The Matching Sibling Name Debate: Chloe With a Side of Zoe?
Did you give all of your dolls perfectly coordinating names as a child? Maybe you had dolls named Sandra and Chandra. (OK so you probably didn’t name your dolls Sandra and Chandra; this is just a random example. Please go with it.) Maybe once you became a teen that same combo grated on your nerves.
Opinions vary widely on how much sibling names should match. And the rules can be different for same gender vs. opposite gender siblings and twins.
My take is that coordinating (but not matching) sibling names is a nice-to-have, but not a must-have. For example, if you are naming baby number four and you found a name that is perfect in every way except it doesn’t go perfectly with your older children’s names, passing up that name could be asking for frustration and disappointment. Especially if you and your other half had a hard time agreeing.
There’s this theory in statistics, known as the “secretary problem.” The “secretary problem” involves some math I can’t claim to understand, but basically the theory is there is an ideal stopping point when interviewing applicants for a secretarial position. The ideal stopping point can be applied to any number of decisions. It is also known as the “picky suitor” problem.
This isn’t a perfect analogy to picking a baby name because based on this theory, the employer must decide before the next interview whether or not to hire the previous applicant and in doing so rules out all other applicants – permanently.
This means if you apply the “secretary problem” perfectly to baby naming, you can never go back to a rejected name or change your child’s name after birth if you experience regret. There is no rule that says you can’t reconsider a name that had been moved to your reject list last month. And this often happens. There is no rule that says you can’t change your baby’s name after birth. This doesn’t happen as often, but does happen.
Nevertheless, I do believe that when selecting a baby name, picking a stopping point is wise. In that sense the “secretary problem” loosely applies. At a certain point, you will not find a name that is better. After looking at thousands of names, you will not discover that name you and your partner both really love, that goes with the last name Markewitz, that goes with the honoring middle name Dalton, meets your modern tastes and happens to have 10 letters and four syllables like your two older kids’ names. Maybe you will find a name that fits the jig-saw puzzle, but then one of you won’t like it.
I’ve said it before, when your kids grow up, they won’t likely have each other’s names on their business cards, unless they are co-owners of some family business. This is assuming the name in question isn’t a glaring clash with the three other names. For example, if your three older children are named George, Charlotte, and Alice, and the almost-perfect-in-every-way name for baby four happens to be Fez, I would ask you if you are absolutely sure this name is perfect in every way.
However, if you have kids named Morgan, Aiden, and Colin, and really love Tatum for baby four but are reluctant to commit because Tatum ends in a different letter, I would encourage you to use Tatum. In this case, it’s not worth giving up the beloved name that fits stylistically, when its only fault is failing to meet a narrowly defined pattern.
I used to think one of the downsides to following a pattern was limited options. Why stick yourself into a small box? But after I read about the experiments of Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar who studies how consumers are more likely to purchase when faced with a smaller, not larger, number of options, I began to wonder if, at least subconsciously, some parents were drawn to the limits imposed by a sibling name pattern. There could be comfort in living in a small box. Otherwise too many options might be overwhelming.
This may seem counterintuitive. Most of us get excited about the idea of unlimited options, but unlimited options are only exciting as an idea. In practice, when we get down to the real work of picking our children’s names, there is some comfort in a manageable number of choices.
Committing to a sibling name pattern is one way to cut through the myriad of choices available today. However, this benefit is minimized once a family exceeds the typical two to three children. Older children’s names automatically rule out names for younger children, and when you add other requirements, such as “must have four syllables” you may have accidentally painted yourself into a too small, too tight corner.
A good example comes from my childhood family. Where my name-nerdness comes from is a mystery. One thing is certain, I didn’t inherit it. When my non-name nerd parents decided to use all A names for me and my two brothers, I don’t think it was a deliberate choice at first. It simply developed out of wanting to use my Dad’s middle name, Alan, for their first-born son. On a certain level, I think they were relieved to limit their choices to A names.
And when picking a name for their first (me) and second child (their first-born son, Alan), this guideline served them well. They ran into problems when picking a name for their third, my youngest brother. The problems were they didn’t like Adam and a daughter named Angela called Angie, automatically ruled out Andrew, because they would have called him Andy. They ended up picking Anthony out of a process of elimination. Since they weren’t name-nerds they weren’t aware of any other A names. I’m not sure what they would have done if they didn’t like Anthony.
I’m curious, how important is it that your children’s names go together?
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on September 23rd, 2014 at 11:35 pm
I never heard the phrase or concept “sib-set” until I began to frequent nameberry. In fact, my computer spits it out each time, replacing it with subset.
As I have frequently commented, children are individuals, not matching powder blue Samsonite suitcases. You’re right that their names will seldom be considered together as a single subject once you are done naming them.
So, no I don’t need them to match or coordinate and the same letter thing seems creepy to me. Not that the parents choosing the same letters are creeps, but it strikes me as a deplorable lack of variety and imagination.
Though probably some of my antipathy towards the trend has to do with so many siblings being named J or K names in the 60’s and me disliking so many of those names.
That being said, I do find certain names pleasing when contemplated together. I’m Leslie and my brother is Gordon, both Scots names, and we’re both Scots-American (this was not planned by my 1960’s parents). I like the sound of sisters named Rosemary and Fenella or brothers named Graham and Shepherd. They seem to complement one another.
But if I met a couple named Josiah and Lotus and their kids were named Taffeta, Adam, Martha, Olaf, and Ghislaine, I’d just think what cool names they all had, how diverse and interesting, how not like those boring nuts on TV with their 29 kids or whatever.
on September 24th, 2014 at 1:28 am
I definitely don’t think names have to match, and way too many people get to caught up with the names matching perfectly together. However, I like that my two favourite boy names are both last names that can be used as first names, but if I wouldn’t care if I found another boy name that wasn’t. I also think that once you hear names together on real sibsets, then they start to sound like they belong together.
I love mine and my siblings names, but to namenerds standard, they don’t actually match. My older sister’s name is Rebekah, a common Biblical name. My name is Josephine, which is French and very uncommon. And then my brother’s name is Nathan, another common Biblical name. But I have heard Rebekah, Jo and Nathan my entire life, so to me, they sound amazing together.
So I don’t really think matching is important at all.
on September 24th, 2014 at 2:52 am
I cringe a little inside when I see names like the Duggar family’s or really rhymey names or names that start with the same letter (I just heard of quadruplets being named Shaniqua, Shakira, Shaleera and Sierra or something…) That would drive me nuts!
I’m a writer and I’ve begun to do this thing where I won’t let myself name two characters names that start with the same letter. It started when I named the main character (Calista) and her two older sisters (Aurelia and Briony) along with the main male (Damien) I saw a pattern, and now Elani, Flavian, Gabriel, Haemon, Ignatius, Julian, Kyrie, Laurentia, Melina, Nerina, Olympia, Pandora, Quentyn, Rhodes, Sebastian, Thaddeus, Ulixes, Verity, and Zoelie have joined the cast.
The only time I can tolerate same letter sibsets is when there are two letters involved, usually one for the girls, one for the boys. In real life, I know Myriah, Lloyd, Madison, Magdalene, and Lawrence, and in a novel I accidentally ended up with Emiliana, Mariela, Esteban, and Marcus.
I guess this comes from my mom combining my sibling’s names. When you’re trying to spit out your kid’s names, weird stuff happens. For me and my sister, it wasn’t bad – collectively we were Mickeri. But my brothers Daniel and Martin were Danmartin…and poor Martin always thought my mom was swearing at him. Not that their names are overly matchy, but imagine how much worse it would have been if Martin’s name were Samuel or Nathaniel.
(In case you’re curious, though I am nowhere near the time in my life where I am married and have kids, I have two of my future daughters named – Antonia and Rosalind, both long, Shakespearean-sounding names [The version of Much Ado I saw featured a female Antonio named Antonia] with adorable nicknames – Annie and Lindy. For boys, I’d probably go with something like Sebastian, Thomas, Peter, or Benedict. I’ve also named several characters Nathaniel and Gabriel, so I like those as well)
on September 24th, 2014 at 3:08 am
My parents named my sisters and I ending in i; mom is Sandi and we’re Nyki, Staci, and Ashli. It got confusing only when they were mad at us and they yelled all our names until they got to the right one. I thought the i’s were great and wanted to do the same somehow with my kids but Lili didn’t match my daughter so we went with Lily (Lillian). Then we had our second daughter and named her Juniper and call her Juni so darn it they could’ve matched. But it looks like we’re going in a botanical themed direction now; Marigold, maple, and Violet are on my list if we have another girl…. If it’s a boy, we’ll then there goes the matchy sib set names bc we’d go with Frederick after my dad lol.
on September 24th, 2014 at 8:17 am
I’m definitely in the middle, per usual. I hate when names match too much–Lily and Rose, Jack and Jill. Matching the sibling shouldn’t be the be-all end-all. But I think it’s nice if there is some consideration. For example, I’d like my children to be able to pinpoint something their names have in common, even if loose, like all middles are of Latin origin or have a nature meaning. Something to remind them of their bond, knowing that they may change their last name later.
But the most important thing to me is that the names have a similar popularity. My name was #95 the year I was born, but my brother’s name has never made the top 1000. I was always so jealous that he got such an uncommon name, while I did not. But the kid with the super rare name may resent sister Emma for never having to repeat or spell out her name. So whether I go for all names in the top 10, or from 500-750, etc., I’d like to have some consistency in popularity.
on September 24th, 2014 at 11:02 am
We all have our opinions.
My MAIN opinion is that especially when it comes to naming and making families, do your own thing. Do whatever you want, anything. Don’t feel limited, and don’t try and do the same thing as everyone else. There is nothing more important than your own identity. I hate when people try and put ANYTHING “off limits”…..
My personal opinion on this matter is that MOST the time things like all the siblings have the same letter kind of peeves me. So much so that sometimes I think if I have more kids, I will zeto all the same letter names I still LOVE LOVE just because I don’t want to do that. Everyone does now, I know so many families it makes me sick, it’s almost like I might as well say, hey look it’s the S family and the E family!
Zoe and Chloe sound funny as siblings, but it’s fairly common or was in twins to have names like that, I don’t find anything wrong with it really because in these cases there are variable spellings, variable nicknames, middle names, etc. It isn’t that bad, a bit awkward but not bad.
Overall I think names should kind of go together. Nothing worse than that family of Samuel, Rebecca, Starshine. I mean…. no. Or even Evanderly, Charicia, and Pam. Again, not cool…. Even if you loved all the names… Seems way too wrong. My son has an incredibely unique name and I only plan on going more rare and unique for any subsequent children, never more common or far from what his is.
on September 24th, 2014 at 11:06 am
My names Chloe!
I think Chloe and Zoe sound cool together! I also like the sound of Timmy and Tammy.
on September 24th, 2014 at 12:02 pm
We’ve fallen into an N ending theme accidentally in our family. My husband and I both have N ending names. My son’s name is a family name that we decided on for our first born son before we were married or expecting. Then when we were expecting my daughter we had the hardest time agreeing, so I made a list of my favorite first names and my husband chose her name from it. Low and behold it was an N ending name. Now, if we have a third child and they happen to be a name nerd like me, I just know they’d feel left out if they were the only one in the family without an N ending. I also have an aversion to common names. I’d be very happy if none of our kids’ names were in the top 1000. So Brian, Cathryn, Benton, Arwen, and ???
on September 24th, 2014 at 6:54 pm
I agree that matching or coordinated sibling names are “nice-to-have,” if you’re into that, but not a “must-have.” Siblings will not always be together through life, and will not always be viewed as an adorable little unit. I would not judge a parent if their children’s names did not “match,” necessarily. This said, I think sometimes “sib sets” can be too contrived and cutesy. There is such a thing as too matchy. On the other side of the coin, sometimes names of siblings can be so eclectic that I wonder whether the parents have any style preference at all. I do think that to have a “type” is important. Logically, to stick to that “type” seems natural to me. This being said, there are lots of ways people define names that “match.” I have a hard time sticking to a list of names sometimes because I feel to have them match, and to pick a type of name I like the best. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and say “These are my favorites, matching or not.”
on September 25th, 2014 at 2:28 pm
I believe my mom tried to make us all match, but was overrided by my father’s family tradition of naming the first born son with the same initial as the father. So we’re Karina, Kaylah, Kassidy, and Jake. I don’t know if it really bothers him, but to me it always seemed like his name was disassociated when saying all four together. I feel the same way about a family friend’s children, she wanted all her children to have musical names but upon finding out her last child was a boy and she didn’t like any musical boys names, she gave up. She now has Melody, Cadence, Harmony, and Matthew.
It’s not that any of these name are bad, it’s just that once you’ve established a naming theme with your children, I think you should stick with it, especially after the third or fourth child.
on September 29th, 2014 at 8:55 pm
I would say that names like the Duggers are too matching for me. I too know families with all the same letter, or similar sounding and on the flip side names that dont match at all in style or popularity. For me I think style overrules popularity but id keep them in the same ballpark ie i might use a name in the 700 range and out of the top 1000 bc they are moth fairly unpopular. I would never use say emma and seraphina too much of a difference in style and popularity. I babysat for an alayna and a symone. Theyre different in popularity but still sound well together style wise…at least to me. Id also agree that if you do pick a theme you should stick to it. Like the musical names. Matthew doesnt even match in style to the girls musical names. I like nature names so i could maybe do a theme for middles but not firsts tho i love so many. If i did it might be less noticeable like lark and tabitha. I happen to like alot of l names so id probably aboiding more than one name w the same letter so id havento choose boy or girl who gets the l. Lyra is def my favorite of all l names so if i had a girl that would overrule
Beau Jean Said
on February 16th, 2017 at 3:06 pm
After my parents named their third child, they noticed that all of their kids had names with four letters so decided to continue the pattern for the rest of their children.
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