’ name. Literary Dashiell shortens to the energetic Dash, which seems like a good match. Sidenote: if you chose Dashiell, you would have matched in another way – all three names contain the letters el!

Donovan – As with Beckett, Donovan feels less like a traditional given name, and more like a 21st century innovation. But Donovan claims centuries of use as a surname, and comes with an irresistible, formula-friendly nickname: Van. Sullivan also gets to Van, and might be worth considering.

Everett Everett has been in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880, though it hasn’t been popular until recently. At first glance, it satisfies your list. Except Ev doesn’t feel like much of a nickname. Ret/t, though, has potential: Xander, Zeke, and Rett.

Jonathan or Jackson – Does Jack – or maybe Jax – appeal? You could use the impeccably classic Jonathan to arrive at either nickname, or consider the trendier Jackson. It’s worth noting that Jackson has never left the US Top 1000, making it a more traditional choice than you might guess.

Lucian Lucian is pronounced either loo see ahn or LOOSH an. But you could easily shorten it to Luc/Luke, which brings back that k. It sounds like a brother for Alexander and Ezekiel – ancient, but with a cool, current vibe.

Nathaniel – I can easily imagine brothers called Xander, Zeke, and Nate. Nate’s long ‘a’ sound isn’t as distinctive as a Z or X, but it stands up nicely. All three names count as classics and modern favorites – a nice combination.

Raphael Long and traditional, Raphael sounds like a brother for Ezekiel and Alexander. Plus, nickname Rafe feels like a bold, daring name that would stand up to Xander and Zeke. It’s the first name that came to mind – and one of the reasons I think you should really consider breaking your rules!

Theodore – Since you mentioned meaning, how about Theodore? It means gift of God, and even if the spiritual aspect doesn’t speak to you, “gift” might. Shorten Theodore to Theo, and that bright, lively ‘o’ ending makes Theo every bit as interesting as Xander or Zeke.

Zachariah – Okay, I’m encouraging you to move away from X and Z and K sounds, but here’s one that has it all: Zachariah. The challenge is that nickname Zac seems way too close to Zeke to consider. But would Ry work? It’s not quite as intuitive as Ezekiel-called-Zeke, but it’s not a stretch. If you don’t mind the idea of stretches, I’m also partial to Zachariah called Kai. (Say it five times fast, and the sound is definitely there.)

If names like Raphael and Theodore just feel plain wrong to you, it might be time to revisit the names that do fit the pattern you’ve established with your older boys’ names. I’m partial to Zachariah called Kai, but if that doesn’t appeal, I’d vote for Maximilian. It’s a storied classic, and brother names Xander, Zeke, and Max are just plain fun to say together.

Readers, are there more rule-friendly boys’ names I’ve overlooked? Or would you encourage Rachel to consider names beyond Z, X, and K?

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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.
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