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!
With our oldest, Patrick James, we decided pretty much instantly after learning that he was a boy that we’d name him after my late dad. We have other family members with the middle name James, so it felt like we were including lots of people with one name. Plus he would have options for nicknames and it wasn’t in the top 100 of social security name popularity.
We were starting from scratch with baby #2. I scoured lists, checked Social Security data and finally stumbled across Arthur. We decided on Arthur for similar reasons to Patrick, not too popular but still common enough, had nickname options. We wound up with the middle name Leo to honor my husband’s maternal grandfather who was Leon, and my mom’s middle name is Lee, so Leo felt like a nice middle ground.
Which leads us to boy #3. We’ve been looking at lists and just taking in names from everywhere but nothing has really clicked the way it did with the other boys. There are names that we like (Franklin, Edward) but we don’t feel confident in them the way we did before. We’re definitely open to going into the hospital with a list and deciding after meeting the new guy, but we’re surprised that it’s been so much harder this time.
We obviously like older names, and it’s cool that they’re becoming more popular, but anything in the top 10 is definitely out for us. My husband is Nick and was one of about 6 in his grade at any given year and hated having to use an initial, so not being too popular is important to him. We also like the option for nicknames.
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I really do appreciate the help!
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your third son!
I completely know what you mean – we could name one boy, easy. Maybe a second.
A third? That would’ve been tough!
It becomes challenging to match all the great qualities in your sons’ classic, underused but immediately familiar, names.
But it can be done!
I wonder if one of your challenges is a subtle difference between Patrick and Arthur.
Both feel like rock solid classics, meant to stand the test of time. And yet … Patrick is a former favorite that has graduated to traditional, but underused status.
Arthur is actually trending, a name that spent years in style limbo and now feels fresh again.
They’re perfectly compatible as brother names, but I hear a little bit of the same contrast on your maybe list.
Edward fits with Patrick. We all recognize it immediately and no one would blink to meet a little Edward. But it’s very different from Franklin, a name that feels like a recent revival.
Does that make sense? Because I might suggest a name like Felix or even Cedric for Arthur’s brother, but not necessarily for Patrick.
I’ll split the difference for my list of suggestions.
One note: I’m also going to quietly ignore your Top 100 is out rule. While I think it’s an excellent guideline, and definitely describes the type of name you’re after, I’m wondering if it rules out a few names that could otherwise be perfect fits for your family.
A BROTHER FOR PATRICK and ARTHUR
On paper, Anthony is popular – too popular for your preferences. And yet, names have changed so much in the last twenty years. And it’s a trend that promises to accelerate. Distinctive, classic names like Anthony feel rarer, even as popular favorites like Jayden (#37) and Jaxon (#48) seem more common. And while an earlier generation automatically called every Anthony Tony, that’s no longer the case. Your Anthony could be Tony (or Ant), but it’s handsome in full, just like Patrick and Arthur.
Like Arthur, George has gotten a little lift in recent years. Yes, there’s the prince. But even without a headline-friendly royal, it was simply time for George to make a comeback. And while George feels nickname-proof, Georgie and Geordie are traditional go-tos. And Jory, the Cornish form of George, seems like a logical nickname – even if it’s not obvious to English speakers.
Like Patrick, Philip is one of those traditional boys’ names stuck in style limbo. It’s a little complicated by the one L or two question. (In brief: Phillip dominated during the twentieth century. Philip is more popular today, but the difference is not significant.) Besides Phil, there’s Pip and Flip for nicknames. But Philip in full is very wearable.
There are Hugos in the history books stretching back centuries. French author Victor Hugo is one; former US Senator-turned-Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black is another. It’s equal parts cuddly and storied. You could also choose just Hugh, but I think Hugo might be the slightly more stylish choice, and I like the rhythm of Patrick, Arthur, and Hugo better, too.
Okay, Miles probably isn’t The Name. Except … it’s traditional. (Myles Standish, of course!) And it’s ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880, when data is first reported. But it’s also a stylish name, in the Top 100 since 2018 and continue to gain. But Miles mixes all that Plymouth Rock early Americana with the jazz of Miles Davis and the energy of Miles Morales, a new(er) Spider-man.
Thoughtful and smart, Simon is one of those names hiding in plain sight. We all know it, but seldom choose it – just like your older boys’ names. It’s heard in nearly every European language, across cultures and continents.
As with Philip, there’s a spelling question. At #224, Steven is actually more popular. And again, either version works. One possible hitch: Steph Curry, of the Golden State Warriors, pronounces Stephen more like Stefan. That might make the name even more appealing … or not. But Stephen/Steven fits in nicely with so many boys named Dylan and Logan and Aiden, a timeless choice.
Full disclosure: I’m not wild about Tim. It’s somebody’s dad or maybe my accountant. But Timothy? Timothy, used in full, is great. It’s like Anthony. Or Gregory, a name that feels surprisingly fresh and modern when it’s not shortened to Greg. And Tim has grown on me, especially since a friend named her son Timothy. (He’s too little to be Tim, but Timmy really sounds sweet.)
The first name that came to mind, and still my favorite with Patrick and Arthur. It’s got a great meaning, history to spare, and an appealing mix of notable bearers. (I mean … Vincent van Gogh!) I always thought Entourage – featuring the fictional movie star Vincent “Vince” Chase – might give the name a bump. But it didn’t happen, leaving Vincent an under-the-radar option for a son.
Vincent was my first thought, and remains my favorite. But I wonder if Hugo isn’t an even better option. It lacks a little bit in nickname options – Huey feels inevitable, but I’m not sure it appeals. But if you’re willing to reconsider the Top 100, Anthony might be worth a thought.
Have you considered that Franklin Edward IS a perfect combo in your set? Hugh/Hugo and Vincent also fit well.
Denise Klaske says
With Patrick and Arthur, I like the previously suggested:
Francis – Frank
Frederick – Fred
Harold – Hal
Louis – Louie
Malcolm – Mac
Some ideas I didn’t see mentioned yet:
Ernest – Ernie
Gilbert – Gib
Henry – Harry
Howard – Howie
My first thought was Anthony followed by Timothy, so I’m glad Abby mentioned them. Also second Vincent and Victor. Raymond, Lawrence and Clarence are instantly recognizable, and only Lawrence seems to be getting more use lately.
I love Simon, Edmund, Conrad, Malcom, Garrett and Martin for this family!
Maybe Emmett, Isaac, Lewis, Wyatt, Victor, Xavier.
What about Grant? Same history of use, but feels tailored and fresh. Sitting in the 200s it isn’t all that popular either.
Patrick, Arthur and Grant
Naming our second boy was a lot like what you’re describing—nothing was intuitive or magical. The only way we (I) got certainty was that one of the five names we came up with shot out of my mouth during delivery. It wasn’t even my favorite of the bunch! So I have total empathy, and I think it’s possible that whatever name you land on to be just as lovely and meaningful as your first two choices.
I LOVE Franklin and Edward for you. I thought of Edison too. Duncan or Callum might work, as well as Dylan or Griffith/Griffin, or another Celtic name that could balance your Irish+English boy names. Oooo, what about Morgan?? Fraser??
Cindy B says
Grandma (aka “Momo” – picking your own grandma name opens up a whole new adventure!) has to weigh in! Abby did a brilliant job (personal faves are Miles and Stephen. Fun fact: if Maggie had been a boy, I wanted the name “Aiden”. Her dad was Irish, and I loved Aiden Quinn in “Desperately Seeking Susan”! My mom hated it – she said everyone would call him “aids”!). I love that both “Patrick” and “Arthur” have 2 syllables and are the title characters in children’s book series (the “Patrick” books are out of print, but are very funny). In line with that, I really like Franklin. I also like readers’ suggestions of Graham and Ellis. Edwin was Maggie’s paternal grandfather’s name and Robert was her maternal grandfather’s name, so there is a nice generational continuum there. Thanks to all of you for so many fun suggestions!
Erin Beth says
I was coming to suggest Edmund as well. Mundo could be a fun nickname. My other thoughts were Dominic, Nathaniel, and Jerome.
I think you should consider Noel! I like Abby’s suggestions of Vincent, Simon, and Timothy, especially since you’d like nicknames.
I’ve been thinking lately that Douglas is a nice match of familiar but not over used, much like Patrick. And I like it with Arthur, too.
Patrick, Arthur & Douglas.
My other thoughts were Stuart and Hugh, which I actually prefer to Hugo.
Patrick, Arthur & Stuart.
Patrick, Arthur & Hugh.
Also love the suggestion of Philip, and I see Simon in a similar light.
Three boys is wild, but fun … All the very best!!
Alison Doherty says
I think Philip and Hugo are amazing suggestions! I can also see George working perfectly with the set. I also thought of Elliot, Louis, Harrison, or Quincy! I’ve seen some folks rec Malcolm already, which I think also works well with Patrick and Arthur…or maybe go with Edward and call him Ned. I saw a sib set in Brooklyn that was Errol, Arthur, and Ned and I thought they were very cute together!
How about Edmund? Less popular than Edward but still classic.
I just wanted to say bravo for TWO great names already. I found naming a second daughter so impossible. You’re allowed some help for the third lol.
I was coming here to suggest Malcolm and Conrad, so second those! Also Russell and Tobias. Especially Russell! So underused yet instantly familiar and likeable. And maybe you’re avoiding an M not to duplicate your initial but maybe you could lean into it with a Magnus?
Abby totally nailed the challenge. You’re looking for a unicorn crossover name.
I love Patrick and Arthur together. Such handsome names on their own with really complementary sounds. A few names that have the same feeling for me:
Ellis, Eli, Elias
Edgar, Edwin, Edmund
Jean C. says
My very first thought upon reading the first line was that George would be a great name, but after reading Abby’s suggestions, I am very sweet on Hugo and Simon as well. Other names that come to mind are Frederick and Malcolm, two names full of fun nicknames.