Welcome Abel JosephUpdate from Cara: This is long overdue! I just recommended your site to a friend and she noticed that this doesn’t list our new son’s name! He’s Abel Joseph. Thanks so much to those who suggested it. We were very close to choosing Owen, despite the neighbors, but realized that we were both likely to be here for a long time – maybe not forever, no, but long enough that I wouldn’t want to repeat. It meant changing our middle name, because we didn’t like the flow of Abel Andrew, but that was okay in the end. The kids do call him baby Abe, so in the end we didn’t fit the pattern after all, but that’s okay!

Cara writes:

My husband Ryan and I discovered a pattern with our family’s names after baby #2. We all have four-letter, two-syllable names. Maybe we’re slow but we didn’t notice until we were discussing Theo or Theodore for our third child. My best friend was the one who pointed out why it had to be Theo!

Hannah was our runner-up name for Nora. When our fourth was a girl, we changed the spelling to Hana so it fit.

Our kids’ full names are: Nora Kate, Liam James, Theo Gregory, and Hana Marie.

Now we are expecting our fifth and probably last baby. (Though we said that with Hana, too, so never say never!)

We want another four-letter, two-syllable name.

Repeating initials are out, so no C, H, L, N, R, or T.

Some names that we like don’t work because they rhyme/almost rhyme: Anna and Hana, Leah and Liam (initials anyway), Thea and Theo, Lara and Cara, Maya and Ryan.

For boys, we like Owen, but our neighbors have a baby Owen. My husbands says it’s fine, but I don’t want to be accused of name stealing.

This baby’s middle name will probably be either Joy for a girl and Andrew for a boy.

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

Abby responds:

Congratulations on baby five!

Let’s start with a truth of naming in bigger families: something has to give.

You can avoid repeating an initial. You can probably find another two-syllable, four-letter name.

But ruling out every name that belongs to another child you know? That’s gonna make this difficult. Like, instead of PhD-level difficult, we’re talking Nobel Prize-winning levels of complexity.

Which is a long way of saying that, if this baby is a boy, I think his name should be Owen Andrew.


Let me add this: it’s lovely to be thoughtful and considerate about repeating names.

After all, every parent knows how frustrating it can be to realize that The Name we spent nine months crafting is now at the top of every popularity list. Or worse, it’s still not that common, but a dear friend just gave the name to her new baby.

But here’s why I think Owen works for your family:

  • You’ve described Owen’s parents’ as your neighbors. Not your BFFs. Do you make plans together? Or is this more of a run-into-each-other-at-the-playground level relationship? It sounds like they’re a perfectly nice family who happens to live nearby. But they’re not, say, candidates to serve as your baby’s godparents.
  • Assuming I’m right about your relationship, it seems likely that one or both of you will move in the future. Maybe not for a few years. But by the time their Owen or your Owen is in high school? Odds are that something will change.
  • Lastly, Owen is a well-established Top 100 name. It’s reasonable for such names to repeat, even among neighbors.

But even if you’re closer than I’m imagining, or less likely to move than I think, well … this is your fifth child. Avoiding all duplicates would be tough, even if you didn’t have specific rules for choosing a name.

I’ll suggest Alex, Ezra, and Milo for additional possibilities.

But I can imagine the following scenario: you name your son Ezra to avoid duplicating a name. Owen’s family moves away. Your new neighbors move in, and their son? He’s named Ezra, too.


We clearly need to do some work to find a sister name for Nora, Liam, Theo, and Hana. Would you consider …


Strictly speaking, it’s a Slavic/Scandi form of Anna. I don’t think that’s obvious in American English. Instead, Anya sounds like a just slightly different name, with a similar old world quality to Nora and Hana.


The Garden of Eden is, well, ancient. But it’s only been used a given name in recent generations, which gives it a mix of Old Testament backstory with modern sound.


I’m guessing you may have considered Emma at some point. In any case, it’s very popular … but I only know two. (And they don’t know each other.) It’s a strong, classic name for a daughter, and sounds great with Nora and Hana.


Or maybe you’d rather try something a little more daring? Literary Esme has a long history of sparing use, a great meaning – beloved – and is just familiar enough to be wearable.


A fast-rising favorite, Isla offers four letters, two syllables, and an all-new initial to consider.


Maya is a little close to Ryan. Would you consider Mila instead?


A gemstone name that’s gently old-fashioned.


Like Nora and Hana, Vera is brief and complete. It also offers two appealing meanings: faith and truth.

Overall, my favorite is probably Vera.

Nora, Liam, Theo, Hana, and Vera.

But I wonder if Mila might be more your style?

Readers, over to you! Do you agree with me about Owen? What would you name a sister for Nora, Liam, Theo, and Hana?

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. I agree Owen doesn’t have to be off the table. You just have to love it.

    As for girls, I love that both Nora and Hana have n and a -the ending of both you and your husband’s names. I was looking for name with the same.

    Dana, Edna, Gina, Tina, Mena Mona, Anya, Luna, Oona, Iona

    Not sure those are your style, so I looked for r and a. Vera works here!

    Zara, Tara, Sara, Dora, Dara,

    Personally I like Zara Joy. Best of luck!

  2. For a daughter My favorite name is Amie or Aime. For a boy, some name I don’t think have been mentioned are: