how close is too closeWhen we decided to call our daughter Clio, we forever closed the door on another favorite name – Theodore, nickname Theo.

Or did we?

For every family that decides Maya and Milo are too similar, another embraces the sound-alike names.

Or insists that Alicia and Alina are totally different names.

Some parents might never notice that Joanna and Jackson are both related to John.

Or maybe the first time Kelly introduces her daughter Grace, she suddenly realizes that the legendary Grace Kelly is echoed in their names.

Siblings’ names will be said together countless times. The names we like often have much in common.

So how can you tell if your choices make for a compatible set, or if they’re much too close?

There are no hard-and-fast rules, but here are ten factors to consider.

10. The names share the same meaning.

This can be a subtle way to link siblings’ names. Think Lucy and Claire. One means light; the other, clear. Felix and Asher both mean happy.

Sometimes the challenge comes when your family of two ends up a family of four or five or more. Your first two are the nicely paired Hazel and Ivy, but after using Olive and Jade, your choices for #5 narrow to Loden, Fern and Moss.

9. The names share the same origins.

Name aficionados know that Jacob and James are related. A popular combination for twin girls is Isabella and Elizabeth – two forms of the same name, even if it’s not quite like choosing Mary Anne and Marianne.

Origins aside, Jack and Sean make for a compatible pair of brothers’ names. And Charles and Caroline seem different enough to be worn without incident.

Daniel and Danielle, however, feel too close.

8. You’ve neglected 25 letters of the alphabet.

Sometimes this is unintentional. You’re naming your sons after their grandfathers – Michael and Matthew. Or you just happen to like the names Julia and Jason.

But let’s say you choose a letter with fewer options.

I remember hearing about a family with four sons – Henry, Heath, Hugo and Hatrick. Are they hockey fans, or was Harvey not their style?

And if you’re on the second generation sharing the same syllable, your options might be very limited.

7. The names are linked in history or pop culture.

If the movie was a bust, or we’re talking minor comic book characters, this matters not at all.

(You can safely ignore “But Sami named her twins John and Alice on Days of Our Lives.”)

Some combinations might appeal because of their shared connections. Imagine daughters named for two Jane Austen heroines, as in Emma and Elinor.

But then there’s Gillian Anderson’s threesome – Piper, Oscar, and Felix. Her kids might not know The Odd Couple, and it’s not a negative reference, either – so maybe that’s a non-issue.

Some do feel truly unthinkable – siblings named Romeo and Juliet, maybe.

Though, of course, it can happen after the fact – in which case, all you can do is laugh and promise that, no, the Twilight novels didn’t inspire you to name your children Jacob and Bella.

6. Your choices can lead to same nickname.

Sure, you never intend to call Kathryn or Katelyn by the nickname Katie. But it could easily happen. And how will their sister Annie feel about having an unrelated name?

Not every set of names that shares a nickname feels too close. Amelia and Marianna could both shorten to Mia. Alexander and Natasha might both go by Sasha.

The harder you have to think about it, the less it becomes a concern.

5. Your favorites share the same ending.

If you like Isabel, you might also like Annabel.

Ditto names like Parker, Carter and Harper.

But sharing the same ending is another sign that your favorites might be too close for comfort.

4. They nest like Russian matryoshka dolls.

Does one name fit neatly inside the other? Annika and Julian share an “an” but it isn’t glaringly obvious.

But Ella and Kellen seem like they’re part of the other.

In cases like Anna and Susanna, one sibling’s name is an elaboration of the other.

That can be a little too close.

3. They share the same first syllable.

With #10 through #4, it is easy enough to come up with examples that work, despite being close in some ways.

But #3 is tougher to navigate.

Imagine sisters called Madeline and Madison? A brother-sister pair named Jordan and Georgia? Twins Miley and Myla?

2. The names rhyme.

Yes, there have surely been twin sisters called Cara and Tara. But most parents – and siblings – would find it a bit too matched.

And yet, this is trickier than it sounds. Timothy and James, Jeffrey and Stephanie and, of course, Benjamin and Jennifer all end up rhyming if you use the most common diminutives.

1. A combination of the above.

Jackson and Jonathan are close, but probably on the right side of the line. Jack and John, though? That seems a little too close.

Jeffrey and Stephanie seem less troubling than the Hollywood power couple Benjamin and Jennifer – because the nicknames rhyme and we think of them as a matched pair.

Sarah and Laura are pretty close, but Laura and Maura feel like they cross a line.

What choices have you had to reject because they’re just too close to your an older child’s name?

First published on December 10, 2009, this post was revised and re-published on January 19, 2022.

how close is too close

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Thanks Abby! That is reassuring. Yes our Elijah has so far been going by his full name, or Lij/Lijah. It’s hard enough finding an available name that both parents can agree on!

  2. What about brothers Elijah and Alexander? Al and El are obviously very similar first syllables.. Alexander is our front runner for our second due this November!

    1. I think it works fine. While Elijah might be shortened to Eli, that’s not the norm. Likewise, Alexander is rarely shortened to Ali. They’d probably go through life as Elijah and Alex, which is just enough repeating sound to be appealing, I think …

  3. Our daughter is named Willa and we’re considering naming our 2nd Sylvie. Is the first syllable too matchy? All opinions welcome!

  4. It is so interesting how subjective names are.

    An interesting story about rhyming names (and twins). My dad went to high school with two sets of identical twins: Mark and Clark, and Ronna and Donna. One of each set (and I don’t remember which ones) ended up getting married. And then they had twins who I went to high school with. As one of those twins told me, her parents liked the rhyming twin names, but also wanted to add some more differentiation. And that’s how I ended up with classmates named Cara Anne and Sara Beth.

  5. Thank you so much for your feedback! I really value your opinion as I was so curious on what you thought about the combo. We actually have a daughter named Georgia. I think Georgia, James, & Jack all flow nicely together. AND Jack would be our last & done with 3 so no worries on trying to follow the “J” trend. Thanks again!!

    1. We are expecting boy/girl twins, our second and third children, and most likely the last. I keep wondering if the names we selected are too close. Natalie is a name my husband and I have always loved, and we planned on naming our first Natalie if he had been a girl (his name is Adam). We decided our next favorite boy name is Zachary when we thought it was just one baby. So now we have Natalie and Zachary as our names … is this too rhyme-y? We never intended to match our twins names so closely and just wanted to choose our favorite two names, but now I worry they are too close. Please help!!

      1. They ARE close, in the sense that they share a rhythm, ending + some similar vowel sounds in the middle. But I think they work – and maybe the similarity is to your advantage?

        – Even if they’re shortened to Nat and Zach, the sounds are distinct.
        – They have different first initials. It’s not like Jeremy and Jessamy or Anthony and Avery.

        So both visually and sound-wise, I don’t think I’d ever confuse them.

        It’s normal to sometimes, y’know, call your daughter by the guinea pig’s name. So you will sometimes mix up Natalie and Zachary, but not because their names are too close.

    2. Hi! I just had a son 5 days ago and named him Kason. My older daughter’s name is Keilani. I find that it’s kind of confusing already because both have same first syllable of “k.” Or maybe I’m overthinking it. Thoughts?

    1. I think that’s close – and it would be tough to name a third sibling. But … the nicknames wouldn’t be the same, and the styles seem distinctive. I’d say it’s fine …