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Friday, November 2, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: How Many Repeated Endings are Okay Per Sibling Group?

Amy writes:
My husband and I are sort of in a debate and I think you are the one who could help us.  Although we're not expecting our third child (yet...that I know of!) we have already been going through the lists of names that we had for our previous two children and debating whether they would ever be 'useable' for us.  The problem is endings.  We have a son named Samuel, and my husband likes the name Nathaniel/Nathanael; I do as well, but I feel like another 'el' ending sounds odd.  Same with girl's names - our daughter is Clara, but all the names we like for girls (Anna, Louisa, Fiona, etc.) are soft-a ending names.
Is there a limit?  I mean, how much of one ending can a family handle?  Maybe you could do a poll?

Oh, interesting! I think it would be difficult to come up with a number answer ("Two. Two is the limit") because there are so many factors:

• How many children are in the family

• Whether the matching endings are given sequentially or with other children in between

• Whether the matching endings have been given to all the children born so far, or if other endings have also been used

• How similar/different the names are in other ways

• How unusual/attention-catching the particular ending is

• Whether the children with matched endings are all of the same sex

• Whether the matching endings sound exactly alike

• Whether the matching endings are spelled exactly alike

• Your particular family's feelings on how appealing it is to have matchy names

• Some other hard-to-pin-down factor that we know when we see/hear it (but which may vary from person/family to person/family)

If you had, say, five children, and two of them had names ending in an -en sound, but those children were first and fourth, and one of the children was a boy and the other was a girl, and the ending was spelled -en in one case and -yn in the other case, and one of the names had two syllables and the other had three and the consonant sounds were completely different---then it seems like it's no big deal, and you could even use an -in/-an/-en/-yn name on an additional child without a fuss.

If on the other hand you had two girls named Isabel and Annabel, that already seems like too many -bel endings---and I'm not sure it would help to separate them by several other names. Unless of course you LIKED the matching: there are, after all, plenty of families naming sibling sets Madalyn and Madison, or Ella and Emma.

I think what matters most is whether it feels too matchy or attention-grabbing when you're saying the list of kids (the definition of "too" will vary from person to person). Samuel and Nathaniel sound rhymey/sing-songy to me because of the similarity of the M and N sounds before the -uel/-iel, and also because of the similarity of the -uel and -iel sounds themselves. I MIGHT use both names in a family with a lot of children, if there were several children in between: Samuel, Clara, William, Emma, Nathaniel, for example.

For comparison, a name like Paul, while it ends in L like Nathaniel and Samuel, gives me no such urge to increase separation. Samuel and Paul have completely different sounds: the -l ending sounds different, the letters before the -l ending sound different ("yool/yul" vs. "awl"), the syllables are different, everything is different. It also helps that there'd be another child in between: Samuel, Clara, and Paul just sounds like everyone has a pleasing L-sound to tie the names together.

The repeating -a ending seems almost like a non-issue. Many, many names end with -a, and it's not very ear-catching or distinctive. With the example of Clara and Anna, they don't sound rhymey even though they have the same number of syllables and same emphasis: the letter-sounds before the -a ending are completely different, as are the rest of the sounds in the names. If you wanted to increase the difference, you almost couldn't do better than Clara and Fiona/Louisa: different end-sounds, different syllables, AND different emphasis. If I encountered a family with daughters named Clara, Fiona, Anna, and Louisa, I might notice that they all had -a endings (which I wouldn't consider negative), or I might just notice that they were a great sibling group.

If a combination does bother you, there are often options: Samuel and Nathan instead of Samuel and Nathaniel; Clara and Anne/Annabel instead of Clara and Anna.


Butterfly Chaser Photography said...

Fun fact, this is my parents naming scheme. There are seven of us, 4 girls with "a" or "ah" endings and 3 boys with "el" endings. Very, very few people notice that there's a pattern even when our names are said in birth order, (three girls in a row, three boys in a row, baby girl).

I think Samuel and Nathaniel are closer sounding than any of our names, but you'd be surprised how little attention non namers pay to other people's baby names. Besides their names might evolve into Sam and Nate, or any combination of nickname and full name and then the pattern will be even less obvious.

Jill said...

I agree that in most cases names with similar sounds seem pleasantly matched. I have absolutely no problem with Clara and Anna/Louisa/Fiona, but they are also great classic names in their own right rather than one name slightly altered to sound alike. I think it's obvious when a sibling set is intentionally rhymey (something like Jayden and Brayden) and when it is just coincidence that some names share letter.

Martha said...

I don't think it is a big deal at all, most people would never notice. My parents named five girls, and our endings are -a, -el, -a, -el, and then the youngest got -er. No one has ever commented on it, and me as the name nerd was probably the first person ever to notice that there are two matches and the baby is different.

Portia said...

Samuel and Nathaniel do sound a little rhyme-y to me because the ending sound is identical: SamYUL, NathanYUL. I wouldn't notice it at all with other names ending in L, even something like Gabriel, because the ending sound isn't identical.

However, I don't think it's at all a deal-breaker -- in fact, it's a nice connection. I love Samuel, Clara, and Nathaniel together.

I wouldn't notice at all if you had two girls with names ending in a.

Anonymous said...

My husband once mentioned the names Noah, Micah and Jonah as names he liked to go with our already ending in "ah" son's name. They are all Biblical names, which isn't a deal breaker for me... the breaker was the "ah" ending. It just sounded to "cute" to me and too much rhyme.

That said, the name we like for a girl at this point DOES end in an a or "uh" sound, but it is "tha" vs. "ah" ending, and I am alright with that (mostly).

They will be back to back, though... so sometimes I try to be more crative and think of different endings of girl names I like, but I keep coming back to this particular one. So, I feel it is alright... I just wouldn't want to have any more "uh" sounding names after these two, though. It is probably mostly just preference of the parent.

mamashine said...

There is a family at my kids' school with 4 girls whose names all end in -iana. They are called Aubrey, Julie, Ellie, and Lily, but their full names all have the -iana sound. I find it interesting, and personally over my matchy limit, but still pretty. :)

Anonymous said...

Each of our 6 children (all now grown) had nns when they were young that ended in 'y' or 'ie', although none of their given names did. Many traditional names have a nn ending in the 'ee' sound. We purposely gave them such names -- cute/cohesive when they were small, but more individual when they took on their full given names or a shortened form of the end in 'ee-sound' nns.

One of my daughters has four girls, the first being Sarah. One by one she chose names ending in 'a'. However, two girls were called nns that don't end in that sound.

I find end-in-the-same letter/sound names or nns (especially with one of these two patterns) more appealing than start-with-the-same-letter names.

If you end up with Samuel and Nathaniel, you very well may call them shorter forms of those names eventually.

As for Clara and Anna, I personally love end-in-a names for girls and think the two you like are lovely together.

StephLove said...

I do think some names are too similar. I took Jonah off my list for second child (with great reluctance) because I thought it was too close to my son Noah's name. (And then we had a girl so it didn't matter.)

That said, so many girl names end in a I think people might not even hear it. The el ending is a little more distinctive, but I think it works, too.

Anonymous said...

The above poster's example of Jonah and Noah would bother me, but more because the names actually rhyme and have multiple sounds in common (long O, N's and the ah endings). I think I'd be likely to confuse the two when speaking, they sound like almost the same name.
Samuel and Nathaniel don't bother me at all. Different syllables & they have distinct sounds that set them apart from each other. I would probably notice, but not care or think it was weird in any way. If they go by Sam & Nate, it's especially not an issue.
There are a ton of girl names that end in a. It's such a common ending that I doubt I'd think twice about it. Clara and Sarah would be out because they actually rhyme, but Clara and Fiona or Clara and Anna is not an issue at all. Something more extreme like Annabelle and Isabelle I would notice and be bothered by. It's more than just a sound or syllable in common. Belle is an accepted nickname for both (as well as a stand alone name in it's own right) and this makes it seem like just too much.

Anonymous said...

Personal taste. I know someone with 3 girls all ending in the -lee sound, all spelled differently (-leigh, -ley, -lee). I say either decide you love it or hate and run with it!

Jennie said...

I would use Samuel and Nathaniel. Especially as they could go be Sam and Nate. Or even Samuuel and Nate. Or Sam and Nathaniel.

There's a family of girls at my daughter's school. I recently overhead their names: Gabriella, Mayella and Enella. (Not sure of the spelling of Enella.) That is a bit much to me.

I know another family who chose names for their 3 daughter that ended in the "ee" sound on purpose. They have a Lily and a Lucy, which I personally think is too close because of the matching syllables and matching "Luh" sound.

Before I had kids, I thought Noah & Jonah would be super cute for twins. I probably would go for something more subtle these days though.

I guess the issue would be that if you had a 3rd son, would you use or feel forced to use another -el ending?

Anonymous said...

I know a family with kids named Tabitha, Talitha and Tamitha... that was WAY over the top for me.

anorthwoodsgirl said...

Keep in mind that kids grow up to have their own lives. They spend more of their time living away from their siblings than with them. I would stay away from rhyming names or super matchy names, but in a relatively short amount of time, kids grow up and whether their names blend with their siblings or not ceases to be an issue. Go with the names you love!

Anonymous said...

Regarding having a third son with the same ending sound, I know a family who had Christopher and Alexander. When they found out that their third baby would be a boy too, they looked for another name ending in -er, but didn't find one they liked. Since they did want a name that went well with the other two, they next looked for a multi-syllable name from the same Greek background and named the baby Nicholas. The three names go well together (all are called by their full name -- no nicknames...yet), and I don't think anyone notices that two boys have names ending in the same sound, while the third doesn't.

Samuel and Nathaniel could work the same way. If you don't want to repeat the -el ending with a name like Daniel, then another biblical name would go well too.

Amanda said...

We are having the same debate. I am due in a little over 2 weeks with girl #2. Our first is named Clara, and we love the name Nora but are very concerned about how similar these two names are.

Jodi said...

I will be no help at all, but I just wanted to say I feel your pain. We have a Beatrix and even with (at least) two babies in between, my husband still feels strongly that we can't use Felix. Like, ever. I think that's a different case from yours, though, since -ix is such an unusual and attention-grabbing ending. Drat.

I think in your case, I'd be inclined to say repeating an -a ending for girls would be absolutely fine (though I'll admit we've tried not to with our girls). So many girls names end in -a that it just wipes out too many lovely options. I'd probably be less inclined to do Samuel and Nathaniel consecutively, but it wouldn't make me twitch if I heard it on someone else's kids either :)

Carmen said...

I think this comes down to personal taste. I have a close family friend with 4 kids: Hannah, Leah, Noah & Lukah. While I notice the same ending, I personally don't think it's too odd. I actually notice sibling sets where everyone starts with the same sound more than I notice sets where they all end with the same sound. If you like the names, I say go for it!

Anonymous said...

As many as you're comfortable with! I don't think name endings stand out as much as beginnings. It seems like people have a stronger reaction to a family all having names that start with one letter. As a name nerd, I would definitely notice Samuel and Nathaniel, though it wouldn't bother me, especially if short forms of their names were used more often. That said, one of my favourite families has children named Hannah, Oliver, Clara and Alistair - the girls have the same endings and the boys have the same ending sound. The boys names are quite similar but I think they all work really well toghter

Katie M said...

With the name Clara, you have to be careful with other names that can also end in "a" AND something else. Like with Clara and Sophie, I feel like you'd always be forgetting which one had the "a" ending. Claire and Sophia, etc. Same with Julie/Julia and maybe more. So with these names, I like the repeating "a" ending for consistency and ease in remembering the names.

Tori said...

I think nicknames can play a big factor too. There are four girls in a row in my family, the first three end with -a: Victoria, Anna, Clarissa, and then Catherine. But then a different three of us have ended up with nicknames that end with the -ee sound. Tori, Clari and Caty.

The only time I ever noticed as a child was when a name was being called from the other side of the house and I wasn't sure which of us was being called.

Emmy Jo said...

I actually love it when siblings' names end in the same sound (well, as Swistle said, provided they aren't rhyming or otherwise very similar).

Samuel and Nathaniel don't seem too similar since the first syllables, number of syllables, and nicknames (Sam and Nate) are so different. And it's not unusual to have one naming style for boys and another for girls. If you're planning to have more boys, you could easily find another "-el" name (Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Daniel, Abel, etc.). You could also use another biblical boys' name (Elijah, Micah, Malachi, etc.)

Clara and Anna are definitely not too similar. So many girls' names end in "-a", and it's easy, even if you were to have ten more daughters, to come up with all "-a" ending names that aren't too similar. Or you could use other old-fashioned names that don't end in a. Clara, Anna, and Lucy; Clara, Anna, and Miriam; Clara, Anna, and Eleanor; Clara, Anna, and Beatrice -- all those sound fine for sisters.

Good luck!