Name Help: A Brother for Max Ocean and Mila StarrName 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!

Loree writes:

We are due with baby #3 at the end of March. It’s a boy!

This baby will join Max Ocean and Mila Starr.

We plan to use another nature name in the middle – though we haven’t decided that name yet, either.

There are no names that my husband and I both love and that flow with Max and Mila. Everyone we ask thinks we should use another M name, and we have thought about Mason.

But I am okay breaking the pattern. We have also thought about a G name to honor our grandmothers, Gloria and Gita, like Griffin or Grant.

My favorites so far are Asher, Levi, August, and Rex. (Although Rex I think is too similar to Max.) My husband really likes Grant and Xander. His name is Alex, so Xander would be a continuation, which might be weird.

I would love to hear your suggestions. Thanks for your help!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your third!

It sounds to me like your preference is a non-M name. At least, none of your favorites begin with M. And your husband doesn’t seem especially inclined to stick with more M names, either.

Switching to a G name – particularly with such a compelling reason! – is a good idea. But, again, it sounds like G names are just okay for you. Griffin and Grant would both be good options, but I’m not sure they’re at the top of your list.

I share your instinct that Rex and Max are too close.

As for whether naming Alex’s son Xander is a little extra?


But countless families have a Ryan Sr. and a Ryan Jr., a William Sr., William Jr., and William III. And so on. While it’s a little cute to use the second half of dad’s name, it’s arguably more subtle than naming him Alex Jr., so I’d (probably) keep it on the list.

The one advantage to Xander? There’s no question as to why he has an X name rather than an M.

That leaves Asher, Levi, August, and possibly Xander. I think they’re all great with Max and Mila. My favorite is Levi. It’s brief, stylish, but still timeless. And I love the way Levi shares a high value Scrabble letter with Max – V and X – and the L in Mila, too.

Levi August would be a little bit of a nature name. Levi Griffin or Levi Grant picks up on the G theme. But if you wanted to use an M name and a nature name in the middle spot?

  • Maine
  • Mane
  • Maple
  • Marsh
  • Mercury
  • Mesa
  • Monarch
  • Moon
  • Moss

I can’t stop thinking about Levi Mercury, but I wonder if you’ll find it too much? Ocean, Starr, Mercury … it works!

Maybe a few fresh ideas for first names would help.



Traditional, brief, and complete, Finn sounds like a brother for Max. And since the sound is embedded in Griffin, I wonder if it already appeals?


Thinking of G names, I immediately thought of Grayson. But maybe Gray is even better?


August shortens to Gus, but Gus is a cool nickname-name that gives you the initial G.


A natural name for Max’s brother, and I love it with Mila, too.


I’m guessing you’ve considered pretty much every M name under the sun, but just in case … Originally a place name, it coincides with our word merit, meaning worthy.


How ’bout just Nate? Not Nathan or Nathaniel. It’s bright and upbeat, an easy name to wear.


I always think of Sam as a brother for Max. The question, of course, is whether it’s best to have Sam stand alone, or be a nickname for Samuel? The data tells us that most parents opt for Samuel on their son’s birth certificates, but both are options.


Likewise, most Theos are Theodore. But in our age of Leo and Milo and Arlo, just Theo works nicely, too. And I think it’s a great brother name for Max.

I’m still stuck on Levi from your original list. I think it’s perfect!

And the advantage to Xander? There’s no question about why you broke the pattern.

In both cases, your middle name could be both a nature name and start with an M … which might make it feel less like you’re breaking a pattern and more like you’re just continuing in a slightly different way.

But let’s ask the community, because I’d love to hear more ideas!

Readers, what would you name a brother for Max Ocean and Mila Starr. And do you agree with me that moving away from M names seems to be the better approach?

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. Our first 2 children (a boy and girl) both have A names. It wasn’t intentional, we just happened to like them. Our third has a T names and number 4 will have a P name when he’s born. It sounds like you’d rather not stick with the M names and that’s perfectly fine. Pick a name you both like/love and he’ll be just fine! Love Levi and Asher, and adding a little Xander would be so sweet too!

  2. I don’t think you need to use an M name, and in fact, I would purposely avoid it unless it’s something you really want to lean into. My favorite of your choices is Levi.
    I think you have 3 options for the middle name, any of which would tie this baby in with the family/siblings:
    Use a nature name, use an M name for the middle, or use Xander, which is a nice connection to dad.

  3. I like the simplicity of both Max and Mila, and think you should continue with that more than following the M pattern. Your 2 children each have 3 syllables all together.

    I’m biased because it’s my son’s name, but what about Arlo? Arlo Rainn, Arlo Moss.

    Working off the 3 syllables pattern: Xander Leif, Levi Rainn, Gus River.

    I don’t find the Xander part odd at all.

  4. Based on your list of favorite names, I would say that your husband would really like an honor name for this child, whether it honors him or your grandmothers. I think honoring dad with the name Xander would be nice rather than weird. The name flows well with the sibling names, shares the high value Scrabble letter ‘X’ with Max, and is two syllables like Mila.

    Also, your nature themed middle names cover air/atmosphere (Starr) and sea (Ocean), so I thought one that covers land would be nice. I really like the name Oak with Star and Ocean.

    Xander Oak sounds awesome!

  5. I admit I don’t understand the need for another M name; maybe it’s just that sibling names that are really matchy are just not my style. If they’re your style – go for it! But if not, you shouldn’t feel like there’s some “rule” about doing another M name. Somewhat incongruously, I find the “Xander” tie-in to dad’s name charming, even though the Xs in dad and both brothers’ names would be another kind of pattern. But again, that’s a personal taste thing. Gus, Grant, Graham, or Griffin to honor grand mothers also seem like lovely choices. What about Gage? I also would endorse Reid and Levi. I’m a big believer in naming a child what is most meaningful to you, whether it fits all the rules or not. Your child deserves a good name story, and to me: “We had to name you to match your siblings, so we ended up with Mason,” doesn’t hold up to: “We loved the name Mason, and it happened to have the same first letter as your siblings.”

  6. The tricky thing with continuing the pattern of M names is to find one with the same spark, while still distinct from those already used. So while Malcolm works as is, if you shorten it to Mac it becomes too close to Max. Miles I like, but it’s too similar to Mila.

    Your option of Mason definitely works, but you also have to like (love?) it.

    I like the suggestion of Marcus, and I *think* even if it was shortened to Marc it would still sound different enough from Max.

    Martin could work, but not sure if the style suits what you are looking for.

    How about Morgan?
    Max, Mila & Morgan.
    Max Ocean, Mila Starr & Morgan Field?

    And if you exhaust all options and still find nothing you love, you can break the pattern of M names now without it being an issue. The nature middle name though, I think you should keep. Whatever his name it will fit right in.

    All the best!