Sibling Names: 7 Things Every Parent Should Know

When we published our first baby-naming book Beyond Jennifer & Jason in 1988, we introduced the idea of sibling names: that the names of your second, third, and subsequent children should “go with” that of your first.  Not matchy-matchy names, like Jane and Jean.  But names that carried a similar style and image, that were complimentary and yet distinct.

We don’t think you have to limit yourself to a handful of specific sibling names.  Sure, Delaney sounds great with Finnian and Kennedy.  But it would also work as well with any one of hundreds of other options. As long as you understand the basic principle behind choosing a sibling name – think of providing each of your children with separate but equal birthday parties and back-to-school outfits and you get the idea – you’re well on your way to making the right choice.

Some guidelines to keep in mind about sibling names:

CONSIDER SIBLING NAMES WHEN YOU’RE NAMING YOUR FIRST CHILD

Though you don’t have to name your entire family at once, you do want to consider whether your first child’s name is going to work with names you might want to use for subsequent children.  Your first choice sets the tone for the rest of the family.

DON’T BE CUTESY

No rhymes, sound plays, precious pairings.  Resist the impulse, for example, to name Daisy’s sister Maisie, Darcy, or Lily.

BEWARE THE SAME-INITIAL TRAP

Back in the day, many parents gave all their children names that started with the same letter.  While this practice is somewhat dated today, it can be an all right way to create family unity, as long as you choose an initial that includes enough distinctive names that you like.  The problem comes in when  you name your first two sons Edward and Elliot….and then find yourself with Boy #5 and choices limited to Earl and Edgar.  But then again, if you have Boy #5, you probably have bigger problems than what you’re going to name him.

DO MAINTAIN CONSISTENCY OF STYLE, IMAGE, SEX, and TRADITION

Everything doesn’t have to line up perfectly.  But at least one or two factors should be consistent.

Some examples from our experience that work: Jane and William, for instance, and Max and Lily are both good pairings because the girls’ names are clearly feminine and the boys’ names are clearly masculine.  The styles are consistent – Jane and William are both classics, while Max and Lily are fashionable and informal.

Two brothers we know whose names catch the right rhythm are Felix and LeoBoth are saints’ names that haven’t been overused in recent years and have an appealingly offbeat quality.  The x and the o endings provide different but equally unusual sounds for the two names, and they are further related by both being feline.

TRED CAREFULLY WITH UNISEX NAMES

If you name your son Hayden, which is getting increasingly popular for girls, can you name his sister the equally ambiguous Riley?  We say yes.  In fact going toward the middle for both siblings is a better call than naming your son Hayden and your daughter something elaborately feminine like, say, Gabriella.  A boy Hayden would more compatibly have a brother named Brock than Robert, while a girl named Riley’s sister might be better named Delaney than Delilah.

But Hayden and Eli, a traditionally male Biblical name, might be equally compatible, as might Hayden and Lauren.  And Riley could get along well with a wide range of boys’ names from an obvious choice like Conor or Declan to anything from the offbeat Inigo to the all-American Charlie.

CONSIDER SIBLING NICKNAMES ALONG WITH PROPER NAMES

Here’s one that even we didn’t anticipate.  One of us has children named Rory, Joseph, and Owen.  And so what did their nicknames morph into over time?  Ro, Joe, and O.  Whoa!  Sometimes even the experts can’t cover every base.

HONOR EACH CHILD’S INDIVIDUALITY

Just as each child will surprise you with his all-new recombination of your genetic material and his unique personality, so too should each child’s name reflect his individuality.

How far toward uniqueness is too far?  When a child’s name makes him seem like a member of a different family.  If your first two daughters are named Angelina and Annabella, for example, a third named Sawyer would feel decidedly out of step.

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21 Responses to “Sibling Names: 7 Things Every Parent Should Know”

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Persephone Says:

March 2nd, 2011 at 7:21 am

I loved reading the following:

“Two brothers we know whose names catch the right rhythm are Felix and Leo. Both are saints’ names that haven’t been overused in recent years and have an appealingly offbeat quality. The x and the o endings provide different but equally unusual sounds for the two names…”

My boys are Felix and Theo (short for Theodore) and we also thought they were the perfect pairing in terms of style, popularity and sounds!

Juliet Says:

March 6th, 2011 at 11:39 pm

My kiddos are Felix, Olive, Maeve, Sunny (short for Susannah), and Ned (short for Edward), and we’re naming our sixth (and definitely our last) Jasper.

In the naming process, we didn’t have how well the names worked together high up there in our criteria, but we used it to pick one name over the other.

Andrea Says:

April 14th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Any suggestions for a new baby boy to go with the name Hunter?

iris1973 Says:

April 23rd, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I have a Zoe and I think we have decided on Ben for her brother’s name (he’s due in September). I don’t think it matches the “exotic” quality of Zoe’s name, but I like that it’s also three letters and that it’s masculine yet warm. It’s also the only name my husband and I could agree on…which I think is probably a bigger consideration than all the others put together. 😉

iris1973 Says:

April 23rd, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Andrea, here are some names I like that I think go well with Hunter:

Callum
Eli/Elias
Jonah
Beckett

Ali Says:

June 23rd, 2011 at 3:35 pm

We are debating on our second boy’s name. Our first son is named Carter. We are thinking of Dylan or Alec. Does one go better with Carter than the other?

Steph Says:

June 29th, 2011 at 3:37 am

I think Dylan sounds better with Carter than Alec.

TB Says:

July 27th, 2011 at 1:32 pm

We have a 3 yr old daughter named Maiya, and have a son on the way. Any good recommendations for complimentary names to Maiya? We just cannot agree on anything! Names in the running currently are Ryan, Aidan, Ethan. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

Rory Says:

August 10th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Ethan goes the best w/ Maiya

cissyb Says:

August 13th, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Maiya is a beautiful name. It’s a unique spelling of a medium-unique name, so I would suggest Aidan, maybe. I mean I don’t like the name that much but it goes well with Maiya, plus it has the Ai- thing.

emilymaryjane Says:

December 16th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

My mum named us so that we all have very different names and nicknames the closest is Emily (me) and Erika who is just one year younger than me. The rest are Charmaine (Charli), Jacqueline (Jaxie), Michaela (Miki), Molly (Mo), Anna (Dodo which is my fault) and Harriet (Hattie). My nickname is Milly and Erika’s is Rikki so we have individual nicknames

emilymaryjane Says:

December 23rd, 2011 at 8:33 pm

My sister works in the department of education: private schools board and has come across many great sibling names such as: Lillian and Julia (sounds really cute together both names are stylish without being to cutsey and Lillian can always go by Lily), Alice and Heather (Both names never go out of fashion a good combo better than Alice and Jane in my opinion), Isla and Magnolia (In fashion and both names sound sweet together), Emily and Rebecca (Each have a different ending and even though Emily is common and Rebecca isn’t they still manage to sound like sisters), Karyn (pronounced Karen and Hazel (Karyn and Hazel are both old fashioned names and are tipped to come back into fashion also Karyn as a cute nickname Kari), Sofie and Isabella (Both names are chart toppers but together sound very cute) and Anne-Marie and Andrea (Both names are common for the older generation but both names sound so cute together). She has also found some not so good ones like: Joanna and Eleanor (Eleanor is fun and free and has the girly nickname of Ellie while Joanna comes with the tomboyish nickname of Jo) and Bonita and Gracie (This combo woulld have been better if it was Bonnie and Gracie or Bonita and Grace)

lvr79 Says:

January 25th, 2012 at 6:14 pm

We have a girl named Chryssa. does anyone have ideas (girl or boy) for sibling names?

Kenzi Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 10:47 pm

i always loved the names Eliot and Eloise for twins 🙂
Two of my girls have close sounding names. i have Arabella and Gabriella. These names i love so much and couldn’t change either one of them. so, my Arabella goes by Bella and my Gabriella goes by Ella Elise sometimes, but usually goes by just Gabry.

MrsDLetch Says:

July 9th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

My Husband has two children from a previous relationship the eldest a boy is Dakota (after John Lennons last home) and a girl named Nevaeh (heaven backwards). We have a boy together called Harrison (after George Harrison) however his middle names are family ones as im quite sentimental. My question is we are having another baby and dont know what bun is. would Iris for a girl or Wyatt (it was both mine and husbands nans’ maiden names) for a boy go with this mish mash of names?

Tigris Says:

October 1st, 2012 at 2:54 pm

MrsDLetch: You could continue the homage to the Beatles by naming a girl Julia, which was the name of John’s mother and half-sister. If not, I have a list of Beatle names from songs on albums, their own names, or names of family.

Girls

Prudence
Rita
Martha
Eleanor
Lucy
Michelle
Abbey (Road)
Madonna
Clarabella
Lizzy
Cayenne
Lucille
Maggie Mae
Pam
Pepper (as in Sgt Pepper)
Sadie
Louise (Georges sister)

Boys

Jude (or Jules as originally intended; Julian)
Maxwell
James
Paul
John
Winston
Richard (Ritchie)
George
Michael (pauls brother)
Dhani (George’s son, pronounced Danny)
Zak (Ringo’s son)

HerMajesty Says:

November 14th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I do not really agree with this. My mom and her sibs are Donita, Shelli, Gregory, and Robert. Dads are Sharon, Richard, Thomas, Keren, Rebecca, Dana, and George(Gregory). Mine are George(Gregory), Helen, Karah, Bradley, and Landon. I do not think sibling names should affect others. Name them what you want no matter what you named the others.

EmilyVA Says:

January 15th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Brock and Hayden? No they don’t sound good together. Brock sounds supermasculine in an overcompensating Ernest Hemmingway kind of way. Hayden which is getting popular for girls sounds gender fluid or girly even. I imagine years later one brother being annoyed over the name the other got. I say either go with the testosterone loaded names or go with the ambiguous sounding names, but pick a style for the boys. Although Hayden being a sister to Brock sounds fine.

karianne Says:

March 17th, 2013 at 3:26 am

LOL I am on Boy #5 with no girls. I can’t find a name for him! I am all out of boy names.

mamamolly Says:

December 31st, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Wow! That’s a lot of boy names to come up with! Amazing! What are you other boys’ names?

mamamolly Says:

December 31st, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Oh, haha, that was 9 months ago, nevermind. You definitely already named him!

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