Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
Why is it so hard to name a boy?
We have twin daughters named Harper Julia and Sloane Amanda. The middle names come from dear friends who are the girls’ godmothers. The first names are names we loved. I wish Harper wasn’t so popular now, but the girls are going into first grade, and we don’t really meet that many Harpers.
Our third – and last – child is due in a few weeks. For some reason, I thought it would be a girl again, so I was thinking about names like Lennon, Laine/Delaney, Quinn, Marlowe, and Whitaker.
But it’s a boy! My husband keeps coming back to names like William and James, which I can’t see on my son. Or maybe Dylan, Logan, or Brennan, and I do like those – but better for a girl.
I’m not sure if I should choose a name that we both like, even if we might have considered it for a daughter? Or if there’s something we’re just not thinking of?
Read on for my response, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Bree –
Congratulations on your new baby!
I think you’ve stumbled into one of those baby naming dilemmas. Using unisex-style names for daughters can make it a little more confusing to name a son.
And yet, I think you have a path forward, because unisex names aren’t often truly unisex.
Stay with me for a minute here.
In order for a name to be truly unisex, it has to be used in even numbers for boys and girls alike. In the US, very few names fit that description. Most of them are used more heavily for boys or girls. Your daughters’ names, Harper and Sloane, are both used almost exclusively for girls.
So one possible approach? Choose a surname-style name that trends masculine. Your kids’ names will go together nicely, but others will (mostly) guess correctly that Harper and Sloane are girls, and your son is a boy.
To be clear, I don’t think a little bit of confusion is the end of the world. More and more names do feel truly unisex these days, and my own kids’ experience suggests that it’s not nearly as burdensome as some perceive. We’ve known boy and girl Jordans and Averys. The kids seem to shrug it off.
Still, I think you might feel more confident if you chose a name like Dylan, Logan, or Brennan, but maybe one that sounds more clearly masculine to you. And, happily, there are plenty of options that aren’t used in big numbers – if at all – for girls.
Callahan – So often, it’s the potential nickname that determines if we perceive a name as feminine or masculine. Emerson shortens to Emmie, so we hear girl. But Callahan? It becomes cool Cal.
Hendrix – Maybe it’s because Hendrix is so close to traditional Henry, or perhaps it’s because we all think of world-changing Jimi when we hear it, but Hendrix feels perfect for a son.
Paxton – Pax was, indeed, a goddess. In ancient Rome, she personified peace. But thanks to Max and Jax – plus Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s son – we hear Pax as masculine today. Paxton actually comes from an unrelated Old English name. Again, this one is all-boy.
Reid – I love the clean, strong sound of Reid. The ‘ei’ spelling is slightly more popular than Reed, but both feel like logical choices for a brother to Harper and Sloane.
Thatcher – You could consider Hunter or Carter, but if you’re after something less common, would you consider Thatcher?
Walker – Along the same lines, Walker is one of those -r ending names that might work nicely. Though now I’m wondering if two -r ending names is too much in one family? I don’t think so, but I’m also going to suggest …
Walton – This might be my favorite with Harper and Sloane! The Walt part makes it feel masculine – though, interestingly, it doesn’t really come from Walter. All three names have different first initials, different ending sounds – and yet a cohesive style.
If not Walton, I’m most drawn to Reid.
Can one of those more classic firsts be moved to the middle spot? Reid William, maybe, or Walton James? I think that could make for a great compromise between his favorites and yours.
Readers, I’m wondering if any of you have wrestled with this challenge? What would you name a brother for Harper and Sloane?
Rafferty, Callahan and Sawyer are great!
If your husband is into more classic names, how about a traditional boy’s name that feels a like more modern? I think the following names fit well with Harper and Sloane:
Or a few more masculine sounding surnames:
I say start fresh since you have a different style for girls and boys. I agree a more male-leaning surname would work well. I like the suggestions of Griffin, Sullivan, Wyatt, Thatcher, and Callahan. A few more ideas:
I love Whitaker James for your family, but if that feels too feminine because you’d imagined it for a daughter, how about Whitman? Whitman James is handsome, keeps the nickname Wit or Whit and Walt Whitman is a great literary connection!
Sloane, Harper and Whitman are a great pairing and Whitman clearly reads as boy to me
Congrats! I can’t wait to see what you choose!
Honestly your list is transferable to a boy so I would just go off of that list.
But if you want some other ideas –
A Waguespack says
I agree that Lennon or Whitaker (nn Whit too cute!) would totally work for a boy. Whitaker James sounds amazing!!!!
Logan or Wyatt
Forgot to add:
Sullivan, nn Sully
I love Abby’s suggestion of Reid or Callahan. I also think Whitaker from your list would work really well.
A few others I like with your sibset:
Finnegan, nn Finn
Another vote for Whitaker for your boy. I actually don’t think it would have fit with Harper and Sloane as a girls name nearly as well as it doesn’t for a boy. Plus I love the nickname Whit for a boy.
Since gender is just a guess when a baby’s born, I think a gender neutral name is a great thing. There’s no reason why the boy’s name has to scream “I have a penis,” you know? Lennon is nice! Walton gives me pause unless you love Walmart, but surnames like Crosby and Reed (or Reid) sound like they fit in just fine with your girls.
The Mrs. says
Classic for your husband, but a surname for you?
Harper, Sloan, and Clark.
He’s not especially popular, but he IS familiar.
Everyone gets their own first initial, too!
C in DC says
Whitaker reads “all boy” to me. Would Whitman work better for you?
Ferris. Riley. Bryce. Wesley. Sawyer. Magnum. Redding. Maxwell. Frasier. Graham. Kenneth/McKenneth/Mackenzie. Grant. Wright. Beau. Bridger. Briggs. Declan. Ian/Ewan. Trent.
Jean C. says
I looove Reid! That one is hard to top for me.
I also like Graham, Griffin, Gavin (apparently I just like a lot of G names??), Colin/Connor.
I also think many parents have different styles of names depending on the sex of the child. I actually really like James with Harper and Sloane. Or names that I would consider somewhat in the middle would be: Sebastian, Christian, Dominic, Everett. Or would a name like Julian, that is distinctly male but with a unisex vibe be a good fit?
Good luck and congratulations!
I also wanted to suggest Whittaker for a boy. I’ve only ever met one, and he frequently went by Whit. It’s a strong name and wears well!
From Abby’s suggestions I really like Callahan!
I think both Elliot and Nolan work especially well with Sloane and Harper. They feel more modern classic than traditional classic (James, William) which might be a good compromise between yours and your husband’s style
How about Rafferty, Donovan, or Brody? Also last-name type names, but skewing more masculine.
I immediately thought “William it James? Nah…” before reading on, lol.
I like Hendrix… These are a few ideas as well:
It sounds like your husband is leaning more towards traditional for boy names, but I think there are a lot of great options here that fit both modern and traditional style… From Abby’s list my faves are Paxton, Callahan, and Thatcher.
A few more for your cisideration-
Cassius or “cash”
Congrats on your son!! 🙂
How about Whitaker for a boy? I actually think Logan, Dylan, and Brennan would be great for a boy too. I think everyone would assume that a person with any of those names is male, whereas they’d assume the opposite for Harper and Sloane. I would scratch off Walton because it reminds me of the Walmart heirs. I don’t have any other associations with the name. Do you have any other appealing surnames on your family tree?