Sibsets: Is their importance overblown?

It’s long been a precept of Nameberry, and of our books—dating back to Beyond Jennifer & Jason and more recently in Beyond Ava & Aiden that names of siblings should ideally share a similar style and feel, not matchy-matchy, certainly, but complementary yet distinct.  And thus the concept of sibsets was born.

We still feel that way, but we’ve been seeing something of a backlash emerging lately.  For instance, for the past couple of months, there has been an interesting thread on our forums, posted by a berry expressing concern about ‘breaking the mold’ set by her first daughter’s very feminine name, wondering if she was locked into choosing an equally feminine name for her second or could use a completely different kind of name that she has fallen in love with. A number of interesting points were raised, some people feeling that the whole sibset obsession has gotten out of hand and is unnecessarily restrictive. Where do you stand?

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34 Responses to “Sibsets: Is their importance overblown?”

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tct1219 Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 1:11 am

I see both sides. While I cannot tolerate the sound of ridiculous-sounding sibsets (like Walter, Thomas, and Kynzee or something), I still have a variety of names that I love. They’re all older names but are from different eras, various origins, some sound very modern, others are rare, and a few are very popular.

I do try to find common links between them when I imagine several of them together as siblings but they certainly don’t need to closely match. I prefer a more subtle common thread so they don’t sound too theme-y, especially as I am drawn to word names.

dillonsfan01 Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 1:20 am

I don’t think they are all that important. If there is an odd ball, I think where did that come from, but I don’t think its necessarily a negative. If they are too similar it can see to matchy-matchy. So I don’t think they are really important in the long run, but if you want to stick to a theme then go for it 🙂

roseate6 Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 8:46 am

I think it’s a very short-sighted thing to be worried about. In my adult life, my name is pretty infrequently said in tandem with my sister’s.

That said, yes, I’m already painstakingly plotting the perfect name for our improbable 3rd child – a name that will sing with that of the 2 year old and the 1 month old.

Lola Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 8:48 am

Well, my kids are 18 years apart, so the cohesive sibset thing is rather important to me. Luckily, most of my favorite names mesh well together, being from the same era or point of origin.

You’d never know Leo & Simon are 25 and Josephine was 7 unless I told you! 😀

chelseamae Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 8:54 am

I think in most cases people are going to notice/judge the names separately more so than thinking of them all together, unless there was a very noticable pattern or theme. With that said, I’m one of those people who are constantly paying attention to that complimentary sibset detail, so I’ll probably end up being picky and be particular about naming with similar styles.

One thing that really bothers me is when parents choose a gender neutral name along with obvious girl names with sisters. For example, Jocelyn, Jordan and Jenna. It just seems a little strange to me.

namelover12 Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 8:58 am

I think they are kind of important, of course my family is a bit mixed up with their names; theirs Emily (me), Tucker, Sutton, Avery (G), and Nate. Of course Our names don’t go that well together but all of our middle names do, Mae, Walter, Michael, Elizabeth, and Elo (EEEEE-low) I plan on naming my children, names that will at least mesh together…

i.heart.nerds Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 9:24 am

For me naming my children it is important. I will soon have an Agatha so I won’t name a future daughter Sydney or Riley. I would more likely use Imogen or Eleanore.
My boys names are all over the place. Percival, Augustus, Howard and Jasper. You probably would never find a boy named Stone, Gunner or even Lucas in my house.
Other peoples sin sets don’t bother me as much, but I know one that does. My friend has identical twin girl nieces named Violetta Evangeline and Schyler Lee. Each parent named one child, but it doesn’t match and it really bugs me when I hear it, lol.

Trustedwriter Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 10:28 am

Personally, when I hear sibling names that sound out-of-place with one another, I wonder what went wrong. Did one parent commander the naming with that one? How on earth could their style change so drastically all of a sudden? Could they not agree? I guess I feel like names reflect the parents, and uncoordinated sibsets feel disjointed to me. The kids are all part of one family, so I like them to sound like it. 🙂 My standards on what matches aren’t very tight, though, and the larger the family the less I notice a “different” name because the style is likely to vary more widely, especially if the parents named them over the course of a decade! But with small to medium size families, I definitely notice. For example…Ian, Fiona, and Serenity. But I might not notice little Serenity as much among Ian, Fiona, Ralph, Dexter, and Jen.

Also, some people have very different styles for boys versus girls – myself included. Different styles for different genders doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t mind my kids’ names having different styles as long as the brothers sounded like brothers and the sisters sounded like sisters. They are different sexes, after all. 🙂

shieldsc Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Finding a name for our third child that fit with the names of the first two was very important to me. I didn’t want it to be matchy, but I thought it should be of a similar style and length. Since I had an Alexander and a Madelyn, I rejected Lyra (for example) for being too short and too different in style. We also have a short last name, so short first names were pretty much out. I might have made an exception for Ivy, which is my favorite girl’s name ever, but my DH vetoed it anyway. I also rejected Amelia for being too similar in sound to Madelyn.

I also really wanted out third child (a daughter) to have a nickname. Alexander goes by Xander, and Madelyn goes by Maddy, so I wanted her to have a nickname that could stand on its own. However, we ended up naming her Genevieve, which I love, but we still haven’t agreed on a nickname. I don’t like Genny, and nothing else really seems to fit.

corsue Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 10:47 am

I think it matters to an extent. True, no one cares when they’re adults, but kids go through a lot of development before that point, so it matters a little.

Names that are overly matchy seem silly to me, like the parents were trying too hard. There was a post not too long ago about Eartha, Oakley, and Spruce. That’s too much. I feel similarly about names that start with the same letter.

On the other hand, what goes well together is very subjective. Name “categories” intertwine, mix, and mingle. So a LOT of names can “go well” together.

katybug Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 10:51 am

This was more important to me before I was in the situation to name an actual child. I knew people whose children’s names were wildly different in style (ex. sisters named Carson and Caroline) and it bugged me. But now that I’m agonizing over the right name for this baby due in December, the last thing I want limiting me is sibset concerns.

OhioM Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 11:36 am

I prefer the names to be complementary, but that is a by-product of me liking a certain style of names – traditional. I don’t have a problem with someone having a child with a name that doesn’t match the sibset IF the name has special meaning. Obviously, the parents should love the name and if that means there is a name that doesn’t quite fit, so be it. Having a “different” name in a family might be cool – you would feel special, as long as the name wasn’t stupid.

ladybug99 Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I agree with the above comments! I know sisters named Isabella and Sofia, but then I know brothers named Robert and Miles. I think they should sound well together, but not too matchy…..
@shieldsc- what about nn Eve for Genevieve. I would use Genevieve or Evangeline for the nn Eve… or the nn Genna

Nyx Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

shieldsc: Nicknames for Genevieve – Ginger, Gina, Gen, Gena/Genna (pronounced Jenna), Neva, Vivi (personal favorite – pronounced VIV-ee).


As for sibset names, I think that they should work nicely together, but preferably not be themed! Caspar, Julius and Annabelle could have a sister Lydia without any issue. However, Caspar, Julius and Annabelle with a sister named London or Lexi might sound a tad off.

Also, a theme doesn’t always create a since of unity with the names. Aiden, Jayden, and Owen seem off even though all the names end in “en”.

Flick Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I would *prefer* a complimentary set, but seeing as we both have kids from previous relationships with partners who have different styles and opinions, we get to work with what we have. My two step daughters have very matchy theme names and that is something I would never do. Ever. I’ve been trying to come up with a cohesive list that flows, but doesn’t match. The boys names flow nicely, so that’s something, I guess.

I think this is a situation a lot of people are in these days. Mixed families where the parents are coming in with kids from other relationships.

JeanniGrace Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I don’t think they have to match but they shouldn’t be so radically different in style that they sound like they belong to different parents. Also my sister’s Elizabeth and I’m Jean and I was always jealous that she had a BEAUTIFUL name and wasn’t stuck being named after family in every part whereas I was named after family and I got the boring flat name with family in every part, middles included. I felt like I didn’t get to be my own person because I had other people’s names. Plus, she got to pick from dozens of nicknames and I had just the one.

Tressa Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Growing up as Tressa when my sisters were named Paula and Elizabeth was hard. I couldn’t understand why people had trouble saying my name but not my sisters’. Now, at 22, I’ve come to love my name for the very reason of being different from my sisters’ names.

laurbails Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

My family probably sports something that would rank as a terrible sibset (Lauren, Chelsea, and Chadwick “Chad”), but I can’t imagine our names being any different. That being said, it’s really fun to call kids whose names have a harmonious effect together.

dotmyiis Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

As long as the sounds in the names aren’t too similar, or they don’t have joint associations (Bonnie & Clyde, etc) I don’t think there needs to be a “common” thread. The fact that they’re all your children makes them a set. They have distinct identities, they can have distinct name styles.

CourtneyMarie Says:

October 26th, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I struggle with this a lot…I’m pretty particular about things like this, and I really want my future children to have names that fit together. With that said, I’m also very committed to the idea of using my grandmother’s name Filomena for my first daughter…she would have a nn of course but I have NO CLUE how to find names that are complimentary that I also love.

Majotaur Says:

October 27th, 2011 at 1:02 pm

It’s important to not have names that totally clash, but beyond that, I think it’s actually counterproductive to have your kids’ names sound too much like a “set.” Names are identity: if you give siblings names with wildly discordant styles, they might feel like you have wildly discordant expectations about what you hope they’ll turn out to be like. (The “Walter, Thomas, and Kynzee” example above is a perfect illustration.) But if you use older kids’ names as too much of a guideline when choosing younger kids’ names, the younger ones may feel like they don’t have enough of an identity of their own. Avoiding huge clashes is good, but other than that, I think it’s important to treat each child’s name as independent and unique, because each child will be independent and unique!

Taz Says:

October 29th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

my sister and i have un-matching names- mine is more 80’s trendy and hers is more classic and at the time seemed old-fashioned. at different points we were both jealous of each others names. if i ever have a 2nd kid that needs naming i won’t be hung up on matching. my sister and i both have names that my parents liked, that’s all it needs to be. also i like more unique/different names for girls and more traditional classic names for boys.

nikkiolle Says:

November 3rd, 2011 at 11:59 am

I think it is a little over rated, I am from a sib-set that I am the “odd ball” but it has never bothered me nor does my mom get many questions about it. I am Nicole (first born, born in the 80’s when it was super popular) then I have siblings Cassandra, Koby and Kara (90s and 2000’s born). All hard C and K sounds plus a lot less on the popularity lists. Now that only the youngest lives at home our names are not said together very often and it doesnt really stand out to anybody that we dont “match”

AJ_Bear Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 1:19 am

I think it’s a good idea to keep an idea of what you name your kids. Of course you should pick something you love, but they should sound like siblings. My parents picked names that sound a little odd together, but they still seem like siblings: Amris, Athena, and Roger.
I have a cousin who’s having a baby in June, and if it’s a girl, she’s going to name it Seraphina. Pretty, right? Doesn’t match her other kids- Lauralie and Micha.

Namestory Says:

November 11th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

My husband always thinks I’m ridiculous to take this so seriously. But it’s important! For me, it’s less about style or meaning than sonority. I don’t want the names to start or end with the same sound, so that they go together in a cool way, but don’t sound the same. That being said, I named my first 2 girls Arienne & Vienna, never really noticing that they have pretty much all the same letters. When I was pregnant with my 3rd, my friend asked me what other “ienn” name I was going to use. (Her name is Clio!) I like to think that Arienne & Vienna are not very alike at all, but maybe I’m fooling myself.

OliviaJayne Says:

November 29th, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I have 2 younger sister’s and all of our names end in ‘a’: Olivia, Mina and Leila (full name Leila-Rose). My parents never really wanted a theme with our names so chose to name my youngest brother Scott to differ from the other girls and my other brother. No I am not so sure if the names go together when said out loud: Olivia, Bradley, Mina, Leila-Rose and Scott. Personally I dont like having all the girls names ending in ‘a’ because I think it sounds a bit too ‘fairytale’ but thats just me!

BrattysLady Says:

December 6th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I agree that the should have a similar “feel”. Classic and so forth. Not with a “theme”, trees, flowers, cars.

My biggest per peeve is Duggar family sized. Don’t limit yourself to ONE letter. That irritates me to no end. especially when you have 20 kids whose names all start with J. My father in law is from a set of boys who are not only B names but BR names. 3 boys who all have a JR. We had considered out first son to be the third, middle name Benson, Bennie for short. But we have nixed the idea in favor of Henry or Jack. Classic names. With Lillian or Caroline being the top girl’s names.

emilymaryjane Says:

December 26th, 2011 at 2:45 am

I don’t think sibsets are important as long as you don’t name one child Isabella and the other one Simarnie (a name a made up on the spot). Isabella will have to be Isabella._ and Simarnie will get WHAT WERE YOUR omboy PARENTS THINKING!!!!!! Anyway I have to share this I was at a school open day recently and the rep I got shown around by’s name was Samantha and she told me her sister was Joanna. Anyway I told her what a cool combo Sam and Jo. Samantha is named after her grandad Samuel and Joanna is named after her Pop Joseph. I love the sibset girly names with tomboy nicknames. Her mum has fantastic tastes. Though I must mention that Samantha goes by Sam but Joanna goes by Joanna cos she thinks Jo sounds to middle aged.

iwillpraise Says:

April 9th, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I believe that no matter what 1.) Children should feel they belong (esp to their own family) and 2.) Children should feel they have their own identity. So there is def a balance when deciding on sibset names. I have specifically chosen names that compliment, even taking into consideration my husband’s and my classic names! (My husband’s fn actually inspired us to seek a unique and subtle reflection for our 1st future son.) Reading the comments above, I realized that my boy names are more of a strong but soft, classic, Biblical origin while the girls’ are feminine, old-fashioned, having strong meanings; each holding a special meaning for us. They flow well together and separate (as in f/m/ln combos). On a personal note, my brother and I were 10 yrs apart and sharing the same initials, I feel, brought us closer together. Not that I’m planning to do the same, because I’m not, but every family is different. What works for one, does not work for another. For that very reason, I don’t make judgements about someone else’s family. (i.e., some siblings’ names may not seem like they go together, but maybe they were each named according to what was popular at the time each was born?) Naming the kids are the job of the parents, not you (sorry, close family members!) Besides, once kids are born, there’s really nothing to say about their decision… is there?

suzy berry Says:

April 26th, 2012 at 12:27 am

Not until I was naming my own children did I figure out that I grew up in a family that had an extremely mismatched sibset. I never knew any differently growing up, and I was just used to our names. Now it bothers me to no end. The thing that stands out the most to me is when a family appears to have stuck with a theme in a sibset for the first two or three children, and then completely abandons it for the next baby. I always wonder if that child feels special because they have a unique name, or left out from the “club” because theirs is different.

catreynolds Says:

June 23rd, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Ugh… I can’t stand the word “sibset.” Incidentally, I’m also not very concerned with the concept.

GrecianErn Says:

September 7th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

My sister and I have very Irish names and our brother has a Hebrew name (incidentally, we’re neither Irish nor Jewish.) Erin, Nathan, and Shannon, and I think they all roll well together. And It wasn’t until my sister was born that my grandma counted and realized that we all have 22 letters in our name. When I married, my new LN kept me at 22 letters, and when my son’s name was chosen, my sister pointed out that he also had 22 letters. It just worked out that way.
We have a super-common last name, so our goal in naming is to steer clear of the Top 50, make sure no one we know has it, or something like it. And my thing is making sure that the sibset sounds good together but not the same. My mom used to call me “Sharon” when she merged Shannon + Erin.

Also – my bff is from a blended family. Her sisters Tina & Lisa (Christina & Elizabeth) were 15 years older than her. She was given the name Anousha by her Iranian father. It proved difficult for people, so they named her sister Erika 5 years later. She was always the odd name out. Now she goes by Ana at work… but I Love her whole name.

caseyvastardis Says:

December 20th, 2012 at 11:36 am

i definitely think people are too caught up in the concept but i also think some kind of flow is a good thing. it would be weird, for instance, if you named your first child Jacob and your next Gonzalo.

Orangerolls Says:

January 24th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

catreynolds echos my sentiments precisely!

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