Name HelpName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!

Jasmine writes:

We have two boys named Maximus and Leonardo – called Max and Leo.

We are pregnant with #3 and looking for a name to follow the pattern – a grand name with a short, snappy nickname!

We are not finding out if it is a boy or a girl, but if it’s a girl our top pick is Pearl!

Our last name is Portuguese, and pronounced Al-may-da.

Read on for my answer – and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments!

Hi Jasmine –

What great names for your boys! And I love the name Pearl for a girl.

At first glance, it seems like there are dozens of names that fit your boys’ pattern. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed!

We’re looking for a boys’ name that is:

  • Longer, but shortens easily. I love the way you’ve described them – a “grand” given name and a “short and snappy” nickname.
  • Names with plenty of history.
  • I think you’re also looking for a name with an obvious short form. Some of my initial ideas, like Constantine, don’t have a go-to nickname.
  • Let’s go back to that grand part for a minute. Some of the names that came to mind immediately, like Nathaniel and Theodore, could work. But do they really stand up to gladiator-emperor Maximus and legendary artist Leonardo? Those aren’t just long names. They’re powerful, world-changing kinds of names!

That last piece feels like the most limiting factor. Plenty of long names feel classic, even quiet. That’s not what we’re looking for here.

Grand Names for BoysInstead, how about:

  • Augustus, Augustine, or Augusten called Gus – Max, Leo, and Gus sound like brothers to me! Maximus and Augustus are very closely matched, style-wise, but I don’t think they leave Leonardo out in the cold.
  • Ignatius, called Nat or Nate – Ignatius is a big name, and Iggy – the logical nickname – feels a little cutesy. But Nat and Nate would work just as well. While the name’s roots are Etruscan and obscure, over the years Ignatius has become associated with the Latin word for fire.
  • Ludovic, Luciano, or Lucian, called Luca or Luc – Is Lucian a big enough name to fit with Maximus and Leonardo? If not, would Ludovic or Luciano appeal? Because I think Luca – or even just Luc/Luke – might be a great brother name for Max and Leo.  
  • Frederic, Frederick, called Fritz – Maximus is ancient, Leonardo is romantic, and Frederick is … well, rather Teutonic. I’m not sure if that completely matches your style, but the ‘z’ ending of Fritz is interesting and edgy. Max, Leo, and Fritz.
  • Leonardo fighting the Foot Clan's ninjas in th...Rafael, RaphaelRaffaello, called Rafe – Maximus, Leonardo, and Raphael seemed like the perfect trio at first. Raphael is a big name, with tons of style, and plenty of famous bearers. Like Leonardo, one of those is a legendary artist. Which brings me to the big problem with Raphael. Two out of your three children would share their names with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So I guess that’s a no, and I should take Raphael off the list. But I just can’t bring myself to do it, because it seems like such a great name!
  • Nicodemus, Nicomedes, Nicolo, or even Nicholas, called Nico – I love Nicodemus, and I think it stands up wonderfully well to the style of Maximus and Leonardo. And Nico is a great, sparky short form. Since Raphael feels rather ninja, I think Nicodemus called Nico is my new favorite suggestion. But there are lots of ways to get to Nico, including Nicholas – though that might be a little on the quiet side.
  • Lorenzo, called Enzo – My hesitation is that Leonardo and Lorenzo are kind of close. And yet, Enzo and Leo aren’t very similar. Lorenzo de Medici was a towering figure of the Renaissance, making this a grand name to go with Maximus and Leonardo.

Usually, I have a clear favorite or two by this point in a post. But to be honest, this time I just don’t. I think Augustus/Augusten is the most obvious match, with Gus as the nickname.

In terms of pure style, though, I’m most drawn to Raphael called Rafe. It feels like a big name, and yet one that is different from your older sons’ names. But … turtles! Would Max be annoyed that he hadn’t been called Donatello? Or would it be a really cool thing right through third grade or so, and then be a non-issue?

Assuming Rafe is out, I love the idea of Nicodemus called Nico best. Nicodemus is far more obscure than Maximus or Leonardo, so that’s not ideal. But I think it’s a solid style match, and the three sound like brothers – Max, Leo, and Nico. Or Nicky – Max, Leo, and Nicky.

UPDATE: Jasmine writes, “Thanks for the help but we ended up having a baby girl!!! Paloma Delila Fern. Middle names after grandmothers, Diana, Lila and Fernanda. We are so in love!” 

Gorgeous name, Jasmine! Welcome to the world, Paloma.

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. Oh I LOVE Gus! It’s so perfect for Max and Leo! Benedict (Ben) is great too….but PEARL…well that’s just FABULOUS for a little girl!

    It’s regal and classic and beautiful. I think it’s really in poor taste to criticize a name that has clearly already been decided…even if you don’t like it…its really not very nice especially when you don’t know the people at all. That’s like the awfulness of someone saying “OMG you are naming your child ______?!?!? I know a ___________ and they are (insert something unpleasant)” Who does that?

    I hope you get a little Pearl in your life <3! If not a Pearl, a Ben or Gus! 😀

  2. I do love the suggestion of Abraham (Abe). The first name that came to me was Thaddeus (Thad or Tad). He was on my short list, but alas, I had only girls.
    Other options:
    Roberto (Bob)
    Sebastian (Seb or Baz)
    Alphonso (Al or even “Happy Days” Fonz)

  3. Love Ignatius from your list. Love Sebastian, too. I’ll add Orlando with Ori or Lando as a nn. Love Fritz as a nn match to the others. Fitz would also be a good nn with this set.

  4. With Maximus and Leonardo, called Max and Leo, the obvious choice is Augustus nicknamed Gus. I like Abby’s suggestion of Ignatius called Nat/

    For Constantine, Stan seems like an obvious nickname to me. Max, Leo, and Stan.
    Too bad Max and Mac are so close, because Telemachos (tuh-lem’-a-kuhs) would be an awesome name!
    How about Roland? Max, Leo, and Ollie.
    Peregrine nicknamed Pip. Max, Leo, and Pip.
    Absalom nicknamed Sal. Max, Leo, and Sal.
    Pascal nicknamed Cal.
    Edward nicknamed Ted.
    Solomon nicknamed Sol.
    Ferdinand nicknamed Fred.

    Maximus, Leonardo and Peregrine or Absalom may be my favorites.

    Good luck!

    PS – I LOVE Pearl. Pearl Thisbe makes me swoon!