Naming Siblings: 6 Ways to Come Up with Compatible Names

by Bruce Lansky

To name your first baby, your assignment is simple: Pick some names you and your spouse or partner both like, decide how well each will work for your child over his or her lifetime, then choose the best one.

When you name your second baby, however, there’s one more step: Consider how well that name “goes” with the name of your first child. Think ahead to a time when you’re discussing your children with a friend or calling your kids to dinner. Do the names sound as though they belong to kids in the same family? Names that “go together” create a sense of unity, and many parents of siblings seem to follow unifying strategies when naming their children. These strategies are especially common among parents of twins, but they easily extend to parents of children of all ages.

1) Use names that start with the same letter.

For many of the most popular pairs of names for twins (see list below), the paired names start with the same letter (like Hailey & Hannah, Jacob & Joshua, Madison & Matthew). In my own case, I gave my son and daughter names that begin with the same letter to help create a joint identity for them as siblings in our family—not that it did much to prevent sibling rivalry.

2) Use names that contain sound-alike elements.

Many people find rhyming names (like Jaden & Braden) off-putting. But giving siblings names that contain sound-alike elements can convey unity while promoting individuality. You can choose names that begin with the same sound (like Andrew & Anthony or Isaac & Isaiah). You can choose names that end with the same sound (like Gabriella & Isabella or Olivia & Sophia). Or you can choose names that share the same sound in different locations (like Emma & William). One more caveat: Avoid names that sound too similar (like Taylor & Tyler). They can have the same off-putting effect as rhyming names.

3) Use names with the same origin.

Jacob & Jessica have Hebrew origins and are important figures in the Old Testament. Kevin & Caitlin have Irish origins. Ramona & Carmen have Spanish origins. These names all pair well together because they share the same origins. Conversely, Jack, Mario, Gustave, and Jorge all have different origins. None of them seem to pair particularly well together.

4) Use names with a similar theme.

Faith & Hope are inspirational names. Ava & Sophia have famous movie-star namesakes. Other thematically paired names include: Harry & Hermione (Harry Potter characters), Jason & Juno (mythological characters), Lily & Holly (flowers), Sienna & Sydney (cities), Derek & Alex (New York Yankees), Edward & Bella (Twilight characters). Pairing names based on themes is lots of fun, but watch out: It’s easy to get carried away and wind up with silly pairs like Ben & Jerry, Bonnie & Clyde, Jack & Jill, Dick & Jane, or Bert & Ernie.

5) Use names with clear gender associations.

Janessa is a name clearly used for girls, but Jordan is used for both girls and boys. So, it can be awkward to be the sibling whose gender isn’t obvious to most people who hear the two names together. For that reason, it makes sense to give siblings names with clear gender associations. Examples of gender-shared names used more for girls than boys are Bailey, Taylor, Tracey, Harper, Whitney, and Jamie. Examples of gender-shared names used more for boys than girls are Corey, James, Colby, Mason, Terry, and Parker.

6) Use names that are of the same vintage.

George, Walter, Ethel, and Dorothy were all popular in the first half of the twentieth century, so they don’t go well with contemporary names like Logan, Tyler, Madison, and Lindsay.

These naming strategies contribute to the style or “vibe” of names. While using them isn’t mandatory by any means, stylistic differences among siblings’ names may raise questions or call unwanted attention to those whose names don’t fit the unifying style.

For example, imagine a family whose children’s names are Kevin, Brian, Katie… and Ichabod. For his entire life, Ichabod—and his parents—may have to explain why his name isn’t Irish like his siblings’ names. Is this a debilitating situation? Probably not. But it may be an annoying one, especially if Ichabod doesn’t enjoy being singled out.

To start thinking about names that share a style, check out the following lists of the most popular names for twins.

Twin Girls
Gabriella, Isabella
Faith, Hope
Mackenzie, Madison
Hailey, Hannah
Olivia, Sophia
Ava, Emma
Megan, Morgan
Makayla, Makenzie
Natalie, Nicole
Abigail, Emily

Twin Boys
Jacob, Joshua
Daniel, David
Isaac, Isaiah
Landon, Logan
Ethan, Evan
Alexander, Benjamin
Caleb, Joshua
Jayden, Jordan
Elijah, Isaiah
Alexander, Nicholas

Twin Girl & Boy
Taylor, Tyler
Madison, Matthew
Emily, Ethan
Madison, Mason
Emma, Ethan
Natalie, Nathan
Zoe, Zachary
Sophia, Samuel
Emma, Jacob
Emma, William

For Bruce's latest musings on names and naming check out his blog, Baby Names in the News.

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