Name Help: A Brother for Leah & JoelName 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!

Kyla writes:

We are pregnant with our third and recently found out we are having another boy.

Our first two are Leah and Joel. If you had any boy name suggestions for us, we would so appreciate your input!

We aren’t stuck on 4 letters, but just tend to gravitate to shorter, traditional or familiar names.

One of our top names at the moment is Sean (possibly spelled Shawn).

Thank you for all of the help!

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your third!

Here’s what leaps out at me: yes, your son’s name should be brief. But it should also be timeless in a very specific way.

We’re not looking for an evergreen classic, like William.

Instead, we’re looking for a contemporary traditional. A name that isn’t clearly specifically tied to a decade, but does feel like a name that’s from more recent generations. It could belong to the dad or the kid, but probably not the grandpa. (Though maybe!)

It also strikes me that Leah and Joel are both Old Testament names. Lots of great names are! But Sean/Shawn is not, and that strikes me as potentially smart. If there are more children in your future, it’s less of a pattern if you break it now. But then again, Leah and Joel have been so broadly popular for so long that I’m not sure it’s obvious, like it might be if you named your kids Hezekiah and Keturah.

Okay, on to the names!



It’s tempting to leave in the 1960s, a leather jacket-wearing Rebel Without a Cause or maybe one half of surf rock duo Jan and Dean. But Dean keeps coming back, generation after generation. 90s kids might think of him as Rory’s first love on The Gilmore Girls. There have also been Deans in Supernatural and the Harry Potter series, to name just two. It’s a modern traditional, which is just what you’re after.


Plenty of Drews are actually Andrew, but the name stands alone, too. (Former NFL quarterback Drew Brees is just plain Drew.) I think it works best for your family as an independent name. I like the way Leah, Joel, and Drew all have strong vowel sounds, but don’t sound too similar.


Sean is the Irish form of John, and Evan is the Welsh. The ‘v’ keeps it very current, and even though it’s still four letters, it’s two syllables, which makes the name feel a little bit longer.


A television cowboy popularized this nature name in the 1960s. But it never quite caught on. After all, Heath was ahead of its time. This feels like a brother for River and Ridge and the outdoorsy, nature-inspired choices we love now. But it’s got enough history of use to match nicely with Joel and Leah, too.


Is Jesse too close to Joel? Maybe, but you already have a Leah, so I think it’s a non-issue. I love the simplicity of this name, the meaning – gift – and the fact that it’s another subtle Old Testament pick.


Luke is one of those names that feels very traditional, but actually is more popular today than in, say, the late 1800s or early 1900s. As with Jesse, there’s a repeating initial with an older sibling, but it still works.


Possibly my favorite example of a contemporary traditional. Ryan feels rooted and familiar, but it’s actually a relative newcomer to the boys’ Top 100 – at least in the US.


A name with roots in Egyptian mythology and the Old Testament, Seth has history to spare. But it feels more like a recent favorite, from the same era that popularized Heath.

Overall, I’m not sure any of these top Sean. I’ll admit I prefer the Sean spelling – partially because it sticks with the four-letter pattern, but mostly because it feels like the more traditional spelling.

If not Sean, Dean gets my vote. Funny how they’re spelled so similarly, but pronounced differently, isn’t it?

Readers over to you – what would you name a brother for Leah and Joel?

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. I can see that. It probably jumped out to me more because I default to reading Leah with a similar pronunciation as Leia, and then have to remind myself that most Americans say LEE-ah.

  2. My first thought was Adam, and I see I’m not alone, so add my vote for that!

    I’ve always like Sean (this spelling) and it works beautifully with Leah and Joel.

    Dean is a great suggestion, and there’s also Dane which could work too.

    How about Alec, Toby, Eric?

    Simon is five letters but fits well also. Aaron, too.

  3. No one seems to have mentioned this yet . . . I love Luke as a name in general, but I think as a brother for Leah it only works if you are OK with getting Star Wars jokes. Exactly how many you get will (of course) depend on which pronunciation of Leah you are using, but I think they will pop up even if you use the long-E.

    I do like Sean. Also really liking Adam from the comments

      1. Though it’s funny … if it were just a brother for Leah, I’m sure I’d have heard the similarity and thought no. But saying Leah, Joel, and … really does make it less obvious.

  4. After looking at previous posters’ comments, I think I like the recommendations of “Shane” and “Caleb”.

    Leah, Joel, and Shane?
    Leah, Joel, and Caleb?

    I think “Sean/Shawn” is a solid traditional name that is familiar. For me, I’d steer away from the “Sean” spelling if I had a daughter with the “-ea” built into her 1st name.

    To add to the mix…

    * Hale
    * Marren (to break away from a style pattern)
    * Troy
    * Nate
    * Cole
    * Frank
    * Tom (even shorter than the previous two?)

    Hope we’re helping and Congrats on your new little one! All the best on your naming journey!!

  5. I’d like to see another name containing the consonant L.
    Leah, Joel and ….
    Eli, Elias
    Luke, Lucas
    Taylor, Tyler

  6. Came to suggest Rowan or Ronan. They both have a similar vowel sound as Sean and also have an Irish connotation- of that’s what you’re going for. Personally , I really like Sean/Shaun/Shawn but I would quickly get tired of having to spell his name constantly…
    Best wishes to you and your family !

  7. Bram was my first thought too! Then Grant. Looks like im in good company.

    Dean and Seth are perfect.

    What about Keith? Urban makes it familiar and current while Richards makes it rock and roll. And I like that the repeat of your initial makes it a subtle nod to you.

    Leah, Joel and Keith

  8. Seth and Adam could be from any decade, any part of America. These easily feel like comfortable companions to Leah and Joel.

    Gabe could pair well, too.
    Amos feels a little further out there, but Noah is quite a lot more popular. But if you liked either, they would fit!

    Congratulations and best wishes!