Name 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!
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.
- 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.
- Rafael, Raphael, Raffaello, 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.
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! 😀
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.
Sebastian (Seb or Baz)
Alphonso (Al or even “Happy Days” Fonz)
C in DC says
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.
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.
PS – I LOVE Pearl. Pearl Thisbe makes me swoon!
Rebecca Sunshine says
Hi, my boys are named Benedict (meaning blessed one) and Valerian, and are generally shortened by their friends to Ben and Val. I think the name Pearl is nice but I also think it doesn’t stand up to the boys’ names. Girls especially love nicknames!
A bunch of Portuguese/Italian names comes to my mind:
Sebastian – no need to explain to a Portuguese what Sebastião means to them!
Alfonso (nn Alfie)
Antero (like Antero de Quental, great poet from Açores!)
Alexander – Alex
Gabriel – gabe
Constantine – Costa
Augustus – gus
I like Pearl 🙂
I’m a Gus booster – but would also like to put in a vote for Benedict, nn Ben, or Theodore, nn Ted.
Max, Leo and Gus: Max, Leo and Ben: Max, Leo and Ted.
I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it yet but Alexander with the nn Alex seems might fit your criteria!
I love Augusten/Gus! And Sebastian/Baz or Alexander/Lex from the comments. I’d add Francisco nicknamed Frank or Julius nicknamed Jules.
Loren Slaymaker says
I tried to find nicknames that would work & backtrack to a formal name. Oz for Oswald, Oskar, or even Ozymandias. Cas for Casper or Caspian. If Kit can be a nickname for Christopher, could it work for Crispin? I like Nic or Nico for Nikola.
Loren Slaymaker says
And Van for Donovan/Evander.
Maximus, Leonardo, & Algernon. Max, Leo, & Alger. The nickname options are fun, dashing and gently sophisticated without giving off airs. Perfect for an everyday use. Best of Luck!
I love Rudolph with a nickname of Rollo, and Augustus with nickname of Gus. My other fave from the list…Frederick with a nickname of Fritz! Somehow I’ve never associated the two and I live them together.
Christina Fonseca says
Max, Leo and… Gus from Abby’s list. I agree with Sebastian from the comments. Other ideas: Theo (Theodore / Theophilus / Thelonius), Sam (Samuel, Samson), Dom/ Dominic, Bram (Bertram, Abraham, Abram), Rex, Kai (Malachi), Ike (Isaiah / Isaias / Isaac), Ace (Atticus? Archimedes? Horatio?). Less likely but also came to mind: Zeke (Ezekiel), Cash (Cassius), Jet, Des or Dez (Desmond), Ned (Edward), Rex
I love Raffael and Nicodemus, Rafe has the additional sweet southern Charm, and Nico blends well with the exotic feel of Max and Leo. Ludovic would work if he went by Vic. Max, Leo, and Vic, make the name trio more conventional and grounded on a day-to-day basis. Vicktor-another option to get to Vic, Kelvin ( as in Lord Kelvin), Cornelius (Neil), Rudolpho (Dolph), Christopher (Kester), Wolfgang (Wolfe) and Tancredi (Tanc) are all options that pair nicely and have the same feel as your current boys names.
Max – Leo – Tanc
Max – Leo – Dolph – My favorite- Biased 😉
Max – Leo – Rafe – Favorite from Abby
Max – Leo- Nico
Max – Leo – Kester
Max – Leo – Kelvin (Vinny) Italian nn.
Max- Leo- Vic
Max – Leo – Neil
Max – Leo – Wolfe
Best of Luck!
Kelvin could also go by Kelly. Very Irish.
Max-Leo – Kelly, BUT both Kelly & Vinny do change the flow of Max & Leo from exotic and sleek continental names, to unique and quirky trio. This allows more room for growth in name continues, incase you want more children, and has a very well rounded cultural feel, allowing each child to make each name their own. Happy naming!
C in DC says
I would just use Vin, not Vinny, for this set of sibs.
Max-Leo-Vin, it works.. sort of Vin Diesel feel.
I wouldn’t discount Constantine for lack of a good nickname — Costi is pretty awesome, in my opinion.
Why would the boys get elaborate, powerful, historical names, and the girl get “Pearl?” Absent other info, Pearl is a fine name, taken alone, but in concert with the powerhouse of her brothers’ names, it feels VERY uneven. If Max would be “upset” about not being an artist/turtle, imagine how poor Pearl will feel? Cutesy? Ornamental?
I don’t know exactly what to say here, but I want to say something to stick up for Pearl. I don’t see anything “uneven” about Max, Leo, and Pearl. History is just as full of amazing women who have been named Pearl or a variation of it as it is of men who have been named Leonardo, and if those Pearls aren’t as prominent in the history books as their male counterparts, that’s no reason not to pass the name on to another generation of little girls.
As far as boy name ideas go, I’m for Ignatius, Benedict, Samson, or Isaac (Ike).
If they’d said, we want to name Pearl after the famous novelist Pearl Buck (the only Pearl of note I can think of), then fine. But i didn’t see that.
And stylistically, it’s a BIG shift. It’s not “Max, Leo, and Pearl.” It’s “MAXIMUS, LEONARDO… and pearl.” All the names they like for boys are big, nicknameable names. and then the girl, no nickname, very different style. When looking for male siblings, everyone is going for more giant, nicknameable names, but if they are fine with cutesy little names for a subsequent girl, maybe that would be fine for a boy, too.
I don’t understand why they should have to explain the logic behind Pearl when they aren’t asking for input on it.
They MIGHT have been inspired by Pearl S. Buck, or a Pearl in their own family, or a woman named Margaret but Margaret doesn’t appeal to them aesthetically. They MIGHT really find short names appealing, but not be the types to put a diminutive on the birth certificate and so they felt motivated to find long forms for Max and Leo in a way that they don’t for Pearl. They might feel “grand” is not defined by a number of letters, and that Pearl qualifies just fine (and I would agree with them on that).
Anyways, I hope the parents won’t let one person’s opinion on the internet make them feel bad about the great name they have picked out for their daughter, because that would be a shame.
I totally agree with Kerry! Honestly I don’t see how someone could be so offended by the choice of a name. Maybe they want to start a new theme for their daughters! Maybe it’s nature, maybe it’s gemstones, maybe it’s a family name but they sure aren’t required to explain themselves
I agree with Diana. Pearl feels cut off and cutsey. The little girl does need an equally grand name. I suppose some may feel that Pearl is grand in her own right, rightly so she is, but but her grandness is tailored to a certain era, not SEVERAL centuries such as Maximus and Leonardo. When you think in terms of centuries, you would then after think of when Pearl was first used and then for what sex. Pearl wasn’t used commonly for a girl until the late 1700’s, prior to then Pearl & Pearline were masculine names. Also, Pearl when written on paper does pale in comparison to the boys just on characteristics alone. Many people see that the amount of letters as an depiction of a grander name, or in the very least on paper it keeps the same feel. Take the example below, they have a longer history surrounding the name, the name pack a punch in being sophisticated, regal/grand, and match in feel and in characteristics.
Maximus – Leonardo- Ermintrude
Maximus – Leonardo- Clothilda
Maximus – Leonardo- Elisabeth
Maximus – Leonardo- Berengaria
Maximus – Leonardo- Rudolpha
Maximus – Leonardo- Albertine
Maximus- Leonardo- Jaquenetta/ Jacqueline
Either way, the parents did ask for an opinion, and were well aware that their choices will be thoroughly analyzed, at which point, had they feared anyone’s opinion, they wouldn’t have considered following through, which they did. So I suppose it would seem moot to say that any comment on the little girl’s names can not really be deemed wrong. On a side note, not one commentator has said that they hated Pearl. In fact, every person has been comparing and contrasting the name Pearl, to the same set of standards that the parents had laid out up above for Abby to follow. The commentators are just being logical in their analysis.
On an added note, yes, it is the parents choice. The parents might end up calling their daughter Pearl and she might go by PeeWee for the rest of her life. We do not know what the parents original intention was behind their choice for Pearl or what they might nickname her, but the commentators are smart enough to see the shift in style, at which point, it is completely opposite of what the parents laid out as ground rules for the boy. Yes, the focus is on the boys name, but if they are open to Pearl, they might be open to other options for boys names. Pearl is strong indicator that the parents do have two different naming styles, and the commentators are smart enough see that and recognize that it does change the game in name suggestion because it open the field. Whatever, the parents choose, will be final, this is just a suggestion box of ALL possibilities to help make the parents job easier.
Balthazar nn Baz
Barnaby/Barnabas nn Barny
Bartholomew nn Tolly/Tom
Possibly Abraham, shortened to Abe. Big name, lots of history, short & spunky nickname.
Kelsey D says
I love love love Raphel or Raffaello. I have been trying to convince someone to use this name. Love that it is so uncommon and spunky. Rafe is so fresh. Love it.
Nicodemus isn’t really my style but it does have that “grand” feel to it.
I love Augustus. Max, Leo and Gus. Yup. That’s a pretty awesome group of brothers.
Another one would be Thaddeus, shortened to Tad.
I like Gabriel, Sebastian or Benedict. Gabe, Seb or Bas, Ben.
These aren’t quite as grand sounding as Maximus or Leonardo because they’re slightly more common, but they’re still historically grand. I’m really a fan of Benedict.
Ignatius makes me think of Cate Blanchett’s other son-Roman. I think Roman nn Romy might be fantastic too. It’s a simpler name, but undeniably strong. Maximus, Leonardo and Roman. Stands up well!
I was actually coming to say Sebastian, nn Bas/Baz.
I really like the suggestion of Roman too, it doesn’t fit completely with the other two, but it matches, and it leaves a “way out” if they have Baby #4 and don’t want to continue the 3/4 syllable names.
Bash for Sebastian another nn. Option
Abraham – nn Abe or Wesley – nn Wes
How about Alexander, nn Alex? He conquered the known world- doesn’t get much grander than that. But Alex is short and snappy and echoes the X in Max without sounding too matchy. Xavier nn Xav is also a possibility, although how grand a name one finds that probably depends on how Catholic one is.
I love Augustus nn Gus though. That’s probably my favorite.
I love these suggestions! I think Augustine is a wonderful idea. Has all the grandeur of Maximus and Leonardo, an obvious nn Gus, and neither the full name or nn repeat beginning or ending sounds.