Baby Boy R., Brother to John/Jack and Edward/Ned

Hi Swistle,

You know how sometimes you read something and you say I would never do that? Well, I’m having one of those moments.

I have two little boys that go by their nicknames, Jack and Ned. Their given names are John and Edward, respectively. Having two boys were traditional names with short spunky nicknames, I now have the feeling that I *must* find a third name that fits that trend. It is also making finding a name challenging because a name that goes with Jack and Ned doesn’t necessarily go with John and Edward or vice versa.

The only true requirement is I would really prefer not to repeat an initial. Because Ned has two depending on your point of view, I am willing to bend for an E or an N, but if I can find a distinct initial that would be preferred.

Names hubby and I have talked about:

Christopher nn Kit-not too fond of Kit. Ned and Jack sound like they could be childhood to old man nn, but Kit sounds very juvenile. I pointed out Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones, to which he responded so now it’ll be popular. Neither one of us is feeling Toph as a nn.

Winston nn Wynn-I am really liking Wynn but not sure how I feel about Winston. Are there any other names that Wynn could be a nickname for?

Donovan nn Van or Don-meh

Nicholas nn Cole-Does it seem like we’re reaching?

Gage-I just discovered this name last night and I’ve latched onto it for some reason. I don’t like it with the given names for the boys though. Plus my husband has a negative memory associated with it, and it’s now on the un-usable list.


I like the names Rhett and Reed, but our last name begins with R so that seems like a lot of R.

Names that we cannot use for one reason or another:

Jack was such as obvious choice for me that I never considered any other name (he was named after my grandfather). Ned took a little while longer, because I find choosing boys names very challenging!

I’m not too worried about naming style matching any girls that we hopefully have.



Because I generally think it’s less important for nicknames to coordinate, I would start with the given names. With John and Edward, I wouldn’t have gone to any of the names on your list except for maybe Peter—which may mean I’m barking up the wrong tree, but let’s go with it for the moment. I would be looking at names more like Thomas, James, and Robert from your Can’t Use list, and also:

Charles; John, Edward, and Charles; Jack, Ned, and Charlie
George; John, Edward, and George; Jack, Ned, and Georgie
Henry; John, Edward, and Henry; Jack, Ned, and Hank
Louis; John, Edward, and Louis; Jack, Ned, and Lou
William; John, Edward, and William; Jack, Ned, and Will

And maybe Andrew/Andy/Drew and Daniel/Dan and Philip/Phil and David/Dave, I’m not sure. I had Frederick on the list, but then realized Fred rhymes with Ned.

The nickname for George is not really what you’re looking for, but I think the beauty of George is that it goes both with the given names and the nicknames: John, Edward, and George; Jack, Ned, and George. Henry could serve the same purpose: John, Edward, and Henry; Jack, Ned, and Henry. If you’re planning more children, you may find yourself grateful for a name that gracefully breaks the pattern like that, leaving you open to a much wider list next time.

And in fact, unless you have a couple of name/nickname combinations you love enough to use, I would advise deliberately breaking the pattern at this point, while it’s still relatively easy. Two names with something in common is not a pattern, but three names in a row is, and the pressure increases exponentially with each additional name. My first two boys have names with the same number of letters and syllables and same country of origin, followed by middle names after matching relatives on the two sides of the family; I’m so extremely grateful to my past self for giving up on that (after a considerable struggle) for the third boy. At this point, no one would notice that the first two “match.” It felt during the pregnancy as if it mattered tremendously, but now it feels as if it doesn’t matter at all—and it meant I chose names I really wanted for the third and fourth boys.

What would you choose if you weren’t looking for a coordinated name/nickname to add to the sibling set? I suggest looking through the name book again, but this time make a list with no thought for how the names go with the brothers’ names, just to see what kind of names you come up with.

Baby Naming Issue: Are Brielle and Elleanna Too Similar?

Hello Swistle!

I’m hoping you’ll be able to help us make a decision about our name. I feel like we were pretty sure but now are feeling hesitant.

Our last name is a combination of Mc and the big white fluffy things in the sky. We have a four year old son Isaiah Jude and a three year old daughter Brielle Kaelyn. We are expecting baby number 3 in March.

We usually pick names that have a significant meaning which adds another layer to choosing names.

I tend to like a bit more unique names while my husband likes slightly more common. The girls name we have been talking about since we found out about this pregnancy is Elleanna Joy.

My concern is with its similarity to Brielle. The sound is different because it ends differently but obviously they are similar…

The other names I have considered are:

Olive, Liliana, Sienna, Bridget, Keira

My husbands other votes are for:

Hailey, Brooke or Paige

Any suggestions that are like these? Thoughts about having a Brielle and Elleanna?

Looking forward to your help!


I definitely see the repeated -elle- segment, and I can see why it might not be ideal, but I also don’t see it as a deal-breaker. The main concern for me would be potential nickname overlap: right now Brielle could go by Bri or by Elle or Ellie or Ella; if she were to have a sister named Elleanna, that would likely cut off those Ell- options for her.

I think it depends on how much you love the name. Is this your joint top choice and you’d both be heartbroken to give it up? Then use it, and the twinned “elle” will be a feature, not a bug.

But if it kind of bugs you, or if you are planning to have more children and you’re worried about feeling as if you have to keep going with -elle- names, then there’s still plenty of time to look around for other options. If you look and you don’t find anything you like as much, then you can rest easier in the decision.

I do think Liliana is a nice compromise: it’s very similar to Elleanna, but completely eliminates the repeating -elle- and the nickname issue: Brielle can have Bri/Bree and Elle/Ellie/Ella; Liliana can have Lil, Lily, and Annie/Anna.

Emmeline would be another possibility: it eliminates the -elle and gives nicknames Em, Emmie, Emma.

Or Vivianna? Lucianna? Arianna? Adrianna? Avianna? Evianna? Audrianna? Aubrianna? Anneliese? So many good -anna- names.

Or Corinna or Karenna?

Oh, or I wonder if we could find a good way to spell Hailey + Anna, to take a name from your husband’s list and make it more like a name from your list? I’m not finding anything that looks quite right. Haileanna, Haleyanna, Haylianna?

Or I know an Evelina (ehv-ah-LEE-na) and I think that’s so pretty.

For something more like your husband’s list, I’d suggest Delaney. It has that -elle- sound in there, but with a D- to keep Elle/Ellie from seeming like natural nicknames.

Or Linley? It has the style of names like Brooke and Paige, but a little more length and femininity to go with Brielle. Or Kinley would be nice.

Baby Girl McHugh, Sister to Francis (Frankie) and Cormac

Hello Swistle,

I had the names picked out for our first two children before my husband and I were even engaged. Our oldest, Francis Theodore (known as Frankie) was named after his paternal grandfather and my grandfather. Theodore came from a beloved uncle who had passed away around the time I became pregnant. Our second, Cormac Peter is named after an author we both adore and Peter comes from my father. Our surname is McHugh and these names blend nicely with the Irish last name. My husband’s first name is very traditional Irish and coincidentally so is mine and together we sound like a cast of characters from a Frank McCourt novel.

But now, baby three comes along and it’s a girl and we are flummoxed. My background is Scandinavian and often times names are taken from nature. My great-grandmother was named Aurora and the aurora borealis is one of my favorite things in nature, but my husband is less than enthusiastic. I am also drawn to memorable literary characters such as Regan (too popular?), Brett (from Hemingway) and even Austen after Jane.

Or should we pick an Irish name to keep it cohesive? My husband is drawn to the Irish names: Sinaed, Tristan, Aelish. Together we like: Saoirse, Brigid, Nora and Delaney. We live in a town where Irish names are popular and very common, but I worry this will make her name blend rather than be unique.

I also like the sound of masculine/androgynous names for girls such as Aidan and Roan/Ronan.

For a middle name we will likely use Elizabeth or Anne after our sisters.

We have time, baby doesn’t arrive until May. Oh May, that’s another great name!

Please help!


I’m going to browse in the Celtic section of The Baby Name Wizard, so it is likely I will be mentioning Welsh and Scottish names as well as Irish, but perhaps that would do. Or perhaps it would be a startling clash, and I would be cheerfully oblivious. Well! Won’t it be fun to find out!

Before checking this section, I’d thought of Carys—but perhaps that is too close to Cormac, or too many hard-C/K sounds in the sibling group. Frankie, Cormac, and Carys. No, I kind of like it, especially with the hard-C sound in your surname. Carys McHugh.

I like Brigid/Bridget a lot. I have a Bridget in my circle and I find her name so fun to say.

I think Delaney is great, too, and that’s another one I’ve been able to test out because of having a Delaney in my circle.

Until recently I would have been more nervous about names such as Saoirse, but then my daughter had an Aoife in her class and it seemed to work out fine. I’m sure she has to spell/pronounce it for people pretty regularly, but in an area with heavy Irish name-usage it may not be as difficult.

I think Nora is so good, especially with your surname, but I think you would be disappointed by its popularity (#36 in 2016), especially since it is also used as a nickname for the relatively popular Eleanor (#41 in 2016).

I would add to the list:

Emlyn; Emlyn McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Emlyn
Fiona; Fiona McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Fiona (possible initial issues: FAM or FEM)
Gwendolyn McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Gwennie (possible initial issues: GAM or GEM)
Maeve McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Maeve (similar to May)
Merrigan McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Merrigan
Rory McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Rory (similar to Nora) (possible initial issues: RAM or REM)
Teagan McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Teagan (similar to Tristan)

But I also like the idea of turning to the Scandinavian heritage this time; it seems as if the Irish has been well-represented. And it’s fairly common to have style differences between the boy names in the family and the girl names, and Francis/Frankie doesn’t hit my ear as Irish, so I don’t think it would seem as if she were the odd one out. I’m looking at Nameberry for some Scandinavian options, but I don’t know how to pronounce most of them and that’s making it difficult. Well, here are a few I thought might work:

Birgitta McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Birgitta (similar to Brigid) (possible initial issue: BAM)
Bridgette McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Bridgette (similar to Brigid) (possible initial issue: BAM)
Dahlia McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Dahlia (possible initial issue: DAM)
Jensen McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Jensen (possible initial issues: JAM or JEM)
Kallan McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Kallan (similar to Celtic name Callan)
Malin McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Malin
Nessa McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Nessa (possible initial issue: NAM)
Viveca McHugh; Frankie, Cormac, and Viveca

I like even better the idea of finding a nature name from your Scandinavian family tree: if Aurora isn’t quite right, then another name like it.

Names for Babies Who Arrived After Lots of Wishing and Waiting

On yesterday’s post, Shawna wrote:

Somewhat off topic: my son is the result of IVF (so I know what the LW is going through and wish her the best) – any chance we could, in a separate thread, talk about names that celebrate the birth of babies who arrived after lots of wishing and waiting (because of fertility issues, long adoption processes, or other situations)?

Yes! Let’s do that here on this post.

Baby Name to Consider: Lahey


My husband and I are doing ivf and the morning of our transfer (scheduled for that day a week in advance) his grandfather died. If this baby sticks around, I feel like there is something so incredibly meaningful and we have to name the baby after the grandfather. The grandfather’s first name has been used within the family 4 times (my husbands grandfather, uncle, cousin and brother) so we are not using it. But his middle name is his mother’s maiden name and has been used as a middle name in the family once. The name is Lahey. We are considering not telling anyone and naming the baby Lahey wether it is a boy or a girl. As a boy it would be Lahey William or Lahey James and as a girl it would be Lahey Elena or Lahey Anne or Lahey Rose.

Basically, in all my googling there is little data of this is ever used as a first name. Is it crazy? I know there aren’t a lot of aparent nick names for it but I can see a Layla or LaLa forming for a girl. My other daughter has a much more common name, so I am worried this will be weird. Her name is a solid top 100 but rarely top 30 name.

Our last name is hiphened and sounds okay and weird with everything so it’s of very little concern.

Thank you so much for your help!



I love the idea of using maiden names as first names. I am not sure what I think of this particular maiden name.

As you mention, Lahey is virtually unused in the U.S. as a first name: I looked back half a dozen years and it is not in the Social Security baby names data base for any of them. (Names used for at least five boy or five girl babies are included in the data base.)

I am working on the assumption that the name is pronounced LAY-hee, but I am prepared to find that there are other pronunciations.

One potential issue with very unusual names is that associations don’t have as much chance to become diluted. My immediate association with the name Lahey is the word “lay.” Do the kids still use that slang? The name Layla, which also contains the sound “lay,” has that association for some people but has additional associations as “a first name for girls,” and as “that Eric Clapton song,” and as “a name on my friend’s baby-name list,” and as “that person I know named Layla,” and as “names that remind me of Princess Leia,” and so on. The brain files “Layla” in multiple files, and all those files get brought to the front upon hearing the name. The name Lahey has fewer files for the brain to access, so each association carries more weight.

Another potential issue with very unusual names is spelling/pronunciation. A name such as Sophia should be difficult to spell/pronounce, but isn’t, because the name is common and so we’ve become familiar with it: we know it isn’t spelled Soffeeuh, or pronounced sop-hy-uh. And when we hear it on the phone, we recognize it quickly because we are expecting to hear a name and our brain has “Sophia” filed under “names.” The name Lahey, because it is so unfamiliar, will take more repetitions. The ear may hear “Lacey” or “Laney” or “Layla” or “Leigh” or some other name that the brain offers up after it gets a 404 error, or may hear “lazy” or “lady.” The eye may see “Laney” with an extra tall stick on that N; or might see a Lah sound instead of a Lay sound, or a Hey sound instead of a Hee sound, causing pronunciation guesses such as lah-HAY (or, if it IS pronounced lah-HAY, then pronunciation guesses such as LAY-hee). You’ll have to spell it, pronounce it, explain it, over and over and over again. Will this drive you crazy, or will it give you a happy little thrill to tell the naming story each time? Parents are all over the spectrum on this kind of thing.

In addition to considering the relative popularity of your first child’s name, if this baby is a girl I would also suggest considering the relative femininity. I agree with your assessment that the name Lahey could be unisex; if your first daughter’s name is also unisex, the two names will work better together (despite popularity differences) than if your first daughter’s name is quite feminine and used exclusively for girls.

I wonder if you might return to the idea of using the grandfather’s first name instead. When I first read the email, I thought you meant it had been used for four new babies—that is, that in your children’s generation there were already four babies honoring this grandfather. But none of the people sharing the name are in your children’s generation, and one of the four is the grandfather himself. I think carrying on a family name in this next generation too would be lovely. But perhaps the issue is that your husband’s brother and/or cousin are planning to pass along the name themselves.

Looking at the middle name options, I notice a lot of repeated sounds in Lahey Elena. I would lean toward either Lahey Anne or Lahey Rose instead.

I would also like to make sure that when you say you “have to” use the name, you mean it in the sense of really wanting to because it feels like a really cool and fun idea. If you are instead feeling stress and pressure, as if the timing of things means you are required to do something you don’t want to do, I encourage you to ditch that feeling. The universe is full of interesting coincidences, and I have not yet seen a handbook that says any of those coincidences require commemoration in a child’s name. The timing could instead be commemorated by its inclusion in the story of how this child came into your lives.

Baby Girl Leigh


I’m a lifelong name nerd and I recently discovered your website. I’m expecting a baby girl in March and hoping you can help me nail down her name. The name is 100% my decision. I am hoping to have two children, last name is Leigh (pronounced Lee). I like somewhat unusual but distinctly feminine names.

Additional: honor names are Elizabeth/Betty and Patricia. If I someday have another daughter, I would use both. (Patricia only as a middle.)

I have many names I love that do not work with my last name: Ivy, Pearl, Marilla, Vivian (LOVE how this sounds, but I think Vivien Leigh was too well-known), Opal, Ophelia, Orla. Anything ending in an “A” or “L” sound seems to run together or create an adverb; “S” can be problematic, too.

Current contenders:

Betty: I love this, and I also love that it honors my grandmother. I would want Betty to be the name, not Betty as a nickname for Elizabeth. (I don’t want my child to have a “formal” name and a “real” name—just one name.) I have some residual concern about people assuming her full name is Elizabeth, but I think I can deal with that. I am leaning strongly towards a little baby Betty, but the middle name is a stumper for me. I think BEL is a great monogram, so I’m thinking an ‘E’, but Betty E_____ Leigh? Betty Elise? Elaine? Thoughts? The monogram is not a deal breaker and it does not have to have a special meaning for me since that box is already checked; I would just like the flow to work nicely.

Lillian: I think Lillian Leigh (Lillian Elizabeth or Lillian Patricia) is beautiful with a great flow (although perhaps too much ‘L’?), but it’s now in the top 50 and I’m afraid there will be other Lillians running around in her circle. If I have two daughters, I think there’s a disconnect with Lillian being formal and Betty being a shorter, more casual name, so choosing one now is taking the other off the table (assuming there’s a second girl in my future).

I’m leaning towards Betty but would love middle name help, and I don’t have any idea what I would name a second girl that ‘goes’ with it? _____ Patricia Leigh? Thoughts on boy name possibilities? Any help would be most appreciated!


Hm, let’s see. For middle names starting with E, I like:

Betty Eileen Leigh
Betty Eleanor Leigh
Betty Ellison Leigh
Betty Eloise Leigh
Betty Emmaline Leigh
Betty Emerald Leigh
Betty Emerson Leigh
Betty Evelyn Leigh

Any E surnames in the family tree? Those might be nice, too.

Lillian Leigh does have a whole lot of L, and I think it might be a fight to keep it from being shorted to Lily. Lillian was #28 in the U.S. in 2016 (Social Security Administration), and both Lily and Lillian have been in the Top 50 for more than a decade, so if popularity is a concern I do think you may be disappointed at how often you encounter it.

I suggest Lydia instead. Lydia Leigh has a lot of the sound and rhythm of Lillian Leigh, but eliminates one L and some of the popularity (it was #80 in 2016).

Or do you like Gillian? Gillian Lee.

As a suggestion out of left field, I like Georgia. Georgia Elizabeth Leigh.

For a future sister for Betty, I like Daisy. Betty _____ Leigh and Daisy Patricia Leigh.

Baby Boy Corn-with-an-H

Hi Swistle!

I’m almost crying tears of joy because I finally have a reason to write to you. After two years of trying, my husband and I are expecting our first baby (due next summer).

Since we’ve been trying for so long, we have already had a few discussions regarding names. Our hands-down favorite girl name is J0seph!ne @nne; it honors my husband and a family member of mine who passed away, and we love the nicknames (I love me some nicknames). If we ever have a daughter, this will definitely be her name.

Our problem comes from two boy names we love: Alexander and Calvin.

1. Alexander goes well with our last name (Corn with an H), we love the nickname Alex, and it’s a name only shared by one of our astounding plethora of male relatives. My concern is that Napoleon’s Josephine had a first husband named Alexander. If we had a son and daughter named Alexander and Josephine, is that bad? Or is this a reference that I’m overthinking? I know it’s not like naming your kids Romeo and Juliet, but I don’t want to saddle our kids with something weird.

2. Calvin is a slight nod to my name, it’s not common in our circles, and it’s not shared by anyone in our family (the trifecta!). My issue is that I know he’d be called Cal sometimes (I’m fine with that, my husband doesn’t love it) and I think Cal Corn-with-an-H sounds weird and choppy. It sounds like someone is saying “cow h0rn” to my ear. Is this hormones making me crazy, or am I on to something here? One syllable last names are hard!

Other boy names we’re considering: Samuel, Cole (similar issue to Calvin!), Daniel, and Anthony. We like some of these, but Alexander and Calvin are the clear front runners. We have a ton of potential middle names to choose from (again, plethora of male relatives), so that’s not a concern.

Also, whichever one doesn’t get picked this round is permanently off the list, as I refuse to have sons named Cal and Al. Just nope.

Thanks so much!


History is one of my weakest subjects, so it’s not surprising that I have zero association with Napoleon/Josephine/Alexander. I think we need opinions from people who are very aware of whatever that historical situation was, to see if they’d think it was weird to have a Josephine and an Alexander as siblings. I’d think it would help that both names are relatively common.

I lean heavily in favor of the name Calvin. It’s a great name, and it’s more in line with the popularity of the name Josephine (the name Calvin was #148 in 2016; Josephine was #114; Alexander was #11). Plus, it removes any possibility of awkwardness over Historical Josephine’s ex.

I don’t see any problem with the nickname + surname. It’s pretty important to me that the given name go reasonably well with the surname and with sibling names, but nicknames are much less important. If the nickname formed a bad or embarrassing word with the surname, that would be another matter; but a little choppiness seems like a non-issue—and I don’t hear “cow h0rn.”

Baby Girl Powell, Sister to Freddie, Poppy, and Daisy

Dear Swistle,

I am expecting my fourth child in March. This will most likely be our last child. Our son, Freddie, will be nearly 3 when the baby arrives and our twin daughters, Poppy and Daisy, will be 18 months.

We are expecting another girl. We are steering towards another floral name as we don’t want the baby to feel left out that she doesn’t have a floral name like her twin sisters.

Our surname is Powell. My favourite name so far is Lily but my husband struggles with its strong association to death. It is the number 1 flower at funerals. Other names we agree on are Violet and Rose. I like those names but don’t love them like I love Lily. I guess it bothers me that Violet is shortened to “Vi” it sounds so harsh. Rose is a lovely name but is it a bit plain?

Any thoughts?




I think you could do a non-flower name, since Poppy and Daisy are twins: it seems as if they could have something uniting their two names without their siblings feeling left out, particularly since you already have another child without a flower name.

I do think at this point I would lean toward a name ending with -y or -ie.

I don’t think of Rose as plain. As a middle name, it is extremely familiar, but as a first name it still sounds fresh. The nickname Rosie would give her the -ie option.

I suggest Ivy. Freddie, Poppy, Daisy, and Ivy.

Or Flora. Freddie, Poppy, Daisy, and Flora.

I also like Posy, but I’m worried it seems like a combination of Poppy and Daisy.

I think something like Ruby would work: gemstone names are similar to flower names, but avoid the bouquet effect. Freddie, Poppy, Daisy, and Ruby.

Or Bonnie: I think any pretty word-name works well. Freddie, Poppy, Daisy, and Bonnie.

I wanted to suggest May, but May Powell makes me think of maypole. Not that we routinely discuss maypoles, and not that they’re a bad thing, so perhaps that’s not a deal-breaker. But perhaps June would be better: Freddie, Poppy, Daisy, and Junie.