Name Help: A Sibling for Finley JosephineName 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!

Anna writes:

I’m eight months pregnant with my second child, and my husband and I are struggling to come up with a name.

We have a 2 year old daughter, Finley Josephine. We normally don’t like boy-names-for-girls, and we didn’t name her with future siblings in mind, so we’re kind of stuck, stylistically.

Our current contenders are Rhiannon Violet and Madrigal Kate for a girl (I’m worried that Finley sounds too masculine besides those) and Conan Benjamin, Lucas River, and Eliot Nathan for a boy. My husband and I agree that we at least don’t hate any of these, but I honestly think that “Lucas and Finley” sounds kind of like two little boys, which is not what I want.

Other names that we love (but can’t use) are Daisy, Sadie, Georgia, Layla, Juliette, and Alice.

Help would be greatly appreciated!!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your second!

First things first: Finley Josephine is a great name.

I know what you mean about feeling stylistically stuck. But honestly? My kids’ names aren’t especially similar in terms of style. They’re miles apart in terms of popularity.

It just so happens that names can feel connected lots of different ways.

And even if it feels the tiniest bit awkward in the beginning, say their names together a hundred dozen times and suddenly? They’re a pair.

Now let’s discuss potential gender confusion:

Do you find it’s an issue with Finley now? By the numbers, Finley is pretty strongly unisex. That’s different than, say, Harper or Avery, names that are unisex in style but given almost exclusively to girls, or Mason and Jackson, which are given almost exclusively to boys, despite their unisex potential.

You can’t really move the needle on this by naming your next child. If you think about it, that’s actually good news! It’s freeing.

Your choices are:

  • Pick a name that’s equally unisex. Rowan or River, maybe? Charlie or Blake? There’s one name on your list that fits this category: Eliot.
  • Pick a name that is more strongly gendered. I’d say that definitely includes Conan and Lucas, and probably Rhiannon. Madrigal is different enough that others might not immediately consider it masculine or feminine.

The reality, though, is that lots of kids have names that are ambiguous in terms of gender. And that’s not new. 1990s favorites like Jordan and Taylor are now all grown-up. And we’ve had decades of names like Riley and Peyton ranking on both girls’ and boys’ lists.

You can either choose another deliberately unisex name – in which case, Eliot (or Elliot or Elliott) is the clear front-runner – or accept that you’ll have occasional moments of confusion.

Also worth noting: those occasional moments of confusion will pass – and probably quickly! Even the most unusual names that surprise everyone on the first day of kindergarten are completely unremarkable by Halloween.

Let’s look at your current list in a little more detail.



If you’d like to stick with gender neutral names, Eliot is the top choice – for a daughter or a son, really, though I know it’s only on your boys’ list. Eliot Nathan is great, but Eliot Kate is equally appealing. I’m inclined to make Eliot my top pick from your current list. A note on spellings: Elliot is most popular for boys; Elliott for girls. But that could easily change and the margin isn’t significant. Eliot does not rank in the current US Top 1000 for either gender. And while it’s most popular for boys in every spelling now, it feels potentially unisex.


A rock solid classic of a name for a son, currently ranked in the US Top Ten. If I heard Lucas and Finley, I would probably guess that Finley is a daughter, if only because it’s a slightly more daring name. Lucas River is a great combination.


Again, Conan is so strongly masculine that it makes me read Finley as more feminine. Though mostly I hear these names as Irish heritage choices. I love Conan Benjamin together.


With this name, I just hear it as musical, surprising, different. It probably makes me guess that Finley is your son, if only because Finley is a more mainstream choice – and parents often giving the more daring name to their daughter. But I don’t think they’re mismatched at all. Rhiannon Violet is lovely.


The same thing applies with Madrigal. I just hear it as a surprising name that suggests you’re looking for something a little bit bolder. It might make me guess that Finley is a boy, for the same reasons as with Rhiannon. But I think it works nicely overall. Madrigal Kate is a great blend of the novel and the traditional.


I suspect you don’t want to choose another unisex name, based on what you mentioned earlier about not loving boy-names-for-girls. That leaves Lucas and Conan. And the clear split is popularity. Name your son Lucas and he’ll go to school with a handful of other boys named Lucas (and Luke and Luca), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Call him Conan, and he’ll probably be one-of-one, but it’s a broadly familiar name with a great mix of strength and style.

For something in-between those two extremes, I would suggest:

  • Callum – A softer alternative to Conan.
  • Ronan – another Irish heritage choice, though one that gets confused with equally popular Rowan and Roman.
  • Tate – I’m not sure how this would sound with your surname, but since you have both Nathan and Kate on your middle name lists, I wonder if you would like Tate as a first? Tatum is reliably unisex, but just Tate tends to be masculine.


The thing that’s great about Madrigal and Rhiannon is that they’re not particularly frilly choices. Finley and Contessa or Finley and Donatella feel mismatched in a way that Finley and Madrigal or Finley and Rhiannon do not.

Between the two, I’m inclined to choose Madrigal. While it’s the rarest name on your list, it feels familiar thanks to so many girls named Madelyn, Madeline, and Madison.

For something in-between the more familiar Finley and the rarer Madrigal/Rhiannon, would you consider:

  • Laurel – A word name that feels like a softer take on Madrigal, maybe.
  • Marlo/Marlowe – Yes, it’s another surname. But it shares some sounds with Madrigal, and is more conventionally feminine in terms of use. Also: Marlo is a retro mid-century name, so it’s not unisex visually, even if it sounds that way.
  • Scout – Probably what I would’ve suggested for Finley’s sister without any other context, and I still think it’s worth consideration.

So to sum up: Eliot is the most unisex possibility; for something more clearly feminine, Madrigal or Marlo/Marlowe gets my vote. and for a more masculine option, I’m torn between Lucas and Conan, but would heartily endorse Tate or Callum.

Readers, over to you! What would you name a sibling for Finley Josephine, most likely avoiding another unisex name?

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’m loving so many suggestions here!

    For either gender (or G/B)
    Calloway/Callihan (nn Cali/Cal)

    For girls

    For boys, what about Cormac? Finely and Cormac seem like a dynamic pair!

  2. I think Rhiannon works great as a sister to Finley, so that gets my vote! Madrigal is a little bit unusual next to Finley, but if you love it, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be perfect for you.

    For a boy, I think any of your options would work. (I’m partial to Lucas in this instance). I also want to suggest Cameron, which seems to hit a lot of the same notes as Finley, and is similar to your boy choices.

  3. Ginger Lucy
    Maeve Katherine
    Hazel Vivian
    Willow Marie

    Duncan Elliot
    Oscar Luke
    Bennett George
    Graham Patrick

  4. Fresh idea : Sullivan !

    In my opinion the name is already unisex. Sullivan and Finley sound so good together !
    There’s also heaps of nickname options: Su, Sully, Liv, Ivy, Annie for a girl. Sol, Sul, Sully, Van , Ivan for a boy. It even has a nice meaning: dark eyed.

    Since you like Lucas , what about Lou for either gender ? Lou and Finley together is music to my ears.

    Lou Rhiannon
    Lou Madrigal

    Lou Benjamin

    From your own list, I really like Madrigal and Rhiannon as first names . Don’t care for Eliot at all, unfortunately. Instead , what about Ellis? Everett? Emery?
    Everest ? Garland ? Garnet ?Harlan? Hollis ? Quinn

  5. I don’t have much original to add, but I’ll weigh in anyway. ; )

    I love Madrigal Kate! Finley Josephine and Madrigal Kate.
    Also a favorite, Elliott Kate or Elliette Kate. The double L spelling makes the possible nickname Elli/Ellie more intuitive. Of course Elliott/Elliette for a girl rules the name out for a future son.
    Jude is a great name that can be unisex, imo. I think Jude Anneliese is lovely and a nice tie-in with Anna.
    Marlowe Kate is another strong contender.

    For a boy, I prefer Ronan to Conan.
    Conall is a good Conan adjacent option.

    Best wishes to you!

  6. I actually know of three different Finley/lay & Harper sister sets in my area. But it sounds like that’s not your style at all. I think all of your choices on your lists will work just fine. I think only name nerds would take pause, but then move on as ‘Finley & Lucas’ or ‘Finley & Magdrigal’ are just kids we know.

    I really Finley on a girl, and if she were mine, I’d probably go in the surname-name-for-girls, more classic names for boys direction (which you’re doing for boys.) Like Abby, I do like Eliot for a girl a lot! And I’m usually very against creative spellings, but I know an Elliette and it’s like YES. Would you consider Sinclair or Piper or Ellis or Blair?

  7. My 4.5 year old daughter’s name is Finley Josephine (we call her Finley Jo). She has a 2.5 little brother named Sawyer Morgan. Elliott was a top contender for his name so I am partial to that one! I also enjoy Conan and Tate.

  8. I am loving Eliot Nathan and Rhiannon Violet! I think both are perfect with the sister name, which I love, even though it is not my usual style.

  9. Conan for a son is brilliant. It sounds like you wanted Irish choices for your children, and Finley sounds only feminine next to Conan… essentially, I agree with everything Abby said.

    Dane might be another boy name you would consider. Finley and Dane.

    Emery or Ellery could be excellent sisters for Finley. Finley and Emery. Finley and Ellery.

    Rhiannon is just awesome. I mean, AWESOME. Does she go great with Finley? No. Does she go fine with Finley? Absolutely. And these sisters won’t spend their whole lives being said as a set or living in the same house. Use the names you love. (Rhiannon is Irish, too.) Plus, Rhiannon gives a new sound that won’t be confused with Finley when you call across the playground for her.

    Congratulations and best wishes!

  10. Rhiannon Violet is so lovely! Bold and punchy yet sweet. It does strike me as a bit more daring than Finley but not in an odd way.

    For some reason Wren popped in my brain as a nice choice for a sister. Frills free like Finley yet feminine, but maybe not as bold as what you are looking for? Finley and Wren. For something more daring, maybe Anniston? Finley and Anniston. Or Astoria. Finley and Astoria.

    Seeing Daisy and Sadie on your “like but can’t use” list makes me want to suggest Hallie. Finley and Hallie.

    From your boy list, I think Eliot is great. Finley and Eliot. Conan would be my second pick.

    I wonder if you would consider Morgan for a boy? It’s gender neutral like Eliot, has the long O sound and Celtic vibe like Conan, but also feels a bit cowboy-ish and handsome like Lucas.

    Finley and Morgan, yes!

    If not Lucas, how about Jude? Finley and Jude are smashing!

    I also love Abby’s suggestion of Ronan as well. Finley and Ronan