Sibsets: Finding a name for baby #3

How much matching is too much for sibling names?

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

They’ve set quite the pattern with their first two kids’ names! Now they’re expecting again, and need to complete the sibset with a name they love every bit as much.

Valerie writes:      

We are struggling with a name for our third child.

We have a son, Christopher Joseph, and a daughter, Gwendolyn Grace. They are primarily called Kit and Gwen or Gwennie.

I feel like it’s much harder to name each consecutive child because I feel like I keep setting up themes that I want to continue, but I want each name to sound sufficiently different from the others.

Between our two existing children, these are the themes we have going:

– Three syllable, traditional name

– A spunky, short nickname

– An animal associated with each child (a kit is a baby fox; Gwendolyn is affectionately referred to as Wendybird, a Peter Pan reference)

I also like that they have different starting consonant sounds and different middle vowel sounds.

If our third child is a girl, we think we’ve found the perfect name: Eleanor Pearl with the nickname Nora.

For a boy, we’re stuck. We have names that we like, but none perfectly fit within the themes and criteria I’ve set up. His middle name would be James.

We’ve considered:

Theodore, nn Teddy – It shares the same vowel sound as Gwennie’s name.

Augustus, nn Gus Gus and Gwen share a consonant.

Milo – Not three syllables and no nickname, plus missing an obvious animal association.

Our third child might be our last, so I don’t want to leave them out of any of the themes we have in our naming. At the same time, I want to adore their name in its own right.

Any suggestions you can think of? Thanks for your help!

The Name Sage replies:

Patterns can be deeply satisfying, linking names in subtle ways. But sibsets come with pitfalls. Stick to your criteria too closely, and you’re calling a kid Ptarmigan.

There are two keys to choosing a successful family pattern name. You’ve identified the first: it’s not worth sticking to the rules if you don’t plain love your choice! But second, recognize that there are lots of ways to connect your children’s names. Options that might not check every box could still fit with your family’s style – and feel like the right match anyway.

Let’s look at some names that fit most of your rules, and feel like siblings for Christopher/Kit and Gwendolyn/Gwennie/Wendybird, too.

Adrian – A place name tied to the ancient world, Adrian has centuries of history behind it. But it might shorten to Ari, a name that means lion in Hebrew and eagle in Old Norse. Another bonus? Adrian James sounds very much like a brother for Christopher Joseph and Gwendolyn Grace. There’s also Archibald, which offers an even more obvious path to the nickname Ari – but maybe that’s a little too different?

Arthur – Yes, it’s only two syllables. It feels downright brief compared to Christopher and Gwendolyn. But it’s very much the same kind of name, at home across many decades. You might shorten it to Ari, but my favorite Arthur nickname is Bear. One of Arthur’s several possible origins is a Celtic word for the animal.

BarrettBarrett feels like more of a modern surname than a traditional first, but I think it could easily be a brother for Christopher and Gwendolyn. It shortens to Bear based on sound alone.

Jonathan – This is probably my favorite of the options. It’s a traditional name, three syllables, and there’s a slightly different vowel sound, too. Nicknames abound, but there’s one that stands out to me: Jay. That makes it a subtle bird name. Even better? There’s Richard Bach’s modern fable, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Lionel Leonardo doesn’t seem quite your style, and Leonard is too short. But how ‘bout Lionel? Nickname Lion is king of the jungle, and Lio reminds me of Milo. It might be a little bit too different, but I think it’s a solid traditional choice in the key of Arthur.

Raphael – This Biblical name belongs to an archangel. While it’s never been wildly popular in English, it’s widely used in many European languages. It’s Hebrew in origin, of course, but short form Rafe coincides with a pronunciation of German Ralph. (Think Ralph Fiennes.) And that name means wolf counsel. It’s a little bit romantic, a little bit fierce. Kit and Rafe sound like brothers straight out of a storybook.

Robinson Plenty of surname names extend to three syllables, like Harrison for Henry, or Robinson for Robert. Robinson makes my list for two reasons: first, there’s the connection to the bird. And second, Rob sounds like a great brother name for Kit.

Sebastian – I’ve heard Sebastian called Bass and even Sea Bass, so I thought it might work. But somehow Sea Bass doesn’t have the same ring as Kit or Wendybird. But then it hit me: Bay! A bay horse refers to a specific coat color; for short, they’re sometimes just called a bay. That gives Sebastian two possible animal tie-ins. Plus, I think Bay makes for a great nickname for Sebastian James.

I think Adrian, Jonathan, and Sebastian fit your sibset pattern best, along with Lionel and Raphael if you’re feeling a little more daring. But if none of those seem like The Name, then I’d go back to the drawing board – even if it means sacrificing part of your pattern to find a choice you love.

Let’s hear your best traditional names with links to the animal kingdom in the comments!

Readers, would you – or did you – stick with a pattern when naming your children?

Would you - or did you - stick with a pattern when choosing your children's names?

  1. AYes! I think they're a great way to link siblings' names.
  2. BNo, it's not for me.
  3. CNot on purpose, but if I happen to find names that connect, that's a bonus!
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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
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20 Responses to “Sibsets: Finding a name for baby #3”

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josephinedagnall Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 4:49 am

I think Christopher Joseph, Gwendolyn Grace, and Adrian James make a beautiful sibset!

vivi_simone Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 6:06 am

My favorites include:

Jonathan James
This name flows really nicely, and fits the bill for a sweet short nickname linked to an animal. Jay is both handsome and sweet next to Kit and Gwen. Although the alliteration may seem like a bit much with Christopher Joseph, it really is just the middle names, which are used infrequently anyway.

Robinson James
Rob fits beautifully with Kit and Gwen, and has a sweet bird connection with sister “Wendybird”. Although, is the possible “Christopher Robin” connection too much? I don’t think so if they primarily go by Kit and Rob.

Adrian James
Adrian sounds wonderful with Christopher and Gwendolyn, and has the same storybook vibe. Ari also works well with Kit and Gwen. My only hesitation would be your love for the single-syllable nicknames. And the animal connection is a little obscure and perhaps confusing–would you go with lion, eagle, or both?

All of Abby’s suggestions are lovely, and you can’t go wrong if one of them really speaks to you!

Cordelia16 Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 7:21 am

From the Name Sage, I like the suggestion of Robinson (nn Rob or Robbie). It ticks all three boxes for you.

From your list, I really like Theodore (nn Teddy), despite the shared vowel sound with Gwen.

Instead of James in the mn spot, what about using Jameson and then a nature/animal-inspired middle name (Wolf, Hawk)? Jameson could have the nn Jamie or Jay (like the bird), which is a diff sound to both Kit and Gwen.

I also really like Nathaniel (nn Nate). That doesn’t share a sound with either name. Unfortunately it doesn’t have an animal connection.

Although I noticed that your girl name Eleanor (Nora) Pearl doesn’t have an animal connection either… of the three requirements, I think this one is maybe the most forced. In theory you could turn any name into an animal-related name: Natebug, etc.

Best of luck in finding the perfect name!

Leviosarah Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 9:14 am

What about Theodore James nn Tod(d)? If Ted can be a nickname for Theodore, why not Tod? Tod has a different vowel sound than Kit and Gwen, and it means fox, so it fits the animal theme. I think it could work!

catcher5 Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 9:48 am

Arthur James called Bear is gorgeous. I also like Sebastian James called Bay. Augustus James called Gus is really cute too. I don’t think having the nickname share a first initial is a big deal, they still sound different enough. It wouldn’t bother me at all. But that’s a personal preference thing. Good luck!

katinka Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 10:10 am

I love your children’s names! I have a Kit too, and Gwen is also a favourite.

Raphael/Rafe is my personal favourite from Abby’s wonderful suggestions — I’d love a Rafe myself! — but with Christopher and Gwendolyn I’m most drawn to Jonathan with the nickname Jay. It’s perfect! Not too trendy, not too popular, and with an unmistakable, and pretty intuitive, animal nickname.

A few more ideas:

Nathaniel “Nat” or Anthony “Ant” — I know insects aren’t exactly the most appealing animals to name a child after, but my older two get Junebug and Cricket, and it’s actually pretty sweet! I can see a little (G)Nat or Ant working as a fun pet name.

Benjamin, Benedict, Barnaby “Bee” or “Bear” — B(ee) for the initial, and Bear for the opening sound.

Fabian “Bee” — Fabian could also conceivably be Bee for short, and I love the full name with your set.

Dominic “Minnow” — a stretch for sure, but I love Dominic with the sibling names and Minnow/Mini feels like a fitting pet name for the youngest in the family.

William “Billy” — Billy goat.

Maximilian, Julian or Emilian could also be “Lion” at a push!

And a few shorter ones:

Lawrence “Lark” or Wren”,
Felix “Fox”
Edmund “Ted”/”Teddy”
Rupert “Roo”
Robert “Robin”
Jacob “Jay” or “Cub”
Wilfred “Wolf”
Patrick “Patch” or “Puck”

QuirkFlower Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 10:41 am

I actually think you’ve already found the perfect fit: Theodore. I have said Theodore and Gwendolyn together a bunch of times trying to understand the repeating vowel sounds, but I just don’t get there. They sound very distinct to me.

If I can’t sway you to Theodore, I love the suggestions of Arthur and Nathaniel. The others feel too forced to me. I do also like Katinka’s suggestion of Benjamin nn Bee.

namelove Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 10:59 am

I personally think of animals coming from characters with a few of these names, Milo I think of the cat from Milo and Otis, Theodore I think of a Teddy Bear, and Sebastian I think of a crab. Maybe the link isn’t in the original meaning of the name, but they are all connections I think most people would easily think of (maybe less so with Milo & Otis though!). Funny how far this kind of concept might be taken, like because of the Beatles song, I’d associate Gideon with raccoons.

I’d throw in Orson meaning bear (or Ursula for an added girls name, same meaning). Maybe Colton for horse associations (Phillip/Philippa has the same equine associations).

Another way to associate an animal would be through specific species names that are also names. Like Cooper’s Hawk.

I think I’d put the animal association over three syllables, kids will feel more left out over not having an animal than a certain number of syllables in their names.

Bobcat108 Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 11:05 am

I’m also curious about what the animal association is w/Eleanor Pearl…

sharimsh Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 3:32 pm

I love Theodore as a choice! Gwen and Teddy don’t bother me at all with the same vowel sounds since the consonants are so very different.

But I’d love to also throw out Thaddeus nn Tad (aka Tadpole) as a suggestion.

sarah1800 Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Theodore/teddy seems perfect to me. I don’t think it’s too close to Gwenny. I also like Rafe a lot. I think a nickname could work itself out. Maybe Raffy Duck? :p But I agree the animal requirement could sound a bit forced or “too much.”

Liberty_Bell Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 4:51 pm

How about Barnaby (there’s Banarby the bear), nickname Barney (the dinosaur)

oftenoverseas Says:

May 1st, 2019 at 6:43 pm

I feel you on the animal name links! Both my sons have family middles that also have “animal” links—Bernard and Griffith (bear and griffin)..

For you, I love all the names on your list as well as the suggestions of Arthur, Barrett, and Orson—maybe it’s the bear thing! The name that I’d suggest is Peregrine, nn Pip or Pippin. There was a Saint Peregrine, so it might not be familiarly “traditional”, it has been in use a long time.

NClark Says:

May 2nd, 2019 at 11:21 am

I love Theodore but my second pick would actually be Leopold with the nickname Leo!

shanade213 Says:

May 2nd, 2019 at 8:41 pm

What about Felix James nn Fox?

I also love Arthur nn Archie or Otto nn Otter

Sunday_Cami Says:

May 3rd, 2019 at 7:22 am

I think Barnaby nn Barney/Barnes fits perfectly for a boy
Christopher Joseph
Gwendolyn Grace
Barnaby James

Kit, Gwen and Barney

yogi.kiki Says:

May 3rd, 2019 at 5:09 pm

I agree that Theodore nn Teddy seems like the perfect fit. I also really like the suggestion of Lawrence nn Wren.

TiffanyS Says:

May 4th, 2019 at 7:48 pm

I think Leviosarah has landed on a winner: Theodore, nn Todd, animal Fox!

kennamoon Says:

May 6th, 2019 at 1:03 am

I always heard of Raffy as the nickname for Raphael, I think it’s cute!

I like Johnathan “Jay” the best out of the suggestions tho!

Also Sebastian “Bash” could be the name and the animal reference is Sebastian from the Little Mermaid 🙂

I also wanted to suggest

Kit, Gwennie & Beowulf “Wolf”

Kit, Gwennie & Wilder “Wiley” (Wile E Cayote lol ☺️)

Rebeccalaurice Says:

June 30th, 2019 at 6:31 am

I hope it’s not too late but I have just stumbled across this post. We had pretty much all the same criteria as you, and have a Genevieve and Theodore. So I guess I’m biased but I think Theodore would compliment Gwendolyn and Christoper perfectly as they’re in a similar vein. Our Theodore is Teddy for short, sometimes Ted and I suspect there will be more of that as he gets older. Good luck! We are also searching for a name for number 3!

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