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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Okay to Use the Same Sibling Names as Another Family?

Deborah writes:
I love your blog and your insightful feedback into all the naming challenges your readers have.  I'd love your two cents with mine.

We had an easy time naming our first daughter, Amelie Lorenne, and have never looked back.  At the time, Audrey was a strong contender, but we preferred the lovely, less common Amelie in the end.  My mother's side has some french, and we sort of mashed up our own special meaning based on the name's pronunciation and our daughter's Portuguese-Jewish heritage (Alma is soul in Portuguese, Li is mine in Hebrew). Our surname is Vieira (Vee-air-uh).

With number two, hubby and I have yet to find a true love, but have some contestants such far.  Elise was the front-runner (no ideas on a middle for that one), until I recently began carpooling with a family 2 blocks away, who already have an Amelie my daughter's age (almost 3), and a second daughter (5) named - you guessed it -- Elise.  I think it would be too weird naming our daughters the same names, knowing these girls would be in the same schools their whole childhood, and we'll likely become family friends, but my husband begs to differ.  Your thoughts?

Other potential contenders:
-Audrey (but too similar to Amelie, I think)  
-Dana (but too hard-sounding beside the french Amelie)
-Danae (deh-Nay, a french variant of Dana, that sounds softer, but concerned about mispronunciation)
-Lisbeth (don't want 'Girl w Dragon Tattoo' association, even though character in book rocked)
-Giselle (don't want supermodel association, though that is our generation, not our kids...)
-Hayden (but have been warned that a cross-over name might indicate our wish for a son, which isn't the case at all) 

We also are considering Nadia, Sonia, Marise, Marine, Lisette, and Josette.

The only middle name thus far is Estelle, my (deceased) grandmother's name.  Our other daughter doesn't have a family name, but I wouldn't mind changing it with our second daughter. 
Many thanks on any and all suggestions

This is difficult. I am usually wayyyy over on the "Names are not one-time-use items" end of the spectrum, but even I would balk at duplicating a sibling group. It doesn't bother me to think of the two sibling groups in the same school system, and it doesn't seem worth changing naming plans based on the idea that the two families might become friends---and yet it still bothers me, for a reason I can't put a finger on. I think for me it's more that I'd be imagining what the other family would think of it: it's not the same as if you met after the children were all named, in which case it would be a fun coincidence. I LIKE the idea of a friend using the name of one of my kids for her child---but I think I'd start feeling funny about it if she used TWO of my kids' names. Because the two Amelies were named before the families met, this situation falls somewhere in between. But because you describe Elise as a frontrunner and not a true love, in this case I think I would drop the name from the list.

If you do decide to use the name Elise, or even if it continues to be a contender, I'd figure out something to say about it. The subject of your pregnancy is likely to come up repeatedly, and I would wait for a good moment. Perhaps the other mother will ask if you've thought about names, and you can say, "You're not going to believe this: our frontrunner has been the name Elise! Those names must be particularly good together, for both of us to come up with that combination!"

In the meantime, let's look at the other contenders. I would not pair a unisex and surnamey name like Hayden with a very feminine and French name like Amelie, but it might end up working well as a middle name. Dana, too, seems like style clash. Lisbeth and Giselle both seem great, though I see the issue with the associations. (Elsbeth might work as an alternative to Lisbeth.)

I particularly like Lisette and Josette and Nadia. If you plan on having more children later, I like the way Nadia keeps you from being backed into an all-French corner.

My favorite French name right now is Celeste. Celeste Vieira; Amelie and Celeste.

Another favorite is Corinne. Amelie and Corinne.

Another is Noelle. Amelie and Noelle.

Another is Simone. Amelie and Simone.

Another is Eloise. Amelie and Eloise.

I also think Estelle would make a wonderful first name.

Name update! Deborah writes:

thank you for all your wonderful advice on naming our daughter!  She arrived 11/16 in the early am (her due date!), 20", 7:11, and we were at the hospital with the same name contenders from your response and those of your community -- no further along on a decision.  Within a few tries, we settled firmly on Danae Estelle Vieira, and haven't looked back.  :)  We are honoring my grandmother with 'Estelle', and I like the historical Greek-Hebrew associations of Danae, and that while it's not French, it sounds perfect with Amelie and has a soft, lovely sound.

Warmest wishes these holidays,


StephLove said...

I agree. It does feel off somehow. I like Giselle for you, maybe because I don't even know about the supermodel. How about Madeleine?

Carolyn said...

What about Anneliese?

Another pretty, under-used name I like is Miriam. And I recently met a little girl named Merial, which I thought was really pretty.

One of my favorite European names is Elisabetta, nn Betta (an Italian character in a movie), but I can't see the US pronunciation articulating those hard "t"s at the end the way they do in Italy:(

Emmuh said...

I grew up with a family that had 5 children. The daughter that was my age was Amanda Faye, and my name was Emma Kay. Our mothers were best friends, and we were born 2 days apart. Amanda has a sister named Elisabeth Kaye, and I have a sister named Elisabeth Anne. This was not planned, despite their close friendship. But the Beths were not the same age, and we ended up calling one Beth and Little Beth when we were around.
I can see where it would be awkward, but our families have grown apart and don't even think about it anymore. Does this family have other children or will you have other children?
I do think it could be weird at first, but maybe they would be flattered! Could it warrant a discussion with the mother before you settle on anything? Technically, the 2 Elises won't be in school much together, since they will be 5+ years apart. It would only be the Amelies in school together. Jsut food for thought.
Of the suggestions, I really like Corinne, Noelle and Annaleise.

Wendy said...

How about Genevieve? Also French, patron saint of Paris, same number of syllables as Amelie, and lovely with Estelle.

Genevieve Estelle Vieira.

Boy that's a lot of vowels! But I think it's lovely.

Beth said...

I like Giselle, Nadia, Celeste, Marine and many of your other options. I agree that Hayden is too masculine to go well with your other daughter.

Can we discuss Sonia on your list? I think Sonia/Sonya is a lovely name and due for a come back. What are other people's thoughts on Sonia? Sonya was on our list of finalists for our daughter...part of me wishes we could have used it!

Moomoo said...

No to unisex names like Hayden for this girl. Before I read swistles comments, I thought " Just make it Elouise/Eloise!!". It is French, beautiful similar to Elise but a quite a different sound despite being only one or two letters different.
Amelie and Eloise. And they sound like they BELONG together, with 3 syllables each, starting with consecutive vowels, and French sounding! Perfect!
The other one I would second is Genevieve; also 3 syllables and pronounced more as "Jon-eh- vev" than "Jen - ev- eeve" in English. Goes well with Amelie, but Eloise gets my first vote as it is so close to your favourite!

{ella} said...

I love Eloise! the minute I saw Amelie & Eloise I thought it had the perfect ring to it.

Jen said...

Elise is a lovely choice but it would be out for me. Elise is is also on our list so I'm going to throw out some others we have, though not necessarily French...


I do like the suggestions of Genevieve and Estelle.

Anonymous said...

What about Annalise instead of Elise?
I agree Hayden doesn't work with Amelie. If I saw the names together, I would assume Hayden was a boy. Maybe you'd like Hayley? More feminine, but it does seem a bit dated.
I also agree that Dana seems a little harsh next to the softer sounds of Amelie. It also strikes me as dated.
I really like Lisbeth and I'm not so sure I'd worry about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I don't think the name is so unique as to be tied to only that character. Elsbeth is a nice option. Lizette could work too.
Nadia & Sonia remind me of Tanya, Katya and Sasha. Fiona also has a similar look/sound, though it's a very different style.
Marguerite, Margot, Adele, Helen & Ginevra.

K said...

My association with the name Giselle is entirely rooted in the movie Enchanted, and I almost never think about the supermodel when I hear the name. To me, that's a completely positive association, one that your daughter is more likely to make. And how fun for her to be able to have the same name as a princess, should you decide to use that name.

Kiri said...

Eloise solves your problem, and I like it even more than Elise. Also, Anneliese, Fiona, Elsbeth, and Genevieve are sweet.

Annika said...

In my generation, I can't tell you how many sisters I've met named Rachel and Rebecca or Jennifer and Sarah. SO MANY. In the current generation, I've seen a lot of brothers named Sam and Max.

I don't think duplicating sibling sets is weird. It could be weird *for your families* (especially if you spend a lot of time together--but remember that you may not be in such close proximity forever), but not in society at large. It just makes sense that if your naming styles are similar, you will like the same names. Is it a funny coincidence that you might choose the same exact names? Yes. Is it bad? Definitely not.

Annika said...

P.S. I have never associated the name Giselle with anything but the ballet.

beyond said...

I agree with Swistle.
Eloise is a wonderful possibility. Or Elodie?
From your list Giselle is great. (I know the model, but it's not the first thing that comes to mind.) I also like Lisette very much.
Could you make Estelle the first name? Amelie and Estelle. Really lovely.
Or Charlotte? Juliette? Isabelle?
Good luck!

StephLove said...

That's interesting what someone said about Sam and Max because I know two families with a Sam and Max (well, in one case it's Samuel and Max, but still...). And I also know a Rebecca and Rachel sister pair.

Rita said...

Can't you use Estelle as the first name? It's French, similar to Elise, and think it's about to make a comeback, given the recent popularity of Stella and Ellie. It makes me think of the adorable swedish baby princess. Amelie & Estelle would be so pretty.

More (Francophone) ideas:
Haydée - as an alternative to Hayden
Aude - instead of Audrey
Clotilde "Cloe"

Anonymous said...

I'm going to put in a vote for Danae. I had a friend named Danae growing up and I always thought her name was lovely and so unique. I think it sounds nice with Amelie without committing you to French names for all eternity (Danae was a princess from mythology). Speaking of princesses I too associate Giselle with Enchanted :)

Heidi J said...

What about Genevieve, Margot, Eva or Birgitte?

JCF said...

Despite the fact that Amelie and Elise make a wonderful sibling set, I wouldn't do it either, given the circumstances. I see someone else has suggested both Eloise and Elodie. I have a cousin named Elodie, and I've always loved that name (my family is French, and all of my extended family lives in France). I have another cousin named Malvina, which is a less common French name, but quite lovely, I think. Other pretty family (less common) names you might like--Anais, Aurelie (too close to Amelie, unfortunately), and Perrine.

Have fun! I love these beautiful French names, but I could not convince my very Irish husband to use any of them.

Portia said...

Another vote for using Estelle as the first name - I think it's so beautiful and elegant, and somewhat similar to Elise without duplicating the sib-set. I also love Swistle's suggestion of Celeste.
What about Mireille (mi-RAY)? It's similar to Danae from your list, but I think even softer and prettier.

Averella said...

Eloise seems perfect for you! Although if you really like Elise I don't see the probelem, my brothers are named Ben and Sam and we have met at least 4 other families with a ben and a sam, it's never been an issue

Mary said...

What about Eliza?

The Mrs. said...

How about Colette?

Amelie and Colette.

Colette Estelle Vieira.

Best wishes to you and your growing family!

Hope T. said...

When a family in our church wanted to use the name of one of our sons for their new baby, they asked if it would be okay with us. When we later wanted to use the name of one of their older sons for our new baby, we asked them if it would be okay. We laughed at our similar tastes and joked about duplicating future names also. So my advice would be to just ask the other mom what she thought. My feeling is that I would be mortified if a friend or relative used one of my kids' names without asking but asking permission puts it in a completely different category.

Kiri said...

Love the suggestion of Mireille!

Anonymous said...

I love Myriam and Cosette. If I have a girl one day I'd like to name her Diana Lys. Perhaps you would like Annelise? Ido love Giselle from your list.

Kiri said...

Eliette is so pretty!

Kiri said...

I see your point, but Ben and Sam are far more common names than Amelie.

Anonymous said...

I love the similarities of the names Annelise and Eloise with Elise. Also what about naming her Elisabeth, and calling her Elise? It would be a little bit less like naming her the same name. Or you could call her Elisabeth and maybe in the future if you and the other family are not part of each other's lives much anymore, then call her Elise.

I also love Madeleine and Elodie.


Anonymous said...

My advice might be different if you seemed absolutely, head-over-heels, this is the perfect name, about Elise. Even though it is your top contender, your tone suggests that you're open to other names taking over top contention.

I'd look first to names that have the same sound or *feel* to Elise - Eloise, Annaleise, Elspeth, Louisa - even a name like Carys has a similar sound, as does Marise.

I'd also look to names that have a similar French/Porteguese/Jewish *feel* - that's a bit more difficult, but Josephine does to me (while Josette does not - and both get you the wonderful nn Josie!) Estelle is also one of those names to me.

My personal favourites are:
Amalie and Eloise (that sounds perfect, really!)
Amalie and Josephine
Amalie and Estelle (that might also be perfect!)

Jan said...

From your list I like Audrey, Danae, and Giselle. The neighborhood sibling set would cause me to look elsewhere but it's true that it may only be a temporary awkwardness. I'd prefer a name with a different ending (not "ee"). Camille is another suggestion.

Anonymous said...

i grew up in france and i still think Nadia is pretty much a french name. it doesn't necessarily back you into that corner but if it was Amelie, Nadia and Dana i would wonder why you stopped the French theme with the third one. that might just be personal.
i still love the name Nadia though. i also love Josette. it was my french "grandmother's" name.
i also love the suggestion of Simone! So cute!
lastly names that end in -ine :

Tara said...

I wouldn't use Elise. What about Elsa? Or Stella? That could honor your grandmother.

Anonymous said...

A few more ideas:


Anonymous said...

Marie Giselle or Marise Giselle with nn Margi.
Alissa, Elisa, Eliana, Valeria, Moema, Mirella, Therese, Renee,
But I like Sonia, Nadia, Lizette too
Maybe Dana could be middle name if you use Elise

Alexandra said...

Eloise!! This is so beautiful!

liz said...

Estelle as a first name.

Or Genevieve. But Estelle as a first name would be my first choice.

Lyly said...

How about Nora Estelle Vieira

Anonymous said...

I quite love Danae or Mireille. I'd worry more about the pronunciation of the second if that is a concern. What about Renee?

jmv said...

Estelle and Eloise are my favorites.

Lashley said...

I like Swistle's suggestions of Eloise and Simone and Nadia from your own list. Cosette (mentioned above) also came to mind. Other international-feeling names I've heard on girls lately include Esther, Renata, Gianna, and Maeve.

It seems there are so many beautiful names that complement Amelie, holding fast to Elise doesn't seem necessary.

Sally said...

What about Estella? I know it's not French, but it punches up Estelle a notch and still sounds great with Amelie.

Ms. Key said...

I know two little girls who are best of friends named Amelie and Giselle! The aren't sisters, but they practically are (they are 8 years old but have been friends since junior kindergarten). I think those names go great together, after my experience with those girls! :-)

Deborah said...

I'm just reading Swistle's great response and all these wonderful comments now. I'm so grateful -- I'm 34 weeks along already, and think our daughter's name is likely to be formed using this fabulous feedback. I can't wait to reread the ideas when I'm more awake coherent. But, just wanted to note that Eloise is unfortunately out -- a friend just named her daughter that a month ago, and I had that "shoot, that would've been perfect for our kiddo!" moment. Estelle is the name of an adult acquaintance of mine, that I don't see much of anymore, but sort of ruled it out b/c I feel a little weird naming our child after a friend. Also, I was worried that my husband's side of the family might feel left out if we gave my grandma's name as a first name, since we haven't used any of their names (unless you count our surname, ;)). I'm gaining more confidence on Giselle, given everyone's feedback. Also, since writing, Eden's come into our mind... Amelie and Eden?

Ira sass said...

I agree that you shouldn't replicate a sibling set.

I like Nadia Estelle Vieira a lot. Nadia Simone is nice too. And I really like Marise for a first name, either with that spelling or spelled Maryse.

Elise could turn into: